Friday, January 24, 2014

MoCo eliminates the scourge of strawberry milk

Don't education advocates have bigger things to be concerned with -- like education?

Donna St. George reports in The Washington Post that the Montgomery County Public Schools have decided to address a serious hindrance to the education of students in that county: strawberry milk.

In a move that seems to defy logic, the county has decided to take away strawberry milk:

 Come January, school cafeterias in Montgomery County will be missing the pinkest offering of the lunch line. Strawberry-flavored milk is on its way out. St. George reports:

"The drink is not as popular as chocolate milk and not as nutritious as plain milk, officials say. So at a time of growing concern about healthy foods for children, the pink milk has lost its place on refrigerated shelves in Maryland’s largest school system."

Now while that's all well and good, what was the reasoning that was given for taking strawberry milk off of the shelves?

“It’s the right thing to do,” said Marla R. Caplon, Montgomery’s director of food and nutrition services, who thought long and hard about the value of flavored milk and concluded amid parents’ concerns that she could no longer make the case for strawberry. “Milk is not naturally pink. There are artificial colors and there are preservatives in the milk, and in wanting to do the best for the kids, strawberry really isn’t necessary.”

Milk isn't naturally pink? You don't say....

You might be surprised to learn this, but milk isn't naturally brown either, nor does it contain chocolate. But chocolate milk is unaffected by the decision to eliminate strawberry milk, though there are also artificial colors and preservatives in chocolate milk just as there are in strawberry milk. But chocolate milk accounts for 67 percent of milk sales in Montgomery County schools and, according to Caplon, "We know that if flavored milk is eliminated, then fewer students will consume milk, and that is a concern." So instead of banning all flavored milk, only some flavored milk will be banned, which is one of the more contradictory policies you will ever see.

A lot of the to-do over strawberry milk in Montgomery County is actually tied up with an interest group, Real Food for Kids - Montgomery, who seem to have a set of priorities less interested in educating students in Montgomery County schools than in restricting the foods that are offered in Montgomery County schools so they fit nicely with the agenda put forth by the Center for Science in the Public Interest, a left-leaning group that seeks to restrict your freedom to purchase and consume the food that you want to eat (a subject Red Maryland has tackled over the years). Real Food for Kids supporters are focused on the tough questions, like wondering if students can be forced to eat vegetables before allowed to buy other foods.

While it is admirable that students should be afforded the opportunity to purchase decent food during the school day, it seems that this group could be better served by trying to improve the quality of education students receive at school than the quality of food available for sale at the school. Let's face it, it is of greater importance to the future of each and individual student to receive a quality education than it is to be protected from the evils of strawberry milk. The Real Food for Kids folks should be less concerned about using the school system to push their nutritional values on all students in the K-12 system, and instead provide them with better instruction and educational opportunities.

But instead, I'm willing to bet this outfit will go after chocolate milk instead.

I don't really have a dog in this fight. I don't drink milk very often myself (though don't worry, I get my dairy) and think that strawberry milk is repulsive. But if some believe that fighting over the nutritional content of what is served in school is the biggest public education issue in Montgomery County (or any other county) then some groups really need to reexamine and realign their priorities...


Confidence holds girls back in maths: Low expectations mean they are far more likely to drop subject at A-Level

Despite all the evidence of brain differences, many just won't admit that there are differences in male and female abilities

A crisis of confidence among girls studying maths is dragging down their performance at school and stunting their choice of careers, a report has found.

Girls are better than boys in most subjects and outperform them in the vast majority of formal exams.

But they have so little self-belief in maths that they are up to a term behind boys by their mid-teens and are far more likely to drop it for A-levels.

The low expectations are the result of parents and teachers assuming they are better suited to other subjects, according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, which conducted the research and described its findings as ‘troubling’.

The study of 15-year-olds in developed countries revealed 41 per cent of British girls believe they are not good at maths, compared to just 24 per cent of boys.  So they don't know themselves?  Very patronizing

This translates into just ten per cent being high-fliers in the subject at school, compared to 13 per cent of boys. The OECD average is 11 per cent and 15 per cent respectively.

The worst-performing girls are around three months behind their counterparts in other OECD countries and a staggering six years adrift of top students in world leader Shanghai.

The gender gap in teenagers planning to continue studying maths when they leave school is 14 per cent in the UK - 60 per cent of boys and 46 per cent of girls - compared to an average of 12 per cent in developed countries.

And girls rule themselves out of some of the most lucrative jobs because of their dislike for the subject.

Only 40 per cent would consider a job that ‘requires considerable use of mathematics’ over one that is science-based, while for boys it is 50 per cent.

Even if they choose science-heavy jobs, they tend to opt for those with little maths, such as health and social fields. Boys show a preference to be engineers or computer scientists.

The study suggested there is no genetic reason for the difference between the sexes in the UK.

There is no gender gap in 23 of the 65 countries or major economic regions studied and girls outperform boys in several countries including Iceland and Malaysia.

The data comes from further analysis of the OECD’s 2012 PISA survey (Programme for International Student Assessment), which last month revealed British teenagers have dropped out of the top 20 rankings in maths, science and reading for the first time.

Pupils in Vietnam, Shanghai and Poland now have a better understanding of all three core subjects.

Another report from the organisation in October found the UK was the only country where young people were worse at maths and reading than those approaching retirement, despite years of rising exam grades.

The latest research said there had been no improvement in closing the gap in maths between boys and girls since 2003.

The authors said: ‘More troubling still is the fact that the gender gap extends to students’ attitudes towards learning mathematics, which has repercussions in life well beyond school.

‘Shrinking the gender gap in mathematics performance will require the concerted effort of parents, teachers and society as a whole to change the stereotyped notions of what boys and girls excel at, what they enjoy doing and what they believe they can achieve.’

Recommendations to ‘change the mindset’ include making the subject more interesting to girls and eliminating stereotypes in textbooks.

Education minister Elizabeth Truss said girls had been let down by ‘outdated assumptions about what they are good at’.

She added: ‘This government’s reforms are fixing the problem. Thanks to the new Ebacc measure [of core subjects including English, maths and science to check a school’s performance], the number of girls doing GCSE physics is at record levels, while girls’ A-level entries for chemistry and maths are at their highest ever levels.’


Students caught getting drunk at a British university BAR to be fined £200 and hauled in front of a disciplinary hearing

Killjoy university bosses have threatened students with a £200 fine if they are caught drunk - in a campus bar.

Students at Lancaster University received an email telling them anyone who appeared to be intoxicated would be fined and hauled in front of a disciplinary hearing.

The bizarre ban at the popular Lonsdale Bar also says anyone caught getting a pint for someone who is drunk could be fined £250 - including bar staff.

But within hours of Friday’s email students packed out the bar to down drinks in protest at the new rules, apparently passed to curb two-for-one drinks offers.

The announcement from Lonsdale College administrator Juli Shorrock said: 'Students found in Lonsdale Bar or coming out of Lonsdale Bar who appear to be drunk to a porter, college officer or assistant dean will be required to identify themselves and will be summoned to a disciplinary hearing.'

However, the college bar still offered discounted drinks to students that were 'cheaper than pre-drinking'.

Students took to Twitter to defy the new rules.

Joshua Polding wrote: 'Tales of last night’s rebellious carnage in @LonnieCollege bar just shows we are the best college on campus #tryfiningusnow'

Lucie Alice added: 'They ban us from drinking so we go to the bar and get drunk #wedowhatwewant'

Student union president Joel Pullan, said he thought the decree was 'damaging.'

He added: 'While LUSU holds no jurisdiction over the college bars we are striving to find out more information on the reasons behind these fines.

'Though we advocate sensible drinking, we feel such policies could damage the college bar system which we, with students have fought so hard to preserve.'

The university has played down the ban and claimes it was a 'one-off campaign' to 'raise awareness of UK law on getting drunk and the potential consequences'.

A spokesperson added: 'The ban was not enforced and the bar operated normally.  'There was a great atmosphere from very early in the evening with large numbers having a great time with their friends and enjoying a drink.

'Lonsdale bar has been praised by the police for being run responsibly and we intend to keep it that way.

'The university only fines students where there is damage to property or persons.'


Thursday, January 23, 2014

Rotten to the Common Core

Once upon a time, parents, local school boards, and states determined classroom curriculum. Those days are quickly disappearing. Misnamed “state standards,” the federal Common Core curriculum guidance is an attempt to further nationalize education. Forty-five states plus DC have embraced Common Core, although as George Will notes, they have done so in exchange for stimulus funds or waivers from federal regulations – federal arm-twisting at its best. Even worse, some states adopted Common Core almost immediately after the June 2, 2010 release of the standards, leaving little to no time to evaluate their efficacy. Another case of “passing” something to find out what's in it.

Of course, the problem with Common Core is that such an effort ignores the fact that under the Tenth Amendment, education is a power “not delegated” to the federal government and, therefore, belongs solely to the states or the people. But the federal government has been ignoring the Tenth Amendment for a long time.

Aside from constitutional questions, federal involvement has largely degraded public education. As Will highlights, “Fifty years of increasing Washington inputs into K-12 education has coincided with disappointing cognitive outputs from schools.” Indeed, despite massive increases in federal education spending, student achievement has not kept pace. In the end, Common Core simply represents another example of the Left's attempt to centralize everything. Thankfully, some states are starting to realize the danger of bowing to Uncle Sam and are reconsidering Common Core's implementation. Armed with the Constitution, these states are taking on one of its greatest foes: the U.S. government.


If You Hate Your Kids, Send Them to Public School

Doug Giles

Y’know, when I was a wee lad growing up in West Texas, public schools weren’t all that bad. We started our day off with the pledge of allegiance, said prayers during football games, actually studied our nation’s founding docs, sang patriotic songs, and we celebrated the true meaning of both Christmas and Easter.

In addition to that pro-American bliss, nearly everyone and their dog graduated. It’s true. Dogs were actually graduating from school back then. I know. Weird, eh?

Indeed, out of our large graduating class there was only one drop out and that was my childhood buddy who left school to join the Banditos’ motorcycle gang. He had a tattoo before tats became hip and groovy, ubiquitous and virulently narcissistic. (Speaking of tattoos: Girls … if you’re going to get a cute butterfly inked into your shoulder, you must make the general public a promise that you will not gain 600lbs later in life and have that blue moth morph into a massive, faded condor that we all have to stare at. If that’s too much to ask, then please cease to wear tube-tops so we don’t have to gawk at that muted, colored vulture on your enormous back. Deal? Deal. Anyway, back to the good old days …)

When our parents dumped us off at school, they weren’t riddled with fear that our schoolmarms were going to morph us into domestic terrorists who think Che Guevera is the bomb. Our folks also knew that sexed-up teachers wouldn’t teach kinky weirdness to their twelve-year-olds. No, if their kids were going to learn about sex it would be done in the traditional way via their older brothers and their Playboy magazine stash in the alley behind the house.

Today, as far as public schools are concerned, it’s a veritable loaded-dice roll regarding how your kids will come out after spending eight hours a day with our “educators“. More than likely, Dad, unless you’re Bill Ayers, Khalid Sheik Mohammed or Russell Brand, you’re not going to be too pleased with what the public schools do with your kids’ noggins.

This week, a story surfaced about the father of a thirteen-year-old girl who got righteously ticked when his daughter showed him a pic of what the loons were lacing his dear daughter’s curriculum with. Check it out:

The father of a 13 year-old girl who was upset by a classroom poster that listed sex acts was shocked to hear that the poster is part of her school’s health and science curriculum.

As local Fox News affiliate in Kansas,, reported Tuesday, Mark Ellis said his daughter, a student at Hocker Grove Middle school in the Shawnee Mission School District, was “shocked” by what she saw on a poster on a classroom wall in school. Ellis said his daughter took a picture of the poster and showed her parents.

Originally, Ellis assumed the poster to be a student prank, until he called the school and discovered it was part of the curriculum.

Why would you put it in front of 13 year-old students? He asked.

The poster, entitled, “How Do People Express Their Sexual Feelings?” lists sex acts such as: Oral Sex, Sexual Fantasy, Caressing, Anal Sex, Dancing, Hugging, Touching Each Other’s Genitals, Kissing, Grinding, and Masturbation.

Ellis said after being told by the school principal the poster was “teaching material,” he is now concerned about what his daughter is being taught in school.

I’ve got two words for that poster being put out by a public school to 13-year-olds: they are “holy” and “guacamole”.

Man, when I was thirteen I had no real idea what sex was. I thought it consisted of my mom and dad wrestling with their shirts off. At least that’s what it looked like when they didn’t lock the door that one Friday night that, try as I may, I’ll never forget.

Sure, as a young pubescent boy I was attracted to girls. But we did normal things back then to show our interest in the opposite sex like: pull the girl’s hair, or jump a tall ramp on our Huffy while they watched, or suck milk through straws shoved up our nostrils. Y’know … something to show our prowess. It was cave man stuff.

Now, certainly the aforementioned wasn’t pretty or too suave, but it never came into to our minds that if we wanted to show we had feelings for a fair lass we should do it via anal sex. But that’s what is being taught at frickin’ Hocker Grove Middle School.

Good Lord, parents. You gotta take reins of your kids’ brains and bodies and rip them out of the hands of these bastions of banality, communism and overt sexualization.

Do it now, before it’s too late.


Australia:  State government minister says teacher selection criteria should be more strict

Education Minister Adrian Piccoli says NSW needs to enforce stricter benchmarks for its teacher training courses, despite already having the toughest entry requirements in the country.

Mr Piccoli last week visited Finland, widely recognised as one of the world's leading education systems, where he says a highly-trained teacher workforce had been key to maintaining high standards.

Under the state government's new guidelines for teacher training to be implemented next year, school leavers will be required to score at least a band five, or more than 80 per cent, in three HSC subjects, including English.

But, after spending time in Finnish classrooms and meeting with the country's education bureaucrats, Mr Piccoli said "we then need to go to the next level".

"What I get out of what Finland does is that we need to take the measures we've already brought in and take them several steps further," he said.

"We need to have a much closer relationship between the universities and schools and have a very responsive approach. As soon as there's a change in what happens in schools, we've got to make sure that that change happens in universities in terms of what they're teaching."

The vice-chancellor of the University of Sydney, Michael Spence, said the government's focus should not be on who is allowed into teaching courses but who is admitted into the profession.

"I think the question about the quality of the employees in the NSW teaching workforce is not an issue for the universities to solve, it's an issue for the NSW government as an employer to solve," Dr Spence said.

"If he's interested in selection criteria, then he ought to be looking at the selection criteria for the teachers he employs. Why is there still a system in NSW where you can put your name down on a list and end up as a teacher? "

The head of the University of NSW's school of education, Chris Davison, said she was troubled by ongoing "public pronouncements by key stakeholders denigrating the quality of teacher education".

"We're concerned that that's actually having the opposite effect to what's intended, in that it's putting off people that do have a very strong interest in teaching because they think it's low on the pecking order in terms of public confidence and esteem," Professor Davison said.

Mr Piccoli said the main factor damaging the status of the profession was "the perception that anyone can get into teaching".

Federal Education Minister Christopher Pyne has said he will set up a ministerial advisory group on teacher quality.


Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Report: Majority of Campuses Severely Restrict Free Speech

And that's an improvement. According to a new report released by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, a non-profit educational organization, 59 percent of campuses around the country severely restrict free speech. These campuses maintain restrictions on students through speech codes and other policies. Here are the main findings from the report:

 59% (58.6%) of the 427 schools surveyed have speech codes that clearly and substantially restrict protected speech. (FIRE labels these “red light” schools.) Another 35.6% have “yellow light” policies that overregulate speech on campus.

This represents a nearly 17% decline in red light schools from six years ago, when policies at 75% of schools seriously restricted student speech.

The percentage of red light public schools, which are legally bound by the First Amendment, continued to drop, from 61.6% last year to 57.6% this year.

The percentage of red light private schools (which promise free speech but do not deliver it) also fell, from 63.4% last year to 61.5% this year.

In more good news, Eastern Kentucky University eliminated all of its speech codes this year, earning FIRE’s highest, “green light,” rating.

"The U.S. Supreme Court has called America's colleges and universities 'vital centers for the Nation's intellectual life.' However, the reality today is that many of these institutions severely restrict free speech and open debate. Speech coeds -- policies prohibiting speech that would, outside the bounds of campus, be protected by the First Amendment -- have been repeatedly struck down by federal and state courts for decades," the executive summary of the report states. "Yet they persist, even in the very jurisdictions where they have been ruled unconstitutional."

Although the speech police on campus still exist, FIRE is hopeful moving forward as some campuses come to their senses to either pull back on speech restrictions or to eliminate them altogether.

“We are heartened to see another drop in the percentage of campuses maintaining restrictive speech codes,” FIRE’s Director of Policy Research Samantha Harris said in a statement. “There is much more work to be done, however, particularly in light of the confusing messages coming from the federal government about the relationship between harassment and free speech. For starters, the Department of Education needs to make clear to universities, once and for all, that prohibiting harassment does not mean restricting protected speech.”



Conservatives Embrace Fancy Book Learnin’!

Who hasn’t had some liberal sneer at him, “Why don’t you conservatives go read a book?” This powerful critique of the intellectual deficiencies of my ideological brethren always cuts me to the bone. I’m usually so upset that I run weeping to my fine German touring sedan, completely forgetting to tip the nose-studded holder of a degree in Gender Neutral Puppetry who pointed out my educational failings while he fetched my latte.

This meme is nonsense. In fact, conservative tastes in books can be quite eclectic. One day last week, Amazon delivered Hugh Hewitt’s new book on happiness concurrently with bassist Peter Hook’s memoir of Joy Division, a band best known to the public for its lead singer hanging himself.

Joy Division’s often depressing, tragic music could provide an appropriate soundtrack for James V. Lacy’s Taxifornia: Liberals' Laboratory to Bankrupt America.If you like footnotes with citations to damning data, Taxifornia is for you. Lacy, a lawyer who I have never met but who shares a book agent and a publisher with me, makes an air-tight case that liberalism is crushing the California dream. There’s no way to come out of reading it not seeing that the reverse alchemy of liberalism is turning the Golden State into a commonwealth of rusty tin.

Lacy powerfully evokes the California’s past as a mecca for those striving to build their futures. My family moved here in 1972; I can still remember how vibrant, exciting and new it was. Today, California is a plodding, dull and decaying mess. Outsiders think of California as a state run by wacky, freaky kooks, but Lacy shows that’s not it at all. It’s now run by the most common and conventional liberal political hacks, Democrat politicians owned by rent-seeking public employee unions who would be comfortable in any Chicago ward. Give me the free spirited hippy-dippy wackos of the past over these cynical plunderers any day.

Much cheerier is Glenn Harlan Reynold’s The New School: How the Information Age Will Save American Education from Itself. It’s cheerier because it predicts the inevitable death of the bloated liberal educational complex that, from kindergarten to grad school, simultaneously vacuums up enormous resources while generally delivering very little in the way of results.

Reynolds curates the legendary Instapundit website, an oft-updated aggregation of links to the most interesting stuff on the web. I’ve been starting my day at Instapundit since around 9/11, and it seems to me he’s moved from more libertarian to straight-on conservative over the years. He’s certainly no friend of the statists, the collectivists, or the status quo.

Reynolds (who I have never met but know from Twitter) is a law professor, and every young person even thinking about law school should consider what he says about that foolish course of action. Law school used to be the go-to fall-back option for the liberal arts major with nothing better to do (Hello, me!). Now it’s a way to get $200,000 in debt in exchange for a 50/50 chance of getting a job making about what I made as a new attorney back in 1994.

Like Lacy, Reynolds points out the incalculable damage teachers’ unions do – I’d ban them and consign the concept of tenure to hell along with them. His recitation of the vast number of useless, costly “diversity deans” at my own alma mater, the University of California, is as sickening as it is hilarious.

Reynolds is kind of a techno cheerleader – I guess he never got the memo about how conservatives hate science. The New School makes a compelling case that the unsustainability of ever-rising costs and the growing perception of a low return on investment, combined with technological advances, will totally change education as we know it. Why pay a fortune to sit with a thousand other suckers in a cavernous lecture hall learning almost nothing – except that America is a heteronormative vortex of imperialist oppression – when you can do it online for 5% of the cost? Reynolds predicts that soon no one but spawn of the super-rich will.

Then there is the cheeriest of the books, The Happiest Life: Seven Gifts, Seven Givers & the Secret to Genuine Success by radio host and Townhall columnist Hugh Hewitt. Hugh’s point about happiness is an old one, and it’s no secret really. You get by giving, not mere material goods but a part of yourself. You gain joy by choosing to sacrifice your attention, your effort, your time – and the book is infused with reminders that we only have a limited time in this life.

Hugh lives that ethic too – he’s given me and many other folks a lot of help along the way. It must work. Hugh is also, without a doubt, one of the most consistently cheery people I’ve ever met, despite his being a high profile lawyer.

The Happiest Life firmly places the responsibility for happiness upon the shoulders of the individual; happiness is a result of how you choose to live your life. Though it is not a political book, it begs the question regarding how a liberal might view happiness. Liberals believe in giving too, except they “give” what are another’s material possessions to those the liberal believes more deserving. But this seems to bring liberals no happiness – they often seem so miserable – and under Hugh’s construction it cannot. Redistribution not an act of sacrifice; it’s an exercise of power.

I found myself stopping frequently to think about what I had just read, and I cannot conceive of higher praise. Also, you’ll also find one of the best selection of epigrams ever, including my new favorite from Thucydides: “The secret to happiness is freedom, and the secret to freedom is courage.”

Oh, and Unknown Pleasure: Inside Joy Division is a brilliant book, illuminating and often hilarious. It’s also deeply conservative. The lads weren’t snooty artist types (though that became their fan base after Ian Curtis’s tragic suicide). They were working class Brits who really wanted to be musicians and worked hard to do it. Joy Division’s story is as inspiring as their music is classic.

The uppity barista who chides conservatives for failing to measure up tome-wise would be well advised to take his own advice and do a little reading himself. Taxifornia might help him understand why the best job he can get is making coffee drinks for lawyers who laugh at his pretentions. And The New School might have warned him away from taking on $150,000 in debt to end up with a job making coffee drinks for lawyers who laugh at his pretentions.

As good as it is, The Happiest Life probably isn’t going to help him find happiness – the discussion of faith might make him spontaneously combust – but Unknown Pleasures at least might get him into some cool music and away from that Mumford & Sons crap.

Finally, here’s a shameless plug for my own writing. My short, snarky parody of liberal love 50 Shade of Liberal just came out on Amazon Kindle, and Post Hill Press will publish my book, Conservative Insurgency: The Struggle to Take America Back 2013-2041, this spring.

Yeah, liberals, maybe conservatives would read more books if we weren’t so busy writing them.


Student loan problems attracting attention

Tiffany Roberson works for the state of Texas as a parole officer, teaches part time and is living with her parents after finishing a master’s degree. She’s held off marrying her boyfriend of four years and starting a family because she owes more than $170,000 in federal and private student loans.

“I’ve never gone into default,” the 30-year-old said. “What really hurts is people say I’m a bum for living at home.”

Federal Reserve economists are trying to determine whether people like Roberson represent a trend that will damage U.S. growth, partly by restricting sales of houses and cars. Student loans are one of the only deteriorating pockets of consumer credit, with balances and delinquency rates rising to record highs even as a strengthening economy allows Americans to reduce total borrowing.

Outstanding education debt exceeded $1 trillion in the third quarter of 2013, and the share of loans delinquent 90 days or more rose to 11.8 percent, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. By contrast, delinquencies for mortgage, credit-card and auto debt all have declined from their peaks.

“I’m always made very nervous by a credit market that benefits from government guarantees and is expanding very rapidly,” Jeffrey Lacker, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond, said in response to audience questions after a speech at a Jan. 10 Greater Raleigh Chamber of Commerce event in North Carolina. “That’s what we’re seeing with student loans, and it’s what we saw with housing.”

Debt Analysis

Economists at the New York Fed are analyzing student debt as part of their quarterly reports on national household credit. That project emerged six years ago as the credit crisis unfolded, when the researchers and their then-boss, Timothy F. Geithner, realized there wasn’t a good way to study total consumer borrowing.

They began assembling their own figures, relying on credit reports from Atlanta-based credit bureau Equifax Inc. (EFX) -- and found that information on student borrowing was particularly sparse because of gaps in the frequency and type of publicly available data.

The Department of Education releases defaults rates on federal loans once a year and only for borrowers who haven’t made required payments for at least 270 consecutive days during the two- and three-year periods after they graduate or drop out. The rates don’t include students with extensions -- such as deferrals and forbearance, or federal income-based repayment programs -- which can indicate signs of borrower distress. They also don’t include private loans, which account for about 15 percent of the market.
Little Data

“We didn’t realize there was so little data,” said Wilbert van der Klaauw, one of the New York Fed economists involved in the analysis.

Studying the growth of education debt as part of total consumer borrowing is important because it may limit access to credit for financing homes or autos, van der Klaauw and economists Donghoon Lee and Andrew Haughwout said in a Jan. 9 interview at the district bank. They and their colleagues also are trying to understand how the rising burden influences living arrangements -- such as college graduates like Roberson who stay with their parents because they can’t afford to move out. That, in turn, may reduce marriage and birth rates.

The New York Fed has played an important role in analyzing the potential problem by focusing on outstanding student loans, delinquencies and how this borrowing fits into the larger consumer-debt picture, said Lauren Asher, president of the Institute for College Access & Success, a nonprofit group based in Oakland, California.

‘No Question’

There’s “no question” we need to know more “than the current data tells us,” she said.

Students are borrowing more to fund college and graduate school as the cost of higher education rises faster than the rate of inflation. The price tag at some of the most expensive private colleges is now more than $60,000 annually. Average tuition and fees at private schools in the 2013-2014 academic year was $30,094, up from $18,060 in 2002-2003, according to the College Board, a New York-based nonprofit representing more than 6,000 educational institutions.

The share of 25-year-old Americans with student debt increased to 43 percent in 2012 from 25 percent in 2003, and the average loan balance rose 91 percent, to $20,326 from $10,649, New York Fed data show.

Real-Time Calculations

While the district bank’s calculations don’t distinguish between private and federal loan debt, they are more real-time than those of the Education Department: They reflect balances on a 5 percent sample of people with a Social Security number and a credit report. The Education Department’s default rate covers only dropouts and graduates two and three years after finishing a program.

The department began publishing data on its website in July 2013 about the current status of outstanding federal student loans, such as forbearance and deferment, to provide more information in a user-friendly format, a spokesman said.

There remain a lot of “missing pieces,” including the link between debt levels and specific universities or courses of study, van der Klaauw said.

“If you’re a pre-med student, you’re an engineering student, and you take out $40,000 or $60,000 of loans, I have no problem with that,” John Silvia, chief economist at Wells Fargo & Co., said in response to audience questions after a speech at the Jan. 10 Raleigh, North Carolina, event. “But if you’re going to be a French major, you’re going to study social welfare, and you’re going to take out $60,000 of loans, who is making the economic judgment there?”

Government Loans

U.S. borrowers, including students and their parents, owe $1.2 trillion in educational-loan debt, according to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, or CFPB -- surpassing all other kinds of consumer borrowing except for mortgages. About $1 trillion is government loans and the rest is an estimate of private loans based on data submitted for a 2012 report.

There’s a discrepancy between the CFPB’s number and the New York Fed’s: The district bank calculates the total at $1.03 trillion.

“We do hear from borrowers that they sometimes find missing or inaccurate information in their credit reports when it comes to student loans,” said Rohit Chopra, the CFPB’s student-loan ombudsman, who published a blog post in August that analyzed federal debt. “This does raise questions” about the accuracy of information servicers give reporting agencies.
Borrow More

While undergraduates are limited in how much they can finance through federal programs, parents and graduate students can borrow much more. They can take out federal PLUS loans up to the cost of attendance -- including tuition, room, board, transportation and personal expenses -- minus any aid received.

A student-loan crisis would “force parents and students to think about” their expected return on education, Silvia said. “Like in housing, we learn by going through that craziness, and now hopefully the next generation won’t make that same mistake.”

Borrowers already have a harder time with repayments. About one in seven, or 14.7 percent, of students defaulted on federal loans in the first three years they are required to make payments, according to Education Department data released in September. The rate was was 13.4 percent a year earlier.

While the New York Fed and CFPB data “have their limitations,” they are “helping to flesh out the clearer picture and key dynamics,” said the Oakland nonprofit’s Asher.

‘More Opaque’

“Compared to other financial products, performance data on student loans is much more opaque,” Chopra said. Given that the market has grown so rapidly, “financial regulators must significantly increase the level of monitoring.”

“Our job is to really understand what’s happening in the financial system,” and the “very rapid rise in student-loan debt over the last few years” can “actually have some pretty significant consequences to the economic outlook,” New York Fed President William C. Dudley said at a Nov. 20 briefing with reporters at the district bank.

“People can have trouble with the student-loan debt burden -- unable to buy cars, unable to buy homes -- and so it can really delay the cycle.”

Tiffany Roberson now is looking for a third job, partly because rising interest rates have increased her debt to about $72,000 in federal loans and $102,000 in private loans. She pays almost $1,000 a month on the latter and about $33 on the federal loan through a program based on her income.

“These payments eat up my paycheck,” she said. “It puts a huge drain on living the American dream.”


Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Public School Discipline and Obama's Egalitarian Society

Claiming to protect the civil rights of minority students by condemning good black kids from inner-city schools to classrooms with dysfunctional and violent juvenile delinquents seems like a plan orchestrated by the Imperial Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan. However, this is the brainchild of the Obama administration to remedy its alleged racial discrimination in school discipline policies that do-gooding liberals imposed in the first place.

Just last Wednesday, the Department of Justice and the Department of Education sent a co-authored letter to K-12 public schools across the country. Unbelievably, the letter advises educators to alter disciplinary practices involving disruptive black students in order to ensure that all racial groups are now punished in equal percentages.

In fact, if the proportions in discipline by racial groups do not balance out, the letter threatens that schools could face federal lawsuits.

Currently, government data reveals that black students are suspended three and a half times more often than white students are. On the other hand, Asian students are suspended far less frequently than are whites -- more than two times less often, according to the government’s study.

Of course, the DOJ’s letter simply ignores the latter fact; maybe because whites students are not minorities -- well, not at most schools anyway.

On the surface, however, someone looking at these statistical facts alone might be persuaded to believe that a gang of conservative-Asian bigots was running the public school system. I mean, the DOJ and DOE’s letter flat out states, “In short, racial discrimination in school discipline is a real problem” -- except in terms of suspending Asian students.

I have taught English and coached wrestling in a few different public high schools across the country, including two predominantly black schools most recently. The latter two schools are located in a city ranked by as one of the top 10 most impoverished cities in America. It also consistently ranks among the top 50 most dangerous cities in the country.

I can assure you that conservative-Asian bigots do not control the public school system there -- or anywhere else. But you do not have to rely on my personal experience as proof.

At the 2011 National Education Association’s convention, 72 percent of delegates voted to endorse President Obama for re-election. It is painfully clear that if there are any racist bigots imposing racially discriminatory discipline on students, those racists would most certainly be multicultural liberals.

Nevertheless, the attorney general is blaming “zero-tolerance” policies, not the liberals who imposed them, for the problem. (Of course, it seems kind of ironic that Holder has zero tolerance for the idea of blind justice, but I digress.) The DOJ claims that while zero-tolerance policies are well intentioned, they disproportionately affect minority students.

Here is how the DOJ explains the high number of suspensions regarding disruptive black students: “Schools ... violate Federal law when they evenhandedly implement facially neutral policies and practices that, although not adopted with the intent to discriminate, nonetheless have an unjustified effect of discriminating against students on the basis of race."

In other words, “Some black students have more of a propensity to violate school rules so we are directing you to start ignoring them, and if you don’t, we will prosecute you for violating their civil rights.”

The DOJ even makes an effort to drag the well-behaved and scholarly Asian students in to its discipline discrimination charges. According to the letter, Asian students are being disproportionately disciplined for being late to school because they tend to live farther away from the schools than other students.

But why do Asian students not attend schools closer to where they live? Are liberal administrators assigning school zones in an effort to increase test scores at schools where the general population might not naturally have any Asians at all? It is not like busing for that very purpose is some radically new liberal concept.

Then again, busing Asian students to schools far away from their own neighborhoods is more likely explained by liberals as part of the multiculturalism experience. Of course, encouraging students to emulate the respect for teachers, self discipline, hard work, respect for others, and responsibility that Asian students typically exhibit is something that violates the foundation of multiculturalism. Assimilation is bad. To liberals, Asian students are just fun to watch and really do a good job improving a school’s test scores.

Nevertheless, regarding zero-tolerance policies in general, Attorney General Holder insists the policies too often escalate school matters to the level of criminal behavior.

The DOJ’s letter cites examples like chewing gum, being late to class, and cell phone violations. However, at many inner-city schools, each one of those seemingly minor infractions can quickly escalate to a student causing a verbal commotion or even physically threatening the teacher attempting to correct the infraction.

Furthermore, gang members routinely use their cell phones to organize drug deals, fights, and more in bathrooms and stairwells during requests to go to the restroom. Simply maintaining some semblance of order at inner-city schools is a full-time job.

Meanwhile, good black students routinely sit frustrated or become disengaged as their teachers are preoccupied with resolving conflicts or filling out the required documentation of an incident report or referral to classrooms called “Chill Out” or “ICE” (a.k.a. in school suspension). Thorough documentation is necessary to justify a principal’s decision to suspend an unruly student who takes up 20 minutes of class time by refusing to comply with a teacher’s simple instructions to be quiet or to leave the room -- you know, 20-minute minor infractions like that.

Granted, principals should have discretion in making disciplinary decisions for individual students. Decisions made by individuals closest to the problems are generally better than those made by disengaged bureaucrats in Washington D.C.. Central planning generally comes up with stupid ideas like replacing personal discretion with racial quotas.

The truth is that any racial discrimination in school discipline would be the exception, not the norm. In terms of many classrooms in inner-city schools, they are nothing more than security-guard jobs. As long as the hoodlums from the neighborhoods are not out committing crimes in the city for a good part of the day, politicians and Attorney General Eric Holder will happily sacrifice the education of the good black kids who are mired in those chaotic classrooms.

On the other hand, what is so different about students of Asian descent? Why do they face far less discipline at school than other students? The answer is quite obvious. More of their parents have zero tolerance for disrespect and delinquency at home.

Instead of celebrating counterproductive “stereotypes” associated with any racial group under the banner of multiculturalism, perhaps students should be expected to assimilate and pursue qualities that produce personal success, not government dependency.

Demanding higher standards of conduct from all school children seems like a far better plan than having the federal government force schools not to suspend black juvenile delinquents who are robbing their black classmates of an education at school and committing other crimes when they are not confined to a classroom.

Liberals certainly benefit when everyone just ignores the violence and crime taking place in communities like the one where my former students live. Though most Americans might think of inner-city schools in places like Cleveland, Detroit, Chicago, or Washington D.C, smaller cities have the same if not worse problems.

If this situation were not so serious regarding the education of the black children who strive hard to avoid the snares of trouble in their cities, it would almost be hilarious that the DOJ’s letter exposes the fact that liberal fantasies (like Holder’s naughty dream of racial punishment) are the obvious causes of their own complaints of racial discrimination.

Maybe this whole situation is bigger than civil rights though. It may very well be an effort by the Obama administration to also substantiate multiculturalism. Clearly, Asian students tend to be more respectful toward teachers and just more serious students than other kids. Just look back at the suspension data and check out their test scores.

But if all races are going to be punished in equal percentages, there really are no superior values in any one culture. More good people are simply going to become the victims of bad people who will face no consequences for the offenses.

Finally, liberals might have found a way to achieve their egalitarian society after all. And it looks like everyone is going to be miserable.


The Common Coring of private schools

Should private schools be primarily accountable to parents or to government bureaucrats?

That’s the central question the Thomas B. Fordham Institute seeks to answer in the report it released Tuesday. The institute proposes that state governments should require private schools to administer state tests to all students participating in school-choice programs, and that the results should be publicized. Any private school the state deemed “persistently underperforming” would be expelled from the choice program.

This policy is well-intentioned, but a bad idea. It isn’t supported by the evidence and would be detrimental to the hundreds of thousands of students participating in school-choice programs nationwide.

First, the evidence: It is telling that the Fordham Institute cites only one study that suggests its policy “may boost student achievement.” Problematically, one of the authors of that study has already publicly cautioned against drawing this conclusion, noting that his finding is “enticing and suggestive but hardly conclusive.”

But even if the support of that one study were not in question, it would still only be one study. And a single study, no matter how carefully executed, is not a scientific basis for policy.

By contrast, there is a significant body of evidence that school-choice programs work without excessive government regulation. Of twelve randomized controlled trials — the gold standard of social-science research — eleven found that school-choice programs improve outcomes for some or all students, while only one found no statistically significant difference. None found a negative impact. And none of these school-choice programs studied were designed along the lines of the Fordham Institute proposal.

A 2009 literature review of the within-country studies comparing outcomes among different types of school systems worldwide revealed that the most market-like and least regulated education systems tend to produce student outcomes superior to more heavily regulated systems, including those with a substantial number of state-funded and regulated private schools. In short, the evidence suggests the best form of accountability is directly to parents, not government bureaucrats.

While the benefit of further regulating private schools is dubious, the harm is clear. By forcing every school to administer the same tests, states would induce conformity and stifle diversity and innovation. This is especially threatening because it’s already happening across the country, even without mandates, through the spread of the Common Core.

Forty-five states have adopted and begun to implement the Common Core’s uniform national curriculum standards. Though the standards do not prescribe a curriculum per se, the Common Core–aligned tests create a powerful incentive for schools to teach the same concepts in the same order at the same time. This would make it all but impossible for schools to experiment with new ways of tailoring education to meet the needs of individual children — they will instead have to resort to expecting that all children who happened to be born in the same year progress at the same rate across subjects. As Professor Jay Greene of the University of Arkansas has cautioned:

    "Such uniformity would only make sense if: 1) there was a single best way for all students to learn; 2) we knew what it was; 3) we could be sure the people running this nationalized education system would adopt that correct approach; and 4) they would remain in charge far into the future. But that isn’t how things are. There is no consensus on what all students need to know. Different students can best be taught and assessed in different ways."

If states force private schools to administer state tests, which will now be Common Core–aligned, they will almost entirely eliminate any viable alternative education systems.

Why? Even schools that don’t participate in school-choice programs, and therefore don’t have to take the state tests, will be affected. All over the world and across history, whenever private elementary and secondary schools are eligible for government subsidies, whether directly or indirectly (via school-choice programs), the share of students enrolling in unsubsidized schools falls.

Private schools that resist such regulation will be in the minority, and will gradually be driven out of business by their subsidized counterparts (much as America’s once-dominant private schools were marginalized by the spread of “free” state-run schools). Private schools may value their autonomy, but they value their existence even more. The higher the subsidy and the longer it has been in place, the more the unsubsidized sector is diminished.

If state governments expand their authority over private schools, even the Fordham Institute will likely come to regret it. Ultimately, it won’t be Fordham’s friends whose power has been expanded, but that of the teachers’ unions and other vested interests.

As Professor Greene has warned, “Minority religions shouldn’t favor building national churches, because inevitably it won’t be their gospel being preached.”


Cost no barrier for some as Australian universities lose students to Oxford and Harvard

The number of Australians heading to the world's most prestigious universities such as Harvard and Oxford for their undergraduate degree is swelling, as students are lured by reputation and rich scholarly traditions.

But a leading education expert says the immense costs, up to $90,000 a year, will remain a barrier for all but a privileged minority or those with scholarships.

While 55,000 students received offers this week to study at NSW universities, many others were preparing for a year abroad.

Kim Zhang, who graduated from Pymble Ladies' College last year, will soon join an impressive list of Australians to have studied at Oxford University, including Tony Abbott and three other Prime Ministers.

The 18-year-old, who received an ATAR of 99.95, will travel to the oldest university in the English-speaking world to study the classics.

"It's one of the best places in the world for classical literature and philosophy and history," she said.

Australia is Oxford's fifth-largest source of international talent, with more than 300 Australians currently enrolled, of which less than a quarter are undergraduates.

In the US, two-thirds of the Australians studying at university are undergraduates or on exchange programs, figures from the Institute of International Education show.

Between 2012 and last year, more than 4000 Australian students were studying at American universities.

And, while there are more than 3000 institutions, Australians are well represented at the eight elite Ivy League universities in the US, with Harvard University the equal second most popular place for undergraduates to study and Princeton University equal sixth.

The most recent enrolment data from Columbia University in New York shows there were 116 Australian students in 2012, almost double the number in 2006.

Last year, the University of California, Berkeley had 65 Australians enrolled, Princeton had 30 undergraduates and 21 graduates and Yale had 42 students, including 15 undergraduates.

US consulate general public affairs officer David McGuire said the Ivy League universities were "highly selective".

Acceptance rates are as low as 5.69 per cent at Stanford University and 5.79 per cent at Harvard. In Britain, only 12 undergraduate Australians were accepted to study at Cambridge University in 2012 out of almost 100 applicants.

As well as competitiveness, Grattan Institute higher education program director Andrew Norton said cost would be a barrier for most students without scholarships.

"You'd expect some growth but I think the cost and social implications of studying overseas are still going to keep most people here," he said.

It is estimated Harvard costs an international student $73,000 a year. Cambridge ranges from $55,000 to more than $90,000.

By comparison, studying law at the University of Sydney while living at one of the prestigious on-campus colleges would cost about $30,000 without a government loan.

Jane McNeill, director of Hays recruitment in NSW, said a degree from a top university did not carry the advantage it once did.

"Today many employers value candidates with experience as well as a degree," she said. "The biggest advantage of a degree from a prestigious university is probably the alumni network and the connection you make with fellow students."


Monday, January 20, 2014

Politics Versus Education

Thomas Sowell

Anyone who has still not yet understood the utter cynicism of the Obama administration in general, and Attorney General Eric Holder in particular, should look at the Justice Department's latest interventions in education.

If there is one thing that people all across the ideological spectrum should be able to agree on, it is that better education is desperately needed by black youngsters, especially in the ghettoes. For most, it is their one chance for a better life.

Among the few bright spots in a generally dismal picture of the education of black students are those successful charter schools or voucher schools to which many black parents try to get their children admitted. Some of these schools have not only reached but exceeded national norms, even when located in neighborhoods where the regular public schools lag far behind.

Where admission to these schools is by a lottery, the cheers and tears that follow announcements of who has been admitted -- and, by implication, who will be forced to continue in the regular public schools -- tell the story better than words can.

When the state of Louisiana decided to greatly expand the number of schools available to students by parental choice, rather than by the rigidities of the usual public school system, Attorney General Holder's Justice Department objected on grounds that this was at cross-purposes with the federal government's racial integration goals for the schools.

In short, Louisiana's attempt to improve the education of children is subordinated by Holder to the federal government's attempt to mix and match black and white students.

If we have learned nothing else after decades of socially divisive and educationally futile racial busing, it should be obvious that seating black kids next to white kids is neither necessary nor sufficient to get them a better education.

The truly despicable intervention by Attorney General Holder is his warning to schools against discipline policies that result in a higher proportion of minority students than white students being punished.

This racial body count method of determining whether there is discrimination by the schools might make sense if we were certain that there could be no differences in behavior that would explain the differences in punishment. But does any sane adult really believe that there cannot be any difference between the behavior of black boys and Asian girls, for example?

There is a lot of make-believe when it comes to racial issues, whether out of squeamishness, political correctness or expediency. There is also a lot of deliberate racial polarization, and attempts to promote a sense of grievance and fear among black voters, in order to keep their votes in the Democrats' column.

What makes this playing politics with school discipline so unconscionable is that a lack of discipline is one of the crushing handicaps in many ghetto schools. If 10 percent of the students in a classroom are disruptive, disrespectful and violent, the chances of teaching the other 90 percent effectively are very low.

Yet, in the words of the New York Times, "The Obama administration speaks out against zero tolerance discipline." It quotes Attorney General Holder and says that he was "on the mark" when he said that a "routine school disciplinary infraction should land a student in the principal's office, not in a police precinct."

In other words, Eric Holder, sitting in Washington, knows better than the thousands of people who run public schools across the country what kinds of sanctions are necessary to preserve some semblance of order in the classrooms, so that hoodlums do not make the education of their classmates impossible.

Like the New York Times, Attorney General Holder has made this an issue of "The Civil Rights of Children." More important, the implied threat of federal lawsuits based on racial body count among students who have been disciplined means that hoodlums in the classroom seem to have a friend in Washington.

But even the hoodlums can end up worse off, if lax discipline in the school lets them continue on in a way of life that usually ends up inside prison walls. Nevertheless, if all this means black votes for the Democrats, that may well be the bottom line for Holder and the Obama administration.


Teaching to the Ten

Mike Adams

Dear CRM 381 Students:

Welcome back! I just wanted to write and let you know that the syllabus is up and running on the departmental web page. I have been instructed to direct you to the link rather than distribute individual copies. The university needs to save money on paper so the LGBTQIA Office can continue to offer orgasm awareness seminars and so the Women's Resource Center can continue to promote abortion. Remember kids, the more trees we save, the more babies we can kill!

In addition to going over the syllabus on day one, I plan to introduce each one of you to my somewhat informal teaching philosophy. Actually, this will be the first time I ever make a statement of teaching philosophy, despite the fact that it is my twenty-first year to teach here at UNC-Wilmington. In a nutshell, that philosophy can be summarized in the phrase "twenty-seventy-ten." I'll explain it briefly, although I do plan to elaborate in class on Monday.

Despite what Karl Marx says, there really are not just two kinds of people in this world. That's an oversimplification, although there are two types of communists - a) the ones who live off their more productive comrades and b) the dead ones. But when it comes to students, there are at least three distinct groups. They follow in order from the least pleasant to the most pleasant among you.

1. The Tweeny Twenty.

2. The Sagacious Seventy.

3. The Tenacious Ten.

The first group, the Tweeny Twenty, derives its name from its character and its proportions. This is the group of students who, as the name implies, are woefully immature, to almost preadolescent proportions. Fortunately, they are only a minority - about twenty percent of the student population.

The Tweeny Twenty somehow managed to get out of high school without having even a vague sense of what they want to accomplish in life. But they are able to go to college for a few years to explore their options because a) anyone can get into college these days, and b) anyone can get a government-backed loan to help pay for college these days. And so they go. What else is there to do?

Having no clue what they are doing in college, they behave as clueless individuals do. They come and go from class as they please - arriving late and leaving early. They dress inappropriately as if they are coming from a bar or are heading to the beach. In short, they come to college for social reasons. To party. To meet a spouse. Or maybe to meet a "connection" or someone who will "hook them up" with a job upon graduation.

I will do everything within my ability to drive these people out of the classroom before the drop date. That is my sincere promise to the other eighty percent of you.

The second group, the Sagacious Seventy, also derives its name from its character and its proportions. This is the group of students who, as the name implies, are shrewder and more goal-oriented than the Tweeny Twenty. Fortunately - I only say "fortunately" because they are fairly well behaved and manageable - they are about seventy percent of the student population.

Having some clue of what they are doing in college, they behave as rational individuals. They come to class pretty regularly and go through the motions in order to get their course credit. They have calculated that having a degree is better than not having a degree and that the amount they pay in student loans will be exceeded by the salary increase that accompanies having a college degree. Of course, many of these students have miscalculated and will never pay off their loans but that is another issue to be explored at a later date.

In short, these students come to college to get credentialed. They know that employers want to see an applicant's degree because that means they had the stick-to-it-ness to set a goal and follow through. They also know that it doesn't require much work to get their expensive degree so they divert study time toward work time. They take a part time job in order to keep their student loans down even if this means turning in sub-par work. They know their professors have come to expect sub-par work. Like most of our students, they are intelligent and keenly self-interested. They do the cost-benefit analysis and make a reasonable decision in a difficult situation that is becoming more difficult as college becomes more expensive.

I will do everything within my ability to threaten these people into doing work that is only slightly sub-par, instead of clearly deficient. I know they are used to being given good grades for work that is clearly deficient. But I also know that they cannot risk failing my class. So I will threaten them and hopefully (through fear) motivate them to soar towards mediocrity in their academic work output. It's really the best I can hope for in an age of hyper-inflated hire (misspelling intentional) education.

The last group, the Tenacious Ten, also derives its name from its character and its proportions. This is the group of students who, as the name implies, are highly determined and persistent and cannot easily be distracted from their goals. Unfortunately, they are only about ten percent of the student population.

The Tenacious Ten may well have good genes. I don't know for sure. But I do know that they usually had good parents who taught them good life lessons. Also, more than likely, they had good counselors in their schools or in the churches. And so they are focused and ready from day one.

In short, the Tenacious Ten are here because they desire specific knowledge that will help them attain a specific goal. As a result, they have an intrinsic appreciation of the material I plan to teach throughout the semester. So there is no need to threaten or cajole or manipulate them into performing at expected levels. They just do it because they come to college having already gotten into the habit of doing it on their own.

This message is just my way of reminding you that when I talk about "our" class I am not talking about all thirty of you. I am talking to about three of you - those who constitute the Tenacious Ten percent. You are the only reason I am still teaching. I look forward to finding out who you are. I don't suspect it will take very long to identify you..

I hope this message finds you well. If you are in the Tweeny Twenty, I hope it scares the hell out of you - so much so that you drop the course. Otherwise, I will see you in class on Monday.


'Elf and safety gone mad'! Now British school bans RUNNING in the playground in case children fall over

A primary school has told pupils not to run on its tarmac playground - in case they fall over.

The extra-cautious health and safety measures were brought in at Western Primary School in Wallsend, Tyne and Wear, whose head teacher insisted children could play on the grass instead.

But some parents accused her of taking 'health and safety' too far, with one saying: 'They'll be stopping them using knives and forks next - ridiculous!'

Writing on Facebook, Claire Cherry said: 'The parents are furious.'  Another, Chris Pace, said: 'Banning the children from running? They'll be stopping them using knives and forks next for "health and safety" purposes. Ridiculous!'

Parents were told the decision had been taken after a number of pupils suffered scrapes and broken bones.

The school insisted it was not discouraging children from play, exercise or running, but encouraging them to only do it in allocated areas around the school

Head teacher Claire Brown said: 'I suspect the work we are doing with our children to help them understand that they need to think of others when they are playing boisterously has been misinterpreted'

'I suspect that the "play safe, play sensible" work we are doing with our children to help them understand that they need to think of others when they are playing boisterously has been misinterpreted.

'We have a vast range of places for children to play and we are just advising that if they want to run around with their friends they should try to do that in our multi-use games area, our Fast Fit Grid or the school field, instead of on the tarmac area.'

It is the latest in a long line of health and safety controversies in schools.

Council officials in Warrington, Cheshire, told 62-year-old lollipop man Steve Allsop in November that he could no longer high-five children crossing the road for fear of distracting them.

In June, girls at Kingsholm Primary School in Gloucester were issued an edict on the size of their frilly socks because staff feared they would trip over them.


Sunday, January 19, 2014

Obama and the Left:  Enemies of black education

Why?  Keep blacks poor so they will keep voting Democrat

Kevin Chavous is a former District of Columbia Councilmember, mayoral candidate, and member of the Obama education advisory committee.  Now, he is an advocate for school vouchers.

The African-American Democrat points to what some would consider a shocking truth when it comes to which politicians support increasing opportunities for inner city underprivileged children when he talks about the constant fight over funding school vouchers in the District saying, “We have a 97 percent graduation rate for children in the Opportunity Scholarship Program in the District of Columbia, 92 percent college enrollment, and two valedictorians, and our biggest problem is fighting Obama." 

Chavous also extolls the House Republican Speaker John Boehner calling him, “… our biggest champion in Congress.”

The question is why would Obama seek to limit successful programs that allow inner city youth to enter a pathway to educational success when African-American voters are the one group that has overwhelmingly supported him?

Why would Obama seek to limit successful programs that allow inner city youth to enter a pathway to educational success?
And maybe an equally interesting question is why Speaker Boehner, who represents a largely white, rural Ohio district would care about breaking the failed education/poverty cycle in the District?

Boehner’s answer can be found back in 2003, when he served as the Chairman of the House Workforce and Education Committee. In introducing legislation to allow a voucher system in the District, the current Speaker issued a stirring call for change,

I am here today because I believe that all children, regardless of their economic background, deserve a safe and productive learning environment. I believe that we ought to trust parents to make the best decisions about their children's education. I believe that the current system in the District of Columbia is robbing both parents and children of the right to a quality education. And I believe that competition in the education system creates a culture of achievement that will improve the quality of every student's academic experience.

I refuse to accept the notion that some children are unable to learn, a notion that the President (George W. Bush) has called "the soft bigotry of low expectations."

Hard words to argue with, particularly as school choice and charter schools have been overwhelmingly proven to be successful in increasing kid’s future opportunities.

Obama and the left’s opposition is more troubling as it essentially is just an accession to teachers union fears that  public schools will lose the competition for students if their monopoly is broken. 

After all, what parent would voluntarily send their child to a crummy school, if they could choose a better alternative that increased their opportunities in the future?

In places like Hartford, Connecticut, there is a waiting list of hundreds of kids to attend the Capitol Prep Charter School due to its 97 percent graduation rate, with about two-thirds of graduates going to college.

Incredibly, rather than expand this successful program dramatically, the Hartford School District may choose to deny more students access to this success story as out of town left-wing activists have engaged in wholesale attacks on the school’s principal – Steve Perry.

You see, Perry, a public school employee, has become an outspoken national advocate for alternative education, and he scares the teacher union establishment which controls the school system. In true Saul Alinsky fashion, they are determined to crush him using any means necessary, the children be damned.

50 years ago, LBJ embarked on a liberal spending spree which called the “war on poverty”.  It has failed. Evidence of the failed welfare state is everywhere, with the fact that almost one in six Americans is on food stamps, serving as just one proof.

If our nation truly wanted to wage a compassionate war on poverty, it would fix the education system through vouchers, choice and charter schools. Reforms that have proven successful in elevating children out of the cycle of poverty and the government dependency it creates.

The cynical truth is that the left does not want children raised out of poverty, thriving because they have the education to move beyond the crumbling walls of economic despair.

Dependent voters are reliable voters, and self-sufficient voters are a threat.  How else can you explain why the first black president has consistently fought against providing funds to give the rest of the kids in D.C. the same opportunity to get a quality private school education that his own two children enjoy?

Obama has chosen to consign those at the bottom of the economic ladder to generational failure by opposing proven alternative education options.

By opposing giving people the ability to achieve the American dream by denying them the choice to get out of a failed education system, Obama has surrendered any and all moral authority to talk about income inequality. After all, his presidency relies upon the government dependency that poverty creates.


Obama Administration Mandates Racism in Schools

The Departments of Education and Justice have teamed up to make the lives of students in tough neighborhoods even tougher. Framed as a measure to combat discrimination against black and Hispanic children, the guidelines issued by the Obama administration about school discipline will actually encourage racial discrimination, undermine the learning environments of classrooms and contribute to an unjust race-consciousness in meting out discipline.

Claiming that African-American and Hispanic students are more harshly disciplined than whites for the same infractions, the Obama administration now advises that any disciplinary rule that results in a "disparate impact" on these groups will be challenged by the government.

"Disparate impact" analysis, as we've seen in employment law, does not require any intentional discrimination. It means, for example, that if an employer asks job seekers to take a test, and a larger percentage of one ethnic group fails the test than another, that the test is de facto discriminatory because it has a "disparate impact."

In the school context, the federal government is now arguing that if a disciplinary rule results in more black, Hispanic or special education kids being suspended or otherwise sanctioned, the rule must be suspect. The "Dear Colleague" letter explains that a disciplinary policy can be unlawful discrimination, even if the rule is "neutral on its face ... and is administered in an evenhanded manner," if it has a "disparate impact" on certain ethnic and other groups.

The inclusion of special education students is particularly perverse, as special ed students frequently get that designation because their emotional disturbances cause them to misbehave in various ways. So if a rule against, say, knocking over desks, is found to be violated more frequently by special ed than regular ed students, then the rule must be questioned? That's circular.

As the CATO Institute's Walter Olson notes, the federal guidelines pass over one example of disparate impact with no comment -- namely the dramatically more males than females who face disciplinary action nationwide. If we are to judge a rule's lawfulness by the disparate impact on males, no rule would survive the inquiry. Is it possible that more boys misbehave in the classroom than girls? To ask this question is to venture into an area the federal government would have us avoid. Actual infractions by individuals are not the issue. We must have group justice, not individual justice.

We've actually been down this road many times before. Various state and federal agencies have raised concerns about the large numbers of black and Hispanic students facing disciplinary action. Such concerns helped to generate the rigid "zero tolerance" policies the administration now condemns. Zero tolerance is a brainless approach to a subject that requires considerable finesse and deliberation, but the disparate impact rule is even more pernicious.

Under the new dispensation, teachers, principals and other officials will have to pause before they discipline, say, the fourth black student in a month. "How will this look to the feds?" they'll ask themselves. Will the student's family be able to sue us? A variety of solutions to the federally created problem will present themselves. School officials can search out offenses by white and Asian students to make the numbers come out right. Asian students are disciplined at rates far below any other ethnic group. Is this due to pro-Asian bias in our schools, or is it because Asians commit many fewer infractions? Oops, there we go into territory forbidden by the federal guidelines.

Another solution will be to ignore misbehavior by blacks and Hispanics. For classes with large numbers of minority students, this guarantees that the learning environment for the kids who actually want to learn will be impaired as teachers -- reluctant to remove troublesome students -- expend precious time on kids who are rude, threatening, loud or otherwise disruptive. Every minute of the school day taken up by bad kids is taken away from good kids. It's a true zero-sum game.

So the Obama administration's pursuit of group justice actually leads to injustice to individual students. Whites and Asians will be disciplined more than they merit it by their conduct, and fewer students of all groups will get the kind of classroom atmosphere that is conducive to learning. Even the students who get a pass on their bad conduct are disserved, as they will not have learned that disrespectful language, tardiness and even violence are unacceptable in society.

Everyone loses. Obama strikes again.


150,000 children in British schools that fall short on academic standards

More than 150,000 children are being taught in underperforming state secondary schools despite reforms designed to raise standards.  Around 180 comprehensives are failing to hit minimum targets imposed by the Coalition, data to be published next week will show.

Schools risk being turned into independent academies under new leadership for persistently failing to ensure that at least four in 10 pupils gain five good GCSEs.

Following a government drive to promote traditional subjects, official school league tables are expected to show that the number of teenagers taking GCSEs in a string of academic disciplines last summer was up by 72,000.

It is the first real evidence that controversial reforms of league tables have changed subject choices.

Just over a third of teenagers sat exams in the subjects required for the "English Baccalaureate": English, maths, science, a foreign language and history or geography. It was less than a quarter a year earlier. But the move to "tougher" disciplines is likely to have dragged some schools below the minimum GCSE target.

The prospect of taking them out of council control will place the Government on a collision course with local authorities. Barking and Dagenham council in east London gained an injunction this week preventing ministers turning a failing comprehensive there into an academy. The Department for Education said that academy status had improved results across the country.

Heath Monk, the chief executive of Future Leaders, a charity set up to train head teachers, said: "It is right to shine a spotlight on schools that aren't improving fast enough because children only get one chance at their education.

"Evidence does suggest that sponsored academies are improving faster than the national average but they are not a silver bullet. In the end, it's good teaching and leadership that matters."

In 2012, some 215 secondary schools fell below the floor target for GCSEs, although 20 were already being turned into academies led by a private sponsor.

Some 180 schools are believed still to have been below the minimum by the end of the 2012-2013 academic year - the results covered in next week's tables. In all, just over 150,000 children are taught at these schools.

Figures will also show that around six in 10 of the children considered brightest at age 11 failed to gain good GCSEs in academic subjects five years later.