Saturday, April 05, 2014

Zero Tolerance Hurts Kids and Ruins Schools

We need common sense in our schools, not mindless bureaucratic compliance

Virginia Beach sixth-grader Adrionna Harris took a razor away from a troubled student who was cutting himself and threw it in the trash. When school administrators found out, they gave her a certificate of merit for helping a classmate.

Ha, ha! Of course they didn’t. They gave her a 10-day suspension, with a recommendation that she be expelled. For three or four seconds there, she was in possession of a dangerous object in violation of the school’s zero-tolerance policies.

The only reason administrators found out about the incident was that Adrionna volunteered the information. And the only reason she threw the razor away instead of turning it in was because she didn’t want to violate school policy. As she told WAVY-TV, she didn’t want to "hold it in my hand long enough for it to, like, become an issue. The trash can was right there."

School officials eventually backed down—after getting slammed by bad publicity—and the young lady returned to school a few days ago. Administrators reportedly are tired of taking heat from the public, the poor dears. (Why do bad things always happen to them?)

Nathan Entingh wasn’t so lucky. The 10-year-old who pointed his finger and said "bang" was suspended for what the Einsteins of the Columbus, Ohio, school system considered a "level 2 look-alike firearm." After agonizing over that decision for weeks, officials decided that, on reflection, they had been right all along. They upheld the suspension.

Entingh got off lucky compared with Jordan Wiser, who spent 13 days in jail on a felony charge because he drove onto school property with a pocketknife in the trunk of his car. Then there’s Taylor Trostle, a middle-schooler suspended for pointing her finger and saying, "pew, pew." And Andrew Mikel, a Spotsylvania, Virginia, 14-year-old expelled and charged with assault for blowing pellets through a plastic pen tube. And 7-year-old Josh Welch, of the infamous Pop-Tart gun. And too many other cases to list.

Zero-tolerance policies have been around for a couple of decades. They were launched by the 1994 Gun-Free Schools Act, which required expulsion for bringing a firearm to school. But like diaper rash, they did not remain confined to one area. Soon kids were landing in hot water for bringing to school such deadly objects as a butter knife (King William, Va.) and nail clippers (Escambia, Fla.). They have gotten in trouble for engaging in such threatening behavior as drawing an Army man (Ouachita Parish, La.) and playing cops and robbers (Sayreville, N.J., and elsewhere). And for taking or handing out birth control (Fairfax, Va.), Midol (Pierce County, Wash.), Alka-Seltzer (too many places to name), and even Certs breath mints (Manassas, Va.).

Such stories invariably elicit outrage, and from time to time a district here or there will rethink zero-tolerance policies, or claim to. "Rethinking Zero Tolerance: A Few Schools Are Inching Away from One-Strike Policies," reported Newsweek back in 2001. A decade later, The Washington Post reported "More Schools Rethinking Zero-Tolerance Discipline Stand."

They must not be the fastest thinkers. In January 2013, a 5-year-old girl was kicked out of kindergarten for "threatening" to “shoot” classmates with a Hello Kitty soap-bubble gun. But don’t worry—this January, The New York Times confidently informed readers that "schools across the country are rethinking 'zero tolerance' discipline policies."

If your brain has more electrical activity than a bowl of lukewarm Jell-O, then you know why zero-tolerance policies are stupid. First, they ignore blatantly obvious distinctions. Gnawing a Pop-Tart into the rough silhouette of a gun does not turn it into a firearm. Breath mints are not a Schedule I narcotic. Fingers don’t fire projectiles.

Second, zero-tolerance policies don’t prevent the incidents they are designed to prevent. Deeply disturbed individuals who commit school massacres—the Dylan Klebolds and Adam Lanzas of the world—are not deterred by rules, and they do not commit mayhem with soap bubbles. So a rule that bans soap-bubble guns in school has zero effect on school violence.

School officials will reply that they have to apply school policies consistently: A knife is a knife, and knives are weapons, even when they are used to spread butter. Nonsense. By that logic everyone on the wrestling team should be suspended for fighting, and a student who sketches a rifle should be punished for "drawing a gun" (which has actually happened more than once).

It’s great that a school district here and there has second thoughts about first-strike policies. But that doesn’t solve the broader problem, which is rooted in a bureaucratic compliance mentality. Just ask Chaz Seale, a Texas 17-year-old who accidentally shoved a Coors into his brown-bag lunch instead of a soda. When he realized his mistake he gave the unopened beer to a teacher. The teacher told the principal, and the principal suspended Seale for three days and sentenced him to two months at an alternative school.

Like Adrionna Harris and countless others, Seale has learned two things from zero-tolerance policies: No good deed goes unpunished. And—as comedian Ron White likes to say—you can’t fix stupid.


Fla. 5-Year-Old Told ‘It’s Not Good’ To Pray By School Employee

A 5-year-old bows her head at lunch to say Grace before she eats may be considered cute and heartwarming by some.

That was not the case for a student in Florida.

The young girl was told by a school lunchroom supervisor that her actions were wrong.

The girl’s father, Marcos Perez, is outraged to the point where he is considering homeschooling his child. Today, the Liberty Institute sent a letter to the school administrators demanding they stop allowing religious discrimination, which is in violation of not only state, but federal law. The school denies the incident.

Jeremy Dys, of the Liberty Institute, on behalf of his clients has been speaking out against the school’s actions dismissing saying Grace in school.

Dys came on the Mike Pintek show to tell his client’s story and how they got involved with this case.

“I saw it probably like a lot of you did, I saw it on Facebook. And thankfully, I was able to get a hold of Marcos and say, ‘Hey, how can we help you? We want to stand beside young women like this that who are trying to do what their parents have taught them to do and have every right to do under the First Amendment. We want to come beside them unlike the teacher supervisor here and encourage their religious liberty.” Dys said.

The Liberty Institute is a national non-profit legal group that defends and restores religious liberty across the country. The Perez family is citing this offense as a reason for removal from the public school system; they feel not allowing her to say Grace was an attack on her religious liberty.

In a press release sent out by the Liberty Institute, Mr. Perez is quoted saying:

“Mainly because of this incident, we have exercised our option as parents to teach our daughter at home. We live in a very good school district, but we cannot, in good conscience, send our daughter to a school where her religious liberty has been compromised.” Perez said.

Dys wants the school to be held responsible for the oppressive actions of the cafeteria monitor and protect this from possibly happening to other children.

“We have sent a letter this morning to the school board here in Florida asking them to take immediate action and apologize to the community for what has gone on at this school and to reassure the community here, and the Perez family in particular, that this kind of thing will not happen again,” Dys said.

The school has denied the incident occurring, which brings up the questions who is lying here? Dys says he doesn’t want to call anyone a liar, but doesn’t believe that this little girl could make up this story.

“This is a 5-year-old girl, who is not having a bone to pick with anybody. She simply was asked by her daddy, by the way was asked multiple times leading up to that video what had happened, and the story checks out at every single point along the way,” Dys said.


Children at British secondary school 'infiltrated by Muslim extremists' listened to assembly praising Al-Qaeda leader, say teachers

A secondary school in Birmingham has been accused of praising senior Al-Qaeda figure Anwar al-Awlaki during assemblies.

Two members of staff at Park View Academy claimed a senior colleague had endorsed the teachings of the now dead American-born leader of Al-Qaeda in Arabian Peninsula, and that a viewpoint politically sympathetic to the terrorist group had been promoted in an assembly.

The Department of Education confirmed that several schools in the area - thought to include Park View - are under investigation amid claims hard-line Muslims are trying to indoctrinate pupils.

Park View Academy denies the allegations, which were made by anonymous members of staff who were speaking to BBC Radio 4's Today programme

The two anonymous members of Park View staff reportedly insisted there was truth in the allegations that hardline Muslims had infiltrated the school.

They added that non-Muslim members of staff were being isolated, male and female pupils were being segregated, and that nepotism was apparent in the hiring of new recruits.

Allegations of radical Islamist infiltration of several schools in Birmingham, apparently including Park View, first came to light last month when a letter referring to a 'Trojan Horse' plot was sent to the local council, then leaked to the media.

The source and authenticity of the letter remains unclear, but it has led to the Department of Education investigating financial records and interviewing staff members at 'more than 12 schools' in the area.

Education Secretary Michael Gove is believed to have taken a personal interest in the investigation, which includes both faith schools and secular establishments.

Claims that Park View Academy employed members of staff sympathetic to Al-Qaeda were raised during the first visit by a journalist to the school since the 'Trojan Horse' allegations were made.

During an interview Tahir Alam, chair of governors at the school, insisted on accompanying reporter Sima Kotecha at all times, and restricted her access to other members of staff.

Speaking of the leaked letter and addressing claims he is the 'ringleader' of the hardline Muslim takeover of the school, Mr Alam said: 'You can go round the school, you can have a look at the school, and you will find there is no evidence for these things whatsoever.

'So whatever practices that the school is observing, they are actually voluntary. None of them are prescribed - they are purely optional,' he added.

Mr Alam - who has been a governor at Park View for 17 years and was also a pupil at the school, went on to say: 'I believe it is a witch hunt based on all sorts of false allegations which have been repeated over many weeks.

'I also believe it is motivated by anti-Muslim, anti-Islam sentiment that is also sort of feeding this frenzy,' he added.

The Islamic call to prayer is said to be played in corridors at the self-described 'multi-faith school', which is predominantly staffed by Muslims of Pakistani parentage.

The majority of governers at the school are said to be followers of the Wahhabi movement - an ultra-conservative branch of Sunni Islam, according to Birmingham's Labour MP Khalid Mahmood.

Mr Mahmood, who chairs the Tackling Terrorism All-Party Parliamentary Group and has long been a vocal critic of Park View Academy, said: 'The majority of kids are Sunni mainstream Muslims. It is an attempt at indoctrination.

'These are state schools, not Islamic. I am very concerned at the way non-Muslim staff have been dealt with and the effect on the children,' he added.

He suggested that education officials had previously steered clear of getting involved in disputes with Muslim schools for fear of being dubbed racist.

'Council officers were in a difficult position where they either went along with it or were portrayed as anti-Islamic,' Mr Mahmood said.


Friday, April 04, 2014

Warning: College students, this editorial may upset you

'Trigger warning' policies, like one proposed at UC Santa Barbara, are antithetical to college life

The latest attack on academic freedom comes not from government authorities or corporate pressure but from students. At UC Santa Barbara, the student Senate recently passed a resolution that calls for mandatory "trigger warnings" — cautions from professors, to be added to their course syllabi, specifying which days' lectures will include readings or films or discussions that might trigger feelings of emotional or physical distress.

The resolution calls for warnings if course materials will involve depictions and discussions of rape, sexual assault, suicide, pornography or graphic violence, among other things. The professors would excuse students from those classes, with no points deducted, if the students felt the material would distress them; it is left unclear how students would complete assignments or answer test questions based on the work covered in those classes.

The student resolution is only advisory, a recommendation that campus authorities can turn into policy or reject. They should not only choose the latter course but should explain firmly to students why such a policy would be antithetical to all that college is supposed to provide: a rich and diverse body of study that often requires students to confront difficult or uncomfortable material, and encourages them to discuss such topics openly. Trigger warnings are part of a campus culture that is increasingly overprotective and hypersensitive in its efforts to ensure that no student is ever offended or made to feel uncomfortable.

Trigger warnings have been used on the Internet for a long time, first appearing on feminist websites visited by victims of sexual attacks; the goal was to protect assault victims from material that might trigger post-traumatic stress disorder. The warnings spread to a wide variety of websites and material that readers might find troubling.

That's fine for websites that voluntarily choose to caution their visitors, but it's exactly the wrong approach for colleges and universities. Oberlin College in Ohio already has gone further than UC Santa Barbara, issuing official trigger-warning guidelines for professors that sound almost like a parody of political correctness: "Triggers are not only relevant to sexual misconduct but also to anything that might cause trauma. Be aware of racism, classism, sexism, heterosexism, cissexism, ableism and other issues of privilege and oppression. Realize that all forms of violence are traumatic."

Worse, the Oberlin guidelines go on to advise professors to remove "triggering material" from their courses entirely if it is not directly related to the course's learning goals. Such instructions come dangerously close to censorship.

Chinua Achebe's novel "Things Fall Apart" is listed by Oberlin as one possible "trigger" book because of its themes of colonialism, racism, religious prejudice and more. At Rutgers, an op-ed in the student paper suggested that study of "The Great Gatsby" should require trigger warnings about violence and gore. And then what happens? Should students be excused from reading a work of great literature, or be allowed to read a sanitized version?

Professors, uncertain of what might be considered too sexual, too warlike or so forth, might issue warnings so broad that they're meaningless, or feel pressured to bleach the syllabus to a pallid version of a real college course.

There are students who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, a serious psychological condition that calls for sensitive treatment. Students who have been diagnosed with it could explain their situation to individual professors, who almost certainly would be willing to work out a sensible accommodation, preferably one that wouldn't involve missing multiple classes.

But the Santa Barbara resolution doesn't cover only students who have been diagnosed with PTSD. Any student who is discomfited by the material would be excused from class if this were campus policy.

As psychologists point out, a post-traumatic response is just as likely to be triggered by something that has nothing to do with subject matter: a glimpse of the same blue-colored clothing that was visible during a traumatic event, or a certain scent that was in the air that day. Colleges cannot bubble-wrap students against everything that might be frightening or offensive to them.


The ABC's of School Choice

When people speak of a legacy, they usually mean something other than what the late economist Milton Friedman and his wife, Rose, left behind, namely the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice (

The foundation has just released a small book entitled "The ABC's of School Choice: The comprehensive guide to every private school choice program in America."

The Friedman philosophy can be summed up in two sentences, which are posted on their web page: "School choice gives parents the freedom to choose their children's education, while encouraging healthy competition among schools to better serve families' needs. School choice lets parents use the public funds set aside for their children's education to choose the schools -- public or private, near or far, religious or secular -- that work best for them."

Choice, competition and what works best for them, not what works for unions and school administrators. Choice and competition work in business, politics and virtually every other area of life, but not in the monopolistic public education monstrosity where the lack of same limit educational achievement for many and often rob children of a brighter future.

One other benefit to school choice was mentioned in a column written by Dr. Friedman on Sept. 28, 2000 for The Wall Street Journal. About school voucher programs, Dr. Friedman said: "They also demonstrate the inefficiency of government schools by providing a superior education at less than half the per pupil cost."

On more than one occasion Dr. Friedman has noted that modern public education remains based on a 19th-century model with children from different backgrounds brought together into a single melting pot. That doesn't work in the 21st century. In The Wall Street Journal column, Dr. Friedman wrote, "Free market competition can do for education what it has already done for other areas, such as agriculture, transportation, power, communication and most recently, computers and the Internet. Only a truly competitive educational industry can empower the ultimate consumers of educational services -- parents and their children."

The only counter arguments to this are based on everything besides what benefits the children.

In the "ABC's of School Choice" is listed the state of education choice from Alabama to Wisconsin. It's a mixed bag with some states offering vouchers and others alternatives such as Education Savings Accounts, tax-credit scholarships and individual tax credits/deductions.

These would be used at a parent's discretion for private schools -- secular or religious, charter public schools, homeschooling, or online learning.

While Dr. Friedman acknowledged that school choice would benefit poor and minority students, he maintained that all boats would be raised because competition would force every school -- public and private -- to compete for "customers." When businesses compete for customers the quality of their products must improve in order for them to stay in business. Not so with the public school monopoly that gets taxpayer money with few requirements, except in a few states, that they improve their product.

Various studies have shown there is little difference so far between public and alternative schools when it comes to test scores, but these studies acknowledge that testing alone is not the only standard by which education success can be measured.

According to a 2006 report by the Public Policy Institute of California, which studied the San Diego Unified School District, "Black students were twice as likely as others to apply for an alternative school under one of four programs. And test scores were not the primary factor in influencing the decision to try an alternative school. Overall, the choice programs in San Diego are increasing the integration of whites and nonwhites, and decreasing very mildly the integration of students with low and high test scores."

Minority parents have shown strong interest in transferring their children from failing public schools into schools that are safer and the academics stronger.

Parents want choice, students want choice. Only the unions and certain politicians stand in their way.


Gender Confusion and the Complicity of Public Schools

For students confined in public education camps across the country, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland might now make more sense compared to Little Johnny’s confusing reality at Space Mountain Middle School in Never Never Land, California.

Of course, Little Johnny represents real students, and Space Mountain simply signifies the madness masterminded in actual schools where a growing number of parents and teachers must truly wish the government’s lunacy were only imaginary.

However, unlike Alice, none of the real world’s characters are fortunate enough to be dreaming -- at least not those who recognize nonsense and make-believe for what they are.

Common Core alone is a curious nightmare. If the subversive agenda were another strange character in Lewis Carroll’s book, it could easily deliver the Mad Hatter’s line, “You would have to be half mad to dream me up.” Just ask any of the demoralized school children who used to love math (or any of their frustrated parents). No doubt they would all agree with an imaginary character’s wisdom.

On the other hand, when childish fantasies of how some people wish reality would be literally begin to replace logic and order, a counter-productive school curriculum should hardly surprise anyone -- not obsessed with Wonderland.

Last week, the national press reported on a 56-year-old high school biology teacher in California who plans to undergo a sex-change operation (i.e. cosmetic surgery) and to return to the classroom appearing as a woman. Sadly, the situation is far more complicated and confusing than advocates of gender confusion or their allies in the media will admit.

Although the American Psychiatric Association dropped the diagnosis of gender identity disorder in 2012, the APA merely renamed the condition gender dysphoria in its manual of mental disorders (the DSM-5). What was the reason for the change? To reduce stigma while maintaining access to medical care.

Understandably, most people suffering from a serious mental illness would like the stigma of their medical conditions to magically disappear. But simply calling “bipolar disorder” “intensely sporadic mood swings” does not remedy a patient’s condition any more than calling “gender identity disorder” “gender dysphoria.” The Mad Hatter might call this a linguistic placebo.

In fact, in a USA Today article on gender confusion, Jack Drescher, a psychiatrist who helped revise the APA’s DSM-5, stated, “[Gender Dysphoria is] different from other mental disorders.”

"Usually with a mental disorder, we try and change the person's mind. This is the only mental disorder where the treatment is changing the body. In a typical mental disorder, we try to make those symptoms go away. Here the treatment has emerged to align the person's body to match their gender identity."

He went on to say, "The truth is we actually don't know what it is. Is it a mental disorder or does the cause of gender dysphoria lie somewhere else? We don't know what causes it, so there's no absolute reason why it has to be in the mental disorders section, except as a fact of history, it's always been there." Does Dr. Drescher’s last sentence not sound like one Alice might have encountered among the symbolic nonsense she endured in her dream?

Simply acknowledging that the APA’s own psychiatrists remain vexed by this serious medical condition would generally heighten concerns for most responsible adults. Most youngsters are generally experiencing all sorts of issues related to their own developing identities. Pretending that individuals who exhibit signs of serious mental illness in the classroom are helping impressionable children defies common sense.

Then again, compelling juvenile minds to believe they understand complicated medical conditions that psychiatrists themselves still have not resolved is par for the course. If public schools have succeeded at anything over the last 60 years, they have painfully revealed that they can convince impressionable minds of many things that are just untrue. But so long as students graduate feeling good about their dismal knowledge, subpar reading levels, and their politically correct indoctrination in to absurdity, who cares about reality?

If the media and advocates for gender confusion were interested in reality, the rest of us would see more coverage about psychiatric experts who can explain the seriousness of gender confusion. Dr. Joseph Berger, a distinguished psychiatrist in Toronto, clarifies that gender confused individuals claim “they really are or wish to be people of the sex opposite to which they were born, or to which their chromosomal configuration attests." The medical classification for those symptoms include the following, according to Dr. Berger: “delusion, psychosis, or emotional unhappiness.” He adds that none of those conditions associated with other mental illnesses call for cosmetic surgery as the medical treatment.

Furthermore, Dr. Paul McHugh, a distinguished professor of psychiatry at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and psychiatrist-in-chief at Johns Hopkins Hospital, has written, “We psychiatrists, I thought, would do better to concentrate on trying to fix their minds and not their provide a surgical alteration to the body of these unfortunate people [is] to collaborate with a mental disorder rather than to treat it.”

Public education went down the rabbit hole where feelings trumped facts a long time ago. Experimenting with the minds of children by teaching them to ignore reality or teaching them things that are simply untrue is nothing short of brainwashing.

A society that promotes such confusion under the ruse of education is lost. Wishful thinking does not maintain childhood innocence any more than pretending wrong is right. Alice in Wonderland should have taught us that.

When Alice asked the Cat, “How do you know I’m mad?” The Cat responded, “You must be, or you wouldn’t have come here.”

Who knew that the Cat’s response would apply to Little Johnny’s public education today?


Thursday, April 03, 2014

Vassar College’s Recent Controversy Involving Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) and the International Studies (IS) Travel Class to Israel

Scholars for Peace in the Middle East (SPME), a grass roots organization of over 30,000 academic members, expresses its great concern with recent events at Vassar College, growing out of a student and faculty response to the “International Studies 110” class (IS) which traveled over Spring break to Israel.

The IS trip was taught and led by Vassar professor of Earth Science and Geography, Jill Schneiderman, and associate professor of Greek and Roman Studies, Rachel Friedman. Its educational purpose was to look “at issues of water rights and access to the Jordan River, as well as disparities in water distribution in Palestine and Israel.” Locations visited by students in the class included sites throughout Israeli and Palestinian Authority controlled territories and a Palestinian refugee camp in Bethlehem.

Professor Schneiderman’s teaching objective was inclusive. “I was motivated to propose and teach such a course because from my perspective as an earth scientist,” she wrote in a blog, “I understand how daily and future access to clean water in ample supply is one of the key issues about which people in the region fight. It is also a problem on which Arabs, Jews, Jordanians, Palestinians, and Israelis have worked together with integrity and compassion.”

For 25 years IS trips had been offered without dispute. Only this year did the issue of the propriety of visiting a specific country—in this case, Israel—become a topic of discussion and condemnation—led by Vassar’s chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP).

SJP is very clear in its opposition to the Jewish state, and they regularly vilify Israel, Zionism, and supporters of Israel; SJP previously constructed a mock security wall on Vassar’s campus.

SPME is very concerned that through SJP’s response to the IS course—and the subsequent the meeting held by Vassar’s Committee on Inclusion and Excellence on March 3rd to discuss guidelines for activism at the school in the context of the trip—SJP has created a climate of fear and intimidation that has enveloped the Vassar campus, particularly for Jewish students and faculty, and others who might support Israel.

On February 6th, nine members of SJP appeared at the classroom for the IS course and formed a human barricade to impede students from entering the classroom. An SJP leaflet distributed to students described Israel as sponsoring apartheid and asserted that “the indigenous people of Palestine” did not want students going on the trip.

Professors Friedman and Schneiderman have noted that the demonstration by SJP was inappropriate because it took place at the classroom itself, misguided because it misrepresented both the purpose and substance of the course, and threatening and intimidating to students enrolled in the class because of the physical presence of the demonstrators and the ululating and heckling that accompanied the protest. When the class did finally begin, protestors continued to shout and students inside the classroom told the professor that they “felt unsafe,” “bullied,” and “harassed.”

SPME believes protestors do not have the right to “occupy” classroom spaces and to physically insert themselves between students and faculty in teaching situations at any time.

SPME is also troubled by the fact that the SJP’s interference with the conduct and teaching of the course was met, not with sanctions from the administration, but in fact with another opportunity to further denigrate Israel and Israelis in a school-wide public panel held on March 3 by Vassar’s Committee on Inclusion and Excellence to discuss guidelines for activism at the school. In fact, that meeting was arranged primarily because SJP members had complained to the administration.

SPME is also concerned that this March 3rd meeting, called an “Open Forum on the Ethics of Student Activism and Protest at Vassar,” which some 200 people attended, was arranged by the administration solely for the purpose of giving SJP members and their supporters on campus additional opportunities to demonize and attempt to delegitimize Israel—in the context of the IS trip—and to repeat misinformation and slanders, rather than to seriously examine the events that took place. The few pro-Israel speakers at the meeting were heckled with finger snapping and made to feel unwelcomed in the discussion, leading Professor Schneiderman to feel that “last night was knocked off-center by a belligerent academic community dedicated to vilifying anyone who dares set foot in Israel,” as she expressed in a blog posting.

“Vassar’s Committee on Inclusion and Excellence may have had good intentions in opening up dialogue about the Israeli/Palestinian conflict,” said Dr. Richard L. Cravatts, president of SPME, “but it appears that the meeting to do so was called, not to facilitate an academic discussion of an area of concern, but as a way of assuaging the SJP’s disingenuous complaints about the supposed racism they experienced for having their radicalism questioned by the targets of their invective.”

SPME feels that the Vassar administration enabled an unjust and inappropriate violation of healthy academic debate, both by giving SJP and other anti-Israel individuals a platform for their corrosive rhetorical attacks and by not insuring that the March 3rd meeting did not further contribute to a climate of intimidation, harassment, and incivility for Jewish students and other supports of Israel.

SPME calls on the administration of Vassar College to address the very clear radicalism and hatred embodied in the tactics of Students for Justice in Palestine, as well as the developing hostile environment towards Jewish supporters of Israel manifesting itself on the Vassar campus, in an unambiguous, public, and forceful way, just as universities immediately have done when hate speech or acts of racism or prejudice have been directed at other minority groups on campus. Responsible leadership needs to address the intimidating environment that has developed, including when Jewish students and other supporters of Israel are targeted for scorn or enmity for their actual or perceived support of Israel, or for the views about the Israeli/Palestinian conflict and the Middle East they may express.

Most importantly, we call on the Vassar administration to ensure that all students are able to attend classes and participate in academic activities without fear of violence, victimization by hate speech, or threats of harm.

Via email

Now TWELVE schools in Britain are being investigated by Ofsted amid claims hard-line Muslims are trying to indoctrinate pupils

Extremist Muslims are trying to indoctrinate pupils at a dozen state schools in Birmingham, it has been claimed.

Local MP Khalid Mahmood warned of the risk posed by religious radicals as it emerged that education authorities had widened their investigation into the allegations to include more than 12 different schools.

In some schools non-Muslim teachers are reported to have been sidelined by Islamic extremists, who have allegedly imposed halal food in canteens and abolished sex education classes.

The claims first came to light last month, when a letter referring to a 'Trojan Horse' plot to take over Birmingham schools was leaked to the Press, although its authenticity is unclear.

Park View Academy was downgraded from 'outstanding' to 'inadequate' after allegedly being infiltrated by extremists, while the non-Muslim headmaster of Saltley School claims he was forced out of his job.

Education Secretary Michael Gove is believed to have taken a personal interest in the investigation, which includes both faith schools and secular establishments.

A source told the Sunday Times: 'Michael Gove has ordered an all-embracing investigation and has asked a number of department officials to drop everything and just focus on this.

'They will be going through financial records and interviewing staff members at more than 12 schools in Birmingham.'

Mr Mahmood, the MP for Perry Barr in Birmingham, has called for a thorough investigation into the scandal.

He said that some of the schools were run by members of the ultra-conservative Salafi sect, who may be 'trying to import their views into classrooms and the day-to-day running of the school'.

Mr Mahmood added: 'The majority of kids are Sunni mainstream Muslims. It is an attempt at indoctrination.

'These are state schools, not Islamic. I am very concerned at the way non-Muslim staff have been dealt with and the effect on the children.'

The Labour MP, who chairs the Tackling Terrorism All-Party Parliamentary Group, welcomed the intervention by the Department for Education and Ofsted.

He suggested that education officials had previously steered clear of getting involved in disputes with Muslim schools for fear of being dubbed racist.

'Council officers were in a difficult position where they either went along with it or were portrayed as anti-Islamic,' Mr Mahmood said.


University of Texas to Bring Back Yiddish

The University of Texas at Austin will offer Yiddish language courses for the first time in 10 years, the Daily Texan reports. Yiddish had been taught at the university since the 1970s, but courses stopped being offered when the last Yiddish professor, Itzik Gottesman, left the university 10 years ago. Now Gottesman is back with on campus, and Yiddish classes for will resume in the fall semester.

“I taught Yiddish at UT in the 1990s, and the classes had wonderful registration,” Gottesman said. “A number of students have gone on to work with Yiddish as part of their research in history, linguistics and Jewish studies, and I expect there to be a great interest in Yiddish again.”

Gottesman wil also teach Jewish Studies classes in addition to the Yiddish courses, and anticipates solid enrollment levels.


Wednesday, April 02, 2014

Local teachers voting to disassociate from state, national teachers unions

A county teachers association in Maryland is standing up to state and national teachers unions that they don’t believe represent the best interests of local teachers and educational excellence for students.

The Wicomico County Education Association (WCEA) will decide next month whether to formally disassociate from the Maryland State Education Association (MSEA) and the National Education Association (NEA), — a local blog — recently reported.

The president of the county teachers association figures that — with dues in excess of $500,000 sent up the ladder to state and national unions — the local teachers can perform better for themselves the services the WCEA and NEA claim to offer local teachers associations. This vote comes also in the wake of years of transparency issues within the MSEA and the NEA.

In 2009, the MSEA learned of an embezzling scheme from an affiliated local teachers union but chose not disclose the details to union members or investigators, covering up the scandal from dues-paying members who may have been inclined to leave the union otherwise. The NEA is also notorious for using dues funds in questionable ways — including spending more on politics and lobbying ($44,797,771) than on actual representational activities in 2012 and dishing out over $200,000 at a Washington D.C. hotel for “Presidential inaugural cost” in the same year.

Just as families and local communities understand how to best educate students, local organizations of teachers are not at the mercy of large, bureaucratic — and often scandal-ridden — state and national unions. In fact, the opposite is often true.

Excellent teachers, given the prerogative to negotiate on their own merits, hold far more leverage for high-paying contracts than an organization like the NEA coldly touting the influence of millions of members without a word about how that organization’s participation will contribute to educational excellence with the children in a community. Similarly, local associations of teachers are accountable to school boards and families because the community’s children are influenced and led by those teachers every day.

Wicomico County teachers will vote in April on their specific decision. If the local association votes to go it alone in representation, public educators everywhere should carefully observe how much more effectively a local organization can utilize their resources for future contract negotiations and how little they will miss the cumbersomely expensive, selfishly run MSEA and NEA.


What if there were no public schools? It might not be as bad as you think

Whenever we talk about education reform, we talk about the most boring, narrow stuff. You want education reform? I'll show you education reform.

Imagine that omnipotent space aliens from the planet Zyrglax land on Earth and take control of the United States. But these aliens are somewhat bizarre, and they change only one thing: they teleport all public school buildings into the sun, and prohibit the government from any action or law providing for public education, even ruling out school vouchers and the like. All school budgets are rebated back to the taxpayer. Failure to comply will result in America being blasted to dust from orbit.

What would happen?

I'm serious — let's game this out. What would happen?

Well, at first it would be chaos. Millions of kids would be out of school, parents would be helpless, and so on.

But what would happen next?

For the upper class, not much would change — except for a handful of magnet public schools, they've basically opted out of the public education system.

What about the middle class?

This is where things get interesting. For one, a lot of people would smell a great business opportunity. Average private school tuition in the U.S. was $8,549 per year in 2010. Catholic schools manage to get it down to $6,018, and to $4,944 for elementary. For a middle-class family making $50,000 a year, putting your kids in private school would be a sacrifice, but it would be doable.

And there's a lot of data to suggest that those prices would be driven down — possibly way down. Currently, schools make almost no use of technology. There are no large education corporations, meaning there are no economies of scale (the Catholic Church is a big institution, but Catholic schools are operationally and financially independent — and the church is hardly known for its management acumen). Competition is hindered by the school district catchment system, and there is little incentive for innovation, given the fact that private schools are undercut by free public education.

Another thing you would see, therefore, would be a lot of innovative schools. You would see a lot more Montessori schools, given the overwhelming research that suggests that this almost 100-year-old method of education produces the best results. Think about it this way: In what kind of industry would a significant productivity enhancement method be ignored by the profession for several generations?

You might see new models emerging like AltSchool, a company that uses computers and small-group instruction to provide a better educational experience. At $19,100 a year, the tuition is unaffordable, but given that the company has raised $33 million from top-tier Silicon Valley venture capitalist firms, one has to imagine that it will over time lower its prices to achieve scale.

We would almost certainly see a great increase in home schooling, especially assisted by technology. Households might get better education, more sanity, and more fulfilling lives — and more financial stability, paradoxically — by having one spouse educate their children.

But wait a second, you say. Maybe that's true, and maybe we would see a lot of better schools get started and grow to scale — but only for those who can afford it.

To think about that, it's important to keep in mind the omnipotent, deathray-wielding space aliens from my thought experiment. Typically, if we saw a situation in which kids were kept out of school for being poor, there would be highly justified national outrage and a government program would quickly be voted in. But remember! The space aliens are here, and if you pass a law, they will space-bomb the entire country!

Stick with me here. What will happen is that philanthropy will take over. Yes, there's a track record of various small government types saying that if you slash this or that program private philanthropy will take over, and yet it seems it never does. But Bill Gates and Warren Buffett have together decided to devote tens of billions of dollars to charitable causes. More than 100 people have signed Gates and Buffett's "Giving Pledge," getting billionaires to agree to donate more than half of their wealth to charity. And the most popular charitable cause among hedge fund titans is education.

Let's not forget the Catholic Church has been educating poor immigrants at below-cost for well over a hundred years. You might disagree with these people's politics and motives, but you can't deny that their love for education is sincere.

Today, most of these people don't build free schools left and right because — well, first because they lack imagination, but mostly because kids already are in schools, albeit bad schools. And most of them prefer to focus on working within the system, trying to improve existing schools. But if there were no schools, and no prospect of getting schools via government program, of course there would be a national philanthropic groundswell to build and fund those schools via private initiative.

So what would happen? Well, as we said, the upper class would be the same. The middle class would probably have better, albeit more expensive, education. And the lower classes would still get free education, and possibly better education. At the end of the day, the number of kids in school would be the same as today. And many families would end up better off, though some might be worse off.

Would it be utopia? Absolutely not. There would be many bad things going on. A roiling free market is innovative and creative, but it also creates disturbances. There would be problems that we can't foresee.

Should we not only shut down all the public schools, but also prevent the government from having any education policy? Absolutely not. This isn't a policy proposal. It's a thought experiment.

One of the biggest problems of human imagination is status quo bias. Just because we have some stuff around us, we can't think of another way to arrange it. And because of this status quo bias, our debates about the future become impossibly cramped. Education is definitely a victim of this. A lot of people imagine that without public school, children would be left to play in traffic or huff glue, and nobody would ever get educated, except for the children of robber barons. But if you take the time to actually think it through, you realize that it would be a different world.


South Carolina University Holds "How to be a Lesbian" Seminar, Uses Taxpayer Money

Students at the University of South Carolina Upstate have the opportunity to learn “How to Be a Lesbian in 10 Days or Less,” courtesy of taxpayer money. The event is part of a two-day April symposium and conference which intends to explore the “new normals, old normals, future normals in the LGBT community.”

Campus Reform reported:

 The symposium is funded by outside grants as well as university funds according to Dr. Lisa Johnson, the Director of the Center for Women’s & Gender Studies at USCU.
Dr. Johnson declined to discuss what percentage of the funding was coming from the university.

“Until you call and ask how much money has been spent on heterosexual literature, I’m not going to answer that question,” Johnson told Campus Reform.

Earlier this month, the South Carolina House of Representatives voted to cut almost $70,000 in funding for two public universities, including $17,142 from USCU, over literature containing gay themes.

This event would be less newsworthy had not a traditional marriage conference recently been denied funding and decried as “hate speech” at Stanford. The event was discriminatory, according to the Graduate Student Council:

 One value is to promote “marriage and sexual integrity.” When they say marriage between one man and one woman, and if promoting this, does it not imply that whatever formula that does not fit your definition does not have integrity? It does.
The administration eventually “found” the funding after national media attention and a letter to the Provost with a friendly reminder of First Amendment rights.

Just think about this logic for a moment. While Stanford University was afraid speakers coming to discuss marriage and sexual purity would be dangerous for gay students, a two-day indoctrination on how to become part of the LGBT community is funded by the state.

Let's hope this is not the "new norm" we have to look forward to.


Tuesday, April 01, 2014

Are Democrats Eating Their Own Over Charter Schools?

De Blasio checkmated?

Amidst all of the 24/7 coverage of the search for Malaysian Airlines Flight 370, a news story did manage to bubble up from the depths and it posed an interesting question.Are Democrats really concerned about minorities and the poor?Are they really looking to help them achieve success and prosperity in life?

In a move that garnered more attention than newly elected New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio probably expected, a decision was made to close some, and limit the growth of other Charter schools in New York City.

De Blasio’s major foe on this issue is Success Academy Networks CEO, Eva Moskowitz.She runs 22 city schools with millions of dollars in assets and is determined to keep alive the promise that former mayor Bloomberg gave to keep and expand the charter school program.

At the center of this firestorm is the decision to displace the 200 students from the highly performing Success Academy Harlem Central Middle School. This particular school which opened in 2012 boasts some of the city’s highest scores.As recently as 2013, 96% of fifth graders at that school passed state math exams, the highest passing rate in the state. Now, De Blasio wants to boot them from their public space and force the children into lower performing public schools.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has come out swinging against de Blasio and in support of Moskowitz and the charter school program.He has even gone so far as to suggest that perhaps a “technical” change could be made to the state law that would protect the schools.

This is a tricky position for both of these hard-core Democrats to be in since everyone knows that they are beholden to the unions in that state.Especially the teachers union which is putting the screws to any elected official that dares to jump ship after they got them elected.

Cuomo’s position on this matter is to include in his budget more state money for the Charter schools.This is in line with former Mayor Bloomberg’s thinking.De Blasio, on the other hand, says that Charter schools have a “destructive impact” on traditional schools and has vowed to charge rent to these schools which are privately run but publicly funded.They also have non-union teachers.

The 6700 students in schools run by Ms Moskowitz are 90% black or Hispanic.These children have consistently outscored traditional schools on state tests.They not only outperformed in math, but in reading, they triumphed with 58% vs 26%.

This begs the question; what are they really concerned with?Is it about advancing the lives and education of the mostly minority children that are affected, or continuing the downward spiral that we have seen in public education for decades?This is the only chance that many of these children have to get out of the substandard education system of the New York public schools.The stats speak for themselves and the parents know it.

Many Democrat voters who championed de Blasio’s more Socialist agenda are now turning on him when it begins to affect their children.Most parents want to see their children succeed in life and many of these families are watching a bureaucrat take away that one opportunity that was promised to them.

Dig a little deeper however and you can see that both Democrats at the center of this firestorm are not really looking out for the best interests of the children.Even though I favor Cuomo’s side, I found that he has major ambitions to run for President in 2016 and is courting money from Wall Street and hedge-fund managers who favor Charter schools.They have lined his pockets with over $400,000 in contributions and the number rises even higher when you add in bankers, philanthropists and real estate moguls who support education and Charter school causes.

De Blasio, on the other hand, is in the pocket of the unions.He depends on their undying support which is why he continues his income inequality mantra ad nauseum.

So the Democrats find themselves between a rock and a hard place.They are being faced with hypocrisy and can’t find a way out.They are fighting among themselves and splitting their voters.This issue is spreading across the country and even Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel has to take a side on this subject When they find themselves hurting the very people that they depend on to get re-elected, what do they do?

Do the right thing, or cave into special interests and money?What do you think?


Common Core and Obamacare: Two Peas in a Pod

Two of the biggest intrusions into American liberty have come because American politicians assume things that just aren’t true. Specifically, that it’s the duty of the federal government to guarantee that the entire population is educated and healthy.

There is almost no debate that people should have health care and education. But why should the federal government be involved?

In the fantasy lexicon of government bureaucracy, education means, “someone will pay for your college degree” or “you will pass tests” and health care means “someone will pay for your health insurance.” Sadly these definitions have nothing to do with what health care and education are really about.

Education is about learning. Learning can occur in many places outside of traditional classrooms. Measuring learning effectively is difficult, because each child is different, so the government seeks to quantify it through examining who goes to school or who passes tests.  Most recently, the federal government has sought to extend control of educational outcomes through “Common Core” standards and assessments.

As an educator, I find the idea of creating uniform standards of measurement, for every public school in the nation located in those states which have adopted such standards, disturbing.  Teachers understand that students are not robots. Government-imposed educational standards limit creativity and force teachers to abandon innovation in favor of conformity.

The issue is not just the quality or lack thereof of the standards themselves. It’s that government-imposed standards come with government-defined goals and measurements, and a government-directed student database.

For example, the Common Core standards operate according to a premise that the education of a child should be for the purpose of“college, career and life”   readiness. What is “life readiness?”  How is that term even defined, and how is it measured when a youth graduates from high school?

By pretending it has the ability to define and measure readiness for “college, career, and life” the government can promise to bring comprehensive change to public education when, in reality, it is simply accruing power.

Though they are not often linked, the arguments for federal government involvement in healthcare and education are strikingly similar. Like education, government uses definitional changes to trick citizens and fake its own success on the issue of health care. Notice in the debate over health care, what the government actually mandated was a product – health insurance. Health care is not health insurance. Yet, in the world of bureaucratic control, these are the same. Notice that the government measures Obamacare’s success not by whether citizen’s health has improved but by how many citizens have signed up. This is absurd.

Health care and education are intensely personal and are not given to standardized measurements and centralized controls. By redefining education and healthcare and then pretending to be able to solve the problems in each, the federal government shields itself from the truth. Uncle Sam’s attempted solutions often have only made matters worse.  Politicians love to promise us the things we desire, but informed citizens should scrutinize carefully what they are really saying.

It is time we stopped letting politicians pretend they know how to run our lives. If local communities can no longer educate their children or take care of their sick, then America is in trouble. Government has the power to coerce but not the power to heal. Government has the power to regulate but not the ability to educate. It is time for Americans to stand and reclaim their freedom from the bureaucratic leviathan lest, in the words of Abraham Lincoln, “government of the people, by the people, and for the people,” shall perish from the earth.


Teaching history in British secondary schools

Getting history teachers to agree on pretty much anything, is quite difficult. If you ever want to see some ding-dongs between teaching staff, just sit in on a History Department meeting and watch the sparks fly.

I cannot imagine my colleagues from the Maths department slogging it out over Pythagoras' Theorem or chemists disputing the periodic table. But, historians; yes, historians are hard work. Even when we agree on the evidence, we rarely agree on the evaluation or analysis of it.

History throws up the best debates and the best arguments. That’s why it is such a fun, vibrant subject to teach. I think Mr Gove might well have found that out; writing in the Daily Mail to bemoan the "leftie" belief that World War One was a mistake.

Depending on the history teacher you had in front of you, Dunkirk was either a triumph or a humiliation. The British Empire was jolly good or rather awful. King John was a nice chap or a nasty piece of work. And, the First World War was either a total disaster in which millions of decent people were led to their slaughter by an “out of touch elite” or a just war that put an end to the imperialist ambitions of an autocrat and an attempt to stand up for the self-determination of the people of Europe.

Michael Gove believes the latter, whereas Professor Richard Evans et al, believe the former.

I don’t necessarily see this as a “political” argument (though clearly Mr Gove does) but the wild reaction of the left suggests he might be right and I might be wrong.

Twitter exploded, with many declaring that Mr Gove ought to have no view on history whatsoever and that, at any rate, his view of history was clearly wrong. I saw one tweet that read 'Michael Gove defends deaths of 37 million people as “just"'.

Actually, that wasn’t what he said, but our Education Secretary does seem to have a knack of pushing all the wrong buttons with a large number of people.

Mr Gove was saying, from what I can see, that the war was one worth fighting (asking what would have happened if Britain hadn’t gone to defend Belgium in 1914) and that our leadership weren’t inept per se, but just badly equipped for the conflict ahead.

Both sides of the argument here seem to have missed the point, and especially missed the point of history teaching. Give the students both sides of the story and let them decide; let the students argue the point, debate the evidence and take a view. Any student who could do that and explain why they have reached that viewpoint is doing well, I’d say.

Personally, I think that Mr Gove has a point about an overuse of certain popular “historical sources” like Blackadder, but when set against other sources – Path√© newsreels or newspaper cartoons of the age, for example – they have their role to play.

I certainly wouldn’t show Blackadder and expect students to use that as their basis for understanding the war. I have to admit that I have shown clips of Blackadder, but I haven’t struggled to find other sources which support the case that Haig was not a bumbling idiot.

If we can get the students to decide if dropping the A-Bomb in 1945 was justified, then surely we can get them to debate World War One in an open manner.

If “lefties” (whoever they are) can accept that Mr Gove has a right to speak out, a right to make a case, even a right to pen an article for the Daily Mail, and if Mr Gove can accept other people's perceptions of events like World War One – which was a hundred years ago but not unchallengeable as a milestone in our nation’s history – we can then say to young people that trying to shout down the other side really won’t do. We can put the cases together and intelligently weigh up different viewpoints and come to a balanced judgment. Perhaps that really would be a fitting outcome of this row.


Monday, March 31, 2014

McMaster students support Israel boycott in tense meeting

The thorny issue of Israel and Palestine came to McMaster University Wednesday in a heated meeting where students voted to boycott any business with ties to Israel's occupation of Palestinian territories.

About 500 students voted during a McMaster Students Union (MSU) general assembly for the union to join a pro-Palestinian movement called BDS — boycott, divestment and sanctions.

However, the assembly did not have quorum at the vote  — 633 students were needed to have quorum, and only 518 were present — making a non-binding resolution.

Students on both sides of the debate have commented on the tense atmosphere and at times feeling unsafe and uncomfortable.

“I can tell you it was a toxic environment in the room tonight,”  said Raphael Szajnfarber, director of Jewish Student Life at McMaster​ told CBC Hamilton. “I know that some students did indeed feel targeted.”

BDS is a global campaign designed to pressure Israel to end its “occupation and colonization of all Arab lands,” says the website for the BDS movement. It also calls on Israel to recognize the rights of Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel, and to “respect and protect the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes.”

BDS supporters call it a human rights movement akin to the fight against South African apartheid. Those against BDS say it aims to weaken and delegitimize Israel.

Wednesday’s meeting was tense too, from “no to BDS” supporters leaving en masse to a student at the microphone asking security to stand between him and another student. “I’m actually feeling a little unsafe right now,” he said.

MSU brought in extra security for the meeting, said Spencer Graham, MSU’s vice-president education.


 ‘WE CHEATED’ — At UNC, whistle-blowers expose a sickening athletic scam

At the University of North Carolina, the extent of a shocking con — which involved dozens of athletes who for years were deliberately enrolled in fake classes and awarded passing grades to keep them eligible for sports — has now been fully publicized thanks to the confessions of two whistle-blowers.

Deans, coaches and professors at certain sham academic departments of the university were complicit in placing basketball and football players with underdeveloped learning skills in classes that didn’t exist and never actually met. The only requirements were that the students write final papers consisting of a few sentences — a task too difficult for some, who could only read and write at a second grade level. Still, they all received As or Bs.

Mary Willingham, a UNC academic adviser since 2003, became increasingly uncomfortable with the administration’s willingness to lie and cheat in order to keep its athletes eligible. After working with students who could barely read or write — but were still somehow passing their classes with flying colors — Willingham finally decided she had had enough, and began leaking information to news reporters.

UNC retaliated. Now, Willingham has come public with her shocking story of corruption right at the heart of the university. In an interview with ESPN, she detailed the extent of the scandal.

“Athletes couldn’t write a paper,” she said. “They couldn’t write a paragraph. They couldn’t write a sentence yet.”

But cognizant advisers had a habit of placing them into classes that didn’t require much writing, or even attendance.  “Students were taking classes that didn’t really exist,” she said.

These so-called “paper classes” never actually met. Students only had to turn in a final paper, and they would pass — even if that paper was illegible. An example provided by Willingham and linked on IMGUR shows how bad these “A” papers actually were.

The fake classes were mostly in the African-American studies department. Department head Julius Nyang’oro was listed as the instructor for the classes, but he was typically abroad. He has been charged with a felony for defrauding the university, and is currently fighting the charge in court.

Deunta Williams, who played football at UNC from 2007 to 2010, also denounced the scam, which he now says he is ashamed to have been involved with.  “[The advisers'] job isn’t to make Deunta Williams a smarter person, a better person,” he said. “Their job was to make sure I was able to play.”

“It was just a scam, the whole thing,” added Willingham. “It was a joke. It was so obvious. … We cheated.”


From Helmand to Blackpool: Struggling school calls in the MARINES to patrol classrooms and playground to combat unruly pupils and mischievous behaviour

A struggling school plagued by unruly pupils has called in the Royal Marines to patrol classrooms and the playground to help curb disruptive behaviour.

Staff at South Shore Academy in Blackpool are hoping the military presence in the corridors will improve discipline and attendance.

Three former Marines and Navy personnel will take part in one-on-one sessions, teach physical activities and remove disruptive pupils from class.

Staff at South Shore Academy in Blackpool are hoping the military presence in the corridors will improve discipline and attendance

The war heroes have swapped the battlefields of the Helmand province in Afghanistan for the school playground, as they prepare to wage war on bad behaviour.

The move is part of a £40,000 plan to improve pupil discipline at the academy.  A recent Ofsted report found baheviour at the school 'required improvement' and that pupils' achievement was 'inadequate'.

The school has enlisted the help of Commando Joes, a company which recruits former military personnel to work with challenging children.

The three former servicemen and women will be at the academy for the next 39 weeks, keeping pupils in line.

Students said they respect the camouflage-wearing teams, who they claim are 'scary'.

Year Seven pupil Jake Heathwaite, 12, said: 'They're scary if you're badly behaved but people are better behaved in the classes they're in.

'If someone's bad in lessons then theyll take us out so the teacher can get on for the rest of the class. We respect them because they're here to help us, not just to teach us.'

Dave Aston, 51, was in the Royal Marines for 30 years, serving everywhere from Afghanistan, Iraq and Kosovo to Northern Ireland, and now works with Year 11 boys two days a week.

Michael Todd, 24, was a helicopter pilot in the Royal Navy for four years, working under the official secrets act, and now works with all Year Seven pupils twice a week.

And former army trainer Becky Turner works with Year 11 girls on Monday mornings.

The trio do not teach lessons but work alongside teachers and run out of class activities.

Mr Todd said: 'Some children think teachers are just there to hassle them, we can work with them from a different angle but they see we're here to work alongside the teachers.

'We're trying to instill in them some respect, for school and for other people, those things that children don't necessarily get these days.'

Vice principal Graham Gerrard said: 'The idea is to motivate students, we're just hoping they're someone else who can create that spark in young people to ensure they can succeed.

'They're working to improve health and wellbeing as well as attendance and punctuality.'

A previous Ofsted report for Palatine Sports College, the school before it converted to academy status in January, noted behaviour required improvement and achievement of pupils was inadequate.

Year 11 pupil Robert Markillie, 15, said: 'We look up to them because they've been in the military, they've got a different status. I'd say they're well worth the cost.'

Classmate Hamza Shah, also 15, added: 'We respect them. When they're sitting next to you in class you feel like you have to do your work, you know someone's looking out for you.'


Sunday, March 30, 2014

Campus brownshirts on the march

Jill Schneiderman is an unlikely warrior for Jewish rights. A professor of Earth sciences at Vassar College and a lesbian activist, Schneiderman’s political passions put her smack in the middle of the far-Left academic mainstream.

At least they did until she decided to organize a student trip to Israel to study water issues.

To get a sense of just how far to the Left Schneiderman is, when her initiative ran into trouble, she contacted fanatic anti-Israel activist Phillip Weiss to ask for his support.

Hers was not going to be a ZOA student mission to Israel.

Scheiderman needed help, because when the Vassar chapter of the anti-Semitic hate group, Students for Justice in Palestine, got wind of her initiative, their members began picketing her pre-trip seminar. They stood outside the classroom and pressured students to drop the class.

Spooked by this thuggish behavior, Schneiderman complained to the college’s administrators and sought redress for her students whose academic freedom and civil rights were being obstructed.
In response to her complaint, earlier this month the administration convened a meeting of the school’s Committee on Inclusion and Excellence.

Rather than take action against the thugs from the SJP, both the members of the committee and the audience quickly joined forces with them and doubled down on their assault against all even mildly pro-Israel voices on campus.

As Scheneiderman wrote on her blog, at the meeting she was “knocked off-center by a belligerent academic community dedicated to vilifying anyone who dares set foot in Israel.”

Weiss wrote of the meeting, “The spirit of that young progressive space was that Israel is a blot on civilization, and boycott is right and necessary.

If a student had gotten up and said, I love Israel, he or she would have been mocked and scorned into silence.”

Weiss is pleased with the air of intimidation. As he sees it, this is the whole point of the so called boycott, sanctions, and divestment movement that calls for institutions to boycott businesses that do business with Jews in Israel.

As Weiss explained, the real purpose of the BDS movement in all its component parts is to make it impossible to voice any sentiment in relation to the Middle East on college campuses that isn’t anti-Israel.

And the brownshirts at Vassar are from a unique phenomenon.

As Scheiderman and her students were being intimidated for daring to study about and plan travel to Israel, members of the University of Michigan’s student government voted to indefinitely suspend debate on a resolution submitted by an anti-Jewish campus group that called for the university to boycott and divest from companies that do business with the Jewish state.

The anti-Jewish goons behind the resolution hail from an organization that ironically refers to itself as SAFE, an acronym for Students Allied for Freedom and Equality. They responded to the student government’s decision with rage and violence.

They staged sit-ins at the student government, where they cursed Jewish members of the council, calling them “dirty Jew” and “kike.” According to The Washington Free Beacon, some students received death threats from the anti-Jewish activists.

According to the Free Beacon, rather than defend its students from these criminal assaults and protect their civil rights, university administrators forced the head of the student government to apologize to the aggressors from SAFE for voting to table the anti-Israel resolution. They also reportedly compelled the student government to hold an immediate vote on the measure.

As one Jewish leader told the Free Beacon ahead of the vote, “University administrators are allowing students to be bullied into taking an anti-Israel vote with a gun pointed to their heads.”

And he was not exaggerating. The anti-Jewish protesters are open in their embrace of violence.

In January, Yazan Kherallah, who serves as SAFE’s “divestment coordinator,” posted a photo of himself on his Facebook page. In the picture, titled, “It’s on,” Kherallah’s face is covered in a khafiyyeh and he is stabbing a pineapple.

Speaking to the Free Beacon, Kenneth Marcus, the former staff director for the US Civil Rights Commission who now heads the Louis D.

Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law, explained that by not protecting its students from anti-Semitic harassment and threats of violence, the University of Michigan is exposing itself to civil litigation for civil rights violations and to federal investigation.

Marcus explained, “If the university allows a hostile environment to form without taking effective action, it could be liable for a civil lawsuit or federal investigation….If Jewish students are being called ‘kike’ and ‘dirty Jew’ and the university is not addressing it in a firm and effective way, the university may be liable under federal law.”

And this is really the point. As Weiss made clear, brownshirt tactics are the new norm for anti-Semitic activists on college campuses. Indeed, he said that the movement to silence pro-Israel voices on US college campuses is where the “progressive” movement is going these days.

This is not only a Jewish problem. If the rise of brownshirt tactics and anti-Semitism on US campuses goes on at its current pace, it will destroy higher education in the United States.

Anti-Semitism is predicated and can only survive and grow in an atmosphere in which reason is rejected. Brownshirt tactics are designed to replace reasoned discussion with intimidation and violence. And when violence and unreasoning hatred reign, there is no learning. Hence the threat to the entire university system.

Unfortunately, the administrators at too many universities do not seem to care.

The only instances where university administrators have taken action against anti-Semites on their campuses have been when outside forces compelled them to do so. And in all cases where action has been taken, administrators have done as little as possible.

These instances, and the steps that led up to them must become the basis for developing a general plan for stemming the rise of anti-Semitism on US campuses.

Two recent examples illustrate the general trajectory of successful action.

Last February, Brooklyn College held a BDS event that was co-sponsored by the college and Students for Justice in Palestine. Four Jewish students who attended the event were forcibly removed by campus police acting on orders from the event organizers, who identified the four as potential sources of pointed questions that the BDS advocates could not answer well.

Rather than defend the students, Brooklyn College’s administrators attacked them and endorsed SJP’s transparently false claim that the four — who had been sitting quietly — had been “disruptive.”

Three of the students turned to the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) and the Brandeis Center for Human Rights for legal assistance. And as a result of legal pressure, City University of New York, of which Brooklyn College is a part, conducted an investigation that found the students had been persecuted for their viewpoints, in violation of their civil rights. On March 10, Brooklyn College’s president issued a public apology to the four Jewish students. She also promised to institute new procedures to ensure that students’ civil rights are respected.

While no serious disciplinary action appears to have been taken against the SJP, the university police, or university administrators who violated the students’ civil rights, civil litigation against Brooklyn College is still pending.

Likewise, after allowing anti-Semitic intimidation of Jewish students at Northeastern University to go unhindered for years, the university administration finally suspended SJP’s campus affiliation for a year earlier this month.

As they have done on other campuses, including University of Michigan last December, SJP at Northeastern placed mock eviction notices under the dorm room doors of pro-Israel students across campus. They affixed anti-Semitic stickers to walls, doors, windows, and other free spaces all around campus (in violation of university rules), and they interrupted Jewish events and intimidated pro-Israel students.

Last summer the ZOA sent a letter to Northeastern president Joseph Aoun detailing incident after incident of anti-Semitic agitation and intimidation inside and outside classrooms. The letter mentioned that University of California Santa Cruz is currently under investigation by the federal government for its apparent violation of the civil rights of its Jewish students by enabling an anti-Semitic atmosphere to rein on campus.

It is likely that ZOA’s letter had a significant impact in compelling Northeastern’s administrators to finally take action after years of willfully ignoring entreaties from students for help and support.

With a gun pointed at their heads, on Tuesday night University of Michigan’s student government voted on the anti-Semitic resolution. Given the administration’s role in supporting the violent hoodlums from SAFE, the council members had no one but themselves to rely on to protect them.
And so, before voting on the resolution, the council decided that the vote on the resolution would be cast by secret ballots.

The resolution failed 25-9.

The members of the student government should be applauded for their moral and intellectual courage. Although no democracy can long survive without a citizenry capable of displaying such strength of convictions and basic decency, these characteristics are becoming all too rare on campuses. Indeed it is the rarity of such devotion to truth that makes the council members’ behavior so heartening.

But it is due to the rarity of such displays of moral courage that a campaign to defeat the rising tide of anti-Semitism on college campuses cannot rely on the moral and intellectual fortitude of students and on their willingness to stand up not only to the campus brownshirts, but to their enablers in the administrations.

The developments at Northeastern and Brooklyn College make clear that the only way to defeat the anti-Semites on campus is to go after the administrations that enable them. Only the threat of civil lawsuits, federal investigations of civil rights violations, and alumni threats to withhold gifts will force university administrations to take action against the anti-Semitic thugs that are instituting a reign of terror at university after university.

The lesson from Brooklyn College and Northeastern is that the pressure should be unrelenting.

In both cases, the steps the administrations took this month were the minimal steps they think they can get away with. They need to be forced to do more.

For instance, in the case of Brooklyn College, attorneys should push forward with lawsuits for civil damages for all four students for the college’s violation of their civil rights both at the BDS event itself, and in the administration’s subsequent demonization of the students in the media.

The pressure must similarly continue until the campus police who ejected the students from the event and the administrators who attacked them in the media are fired from their positions and SJP is permanently barred from operating on campus.

Similar demands should be made to Northeastern.

Only when universities are made to pay a painful price for their support for anti-Semitism will other university administrators think twice before they give free reign to Jew haters on their campus and so doom their institutions to moral and intellectual destruction.


'Anti-public school bias: the last acceptable form of prejudice?'

The writer uses "public school" in its traditional English sense

Recently my daughter met up with a former school friend, away at university. She was quite startled. In six short months, her friend’s accent had totally changed. Why?

“OMG”, came the reply. “I simply had to change the way I spoke – I was the only public school person on my corridor and was getting so much stick.”

Sadly, this didn’t surprise me at all. In fact, it reinforced my view that sniping at public schools is the last acceptable form of prejudice.

As distinguished head, Dr Antony Seldon, has said, anti-public school bias is: “the hatred that dare not speak its name”.

I’ve spent my life teaching in public schools. So I’m well-used to people criticising them. I’m aware too they can seem exclusive and, at times (though this is rarer now?), snobbish places.

During that time, I’ve occasionally been made to feel apologetic for my career choice. I have friends with whom the whole issue of private education is never discussed: it would lead to too many arguments.

So, far be it from me to bridle at any criticism of public schools. I’d expect nothing less from passionate supporters of state education.

But what irks me is when politicians fan the flames of anti-public school prejudice with ill-informed utterances. Especially if they’re people who themselves went to public schools and should know better.

Not only is this hypocritical (biting the hand that feeds?), it comes across as cheap point-scoring. Most people, after all, cannot afford private education, so are quite readily convinced by any such over-general criticisms.

Two classic cases spring to mind, from both sides of the political divide.

First, the recent accusation from Tristram Hunt, Shadow Education Secretary, that public school teachers have an “easy gig”.

He may well be right. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve raised my eyes to the classroom ceiling and thanked heaven I’m lucky enough to teach at such a well-resourced school. No peeling paint in the corridors, or paper cups in the staffroom here, thankfully.

But I object to someone who’s been educated at one of London’s best private schools, UCS (University College School), pointing all this out to me.

Again, only last month, Nick Hurd, Old Etonian and Minister for Civil Society, took another potshot at public schools, this time at their pupils. Apparently they “must get out of their towers”, to “volunteer” and mix more often with children from state schools.

The fact is, this already happens. Almost all public schools now have partnerships with local comprehensives. Shared activities are commonplace.

These may take the form of Classics lessons, sport or debating, or indeed joint Army Cadet forces. But that doesn’t seem to prevent politicians, Labour and Conservative alike, carping at a system that stood them in good stead.

I can cope with jibes like these, as a mature adult. But I feel sorry for the pupils I teach and thousands like them. They’re made to feel guilty for a simple accident of birth. Even more unforgivably, they’re made to feel ashamed of all that wonderful education.


Australia:  Why feminists should support childcare deregulation

 The Abbott Government is examining childcare regulation as part of its 'cutting red tape' agenda.

We can't keep hoping that higher subsidies will cancel out the rising cost of childcare red tape - that's why we should support deregulation in the name of gender equity, writes Trisha Jha.

It used to be petrol prices and housing affordability, but the new 'BBQ stopper' occupying the minds and hip-pockets of ordinary Australians is childcare affordability and accessibility.

Fees for long day care have increased 4 per cent a year in real terms over the last decade, and demand is still unmet across service types in many areas. Despite the previous Labor government increasing fee subsidies and funding the establishment of new services, it is still difficult for parents to procure an affordable childcare place and solutions must be found elsewhere.

The Abbott Government is examining childcare regulation as part of its 'cutting red tape' agenda, alongside its Productivity Commission review of the childcare system. Advocates for childcare access should embrace this decision to consider deregulating the sector.

The benefits to women and to wider society through increased work participation and a broader tax base are many. Women, feminist organisations (such as the Women's Electoral Lobby Australia and the National Foundation for Australian Women), professional organisations and the business community all recognise that access to affordable childcare reduces barriers to employment. Employment is key to women's financial independence, and has benefits such as the means to leave negative or abusive relationships and an increased lifetime superannuation accumulation.

It is for these reasons that childcare subsidies were introduced in the 1980s, and is for these reasons that the problem of childcare access is worth investigating.

So what exactly is wrong with our childcare system? The short answer: the government.

The principal culprit is regulation, primarily through the objective of increasing the quality of services. While it may seem like a good thing at first glance, 'quality' in this context is not about health, hygiene and safety, and nor is it about children in care being happy and safe.

Instead, the federal and state compact that governs the majority of childcare services, the National Quality Framework (NQF), involves increasing reporting requirements, mandating a minimum standard for staff qualifications and lower staff-to-child ratios. These are allegedly markers of quality childcare.

A particular loser from these regulations is community and family day care (FDC). The pursuit of qualifications turns carers into educators, and limits who can run a legitimate FDC service. Competition is shut out as the costs of regulation are absorbed by larger, amalgamated providers while smaller care providers are unable to easily absorb the costs and may shut down. Reducing services in areas that may already be experiencing shortages negatively impacts both accessibility and affordability for women and their families, making deregulation in this area worthy of concern for feminists.

The costs of regulation are passed on to families through higher fees and on to the government through increased reliance on fee subsidies. A COAG report estimated that from 2009 to 2019, the additional costs of the NQF would be $1.6 billion in real (inflation-adjusted) terms, about 50 per cent of which would be borne by families. Childcare will become more unaffordable as well as inaccessible, mostly to the detriment of women.

Growth in costs has occurred, in part, due to the childcare industry, which has campaigned for quality assurances and accreditation processes. It has been accepted without complaint by comfortable and well-off parents who support the quality agenda. Prices have been pushed up for everyone by those who could afford to pay for bells and whistles, while low- and lower-middle-income earners have lost out.

Families seeking flexibility and choice have also lost out. Paperwork that detracts from supervision of children - as many submissions from providers to the Productivity Commission inquiry attest - is surely the opposite of the quality most parents would want for their children. Moreover, regulatory constraints on supply (which local councils also influence through planning and zoning restrictions) have resulted in a decline of care services like FDC. More stringent minimum standards for FDC mean parents have less options when entrusting their child into care and, often, inconvenient and expensive long day care becomes the only option.

Not having access to childcare also has regressive impacts. Higher-income women can keep up more easily with the costs of childcare, while lower-income women find that it costs too much to go back to work and bear the brunt of the resulting inequities, especially in the event of family breakdown.

The grim truth is that the childcare sector is a classic case of regulatory capture, where larger players such as Early Childhood Australia and Goodstart Early Learning shape the regulations that govern the industry. The prevalence of fee subsidies guarantees money from the government ($4.7 billion in 2012-13) and has given providers a certain degree of immunity to the usual rules of supply and demand.

For a long time, the debate over childcare affordability and availability has involved advocating higher subsidies and increased levels of regulation simultaneously, hoping the two will cancel each other out and supply will be unaffected. Unfortunately, this is not the case. Those who advocate for childcare access in the name of gender equity and feminism must decide whether they want to support the interests of providers, or the interests of their fellow working women