Friday, August 22, 2014

How British teachers could be pressuring teens into having sex

Sex ed lessons at school are, generally, not all we hope for. As a young teen, I remember being desperate to be told everything about sex – from an official explanation of the ‘bases’ to when you should ‘go all the way’. My friends couldn’t wait to discuss it, in detail.

But, when it came down it, the classes were pretty dull. They focused on the biology (boring) and, even though we got to play with condoms, we never really got to ask those burning questions about 'Doing It'.

In fact, for those of us who hadn’t had sex, it was kind of awkward. The teachers talked about 16 being the age of consent and gave advice on what to do once we were legally having sex. The only problem? This wasn’t on the cards.

Our teachers didn't really talk about what to do if you weren't having sex. That didn't seem to be the point. It meant that when we did turn sweet 16, we wondered whether we should now be having sex. After all, the girls in the videos we were shown were doing it with their boyfriends. In fact, why didn’t we have boyfriends that we could lose our virginities too? Was there something wrong with us?

Those sexual pressures were different to the ones we experienced from our peers, because they came from our teachers. Adults. People in authority who, frankly, made us feel like we should be having sex.

I doubt they meant to do this, or had any idea what was going on in our heads. But it was an unfortunate side-effect of my sex education classes.

It’s why I wasn’t at all surprised to read a new study that shows two thirds of British teens believe people today are “too casual” about sex and relationships. Many blame adults for failing to do enough to discourage them from rushing into sex.

One 18-year-old girl said: “I always felt pressured by teachers, like, 'sex is normal, just be safe OK' - when actually I wasn't interested in having sex at the time and was happy to wait for the right person. I don't think sex should be taught as 'the norm'. I think people should be made to feel comfortable and teachers should say, 'you should wait, the law states 16, don't be pressured’.”

Simon Blake, chief executive of sexual health charity Brook, says that teens constantly feel this pressure. “What we do know is that young people often believe everyone else is doing it and think they need to as well, when in fact lots of people aren’t having sex,” he says. “It’s a really important part of sex education that they’re told most people under 16 don’t have sex.”

It means that even though a lot of teens aren’t having casual sex, or any kind of sex at all, they feel like everyone else is. And they're often getting this message from their peers and the adults in their lives, too.

Dr Rachel Andrew, a clinical psychologist who specialises in teenagers, says that there's a stereotypical image of teens having sex as soon as they turn 16, hooking up at parties and even having sex after drinking. “I think that’s almost an image that we have bought into as adults, [thinking] it’s more commonplace than it is,” she explains.

“I see teens who feel they don’t fit in because they’re referencing themselves against those stereotypes. Because they don't view sex casually, they may think 'there’s something wrong with me' or that they’re not popular, or particularly sociable, or attractive. They’re not leading the lifestyle that a lot of adults think they’re leading - which they then think they should be leading.”

She says that the biggest problem is the failure on adults’ parts to talk honesty and openly about sex. At the moment, teens are being fed behavioural stereotypes via TV, film and even the opinions of neighbours and relatives. You just have to turn on the TV post 9pm and you’ll see causal sex being talked about, well, casually on every sitcom and drama going.

Without adults to counteract these opinions, and explaining that sex doesn’t have to be casual, teens can pick up the wrong messages. It’s something that was prevalent in my school. After having our disappointing sex ed lessons, we’d then go home and watch shows like Skins - where teens were having drunken sex, taking drugs and partying. We weren’t doing that. But it made us feel like that's what 'normal' teenagers did.
Porn is there - accept it

Blake says adults should do more to help: “I think sometimes we’re ambivalent about [sex] as adults. We’re not clear [with young people] that we want them to have relationships that are healthy for them. In the absence of our willingness to have those conversations, young people get the soap opera approach and playground messages.

“Isn’t it sad that, in 2014, we’re not in a position to say to young people: this is really important. In some ways we focus on the wrong bits of debate like, is porn good or bad? But it’s there. We want them to know it’s not real life.”

But, Dr Andrew points out, adults don’t always know what to say. “I think if we’re honest about it, as parents or teachers or professionals, we can be unsure about what to talk to teens about,” she says.

“Whether we should be giving our views or a 'party line'. I often think that message is muddled, particularly for teachers. You can see how teachers end up in a role where it’s easier to keep to basics and to be very aware that many teens have underage sex. You can see how teens within this study might be picking up on a message from adults that it’s OK to have sex when you’re 16 and there’s nothing more to it.”

That’s what it comes back down to – sex ed classes. Teens are always going to experience these sexual expectations whether they come from peers, the TV or adults. But the one place they shouldn’t be feeling pressured is during sex ed classes at school.

Blake thinks the best way to improve the situation, is to make sure the classes don’t just stick to the basics - but go into feelings and relationships. This is how adults can help teens – by not just discussing sex as a lone topic, but by talking about how it fits into everyday life and particularly the lives of those teens in the room. Who might not be thinking about having sex in the near future whatsoever.

It would have been amazing if our teachers had explained this definitely wasn’t the case, as well as pointed out the drawbacks of rushing into sex.

Sadly, we missed out. But I see no reason why today's teens should. After all, with social media, sexting, slut-shaming and porn they’re under more pressures than we ever were.


Private schools should charge foreign students higher fees, college founder claims

Private schools should charge foreign pupils higher fees than children from Britain, a college founder has claimed.

Parents from overseas should be asked to pay more to send their offspring to Britain’s private schools to prevent British families being priced out of the market, Alexander Nikitich, who set up the Carfax Tutorial Establishment.

The education entrepreneur, who is originally from Russia, says private schools should follow the model used by universities, which levy higher charges at international students.

“It seems wrong that billionaires from Russia and the Far East are paying the same as British dentists, doctors and solicitors who are seeing their incomes plummet in real terms,” Mr Nikitich told the London Evening Standard.

A number of schools ask wealthy foreign parents for donations and offer bursaries and scholarships to British children but this does not go far enough, said Mr Nikitich, who called for an “open and transparent” approach.

“There are very wealthy families who will make significant donations and some schools are being somewhat spoiled by this, and we sometimes get a sense that if you come from particular countries it is difficult to get in without a donation,” he said.

His college, based in Oxford, charges British students £9,910 per subjects while those from abroad pay £11,900.

Extra one-on-one lessons cost British pupils £42 per hour and are £78 per cent for foreign students.

Mr Nikitich argues that wealth foreigners are willing pay higher prices because they place a high value on a British education.

“It seems strange that foreign parents, who value the British independent school sector so highly, aren’t making more of a financial contribution to it,” he said.

“If they paid higher fees, schools could afford to help pupils from less well-off British homes for whom the cost is a real struggle

“Private schools overseas are entirely open about charging more to foreign students. It seems foolish for it to be a problem in England.

“In the UK is it a long-established principle that overseas students pay more in university tuition fees than ‘home’ students. ‘Why cannot the same principle be applied to public school pupils?”

The popularity of Britain’s private schools overseas is clear from the rising number of foreigners with the number of pupils arriving from Russia up by more than a quarter last year, while there was a 16 per cent increase in students from Nigeria and five per cent rise in Chinese admissions.

Mr Nikitich, whose company, the Carfax Education Group, runs colleges, tutor agencies, schools and university consultancies in Britain and overseas, made his comments after a study found private education is becoming “increasingly unaffordable” for the British middle-classes due to a four-fold rise in school fees in little over 20 years.

The rise in private school fees has outpaced wage increased by so much that such establishments are becoming unaffordable for all but the super-rich, the report by the Centre for Economics and Business Research for stockbroker Killik & Co concluded.

Janette Wallis, senior editor of The Good Schools Guide, said schools were “increasingly aware that if they do not want to end up with their schools stripped of British children they need to rein in fee increases”.


Back-to-School Tuition Woes Highlight Bigger Education Problems

Most American families with students preparing to attend college worry how they can possibly pay the freight. Rightly so. College tuitions have been rising steadily by 3-4% annually since the Pell Grant was re-engineered by Jimmy Carter in 1978. Originally a program to assist low-income families with college expenses, Carter opened it to middle-class families as well. Now, federal aid to college is essentially an entitlement.

The College Board reports that a “moderate” college budget for an in-state public college for the 2013–2014 academic year averaged $22,826. A moderate budget at a private college averaged $44,750. Of course, these figures represent more than tuition, but they provide a clear picture of what the prospective college student faces. Costs can be reduced if a student is willing to stay at home, attend a nearby state school, take a full load of classes and work part-time during the summer – or better, all year. In that case, the cost drops to about $9,000 for in-state public schools, most of which can be paid for with the student’s earnings. Best of all, he or she won’t be shouldering a massive burden of debt for the next 20 years.

The debt aspect of the issue is perhaps the most difficult to understand. We know there are exceptions, but parents love their children. They’ve sacrificed 18 years to help them mature sufficiently enough to handle the adult world. College is hardly the adult world, but once school’s over, it’s at hand. That’s the very time in their lives when they should be as unencumbered as possible, to be able to direct their lives as they think best, and, yet, every year millions of parents send their child off to school knowing that when it’s completed, there’s an ugly reality to face. It almost seems like a perverse game: Get them excited about earning a degree and then hit them with the bill when it’s finished.

The federal aid to college racket – that’s what it’s become – has many of the earmarks of failed federal programs. While many students do indeed graduate, most will be making payments on their loans for years. Payments are deferred while students are in college, but once grads pass the golden doors, the first payment is due. And repayment plans can vary tremendously, depending on the program used to obtain the money as well as the actual lender. Whether the grad’s employed or unemployed, the bill comes due every month, and the term can last from 10 to 25 years. The word “term” is most apropos, for the debt is much like a prison sentence.

Some students are their own worst enemies. The dropout rate is rising, and while it’s doubtful the IRS will ever chase them down for what they owe, the system reinforces the negative values of ignoring responsibilities. At the very least, grants should be awarded only to students with a real track record of success. However, banks have a federal gun at their collective heads to lend freely, so without major reform, injudicious lending practices will continue driving the federal loan machine.

This week Barack Obama gave his weekly address on his plans to help ever more young people attend college. Part of that plan involves increased financial aid. Yet he says, “[A]s long as college costs keep rising, we can’t just keep throwing money at the problem.” College costs are rising because the federal government keeps throwing money at the problem.

As with any federally dispersed money, corruption – at least moral corruption – is part of the game. Universities in the 1950s were modest in appearance and earnest in academic goals. By comparison, the modern mega-versity – with its multitude of “schools,” monumental buildings that cover a city block, luxurious multi-gender dormitories, plush student lounges and gigantic sports facilities – resembles more a Roman complex honoring the gods than a place of quiet study, debate and learning.

Furthermore, as more people go to college, the standards fall lower. Many studies have shown that today’s graduates know far less than those of a generation ago. That’s little wonder when courses include The Science of Superheroes instead of useful information. Meanwhile, the grade awarded most frequently in college is “A.” That should strike anyone as wrong.

In 1950, only a small percentage of the population went to college. We don’t advocate a return to that time, but, on the other hand, making college a virtual life requirement from birth is excessive. Universities once had strict requirements for admission. Today they admit people without ninth grade skills, setting them up for failure. People with a desire to learn and find a career path right for them should go to community or technical college. Perhaps one of the key answers to the problem of rising tuition is to rethink the popularity of college. All men are created equal, just not guaranteed equal results.


Thursday, August 21, 2014

Study: Half of All School Employees Not Teachers, 130% Increase Since 1970

 The ranks of non-teachers - such as administrators, counselors, teacher aides and cafeteria workers - has swelled 130 percent since 1970 and they now make up 50 percent of all public school employees according to a new study, The Hidden Half: School Employees Who Don't Teach.

Looking at data from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), the Thomas B. Fordham Institute found that the growth of non-teaching staff has greatly outpaced student growth over the past four decades.

From 1970 to 2010, the number of students grew by 8.6 percent, while the number of non-teaching personnel increased by 130 percent.  Non-teachers now consume over a quarter of all education expenditures, the study found.

In addition, America now spends a greater percentage of its education funding on non-teachers than any other country in the world besides Denmark.

A previous study from the Friedman Foundation, The School Staffing Surge, found that “states could have saved more than $24 billion annually if they had increased/decreased the employment of administrators and other non-teaching staff at the same rate as students between 1992 and 2009.”

However, test scores and graduation rates show little evidence of improvement despite the explosive growth of non-teaching positions.

“As I showed in my study,” Ben Scafidi, author of The School Staffing Surge, told, “student achievement in public schools did not rise between 1970 and 2008--even though staffing skyrocketed.”

With the exception of these two reports, the sharp increase in non-teaching public school employees has received little media attention or public scrutiny. That may be due in part to the difficulty in getting recent data on the trend.

“The national statistics obtainable from the U.S. Department of Education, for instance, are rich with information about school teachers and principals,” the Fordham study pointed out, “but crude and unhelpful when it comes to non-teaching personnel.”

“At a time when budgets are tight and achievement weak, it’s unthinkable not to consider what personnel shifts might strengthen both performance and efficiency,” The Hidden Half maintains.

Some states have a much higher ratio of non-teaching employees per student than others. For example, Virginia, Vermont, and Wyoming have 104 non-teachers per every 1,000 students, while Nevada and South Carolina make do with 26 to 28 non-teachers for every 1,000 students.

Even within states, there are major differences in the number of non-teachers per school district, according to the Fordham Institute study. For example, rural areas tend to have higher numbers of non-teachers than urban areas, often because sparsely populated districts cannot share specialists or other personnel like a city district could.

The largest increase in non-teacher positions was for teacher aides, employees who work in the classroom to give students individual attention, often children with special needs.

The passage of laws like the Disabilities Education Act and the Bilingual Education Act in the 1970’s significantly contributed to the a higher need for teachers aides. The Fordham study found that a higher number of teacher aides generally corresponds with a greater presence of children with individualized education plans  (IEPs).

But special needs kids are not the only reason for the increased personnel. The study notes that “during roughly the same period, schools were further burdened with obligations to provide special programs and services for youngsters with drug issues, health challenges, sex-and-sometimes-pregnancy activity, homelessness, and a host of discipline and family challenges.”

But the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), a large union representing a variety of school employees, disagreed with the Fordham study.

After contacted AFT, the union issued a press release saying that “school support staff are an essential part of our public schools. To imply that we should thin their ranks is a direct threat to the public school students who rely on them.”


Is the bell tolling for Common Core?

School bells across America are ringing again with trusting parents putting their precious cargo on yellow buses for another year of learning.

In local school board meetings and state capitols around the nation however, a debate is occurring that would shock most parents.  It is a fundamental debate over what information students should be taught and how it should be presented to them.

The normally staid argument about curriculum has become a national battlefield as the nearly universally accepted idea that there should be some amorphous national standards to ensure every child across the nation has the information they need to succeed has met the reality that national dictates rarely equate to local support.

Not since conservatives virtually deserted the battlefield over textbook content and curricula in the 1970s leading to the gradual acceptance of the legitimacy of a federal Department of Education, has the public revolted against education policy so completely.  The unifying factor is the Obama Administration’s Common Core program that was sold to states as a means to receive federal education dollars, and has become so controversial that states are moving forward with plans to reject it and the promised federal dollars.

The state of Oklahoma has already told Obama thanks but no thanks, and Governor Bobby Jindal, a leading education reformer, is leading the fight to uproot the use of Common Core in his state’s schools.

The fight in Louisiana is instructive as it has devolved into a donnybrook pitting Jindal’s common core supporting Superintendent of Education against the Governor in a legal battle that is being watched nationwide.

Jindal, who was initially supportive of national standards conceptually, became an ardent opponent of the standards and curricula being imposed on his state’s schools once the idea became reality.  Jindal explained his opposition to common core saying, “We’re very alarmed about choice and local control of curriculum being taken away from our parents and educators. It is never too late to make the right decision.”

Jindal’s concerns echo those of parents and teachers across the nation who have examined the new Obama education standards and found them wanting.

Politico reports Richard Iannuzzi, the president of the New York State United Teachers as saying about common core, “We’ll have to be the first to say it’s failed.”

The teacher’s union president elaborated claiming in the January 2014 interview, “We’ve been in conversations where we’re all saying our members don’t see this going down a path that improves teaching and learning. We’re struggling with how to deal with it.”

Nationally, the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers are actively arguing against the Obama Administration’s aggressive effort to promote and develop national testing standards with AFT president Randi Weingarten asserting, “The federal government has a lot of blame here.” Weingarten complains, “This fixation on testing is just wrong.”

Eagle Forum Executive Director Glyn Wright sums up the situation succinctly saying, “Common Core has failed as millions of Americans have realized that too much authority has been ceded to the federal government at the expense of their child’s education. The Common Core substantively incorporated all of the bad education initiatives from the past several decades, and people know it. The states are slowly returning to traditional education, and as the school year begins, we will see more and more states reject this big government, top-down approach to education.”

And it is the engagement of parents across the nation which is winning the debate about what their children should be learning in public schools.  This long overdue education revolution has the politicians listening, and if the people can retake our nation’s education system from the left, perhaps there is hope after all that the rest of the government will follow.


Australia: Student test anxiety relieved by new research

While NAPLAN marks slip across the country, new research suggests letting kids look at exams before they begin can help reduce anxiety and improve performance.

Child development researcher and PhD student Myrto Mavilidi, from the Early Start Research Institute at the University of Wollongong (UOW), said that test anxiety is a major threat to student performance that can lead them to ‘choking under pressure’.

“The stress related to pressure-filled exam situations has physiological effects, such as increased heart rate and blood pressure, emotional effects, such as worries about the situation and its consequences, and cognitive effects, such as working memory load,” Ms Mavilidi said.

“Our research has found that even letting students skim their exams for one minute before they begin can help to reduce anxiety.”

Researchers from UOW and Erasmus University Rotterdam in the Netherlands tested the math skills of 117 sixth grade students across primary schools in Athens and found that both low-anxiety and high-anxiety students were less stressed and achieved better results if they were allowed to scan the test beforehand.

The study, recently published in the journal Applied Cognitive Psychology, also found that students with higher anxiety levels needed significantly more response time and greater effort because their working memories were consumed by negative thoughts, and so performed worse on their exams.


Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Intolerance Exposed: Liberal UCSB Professor Cites Slavery and Pregnancy for Her Assault of Pro-life Student

The baggage concerned

In a world where students are no longer allowed to speak freely on campus and are limited to designated “free speech zones,” students still aren’t safe to express their opinions.

Back in March, a feminist studies professor at University of California at Santa Barbara (UCSB) assaulted a 16 year-old pro-life activist who was displaying literature on campus. The professor, Mireille Miller-Young, called the pro-life group members “terrorists” after she stole their poster displaying graphic abortion images.

Let’s be clear—the students had every right to be on campus educating their peers about a cause they are passionate about. The violence and intolerance that ensued from Professor Miller-Young was unacceptable.

Just last week Professor Miller-Young issued an apology saying that she is “invested in her community, in education, in women’s rights, and in free speech and social justice issues.” What’s interesting is that apparently her involvement and investment in these issues only apply to progressive concepts.

Furthermore, letters of support were written by colleagues on her behalf and were obtained by the Santa Barbara News Press. These letters cited that Professor Miller-Young was pregnant at the time and that the graphic images she saw were “deeply offensive” to her and that due to her pregnancy she was “not one’s self fully.” Other letters cited that the “right-wing” media sought to portray Professor Miller-Young as an “angry black woman” and that was the only reason for outrage behind her violent and intolerant behavior.

All logic seems to have gone out the window in this case. How can Professor Miller-Young and her colleagues defend her violent actions against a student? How is it that they can’t see the irony in blaming her “pregnancy” as a reason for attacking a pro-life activist? As a feminist studies professor who claims she seizes every opportunity to promote equality and free speech—why is it that she neglected to understand this female student’s pro-life views and respect her values?

The feminist movement in our country seems to ignore the effects of abortion as well as the emotional impact of the procedure on the women who undergo it. Instead they advocate for women’s rights, social justice, and equality—yet they forget about the rights of the unborn. Abortion is an epidemic in our country and more has to be done on college campuses to educate young women about it. The students who were passing out literature at UCSB had every right to be there no matter how “deeply offensive” their literature was to Professor Miller-Young.

A Young America’s Foundation (YAF) poll shows that 52 percent of students agree that professors do not present alternative viewpoints when there are different sides to an issue. This is a sad reality of the state of higher education in our country. When more than half of college students recognize that their professors are biased on a wide variety of topics. We need to do more to embrace differing viewpoints in academia and create an environment where all views are encouraged and respected.

UCSB has yet to officially condemn the actions of Professor Miller-Young. Michael Young, the Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs sent out a school-wide email titled “Students and Free Speech at UCSB” back in March saying that “we are tested once again, outsiders coming into our midst to provoke us, to taunt us and attempt to turn us against one another as they promote personal causes and agendas.” His words prove that tolerance toward conservative values doesn’t exist on the UCSB campus and condemns the pro-life activists for their “extreme” agenda.

Sadly, this is all too common in liberal academia. Professors have an agenda in and outside of the classroom. Tolerance only extends to their beliefs and if students have a differing opinion they may face unfair treatment—or violence in this case. University and college campuses should be places of tolerance where all opinions are respected and valued. Students should feel safe in expressing their beliefs and should never feel threatened in their environment.


Cool: Mitch Daniels teams with Amazon to bring down textbook costs for Purdue students

After having passed on the possibility of running for President of the United States, former Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels is entering his second year as president of Purdue University in Indiana. Though the former governor has his eggheaded bona fides—a Princeton grad and former Director of OMB—many thought it was an odd match to have the famously conservative (especially fiscally) governor at the helm of a university. The move sparked a few protests from former students and wariness from faculty, many of whom were colorful with their predictions of doom.

Heading into the 2014 school year, Purdue students are enjoying the first tuition freeze in 36 years, a 10-percent drop in their dining hall prices, and now the possibility of a bunch of text book savings. If you have recently been in college or have kids who are, you know the serious chunk rising text book costs can take out of one’s income.

    As he did when he gambled that three years of tuition freezes could be done with the existing budget — all in the name of student affordability — Daniels found what he thinks is a better way. West Lafayette book store owners took exception to claims that Amazon can deliver the 30 percent savings Purdue predicts, saying Daniels is getting a bigger splash than he is a big bargain.

    But in that standoff, Daniels can count on little sympathy for the existing retail textbook system from students who already have been scouting secondary markets to beat an annual load that Purdue estimated climbed from $890 a year in 2002-03 to $1,370 in 2012-13. (That increase of 54 percent was better, believe it or not, than the national average increase of 82 percent during the same time, according to the Government Accountability Office.)

Daniels is engaging in an experimental partnership with Amazon, figuring the giant bookseller can offer students better prices and inject much-needed competition in the campus bookselling market, which has been pretty insular until now. This is from the Purdue press release, not a news source, but it just explains the basics:

    "Purdue and Amazon have launched the Purdue Student Store on Amazon, a new, co-branded experience where students can purchase lower-cost textbooks and other college essentials.

    And for the first time ever, Amazon also will bring staffed customer order pickup and drop-off locations to Purdue’s campus, as well as expedited shipping benefits phased in over the course of the 2014-2015 academic year.

    The Purdue Student Store on Amazon, found at, launched Tuesday (Aug. 12). The first campus pickup location is expected to be open in early 2015."

The Chicago Tribune wrote glowingly about Daniels’ efforts recently. His hallmark fat-cutting is in full effect:

    "In 19 months as president of Purdue University, the former Indiana governor has frozen base tuition after 36 straight years of increases. The freeze lasts at least through the 2015-16 academic year.

    Along the way, Daniels cut the cost of student dining services food by 10 percent. He’s saved big money by streamlining purchasing and finding other economies of scale. No saving is too small: He sold 10 school cars (about $10,000 each), cut rental storage in half ($160,000 saved) and repurposed used office furniture instead of buying new ($28,000 saved). “This place was not built to be efficient,” he told The Wall Street Journal. But “you’re not going to find many places where you just take a cleaver and hack off a big piece of fat. Just like a cow, it’s marbled through the whole enterprise.”

    When Daniels arrived on campus 19 months ago, we said his tenure would test the business-as-usual, soak-the-middle-class-with-rising-tuition ethos that passes for leadership at most American universities. For openers, Daniels’ pay is based on performance. He is judged on whether he makes Purdue more affordable for students, hikes graduation rates and, of course, excels at the key mission of a university president: fundraising."

The university also won a $500,000 award this year for creating a 3-year bachelors degree program that could save undergrads about $10K.

    "Purdue University will offer some of its students a chance to earn a bachelor’s degree in three years.

    University President Mitch Daniels announced Monday that the school won a $500,000 incentive award for developing a program that will allow communications students to complete the same courses as their peers within 36 months.

    “This is another way to make college more affordable,” Daniels said. “Purdue needs to think innovatively to help young people get the full value out of their education experience.”

    The program requires communication students to take a heavier course load for four semesters, and to take courses during two summers.

    Students will save $9,290, roughly the cost of one year of in-state tuition, said Marifran Mattson, professor and head of Purdue’s Brian Lamb School of Communication."

Mitch Daniels is doing the work tackling a giant national problem on a small scale. It’s not sexy. It doesn’t come with nearly the national headlines that his former profession brought. It likely requires hanging out with not a small number of people who detest his ideology and his career before he got to Purdue. And yet, he’s trying new things and making college more affordable for students.

He’s picking the right targets, creating support for his moves, cutting where necessary, and most importantly, showing results in a way that matters to students. Not every experiment will work perfectly, but colleges have got to start trying something other than begging for easier credit to compensate for their inability to save and prioritize. If Daniels is able to forge a new path at Purdue without sacrificing respect or quality, maybe others will try, too. In doing so, he’ll have done a hell of a lot more for college affordability than any number of national politicians who talk about it all the time.

When asked by the Tribune if he worried about losing students to other colleges in the amenities race, Daniels replied:

    “It could be that we’ll still lose students to someone with a higher climbing wall, but we are prepared to take that chance.”

Take heed, other college presidents. This is what an academic looks like.


Australia: Proposed speech by Muslim activist Uthman Badar at UWA cancelled

A speech by a controversial Muslim activist planned to be held at UWA has been cancelled by organisers, who claimed they were misled by an outside party.

On Tuesday morning, UWA's Muslim Students Association cancelled the speech by Uthman Badar after Vice-Chancellor Paul Johnson declared the activist had to renounce his alleged view that honour killings were morally justified.

Mr Badar attracted significant media attention earlier this year when he was booked to speak on morally justifying honour killing at Sydney's Festival of Dangerous Ideas.

Negative feedback forced the seminar to be called off.

Now the Australian spokesman for Hizb Ut-Tahrir - an international Islamic group that advocates sharia law - Mr Badar had been invited to speak at a forum at UWA held by the university's Muslim Students Association titled "Gaza Crisis".

The university's Muslim Students Association cancelled the forum, shortly after Mr Johnson said he required a written undertaking that Mr Badar abide by the university's code of ethics and conduct and renounce his views on honour killings "in all contexts".

Muslim Students Association executive officer Nazim Khan, an assistant professor at UWA’s Department of Applied Statistics, said the association had been misguided by a party outside the university.

He refused to name the man who booked Mr Badar but said they would not deal with him in the future.

“When we organised it, it was organised through one of our partners. We didn’t know who the speaker was, we just knew the topic,” he said.

“When it came to light who the speaker was, I didn’t recognise the name but once we discovered who he was, as an association we took the steps to cancel it.

“We have had some dealings with [the booker] before so we took it in good faith but we weren’t told who the speaker was, although this person did know.

“We trusted his judgement to get a speaker on the topic but when it came to light he had misguided us...we will be more vigilant in the future.

“We took the steps to make sure we didn’t damage our reputation within the university or the reputation of the university”

Vice-Chancellor Johnson had earlier labelled Mr Badar's purported views to be incompatible with UWA principles.

"Mr Badar has been reported to hold the view that so-called honour killings are morally justified," he said in a statement.

"This view is completely incompatible with the university’s principles.

"[Mr Johnson] requires Mr Badar to give an explicit, written public assurance that he is opposed to the cowardly and barbaric act of so-called honour killings."

Although Mr Badar was booked to speak at the Sydney festival, it was unclear if he held a view that honour killings were justified.

Mr Nazim said the Gaza Crisis forum may go ahead at a later date with more moderate speakers.


Tuesday, August 19, 2014

62,000 New Yorkers Sign Petition to 'Stop Common Core' After Flat Results

On New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s official website, he touts the merits and needs of Common Core, an educational program detailing what students should know in regards to math and English by the end of the 12th grade:

“The Common Core standards are a critical part of transforming New York’s schools, and the failure to effectively implement them has led to confusion and frustration among students and their families.”

Despite his initial optimism surrounding Common Core, however, New York test scores have remained remarkably flat after its implementation:

The second year of state standardized testing on the rigorous Common Core learning standards showed that students made modest gains in math but remained practically flat in English.

Despite another full year of Common Core preparation by schools after the initial rollout of state tests in 2013, there were no dramatic, across-the-board gains in English this year. Urban and other high-poverty districts saw more year-to-year improvement, but wealthier suburban districts classified as having average or low needs actually saw overall declines.

With unusual teaching strategies such as telling students to draw out math problems, Common Core has been deemed controversial for not preparing students for college.

Perhaps this is why New Yorkers are flat out rejecting the program. GOP gubernatorial candidate Rob Astorino and the state GOP ticket submitted a Stop Common Core ballot line petition to further challenge Cuomo in November. In case you’re wondering how passionate people are about ending the program, 62,000 people have signed their names to the petition. Here’s some pictorial proof.

The unpopularity of Common Core in the Empire State is also apparent in recent polling:

When it comes to matters of education policy, according to the poll results, a majority of voters want to see implementation of the Common Core standards stopped rather than continued.

Voters supporting Cuomo want the standards implemented by a 49-38 percent margin, however, Astorino voters are strongly opposed to Common Core being implemented by a 73-17 percent margin," Greenberg said.

Thankfully, parents aren’t just signing documents and participating in surveys - they’re taking their children out of this "educational" program. As a result of Common Core failures in other states, homeschooling is becoming a much more attractive option.


AL: School sends student home because of lurid hair

Just a fat kid looking for attention.  The school is entitled to enforce its rules

A Muscle Shoals student said she didn't even make it to her homeroom class on the first day of school.  The reason: her hair color was deemed "too distracting."

Hayleigh Black, 16, said she has been dyeing her hair the same red hue for the last three years.  "I have never had anybody come up to me and say, 'Maybe you shouldn't have this color,' or, 'Do you think that's a bad color,'" Hayleigh said.

Her mother said she was shocked to get a phone call to come pick her up - less than 30 minutes after dropping her off on the first day of school.

"Nothing was ever said last year," said Kim Boyd. "Never got any calls, never sent home, anything saying it had to be changed up until today."

Hayleigh is an A and B student, a member of the marching band, and has even represented her school on various events in and out of state, all while donning her red hair.

"I understand sending kids home for pink or purple or the blue, but Hayleigh is red, and he (the principal) argued it was not a natural shade of red," said Boyd.

According to the student code of conduct book, it is up to the discretion of the principal or assistant principal to determine disciplinary actions pertaining to "disruptive hair style or color."

"He said he had already sent home two other ones for that problem, even though theirs were pink and orange, and not any shade of red. He said he had to be consistent; she would have to get rid of the red or go to a darker red," Boyd said.

Hayleigh's mother said she has already made contact with the district office. She addressed her concerns with the assistant superintendent, and was told to meet with the superintendent. Both officials have served as previous administrators to Hayleigh when she first dyed her hair.

"I don't really know what to do because I've had this color for three years, so I feel like it's part of me," Hayleigh said.

Muscle Shoals City Schools Superintendent Dr. Brian Lindsey, responded to the story, saying he supports the decision.

"The dress code section of the Muscle Shoals High School Student Handbook states, 'Students will not be allowed to attend classes if their attire includes the following:' Item #6 specifies, 'Hair which has been dyed a bright or distractive color. Dyed hair will be permitted only if the hair is dyed a natural human color,'" said Lindsey.

"There were four students in violation of item #6 who were sent home today by high school administration. I support the decision of the high school administrators and appreciate the cooperation of the students and parents involved concerning this issue," he said.

Dr. Lindsey said he met with Hayleigh's mother Thursday, and they have agreed to disagree on the issue. Hayleigh said she will change her hair color so she won't miss any more class time.


UK: Hundreds of children taught in classrooms with over 70 pupils

Hundreds of children are being taught in classes with more than 70 pupils amid a growing crisis over primary school places, according to official figures.

Rising immigration and a baby boom has seen the number of children in classes with more than 30 pupils treble to 93,665 over the past four years.

Figures obtained by Labour from the Department for Education reveal that six primary schools have classes with just one teacher to 70 children, while nearly 100 have classes with at least 50 pupils.

An analysis suggested that at the current rate, the number of pupils in large classes will reach almost half a million by 2020.

Experts say that the pressure on schools is hampering children's education because they receive less one-to-one attention. It comes after the number of "titan" primary schools, which have at least 800 pupils, rose from 58 to 77 last year.

Labour made it illegal for schools to have more than 30 pupils in infant classes except in exceptional circumstances, such as a child being admitted on appeal. But the Coalition relaxed the rules, leading to a rise in the number of large classrooms.

The figures show that 446 pupils are being taught in classes with more than 70 pupils, while 5,817 are taught in classes with more than 50 pupils to each teacher.

According to official data, both the Crescent Academy in Stoke-on-Trent and Southey Green primary school in Sheffield have the biggest classes, with 78 pupils to one teacher at each of the schools. They are followed by the White Hall academy in Essex, which has 77 pupils to a class, and Newdale Primary school in Telford which has 72.

Separate figures from the Department for Education, published earlier this year, show that the primary school population grew by 2.5 per cent last year, reaching 4.4 million children. However, there are growing concerns that there are not enough primary schools to cope with the rise in numbers.

Earlier this year to four in 10 children missed out on their first choice primary school in parts of England while hundreds of pupils were not allocated places at all.

The Government insists £5 billion will spent over the course of this parliament to expand primary schools, with 260,000 extra places being created to date.

Ministers have blamed Labour for the shortfall, insisting the party failed to address the looming crisis when it was in power.

Nicky Morgan, the Education Secretary, said: “Tristram Hunt seems to have forgotten that it was Labour who cut 200,000 primary school places in the middle of a baby boom - at the same time as letting immigration get out of control.

"As part of our long-term economic plan, the difficult decisions we've taken have meant we've been able to double the funding to local authorities for school places to £5 billion, creating 260,000 new places.

"But Labour haven't learnt their lesson. Their policy of not trusting headteachers, would create more bureaucrats, meaning more resources are spent on paperwork - not places. Children would have a worse future under Labour.”

But Tristram Hunt, the shadow education secretary, said that primary schools should be built in the areas where demand is greatest. He said that Labour will scrap the government's free schools pledge, which he claimed is leading to schools being built in areas where there is "no shortage of places".

He said: “In 2008 David Cameron said 'the more we can get class sizes down the better', but as parents and pupils prepare to begin the new school year, there are real concerns about the number of children in classes of more than 30 infants.

"By diverting resources away from areas in desperate need of more primary school places in favour of pursuing his pet project of expensive Free Schools in areas where there is no shortage of places, David Cameron has created classes of more than 40, 50, 60 and even 70 pupils.

“Labour will end the Free Schools programme and instead focus spending on areas in need of extra school places."


Monday, August 18, 2014

University rankings out again

There are now rather a lot of these rankings, all using slightly different methodology, but the latest out is the well established Shanghai Jiao Tong ranking.

No great surprises in the top ten, though Oxford would be sniffy about being ranked lower than Cambridge.

As usual, Australian universities had a good showing, with Melbourne in the top 50 and ANU at 74,  Queensland at 85 and UWA at 88.  Queensland is my Alma Mater so nobody can cast nasturtiums on my background.  My son is back there too.

And one of Brisbane's newer universities (Griffith) put out a press release expressing pleasure at being ranked 400th!  That is not as silly as it sounds when you realize that is 400th out of 10,000 -- and rankings lower than 500 are not released. Newer universities are somewhat disadvantaged by the weight that Jiao Tong gives to Nobel prizes and Fields medals.
And Israelis will be pleased that their small community produced two in the top 100 -- Hebrew and Technion. And that is despite the "brain drain" of Ashkenazim to American universities.  No Palestinian universities made it into the top 500, however.  I believe there is one. Maybe the Palis could send some suicide bombers over to Shanghai to show those Chinamen at Jiao Tong University a thing or two!

The first non-American university on the list was -- at 19 -- The Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich, which I know nothing about.  I have certainly never seen a paper from them.  Did Einstein go there or something?

The ranking of Leiden university in the Netherlands may indicate that there is such a thing as Dutch modesty.  They ranked at 77 when in the ranking system that they themselves run they come in only at 100!

Brits will be peeved that LSE made it only into the 100-150 bracket.  I gather that they have a lot of Muslims there.  And I was slightly peeved to see Sydney also in that bracket  I have a large document issued to me by that university. At least it did better than Macquarie, which was at 201-300.  I also have a large document issued to me  by Macquarie.

Three New Zealand universities made it into the top 500, which isn't bad for a country of only 4 million souls, though the ranking of Victoria University Wellington (401-500)  will disappoint many. I very nearly took a job there once.

The methodology used by the Shanghai rankings is entirely academic and research oriented. The project is supported by the Chinese government so it is a pretty good look "from outside".  The huge preponderance of American universities in the rankings would have to be taken with a large grain of salt if it were Americans who were doing the rankings but since the work was in fact done by Chinese academics, it is not subject to that suspicion.

Teacher on Unions: ‘Felt Like Little Children Being Bullied on a Playground’

 Teachers who left labor unions connected with their jobs said on Tuesday that they felt “bullied” for their opposition to compulsory membership and payment of dues that funded political activities.

“We literally felt like little children being bullied on a playground,” Rebecca Friedrichs, a teacher and former member of the California Teachers Association, said at the event at the Heritage Foundation in Washington, D.C.

Friedrichs, who is also the lead plaintiff in a lawsuit filed against the CTA challenging its authority, was one of a panel of two educators and a child care provider that spoke about their experiences with labor unions and their efforts to help others who want to end their union membership.

Although she was opposed to CTA’s political activities, Friedrichs said she decided to become a member so she would “have a voice.” However, her efforts to question the union’s policies were rebuked, she said, including while at a CTA conference where she and another member expressed their concerns publicly.

“I continually brought up the fact that many of my colleagues and I were disturbed and offended that our forced dues were being used toward politics and highly political collective bargaining that were against our moral codes and our fiscal sensibilities,” Friedrichs said.

“On every occasion we were answered with hateful tones – rhetoric that made it very clear to everyone in the room that if you did not stand with union politics you were a bigot,” Friedrichs said. “And on every occasion, the entire room fell silent because of the extreme intimidation of the higher union officials.

“We literally felt like little children being bullied on a playground,” Friedrichs said.

The event, entitled "Free at Last: How and Why Union Members Leave their Unions,” was held during National Employee Freedom Week (NEFW) to highlight the growing movement of teachers and others leaving unions and fighting the compulsory membership and dues that pay for unions’ political activities.

Victor Joecks, executive director of NEFW and also a panelist at the event, said that 81 organizations have formed in 45 states “with the sole purpose of letting union members know that they have the ability to leave their union.”

The options for leaving unions vary from state to state depending on employment law, but teachers and others are working to change those laws, the panelists said.

Jennifer Parrish, who runs a child care center in her home in Minnesota and heads the Coalition of Union Free Providers, is the lead plaintiff in another lawsuit challenging her state’s efforts to force providers who receive state funding to join the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), one of the largest public-sector unions in the country.

The lawsuit, which is still being litigated by Minnesota’s Eighth Circuit Court, could be affected by the recent Supreme Court decision, Harris v. Quinn, which said the state of Illinois’ attempt to make personal caregivers state employees for the purpose of union membership was unconstitutional.

Parrish said a union member came to her home and tried to get her to sign a “petition,” which turned out to be a union membership form.

Robert Wiersema, a teacher and former member of the Michigan Education Association, said teachers who leave their union should expect “resistance.” In his case, that included a disciplinary hearing.

“They were looking at every jot and tittle of what I did to make sure it followed the line,” Wiersema said. “I’m not saying this to intimidate other teachers from opting out, but you will face a little bit of resistance.

“That’s how it is, but that’s alright, because nothing of value is free,” Wiersema said.

Ironically, in 2012, the National Education Association issued a report on workplace bullying.

“Workplace bullying has many different definitions, for example, ‘the phenomenon that includes negative workplace behavior including such behaviors as being humiliated or ridiculed, being ignored or excluded, being shouted at, receiving hints that you should quit your job, receiving persistent criticism, and excessive monitoring of your work,’” the report stated.

“Other definitions include ‘repeated and persistent negative actions towards one or more individual(s), which involve a perceived power imbalance and create a hostile work environment,’” it added.


Australia: Proposed Islamic school starts new push for registration in the ACT

An Islamic school, whose initial application to set up shop in the ACT failed after a highly critical review, have reapplied for registration under an altered name.

The Canberra Muslim Youth group have resubmitted an application for provisional registration for a kindergarten to year 3 school to open in 2015.

The group submitted the application under the new name "Taqwa School" after previously applying under "At-Taqwa School".

The proposal was opened to public comment in early August after it was submitted on July 30.

Hassan Warsi, the chairman of the board of governance for the school, declined to comment on the move, saying it was too early to do so.

The school was originally proposed for Gungahlin in 2012 and was rejected for registration last year by a review panel.

The panel's report said in February that the application failed to ensure staff were registered properly and that the education programs and curriculum were tailored for the students.

The review also questioned the financial viability of the school's application and said the group had so far failed to consider child protection procedures and background checks of volunteers.

The panel said interviews with the principal and board members "revealed an absence of thorough pedagogical understanding and principles of curriculum design, as it applies to a primary context''.

Andrew Wrigley, the executive director of the Association of Independent Schools of the ACT, said he was aware of the application.

"They have been working very hard on the requirements to gain provisional registration," Mr Wrigley said.

Mr Warsi is also associated with the Islamic Society of Belconnen, whose social media pages reveal the groups has been fund-raising within the Islamic community to get the school off the ground.

The school has lodged a development application for a site in Gungahlin to allow for the installation of fences, demountable classrooms and toilets.

An ACT Education and Training Directorate spokeswoman said a panel would now be appointed to report to the minister on the proposed school.


Sunday, August 17, 2014

UK: Private school pupils more likely to be admitted to Oxford

Private school pupils are more likely to be offered a place at Oxford than state school pupils with the same A-level grades, according to figures revealed as pupils across the UK receive their A-level results.

Between 2010 and 2012, private school applicants who had the highest possible grades of three A* grades or more at A-level were 9 per cent more likely to be offered a place at Oxford than state school students with the same grades.

The difference increases to 14 per cent when selective state schools are not included in the comparison, according to The Guardian.

The figures also show that black and minority ethnic applicants were less likely to receive offers than white applicants with the same A-level grades, regardless of their school background. The lowest success rates were seen in minority ethnic applicants from non-selective state schools.

The university said places to Oxford were offered based on a range of factors.

A spokesperson said: "Admission to Oxford is based purely on aptitude and potential for the chosen course, without regard to school type or any other factor. The university puts enormous effort into assessing individual aptitude and potential, using a wide range of means.

"We do not know students' A-level grades when selecting, as they have not yet taken their exams. Aptitude tests, GCSEs and interviews, which are used in our selection process, have not been explored in this analysis."

Three years of data from Oxford showed that 28 per cent of independent school applicants received offers, compared to only 20 per cent of applicants from comprehensive state schools.

In total, 3,196 state school applicants scored three A* grades and above, with 1,474 gaining offers. Meanwhile, 2,175 independent school pupils achieved the same grades but just over half of applicants – 1,098 – were offered places.

Offers to study medicine, PPE (politics, philosophy and economics) and economics and management degree courses did not show a difference between offers to private or state school applicants.

Private school pupils had the highest success rate of being admitted to study Classical studies, the least competitive course with an overall rate of one offer for every three applicants.

The figures support previous analysis by The Telegraph which found similar statistical differences in Oxford admission rates according to applicant’s AS-level grades.


Record number of pupils will go to university with 412,000 places confirmed... as girls outnumber boys

Record numbers of students had their university places confirmed today as it was revealed the gap between the number of girls and boys taking degrees widened.

In total, 412,170 people have now been accepted on to degree courses, up three per cent, according to the admissions service Ucas.

Of those 232,250 are girls and 179,920 are boys - a difference of 52,330 - compared to 46,000 in 2013.

Figures showed that although slightly more boys got an A* in an exam - many more young women got A*, As and Bs in their A-levels overall.

Experts have said it is further proof that young men are being 'let down' by the schools system.

Mary Curnock Cook, chief executive of UCAS, told BBC's Newsnight: 'Young women out-perform young men right through the schools system so surely the potential of young men is somehow being let down through that system, and of course we see it in university admissions.

'We want to see more young men coming through the system to balance it out, not least because there's probably a better university experience if there's more of a sex balance on campus.'

She said there was a 'huge imbalance' in the number of men going into teaching, adding she would favour work to attract them into that potential career.

A-level pass rates fell yesterday for the first time in more than three decades following a crackdown on grade inflation and a return to traditional subjects.

The number of pupils scraping at least E grades dipped from a record high of 98.1 per cent after 32 years of relentless rises.

Top A and B grades were also squeezed as former Education Secretary Michael Gove’s measures to restore credibility to the exam system took hold.

Despite the decline, record numbers of teenagers will start degree courses this autumn after universities relaxed entry requirements.

Some colleges are believed to be enrolling pupils who slipped more than one grade.

The number of first-years is expected to top 500,000 for the first time after the Coalition made 30,000 extra university places available

The overall A-level pass rate – those gaining A* to E grades – fell from 98.1 per cent last year to 98 per cent. Although marginal, it marked the first fall in the A-level pass rate since 1982.

The proportion of grades awarded A* and A dipped for the third year running while B grades dropped for the first time.

It follows a shift among A-level pupils to traditional subjects most sought after by universities and employers, such as maths and the sciences. Pupils who may have been stronger in other areas were taking these subjects to boost their chances, driving down results.

At the same time, subjects derided as ‘Mickey Mouse’ courses fell out of favour. The number of pupils taking critical thinking fell nearly 50 per cent, performing arts 8.5 per cent and media studies 2.1 per cent.


Education Expert: Removing Bible, Prayer from Public Schools Has Caused Decline

Education expert William Jeynes said on Wednesday that there is a correlation between the decline of U.S. public schools and the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1962 and 1963 decision that school-sponsored Bible reading was unconstitutional.

“One can argue, and some have, that the decision by the Supreme Court – in a series of three decisions back in 1962 and 1963 – to remove Bible and prayer from our public schools, may be the most spiritually significant event in our nation’s history over the course of the last 55 years,” Jeynes said.

On June 25, 1962, the United States Supreme Court decided in Engel v. Vitale that a prayer approved by the New York Board of Regents for use in schools violated the First Amendment because it represented establishment of religion. In 1963, in Abington School District v. Schempp, the court decided against Bible readings in public schools along the same lines.

Since 1963, Jeynes said there have been five negative developments in the nation’s public schools:

• Academic achievement has plummeted, including SAT scores.

• Increased rate of out-of-wedlock births

• Increase in illegal drug use

• Increase in juvenile crime

• Deterioration of school behavior

“So we need to realize that these actions do have consequences,” said Jeynes, professor at California State College in Long Beach and senior fellow at the Witherspoon Institute in Princeton, N.J., “When we remove that moral fiber -- that moral emphasis – this is what can result.”

Other facts included a comparison between the top five complaints of teachers from 1940-1962 -- talking, chewing gum, making noise, running in the halls and getting out of turn in line – to rape, robbery, assault, burglary and arson from 1963 to present.

“Now the question is, given that there is a movement to put the Bible as literature back in the public schools and a moment of silence and so forth, can we recapture the moral fiber – the foundation that used to exist among many of our youth?” Jeynes asked rhetorically.

To that end, Jeynes said, there is a movement across the country to reinstate the Bible as literature in the public schools, with 440 school districts in 43 states currently teaching this type of course.

Ten states have passed a law or resolution to bring the Bible as literature in the public schools statewide.

The movement, however, is secular in nature, with the Bible being taught as literature rather than the word of God. And rather than prayer, a “moment of silence” is established that “can be used as the students choose,” Jeynes said.

When asked about the secular nature of this approach, Jeynes said data from nationwide surveys show that both students of faith and those with no faith both respond positively to the Bible as literature curriculum – the former said they learned more about the Bible in class than in church and the latter said they have an increased interest in the Christian religions.

“The effects are very, very positive,” Jeynes said.

Jeynes said the data he used in his presentation comes from the federal government (Departments of Education, Justice, Health and Human Services and the U.S. Census Bureau), and research by the advocacy groups, the Bible Literacy Project, the National Council on Bible Curriculum in Public Schools, and California educator and researcher Nader Twal.