Friday, September 12, 2014

In D.C., a 13-year-old piano prodigy is treated as a truant instead of a star student

Avery Gagliano is a commanding young pianist who attacks Chopin with the focused diligence of a master craftsman and the grace of a ballet dancer.

The prodigy, who just turned 13, was one of 12 musicians selected from across the globe to play at a prestigious event in Munich last year and has won competitions and headlined with orchestras nationwide.

But to the D.C. public school system, the eighth-grader from Mount Pleasant is also a truant. Yes, you read that right. Avery’s amazing talent and straight-A grades at Alice Deal Middle School earned her no slack from school officials, despite her parents’ begging and pleading for an exception.

“As I shared during our phone conversation this morning, DCPS is unable to excuse Avery’s absences due to her piano travels, performances, rehearsals, etc.,” Jemea Goso, attendance specialist with the school system’s Office of Youth Engagement, wrote in an e-mail to Avery’s parents, Drew Gagliano and Ying Lam, last year before she left to perform in Munich.

Although administrators at Deal were supportive of Avery’s budding career and her new role as an ambassador for an international music foundation, the question of whether her absences violated the District’s truancy rules and law had to be kicked up to the main office. And despite requests, no one from the school system wanted to go on the record explaining its refusal to consider her performance-related absences as excused instead of unexcused.

Avery’s parents say they did everything they could to persuade the school system. They created a portfolio of her musical achievements and academic record and drafted an independent study plan for the days she’d miss while touring the world as one of the star pianists selected by a prestigious Lang Lang Music Foundation, run by Chinese pianist Lang Lang, who handpicked Avery to be an international music ambassador.

But the school officials wouldn’t budge, even though the truancy law gives them the option to decide what an unexcused absence is. The law states that an excused absence can be “an emergency or other circumstances approved by an educational institution.”

Too bad, so sad. After 10 unexcused absences, it doesn’t matter whether a child was playing hooky to hang at the mall or charming audiences in Hong Kong with her mastery of Mozart. D.C. bureaucrats will label the kid a truant, will mar her transcript with that assessment and will assign a truancy officer to the case.

When Avery returned in March from winning the Grand Prix at a big competition in Hartford, Conn., for her performance of a Chopin Waltz, she didn’t get calls of congratulations from her school. That was her 10th absence, so a truancy officer was called.

Deciding that a truancy prosecution over piano competitions was ridiculous, Avery’s parents withdrew her from Deal. And this year, instead of touring the world as a first-class representative of D.C. public schools’ finest, she is going as a home-schooler. And no one is happy about it.

“We decided to home-school her because of all the issues, because it was like a punch in the gut to have to face the fight again this year,” said Gagliano, who works at Hertz Car Rental. “We didn’t want to do this. We want to be part of the public school system. Avery has been in public school since kindergarten. She’s a great success story for the schools.”

Avery misses her friends. When school started Aug. 25, she wanted to be there, catching up with them and wearing her cute, new school clothes and meeting her teachers.

Instead, she’s at home doing schoolwork at the kitchen table, miserable that her achievements in piano have led to this isolation.

So send her to private school, you say? Olympic gold medal swimmer Katie Ledecky, 17, doesn’t get any blowback from Stone Ridge School of the Sacred Heart in Bethesda when she misses classes to smash some more world records. Instead, school officials have a page on the Stone Ridge Web site bragging about her achievements.

Unfortunately, Avery’s parents can’t afford private school tuition. So essentially, DCPS is making sure that Avery’s continued trajectory as an international piano prodigy has a price tag on it.

It’s true that D.C. has a huge truancy problem. Last year, nearly a third of all students missed more than 10 days of school. So that’s about 15,000 kids who are doing who knows what instead of being in a classroom.

It would be immoral to enforce a truancy rule for some, but not others, right? But wait, what about Relisha Rudd, the 8-year-old who had been living in D.C.’s family homeless shelter and missed nearly 30 days of school before anyone reported her missing?

Aren’t we supposed to be tightening up on truancy enforcement to ensure that cases like that don’t happen?

Of course. But the fact is, truancy rules in the District are selectively enforced, depending on your Zip code.

The 8-year-old living in a homeless shelter and attending a school overwhelmed with transient children — where truancy can be a sign of something dangerous — racks up 30 absences before someone has the time to notice.

But over in the Other City, where some D.C. public schools are as fancy as their neighborhood, the little concert pianist is collared and the truancy police are on high alert.

School officials who are deciding to enforce the policy for some and not others, who refuse to take a holistic look at the child and her life in and outside school — whether it be at international concerts or in homeless shelters — should be held accountable for their short-sighted decision-making.

And seriously, from a PR perspective, how could the embattled school system pass up a chance to brag about Avery’s success as a lifelong public school student?

I guess common sense isn’t on the curriculum this year.


Muslim students will be offered sharia-friendly student loans by British government in bid to get more Islamic pupils to go to university

Muslim students are to be offered Sharia-compliant interest free loans by the government in an attempt to get more Islamic pupils to go to university.

Since tuition fees were increased in September 2012, many Muslim students have been put off continuing their education as it was expected the loans, which are paid back above the rate of inflation, would be used to cover the rising costs - contrary to their beliefs.

Following a four-month consultation, a new Sharia-friendly model which involves Muslim students paying a donation into a pool system instead of paying interest has been produced by the Department for Business Innovation & Skills (BIS).

The alternative scheme is expected to be introduced within the next three years, but BIS has denied it will pave the way for compliance with Sharia in a wider sense, saying: 'Sharia has no jurisdiction in England and Wales and the Government has no intention to change this position.'

It also confirmed that students taking out the loans will pay back exactly the same amount as those who use the traditional scheme, essentially making a charitable donation rather than paying back interest.

With universities now charging tuition fees of up to £9,000, most students borrow money from the Student Loan Company (SLC) - taking out loans of up to £9,000 to cover their tuition fees and up to £4,375 for their maintenance costs.

While they are studying, the loan carries an interest rate of the Retail Price Index, currently 2.5per cent, plus 3 per cent, and when paying back the loan the interest rate, based on their income, will be between RPI and RPI plus 3 per cent.

Once a student is earning a £21,000-a-year salary, repayments are made at a rate of 9per cent of any yearly income over that amount.

The need to take out a loan to cover the cost of university led to concerns being raised by many Muslims that paying it back was incompatible with their beliefs, and the rising fees meant families were unable to fund courses themselves.

Around 20,000 people responded to the consultation document,with 93 per cent saying students with religious objections to the charging of interest had been affected by the changes in tuition fees and student loans.

Of 1,054 Muslim students who gave an example of their experiences when completing the survey, 337 said they objected to the interest, and 144 stated they would not go to university as a direct result of requiring an interest bearing loan.

One said: 'Students, including myself, chose to stay at home through their higher education in order to take only the minimal loan necessary to avoid extra interest.

'Most significantly in my opinion, this seriously limits the options of universities that they can apply to as they can only apply to ones within a reasonable commutable distance.

'This might mean that they miss out on courses only available at specific universities, or miss out on applying for the best universities for their course of interest.

'This can hinder these students from the best career for themselves that they could possibly have achieved otherwise.'

The new loans will operate under the Sharia model of ‘Takaful’, a form of Islamic insurance where people contribute money into a pool system to guarantee other members against loss or damage.

The fund will be established with an initial sum of money, either donated to the fund or provided as an interest-free loan, and applying for money is expected to be done in a similar way to existing loans.

Students will make a Takaful contribution - which is perceived as a charitable donation from a Sharia perspective.

BIS insist that the scheme will not leave non-Muslim students out-of-pocket, as the loan repayments will simply be reinvested into the ‘pool’ for future students’ funds.

The government worked with Islamic financial experts to come up with the product, working under the criteria that the repayments and debt levels must be identical to a traditional loan, ensuring that students who took up the alternative scheme would end up no better or worse off than others.

It was also ruled that repayments should be made directly through the UK tax system, making it as simple to do as for those paying back traditional student loans.

A spokesman said: 'Making higher education more accessible to all is part of government’s long-term economic plan to boost skills and strengthen growth.

'The overwhelming response to our consultation has shown the strong demand for a Sharia-compliant alternative finance model for student loans that everyone can access. We support this idea and will now work towards its development.'

The National Association of Student Money Advisers agreed that there is no hard and fast answer to the problem, saying that 'there is a variety of interpretations amongst Muslim groups as to what would be acceptable under Sharia requirements.'

Sharia is a moral and religious code which affects everything from a believer’s personal hygiene to finance and diet. Attempts to implement Sharia law have been met with opposition globally. There is no consensus between Islamic schools of thought on how far-reaching Sharia should be.


'Young people are sloppy and don't dress or talk properly': Ofsted boss claims teenagers are not taught the right skills for surviving in the world of work

Millions of youngsters are too sloppy and slovenly to get jobs because they lack the discipline or skills needed for work, the chief inspector of schools said yesterday.

School and college leavers are careless about time, lack a work ethic, do not dress or speak well and are lackadaisical, Sir Michael Wilshaw added in his scathing remarks.

Employers think teenagers and those in their early 20s have never been taught how to behave and work or about the attitude they need to get on, he continued.

Sir Michael, head of Ofsted, made his attack as the inspectorate published a highly critical report on the quality of  further education and sixth-form teaching for 16 to 19-year-olds.

In particular, it savaged English and maths teaching, and failures in the way young people are guided towards careers.

The report said there was no point in keeping young people in education until 18 if they did not gain qualifications or were not prepared for the demands of work.

‘Many employers complain that far too many young people looking for work have not been taught the skills, attitudes and behaviours they need to be  successful,’ Sir Michael warned.

‘It means they have a sloppy  attitude to punctuality. It means they are far too relaxed in terms of meeting deadlines. It means that far too many young people are  lackadaisical in the way they present themselves for work.

‘If they dress inappropriately, speak inappropriately and have poor social skills, they are not going to get a job.

‘Youth unemployment is far too high and it is in everyone’s interest that young people receive the very best education and training to improve this situation.’

His verdict came a day after an analysis by the wealthy nations grouping, the Organisation for  Economic Co-operation and Development, said only a quarter of  British graduates scored well in maths and English tests.

This was well below standards achieved at universities in rival countries. OECD officials said in Japan, the top-rated country, foundations for good language and maths skills were laid in schools but that is ‘not true for the UK’.

Sir Michael said at the launch of the Ofsted report: ‘The gap between the good intentions of  policy and the reality of what is happening is worryingly wide.’

He added that too many teenagers drop out of post-16 education and disappear from the system, and too few get a chance of useful work experience.  ‘Too few young people know what they want to do at 18 because the quality of careers guidance is shockingly poor,’ Sir Michael went on.

‘Too few students make sufficient progress in improving their English and maths because the teaching is simply not good enough.

‘Again, it is quite shocking that 84 per cent of youngsters who don’t get the GCSE at grade C in  English and maths at 16 fail again at 19.’ His remarks reflect the  long-standing despair felt by many employers.

As a result of Labour’s 2008 Education and Skills Act, the school leaving age was raised from 16. By last year all teenagers had to stay on in education or training to 17. Next year, they cannot leave education or training until aged 18.

Just under 1.18 million young people aged 16 to 24 count as NEETS – not in employment, education or training. Yesterday’s report said too few schools and colleges had taken advantage of new ways to fund courses to boost standards.

‘Too much teaching in English and maths is not good enough as not enough learners are making sufficient progress in developing their reading, writing, oral  communication and mathematical skills,’ it warned.

‘There is a shortage of good  teachers of English and, in  particular, mathematics.’

A spokesman at the Department for Education responded: ‘The number of young people NEET is at its lowest level since consistent records began.  ‘We have scrapped thousands of low-quality qualifications so that only the gold-standard, employer-valued courses remain.

‘And providers are now incentivised to ensure young people study valuable courses.’


Thursday, September 11, 2014

In Which I Extract My Kid From the Clutches of Traditional Schooling

I can't say it was the stress-induced puking that caused my wife and I to finally pull our son from his brick-and-mortar charter school. We'd been contemplating yanking him from a classroom setting for the past year or so. Over the summer, we ran him through a battery of academic tests and encouraged him to study math and Spanish online. The results were enlightening, but we thought he might be a little young for a full online education. And then the nervous tic developed as the start of school approached. That decided us well before he barfed at the thought of the next day's schedule of classes.

Anthony's (he started insisting on his full name) charter school is a good effort of the type. During a July meet-and-greet, the school principal and his teacher were amenable to a flexible approach—especially one that takes into account the flawed math genes I handed off to him. He grasps some lessons about math, while others on exactly the same concepts might as well be written in Sanskrit. They said they'd work with him. And they tried.

But a classroom is fundamentally a classroom. It has a structured day, and a bunch of kids requiring the divided attention of a teacher. The kids are part of a group, and mostly they're taught as part of that group.

And my kid is now twitching and puking at the thought of school. This does not work for me.

So we took the lead from the online lessons that worked so well for Anthony over the summer, and for his new penchant for googling the shit out of animals, battles, and historical figures who catch his interest. Personally, I had ever heard of slave-making ants, but I walked out of my office one day to find that a mention of them in his encyclopedia of animals started him on an online research foray into the nastier sorts of crawling things. This was after he became fascinated by the shifts in Roman military gear from 100 A.D., to 400 A.D., to 1000 A.D. He has become very familiar with the websites where you can track the evolution.

So now he's enrolled in an online private school. The school promises an individualized approach—we already know from experience that many of the lessons are designed to automatically adjust their pace to the needs of students working through online lessons. He'll still work with a couple of online teachers, and my wife and I take on larger roles in monitoring his work and coaching him through the offline material. It's as much a homeschooling effort with organizational and technological backup as it is a private school.

It's an alternative to what we tried before, which didn't work. And while there's no guarantee that this is the "right" approach for Anthony, I have no doubt that it's an improvement for my kid, whatever may work for others.

It would have been nice to have an option like this back when I was twitching and puking my own way through public schools in New York and Connecticut.

Update: And, for the inevitable accusations that we're now keeping Anthony locked in the closet...He can kick his way through the door with his Tae Kwon Do skills.


OECD: UK graduates 'lacking high-level literacy skills'

A sharp rise in the number of UK school leavers going on to university is failing to translate into higher levels of basic skills, according to a major international study.

Figures from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) show the majority of students are completing higher education courses without good levels of literacy.

In a report, it was revealed that just a quarter of UK graduates had top-level reading and writing skills compared with at least a third of those in some other developed nations such as Japan, Finland, the Netherlands, Sweden and Australia.

The study – comparing standards in 34 countries – also found that British adults with qualifications no higher than A-levels performed better in comparison with their peers internationally than those who had been through university.

The OECD said the findings suggested that increased access to qualifications in the UK was failing to produce the high levels of reading and writing needed in the workplace. Similar scores were recorded for numeracy, it emerged.

It was also revealed that school leavers’ chances of going on to university were still strongly linked to parental background.

The findings will raise fresh questions over the rapid expansion of degree course places in recent years.

According to the report, the number of adults with a degree-level qualification in the UK (41 per cent) now outstrips the proportion who quit education with A-levels or equivalent qualifications (37 per cent). The figures cover university degrees alongside other types of higher level or "tertiary" qualification.

Between 2008 and 2011, the UK's investment in education as a percentage of GDP also increased quicker than any other developed nation, it was revealed.

But critics have warned that too many school leavers have been pushed into taking degree courses when they may have been better suited to on-the-job training courses. Business leaders have repeatedly complained that large numbers of graduates lack the basic "job skills" needed to function properly in the workplace.

Andreas Schleicher, the OECD’s director for education and skills, said there was a “lot of variability in the skills those people have attained”, adding: "Not all further education qualifications really deserve that name because often those individuals are not actually better skilled than those people who have just come out of school.”

He said: "UK universities have a very strong reputation - you would have expected this stronger prevalence among the most highly skilled people."

The OECD report – Education at a Glance – found that record numbers of UK adults now hold degree-level qualifications, with 41 per cent going through higher education by 2012 compared with just 26 per cent in 2000.

Among young adults – those aged 24-to-34 – numbers increased from 29 to 48 per cent over the period. Among women, the number reached around 50 per cent.

Only six countries now have more young adults with a degree than the UK – South Korea, Japan, Canada, Luxemburg, Ireland and Russia.

But the figures were benchmarked against a separate study by the OECD published last year that tested adults across the developed world in basic literacy and numeracy. The UK figures only covered England and Northern Ireland.

It found that high levels of university attendance had largely failed to translate into improved scores in skills assessments. The OECD said that:

* Just 25 per cent of UK graduates gained the very highest scores in the literacy test, compared with 37 per cent of those from Japan and Finland, 36 per cent from the Netherlands, 32 per cent from Australia, 28 per cent from Norway and 26 per cent from Belgium;

* Young adults from UK who were educated to sixth-form level – without going to university – gained an average score of 277 in the literacy test, placing them 12th when compared with their peers;

* Graduates aged under-34 from the UK scored little higher in the test – an average score of 296 – placing them 19th when compared with university leavers from other countries.

Mr Schleicher said: “You can say in the UK that qualification levels have risen enormously – a lot more people are getting tertiary qualifications, university degrees – but actually a lot of that isn’t visible in better skills.”

He added: “There is a big distribution in outcomes. What’s interesting is, when you look at people with tertiary qualifications, there is a lot of variability in the skills those people have obtained.”

The study also found that – despite huge strides in university access – the likelihood of gaining a degree still depends largely on background.

Mr Schleicher added: “Many countries are doing better than the UK. The UK has seen huge increases in access but that hasn’t translated into the degree of mobility we have seen in the Russian federation, in Korea, in Finland, Flanders, France, Ireland and so on.”

Nicky Morgan, the Education Secretary, said: "Our plan for education is to ensure that young people leave school with the knowledge, skills and ambition to succeed in modern Britain and to compete in the global workforce.

"That plan is already producing results, with more students studying subjects that will open doors for them in the future and a narrowing of the achievement gap between students from disadvantaged backgrounds and their peers.

"This report provides further confirmation that when it comes to our children’s education we cannot afford to stand still and I’m committed to going further faster towards creating an education system that enables all young people, regardless of background are able to reach their full potential."

Mrs Morgan, who is also the Women and Equalities Secretary, added: "There are more women in full time work than ever before and although the gender pay gap remains too high, it is narrowing and for full-time workers under 40 is almost zero.

"In 2012, 20 per cent of SMEs were either run solely or mostly by women. Every FTSE 100 board now includes a woman and more businesses are recognising the skills and experience that diversity brings to a workplace.”


Australia: Private schools give more homework but produce no academic advantage says OECD

It appears that the nub of this report is the clause highlighted in red below.  Why should private schools worry that their existence does not lift up other schools?  They are paid to help their own students and it appears that they do that

Australian private school students spend two hours a week more on homework than their public school counterparts but do not perform better academically when socio-economic advantage is taken into account, according to a major report into educational performance around the world.

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development's Education at a Glance 2014 report also finds Australian students spend more time in the classroom than anywhere else in the developed world even though they are increasingly being outperformed by students in other countries.

The report finds Australian private school students spend 7.4 hours a week on homework, an extra-curricular workload that is among the highest in the developed world. Australian public school students spend 5.1 hours on homework a week, just above the OECD average of 4.9 hours a week. Students in Shanghai, China, top the world by spending 13.8 hours on homework a week.

The report found a greater disparity in academic performance between Australian public and private school students than the OECD average, based on the mathematics results of 15-year old students in the 2012 PISA tests.

Australian private school students achieved an average score 37 points higher than public school students, above the OECD average of 28 points. But - in a trend seen across the world - there was no statistically significant difference between the results of private and public school students when the economic, social and cultural status of students and schools was accounted for.

Public schools outperformed private schools in 12 countries when socio-economic status was accounted for while private schools outperformed public schools in eight countries.

"Thus, private schools - and public schools with students from socio-economically advantaged backgrounds - benefit the individual students who attend them; but there is no evidence to suggest that private schools help to raise the level of performance of the school system as a whole," the report says.

There was no significant difference in average class sizes between Australian public and private schools: public schools have a mean class size of 22.4 compared to 22.8 in private schools.

Australian students spend more than 10,000 hours in compulsory primary and early secondary schooling, well above the OECD average of 7475 hours. The 2012 PISA results showed Australia had slipped to 17th out of 65 countries in mathematics.

The report finds the number of Australian children in early education still lags behind the rest of the world but is increasing. Eighteen per cent of Australian three-year-olds were enrolled in pre-primary education in 2012, up from 13 per cent the previous year but well below the OECD average of 70 per cent. Seventy-six per cent of four-year-olds were enrolled in early childhood or primary education, up from 67 per cent the year before.

Australia spends only 0.1 per cent of GDP on pre-primary education - compared to 0.8 per cent in Chile or Denmark - and only 45 per cent of spending on early childhood learning is publicly funded. This compares to an OECD average of 81 per cent public funding.

The report finds Australian men with a university degree will be $152,700 better off over a lifetime than those with only high school qualifications. This is above the OECD average but less than in the United States, where men with a university degree are $228,700 better off. Australian women with a degree are $91,300 better off than those with secondary qualifications.

Forty-one per cent of Australians aged 25 to 64 have tertiary qualifications, above the OECD average of 32 per cent. Young Australian women are now more likely to have a university degree than men: 53 per cent of women aged 25-34 have a degree compared to 42 per cent of men.

International students account for 18 per cent of tertiary enrolments in Australia, second only behind Luxembourg in the OECD.


Wednesday, September 10, 2014

UK: 'I went to private school - but I can't afford the same for my children'

Middle-class families are being pushed out of private schools as the fees increase by 20 per cent in five years

“The ‘meet the parents’ evening at a friend’s private school was a wine and cheese night – but with Heston Blumenthal’s cheesemaker. The kids go on holidays on their private yachts, the ski trip is in Whistler in Canada. Do you want to be constantly saying to your child, ‘I’m really sorry darling, you can’t go to the Amazon to study the rainforest because we just can’t afford it’?”

Charlotte*, the publisher of a national magazine, is one of many middle-class mothers with young children who are finding that private school isn’t the same world as where they grew up.

The cost of private schools has grown four times faster than the rise of wages since 2009, leading to a 20 per cent rise in fees over the past five years. Today, the average cost of £12,345 per year is unaffordable even for well-paid parents, and equivalent to 37 per cent of typical earnings.

Together with her husband, Dan, who owns a construction company, Charlotte says the couple earn enough to have every luxury imaginable in the 1980s.

“We could have owned our house outright, we could have a second home and be sending our kids to private school with money to spare,” she says. “But the cost of living these days is so high that the money you earn just about covers your mortgage, your living expenses, bills, clothes for the kids and a holiday a year.”

The couple live in north London with their two children, eight-year-old James and five-year-old Harry, and are so far happy to send their children to the local primary school, which has an Ofsted Outstanding rating. But Charlotte says there aren’t any good secondary options in the area, and cobbling together the funds for a private school would mean a drastic change in lifestyle – if it was possible at all.

“I’m not extravagant but I don’t monitor my weekly shop – I’ll go to Marks & Spencer for the right fruit and can throw a dinner party and not worry about spending £150 entertaining that weekend. But if you’re looking at private school as an option, you won’t have any disposable income again. It’s a complete game changer,” says Charlotte.

The 40-year-old went to private school herself, and says she always expected to become a “grown up” and afford the same lifestyle for her family. “You do feel like you’re failing them when you can’t consider it an option,” she says. “There’s the social stigma as well – you get a jab of guilt that they’re not in the oversized blazers that they would be in if they went to a private school.”

Moving into a catchment area with strong secondary schools is another possibility, but the properties are massively overpriced as a result of parents combing every borough, town and city for schools with small classes and a nurturing environment. And the cost of stamp duty from moving can be the equivalent of several years of school fees.

Many middle class families who can’t afford private fees consider grammar to be the “holy grail”, but Charlotte says the parents at her local primary school secretly compete in an “underground world” of tutoring and ambitious parenting.

The telephone numbers of tutors with a good reputation are treated like “gold dust”, says Charlotte. “You would pay to get the number and then you pay a ridiculous amount of money for them to see your child,” she says. Some parents at Charlotte’s school hire tutors for 5 o’clock in the morning, and only once the pupils have moved onto secondary school will mothers open up their precious address book and reveal the secrets.

One close friend of Charlotte’s accidentally let slip that her son has been attending Kumon maths tuition classes for years – “I’m really friendly with this family – we barbeque together, we go camping, we discuss all sorts of things but tutoring has never once been mentioned,” she says.

And tutors alone may not be enough to help children into the most competitive secondary schools. “To form a well rounded child they need a lot of other strings to their bow to even get through an interview stage at a private school. You pay for lots of extra curricular activities, like the rugby club and music lessons. But nobody talks about it,” says Charlotte.

Parents across the country are trying to find a way to afford the best education for their children without paying the exorbitant cost of fees.

One mother, Hannah*, is hoping that her young sons will be accepted into a grammar secondary school if she pays for a private primary education.

Customer experience consultant Hannah, 37, lives in Rickmansworth with her husband and says that together, the couple bring in a six-figure income. But the family still couldn’t afford the full cost of secondary private school fees for their sons Oscar, four, and two-year-old Jake.

“Oscar was going to go to a local state primary school but, having gone to a private school myself, I got to the point where I wasn’t sure I could do it,” she says. “You want the same for your children as you had and it’s gut-wrenching when you don’t feel like you can do that. My parents never had a huge amount of money but they put us through private school and that’s what I want for Oscar.”

The private primary school fees cost £9,500 a year and are already a challenge. “I’m really frugal. Going out for nice meals and spending money – you can’t do that any more,” says Hannah.

But the jump in fees at secondary school would be completely unaffordable, and so the family are planning to move near Dr Challoner’s grammar school by the time Oscar takes his 11+ exams.

There’s no guarantee, says Hannah, but she’s hoping the advantage of going to a private primary school will set Oscar and Jake up for a good education throughout their school life.

Of course, 93 per cent of British children go to state schools and both Hannah and Charlotte could have a far more relaxed lifestyle if they chose to keep the cost of school fees. But Charlotte tells the truth that many parents won’t admit to themselves – a lot of state schools in Britain simply aren’t as good as the private options.

“If everyone supported the state system then standards would rise, but you don’t want to take the risk with your own child,” she says.

Charlotte says that the parents at her school – who include doctors and respected authors – try to convince themselves that the standards will change as more middle-class families are pushed out of private schooling. “They’re reading with their children in the evenings and putting the extra hours in – does that mean that state schools will improve and they aren’t such a scary option?” she asks.

But while the standards of Britain’s state school system remain uneven, the pedigree of private schools only gets more elite. Gone are the days when doctors and accountants could afford the cost of school fees – today, private school is only for the super-rich.


British primary school pupils as young as four are banned from saying goodbye to parents in their playground 'for health and safety reasons'

Primary school children as young as four were banned from saying goodbye to their parents in the playground for 'health and safety reasons'.

Parents say pupils at Forster Park Primary School in Catford, south London, have been left 'inconsolable' by the 'big change'.

The school sent out letters to parents this week saying they were 'banned' from the entering the playground, from where they were previously allowed to wave off their children.

The letter says parents should say goodbye at the school gate, adding: 'From tomorrow morning (Thursday), we are asking for parents not to enter the playground and to say goodbye to their children at the school gate.

'This is for health and safety reasons. We know that this is a big change but we know that you will work with us to ensure that the start of the school day is even better than it is already.

'Arrangements for collecting your children at the end of the day will remain unchanged, meaning that parents come onto the school playground as you do already.'

A spokesman for Lewisham Council said the new rule was to minimise disruption caused by 'extensive building work' which is currently going on at the 500-pupil school.

But the school said this afternoon that it was now working to provide parents with an alternative place to drop their children off, starting from next week.

One mother, who asked not to be named, said her five-year-old daughter was left 'inconsolable' as she was led off into the school without a 'proper goodbye'.

She said: 'My daughter was quite anxious about going to school and suffers from separation anxiety, so it is important for me to be able to say goodbye to her properly.

'Instead, we were told not to stray past the school gates, so I ended up watching her being led away in tears while I stood watching, in tears myself.'

Michala Cohen said her five-year-old daughter Tymisha was 'really upset' and that other kids were 'hysterical' about not being able to give their mums and dads a kiss and cuddle.

The 23-year-old said: 'My daughter would not leave my side and was really upset. Lots of the other kids were hysterical as well.  'Normally she's a really happy girl and actually skips into school but she wasn't comfortable with this whatsoever.  'The kids are used to their mums taking them in and kissing them goodbye so today was heartbreaking not being able to do that.'

School head Mark Gale had said the 'priority' was to ensure the health and safety of the pupils and said the new routine was a 'smoother way' to start the day in the new term.

He said all decisions were made in the best interests of pupils and that he would be monitoring the new arrangements.  He later added: 'The school has had some major building works over the summer and a number of classrooms have been repositioned.

'It was clear on the first morning back that the old arrangements for dropping off children were no longer suitable and were creating a confused and an unsafe situation.

'I am working with parents to find a better, smoother way to drop children off. We have further works at the school over the weekend and we will be amending our arrangements, taking into account feedback from parents, which will allow parents to use a part of the playground to drop off their children.  'It was never our intention to cause any distress to children and parents of Forster Park.'

The letter was sent by Mr Gale on the first day of his job. He wrote: 'I would also like to say how impressed I am with the children of Forster Park; they all look so smart and ready for learning. 'I am so proud of them, and it's only my first day here. Thank you for sending in such smart children.'

He also raises another health and safety issue in the letter, telling parents that birthday cake will not be given out on the pupils' birthdays.

He said: 'Due to allergies I am afraid that we cannot give out birthday cake, party bags or anything else on birthdays.

'However, we will do everything we can to make sure that your child's birthday is acknowledged and that they have an especially enjoyable day.

'I appreciate that these are quite big changes, but as ever, we are putting the children and their safety first.'


Pull Your Hair Out As You Learn the Common Core Way of Doing 6 + 10

Parents in New York are having trouble helping their kids with math homework now that the curriculum is aligned to the national Common Core standards, so a local news channel has released some videos explaining the new lessons.

Ready to pull your hair out? Here's the fancy pants new way of figuring out 9 + 6:

Instead of just, well, adding 9 and 6, students must run a gauntlet of extra addition, "decomposing" 6 into 1 and 5, "anchoring" 9 to 1 to make 10, and then adding the leftover 5. The new way requires a lot more time, a higher vocabulary, and more work. But it's somehow supposed to be "more comfortable" for young learners, in the estimation of standards peddlers.

How parents must long for the good old days of rote memorization! (Incidentally, a recent Stanford University study found that rote memorization is important for developing brains.)

The videos also illustrate why adapting to Core-aligned curriculum is a difficult—and expensive—process for schools. New instructional materials must be purchased, teachers retrained, tests rewritten, etc.



Tuesday, September 09, 2014

Ivy league reality

Below is just one excerpt from a very comprehensive article by Steven Pinker

Like many observers of American universities, I used to believe the following story. Once upon a time Harvard was a finishing school for the plutocracy, where preppies and Kennedy scions earned gentleman’s Cs while playing football, singing in choral groups, and male-bonding at final clubs, while the blackballed Jews at CCNY founded left-wing magazines and slogged away in labs that prepared them for their Nobel prizes in science. Then came Sputnik, the '60s, and the decline of genteel racism and anti-Semitism, and Harvard had to retool itself as a meritocracy, whose best-and-brightest gifts to America would include recombinant DNA, Wall Street quants, The Simpsons, Facebook, and the masthead of The New Republic.

This story has a grain of truth in it: Hoxby has documented that the academic standards for admission to elite universities have risen over the decades. But entrenched cultures die hard, and the ghost of Oliver Barrett IV still haunts every segment of the Harvard pipeline.

At the admissions end, it’s common knowledge that Harvard selects at most 10 percent (some say 5 percent) of its students on the basis of academic merit. At an orientation session for new faculty, we were told that Harvard “wants to train the future leaders of the world, not the future academics of the world,” and that “We want to read about our student in Newsweek 20 years hence” (prompting the woman next to me to mutter, “Like the Unabomer”). The rest are selected “holistically,” based also on participation in athletics, the arts, charity, activism, travel, and, we inferred (Not in front of the children!), race, donations, and legacy status (since anything can be hidden behind the holistic fig leaf).

The lucky students who squeeze through this murky bottleneck find themselves in an institution that is single-mindedly and expensively dedicated to the pursuit of knowledge. It has an astonishing library system that pays through the nose for rare manuscripts, obscure tomes, and extortionately priced journals; exotic laboratories at the frontiers of neuroscience, regenerative medicine, cosmology, and other thrilling pursuits; and a professoriate with erudition in an astonishing range of topics, including many celebrity teachers and academic rock stars. The benefits of matching this intellectual empyrean with the world’s smartest students are obvious. So why should an ability to play the bassoon or chuck a lacrosse ball be given any weight in the selection process?

The answer, ironically enough, makes the admissocrats and Deresiewicz strange bedfellows: the fear of selecting a class of zombies, sheep, and grinds. But as with much in the Ivies’ admission policies, little thought has given to the consequences of acting on this assumption. Jerome Karabel has unearthed a damning paper trail showing that in the first half of the twentieth century, holistic admissions were explicitly engineered to cap the number of Jewish students. Ron Unz, in an exposé even more scathing than Deresiewicz’s, has assembled impressive circumstantial evidence that the same thing is happening today with Asians.

Just as troublingly, why are elite universities, of all institutions, perpetuating the destructive stereotype that smart people are one-dimensional dweebs? It would be an occasion for hilarity if anyone suggested that Harvard pick its graduate students, faculty, or president for their prowess in athletics or music, yet these people are certainly no shallower than our undergraduates. In any case, the stereotype is provably false. Camilla Benbow and David Lubinski have tracked a large sample of precocious teenagers identified solely by high performance on the SAT, and found that when they grew up, they not only excelled in academia, technology, medicine, and business, but won outsize recognition for their novels, plays, poems, paintings, sculptures, and productions in dance, music, and theater. A comparison to a Harvard freshman class would be like a match between the Harlem Globetrotters and the Washington Generals.

What about the rationalization that charitable extracurricular activities teach kids important lessons of moral engagement? There are reasons to be skeptical. A skilled professional I know had to turn down an important freelance assignment because of a recurring commitment to chauffeur her son to a resumé-building “social action” assignment required by his high school. This involved driving the boy for 45 minutes to a community center, cooling her heels while he sorted used clothing for charity, and driving him back—forgoing income which, judiciously donated, could have fed, clothed, and inoculated an African village. The dubious “lessons” of this forced labor as an overqualified ragpicker are that children are entitled to treat their mothers’ time as worth nothing, that you can make the world a better place by destroying economic value, and that the moral worth of an action should be measured by the conspicuousness of the sacrifice rather than the gain to the beneficiary.

Knowing how our students are selected, I should not have been surprised when I discovered how they treat their educational windfall once they get here. A few weeks into every semester, I face a lecture hall that is half-empty, despite the fact that I am repeatedly voted a Harvard Yearbook Favorite Professor, that the lectures are not video-recorded, and that they are the only source of certain material that will be on the exam. I don’t take it personally; it’s common knowledge that Harvard students stay away from lectures in droves, burning a fifty-dollar bill from their parents’ wallets every time they do. Obviously they’re not slackers; the reason is that they are crazy-busy. Since they’re not punching a clock at Safeway or picking up kids at day-care, what could they be doing that is more important than learning in class? The answer is that they are consumed by the same kinds of extracurricular activities that got them here in the first place.

Some of these activities, like writing for the campus newspaper, are clearly educational, but most would be classified in any other setting as recreation: sports, dance, improv comedy, and music, music, music (many students perform in more than one ensemble). The commitments can be draconian: a member of the crew might pull an oar four hours a day, seven days a week, and musical ensembles can be just as demanding. Many students have told me that the camaraderie, teamwork, and sense of accomplishment made these activities their most important experiences at Harvard. But it’s not clear why they could not have had the same experiences at Tailgate State, or, for that matter, the local YMCA, opening up places for less “well-rounded” students who could take better advantage of the libraries, labs, and lectures.

The anti-intellectualism of Ivy League undergraduate education is by no means indigenous to the student culture. It’s reinforced by the administration, which treats academics as just one option in the college activity list. Though students are flooded with hortatory messages from deans and counselors, “Don’t cut class” is not among them, and professors are commonly discouraged from getting in the way of the students’ fun. Deans have asked me not to schedule a midterm on a big party day, and to make it easy for students to sell their textbooks before the ink is dry on their final exams. A failing grade is like a death sentence: just the first step in a mandatory appeal process.

It’s not that students are unconditionally pampered. They may be disciplined by an administrative board with medieval standards of jurisprudence, pressured to sign a kindness pledge suitable for kindergarten, muzzled by speech codes that would not pass the giggle test if challenged on First Amendment grounds, and publicly shamed for private emails that express controversial opinions. The common denominator (belying any hope that an elite university education helps students develop a self) is that they are not treated as competent grown-ups, starting with the first law of adulthood: first attend to your priorities, then you get to play.


New York Rallies Against Common Core

New York is a deep blue state but having a liberal voter base is not translating into automatic support for Common Core.

In fact, the political momentum in the Empire State is rapidly shifting against the education standards.

The growing resistance to Common Core in New York was summarized by Slate’s political reporter David Weigel after he analyzed a recent Siena poll:

    In a very short time, opposition to Common Core has evolved from a fringe Republican position that blue-staters laugh at to a position that clearly wins out in blue New York. When independents break against something by a 14-point margin, politicians generally look awkwardly for the escape hatches.

The Siena poll found 60 percent of conservatives, 53 percent of Independents, and 40 percent of Democrats support stopping the implementation of Common Core standards.

The poll results reflect the growing rage against Common Core from disparate ideological groups ranging from the Tea Party to teachers.

The right is opposed to one size fits all and the command and control approach to education and some teacher union members are outraged over the overbearing testing requirements, as well as the revenue generating motive for the companies that cash-in on student testing.

Last month, a group of members with the New York State United Teachers Union protested at the State Education Department building in Albany, New York, about the huge profits generated by Common Core testing company Pearson PLC. According to The Times Union, Pearson has a $33 million contract from the state for testing and teacher training.

Most important, supporting Common Core is becoming a political liability as the education standards are now part of the state’s governor race.

Governor Andrew Cuomo (D-NY) is facing a long shot primary challenge from Fordham University law professor Zephyr Teachout. Among other issues, the extremely progressive Teachout is promising to “…slam the brakes on the barrage of high-stakes testing” that is central to Common Core.

Republican challenger Rob Astorino is promising to end Common Core. In an extremely creative effort, Astorino led a successful strategy that got thousands of petition signatures to add ”Stop Common Core” as a third party line to November’s ballot.

If approved by state election officials, the "Stop Common Core" ballot line would allow Astorino to get Independents and Democrats to vote for him without voting “Republican.”

Facing increasing pressure over Common Core, Cuomo has criticized the testing and he supported a delay in using the test results to evaluate students and teachers.

The fact that Common Core is under pressure in liberal New York shows the momentum is growing to stop Common Core.


British secondary schools 'may be forced to segregate pupils by ability'

Secondary schools could be forced to set pupils by ability under controversial plans being considered by the Conservatives.

New rules may be introduced that would prevent state schools in England running mixed-ability lessons as part of the 2015 Tory general election manifesto.

According to reports, the policy could be implemented by overhauling the Ofsted inspection system, with schools unable to win “outstanding” status without separating pupils by ability.

It is not clear whether the reforms would be applied to all subjects or just the core disciplines such as English and maths.

The Telegraph was told that the idea was under consideration by the Tories but was at an early stage with nothing decided.

But Nicky Morgan, the Education Secretary, personally distanced herself from the plans, saying in the Commons that there was "absolutely no truth" in the "rumours". She insisted political opponents had a “rather unhealthy interest sometimes in speculating about what I am or am not about to announce”.

Speaking later, she said: “It is not something I am looking at.”

The Liberal Democrats also insisted it would not become Coalition government policy.

Setting involves placing pupils into a number of ability groups for different lessons – allowing them to move up and down levels as they progress. It is seen as more acceptable than streaming where children remain in the same band for all classes.

The proposed policy – which would affect almost 3,500 schools – follows warnings from Ofsted last year that bright children were often failed in mixed-ability lessons, receiving “mediocre” and “insufficiently challenging” work.

Figures from the watchdog suggest at least a third of schools currently use mixed-ability groups for the majority of lessons aimed at 11- to 14-year-olds, while others employ them for some subjects.

Supporters of setting claim that it allows the brightest children to progress at their own pace while allowing those at the bottom of the ability range to get specialist help to catch up.

But the proposed reforms have prompted a furious backlash from teachers who claimed they threatened to undermine schools’ autonomy.

There are also concerns that setting hits pupils from poor backgrounds who are more likely to be consigned to lower groupings.

The Department for Education refused to comment on the proposals today but it is believed that the plan has been considered by the Conservatives in the run up to next year's election. The 2010 manifesto also said schools would be encouraged to set by ability.

No further announcement on the reforms will be made this week. Sources also denied the involvement of Ofsted was under active consideration.

Addressing the Commons, Mrs Morgan said: “There are some people outside this House who have a rather unhealthy interest sometimes in speculating about what I am or am not about to announce.

"Frankly, I think they would be better served if they spent less time on Twitter and talking to journalists and more time reflecting on the importance of the policies and the reforms that have already been implemented by this government."

A source close to David Laws, the Lib Dem Schools Minister, said: “This has not been agreed with the Liberal Democrats and is not government policy.

“We don’t believe it would be appropriate to tie schools hands in this way. There is nothing wrong with setting per se, but in an autonomous system schools should be judged on their pupils’ outcomes not on how they organise themselves.”

Mary Bousted, general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, said: “If Nicky Morgan is committed to closing the gap for disadvantaged children the last thing she should do is to divide children into ability sets and to use Ofsted to enforce this.

“This is educationally unjustifiable."

Brian Lightman, head of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: “We cannot agree with this... If schools are already achieving high standards within a mixed ability context, it is surely wrong to make them change because of a political whim.”

Tristram Hunt, the shadow education secretary, said it represented an attempt to “place a cap on aspiration and confine some children to a second rate education”.

“We thought there was political consensus on the importance of school autonomy,” he said. “It is worrying to see an Education Secretary two months in the job thinking she knows best how every school should teach every subject.”

Setting has long been a supported by both Labour and the Conservatives.

While in Opposition in 2006, David Cameron called for a “grammar stream” in every school to give the brightest pupils extra help.

But politicians have so far refrained from making the system a compulsory requirement in schools, with a number of research projects casting serious doubts over the system.

One study by the government-funded Education Endowment Foundation found that "ability grouping appears to benefit higher-attaining pupils and be detrimental to the learning of mid-range and lower-attaining learners”.

Another report commissioned by the DfE showed that setting in maths had a negative effect on results and motivation levels.

However, other research has appeared to back the system. A study published two years ago by the Royal Economic Society showed that a higher proportion of “low-achieving pupils” in each class had a “negative and significant effect on the academic achievements of regular pupils” because they monopolised teachers’ attention.


Monday, September 08, 2014

An honest man upsets an entire university establishment

Wallace Hall Was Right About UT All Along.  He exposed comfortable little rackets that had built up

Maybe the University of Texas at Austin and its many passionate defenders had reason to beware of Wallace Hall when Governor Rick Perry appointed him to the UT System board of regents in 2011. Perry was pushing some plan he got from a rich oilman to eliminate research as a criterion for granting professorial tenure, an idea scathingly denounced by detractors as tantamount to book-burning.
But having a good motivation only makes this story worse. When Hall began to criticize the way UT-Austin was run on strictly administrative grounds, he was roundly denounced as a sort of fifth-columnist for Perry's assault on tenure. Later when he accused the university of corruption, he was hunted like a witch.

A campaign launched against Hall included impeachment proceedings in the Legislature and a criminal complaint brought to the Travis County district attorney. Even the establishment press turned on Hall, whose greatest sin was doing what the press is supposed to do -- ask questions that make powerful people uncomfortable. An unbroken chorus of editorial page shrieking from Texas' biggest newspapers denounced Hall and called for his resignation.

The dramatic denouement is threefold: Hall has been vindicated of charges he abused his role as a regent. The charges of mismanagement and corruption he brought against UT are all being re-investigated because now people are admitting he was on to something. And finally, Hall's biggest accusers are starting to look like the biggest rats, the ones who had the most to hide.

In fact it's hard to recall a case in Texas history where a person so roundly denounced has been so completely vindicated, not counting Sam Houston's problems with drink.

When he shows up for an interview at a bagel shop in North Dallas, Hall does not look like a pariah, like Sam Houston or like a guy who has been staying up nights. He's 52 with a full mop of sandy hair, looks 42, rides up on a big BMW motorcycle in casual clothes and, generally, once he's got his coffee, is cool as a cucumber.

A CEO and investor, St. Mark's and UT-Austin graduate, Hall has two sons and a daughter at UT-Austin. He first professes his love of the university, then says his first collision with peers on the board of regents was over something that just seemed to him like common sense.

When Hall was early on the board, the university revealed to regents there were problems with a large private endowment used to provide off-the-books six-figure "forgivable loans" to certain faculty members, out of sight of the university's formal compensation system.
Hall wanted to know how big the forgivable loans were and who decided who got them. He wanted to know whose money it was. He was concerned there had to be legal issues with payments to public employees that were not visible to the public.

University of Texas President William Powers painted the law school slush fund as a problem only because it had caused "discord" within the faculty. He vowed to have a certain in-house lawyer get it straightened up. Hall, who thought the matter was more serious and called for a more arms-length investigation and analysis, thought Powers' approach was too defensive. In particular, Hall didn't want it left to the investigator Powers had assigned.

"I had issues with that," Hall says. "I felt that was a bad, bad deal. The man's a lawyer. He lives in Austin. The people in the foundation are his mentors, some of the best lawyers in the state. They're wealthy. He's not going to be in the [university] system forever. He's going to be looking for a job one day."

But Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa and other members of the board of regents did not share Hall's concerns. "I was overruled," Hall says. "That's when I first felt like, one, there's a problem at UT, and, two, the system has set up a scheme that gives the opportunity for a less than robust investigation."

Since then, the university's own in-house investigation, which cleared the law school of any real wrongdoing, has been discredited and deep-sixed. The in-house lawyer who did it is no longer on the payroll. The matter has been turned over to the Texas attorney general for a fresh investigation.

The head of the law school has resigned. The president of the university has resigned. Cigarroa has resigned.

Next, Hall questioned claims the university was making about how much money it raised every year. He thought the university was puffing its numbers by counting gifts of software for much more than the software really was worth, making it look as if Powers was doing a better job of fundraising than he really was.

When Hall traveled to Washington, D.C., to consult with the national body that sets rules for this sort of thing, he was accused of ratting out the university -- a charge that became part of the basis for subsequent impeachment proceedings. But Hall was right. The university had to mark down its endowment by $215 million.

The really big trouble began in 2013 when Hall said he discovered a back-door black market trade in law school admissions, by which people in positions to do favors for the university, especially key legislators, were able to get their own notably unqualified kids and the notably unqualified kids of friends into UT Law School.

UT Law School is supposed to be competitive on a level with Harvard Law and the University of Michigan Law School. When word broke that unqualified candidates were able to get in with help from key legislators, the key legislators went ballistic, immediately calling for Hall's impeachment and removal from office, even though only two elected officials, a governor and a judge, have ever been impeached and removed from office in the history of Texas.

The loudest voice in the Legislature calling for Hall's head, Waxahachie House Republican Jim Pitts, turned out to be the father of a young man whose admission to the law school was at the center of the controversy. Pitts has since announced he will not seek re-election.

Two months ago the head of the university's admissions department resigned abruptly, days after an internal whistle-blower emerged on the admissions issue. The admissions question has been turned over to a major international private investigations agency.

A special committee created for the express purpose of impeaching Hall made the mistake of hiring an honest law firm to investigate charges that Hall had broken the law or violated the oath and terms of his office. The firm brought back a report saying he had broken no laws and was carrying out his duties as a regent.

The impeachment committee, undaunted, paid half a million dollars for a second opinion, buying itself a second report that also found Hall innocent of violations of law but said he should be impeached anyway for snitching. Ultimately the committee was unable to find grounds for impeachment -- apparently snitching is not really against the law -- but the committee voted anyway to censure Hall for what amounted to disloyalty and bad manners.

The committee's final resolution read like they were banishing him from membership in the Kappa Alpha House. The committee solemnly found Hall guilty of acting in a "manner that detracts from, rather than enhances the public image of UT Austin" and in "a manner that does not nurture" UT Austin. No mention was made of the committee members whose kids slipped into UT Law School through the back door.

Four months ago allegations against Hall were presented to the Public Integrity Unit of the Travis County District Attorney's Office, the same body that recently won indictments of Governor Rick Perry. At that time a spokesman said the unit would know within a week whether any criminal charges would be brought. The matter is still hanging over Hall, and the unit had not yet made up its mind, according to a spokesperson.

And maybe all of that is Austin politics. But what is to be said for the Texas press and its handling of the Wallace Hall story? Every major newspaper in the state has either called for Hall's head at one point or questioned his integrity, most of them basing their complaints on an allegation that Hall asked for too much information from the university -- in other words, that he did too much reporting.


Back To School…Or Dropping Out, In the Case Of America’s Cultural Marxist-Controlled Colleges

After Labor Day, it’s not just K-12 kids who are headed back to school and the new anti-America: So are college students—but not, after trying it for a couple of years, me.

I’ve dropped out and have no intention of finishing my bachelor’s degree.

Dropping out is a very personal decision. Below is why I did it, take from it what you will. But in no way should this be considered a sort of Dissident Right version of Timothy Leary’s call to “Turn on, tune in, drop out.”

Furthermore, if you are going to college for something that is actually practical (a blue-collar trade, something in STEM, etc.) I would say you should stick with it. Those degrees are valuable—and barely have a political culture to them, much less a Leftist one.

However, my interests have always been lofty and impractical: history, political science, philosophy, and sociology. And as everyone knows, those fields of study are now almost universally under the iron grip of what we call “Cultural Marxism.”

Therein lies part of the trouble—everyone knows those majors are completely and utterly dominated by Leftist professors, administrators, and for the most part, students. What’s more, everyone knows that Right wingers never stop complaining about it.

There has been plenty of writing on the topic here on and on other Dissident Right websites as well. Beyond us, even Conservatism Inc covers this subject with a great deal of vigor and reasonable competency. David Horowitz has a book about it, Dinesh D’Souza has one as well, over 60 years ago William F. Buckley wrote a book about it, over 25 years ago Allan Bloom wrote a book on it…the list goes on and on. Not to mention the regular articles on this topic at National Review, Breitbart, etc.

Even people with only a superficial interest in politics are aware of this gripe. To complain about it is to become an instant cliché—the lone Republican on campus who just cannot catch a break.

And no one likes a complainer. In my experience, just about everyone is more annoyed than interested when anyone on the Right brings up the topic of liberal bias in education. People are generally attracted to strength, and when we just whine about the injustice of college Leftism, no one can be bothered to feel pity for us.

College is liberal the way Canada is cold, or off-brand Cola is bad—it just is, everyone knows it, and there is no sense in complaining about it, because it is not going to change. There are simply not enough of “us” to somehow start taking over this or that philosophy or poli-sci department at any state university.

Additionally, no student is going to convince a professor who is interested in Mary Daly, the crazy feminist philosopher who refused to allow men into her classes, also to be interested in an American patriot and cultural conservative like the late Sam Francis. Trust me: trying that does not work, and you just look like a jerk.

“So why not just shut-up and keep your head down?” some of you are surely asking. This is where dropping out gets personal. If you can shut-up, and are willing to do it for four years or more, go for it, I guess. But I am not built that way.

If Margaret Mead is being discussed in class, I am going to bring up Lothrop Stoddard, and then I will get into trouble and be that guy. Grinning and bearing it was indeed something I tried, but hearing people say vile, untrue, and triumphalist things over and over again without reacting eventually began to sit heavy on my state of well-being.

“Why not go to one of those explicitly conservative colleges?” a lot more of you are asking.

I go back and forth on that idea, and see two big problems.

First, almost all of them are very Christian—and I am a Derbyshire-style atheist.
Being the lone atheist at a small Christian college sounds unpleasant for everyone involved.

Second, I have my doubts any of those colleges are really interested in having a true Dissident Right student.
Colleges like Hillsdale are already frequently in hot water for this or that not perfectly Politically Correct thing they have done.

(For example, the kerfuffle when Larry Arnn, president of Hillsdale, said that the bureaucrats who came to the college to see if they had enough minorities, something Hillsdale resolutely refuses to keep records on, had to look at student faces and count the “dark ones.” Mich. college president calls minorities ‘dark ones’, by Lori Higgins, Detroit Free Press August 1, 2013).

 I suspect that many of these superficially conservative colleges would take the opportunity to triangulate against me in true Conservatism Inc./ Beltway Right style in the hope of impressing their Leftist enemies by making my life difficult.

Sound far-fetched? Imagine if Matt Heimbach had tried to start his much-denounced “White Student Union” at King’s College or Liberty University instead of at an undistinguished state university. The Main Stream Media would have had an even bigger field day about the WSU than it did, and a “conservative” private college would probably have done anything to save face.

To put it in sound-bite terms:

The point of going to a conservative college would be to openly voice my opinions among the like-minded—there is no conservative college where having been published by American Renaissance would be considered impressive.

Here of course it is worth mentioning that picking up stakes and trying one college after another (I have already attended two) is very costly. For those of you above 35, it’s important to realize that college has quietly become significantly more expensive, less obviously beneficial, and more Left-y than it was when you matriculated, back in the days when Madonna was young, sexy and had an American accent.

But listen to me complaining about the lack of colleges that I would find amenable to my special needs. Who cares? My views: If your college does not suit you, is expensive, and the benefits it will bring you later seem to be in doubt—then drop out and find something better to do.

We of the Right are supposed to be independent and self-sufficient, right?

I have known a few different people who got degrees in laughable “identity” majors like Women’s Studies and then became professional complainers about their unemployment thereafter. No-one reading this would offer them much pity—but is a paleocon who gets a Ph.D. in history and is then upset that no college wants to hire a professor with “racist” ideas any better?

Obviously we all have more sympathy for the latter. But said history student did no better in planning life based on realistic expectations.

Of course, this is a tragedy in terms of scholarship. But it simply part of an inevitable macrocultural retreat and regrouping that F. Roger Devlin brilliantly described in his 2011 H.L. Mencken Club lecture Higher Education: The Impossibility Of Reform.

Also, if we can agree that the state of college is horrible—low standards, enforced multi-culturalism, fluff degrees—then how important can it be to attend?  Is it really a great plan for me to go $20,000 in debt at a college that requires me to take three “ethnic studies” classes in order to get a degree in journalism just to find myself “Derbyshired” in five years at whatever job I got?

Remember too, that academic tenure is not what is used to be—meaning the next Paul Gottfried or Kevin MacDonald will be hard pressed to find refuge in academia. For that matter, I don’t think that Tom Woods, who after Columbia and Harvard could only get teaching work at a minor New York college but found a base in think tanks and rapidly apotheosized into a New York Times best-selling author, would even get his foot on the first rung of the Ivy League ladder nowadays.

There will be those who will read this and be saddened by it. But I assure you that leaving is the happy part. It may have been sad when the academy was lost. But leaving it to self-perpetuate into irrelevancy is quite satisfying.

And money can certainly be made without a degree. The credentialism bubble is bursting anyway—Robert B. Reich (Dartmouth, Oxford, Yale, Clinton Administration Secretary of Labor) says so! Reich specifically cites the unacceptable cost-benefit prospect. (Back to college, the only gateway to the middle class, Baltimore Sun, September 3, 2014).

I am told—it was before my time!—that during the Vietnam War protesters would chant: “Suppose they gave a war and nobody came?”

Well perhaps we should say: “Suppose they gave “LBGT Studies” degrees—and everybody went off and got a job instead?”


UK: Liberal idiocy exposed by a schoolboy

Nick Clegg left squirming over free school meals by 9-year-old boy

Rohan, a nine-year-old boy from South East London, leaves Nick Clegg squirming over the Liberal Democrat's flagship school meals policy

Nick Clegg has been confronted over his flagship £1billion school meals scheme by a nine-year-old boy who told him that they are "unhealthy" and "very expensive".

Rohan, who said he was ringing from school, phoned Mr Clegg's programme on LBC radio and suggested that the scheme is wasting money on many parents who can afford to buy their own meals.

Mr Clegg, with a hint of desperation, resorted to telling the phone the boy "you probably need to go back to class" and suggested he had been coached by an adult.

There were also questions about how a nine-year-old boy could have such a detailed grasp of policy.

However, a spokesman for LBC Radio said: "The production team spoke to the boy and his mum, and we were confident the caller was genuine.”

Every child aged five to seven in English state schools will be eligible for a free meal for the first time as part of sweeping reforms spearheaded by Nick Clegg, the Deputy Prime Minister.

The £1 billion programme has been introduced following claims that a cooked meal can have significant health and educational benefits for children in the first few years of school.

However Rohan, who said he was calling from his school in south London, started off by complaining that his own school meals were "unhealthy".

"I was wondering why you had decided to introduce free school meals, which is a very expensive product, when at my school they are quite unhealthy and the evidence shows they don't make children achieve or behave better," he said.

Mr Clegg replied: "The evidence shows that it is in fact extremely helpful.

"So in the schools where this has been introduced in the past ... not only does it save mums and dads money – about £400 a year to pay for the lunchtime costs – not only is it good for your health ...

"I'm sure this is not the case for you, Rohan, but quite a lot of children go to school with lunch boxes that don't have healthy food in them – I don't know, a slice of white bread and a fizzy drink. It's better to have a proper cooked hot healthy meal with vegetables and so on ...

"It's good, isn't it – it's nice when the class eats together."

A seemingly disconcerted Mr Clegg, inadvertently referring to the schoolboy as "Ryan", then attempted to move the discussion on by asking: "What kind of lunch do you eat?"

But Rohan insisted: "I do think it's important to eat well, but a lot of schools, I think, a lot of the parents could already afford to pay for those meals. So I was wondering whether perhaps you could just target it to the areas where parents can't afford to pay for the meals better."

Mr Clegg said: "Actually the children who benefit most are the children who are poor, who are not wealthy ... "

However, Rohan broke in to suggest they would "already be entitled to free school meals".

And when the Lib Dem leader argued that in many areas poorer children were not entitled to free school meals, his inquisitor responded: "Couldn't you just target it to their areas, rather than doing it for the whole country where a lot of people could afford it?"

A chastened Mr Clegg – whose own middle son, Alberto, is nine years old – seized on a sound in the background, commenting "I've just heard your class bell go."

He added: "You really should go into politics – you're one of the most articulate nine-year-olds I've ever come across."

But Rohan refused to let him off the hook, saying: "Just one more thing ... at my old school we have to use the gym for school meals which meant that my younger sister can't do string group and a lot of people at my old school would be missing their lessons in the gym."

Mr Clegg shot back: "But they all have to eat lunch anyway, don't they?"

Rohan responded: "But they wouldn't be using the gym."

Children under eight are to receive free school meals, under plans unveiled by Nick Clegg

The Deputy Prime Minister pointed out that he did not know the circumstances at Rohan's school, but insisted it was not a widespread problem – only to be told: "I think probably quite a lot of schools with this space problem ... My old school is ready, but there are effects for the school that aren't as good as we might want."

Mr Clegg, who ruefully remarked that Rohan sounded "quite exceptional in so many respects", suggested that he might want to go away and read the detailed evidence.

But that only prompted the schoolboy to deploy figures.

"Surely, couldn't you spend some of that money on another project?" he asked.

"Because I have seen the evidence and it wasn't very big, the percentage point increase – it was only 1.9 in one of the trials. And also it was bigger for Key Stage 2 than Key Stage 1."

The Lib Dem leader described him as a "very impressive boy", and raised suspicions that he had been primed by an adult.

"You clearly have someone working with you on this ... which is excellent, excellent," he said.

However, Rohan quickly dismissed the idea. "I did it on my own at home," he said.

Seemingly eager to wrap things up, Mr Clegg said: "You probably need to go back to class."

Rohan, who did not give his surname, said his favourite subjects were maths and science. He disclosed that his lunch yesterday was: "Brown bread sandwiches with minestrone soup, with beans in it and some vegetables, and the salad on the side."


Sunday, September 07, 2014

College is a ludicrous waste of money

Robert Reich

This week, millions of young people head to college and universities, aiming for a four-year liberal arts degree. They assume that degree is the only gateway to the American middle class. 

It shouldn’t be. For one thing, a four-year liberal arts degree is hugely expensive. Too many young people graduate laden with debts that take years if not decades to pay off.

And too many of them can’t find good jobs when they graduate, in any event. So they have to settle for jobs that don’t require four years of college. They end up overqualified for the work they do, and underwhelmed by it.

Others drop out of college because they’re either unprepared or unsuited for a four-year liberal arts curriculum. When they leave, they feel like failures.

We need to open other gateways to the middle class.  Consider, for example, technician jobs. They don’t require a four-year degree. But they do require mastery over a domain of technical knowledge, which can usually be obtained in two years.

Technician jobs are growing in importance. As digital equipment replaces the jobs of routine workers and lower-level professionals, technicians are needed to install, monitor, repair, test, and upgrade all the equipment.

Hospital technicians are needed to monitor ever more complex equipment that now fills medical centers; office technicians, to fix the hardware and software responsible for much of the work that used to be done by secretaries and clerks.

Automobile technicians are in demand to repair the software that now powers our cars; manufacturing technicians, to upgrade the numerically controlled machines and 3-D printers that have replaced assembly lines; laboratory technicians, to install and test complex equipment for measuring results; telecommunications technicians, to install, upgrade, and repair the digital systems linking us to one another.

Technology is changing so fast that knowledge about specifics can quickly become obsolete. That’s why so much of what technicians learn is on the job.

But to be an effective on-the-job learner, technicians need basic knowledge of software and engineering, along the domain where the technology is applied – hospitals, offices, automobiles, manufacturing, laboratories, telecommunications, and so forth.

Yet America isn’t educating the technicians we need. As our aspirations increasingly focus on four-year college degrees, we’ve allowed vocational and technical education to be downgraded and denigrated.

Still, we have a foundation to build on. Community colleges offering two-year degree programs today enroll more than half of all college and university undergraduates. Many students are in full-time jobs, taking courses at night and on weekends. Many are adults.

Community colleges are great bargains. They avoid the fancy amenities four-year liberal arts colleges need in order to lure the children of the middle class.

Even so, community colleges are being systematically starved of funds. On a per-student basis, state legislatures direct most higher-education funding to four-year colleges and universities because that’s what their middle-class constituents want for their kids.

American businesses, for their part, aren’t sufficiently involved in designing community college curricula and hiring their graduates, because their executives are usually the products of four-year liberal arts institutions and don’t know the value of community colleges.

By contrast, Germany provides its students the alternative of a world-class technical education that’s kept the German economy at the forefront of precision manufacturing and applied technology.

The skills taught are based on industry standards, and courses are designed by businesses that need the graduates. So when young Germans get their degrees, jobs are waiting for them.

We shouldn’t replicate the German system in full. It usually requires students and their families to choose a technical track by age 14. “Late bloomers” can’t get back on an academic track.

But we can do far better than we’re doing now. One option: Combine the last year of high school with the first year of community college into a curriculum to train technicians for the new economy.

Affected industries would help design the courses and promise jobs to students who finish successfully. Late bloomers can go on to get their associate degrees and even transfer to four-year liberal arts universities.

This way we’d provide many young people who cannot or don’t want to pursue a four-year degree with the fundamentals they need to succeed, creating another gateway to the middle class.

Too often in modern America, we equate “equal opportunity” with an opportunity to get a four-year liberal arts degree. It should mean an opportunity to learn what’s necessary to get a good job.


Why Does the College Board Hate George Washington and MLK?

What does the College Board have against George Washington and Martin Luther King Jr? Although these men are two of America’s greatest heroes, the College Board’s “redesigned” Advanced Placement U. S. History (APUSH) Framework shoves them aside. Washington’s contribution is limited to a sentence fragment referencing his Farewell Address. King fares even worse—the Framework completely omits the nation’s greatest civil rights leader.

The College Board has offered a variety of excuses to explain these omissions in its course for half a million of the country’s brightest high school students. Apologists claim teachers are of course free to teach Washington, King, and any other American heroes the Framework has. That is true. But the Framework also categorically states, “Beginning with the May 2015 AP U.S. History Exam, no AP U.S. History Exam questions will require students to know historical content that falls outside this concept outline”. The conclusion is obvious: what isn’t tested won’t be taught.

So why did the College Board reduce Washington’s contribution to a single speech and entirely omit King? The real answers to this question go directly to the heart of the College Board’s true agenda and why it must be stopped.

Farewell, George Washington

George Washington was truly America’s indispensable patriot and statesman. He commanded the Continental Army, presided over the Constitutional Convention, and launched our ship of state by serving as America’s first president. Washington’s contemporaries recognized his signal contributions. For one, Virginia Gov. Henry Lee spoke for a grateful nation by eulogizing Washington as “first in war, first in peace, and first in the hearts of his countrymen.”

Unfortunately, Washington was not first in the minds of the College Board authors who wrote the Framework. They relegated the father of our country to this single sentence: “Although George Washington’s Farewell Address warned about the dangers of diverse political parties and permanent foreign alliances, European conflict and tensions with Britain and France fueled increasingly bitter partisan debates throughout the 1790’s.” (To put this treatment of Washington into perspective, imagine how South Africans would respond if an unelected agency issued a history of their country containing just one reference to Nelson Mandela.)

Why did the Framework authors ignore Washington’s enormous contributions to our country and instead focus upon his Farewell Address? The answer is suggested in a recent article by Stanley Kurtz, who establishes a clear link between the Framework’s authors and radical history professor Thomas Bender. Bender considers American exceptionalism a “gross oversimplification” and calls for a new international or global perspective on American history.

From Bender’s global perspective, Washington’s Farewell Address unfortunately influenced America to act according to its own interests, shunning foreign alliances such as the League of Nations. This point of view is evident from the College Board’s sample APUSH exam, which can grant high-scorers college credit. It uses an excerpt from Washington’s Farewell Address as a “stimulus” to launch four multiple-choice questions. Question 31 asks students to conclude that Washington’s Farewell Address “strongly influenced” America’s “refusal to join the League of Nations in 1919.” Question 33 asks students to complete this open-ended statement: “Most historians would argue that the recommendations of Washington’s address ceased to have a significant influence on United States foreign policy as a result of…” The answer is “involvement in the Second World War.”

It appears the Framework authors and exam writers did not select the Farewell Address to highlight one of Washington’s achievements. Instead, they chose it to illustrate the dangers of a foreign policy based solely on national interests. From the authors’ global perspective, the Farewell Address led to America’s disastrous refusal to join the League of Nations and was finally disavowed by America’s involvement in the Second World War and new commitment to a role in global affairs.

Dreaming Away Martin Luther King Jr

The Civil Rights movement dominated American domestic events during most of the time period covered by the Framework’s 1945-to-1980 unit. Inspired by King, black and white activists formed a “coalition of conscience” to press for an end to Jim Crow segregation laws. Astonishingly, the Framework fails to mention Rosa Parks and the Montgomery bus boycott, President Eisenhower and the Little Rock school crisis, and President Kennedy and the Birmingham demonstrations. Even more astonishingly, the Framework authors omit King and his role in these historic events.

Why did they omit King? Perhaps because his famous “Dream” was, as he eloquently explained, “deeply rooted in the American dream,” which is in turn firmly anchored in the inspiring set of ideals embodied in American exceptionalism.

The College Board disclaims political intent, insisting the Framework provides a “balanced” guide that merely helps streamline its U.S. History course. In reality, its authors have embraced a “transnational” perspective antithetical to the idea of American exceptionalism. The omission of King and his “I Have a Dream” speech fits into a broader pattern of scrubbing out any trace of American exceptionalism.

Revoke the Framework

The APUSH Framework has ignited a storm of protests. Outraged citizens, bloggers, commentators, and historians have all criticized the Framework’s biased treatment of American history. The Republican National Committee has unanimously passed a resolution demanding the College Board rescind the new Framework and restore its previous Topic Outline.

The College Board has thus far refused to meaningfully address these concerns. It cannot be allowed to force a politicized course into American classrooms. If the College Board is permitted to remain above the will of the people, it will become the de facto central authority of American education.


Private school cadet forces 'facing closure' in funding shift

Dozens of private school cadet forces are facing closure because of a “disastrous” cut in funding aimed at boosting representation in the state system, headmasters have warned.

New rules that would see pupils forced to pay £150 a year to join could spell the end of large numbers of Combined Cadet Force (CCF) units in independent schools, it was claimed.

One private school head told the Times Educational Supplement how the reforms – to be phased in from next year – would result in the cost of running his unit soaring from £60,000 to £100,000.

At present, 260 schools run cadet forces and receive more than £26 million a year to cover staff training, uniforms, rifles, facilities and volunteer expenses. Around 200 units are in private schools, often being seen as vital preparation for a career in the Armed Forces.

But the government has pledged to introduce 100 new cadet units in state schools by the end of 2015.

Earlier this year, it emerged that ministers had agreed to help fulfil the promise by sharing the funding enjoyed by existing CCFs with the new state school units.

It has now also emerged that an additional fee of £150 per cadet will be charged to existing pupils to help pay for the scheme from September 2018. Direct grants would be removed over a four-year period from 2015 in preparation for the change.

In a letter to head teachers, Major General John Crackett, Assistant Chief of the Defence Staff, said new units would have to pay a contribution towards their own costs, adding: “This has thrown into sharp relief the disparity between new units, which contribute to the public costs of their CCF, and existing units, which do not.

“My aim is to achieve a funding and charging regime for the CCF that is both equitable and sustainable.”

But heads of private schools insisted the changes could spell the end of their own units, some of which have been running for more than a century. Concerns have been raised that CCF units in the state system can apply for support grants that are not available to their peers in the fee-paying sector.

Thomas Garnier, head of the independent Pangbourne College, Reading, who represents the CCF for the Headmasters’ and Headmistresses’ Conference, said some schools would find it “difficult to justify” running a unit.

“There will be a net loss of cadets; schools will close units and do leadership and character training instead,” he said. It’s a disaster for the cadet movement.”

Simon Davies, the head of Eastbourne College, which runs a 335-strong unit formed in 1895, told how the reduction of a direct grant combined with the introduction of fees would almost double the costs of the CCF from £60,000 to £100,000 a year.

“It is very clear to me that these proposals and the admirable ambition to extend the CCF to all schools show a complete lack of comprehension of the real costs of running a CCF,” he said.

The Military of Defence insisted details of funding had not been finalised, with a consultation with heads currently ongoing.

“We want to expand the number of Combined Cadet Forces units across all schools so that more young people can develop important life skills such as leadership and confidence," a spokesman said. "To help do this we want to establish an improved, more sustainable funding structure which is fairer for schools and so many more children can benefit from the skills cadetship brings. We are working closely with schools to establish the best way forward.”