Friday, June 19, 2015


The political left has come up with a new buzzword: “micro-aggression.”

Professors at the University of California at Berkeley have been officially warned against saying such things as “America is the land of opportunity.” Why? Because this is considered to be an act of “micro-aggression” against minorities and women. Supposedly it shows that you don’t take their grievances seriously and are therefore guilty of being aggressive toward them, even if only on a micro scale.

You might think that this is just another crazy idea from Berkeley. But the same concept appears in a report from the flagship campus of the University of Illinois at Urbana. If you just sit in a room where all the people are white, you are considered to be guilty of “micro-aggression” against people who are not white, who will supposedly feel uncomfortable when they enter such a room.

At UCLA, a professor who changed the capitalization of the word “indigenous” to lower case in a student’s dissertation was accused of “micro-aggression,” apparently because he preferred to follow the University of Chicago Manual of Style, rather than the student’s attempt to enhance the importance of being indigenous.

When a group of UCLA law students came to class wearing T-shirts with a picture of one of their professors who had organized an intramural softball game, those T-shirts were protested as a manifestation of “white privilege.”

Why? Because that professor had written a book critical of affirmative action.

“Micro-aggression” protests have spread to campuses from coast to coast — that is, from California’s Berkeley and UCLA to Harvard and Fordham on the east coast, and including Oberlin and Illinois in the midwest.

Academic administrators have all too often taken the well-worn path of least resistance, by regarding the most trivial, or even silly, claims of victimhood with great seriousness, even when that involved undermining faculty members held in high esteem by most of their students and by their professional colleagues on campus and beyond.

The concept of “micro-aggression” is just one of many tactics used to stifle differences of opinion by declaring some opinions to be “hate speech,” instead of debating those differences in a marketplace of ideas. To accuse people of aggression for not marching in lockstep with political correctness is to set the stage for justifying real aggression against them.

This tactic reaches far beyond academia and far beyond the United States. France’s Jean-Paul Sartre has been credited — if that is the word — with calling social conditions he didn’t like “violence,” as a prelude to justifying real violence as a response to those conditions. Sartre’s American imitators have used the same verbal tactic to justify ghetto riots.

Word games are just one of the ways of silencing politically incorrect ideas, instead of debating them. Demands that various conservative organizations be forced to reveal the names of their donors are another way of silencing ideas by intimidating people who facilitate the spread of those ideas. Whatever the rationale for wanting those names, the implicit threat is retaliation.

This same tactic was used, decades ago, by Southern segregationists who tried to force black civil rights organizations to reveal the names of their donors, in a situation where retaliation might have included violence as well as economic losses.

In a sense, the political left’s attempts to silence ideas they cannot, or will not, debate are a confession of intellectual bankruptcy. But this is just one of the left’s ever-increasing restrictions on other people’s freedom to live their lives as they see fit, rather than as their betters tell them.

Current attempts by the Obama administration to force low-income housing to be built in middle class and upscale communities are on a par with forcing people to buy the kind of health insurance the government wants them to buy — ObamaCare — rather than leaving them free to buy whatever suits their own situation and preferences.

The left is not necessarily aiming at totalitarianism. But their know-it-all mindset leads repeatedly and pervasively in that direction, even if by small steps, each of which might be called “micro-totalitarianism.


A major British university bullied into compliance with Greenie superstitions

The eco-Fascists report:

You can’t buy fossil fuel divestment campaigners with pizza, and deploying heavy-handed security guards doesn’t work too well either. These are lessons the University of Edinburgh had to learn the hard way.

Three weeks ago, the university was digging in its heels, doubling down on years of refusal to listen to divestment campaigners. Then, on Thursday, it backed down. It agreed to dump coal and tar sands oil from its investment portfolio.

What happened?

From early on, the University made it alarmingly clear that it had no interest in meeting our targets for full fossil fuels and arms divestment. Arms were the first item dropped from the conversation, and a full fossil fuel divestment measure soon followed.

Our student activist group, People & Planet, was offered a half-hearted reassurance from the university that it would partially divest from coal and tar sands. Although we were dismayed, we thought is was at least a good starting point.

But when the university dropped the hammer again, announcing it would take a company-by-company divestment approach, and planned to use its £9 million investment to change polluters from the inside, we knew it was time to take more serious action.

So we occupied.

Over the period of a 10-day occupation of the university’s finance department, we had a staff member liken us to Nazis, among many other disdainful comments directed at our cause and ourselves.

Despite our protest being peaceful, shortly after our arrival private security companies were brought in to be, in the words of the security guards themselves, “much more heavy-handed”.

Later, a security guard was charged with assault after a video emerged of him choking a student on the ground. As a response to the unsafe situation, the University met with occupiers and offered to buy them pizza.

The students who took action understand the challenges they will face due to systemic inaction on climate change and will not be satisfied by a university which considers buying pizza an apt response to an assault charge.

The reason the University of Edinburgh occupation was so successful is largely because of the resolve of students who can’t be deterred by verbal and physical threats and certainly won’t be appeased by party food.

When it came down to it, what made the difference was that 30 students were willing to set aside their holidays and take a stand. Whether it was planned or not, in 10 days those 30 occupiers caused a movement to swell up outside the University of Edinburgh’s finance department building.

A Nobel Laureate and member of Scottish Parliament visited, Naomi Klein supported us from afar, we received backing from academics and people around the world. Locals brought us pastries and kindergarten children wrote us thank-you letters for not letting the university make money by sacrificing their futures to dirty energy.

Last but certainly not least, 300 alumni delivered the final blow by sending an open letter to the University of Edinburgh, announcing that they would no longer donate to the university if that money was to be invested in companies involved in climate destruction.


UK: Leftist nutjob was so left wing that he divorced his wife when she refused to send their son to a failing "comprehensive" school

A fanatic

Labour leadership contender Jeremy Corbyn has admitted that he divorced his wife of 12 years – because she refused to send their son to a failing comprehensive school.

Mr Corbyn, speaking about the split for the first time since making it onto the Labour leadership ballot paper this week, admitted that he felt 'very strongly about comprehensive education' and could not agree to send his son to a grammar.

The issue came to a head in 1999 when couple's son Ben was only offered a place at a comprehensive which had been placed on a list of failing schools.

His then wife, the left-wing Chilean campaigner Claudia Bracchitta, refused to let the then 11-year-old pay the price for his father's political beliefs and decided to send him to a grammar school nine-miles away from their home on the outskirts of London.

Speaking to the Guardian, Mr Corbyn admitted that he 'hated' that period in his life. He said: 'I hated the pressure put on my kids as a result of it, and it was very unpleasant. We divorced.'

Mr Corbyn, who will face Andy Burnham, Yvette Cooper and Liz Kendall in the run off to be Labour leader, insisted he still gets on 'very well' with his former wife.

He said: 'I don't like dragging personal things into my political life. And I think it's very sad when that happens. I don't criticise anybody else for what happens with their children, and I don't expect people to interfere with my children's lives.'

But asked if it was an issue of principle, Mr Corbyn replied: 'I feel very strongly about comprehensive education, yes.'

Mr Corbyn – who believes Ed Miliband was not left wing enough to convince voters to back Labour – also admitted that he could not be friends with anyone who was not left wing.  'At the end of the day, it's the question of your values - they get in the way,' he told the Guardian.

Speaking about the divorce at the time, Ms Bracchitta said she had 'no choice' about it. She said: 'I couldn't send Ben to a [sink] school where I knew he wouldn't be happy.   'Whereas Jeremy was able to make one sort of decision, I wasn't. It's a position you are pushed into rather than one you choose.'

At the time Labour-run Islington council was the third worst education authority in the country and the only comprehensive school prepared to offer their son a place, Holloway, was on a list of failing schools.

Ms Bracchitta refused to let Ben attend the school, and instead got a place for him at Queen Elizabeth's grammar school, nine miles away in Barnet.

She says: 'I didn't have a premeditated idea that I had chosen this school years ago. 'I didn't know until after Ben got in that it was one of the top five in Britain. I only wanted a school that was near here and would be really good for Ben.


Thursday, June 18, 2015

'Teach British values in schools', says head of Ofsted

The teaching of British values in schools is vital to help prevent pupils being lured abroad to join ISIS, the head of Ofsted said yesterday.

Sir Michael Wilshaw, chief inspector of schools, insisted that young Muslim pupils ‘need to believe that they belong to our society’ and have a future here.  This will help stop them from falling for the promises made by terrorists in Syria and Iraq.

The former headteacher warned that schools which fail to promote British values – such as tolerance for other faiths – will be failed by the watchdog.

He spoke out following the death of 17-year-old Talha Asmal, who beacme Britain’ s youngest suicide bomber. The teenager, from Dewsbury, West Yorkshire, had quit his A-levels to wage holy war in Iraq.

Just days later it emerged that three sisters from Bradford and their nine children – thought to be aged between three and 15 - have joined Islamic State in Syria.

Sir Michael was asked for his reaction to the two controversial cases by LBC radio show presenter, Nick Ferrari, yesterday morning.  He replied: ‘It is worrying and it is shocking. We are inspecting against British values at the moment.

‘When this was introduced by the government, people said to me: is this an extra burden on Ofsted and your HMI and inspectors?’ And I said no. ‘It’s one of the most important things that we do.

‘It’s really important that all schools, whether they are faith or non-faith schools, whether in monocultural communities or not, teach British values: the importance of tolerance, the importance of understanding other cultures and other faiths.

‘And if they don’t do that and they don’t promote tolerance, then we will mark them down and we will fail them as we have done in some cases.’

Sir Michael referred to schools inspected by Ofsted in connection with ‘Trojan Horse’, an alleged plot by hardline Muslims to infiltrate state schools.

It had emerged last October that five Birmingham schools declared as failing by inspectors as part of this probe had still not improved.

Sir Michael said: ‘If you cast your mind back to the Birmingham schools, they were preaching intolerance to those youngsters in those communities and we failed them as a result of that.

‘It’s quite easy actually for inspectors to go in and say: are you teaching about the predominant faith in your school and others?

‘Are you teaching about the importance of tolerating other people and other cultures? Are you doing it through your RE lessons?

‘Are you doing it through your PSHE programmes? You can tell very quickly whether a school is doing that or not and if they’re not doing that, they’re going to fail an Ofsted inspection.’

When asked about how big a problem the country faces in light of recent events, he said: ‘I think it is a problem.

‘I think these youngsters need to believe that they belong to our society.  ‘They need to believe that there is hope for them, that the education system is there for them, that they will do well in their examination, that they will be able to get a job and they will have a real strong and secure future in this country and that they will be appreciated by society.

‘If they don’t believe that then the temptation is to listen to the voices that say: ‘come across to Syria’.’

Mr Ferrari asked if it was fair to suggest that the British education system has let these young people down.

Sir Michael replied: ‘Well, they have been let down in some institutions and we have highlighted those institutions.

‘But we’ve got to make sure that these youngsters in these areas, in these monocultural areas, particularly in areas with large Muslim populations, (that) they have terrific schools which show them that British education is doing well by them. That’s really important.’

Private and state schools have been required by the government to ‘actively promote’ British values – including democracy and the rule of law - since last September.  Prior to this, schools only needed to ‘respect’ these values.

Children as young as 11 are among hundreds of people being identified as at risk of radicalisation, it was revealed yesterday.  Some 973 people from the north west have been referred to the government’s anti-radicalisation programme, Channel, since it was set up in 2007.

Of the 350 under-18s feared to be at risk, 224 were aged between 12 and 16 while 63 were under 12, according to the data obtained under the Freedom of Information Act from The National Police Chiefs Council.

Between 2011 and 2012, the number of children being referred from the region shot up by 127 per cent from 29 to 66 - and has remained steady ever since.

Rochdale Labour MP, Simon Danczuk, warned the country is ‘sleepwalking into radicalisation’.  He said: ‘I am horrified that growing numbers of pre-pubescent children in our region are being referred to the government agency dealing with people being drawn into terrorism.

‘Children under the age of 12 should be thinking about Lego and football not terrorism in the Middle East. These figures should act as a wake-up call and demand urgent action.

‘We’re sleepwalking into a big problem with radicalisation. The government’s Prevent programme is failing miserably, social media companies need to do more to stop radicalisation online and mosques and the wider community need to be vigilant about people being groomed for terrorism.’

Channel was created under the last Labour government to support those at risk of being drawn into violent extremism.

It forms part of Prevent, the national anti-terror strategy, and draws together a range of agencies - including schools, universities, police, social services and probation - to identify people thought to be vulnerable to radicalisation.


Parents' anger after British school bans children from performing cartwheels and handstands at break times

Parents have blasted a primary school after its head teacher has banned children from doing cartwheels and handstands at break times over safety fears.

Pupils at Old Priory Junior Academy in Plympton, Devon, were told they couldn't perform 'gymnastic movements' in the playground after a number of children had been left with injuries.

Emma Hermon-Wright, the school's interim head, said she has introduced the break-time ban because the children were attempting moves which are 'beyond their capability'.

But angry parents have criticised the school's decision, which has been described as 'ridiculous' and one woman says her daughter has been left 'distraught' as a result of the new rule.

The mother, who did not want to be named, said: 'Are we to wrap them up in cotton wool every morning before sending them in to school? What happened to kids being kids?

'Climbing, running, jumping and indeed cartwheels are all part of childhood.  'When I was at school, coming home with a grazed knee and bruised shins meant that you'd had a good day.

'Not to mention the fact that you are moving your body, gaining confidence, building self-esteem, developing resilience, working on balance, strengthening and stretching muscles, developing co-ordination, taking risks and delighting in shared play experiences.'

Sarah Evans, of Plymouth, Devon, whose two children Josh, 10, and Charlie, eight, who both attend the school, said: 'It is officially the world gone mad.'

'I can see why they are probably doing it - but I wouldn't say I agree with it. In this world of health and safety I am not surprised.

'They are taking away a child's right to be a child and they are taking away the things we took for granted as children. 'As a parent I just simply don't agree with it. Bumps and scrapes are all part of the rough and tumble of being a child.

'If I was not allowed to do cartwheels and handstands as a child I would have felt deprived. I remember my childhood when we used to do them all the time. It is a great shame the school has made this decision.'

Another parent, who asked not to be named, said: 'The first thing we heard was when a friend sent it to me on Facebook.

'It is ridiculous. They are banning children from being children. Injuring yourself is all part of growing up. How can you grow up without injuring yourself sometimes?  'They are not allowed to run, play conkers and now they can't do handstands. They are not allowed to take any risks. Handstands and cartwheels are just part of normal play. Banning them is stupid.'

Mrs Hermon-Wright, defending her decision, said: 'Following a number of minor incidents we took action to ban these gymnastic activities during play and lunch.

'Through PE lessons in primary schools, pupils are carefully taught to develop movements of their bodies in safe, controlled and supported ways.

'At playtime our children were not performing these in such a way and pupils were attempting gymnastic movements beyond their capability. This was resulting in injuries.' 

She added that the safety of pupils at Old Priory is the responsibility of the school and the most important thing to her school.  'This action was carefully considered in order to safeguard the pupils of Old Priory which is the most important thing to us,' she said.

'We are happy to discuss any matter with parents and would have done prior to this report.

'Ultimately safety and well-being of the pupils whilst at Old Priory is our responsibility and I feel very strongly that this is the correct decision to make at this time.'

Chris McGovern, chairman of the Campaign for Real Education, described the ruling as 'tragic' and 'unwise' by the school.

He told MailOnline: 'This decision is robbing children of their childhood. It is part of the growing up process and the sense of adventure.

'If we remove all risk from children's lives we are damaging the children rather than helping them. We need to encourage them to take risks rather than mollycoddling them.

'One of the reasons the school may have taken this decision is due to legal claims, and I understand that but they should be taking sensible precautions.

'This school has made an unwise ruling and quite frankly it's tragic to take this away from their lives.'


Knowledge – it builds character

UK education secretary Nicky Morgan recently announced a new education initiative ahead of the Rugby World Cup. Schools up and down the country, she said, will be welcoming premiership rugby coaches into the classroom in order to help students develop strong ‘grit and resilience’. It is part of Morgan’s ongoing drive to develop ‘character education’ in schools. At a time when many are concerned about children’s basic levels of literacy and numeracy, such a bland and uninspiring project, unconcerned with anything remotely academic, seems suspect.

Morgan announced that more than £500,000 will be allocated to 14 professional rugby clubs to ‘design and deliver programmes to use the sport’s ethos of discipline and respect to build character and resilience in pupils’. The project is one of 14 initiatives to receive a share of the Department for Education’s (DfE) £3.5million character grant scheme. Morgan has said that the scheme will give children the ‘chance to fulfil their potential and achieve their high aspirations’, and help the government achieve ‘real social justice’.

While this particular initiative, coming as it does amid the campus war on rugby teams and ‘lad culture’, is a somewhat welcome promotion of the positive aspects of sport, the character-education scheme more broadly is one in a long line of government programmes that completely misunderstands social justice and the positive contribution education can make to children’s development.

A subject-knowledge-focused approach to education has, once again, been pushed aside in favour of a therapeutic approach, which is more concerned with teaching children the ‘soft skills’ they apparently need to navigate the modern world. While those children lucky enough to attend the top independent schools learn the classics, read great literature, study histories of human civilisation and marvel at the wonders of the universe, state-school pupils, perhaps considered too ‘vulnerable’ to tackle hard subjects, receive a rather less demanding education. Hence, rather than encouraging pupils to look beyond themselves and learn about the great triumphs of humanity, schemes such as Morgan’s urge state-school pupils to focus on the development of narrow ‘life skills’.

Worse still, when subject knowledge is removed from the classroom, replaced by demands to impart ‘skills and confidence’ in pupils, the authority and academic expertise of the teacher is sidelined. Without the ability to offer students something of inherent academic value, teachers become increasingly superfluous.

If this government is to achieve ‘real social justice’, it must have faith in the ability of state-school pupils to grapple with the best that has been thought and said. By helping pupils understand the great achievements and triumphs of humanity, we can impart to younger generations the confidence to go out into the world and make their own mark on history. That’s character in anyone’s book.


Wednesday, June 17, 2015

British schools are cheating in exams to boost their league table position

Schools are cheating the exam system to boost their league table performance, investigators have found.  Teachers have altered exam answers, inflated GCSE marks and even told pupils to copy coursework from textbooks.

Whistleblowers told Channel 4’s Dispatches programme that the practice is well known but few teachers will speak out as they fear for their careers.

One headmaster who was caught altering Sats papers said he was later told by another head: ‘The only thing you did wrong was you got caught.’

In 2013, 37 state primary schools had Sats results annulled for maladministration and there were 511 reports of alleged cheating.

Education author Warwick Mansell told the programme: ‘I think it is a bigger problem than many people are aware of.’

In one case, King’s Farm school in Gravesend, Kent, allowed a child to rewrite answers after an exam finished.

Evidence also suggested that the youngest children at King’s Farm were marked down in order to show better academic progress later on.

Kent County Council confirmed it had found evidence of ‘inappropriate behaviour’ and a new leadership team was in place.

And Portslade Aldridge Community Academy in Brighton signed pupils off the school roll so it could boost its headline exam results. The school admitted it had ‘wrongly’ moved 12 pupils to guest status before GCSE exams.

In one secondary school rated ‘outstanding’ by Ofsted, teachers told pupils to copy coursework from a textbook. Another teacher revealed she was encouraged to give pupils grades they did not deserve.

A Department for Education spokesman said: ‘We trust the professionalism of teachers to administer the Key Stage 2 tests according to the published guidance, and it is essential that the integrity and security of these tests is maintained.’


Walker's Budget Makes Important Education Reforms

Wisconsin is moving closer to repealing Common Core

As Scott Walker tours the country on his campaign for the presidency, he has not forsaken his state, turning in a budget that would make important reforms in education policy. It’s beyond the scope of this piece to analyze the budget in full - it contains rather more spending and borrowing than most conservatives would like - but in the area of education reform it takes some pretty important steps forward.

Most importantly, the budget would prohibit the State Superintendent, a vocal proponent of Common Core, from advertising or promoting the standards to local school districts. This is important because, while school districts in Wisconsin are permitted to opt out of the standards, few have done so as a result from pressure from the Department of Public Instruction. Walker’s budget would relieve that pressure, and allow schools to determine their own destiny. Last July, Walker came out strong against the standards, saying “Today, I call on the members of the state legislature to pass a bill in early January to repeal Common Core and replace it with standards set by people in Wisconsin.”

The reason most of the districts have adopted Common Core standards is because the statewide mandated tests are aligned with them. Walker’s budget calls for new tests, which would make it easier for schools to opt out without fearing failure on the tests.

In other parts of the budget, Republicans in the state legislature are taking education proposals farther than Walker originally intended. These include lifting caps on the number of school vouchers in the state and expanding the opportunity to open independent charter schools.

Not everything the legislature did was an improvement, though, with the rejection of some large spending cuts that would contribute towards balancing the state’s budget. After the amendment process is complete, the legislature will have to vote on the two-year budget and resubmit it to Gov. Walker for his signature.

These state-level reforms come just as the U.S. Senate prepares to consider a reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. The new bill, under the name The Every Child Achieves Act, would maintain federal testing mandates, but would also forbid the Department of Education from incentivizing or coercing states into adopting Common Core or similar standards. This would free up states like Wisconsin to ditch Common Core for good without having to worry about losing funding as a result. Until now, this has been the biggest hurdle for many states who would like to lose the standards, but feel unable to due to pressure from the federal government.


Australia: Victoria's quest to be the Education State

The Victorian government is on a quest to be the 'education state'. Two discussion papers were released this week to generate community interest and feedback. The discussion paper on schools is not lengthy but it is revealing.

It reiterates the Victorian government's decision not to commit to the full term of the six year funding agreement signed with the previous Labor federal government - the so-called 'Gonski' funding package. Only the four years to 2017 will be funded; a new funding model is being developed for 2018 and beyond. While this decision has attracted criticism from the NSW education minister and some of the members of the Gonski review committee, there are good reasons for it. First among them is the recognition that committing future governments to a very large increase in the school education budget is not defensible. In addition, the existing model can be improved, so locking it in for six years would be inadvisable. Funding for disadvantaged and struggling students can and should be targeted more effectively.

Importantly, the document also reveals the Victorian government's commitment to autonomy and choice in schools. Its case studies demonstrate what can be achieved when schools have flexibility to use their resources to maximise educational impact ­­­- for example, electing to have slightly larger class sizes to free teachers for mentoring and feedback. It speaks of striving for excellence in all schools, 'ensuring that all schools are schools of choice'. Teaching is rightly a focus in the document, but perhaps the most glaring omission is the lack of attention to principals and school leadership.

Federal systems of government are often frustrating, but they are also useful. States can be like 'policy laboratories' - if they are successful, other states can replicate their reforms. If they fail, only one state is affected rather than the whole country. The Victorian government's approach to school education is in many respects quite different to that in other states and territories. No state has it entirely right, but there is a lot to like about Victoria's approach.


Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Scholars Blast U.S. History Rewrite

Fifty-five top historians have signed an open letter criticizing the College Board’s revamp of its Advanced Placement U.S. history curriculum, in which half a million of the nation’s brightest students enroll each year. It is the final U.S. history class many ever take.

The National Association of Scholars, which coordinated the letter, notes: “Lynne Cheney, Bruce Cole, Patrick J. Deneen, Robert George, Leon Kass, Victor Davis Hanson, and Harvey Mansfield signed the letter, among several dozen other prominent scholars.” Their letter says:

The College Board’s 2014 Advanced Placement Examination shortchanges students by imposing on them an arid, fragmentary, and misleading account of American history. We favor instead a robust, vivid, and content-rich account of our unfolding national drama, warts and all, a history that is alert to all the ways we have disagreed and fallen short of our ideals, while emphasizing the ways that we remain one nation with common ideals and a shared story.

The College Board has so far dismissed critics of its curricular rewrite as nitpicking, right-wing rubes. It turns out serious, credible scholars agree with the critics. This means people like Stanford University scholar Peter Berkowitz are right to forecast trouble for America if College Board retains its curricular monopoly over high-school classes that can lead to college credit. He writes:

By obscuring this nation’s founding principles and promise, the College Board’s U.S. history guidelines will erode the next generation’s disposition to preserve what is best in the American political tradition. It will also weaken students’ ability to improve our laws and political institutions in light of America’s constitutional commitment to limited government, individual liberty, and equality under law.

Academic integrity would require College Board to improve and un-bias its rewrite. A central reason it would not is that College Board is a monopoly provider locked into many American schools by exclusive contracts with states and schools. So it’s not susceptible to market pressure. It’s susceptible to and can itself wield political pressure.

The best way to ensure private entities like College Board cannot dictate to local schools the opportunities they can offer students is for at least one other competitor to arise and challenge College Board with better products.  Any takers?


PC censorship gone mainstream

This Kafkaesque debacle shows how officialdom has green-lit campus censorship

The case of Laura Kipnis is one that comes to us as if from another planet. The story of the US professor who was brought up on campus sexual-discrimination and harassment charges for writing an article criticising the college’s sexual-discrimination and harassment guidelines, is enough to make even the most jaded observer of campus censorship weep.

Kipnis, a tenured film professor at Northwestern University, wrote an article for the Chronicle of Higher Education in February criticising the ‘sexual paranoia’ of modern campus life. She took umbrage at her university’s ‘great prohibition’ on professors dating students; it was encouraging female students to see themselves, she said, as the nubile ‘putty in the hands of all-powerful professors’.

This ‘feminist melodrama’, as she put it, had, in turn, created an environment in which what constituted sexual assault was diluted to the level of meaninglessness. She recalled a widely reported allegation of sexual harassment made by a Northwestern student against a professor. Despite the fact their accounts of who instigated what differ, what is clear is that the two went out to see an exhibition, got drunk and wound up in the same bed – where some fondling ensued.

The student filed sexual-harassment charges against him and he was eventually sacked. She’s now also suing him for ‘gender violence’. When the professor attempted to file a defamation suit against the news outlets that reported the incident as a ‘rape’, it was thrown out by a judge who told the professor the news outlets had provided an accurate description of what had happened.

Looking back fondly on her days as an undergraduate, ‘in that too-brief interregnum after the sexual revolution and before AIDS’, Kipnis worried in the piece that students today were missing out on a bit of innocent, intergenerational nookie, while learning to recast all unpleasant or regretted sexual experiences as sexual assault. ‘[The current climate is] leaving students disabled when it comes to the ordinary interpersonal tangles and erotic confusions that pretty much everyone has to deal with’, she wrote.

Kipnis’s argument, though perceptive, thoughtful and witty, was pure, cab-driver common sense. Women can make their own decisions. Regretted fondling is not rape. The sky is blue. Water is wet. Thanks. But, as we all know, even common sense doesn’t cut it on campus these days.

After the article was published, a group of around 30 students marched on campus carrying mattresses, in a nod to Columbia University’s ‘mattress girl’, and launched a petition calling for the college to condemn Kipnis’s comments. And it didn’t stop there. Two students then filed Title IX charges against Kipnis, the self-same regulations that cut down Professor Fondle, alleging that her article, and a subsequent tweet she posted, would have a ‘chilling effect on students’ ability to report sexual misconduct’. After a 72-day investigation, costing the university, at Kipnis’s estimate, $75,000 in legal fees, she was cleared.

The Kafkaesque proceedings have rightly sparked outrage, but they were only a headline-grabbing product of the hysterical and intolerant climate that has been raging on campus for years. The definition of harassment has been expanded to the point of meaninglessness, especially on US campuses, where, as Kipnis’s case demonstrated, closed-off tribunals rule on students’ and academics’ fate with a diluted standard of evidence, due process and criminal definition. As Kipnis notes in her piece, anything from ‘inappropriate humour’ to complimenting female students on their appearance can now fall foul of sexual-discrimination and harassment guidelines.

This blithe conflation between actions and words, between innocent comments and actual discrimination and harassment, has inevitably led to students claiming that opinions also pose them real harm. And this really is having a ‘chilling effect’ on academia. Kipnis’s career was put in jeopardy purely for expressing an opinion that went against the grain of her students’ political views. What hope is there for academic freedom when professors can’t even prick their students’ prejudices for fear of facing a set of trumped-up charges?

But what the chorus of disdain for the Kipnis kangaroo court has missed is how thoroughly mainstream the political trends it crashed together are. The hysteria on campus is not, as some might have it, the product of a uniquely intolerant cohort of young people, indoctrinated by tenured cultural Marxists. Kipnis, as with so many before her, was brought up on charges that were mandated by university bureaucrats and the highest echelons of officialdom.

Title IX, a provision of US federal law that deals with gender discrimination in state-funded educational institutions, is a longstanding fixture of the governing framework of US colleges. Originally brought in to end discrimination on the basis of sex, Title IX regulations have proved, in the words of one commentator, ‘remarkably elastic’. In the 1990s, the Clinton administration issued guidance that extended Title IX’s reach to enforce gender-quota regimes for sports participation. And, in 2011, an infamous ‘Dear Colleague’ letter from the US Department of Education offered guidelines on how Title IX should be used to tackle sexual harassment and assault, including vague definitions of wrongdoing, a much lower standard of proof and the dropping of the usual First Amendment protections.

It is against this backdrop that even an off-colour joke or a misplaced compliment has become suspect. The charges brought against Kipnis are the inevitable consequence of the conflation of action and speech, which has been enforced and codified at an official level.

While, undoubtedly, the ideas underpinning campus censorship have been shaped and influenced by batty anti-porn feminists, furthered by speech-policing multiculturalists and taken to their demented conclusion by the new generation of illiberal students, we shouldn’t give these nutjobs too much credit. The current malaise springs from the diminished view of the individual, and of women in particular, that has taken hold in mainstream political institutions in the absence of a robust defence of individual freedom and autonomy.

The battle lines for free speech on campus are not lined with mattresses. The problem runs much deeper.


Tim Hunt: how public shaming harms academia

Sir Tim Hunt, a Nobel Prize-winning scientist and Royal Society fellow, has today resigned his professorial post at University College London’s faculty of life sciences. His resignation follows comments he made earlier this week, at a conference in South Korea, about ‘girls’ in science labs: ‘Let me tell you about my trouble with girls… three things happen when they are in the lab… You fall in love with them, they fall in love with you and when you criticise them, they cry.’

Both UCL and the Royal Society immediately sought to distance themselves from Hunt’s remarks, which he has since suggested were intended to be lighthearted. Hunt has since issued an apology: ‘I’m really, really sorry I caused any offence, that’s awful. I certainly didn’t mean that. I just meant to be honest, actually.’ But this has not been enough to prevent a wave of media interest in, and public criticism of, Hunt. Female scientists have taken to Twitter to post pictures of themselves in their labs under the banner #DistractinglySexy. The Guardian is asking women to share their stories of sexism in science.

Hunt’s comments are as silly as they are outdated; his Nobel Prize clearly wasn’t awarded for political correctness. But this is precisely the point. Hunt is a scientist; his talents lie in biochemistry, particularly in cells and proteins, and not diplomacy. Due to the public humiliation of this 72-year-old man, British academia has now lost a talented scientist. The members of Hunt’s lab will no longer have access to his experience and knowledge. The work he had been pursuing will presumably now be abandoned.

Hunt’s remarks are being taken seriously because science is considered by many in higher education to have a gender problem. Despite campaigns stretching back over many decades, only 16 per cent of professors in science, engineering and technology subjects are female. David Colquhoun, emeritus professor of pharmacology at University College London, said Hunt’s comments were a ‘disaster for the advancement of women’. But are women scientists really so fragile that they’ll be discouraged by a flippant comment made on the other side of the world? The assumption that they will give up, or never get going in the first place, because of a throwaway sexist sentence just repeats the ‘crying over criticism’ point Hunt is being slammed for making – albeit in an apparently more caring form.

Hunt’s resignation reminds us that, in today’s universities, expressing the supposedly correct view on a matter is far more important than any contribution to knowledge an idiosyncratic individual might make. Academics and students alike are kept in line with speech codes, anti-harassment policies and safe-space initiatives. The pressure to conform to an approved way of behaving and speaking impacts on everyone, from students to world-renowned scientists. Everyone – male and female – is intellectually poorer as a result.


Monday, June 15, 2015

UC Faculty Training: Saying ‘America Is the Land of Opportunity’ Is a Microaggression

by Katherine Timpf

The phrase is just one of many that faculty were advised not to use. A University of California faculty leader-training handout instructed professors not to say that “America is the land of opportunity” because that’s a racist, sexist microaggression.

 According to the handout, called “Tool: Recognizing Microaggressions and the Messages they Send,” the statement “assert[s] that race and gender [do] not play a role in life successes” — despite the fact that saying opportunities exist and saying that opportunities are more easily attainable for some people than others are not mutually exclusive assertions.

Other microaggressions listed on the document include asking, “Where are you from or where were you born?” (because it suggests that the person you’re asking is “not a true American”); asking a post-doctoral minority student whether he or she is lost in the halls of a chemistry building (because it makes ”the assumption that the person is trying to break into one of the labs”); and having students fill out forms on which they have to check a box indicating whether they’re male or female.

Another handout, called “Tool for Identifying Implicit Bias: Awareness of Common Shortcuts,” listed some no-nos for conducting a job search, including “expecting candidates to resemble someone whom the search committee is replacing” — despite the fact that looking to replace an employee with a similar employee seems pretty logical given the fact that the replacement by definition would be doing the same kind of work.

According to the university’s webpage, the seminars were initiated by UC president and former Department of Homeland Security head Janet Napolitano. Napolitano’s invitation touted them as a place to talk about the “best way to build and nurture a productive academic climate” and help attendees meet their “responsibility” to do so.

Napolitano’s invitation, dated last January, announced that the seminars would be offered at all ten UC system schools, but an article posted Wednesday on the College Fix states that they were held at only nine of the ten campuses throughout the 2014–15 school year.


UK: Primary schools ban Muslim pupils from fasting during Ramadan with one saying it is a health risk for young children

A primary school trust has banned Muslim pupils from fasting during Ramadan, claiming the tradition can be harmful to the health of young children.

Barclay Primary School in Leyton, east London, issued a letter to parents informing them that it would not allow children attending school to fast in order to 'safeguard the health and education of the child'.

The move has been slammed by members of the Muslim community who said schools should seek to support parents instead of 'blanket enforce' their own rules when it comes to religion.

In the letter issued yesterday, the school claimed to have 'sought guidance' before implementing the ban.

'We are reliably informed that in Islamic Law, children are not required to fast during Ramadan, only being required to do so when they become adults,' it said. 

It continued to describe how children 'fainted' and 'became ill' during last year's festival after going without food or water for '18 hours, a significant amount of time for a child.'

Alongside Barclay Primary School the ban will be implemented across three other schools which belong to the trust. They are Sybourn Primary School and Thomas Gamuel Primary School in Waltham Forest and Brook House Primary School in Haringey.

The letter, posted on 5pillars, a British Muslim publication, was today criticised by members of the Muslim community which said deciding whether a child should fast or not is the prerogative of their parent.

The Muslim Association of Britain said there were enough rules in place to protect the vulnerable from fasting without school's interference.

'We believe that there are sufficient and stringent rules within Islam which allow those who are unable to fast, to break fast,' a spokesman told Mail Online.

'These rules include those who are medically ill or compromised; or too young or too old to fast.

'However, we believe that this determination should be decided by parents with their children; who can together reach a collective decision whether or not the child can fast.

'MAB ascertains that the final choice of whether or not to fast should be the right of the parents, who should in turn encourage their children to fast without forcing them to do so.'

Dr Omer El-Hamdoon, the President of MAB added parents ought to have the ultimate say in whether their child participates in the fast.

'Schools should play a supporting role to parents; and issues like this should be discussed, not blanket enforced,' he said.

Neither Barclay Primary School nor the Lion Academy Trust responded to Mail Online's requests for comment this afternoon.


Chris Christie: ‘There Are Solutions’ to Education Reform

If America wants to remain a force in education, Christie told a crowd of about 200 people, policy should be centered on three things.  Christie said:  “We need accountability. We need competition. And we need choice.”

Christie, who is considering a run for president in 2016, stressed parents—not union leaders or the education establishment—choose best in making decisions for the education of their children.

“I believe that America needs a president that will fight for parents and children,” Christie said.

Under Christie’s leadership in New Jersey, the governor said, his state was able to make gains in teacher tenure reform and public school choice.

In talking about the importance of hiring high-quality teachers, Christie, with students flanked behind him, used an example of how his fifth grade teacher made an impact in his life.

Christie mentioned that big achievements in America’s history began with education and teachers—including at Iowa State University, home to the invention of the first electronic digital computer.

“There might not be any simple solutions to education reform, but there are solutions,” Christie said. “[America] guarantees a chance at greatness.”

Christie, who is putting two of his children through college right now, shared insight from a parent perspective on higher education.

In the past 10 years, Christie said, pell grants have grown by 118 percent, while subsidized student loans have grown by 12 percent. Unsubsidized loans have grown by more than 150 percent, Christie claimed.

He discussed making higher education affordable (not free) and more transparent.

“People should be able to know in advance how colleges are spending our money, where their resources are going, and how they expect prices to change in the future,” Christie said.

Christie proposed that higher education become more imaginative and offer more educational options for students. This could include holding more evening and weekend classes to cater to more students.


Sunday, June 14, 2015

Mayhem Rules in St. Paul Schools

Teachers, parents and students in the school district of St. Paul, Minnesota, are learning firsthand what happens when educators embrace ideologically driven, crackpot solutions for the achievement and disciplinary issues involving black students who are “victims” of “white privilege”: anarchy.

That anarchy comes courtesy of the district’s voluntary affiliation with Pacific Educational Group (PEG), an entity founded in 1992 by self-described “diversity expert” Glenn Singleton. As PEG’s website declares, it is their belief that “[s]ystemic racism is the most devastating factor contributing to the diminished capacity of all children.” As a result, they partner with educational systems “to transform them into racially conscious and socially just environments that nurture the spirit and infinite potential of all learners, especially students of color, American Indian students and their families.”

Superintendent Valeria Silva bought into this nonsense, engendering a seismic shift in the way discipline was meted out, based on statistics that showed black students being suspended at “alarming rates.” Thus suspension became a last resort, replaced with 20-minute “time outs” and counseling by a behavioral coach before offending students were sent back to the classroom. In the meantime, PEG offered “racial equity” training for teachers and staff, who were tasked with “exploring” their biases and prefacing their opinions with, “As a white man, I believe…” or “As a black woman, I think…” in an effort to discover their subconscious racism.

How’s it working out? Following district spending of more than $3 million on PEG programs over the last five years, local publication CityPages paints a depressing picture:

"At John A. Johnson Elementary on the East Side, several teachers, who asked to remain anonymous, describe anything but a learning environment. Students run up and down the hallways, slamming lockers and tearing posters off the walls. They hit and swear at each other, upend garbage cans under teachers' noses.

“We have students who will spend an hour in the hallway just running and hiding from people, like it’s a game for them,” says one despondent teacher. “A lot of them know no one is going to stop them, so they just continue."

Students may continue, but some teachers won’t. At Ramsey Middle School, nine have quit since the beginning of this past school year. At Battle Creek Elementary, a week after the principal got a letter from staff illuminating the concerns about "building-wide safety, both physical and emotional, as well as the deteriorating learning environment,” he announced he would be transferred next year. “It’s still just as crazy, with kids slamming doors and yelling and not listening to any teachers, running up and down the halls,” revealed one Battle Creek Elementary teacher. “We had two behavior aides who come to the room if there’s an issue or if a kid’s left the class. They try to calm the kids down, and then they just put them right back in class after 5-10 minutes. It’s not working. You know how kids are. If one gets away with it, then they’re all gonna do it.”

Como Park High social science teacher Roy Magnuson explains why complaints to the board are routinely dismissed. “There is an intense digging in of heels to say there is no mistake,” he explains. “For the people who are saying there has been a mistake, the … deflection is that people like me have issues with racial equity and that is the reason we are challenging [the board]. That makes for a very convenient way of barring the reality of the situation.”

Many families in the district have registered their feelings about the program in the plainest way possible: In the time PEG has been involved with the schools, the number of students living in the district but attending non-district schools has increased by approximately 3,000. Two-thirds of them are low-income or non-white, utterly undermining the notion of “white flight” according to Joe Nathan, executive director of the Minneapolis-based Center for School Change. “A significant number of families are saying their children do not feel safe in the schools,” he explained. “They don’t feel safe even going to the bathroom.”

School board member Keith Hardy typified the racialist drivel that animates PEG’s effort, insisting he wants the “racist structure of public education that the United States is created on to be eradicated,” he declared. “This is work that you can’t go back on, and it’s work I do not apologize for.” Battle Creek Middle School “cultural specialist” Kristy Pierce is equally clueless, insisting that teachers should be evaluating their own failure when kids act out. “It should be more than just kids apologizing,” she says. “When you use the word ‘black’ versus ‘African American’ and the student flips out, understand where that might be coming from.”

Fortunately, there has been a revolution of sorts. At an endorsement convention sponsored by the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party (DFL), three Board of Education incumbents, including chairwoman Mary Doran — who said they wouldn’t run without DFL approval — were dumped in favor of four candidates supported by Caucus for Change. That organization is comprised of teachers, parents and other members of the community who wish to restore safety and sanity to St. Paul schools.

Unfortunately, it remains unclear whether PEG will be given a well-deserved boot in the process. Glenn Singleton promotes ideas such as “white talk” is “verbal, impersonal, intellectual” and “task-oriented,” while “color commentary” is “nonverbal, personal, emotional” and “process-oriented.” He has further asserted that placing any blame on minority students themselves for their underperformance constitutes racism, because minority culture is “intellectual” and “task-oriented.” As for Asian minorities, Singleton considers them “majority” students because they succeed, and because whites expect them to do so.

In short, PEG is invested in the idea that cultural apartheid is what’s holding back minority students, and that they should be held to a different set of standards than white students — as well as those pesky Asian overachievers who completely undermine Singleton’s premise. A premise that amounts to nothing more than embracing the soft bigotry of low expectations by catering to the lowest common denominator of student behavior. This progressive nonsense is precisely the opposite of what public schooling should be all about.


Student-Loan Deadbeats: Fashionable Theft

He was the greatest poet and critic of his time, but poetry and criticism do not in general pay all that well, and T. S. Eliot, unfortunately for him, lived in an age in which celebrity academics did not bank CEO money. He came from a well-to-do family — his father was a very successful businessman in St. Louis — but his family did little to support him financially.

As a young man, Eliot taught French and Latin at both private and government schools, but marriage brought with it additional financial burdens, and in 1917 — two years after publishing “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” — he took a job at Lloyd’s bank, on the foreign business desk.

Eliot hated Lloyd’s. He worked in a sub-sub-basement and did not have an office, or even a cubicle — he worked on one of those comically long rows of clerks’ desks that you see in old movies.

But he was diligent. As his literary career began to take off, one of his superiors at Lloyd’s advised him to keep applying himself to his work, suggesting that he might rise to become a branch manager, in time.

Alduous Huxley sneered that Eliot was “the most bank-clerky of all bank clerks.” Eliot did not disagree: “How unpleasant to meet Mr. Eliot! / With his features of clerical cut. / And his brow so grim / And his mouth so prim . . .”

He continued writing, of course: poetry, essays, criticism, book reviews. In 1922, he published The Waste-Land, a landmark in English verse: “Mr Eliot’s trivialities are more valuable than other people’s epics,” the critic Edmund Wilson wrote. Eliot, he said, was writing “unforgettable poems, which everyone was trying to rewrite.” Eliot stayed at the bank.

 At least, he stayed there for a few more years, five days a week plus one Saturday a month. He was nearly forty before he began working at Faber and Faber, the publisher where he was employed full-time for the rest of his career, eventually joining the firm’s board of directors.

Even after having written a commercially successful play (The Cocktail Party), he was taking the bus to work.

I’d like to go on record here pledging to cover the full cost of a monthly bus pass for Lee Siegel, the somewhat less exalted writer and critic who in the Sunday New York Times explained: “Why I defaulted on my student loans.” And maybe why you should, too.

Siegel’s story is more than familiar to me, having been at one time in precisely the same position: forced to decide between pursuing my education at a less expensive and less prestigious state school or taking on a great deal of debt to finance an Ivy League education. My Calvinist terror of debt preceded, and has survived, my conversion to Catholicism, and I like to think that Yale’s loss was the University of Texas’s gain, though the view from Austin may be different.

I was very fortunate to finish my college years with a net worth of approximately $0.00 — no assets to speak of, but no debts, either, which enabled me to go work as a newspaper editor in India without having to worry about much other than my immediate household expenses.

To the taxpayers of Texas and the world oil markets — both of which contribute mightily to subsidizing English majors at the University of Texas — I am grateful.

Siegel went the other way, borrowing what one assumes is a great deal of money to underwrite three degrees from Columbia University in New York City. Columbia is one of the most expensive institutions of higher learning in the world; New York City is not the least expensive place in the country to live.

“I found myself confronted with a choice that too many people have had to and will have to face,” Seigel wrote. “I could give up what had become my vocation (in my case, being a writer) and take a job that I didn’t want in order to repay the huge debt I had accumulated in college and graduate school. Or I could take what I had been led to believe was both the morally and legally reprehensible step of defaulting on my student loans, which was the only way I could survive without wasting my life in a job that had nothing to do with my particular usefulness to society. I chose life. That is to say, I defaulted on my student loans.”

To default on a student loan because you do not wish to pay it back is theft, in this case theft from all of us. The justifications are piled high: He comes from a modest background and finds it unfair that other people have had advantages denied him. He declares it “absurd” — making no case, only the declaration — that he could “amass crippling debt as a result, not of drug addiction or reckless borrowing and spending, but of going to college.”

Never mind that his borrowing and spending was, in fact, reckless, and that an Ivy League degree or three is every much an item of conspicuous consumption and a status symbol as a Lamborghini. He complains that the system is legal but not moral.

We have a legal system because interpretations of morality vary from person to person and from community to community. Stealing is not highly regarded in most of them. To default on a loan that you simply cannot repay may be the result of bad luck, bad judgment, or the pursuit of an MFA. To default on a loan because you do not wish to pay it back is theft, in this case theft from all of us, since the federal government is on the hook for the loans in question.

There is a great deal of bad thinking and bad advice (student loans are not normally dischargeable, even in bankruptcy, and the government can simply garnish your wages or put liens on your financial assets, just as it does with unpaid taxes, about which I know a little something more than I’d like) in his argument, but the telling phrase is “my particular usefulness to society.”

We hear similar arguments frequently in the debate about college costs and student loans, with Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts speaking for the deadbeat constituency, which is very much politically fashionable at the moment. We are told that students have a right to an education (but an Ivy League education?), that the system is unfair and the burdens heavy, etc.

And we hear variations on Siegel’s argument that education is a social good, that we should be glad to have spent whatever sum we spent in order to avail ourselves of his “particular usefulness to society.” This is an example of the special-snowflake philosophy of social organization: Yes, your feminist slam-poetry collective is very, very impressive — but even T. S. Eliot went to the office six days a week when literary life wasn’t paying the bills.

It is true that society benefits from widespread access to college education. But that benefit is marginal in any given case, whereas the benefit accruing to those receiving education at public expense can be enormous.

Michelle Obama complains in public from time to time that she was obliged to repay student loans as a young professional earning only in the low-to-mid six figures. She is oblivious, as Siegel is oblivious, that when institutions lend you money at ordinary market rates, that is business — but when institutions lend you money at below-rates, that’s a favor. You don’t simply owe interest and principal — you owe a bit of gratitude, too.

Those of us who are able to make a living writing are among the luckiest people in the world (a condition for which I am deeply grateful to this irreplaceable institution and its supporters). The same is true of people who work in other creative fields, and all of those who are fortunate enough to earn a paycheck doing that which they would do for free. That is, as H. L. Mencken put it, “the life of kings.”

But it is not a life to which any of us is entitled at the expense of others; the typical taxpayer left holding the bag by defaulters is more like Lee Siegel’s mother 30 years ago, struggling to help with her son’s education, than like a successful literary gentleman publishing the occasional apologia pro debitis suis in the Sunday Times.

We all have our obligations. T. S. Eliot was not too good to work a day job to meet his responsibilities. Neither is Lee Siegel.


Ignorant British schoolteachers shame deaf kid

A mother has hit out after her six-year-old son was told to remove his hearing aid for an official school photograph.

Alfie Durant's mother, Kerri, says he was left 'embarrassed and upset' after being taken to the school office at Middlesbrough's Pallister Park Primary to have his hearing aid taken off.

The school has now apologised over the move, which has left the schoolboy ashamed to wear the hearing aid around his classmates.

Alfie's mother, a restaurant supervisor, said she became suspicious that something had happened when her son refused to put his hearing aid on the morning after the school photo shoot.  'He said he was embarrassed to wear it in front of his classmates,' she said.

A few days later, when her son returned from school with the photo proofs, she was angry to see he was not wearing his hearing aid.

She said: 'He told me the school told him to take it off for the photo so he would look smart.

'I phoned the school and spoke to the special educational needs officer who said they made a decision that I would want his aid off for the photograph. 'I feel my son has been discriminated against because of his disability and would like people to know how he is treated.

'Alfie suffers a lot with his condition but he is such a brave lad. He should be accepted as he is.'

Chris Wain, headteacher at Pallister Park Primary School, said: 'Alfie is a beautiful little boy and takes a gorgeous picture whatever he is wearing.

'Indeed, we have lovely photos of him on our website with his hearing aid on. The school photograph sessions saw our visiting photographer take 600 pictures over two days and we do our very best to ensure that parents are pleased with the photos they receive.

'There was obviously no intent to cause any offence by either any member of our staff or the photographer, and we have already apologised to Alfie's mum for any upset caused.

'Perhaps we could have taken one picture with and one without, but hindsight is a wonderful thing and we will be sure to keep Alfie's hearing aid in place when next year's pictures are taken and we can only apologise again.'

Jessica Reeves, from the National Deaf Children’s Society said: 'Asking Alfie to remove his hearing aid was a mistake, as the school has rightly acknowledged. Every deaf child should be confident and proud of who they are, so a supportive school environment is essential.'