Friday, June 26, 2015

Education Savings Accounts and Their Impact

Education savings accounts are an outgrowth of the school choice movement that, by literally giving parents an “education debit card,” allows them to craft a customized education plan to meet their children’s specific needs.

By giving access to state education funds that would have otherwise been spent in their assigned public school, parents with children enrolled in Nevada public schools can spend money on tuition and fees at an approved private school, tutoring services, textbooks, and so forth.

To offset repercussions of lower enrollment in public schools, local and federal government education dollars will still feed into the public school system. (Typically, public schools receive combined funding by local, state and federal governments.)

For Robbins and her seven children, who range in ages from 8 to 26, the program will be life-changing.

“If you have a health challenge but you’re still a college-bound student, there are no options for you in our district,” Robbins said. “You are just on your own.”

Two of Robbins’ daughters are affected by the inherited connective tissue disorder. Because of extensive surgeries, medical tests and debilitating symptoms, they’ve missed entire years of school at a time.  “Children with health problems … they are forgotten in the school districts,” Robbins said.

Amber is now taking college courses online and was still able to graduate a valedictorian and receive a five—the highest score possible—on her AP government/law exam, despite the challenges she faced.  “She has a medical condition but she is still a bright, articulate student,” Robbins said.

While teachers worked with Amber to turn in assignments remotely, Robbins said her daughter did not receive “one day of tutoring” while she was out her senior year.  “That is a tragedy,” Robins said.

With education savings accounts, Robbins will now have a whole host of education opportunities available to her youngest children, who are also at risk for developing the condition as their bodies develop.

How Nevada’s Education Savings Accounts Work

Nevada’s education savings account differs from those set up in Arizona, Florida, Mississippi and Tennessee, all of which have stringent requirements for the type of students who are eligible. In Nevada, the only requirement is that students must be enrolled in the public school system for at least 100 days.

If everything goes according to plan, parents will be able to access the accounts at the beginning of next year.

On average, parents will receive about $5,100 per year, or 90 percent of the state’s per-pupil spending amount. (The total per-pupil spending amount in Nevada is approximately $8,400, or about $3,300 more than the amount of the education savings accounts grants.)

“[Education savings accounts] are going to start an education revolution,” Robbins said.  “And that education revolution is going to force the public school system to begin to modify itself.”

Rallying Against the Revolution

Robbin’s inkling towards an “education revolution” is precisely what has many organizations and teachers unions rallying against it.

Many traditional advocates of public education fear that education savings accounts will strip public schools of already limited funding, and legitimize whatever curriculum a parent wants—say, a Biblical teaching that runs contrary to the public school curriculum—at the taxpayer’s expense.

In Arizona, which was the first state to set up education savings accounts, no mass exodus occurred when education savings accounts were signed into law back in 2011.

This year, 230,000 students were eligible, and only 1,300 participated. But since its inception, the program has become so popular that eligibility was expanded four times to include children entering kindergarten, with special needs, from underperforming schools, from active-duty military families, in foster care, of fallen soldiers and from tribal lands.

Organizations like the American Federation of Teachers and the Nevada State Education Association, which is a union of more than 3 million teachers in the state, argue the program is “dangerous” and could devastate traditional public schools.

Neither organization responded to The Daily Signal’s request for an interview, but in a statement to Politico, Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, said earlier this year that education savings accounts create an “unregulated, unaccountable market.”

“Instead of the exit strategy from public education that these programs represent, we need a renewed commitment to strong neighborhood public schools for every child,” he said.

A Rising Tide

School choice advocates believe the introduction of education savings accounts will create competition, which will better education for all students, including those who remain in public schools.

“By allowing all students to attend private school, Nevada has introduced an element of competition into its public school system,” said Chantal Lovell, communications director for the Nevada Policy Research Institute, which supports the school choice initiative. Lovell added:

In the coming years, we should see all schools in Nevada—public and private—improve as they compete for students and the dollars that now follow them. It’s a phenomenon similar to what we see when a new restaurant opens in a community that previously had very limited and mediocre dining options.

Every year since 1994, Robbins has had at least one child enrolled in Dooley Elementary, which is located in one of the largest school districts in the country. In 2014, the K-12 school was named a Blue Ribbon School. This award is given by the U.S. Department of Education to schools for their academic excellence or progress in closing achievement gaps among students.

Despite having the privilege of being able to send her children to a nationally recognized school, the “cookie cutter design,” Robbins said, isn’t cutting it.

“We’re unusual,” she said. “Lots of children have different ways of learning and we need to be able to find ways to bring out the best in every child. And at a large school system that’s a cookie cutter design does not do that.”


Obama Administration Seeks Expansion of Student Visas for Immigrants

President Obama has proposed to extend the time some immigrant students can stay and work in the United States after they graduate from college, and some in Congress are unhappy because they say these students take and keep jobs that should go to Americans.

The Optional Practical Training allows students to stay in the United States and work under their student visas after graduation. The program, which involved more than 100,000 of the nation’s 1 million foreign exchange students in 2013, allows students in any field to stay 12 months beyond graduation to receive practical experience.

Since 2008, those in science, technology, engineering and math have been allowed to stay an additional 17 months beyond that, for a total of 29 months. The administration has proposed increasing the extension for these majors to 24 months, which means they would be able to work a full three years in the U.S. beyond graduation on their student visas. If they subsequently earn a master’s degree, they can stay another three years.

And Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, has weighed in against the expansion of the program. In a letter to Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson, Grassley, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, expressed concerns.

Grassley wrote, “The proposed new regulations, while still being internally discussed, are irresponsible and dangerous considering the Government Accountability Office report issued in March 2014 finding that the program was full of inefficiencies, susceptible to fraud, and that the department was not adequately overseeing it.”

Grassley cited a report from the Government Accountability Office that found, “U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, a component of the Department of Homeland Security, has not identified or assessed fraud or noncompliance risks posed by schools that recommend and foreign students approved for optional practical training, in accordance with DHS risk management guidance.”

Grassley asked Johnson to reconsider the rule and cancel the program. Or, failing that, to implement some key reforms, including:

1) Increase oversight and monitoring compliance by schools as well as foreign students and those who employ them

2) Ensure that employment is secured before any Optional Practical Training is granted

3) Ensure that foreign students report any changes in employment to designated school officials and be held accountable if they do not

4) Ensure that designated school officials are notifying the department about the whereabouts of their students, including the employer’s name and location and be held accountable if they do not

5) Require that employers who hire any foreign student with Optional Practical Training be enrolled in E-Verify

6) Require employers to pay a reasonable wage to foreign students with Optional Practical Training

7) Require employers of students with Optional Practical Training to pay a fee equal to the wage savings from not having to pay FICA payroll taxes for Optional Practical Training workers, in order to level the playing field between Optional Practical Training and American workers

8) More closely bind Optional Practical Training training to the student’s academic course of study

9) Establish avenues for foreign students to report employer abuse

10) Place a numerical cap on the number of foreign students who may receive a work authorization

Grassley requested a response from Johnson no later than Monday, June 22. As of press time, Grassley had not heard back, according to his office.


Australia: Politically correct school reports

School report says: Spirited. Teacher really means: Your kid is a pain in the ass

At school, I was one of those kids who did fairly well by studying hard and staying out of trouble.  Not so my brother Benjamin, who spent the last day of every term defecating bricks. Inside his school bag was always an explosive report card, more dangerous than a stick of dynamite when it reached the hands of my parents.

One year I remember Dad opening a particularly giant can of whoop-ass on my naughty sibling, after his report revealed “serious misbehaviour” with “hot metals and acid” in science. The exasperated teacher also went on to chastise his habit of “rocking on chairs” and “pea shooting” during class.

Then there’s my good friend Joanne, who recently shared one of her classic report cards from the 1980s.  “One of the noisiest girls I’ve ever seen in a classroom. Can be a thorough pest. Concentrate on the work Joanne,” her Year 11 English teacher wrote.

The maths teacher offered a similar observation.  “Joanne is a very bright girl but needs to be less noisy.”  Adding insult to injury, there was also this:  “Joanne is a capable student who has made good progress, however she is a chatterbox.”

Nearly 30 years later, and my friend can still vividly recall the sheer terror of handing that clanger over to her hardworking parents in Darwin.

Words like “lazy”, “uncooperative” and “anti-social” weren’t uncommon on kids’ report cards when I was growing up. If you were rebellious, the teacher said so. If you dared backchat in class, or regularly failed to hand in homework, then your parents read about it in a personalised, handwritten school report. Drop the f-bomb or blatantly flout the school rules? Then you were busted, custard.

In 2015 however, I find myself wondering if there is such a thing as a “bad report” anymore. Do they even exist?

This week, parents (like me) will open our little darling’s half-yearly school reports. And chances are they’ll be so sterile, so bland, so terribly boring that we’ll struggle to make sense of what’s actually being said.

Instead of receiving a truthful, pull-no-punches assessment of our kid’s progress, we’ll open up a white, printed out page filled with computer generated safe words and corporate jargon.

But these newfangled, vanilla flavoured reports aren’t the fault of teachers. Or principals. Our politically correct school system has bound and gagged educators with bureaucracy and red tape, preventing them from telling the warts-and-all real version of our kid’s classroom behaviours.

A former senior-level teacher I know left her job, after becoming completely disillusioned with the education system.  “Teachers cop it from all directions these days,” she tells me.  “We are constantly treading on eggshells, dealing with greater numbers of delusional parents — and classrooms full of kids who’ve been wrapped up in cotton wool.

“The writing — and delivery — of report cards is a minefield. It’s definitely the worst part of any teacher’s job,” she says.

Demanding, pushy parents are also partly to blame for this new trend in sanitised school report cards.  “Many of them see their kids as perfect little angels, with an IQ worthy of a Mensa membership,” my teacher mate says.  “If we write a school report and tell the parents otherwise, then the evidence is against us.

“So it has become standard practise now to use insipid, watered-down phrases instead of the real truth.”

Looking back at a few of my own children’s report cards, I notice they’re peppered with words like “satisfactory”, “sound” and “working towards”. The boring babble hides the real truth.

Some examples:

“…needs to continue to focus on the quality and neatness of his work presentation,” one comment suggests.

Let’s cut to the chase here. We’re talking about unbelievably shocking, mostly illegible bookwork. And I know it for a fact because I kick my boy up the backside every time he puts pen to paper. So why did his teacher sugar coat the facts? To make me feel better about his sloppy efforts in class?

“He tries to listen carefully when not distracted by others around him.”

He tries to listen? Are you serious? Clearly, he doesn’t. And reading between the lines, it seems he’s also mucking about with mates instead of being focused on his work.

My teacher friend reckons that if you look hard enough, it is possible to decode your child’s next school report.  Here is her Top 10 list of euphemisms, frequently used by educators everywhere.

1. School report says: Spirited. Teacher really means: Your kid is a pain in the arse.

2. School report says: Keen to participate in group discussion. Teacher really means: Little Johnny talks too much. Shut your cake-hole and give someone else a go.

3. School report says: Satisfactory effort. Teacher really means: Has done the bare minimum.

4. School report says: Energetic. Teacher really means: Possibly ADHD and requires medication.

5. School report says: Creative. Teacher really means: Can’t follow instructions and makes a mess of everything.

6. School report says: Helpful. Teacher really means: Annoyingly so.

7. School report says: Is developing (eg: handwriting) skills. Teacher really means: Still can’t do it despite all the hours I’ve put in.

8. School report says: Took awhile to settle in. Teacher really means: We didn’t like each other.

9. School report says: Needs to settle when working with other teachers. Teacher really means: They don’t like your kid either.

10. School report says: I wish them well next year. Teacher really means: Thank god they won’t be in my class again.


Thursday, June 25, 2015

Can genes predict foreign language learning skills?

High IQ helps

Every frustrated language learner has, at some point, proclaimed that they just "don’t have the gift" of picking up foreign languages.

It’s easy to imagine that the aptitude for learning a new tongue exists somewhere beyond our control, perhaps in our blood or brain chemistry, or in the drinking water that flows through Northern Europe and feeds the frustratingly fluent English-speaking Scandinavians from Oslo to Helsinki.

Language teachers will explain to students that anyone can learn a foreign language, and that the skill comes from nurture and not nature. But does biology play any role at all? Is there any part of our DNA that can predict whether or not we can be successful polyglots?

In fact, neurobiologists have identified a gene that correlates to language. The FOXP2 gene was discovered in the 1990s through a study of a British family in which three generations suffered from severe speech problems.

The 15 afflicted members of this family shared an inherited mutation of FOXP2, a gene that plays a central role in the brain’s language production processes, both cognitively (through pattern-mapping abilities) and physically (developing the facial muscles needed for articulating complicated sounds).

This discovery pioneered new notions of a human ‘language gene’ and led to a trend in evolutionary research in the early 20th century, comparing FOXP2 genes in humans and other species, to shed light on how humans developed the capacity for language.

Recently, that mutated FOXP2 gene discovered in that British family has, surprisingly, been associated with foreign language learning ability, according to researchers at the University of Texas at Austin.

Assistant professor Bharath Chandrasekaran from the university’s Moody College of Communication discovered this association in the same genetic variation in FOXP2 that had been connected to language impairment nearly two decades ago.

Genetic research is strengthening the connection between biology and language learning

The research, published in the May edition of the Journal of Neuroscience, involved a pool of 204 young adults, who were tasked with listening to unfamiliar speech sounds and categorising them.

Participants then gave saliva samples, from which researchers found that individuals with a certain variation on the FOXP2 gene were both faster and more accurate at doing the language task.

So how can knowledge of a learner’s DNA help in the process of mastering a new language? Chandrasekaran and his colleagues did not propose specific approaches, but linguistically speaking, it would be difficult for language trainers to focus on one specific dimension of the learner’s brain.

While the aforementioned research references a specific ‘language gene’ in the human brain, studying a new language actually requires several parts of the brain, comprised of several different genes, to work together. This includes the cognitive processes of memory, reasoning, perception, and information ordering. The strength and efficiency of these processes vary naturally from person to person.

Regardless of whether that variation comes from one’s genes, one’s surroundings, or both, these processes are pivotal in second language learning.

Though genetic research continues to strengthen the connection between biology and language in humans, we still have a long way to go in determining how to optimally apply this knowledge in the world of language learning.


Nobel-winning scientist who was forced to resign over ‘sexist comments’ could be reinstated

The scientist who was allegedly forced to quit over a joke about women in laboratories could get his job back, it was claimed yesterday.  Nobel Prize winner Sir Tim Hunt, 72, sparked online outrage with his suggestion that women in science fall in love with men, are distracting and cry too easily. He resigned from his honorary post at University College London hours later.

His wife Professor Mary Collins, also a scientist, has since claimed he gave in his notice after a senior member of staff at the university called her and said he would be sacked if he failed to stand down.

Members of UCL’s governing council are mounting a potential rebellion over the university’s handling of the affair – with it now being claimed that talks next month could lead to Sir Tim being reinstated.  Many are said to feel that it over-reacted to the social media furore over his remarks in South Korea two weeks ago.

A UCL source claimed that there was no ‘official’ advice to Sir Tim’s wife that he should resign and that the conversation ‘appears to have been misinterpreted’.

And a senior council figure told The Sunday Times that there was ‘much unhappiness’ with the way the row had been dealt with, adding: ‘There will be a discussion at the next meeting and reinstatement may well be on the agenda.’

UCL is now coming under pressure from leading scientists to reinstate Sir Tim, and apologise for making him resign - but he said while it would be 'churlish' of him to turn down such an offer if it came, his work there was 'over'.


Australia: Online universities helping students become the first in their family to obtain higher education

More than half of 41,000 students studying online are first in their family to go to university

Online education is giving a generation of Australians the opportunity to become the first in their families to pursue higher education, a new report has found.

Open Universities Australia (OUA) today released the findings of their June report on “first In family” students, revealing an estimated two out of three students enrolled in university courses online are the first person in their immediate family to pursue higher education.

According to the findings of the First in Family report, an estimated 67.7 per cent of online university students are the first in their family to study.

“First in family” students are more likely to be mature age students, with 37 per cent being over 35 years old. Similarly, 66 per cent of “first in family” students are women, compared to 58 per cent of OUA students overall.

Among “first in family” students, the most popular tertiary courses were in education (18 per cent), arts and humanities (35 per cent), business (22 per cent).

OUA together with the University of Wollongong and the University of Newcastle this year completed a nationwide research project called Breaking the Barriers to identify the challenges facing “first in family” students.

Dr Cathy Stone, who established Student Success services at OUA, was part of a project team led by the University of Wollongong, which conducted research during 2014-2015 with the support of the Australian Government Office for Learning and Teaching.

Dr Stone said university was no longer limited to an elite demographic. “More than half of OUA students are the first in their family to go to university, which shows online learning is removing barriers for people who would traditionally have not gone to university,” she said.

“They are investing in their own futures and their families’ future. Most of them are not school leavers but are older students, who work full time or part time as well as having family responsibilities. Through studying online, they have the flexibility to study at times that suit them, so that they can achieve their goals and gain their university degree.”

Following the release of the Breaking the Barriers report, the project team launched a First in Family initiative including a website and toolkit of resources to help support these students and their families.

Dr Stone said that OUA is recognising this emerging student trend and providing these students with specific and appropriate support.

“This is a demographic of Australians for which traditional face-to-face learning is often not possible, whereas online learning provides them with the opportunity to achieve university qualifications,” she said.

“A student who is the first in their family to study towards a university degree will face different challenges compared with those students who come from families where others have already been to university. Often, these first-in-family students don’t know what to expect and can feel at a disadvantage compared with those around them.”

The Breaking the Barriers report surveyed 173 and interviewed 102 “first in family” students across Australia, and found that many of these students felt out of place at university, lacked confidence in their ability and worried about the financial impact of their decision to study. OUA data also shows that  first-in-family students are more likely to be from disadvantaged socio-economic backgrounds and more likely to live in regional and rural areas.

The findings from the OUA First in Family report found that “first in family” students were slightly more likely than their peers to struggle academically, but were equally likely to complete their qualifications.

About the Open Universities Australia

Owned by seven of Australia’s premier universities, Open Universities Australia (OUA) is the national leader in quality online tertiary education. Enrolling more than 250,000 students since 1993, OUA provides access to over 1700 units and 180 qualifications taught by more than 20 leading Australian universities and tertiary education providers. Visit

Press release via email

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Cambridge college changes rules to allow women to wear trousers and men skirts at formal dinners after transgender student's campaign

A Cambridge college has changed its rules to allow women to wear trousers and men to wear skirts during formal dinners, following a campaign by a transgender student.

St Catharine's, which was founded in 1473, has always insisted that male students wear a jacket, tie and smart trousers to the occasions. Women have had to wear a blouse and skirt or a dress.

But college officials have agreed to rewrite the rules after a campaign by 25-year-old Charlie Northrop, who began transitioning from male to female in January.

It is believed that the college will be the first at the 800-year-old university to change the formal dress code.

According to the new rules, male students will be able to go for dinner in a dress, while women will be allowed to wear suits. Students who do not define themselves as male or female can chose either outfit.

Ms Northrop, who is studying for a PhD in Classics, said: 'I'm over the moon, it's absolutely wonderful that it's now been passed.

'It wasn't that there was much resistance - it's just the new wording had to be sound and there was a lot of conversations between the college and the committee.

'We had to come up with a way of proposing a new dress code that would omit gender specification but would still keeping formality.'

She added: 'Everyone has been so helpful and it's been great to make a new change.

'I've been speaking to students from other colleges now who hope to make the change across the university.'

The new dress code on the Dean's Notice states that '"Smart dress" is defined without reference to considerations of gender identity or expression'.

It adds: 'Formal Hall is an occasion on which all members of St Catharine's should wear gowns.

'Members and their guests must be dressed in suitably smart dress. This means a suit (or trousers and jacket), a shirt with a collar, a tie, and shoes (not trainers or sandals), or equivalently formal dress.

'The staff are instructed to refuse admission to anyone coming to Formal Hall improperly dressed.'

Two years ago the rules on graduation dress were rewritten to include no reference to gender but this did not extend to formal dinners at the colleges.

Ms Northrop, who used to be known as Charles, grew up in Richmond, Indiana.

She studied classics at the John Cabot University in Rome, Italy, for five years before moving to Cambridge three years ago. She has since gained a masters and an MPhil in classics.

Her father Charles Northrop, 55, a technologist in a hospital medical lab, and mother Sarah Northrop, 55, a church secretary, have been supportive of her transition.

She added: 'I always felt wrong with the sex I was but it's hard to explain in words. It was when I was 18 that I began the real process of realising I wanted to transition.

'It was when I got to Cambridge that it really became possible. The university is inspiring and full of such supportive people.'

She added: 'When I was an undergraduate I didn't do much campaigning, it's something I started while I'm here.

'It's quite expensive to transition so it's a slow process which I started at the beginning of the year. My friends and family have been so supportive throughout it all.'

St Catharine's College was founded for postgraduate study in 1473. Undergraduates were not admitted until the 16th century. 


The latest excuse for black underperformance

 Kids in low-income communities statistically do poorer in terms of school performance near the end of each month, in part, because “they start getting hungry” as their food stamps “start running out,” said President Barack Obama at a Democratic National Committee fundraiser in Santa Monica, Calif., on Thursday.

“Too many of our kids still go hungry in this country,” said Obama.  

“I was looking at some statistics, because we're looking at policies around hunger and the SNAP program, and the performance of children in lower-income communities in school dips at the end of the month in a statistically significant way,” he said, “in part because they start getting hungry as their food stamps for their family start running out which then affects how they perform in school.”

The fundraiser where Obama spoke was held at the home of actor, playwright, and songwriter Tyler Perry.

According to a U.S. Department of Agriculture timeline, the food stamp program changed its name in 2008 to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and it apparently “lifted 5 million Americans, including 2.2 million children out of poverty in 2012.”

The timeline also claims that for every $1 spent in SNAP benefits, it generates $1.80 in economic activity.

As reported earlier by, a record 20% of American households, one in five, were using SNAP in 2013, according to data from the USDA.

The numbers also show there was a record number of individuals on food stamps in 2013 and that the cost of the program was at an all-time high.

The USDA says that there were 23,052,388 households on food stamps in the average month of fiscal 2013, an increase of 722,675 from fiscal year 2012, when there were 22,329,713 households on food stamps in the average month. also reported in January that the number of beneficiaries on SNAP had topped 46,000,000 for the 38th straight month, according to USDA data.


NC School District Okay With Gay Marriage Fairy Tale for Third Graders

A public school district in North Carolina is allowing the use of a controversial fairy tale about gay marriage to be read in its elementary schools despite widespread community opposition.

Omar Currie, a former 3rd grade teacher at Efland-Cheeks Elementary School, read King & King - a book about two gay “princes” who fall in love and get married - to his third grade students in April after he said one student teased another by calling him “gay” in gym class.

Currie resigned this week after the parents of three students filed written complaints to the school media review committee. Meg Goodhand, the assistant principal at the school who loaned Currie her copy of the book to read to his third grade class, also resigned.

However, after several heated public debates attended by hundreds of people - in which Orange County sheriffs were on hand to keep the peace - the school review committee upheld the use of the book.

Two parents appealed the committee’s decision not to ban the book to the Orange County school superintendent. But a meeting scheduled for Thursday night, which was expected to draw hundreds of attendees, was cancelled early Thursday morning.

A spokesman for the school district said that the appeals were withdrawn for unknown reasons, and that the school’s decision to allow the book to be read to elementary school students will stand.

However, the school’s principal created a new protocol that teachers must submit a list of books they intend to read in class to parents in advance.

Currie objected to the new policy. "This egregious policy creates an undue burden on teachers, and it hurts students," he said at one of the public meetings. "Here in Orange County, I repeatedly heard from school officials that the book might have been appropriate to read in a more progressive area without parental consent, but in Efland we need time."

This is not the first time King and King has caused controversy. In 2006, parents in Massachusetts sued their school district after the book was read in class. A judge dismissed the lawsuit.

 “I was told that it’s controversial, which means all LGBTQ families are controversial,” Currie said in an interview with The Raleigh News & Observer. “How insulting it is for those families.”

Alhough he was not disciplined for reading the book in class, Currie told the Associated Press that after discussing the issue with his same-sex partner, he decided he could not stay at a school where he felt unsupported. Since resigning, he has interviewed for five teaching jobs, including one with the Durham Public Schools.

Dozens of parents and community members on both sides let their opinions be known at the public meetings.

“(You're) infiltrating young minds, indoctrinating children into a gay agenda and actively promoting homosexuality to steer our children in that direction,” one reportedly said.

But a Currie supporter said: “I appreciate the fact that the teacher was willing to address this issue and was willing to approach this topic in his classroom.”


Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Does Harvard Teach Law Anymore?

Harvard is to law what Winchester is to bolt actions.  Powerful, dependable, well engineered and the mark of a serious craft, at least that’s what I was told.

These days, Harvard graduates probably don’t know much about bolt actions, unless they are a member of the Harvard Law School shooting club.  A stroll through the Harvard Law School course catalog also makes you wonder how much they know about the real practice of law.

The course catalog from Harvard Law School hints that the answer might be — not as much as we thought.

The Harvard Law School course catalog frequently reads more like an ideological training academy than it does a program for teaching lawyers how to practice law.

I may be unqualified to opine about Harvard Law considering that I went to a law school in the SEC.  That’s the Southeastern Conference, not the Securities and Exchange Commission.  As such, I spent most of my law school years taking courses that trained future lawyers to practice real law in real American courtrooms: remedies, civil procedure, criminal procedure, legal writing, trusts, evidence, and even more civil procedure.

Six of nine United States Supreme Court justices attended Harvard, so they must be doing something right.  But the course catalog at Harvard reveals a great divide emerging in American legal education.

Is law school about learning to practice law, or fundamental transformation?

Elite universities are graduating lawyers who seem most qualified to engineer fundamental social change, not represent clients in court.  Law schools in most of America still seem to focus on graduating lawyers who know how to practice law.  The course descriptions, below, reveal a different approach to legal education at Harvard.  The political ramifications for the nation should be obvious, especially when so many positions of power are filled with graduates of elite law schools.  That’s not just me saying it, Harvard’s own website boasts of this fundamental transformation:

Harvard Law School recently undertook a sweeping overhaul of its first-year curriculum. The new curriculum reflects legal practice in the 21st century, adding courses in legislation and regulation and international and comparative law to the traditional curriculum of civil procedure, contracts, criminal law, property, and torts. . . . In the second and third years of law school, Harvard students shape their own courses of study, selecting among a wide offering of electives. . . .  Five optional Programs of Study – Law and Government; Law and Social Change; Law and Business; International and Comparative Law; and Law, Science and Technology €”developed by the Law School faculty provide pathways through the upper-level curriculum.

Sorry, but “legislation” doesn’t reflect the “legal practice in the 21st Century.”  I took legislation in law school, and a small fraction of lawyers ever dabble in the area.  Lawyers inside the D.C. Beltway seeking to expand the power of the federal government are one exception.  I’ve sat in courtrooms listening to thousands of docket calls, and never once heard “comparative law” on the menu.  Worse, in most of America, no lawyer has any use for nonsense like “Law and Social Change,” unless politics are on the agenda instead of law.

Joel Pollak, a graduate of Harvard Law School and editor at Breitbart News, told me that the shift isn’t always passive, where Harvard law students can hear both sides and peacefully choose.  “Many of the professors who teach the ‘core’ classes are conscientious about fostering debate, open to different perspectives, and able to separate their own political views from their pedagogy. Others, however, seem unable to resist the urge to foist their personal ideological convictions onto their classes, resisting questions from students who disagree.”

And therein lies the danger — law professors with a captive audience of first year students turn law into political ideology, a training academy for the institutional left at an elite law school.  And after the first year of core classes ends, just imagine what happens in these actual classes (detailed below) that are now taught at Harvard Law School:

The Art of Social Change

“We will bring into the classroom as visiting lecturers leaders from the worlds of policy, practice, and academia — people who have themselves operated as successful change agents and who represent different disciplines, career paths, and strategies for change.”

Fidelity in Interpretation

“This seminar will develop a theory of interpretation for the Constituiton [SIC!!!!!] of the United States tied to a particular conception of interpretive fidelity. The aim is Dworkinian — to develop the theory that best explains and justifies our constitutional tradition.”

Feminist Legal Theory

“This course will survey the most important sources of feminist thinking in and around law and law reform, with attention to the ways in which differing feminist ideas have and have not become operationalized as law that actually governs. We will pay attention to the rise and fall of feminist ideas; to competitor theoretical frames and ongoing contests among different feminist worldviews for influence on law; to nonwestern sources of feminist legal thought; and to modes of transmitting feminist ideas from one national, regional, and/or international system to another. A constant theme will be the collaborations among and conflicts between feminist social movements and social movements for emancipation of groups other than women: racial minorities, sexual minorities, immigrants, the poor.”

Law and Psychology: The Emotions

Ironically taught by Professor David Cope:  “Love, jealousy, guilt, anger, fear, greed, compassion, hope, and joy play important roles in the lives of lawyers and those with whom they interact.”

Law and the Political Process

Professor Lani Guinier teaches Law and the Political Process. “Prerequisites: None. Constitutional Law is strongly recommended but is not a prerequisite for this course.”   No surprise in a Guinier-taught course.

Litigating Health Rights: Can Courts Bring More Justice to Health?

“The question of whether courts can not only call for modifying legislation and policies but also enforce affirmative entitlements to care has been answered in many contexts. Yet questions still persist as to when and how litigation can lead to greater equity in health and enhance the functioning and oversight of health systems, rather than distorting priorities and budgets.”

Animal Law

A course, perhaps, about laws surrounding animal-based commodities?  Maybe a survey of useful contractual issues involving agricultural commerce?  Stop it, this is Harvard, not the University of Wyoming!:

“The course will also engage with fundamental questions about animals and the law, such as: Are some animals more deserving of protection than others, and if so, on what basis? What role does culture and belief play in animal law—why are dogs considered pets in the U.S. and food in some parts of the world, for example? Does the status of animals as property pose an insurmountable barrier to increasing protections for animals? What are the advantages and disadvantages of the concepts of “animal rights” and “animal welfare”?


'Posh tests' won't rob your child of a job - socialist snobs did that years ago

Why is the Tory high command in love with Alan Milburn, a chip-on-the-shoulder Blairite class warrior, who shows little sign of having grown out of the Marxism he once embraced?

George Osborne and Michael Gove have publicly praised this former Labour Minister, and he has been put in charge of a nasty little quango, the Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission.

Under his leadership, this body ceaselessly complains that Britain is unfair (which, of course, it is) while flatly refusing to mention the main reason – the disastrous comprehensive school system.

Last week, launching a particularly silly report, Mr Milburn claimed: ‘This research shows young people with working-class backgrounds are being systematically locked out of top jobs.

‘Elite firms seem to require applicants to pass a “poshness test” to gain entry. Inevitably that ends up excluding youngsters who have the right sort of grades and abilities but whose parents do not have the right sort of bank balances.’

The claims of a ‘poshness test’ were duly taken up by many in the media, who swallowed them whole. I actually read the report. It is remarkably free of specific evidence from named companies or about named individuals. Much of it is a simple statement of the obvious. Big City firms hire the sort of people who are likely to succeed in the work they do.

And since they can choose from huge numbers of applicants for every job, it is no surprise that they pick men and women from the best universities, who are confident, fluent and literate.

The sad truth is that such people come overwhelmingly from private schools and the tiny few remaining state grammar schools. Some others will come from the sort of schools favoured by our Left-wing elite, which pretend to be ‘comprehensive’ but in fact select on the basis of postcode, wealth or religion.

Something similar happens at the opposite end of the labour market. In such unposh sectors as the building trade, employers understandably prefer rigorously schooled Poles to the young victims of British bog-standard comprehensives. That is not the employers’ fault.

People’s fates in life are decided largely by their schools. And many must wish it were not so (as we shall see).

But Mr Milburn (who refuses to tell me where his own children went to school) is, like the whole British political class, a dogged supporter of comprehensive state education.

He can’t admit it’s been a disaster for the poor he claims to speak for. Instead, he blames the employers for picking the recruits they need, not the school system, for destroying the hopes of poor boys and girls early in their lives.

This is deeply unfair, as Mr Milburn’s own press release actually acknowledged in a less-noticed passage: ‘Some of our country’s leading firms are making a big commitment to recruit the brightest and best, regardless of background. They should be applauded.’

In fact, much of the report describes the considerable efforts made by such firms to encourage applicants from poorer backgrounds. And it flatly dismisses claims of old-fashioned snobbery.

There is a fascinating passage on judging people by their accents, in which one interviewee says such things used to happen but have now virtually died out.

The real dead hand of snobbery in this country is to be found among Left-wing elitists, dwelling in their warm pockets of state-funded privilege, refusing, after 50 years of failure, to admit that they are wrong about anything.


Why This Iowa Principal Is Thankful for School Choice

For this coming fall, Timothy Christian School will welcome just 45 students in kindergarten through 8th grade—the fewest to begin an academic year since the school opened in 1941.

In a state where 30 entire school districts have been eliminated in the last decade and more than 4,000 have been wiped out since 1950, this would seem to be bad news for Timothy, a non-denominational school.

But Janna Voss, who has been at Timothy for 31 years—the last 18 as principal—could not be more pleased with where things stand. The school has been aggressive about fundraising, prudent about spending and diligent about prayer, she said.

As a result, “The school has never been more financially sound than we are right now,” Voss told The Daily Signal in an interview.

Timothy Christian, which Voss describes as a “parent-run school” in which parents “form a society who then appoint and vote on school board members,” has taken advantage of some school choice laws enacted by the Iowa Legislature.

One law, passed in 2006, created the Student Tuition Organization.  This program allows non-public schools to raise scholarship money. This is done by partnering with another private school to form a separate non-profit organization.

The non-profit can bring in donations to be distributed to families based on their income. A set cap is imposed by the legislature on how much can be raised each year. Schools get money based on enrollment from the previous year.

And for those that donate? They receive 65 percent of their donation back as a direct tax credit on their Iowa income tax.

“It’s a win-win,” Voss said. “People are lining up to do this. They are happy to help kids attend private school.”

Then, in 2013, Iowa became one of the last states in the nation to allow independent accreditation of private schools. Before, schools had to be accredited by the Iowa Department of Education to benefit from the Student Tuition Organization and other federal funding opportunities, such as transportation cost reimbursement to parents.

Timothy Christian is accredited through Christian Schools International, to which it has belonged for years.

Voss calls this “the single biggest thing that has happened in Iowa in terms of private education.”

But she has her sights set on an even bigger thing for private education. The Iowa Legislature is considering legislation that would create Education Savings Accounts, in which parents receive a portion of the average cost for a child to attend a public school in the state. The parents are then able to put the money toward their children’s schooling.

States typically create a list of accepted expenditures, such as schools, therapists, educational specialists, materials and other expenses. This could benefit the some 250 private schools that serve almost 47,000 students in Iowa.

Voss, who has served on the board of the Iowa Association of Christian Schools for the past seven years, said these accounts would give parents “the opportunity to use the taxes that they’ve already paid where they want to use it.”

Even better, she said, “The money is not coming to our school. It goes directly to parents to then use how they choose.”

Voss said if the legislation does not pass this year, she thinks it will within the next two or three.  “We can’t wait,” she said.


Monday, June 22, 2015

I chuckled at my son's sexist joke. Does this mean I should be forced to quit like that poor scientist?

By TOM UTLEY in England

At the risk of destroying any hope our third son may have of a career in the politically correct world of academia, I’ll begin by repeating a joke he cracked nine years ago, when he was 14.

It was a Bank Holiday Monday, and he had just switched on the TV hoping for his daily fix of news and views about the [soccer] Premiership.

But to his horror, he saw that instead of the expected manly chat about his beloved Liverpool’s chances against West Ham, or Middlesbrough’s against Man U, BBC1 was showing the Women’s FA Cup Final at Millwall. And not just the highlights — the whole ruddy thing, from beginning to end.

He glanced at his watch, glowered at the women footballers on the screen and exclaimed in disgust: ‘But it’s one o’clock! Shouldn’t they be getting lunch ready?’

Yes, I know. I should have treated him on the spot to a long and stern lecture about the wickedness of sexual stereotyping (sorry, ‘gender’ stereotyping). Or perhaps I should have packed him off to a re-education camp, to be taught to appreciate the, like, y’know, intensely valid role of women’s football in the sisterhood’s struggle for freedom from centuries of quasi-fascist male oppression.

As it was, I’m afraid I just laughed — and rather more heartily than the boy’s joke deserved, in the opinion of his dear mother, who was getting our lunch ready.

Having made that appalling confession, I guess that I, too, must kiss goodbye to my hopes of an honorary professorship at the Faculty of Life Sciences, University College London.

All right, my chances were never all that strong in the first place, since I last set foot in a laboratory when I was 16 and haven’t dissected a frog or peered down a microscope from that day to this.

But as Professor Tim Hunt has discovered, to his awful humiliation, people even better qualified than I to teach the mysteries of cell cycle regulation to budding scientists can destroy their careers through a single light-hearted remark, judged to be unamusing by academia’s po-faced panjandrums of political correctness.

As the entire world now knows, Sir Tim is the brilliant biologist, honoured with a Nobel Prize for his contribution to the search for a cure for cancer, who was forced to resign by the UCL authorities.

This was after his attempt to amuse an audience of women journalists and scientists in South Korea fell a little flat, provoking a Twitter storm of outrage from the sort of people who devote their lives to hunting for excuses to take offence.

Now, in the nine days since the university inflicted this monstrous injustice on him, a great many eminent scientists of both sexes have sprung to Sir Tim’s defence — as have a fair few toilers in my own trade.

But it’s striking that, with only a handful of exceptions, his defenders have felt obliged to preface their remarks by describing his comments in Seoul as ‘stupid’, ‘crass’, ‘antediluvian’ or, at best, ‘very ill-advised’.

Well, perhaps this is a generation thing (at 61, I am only 11 years Sir Tim’s junior). But believe me, I’ve tried — and I just can’t see that any of those descriptions can fairly be applied to the words he actually spoke.

True, with the wisdom of hindsight, he would not have uttered them. But this is only because of the deeply unfair and offensive reaction they provoked. In my view, the words themselves — unlike my son’s little witticism — were completely inoffensive.

But I’ll let readers be the judge of that. This is what Sir Tim is reported to have said: ‘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.’

Should he have said ‘women’ instead of ‘girls’? Maybe. You can’t be too careful these days. But was this really a sackable offence? As for the rest, we may certainly disagree with him when he argues that single-sex laboratories would best serve scientific progress, with their lower risk of the distractions of romance.

Indeed, I’m persuaded by one of Sir Tim’s former pupils — Ottoline Leyser, professor of plant development at Cambridge University’s Sainsbury Laboratory — when she argues in the Times Higher Education supplement: ‘Progress in science depends on creativity, imagination, inspiration, serendipity, obsession, distraction and all the things that make us human. The best science happens in precisely the environments where people fall in and out of love.’

As for his charge against women that ‘when you criticise them, they cry’, we may take it that he’s speaking from personal experience — as he certainly is when he speaks of love in the lab, since it was in the laboratory that he met his wife, the UCL scientist Professor Mary Collins.

Meanwhile, as no less an authority than the Mayor of London points out, it is an established scientific fact that women cry more easily and more often than men.

According to Boris, ‘the world’s leading expert on crying’ is Professor Ad Vingerhoets of Tilburg University, who has found that women cry on average 30 to 64 times a year and men only six to 17 times.

(Chillingly, by the way, a Labour MP called Chi Onwurah has told The Guardian she believes Mr Johnson may have breached the Sex Discrimination Act by suggesting that male and female employees are somehow different. God, what a horrible, mad country this is becoming!)

What we can all agree, surely, is Sir Tim was most emphatically not saying that women make inferior scientists.

On the contrary, everyone who has actually had dealings with the man — including Professor Leyser, Professor Lord Winston and the feminist physics professor Athene Donald of Cambridge — has testified to his tireless promotion of the cause of women in his field.

Yet on the strength of a Twitter storm, the UCL authorities were apparently prepared to forget all the good work he’d done for women — never mind his contribution to the fight against cancer. Without any sort of hearing, they demanded his head within 24 hours of his ill-fated speech.

Says his wife: ‘I was told by a senior that Tim had to resign immediately or be sacked. Tim duly emailed his resignation when he got home.’

But it gets worse. The creeps at UCL — and nine days on, they still haven’t had the decency to identify themselves — failed even to observe the most basic civility of expressing regret at Sir Tim’s departure. Instead, they put out a disgustingly priggish little statement, saying: ‘This outcome is compatible with our commitment to gender equality.’

The Royal Society, from whose biological sciences committee the Nobel prizewinner also resigned, wasn’t much better. Though its statement acknowledged Sir Tim’s ‘exceptional contributions’ to science, it went on: ‘It is the great respect that he has earned for his work that has made his recent comments so disappointing, comments he now recognises were unacceptable.’

How could these once-revered institutions treat such a man in this unspeakably shoddy way? Aren’t universities and learned societies meant to be bastions of free speech and independent-mindedness? Or have they all become craven slaves to the oppressive doctrines of political correctness?

I started with one son, and I’ll end with another. When our fourth and youngest arrived home from Sheffield on Wednesday after sitting his finals, I happened to be reading The Duke’s Children, the sixth of the Palliser novels. I asked him if he’d read any Anthony Trollope — and to my surprise and delight he said that he had.

But he hadn’t read any of the great man’s novels, for which he is chiefly famous. No, all he’d read was a bit of Trollope’s travel-writing about Jamaica.  Why pick that, I wondered? It was for a university course, he said — in ‘Victorian perceptions of race and racial stereotypes’.

So there’s the answer to my question about what Britain’s universities have come to. Trollope is no longer promoted and enjoyed for his wonderful tales about scheming churchmen, politicians, noblemen, terrifying aunts and poor-but- honest, love-struck middle-class girls.

As a man of his time, who believed Englishmen were better than foreigners, he’s studied only to be tutted at for the occasional offence he committed against modern ideas of political correctness.

Has anyone in academia the guts to stand up against this tyranny?


Changing how teachers are taught: A bid to transform education
Another starry eyed refusal to face the real problem of dim students and dim teachers but it might do some marginal good

When Jeffrey Chiusano starts his job as a high school physics teacher in the fall, he’ll be doing so with a full year of teaching already under his belt.

His teacher license and degree were largely earned in a high school classroom, in a yearlong residency in which he could dissect with his professors and his mentor the experiences he had in creating lesson plans and working with students. The mentorship will continue for his first few years on the job.

“It’s easy to read it in a book, but it’s a lot different when you get up in front of 20 students to put in place what you learned,” Mr. Chiusano says.

His experience is emblematic of a new approach to teacher preparation that top education reformers say is the direction in which the field should be headed. That emphasis on lengthy classroom experience and mentorship, rather than seat time and textbooks, is needed, they say, given how inadequate the vast majority of education schools are when it comes to preparing teachers for their careers.

The training that teachers receive for their jobs is no obscure matter. Evidence increasingly points to teacher quality as the most important factor in determining how much students learn.

But too often, critics say, America's education schools are not serving their enrollees well – with low standards for admittance and graduation, no consensus about what training teachers need, little meaningful clinical experience, and courses that are behind the times and unrelated to real-world experience.

“Teacher education in the US is broken and outdated,” says Arthur Levine, president of the Woodrow Wilson Foundation, which has been a leading force behind improving teacher preparation. “The US is moving from a national analog industrial economy to a global digital knowledge economy, and every one of those [education] schools was created for the former.... We can try to repair them or try to replace them. I’m convinced you have to do both.”

A new graduate school and research lab, announced Tuesday by the Woodrow Wilson Foundation and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, is a major effort toward changing the system.
Take Action:Reach out to organizations and individuals dealing with literacy, school funding, bullying, technology, social media, and other classroom issues.

The Woodrow Wilson Academy of Teaching and Learning (WW Academy), which will be located in the Boston area, is designed to be a showcase of the best sort of teacher preparation possible. It will have an emphasis on competency rather than time and will include a laboratory in which researchers do intensive studies on what works when it comes to educating teachers.

The hope is that the successful elements of the WW Academy will be replicated elsewhere and that the laboratory's findings have far-reaching effects.

“We’re not interested in creating a hothouse, some small education school,” Dr. Levine says. “What we’re really interested in is transforming teacher education around the country.”

He envisions a graduate program that is the education equivalent of West Point – the absolute best when it comes to teacher education. And in lab, MIT researchers can design thoughtful, intentional experiments to add concrete data to what can seem a very muddy field.

While there isn’t a great deal of data about what works in teacher preparation, there is a growing consensus both on the need for that data and the need for more rigor and standardization in teacher accreditation, so such accreditation is more akin to that used for medicine, law, or nursing.

“We know that of all the in-school measures, teacher quality has by far the biggest impact” on education quality, says David Steiner, dean of Hunter College’s school of education and a former New York State education commissioner.

Dr. Steiner, like Levine, says the current state of many education schools doesn’t come anywhere close to what’s needed in preparing teachers, and that too often, the least effective teachers end up in the most high-needs schools.

To change, Steiner says, the system ultimately needs to have fewer education schools with higher standards and strong clinical experience that prepare teachers for the jobs that actually exist – as opposed to the current system, which is licensing far more teachers (at least in some parts of the United States) than the country needs. This wouldn’t take care of all the challenges to developing a stronger teacher pool – like the low pay, poor working conditions, and lack of prestige that the profession currently struggles with – but Steiner thinks it would go a long way toward helping.

“The challenge here is to ratchet the entire system up,” says Steiner. “If you are more selective, if you can have a serious clinical preparation and then deliver those selective candidates who have been well prepared into a school system, I suspect we’d take the working-conditions issue more seriously, both in terms of salary and conditions. We’d move the entire system up several notches.”

The federal government has trained its sights on teacher preparation as well, most recently proposing new regulations that would grade education schools and alternative certification routes through measures like graduates’ job placement, retention, and the academic performance of the graduates' students.

Education Secretary Arne Duncan called improved teacher preparation “a moral issue” when he announced the proposed rules last November, and he has called for “revolutionary change.” His proposal was highly controversial, however – particularly the fact that it would factor in students’ academic performance – and put many schools on the defensive.

But if teacher training is truly to get where it's needed, say education experts, more data, rigorous research, and transparency are needed – and data on education school graduates could potentially take up a wide range of factors, including surveys from teachers and students.

“No regulation is perfect ... but the thrust of what the Feds are trying to do is fair and right and potentially helpful,” says Benjamin Riley, founder of Deans for Impact, a coalition of leaders of top education schools who are committed to transforming the field. “We’d like to engage in a dialogue to shape it in ways that are meaningful.”

Mr. Riley, like Levine, says that a lot of what is needed to transform teacher preparation is rigorous research on what works and where investments should be made. Emphasis right now is on the sort of residency and mentorship programs that Chiusano got in his fellowship. But such programs can be expensive, and cost is a big barrier when it comes to shifting an entire system of teacher preparation.

If good research existed about the return on that investment and the success of the model, says Riley, it would be much easier to make the case for that investment.

“We’ve got some hunches [about what works], but we haven’t really tested them to the degree of rigor we’d like. There are 1,450 or so odd colleges of education, and there’s unbelievable variance in what they prioritize.”

It’s common for critics of teacher training to bemoan the quality of people drawn to the profession: Unlike countries like Finland, Singapore, or South Korea, where nearly all teachers come from the top of their classes, the US has few such teachers. A 2007 McKinsey study found that while those three countries recruit 100 percent of their teachers from the top third of their academic cohort, in the US, 23 percent of new teachers come from that top third. In high-poverty schools, the number is 14 percent.

When he hires new teachers, their achievement and solid content knowledge from their own academic experience is important, says Doug McCurry, co-CEO and superintendent of Achievement First, a charter school network in Connecticut, New York, and Rhode Island. But he also looks for passion and commitment to educating disadvantaged students – and an unwavering belief that they can succeed – as well as a mind-set that welcomes feedback, criticism, and growth.

“We need to be looking at the top quartile people and then filtering out for these other things,” says Mr. McCurry, who notes that getting the right teachers is one of the most important decisions that he or any school leader has to make. “That’s what this country needs.”

If the working conditions were changed, and teachers were encouraged to grow and have an impact, McCurry believes more top people would be drawn to the profession.

Several years ago, Achievement First was one of three charter networks whose leaders banded together to create a stand-alone education grad school, Relay. Like the Woodrow Wilson fellowships and the teacher training program at Hunter, Relay emphasizes residency, mentorship, and real-world experiences for aspiring teachers. And it has high standards for admission.

“If our education schools across the country were all like Relay, I think that would be game-changing for the US,” says McCurry.


Why isn't science fun any more? UK schools have ditched experiments because they're scared of risk

Science experiments were once a sure way to grab pupils’ attention and bring a bit of excitement to class.

But schools are no longer allowing pupils to carry them out because of health and safety fears, according to an education expert.

Teachers are banishing ‘risk and adventure’ from the classroom – forcing youngsters to sit and watch instead, claims Nicholas Gair, a trustee of educational charity the Outward Bound Trust.

He said as a result, children were being overprotected and will grow up without any interest or excitement in science subjects.

Mr Gair said: ‘There is a change in how we treat young people.

'We’ve over-protected young people and so we’ve been so worried about them in terms of safety that in some cases they no longer participate in science experiments.

‘They are told to sit and watch science experiments rather than actually have the interest and the excitement of doing a sensible experiment.

The Institute of Chemical Engineers has voiced concern about primary schools, in particular, refusing to allow experiments because teachers are reluctant to ‘embrace anything that might be perceived as having a risk associated with it’.

Schools had avoided demonstrations of simple electrical circuits using low-voltage power and even prevented pupils ‘pond-dipping’ for insects.

Speaking at the Festival of Education at Wellington College, Mr Gair added: ‘We somehow have taken the excitement, the risk and the adventure out of what we allow young people to do.’

Mr Gair said young people need to learn from exposure to risk.  He added: ‘If they have never fallen over they don’t know what it’s like to fall over and therefore they believe they are invincible.’


Sunday, June 21, 2015

British schools inspectorate axes four in ten of its 'failing' inspectors in purge to boost quality of school visits

Someone has inspected the inspectors, it seems

Ofsted is ditching four in ten of its inspectors because they are not considered good enough to judge schools reliably, it has been revealed.

The education watchdog’s purge of 1,200 inspectors is part of a plan to improve the quality and consistency of its school visits and written reports.

Headteachers welcomed the news but expressed frustration that schools had clearly been subjected to inspections by assessors who ‘weren’t up to the job’.

Sir Robin Bosher, Ofsted’s head of quality and training, told the Times Educational Supplement: ‘Our absolute aim is to have the highest-quality inspectors we can.

‘I am committed to making sure that my colleagues in headship can be assured they have a good inspector walking up the path. 'I’m determined that will happen.’

He said Ofsted cut its headcount with assessments, which also whittled down the 2,800 freelancers who wanted to become full-time inspectors to just 1,600.

Sir Robin revealed that one of the key reasons for rejecting so many was their lack of skill in writing reports, an area that has been a source of serious concern for many schools.

Last October it emerged that a senior school inspector accused of ‘inappropriate copying and pasting’ in his reports has been dropped by Ofsted.

David Marshall produced identical or near-identical sections in his assessments of schools over three years while working as a lead inspector for Tribal, a private contractor used by the watchdog.

Ofsted had been using 3,000 inspectors from contractors, but from September they will all be employed by the watchdog.

Chief inspector Sir Michael Wilshaw announced last year that Ofsted would no longer use such ‘additional inspectors’.

After every school inspection they will be graded by a lead inspector, who will report back to Her Majesty’s inspectors (HMIs) and Ofsted’s regional directors.

Sir Robin told the Times Educational Supplement he was ‘confident’ that the new approach would allay headteachers’ fears over quality and consistency.

But he added that no system would be perfect and he could not rule out problems in the future.  He said: ‘We’re dealing with human beings. We’re not making telephones, we’re delivering inspection. It’s a human process, and because of that there’s room for things not to be right.’

Russell Hobby, general secretary of the NAHT headteachers’ union, said that Ofsted deserved praise for its actions.  But he added: ‘You look back and say, for the last few years we’ve been inspected by a group where 40 per cent weren’t up to the job.’

Janis Burdin, headteacher of Moss Side Primary, an outstanding school in Lancashire, said: ‘If 40 per cent have been viewed as not good enough to continue, what does that say for all those who have recently had inspections?’

Geoff Barton, headteacher at King Edward VI School in Suffolk, added: ‘For many of us, there’s a lot the organisation needs to do in order to restore its tarnished reputation.

‘I am reassured that they are purging so many inspectors, but ultimately it’s the quality of inspection rather than the quantity of inspectors that matters.’


The Creepy Consequences of Oppression Chic

Why was America so shocked by homegirl hoaxer Rachel Dolezal?

The spray-tanned con artist, who resigned this week as head of the Spokane chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of (Artificially) Colored People, is the inevitable outcome of academia's cult of manufactured victimhood.

College campuses have been grooming a cadre of professional minority fakers and fraudsters for decades.

The notorious pretendians Ward Churchill and Elizabeth Warren faked their Native American status to bolster their faculty credentials at the University of Colorado and Harvard, respectively. It was a mutually beneficial racket for all poseur parties involved. Churchill and Warren basked in their tenured glory. The schools racked up politically correct points for adding the right flavors to their employment rolls.

Churchill was specifically granted a "special opportunity" position that his school created to increase "diversity" on the teaching staff. Warren falsely listed herself as a minority professor in a law school directory. Harvard officials eagerly touted Warren's bogus background, the Boston Herald reported, to "bolster their diversity hiring record in the '90s as the school came under heavy fire for a faculty that was then predominantly white and male." Based solely on what Warren later admitted was unsubstantiated "family lore," the Fordham Law Review called her the "first woman of color" at Harvard Law.

The pressure to conform and cash in on the cult of oppression chic is even more virulent among the student body. Race-based affirmative action is a primary catalyst.

Take Vijay Chokal-Ingam, brother of TV star Vera Mindy Chokalingam. He pretended to be black in 1998-99 in order to gain admission to St. Louis University School of Medicine.

"In my junior year of college, I realized that I didn't have the grades or test scores to get into medical school, at least not as an Indian-American," he wrote. "So, I shaved my head, trimmed my long Indian eyelashes and applied to medical school as a black man. ... Vijay the Indian-American frat boy become Jojo the African-American Affirmative Action applicant to medical school."

From the moment they apply to the nation's elite institutions of higher learning, applicants are rewarded for playing up racial division, ethnic strife and identity politics. "I told Harvard I was an undocumented immigrant," Dario Guerrero bragged in The Washington Post last fall. "They gave me a full scholarship."

In the 1990s, top-tier schools introduced a "diversity essay" requirement for undergrad admissions. The online "Common Application" used by hundreds of colleges and universities directs prospective students to "describe an experience that illustrates what you would bring to the diversity in a college community, or an encounter that demonstrated the importance of diversity to you."

More recently, the University of California at Berkeley mandated that all graduate school hopefuls supply a "personal history statement" with "information on how you have overcome barriers to access opportunities in higher education."

And that's not enough. Applicants for every U.C. Berkeley graduate program must provide "evidence of how you have come to understand the barriers faced by others, evidence of your academic service to advance equitable access to higher education for women, racial minorities and individuals from other groups that have been historically underrepresented in higher education, evidence of your research focusing on underserved populations or related issues of inequality, or evidence of your leadership among such groups."

These "progressive" schools then herd their young charges into color-coded dorms and segregated academic departments, where they can stew even deeper in their "otherness" and gripe about "white privilege."

We've moved from "separate, but equal" to "separate is superior."

In addition, I've chronicled dozens of cases of minority students over the years who have faked hate crimes when they were dissatisfied with their level of systemic oppression. Instead of being punished, many of these p.c. performance artists have been praised by college administrators and faculty for "raising awareness" of social injustice.

Is it any wonder, then, that lying liar Rachel Dolezal learned from historically black Howard University to loathe the skin she was born in?

After receiving a full art scholarship based on her portfolio of "exclusively African-American portraiture," she reportedly encountered bigotry from campus officials who had assumed she was black when she applied. She lost a lawsuit against the university in which she described an atmosphere "permeated with discriminatory intimidation, ridicule and insult" for being white. Soon after, according to her family, she began to make her creepy transition and continues to "identify as black."

If you can't beat 'em, join 'em. If you can't make it, fake it. In the ivory tower, the most afflicted and the most offended are at the top of the food chain.

Oppression Olympics breeds grievance grifters.


Obama Admin Pressures Colleges to Adopt Unconstitutional Speech Codes

By Hans Bader

Under the Obama administration, the Education Department has pressured schools and colleges to restrict speech, including off campus speech, even when it is protected by the First Amendment, and is not severe and pervasive. It claims this is required by federal anti-discrimination laws such as Title IX and Title VI. It also expects colleges to investigate off-campus sexual misconduct by students, even though most federal appellate court rulings say schools have no such duty under Title IX.

As I recently noted in The Wall Street Journal, “the Education Department, where I used to work,” is

“pressuring colleges to adopt unconstitutional speech codes in the name of fighting sexual harassment. It has disregarded many court rulings in doing so.

“For example, the Education Department has wrongly ordered schools to regulate off-campus speech and conduct. That contributed to the harassment charges against Prof. Laura Kipnis, who was accused over a politically incorrect essay she wrote in the Chronicle of Higher Education and statements she made on Twitter. Court rulings like Roe v. Saint Louis University (2014) reject Title IX claims over off-campus conduct, but the Education Department ignores them. It also ignores court rulings like Klein v. Smith (1986) emphasizing that the First Amendment usually bars public schools from restricting off-campus speech. For example, the Education Department told schools to regulate comments ‘on the Internet’ in an October 2010 letter. In 2014, it demanded that Harvard regulate off-campus conduct more.”

At Northwestern University, Professor Laura Kipnis was subjected to a bizarre Title IX investigation over an essay in the Chronicle titled “Sexual Paranoia Strikes Academe” (which hypersensitive students claimed offended them and constituted sexual harassment) and her subsequent statements defending herself on Twitter (which the students claimed constituted “retaliation” in violation of Title IX, even though she did not identify them by name). Kipnis was ultimately found not guilty.

Although it eventually became clear that nothing Kipnis did violated Title IX, Northwestern probably felt obligated to subject Kipnis to that chilling, lengthy, and extensive investigation due to improper mandates issued by the Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR), which make it hard to summarily dismiss weak or baseless Title IX complaints. 

As I have discussed earlier, OCR issued such mandates in violation of the Administrative Procedure Act’s notice-and-comment provisions, a disturbing practice frequently committed by the Education Department. A federal appeals court in a different part of the country ruled in White v. Lee (2000) that lengthy, speech-chilling civil rights investigations by government officials can violate the First Amendment even when they are eventually dropped without imposing any fine or disciplinary action. But Northwestern is a private university.

OCR’s mandates wrongly extend Title IX to off-campus speech and conduct, and pressure colleges to investigate even if the speech or conduct alleged is not severe and pervasive. The Supreme Court's 1999 decision in Davis v. Monroe County Board of Education requires proof that conduct was severe and pervasive to violate Title IX, emphasizing five times that it must be “severe, pervasive, and objectively offensive.” 

OCR, to the contrary, deems colleges liable for sexual harassment based on conduct that is merely “persistent” or “severe” or “pervasive.” Professor Kipnis may have been “persistent” in expressing her views, but there was nothing "severe" and "pervasive" about them, or the way she expressed them.

OCR sometimes expects colleges to nip harassment in the bud by taking draconian measures against speech that does not legally amount to sexual harassment, such as when it told the University of Montana in 2013 to investigate even speech that was not offensive to a reasonable person, much less severe or pervasive, as “sexual harassment.”

Prior to the Obama administration, a college like Northwestern would not have taken seriously a Title IX complaint over debate occurring largely off campus, like Kipnis's essay and tweet. They would not have felt obligated to even investigate such a weak Title IX complaint, because judges had often ruled that off-campus activity was simply beyond Title IX's reach, in decisions such as Lam v. Curators of the University of Missouri (1997) (which rejected a lawsuit against a university over a professor's alleged assault against a student) and Roe v. Saint Louis University (2014) (which rejected a lawsuit over an alleged student-on-student rape).

In addition, according to most courts, the First Amendment gives public schools and state colleges little power to restrict off-campus speech, as decisions like Klein v. Smith (1986) and J.S. v. Blue Mountain School District (2011) make clear.

But OCR has disregarded such court rulings. In an October 26, 2010, “Dear Colleague” letter about school bullying and Title IX, it told America’s school officials that federal statutes such as Title IX and Title VI can require schools to punish students for “graphic and written statements” on the “internet,” and “web sites of a sexual nature.”

Prior to the Obama administration’s attempt to radically expand Title IX, a university would have viewed Kipnis's statements as obviously beyond the reach of Title IX because they were not “severe, pervasive, and objectively offensive” (as the Supreme Court’s Davis decision requires for Title IX harassment liability), and also because they were directed at the general public, not to the complainants (which made them protected by academic freedom and the First Amendment, under the logic of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals’ decision in Rodriguez v. Maricopa Community College (2011), which rejected a racial harassment lawsuit over a professor’s anti-immigration emails which were deemed to create a hostile educational environment.).

But in May 2013, OCR ordered the University of Montana to ignore the requirements in the Supreme Court’s Davis decision (that speech be severe, pervasive, and objectively offensive) in its internal Title IX investigations of harassment and retaliation.

Kipnis’s university, Northwestern, apparently heeded OCR's censorial instructions to the University of Montana in adopting the overly broad definition of harassment cited by the complainants who sought to silence Kipnis. Moreover, in May 2014, OCR told Tufts University to change its harassment policy to reach even statements not “directed at a specific person or persons.” That, too, opened the door to harassment charges over commentary and discourse such as the newspaper essay written by Professor Kipnis.

As one observer notes, since 2013, “the Office for Civil Rights has sent conflicting signals ever since then about whether the definition it urged on the [University of Montana] should be adopted by all colleges, or need not be (sometimes suggesting it is a blueprint for all colleges, and sometimes not), but it is not surprising that colleges that want to avoid a Title IX inquisition have adopted it to avoid potential harassment by the Office for Civil Rights, as many in fact have,” resulting in draconian restrictions on speech at some colleges, as the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education has noted.