Friday, July 10, 2015

Scott Walker didn’t finish college. Would that make him a bad president?

Nope. Our research shows college degrees don’t matter in politics

Next week, Scott Walker is expected to announce that he’s running for president. When he does, he’ll give voters a decision many have never faced in their lifetimes: should you vote for someone without a college degree for President of the United States?

These days it’s rare for someone without a college diploma to get picked for an internship, let alone stand for the highest office in the country. Walker’s opponents have sparkling resumes from college and beyond: Jeb Bush graduated Phi Beta Kappa, Marco Rubio has an honors law degree, Ted Cruz went to Princeton and then Harvard Law School, Hillary Clinton’s law degree is from Yale.

Walker’s last degree, on the other hand, came from Delavan-Darien High School. Throughout his career, Walker’s opponents have often pounced on this aspect of his biography. In February, Howard Dean called Walker “unknowledgeable” and questioned, “How well-educated is this guy?” In May, John Morgan—an influential Democratic campaign donor—put the case against Walker even more bluntly: “We just cannot have a dumb shit as president.”

As the campaign wears on, voters are going to hear a lot more about the fact that Walker didn’t finish college. Should they care?

We recently completed the largest study to look directly at this question—does having a college degree matter for politicians?—and the answer is, we don’t think so. (You can download the study here.)

IT’S EASY TO understand why so many pundits assume that candidates without college degrees are less qualified. In the general public, college is an important commodity, and people with college degrees tend to earn higher incomes and participate in civic life more.

But when it comes to holding office—which requires skills that aren’t taught in a college classroom—a college degree isn’t a guarantee that a candidate knows what he or she is doing. And the leaders who make it into office despite not having a college diploma tend to do just fine. When we examined hard data on how politicians with and without college degrees actually perform in office, on average, we didn’t find any real differences between leaders who finished college and leaders who didn’t.

Our research relied on several large datasets on the educational backgrounds of politicians. Most of our analysis focused on a dataset with information about every national executive in the world who served between 1875 and 2004. We’ve also looked at data on the members of Congress who served from 1901 to 1996 (there was only one US President without a college degree during that time) and data from Brazil, where the national government conducts one of the world’s best anti-corruption audits.

In our research, we looked at outcomes that most voters care about: economic growth, unemployment, inflation, how often major labor strikes happen, how often the country initiates a new military conflict, economic inequality, and so on. Obviously, politicians can’t control all of these things. But if leaders with college degrees really are better, then countries with college-educated national executives should tend to perform better on some of these measures.

But they don’t. Other things equal, countries with college-educated leaders and countries led by politicians who didn’t finish college have similar rates of economic growth, similar unemployment rates, similar inflation rates, similar numbers of wars and major work stoppages, and similar levels of income inequality. When it comes to major social outcomes that voters care about, it just doesn’t seem to matter whether a country’s national executive has a college diploma.

The same was true when we looked at an innovative anti-corruption program in Brazil. Every year since 2003, an anti-corruption office in Brazil’s federal government has randomly selected 250 municipalities and extensively audited how they spend their money. We looked at the data, and corruption appears to be just as common in cities run by college-educated mayors as it is in cities whose mayors didn’t finish college.

Even in the US Congress, a college diploma doesn’t seem to signify anything special. Throughout the 20th century, members of Congress who didn’t have college degrees introduced just as many successful bills as their colleagues who had college diplomas. They didn’t suffer with voters, either: they won just as many votes on average, and were just as likely to get reelected. Despite our best efforts, our research didn’t turn up any performance measure that favored college-educated legislators. Once someone without a college degree gets to Congress, they tend to do just fine.

And that's probably the key to understanding why politicians without college degrees tend to perform just as well: even without a college degree, these are people who wound up as leaders. By definition, they have more in common with a college dropout like Bill Gates than a typical college dropout. Getting into public office in most places is a gauntlet—especially here in the US—and the only people who usually make it through are brilliant workaholics who can stomach a lot of mud.

In the general public, people with college degrees tend to be more skilled and tend to make more money, but political candidates aren’t the general public. They’re a vetted, screened, battered subset of the rest of us. Among the people who make it into that pool, it doesn’t matter whether you’ve got a college degree. You’ve proven yourself in other ways.

SCOTT WALKER IS a case in point. He enrolled at Marquette University in 1986. He was actively involved in campus politics, and he made okay grades. During his junior year, he lost a race for student body president and he got a job offer from the American Red Cross, so he left Marquette (“in good standing,” his supporters often note). He planned to go back and complete his degree, but he got sucked into a whirlwind political career, and he never found the time to finish up.

If Walker had stuck around and finished his college degree, would he be a different governor today? A different presidential candidate? Would another year of schooling have made him better at winning elections or passing laws? Would two more semesters have changed his political outlook? Probably not.

Most politicians don’t learn what they know about governing in college. They learn how to lead the way most people really learn to do their jobs: by doing their jobs. College teaches students a lot, but holding office is a massively-specialized occupation, and no one learns how to do it by taking classes. They learn how to do it by doing it.

This isn’t to say that college is worthless. As university professors, we get to see first-hand how a high-quality college education can change someone’s life.  But we don’t kid ourselves that our students are ready to be President the minute they graduate—or that they’re the only people in the country who are qualified to hold office.

In many ways, Scott Walker’s college experience isn’t all that remarkable. Lots of successful people left college early to start their careers: Harry Truman, Karl Rove, Mark Zuckerberg. If you met someone at a party who told you he left college a year early, his career took off in a major way, and he just never found the time to finish up, you probably wouldn’t think much of it. We all know there’s a lot more to a person than whether they have a fancy diploma hanging on their wall.

The same is true for politicians. When voters hear that Scott Walker—or any politician—didn’t finish college, they probably shouldn’t make too much of it. They should listen to the person’s ideas, they should look at the person’s track record, but they shouldn’t get too hung up on the college part.

Should you vote for someone without a college degree for President of the United States? If you think they’re the best candidate, why wouldn’t you?


'Free' Money Doesn't Make College More Affordable

Over the weekend, Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) penned a Wall Street Journal opinion piece in which he claims that college is not too expensive — because of all kinds of free money from the government. Tell that to middle-class families paying the full bill.

Alexander discusses some costs of attending college in modern America, and, while he admits that school can set you back a few bucks, he says not only are costs not as bad as advertised but there are numerous ways to pay for most of them.

“Public two year colleges … are free or nearly free for low-income students,” Alexander writes, and “community college tuition and fees average $3,300 per year.” Coincidently (or not), the average Pell Grant is also $3,300, though it can be as high as $5,775, depending on need. Even better, students can get 12 semesters of them, and since a grant needn’t be repaid, recipients are relieved of the need to find summer employment.

Using the University of Tennessee at Knoxville as an example of four-year schools, Alexander says tuition and fees average about $11,800 per year. Besides Pell Grants, students in Tennessee and some other states also have access to Hope Scholarships. For each of the first two years, the recipient gets $3,500, then $4,500 for years three and four. He says other “[s]tates run a variety of similar programs — $11.2 billion in financial aid in 2013, 85% in the form of scholarships.” Scholarships needn’t be repaid either.

Alexander extolls the virtue of government subsidies, but, if necessary, the student also has access to loans secured by the government. The College Board estimates that students from four-year schools will have an average of $27,000 in debt when they graduate, about the same as a new car loan.

Nationally, the current outstanding total of these loans is $1.2 trillion.

In closing, Alexander offers “five steps … to make it easier for students to finance their college education:”

“Allow students to use Pell grants year-round…”

“Simplify the confusing 108-question federal student-aid application…”

Allow colleges to counsel students against too much borrowing.
“Require colleges to share in the risk of lending to students…”

Cut federal red tape that costs millions.

But recently published research doesn’t support Alexander’s love of federal college subsidies to students. In fact, according to David Lucca and Karen Shen of the New York Fed and Taylor Nadauld of Brigham Young University, tuition goes up 65 cents for every dollar of new loans or grants. “[W]hile one would expect student aid expansion to benefit recipients,” the pair say, “the subsidized loan expansion could [be] to their detriment, on net, because of the sizable and offsetting tuition effect.”

The study supports the Bennett Hypothesis, offered by William Bennett, education secretary under Ronald Reagan. He surmised that more government student aid meant universities could “blithely” raise tuition rates without enrollment suffering. Soaring student debt rather proves the point.

According to the Washington Examiner, researchers measured “differences in tuition changes at schools that had more or fewer students [taking advantage of increased] student loans, using data from the Department of Education. Not only did tuitions rise when Congress increased aid availability, but for-profit colleges saw their stocks jump.”

And if you think it’s expensive now, wait until Barack Obama makes it free.

Weighing in with his three-essay series in 2008 on the economics of college, economist Thomas Sowell explained why the cost of college tuition is so high.

“There are two basic reasons,” Sowell said. “The first is that people will pay what the colleges charge. The second is that there is little incentive for colleges to reduce the tuition they charge.”

Sowell discussed the notion of cost: “The inadequacy of resources to produce everything that everyone wants is the fundamental fact of life in every economy. … This means that the real cost of anything consists of all the other things that could have been produced with those same resources.”

Universities ignore the fact that, by constantly raising tuition and thus taking billions every year from the economy, they are simply reallocating resources that perhaps could be used more effectively than a four-year degree in gender studies. And because students can always get the funds to pay for tuition, colleges will always raise it.

As Sowell notes, “In a normal market situation, each competing enterprise has an incentive to lower prices if that would attract business away from competitors and increase its profits.”

But college isn’t the normal world. In fact, some who have tried to lower tuition have been “advised” against it by the American Association of University Professors because their accreditation might be revoked.

Higher education is a very high-stakes business, and, while academics may have the reputation of being soft, they won’t take cutting student aid without a fight. Today it’s more about building magnificent temples to academia and creating world-renowned reputations than passing on knowledge.


Unions Love This New Version of No Child Left Behind. That Should Worry Conservatives

The Senate has begun floor consideration of a reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), currently known as No Child Left Behind (NCLB).

This congress has the opportunity to consider conservative policy reforms that would genuinely restore state and local control of education, yet the proposal as it currently stands has a long way to go before it could be considered to be on a path toward achieving that goal.

Notably, the version that made its way out of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) committee has received praise from the National Education Association, which said it “has a lot of things going for it,” and the American Federation of Teachers, although both groups would like to see the proposal move further left.

The AFT applauded the bill for “maintaining the formula that concentrates funding for poor children, by not including portability or block grants, and by keeping maintenance-of-effort requirements.”

Translation: Union special interest groups like the proposal because it keeps spending high, doesn’t include school choice options and maintains super-sized federal intervention in education.

But there is room for improvement. As the legislative process proceeds over the next few days (the House will also consider its reauthorization proposal), members of Congress have the opportunity to advance provisions that would restore state and local control of education and empower parents. Those provisions include:

The Academic Partnerships Lead Us to Success (APLUS) proposal would allow states to completely opt-out of all of the programs that fall under No Child Left Behind. States could then use their funds for any education purpose authorized under state law. APLUS—allowing states to completely exit No Child Left Behind—has long been a conservative priority.

Over 100 members of the House, including 4 sitting members of the Education and the Workforce Committee, have co-sponsored APLUS over the past few years. A-PLUS would empower states to reclaim responsibility for how taxpayer dollars are spent, moving the decision-making process close to local school leaders and parents. It would also place the responsibility for educational improvement with states and schools, which have the strongest incentive to get policymaking right.

Title I portability. Title I funding makes up the bulk of spending under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. The roughly $14.5 billion is intended to improve educational outcomes for children from low-income families, but as researcher Susan Aud has found, “complicated, disregarded guidelines result in wide variation in the way that funds are distributed and often result in little or no relationship between a district’s demo­graphics and the amount of money received.”

To improve Title I for the disadvantaged children it was designed to help, states should be given the option to make Title I dollars portable, following a child to a public, charter or private school of choice.

Reducing program count. Any reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act should reduce program count. The law has morphed significantly from its original 31 pages authorizing spending for disadvantaged school districts, to a more than 600-page bill with thousands of pages of regulations and dozens of competitive grant programs that burden states and interfere with local school policy. Competitive grant programs should be eliminated, and spending reduced commensurately.

On a final note, proponents of the current reauthorization proposal often suggest that it ends Common Core. It does not.

The proposal adds yet another prohibition on the secretary of Education mandating or incentivizing Common Core, but prohibitions already exist in three federal laws, making another prohibition redundant and largely meaningless.

Moreover, it is up to states—governors and legislatures—to exit Common Core. The onus for withdrawing from Common Core falls to state leaders, and indeed, they should fully exit the national standards and tests in order to reclaim control over the content taught in their states.

But those considering the impact of an additional prohibition against Common Core in Elementary and Secondary Education Act should be aware that it would do nothing to untangle states from the effort; that must be done by states.


Thursday, July 09, 2015

Ohio Cuts Funding For Common Core Testing

According to the state of Ohio's two-year budget plan approved by Gov. John Kasich, there will be no more state spending on tests developed by the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC), a program which has drawn the ire of parents and educators around the country. According to a recent Washington Post article:

The PARCC test was created by the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, one of two federally funded multistate consortia tasked with creating new Common Core tests with some $360 million in federal funds. (The other is the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium.) In 2010, PARCC had 26 member states, but it has suffered major defections since then, with fewer than a dozen states now committed to using the PARCC exam this year.

Governors turning their back on Common Core has been fueled by numerous complaints from parents and educators alike. In the month of June, a New Jersey third grader was banned from extracurricular activities with other students because her mother opted her out of PARCC testing; and in Texas, where Pearson opened up their first test grading center, where people with no education experience are getting paid to grade student's PARCC exams instead of teachers. This backlash from communities has caused state governments to reconsider how they plan on implementing Common Core in the future, especially as election season comes around.

This growing trend of states leaving Common Core associated exams is beginning to spread; Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson recently announced that Arkansas public schools will be terminating its ties to PARCC. According to the Arkansas Education Association president Brenda Robinson:

"Time to teach students is very important and the amount of testing done in the classroom has seen significant impact on instructional time..."

Louisiana Governor and 2016 presidential candidate, Gov. Bobby Jindal joined the pack by issuing an executive order allowing parents to decide whether they want their children to opt out of PARCC testing. In an interview with the press after the order was given, Jindal stated:

"We want out of Common Core...We won't let the federal government take over Louisiana's education standards. We're very alarmed about choice and local control of curriculum being taken away from our parents and educators."

While Jindal and Hutchinson have joined the coalition to rid their states of Common Core standards entirely, Kasich is still reluctant to order schools to leave the program, as seen in a January interview with Fox News when word of a potential 2016 run for Kasich was rumored:

"The Common Core was written by state education superintendents and local principals, in my state of Ohio, we want higher standards for our children, and those standards are set and the curriculum is set by local school boards. Barack Obama doesn't set it, the state of Ohio doesn't set it. It is local school boards driving better education, higher standards, created by local school boards.”


So Much for the Free-Speech Left

To look at virtually anything produced by Hollywood is to register confirmation that the libertine left cherishes clogging our popular culture with vulgarities. The messaging in movies, television and particularly music is punctuated deliberately and unnecessarily with all manner of language designed to offend.

But when it comes to perfectly decent speech — spoken innocently with no bad intention — those same liberals need smelling salts. Welcome to the wacky world of "micro-aggressions," where conversation becomes a minefield of political correctness.

It's all the rage on campuses. Both the University of California and the University of Wisconsin at Stevens Point have circulated lists of "microaggressions" to faculty for allegedly instructional purposes. The list of unacceptable words and phrases just gets longer and longer. And funnier.

To be sure, there are a couple of phrases we can agree are unacceptable. "I jewed him down" is one. "You are a credit to your race" is another. As to the rest, you decide.

In California, it included statements like "America is the land of opportunity" and "everyone in this society can succeed, if they work hard enough." We bet you didn't know these are statements of aggression. But what if we flipped that phrase? What if we were to state that "America is the land of oppression for the working man?" That wouldn't be aggression, that would be something these professors teach.

In Wisconsin, there are similar warning phrases — "I believe the most qualified person should get the job" and "everyone can succeed in this society if they work hard enough" — but there's so much more.

Do you believe that "America is a melting pot"? Do you subscribe to the beliefs that "When I look at you, I don't see race," and "there is only one race, the human race"?

If so, how very rude of you. Apparently, these statements are not acknowledging a common humanity. You are denying a "person of color's racial/ethnic experiences." If you believe "there is only one race, the human race," you are "denying the individual as a racial, cultural being." If you are a "store owner following a customer of color around a store," presumably because you believe he might be shoplifting, you believe he is "going to steal," and he is "dangerous." And that is wrong.

Now what if the suspicious person you're following is white? That's OK.

There's more. If you've ever asked a Black person — "Black" and "White" are capitalized by these racially sensitive folks who don't see the irony — "Why do you have to be so loud?" or an Asian or Latino person, "Why are you so quiet?" you are really demanding they assimilate to the dominant culture.

"Where are you from?" or "Where were you born?" signifies you believe that person to be a foreigner and that's insensitive.

Asking an Asian person to help with a math or science problem means you believe Asians to be intelligent and good in math and science, and that's wrong, too.

If we were to say to Justice Clarence Thomas, "You are so articulate" we would be signaling that we believe "people of color are generally not as intelligent as Whites," not that Justice Clarence Thomas is so articulate.

There are also "environmental macroaggressions" on the Wisconsin list, such as too many white characters on TV shows, or a "college or university with buildings that are all named after White heterosexual upper-class males."

The other crazy phrase of the campus censors is "trigger warnings," meaning you have to warn these college-age marshmallows before reading fusty old classic by the likes of Shakespeare or Plato. Those troublesome authors might provoke memories of past trauma on subjects like rape or death. But then one feminist from the collective insisted the phrase "trigger warning" is inappropriate since it could evoke "violent weaponry imagery." So there you have it: They're now warning about warnings.

This whole regime of speech-policing is a transparent attempt to keep white racial guilt churning at warp speed. This is indoctrination, not education.

Why, oh, why do parents send their children to these colleges taught by these nutty professors?


A Big Week in Education: Congress Considers No Child Left Behind Rewrites

Eight years after the program technically expired, Congress is finally debating an update of the contentious No Child Left Behind Act, which poured an avalanche of federal programs and testing standards on public schools across the U.S.

The House’s update of No Child Left Behind, called the Student Success Act, will be the topic of a hearing by the Rules Committee on Tuesday, allowing lawmakers to determine which amendments will make the cut for debate later this week.

The No Child Left Behind rewrite was pulled from the House floor in February after conservatives argued it did not go far enough in removing the federal government from education policy.

Rep. Mark Walker, R-NC, and Ron DeSantis, R-Fla., hope to soothe these concerns through their A-PLUS Act.

This amendment would allow states to opt out of the nearly 80 federal programs under No Child Left Behind, giving them the option to direct federal education funding toward state-established programs instead.

“The federal government should not be imposing mandates on states and local communities regarding K-12 education,” DeSantis said in a statement. “The amendment that we are offering liberates states from burdensome and ineffective regulations, providing local communities with the flexibility to use federal education funding for programs that they believe will best increase the success of students in the classroom.”

Conservatives also argued the House’s rendition of No Child Left Behind, introduced and sponsored by Minnesota Republican John Kline, chairman of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, did not do enough to scale back spending.

The House proposal costs $23.2 billion, nearly matching NCLB’s $24 billion, according to The Heritage Foundation.

In February, the White House threatened to veto the rewrite, the Student Success Act, because it includes a measure allowing states to link federal dollars to individual students in low-income areas as opposed to the school district itself.

Supporters of what’s known as “portability” say it allows children in low-income areas to move to better schools since the funding is attached to the individual student rather than the school district.

Opponents, namely Democrats, argue that portability makes failing schools worse off by taking funds out of low-income districts and giving it to wealthier schools.

The Senate’s version of the Student Success Act, called the Every Child Achieves Act, stripped out the portability measure to garner enough support from Democrats.

The Senate will likely begin floor debate on its bill Tuesday, which passed the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee unanimously in April with bipartisan support.

The bill ends some of No Child Left Behind’s harsh federal accountability mandates, allowing states to establish their own systems using test scores, graduation rates and state-selected criteria to measure a school’s performance.

Though the Senate proposal increases states’ flexibility in assessing performance, the bill would maintain the rigid testing standards under No Child Left Behind.

Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., introduced an amendment that reduces the testing from occurring annually in grades 3-8 to happening once each in elementary, middle and high school.

This week is only the beginning of the overdue education debate.

Even if the Senate is able to maintain most of its original bill and the House passes the Student Success Act, Congress will still have to wade through difficult negotiations in conference to bridge differences between the two proposals.


Wednesday, July 08, 2015

Nobody else will mention this.  You will read it only here

Read the story below and ask yourself what is wrong with the school concerned.  ZEG read the report and concluded it was a case of general breakdown of discipline.  That's a part of the story but he failed to allow for how heavily our news is censored.  I have read very similar reports about certain schools in Britain so I knew immediately what the problem was.  I give the answer following the article below

Australia: TEACHERS at a western Sydney school have described a culture of fear and violence with students threatening them with rape and murder.

Following revelations that students at Granville Boys High School were trading knives “for protection” more teachers have broken ranks to speak to the Parramatta Advertiser, saying threats and intimidation are routine.

One teacher, who did not want to be identified for fear of retribution, said some staff — male and female — walked to their cars in groups for safety, because of concerns students would carry out their threats.

“They make threats, they say they’ll kill us, they’ll bash us. They say things like, ‘I’ll meet you down a dark alley and rape you’; ‘Wait ’til I see you after school, Miss’. And it’s males and females that they say that to, it’s not just the female (staff),” she said.

Granville Boys High School promotes its ‘Safe Respectful Learners’ motto out the front of

Granville Boys High School promotes its ‘Safe Respectful Learners’ motto out the front of the school. Picture: Stephen Cooper Source: News Corp Australia

It is understood that despite a knife amnesty carried out by the school in June, students are still carrying blades with some calling themselves “street pharmacists”.

It is claimed they have methamphetamines or “ice” and pills at school.

“They’re carrying knives (and) we have no control over them — what’s to stop them from killing one of us?” a female teacher said.

Of 20 students interviewed by the Advertiser, 14 said they were aware of at least one other student who had brought a knife to school. Four said they knew students who had brought drugs to school.

The school has been credited with taking steps to rebuild its reputation and the environment for students, including the establishment of a before-class cafe run by students following the 2011 stabbing of a student in a schoolyard brawl.

A NSW Department of Education spokesman said possession of any illegal substance or implement was not tolerated in NSW public schools.

The spokesman said since recent reports of a knife amnesty, no teacher at the school had raised weapons issues with the principal.  “No question of personal safety involving the behaviour of students has been raised with the principal by any staff member,” he said.

NSW Teachers’ Federation president Maurie Mulheron called on the Department of Education to investigate the claims. “Any concerns that have been raised where safety is compromised, we expect the department to investigate the allegation,” Mr Mulheron said.

In a video leaked to the Advertiser that was filmed on school equipment and screened with executive approval at the school’s 2013 Year 12 formal, students can be seen making religious slurs.

The students are heard ordering a “McJesus and holy water” at a McDonald’s drive-through — as well as fighting and degrading the school.

In an email to principal Linda O’Brien, sent to all staff from a teacher, the “insensitive” nature of the video was raised.

“I am writing to you all about a segment of the video which made reference to the Jesus and holy water (sic)”, the email read.

“Students may not understand the significance of this, but as a teacher we have the responsibility to teach the right thing to our students. This is a public school and this sort of insensitive comment should be avoided.”

A NSW Department of Education spokesman said Ms O’Brien “was on leave during the production and screening of a video produced by students.”  The spokesman said Ms O’Brien had not seen the video.


2008 — A group of five Granville Boys High School students run through Merrylands High School brandishing baseball bats and machetes, leaving 18 students and one teacher in hospital

2011 — A GBHS student, 16, is stabbed six times in the stomach in a schoolyard fight between two other students, 14 and 15

Police at Granville Boys High School where a 16-year-old student received multiple stab w

Police at Granville Boys High School where a 16-year-old student received multiple stab wounds during a schoolyard fight four years ago. Source: News Limited

2013 — A video produced on school equipment containing religious slurs — ordering a “McJesus and holy water” at a McDonald’s drive-through — and depicting fighting, is screened at an end-of-year formal to more than 100 parents, staff and students

June 2015 — Two students suspended for carrying knives at school. A leaked email says students are “trading” blades between each other for “safety” and the school holds a knife amnesty


Did you pick it up?  The Education Dept. is in denial for a very good reason.  I knew immediately what to look for so went straight to the school website.  We read there:  Ninety-nine per cent of students are from a non-English speaking background

To be blunt, it is just Muslims being Muslims and showing their usual contempt for the rest of us. Their religion teaches them that contempt.  Start reading the Koran at Surah 9 if you doubt it

Don't Give Obama More Power Over Schools

After spending most of June giving President Obama new authority to negotiate trade deals with low-wage countries in Asia, congressional Republicans are now poised to spend July giving Obama new authority over education in America's public schools. This is a big disappointment for those of us who worked hard to elect a Republican Congress last November. We expected the new Congress to take power back from the president, not give him more.

For the past 50 years, the engine of federal control over local schools has been Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) of 1965. It was the first in a series of socialist laws that President Lyndon Johnson promised would lead to a "Great Society" after we won his declared "war on poverty."

Johnson's Great Society legislation was speedily enacted by a Congress in which Democrats outnumbered Republicans by more than two to one (295-140 in the House and 68-32 in the Senate). Despite the trillions of dollars spent since 1965, we're no closer to achieving a Great Society; by many measures, America's education and social welfare are much worse today than when those programs were launched 50 years ago.

Republicans had an opportunity to dismantle the failed regime of federal control when they regained control of both Houses of Congress in 1994 and then elected a president in 2000. Unfortunately, George W. Bush campaigned on the slogan "Leave No Child Behind" as his signature domestic agenda item, and John Boehner, then chairman of the House Education Committee, produced a bill that rebranded the old ESEA under the new title "No Child Left Behind."

No Child Left Behind (NCLB) promised to bring all children (including all demographic minorities measured separately) to 100 percent proficiency by 2014. Of course, that didn't happen, and nearly everyone now recognizes NCLB as a complete failure.

With their current historic majority in both Houses, there's a new opportunity for Republicans to dismantle the 50-year failure of money poured into local public schools with strings attached. Unfortunately, Republicans, once again, are on the verge of just rebranding the same failed programs with new and overly optimistic slogans: the "Student Success Act" (in the House) and the "Every Child Achieves Act," ECAA, (in the Senate).

Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., has been speaking in front of a sign saying "Fix No Child Left Behind," as he touts the ECAA bill as a bipartisan "consensus about how to fix it." A former secretary of education in the Bush 41 administration, Lamar almost didn't return to the Senate this year after he won less than 50 percent of the Republican vote against an underfunded tea party challenger.

The claim that ECAA is somehow a "fix" for NCLB is laughable, and equally false is the claim that it gets rid of the hated Common Core. While it makes a great show of disavowing the name Common Core, Lamar's bill continues and extends the standards-and-testing mandate that Common Core was designed to satisfy.

The proof that ECAA will indirectly reinforce federal control is the way it requires states to force testing on students whose parents want to opt them out of that mindless exercise, as tens of thousands already have done.

One method the schools have used against students whose parents opt them out is to force kids to sit quietly at an empty desk -- forbidden to read, write or draw -- while other students take the test. Parents call this form of punishment "sit and stare."

In Oldmans Township, N.J., 9-year-old Cassidy Thornton, whose parents opted her out of the mandated PARCC exam, was humiliated to tears by being excluded from the end-of-year cupcake and juice-box party with the rest of her class. Cassidy's mom called it bullying, but the school defended its decision to reward test-takers because federal rules require 95 percent of students to be tested.

Education has become a critical issue for 2016 presidential candidates. Even Donald Trump, in his speech at Trump Tower announcing his candidacy, made a point of declaring, "Common Core is a disaster. Education has to be local."

But Jeb Bush, whose foundation took millions from Bill Gates and Pearson to promote Common Core, remains unmoved by grassroots opposition. Two years ago, Jeb derided parents concerned about Common Core as people who are "comfortable with mediocrity," an insult that rivals Arne Duncan's slam at "white suburban moms who all of a sudden (realize) their child isn't as brilliant as they thought they were."

Jeb actually praised the heavy-handed federal role in public education: "Look, I think Secretary Duncan and President Obama deserve credit for putting pressure on states, providing carrots and sticks. I think that's appropriate."

No, Jeb, it's not appropriate. Tell your U.S. senators and representatives to vote no on any bill to reauthorize a federal role in public education.


British teachers use secret code to single out disadvantaged pupils

Students from poorer backgrounds are identified with stickers on their books as schools struggle to meet government's social mobility targets

Poor pupils are being singled out with special stickers on their books as teachers strive to meet government targets on social mobility, it is claimed.

A new report has found school staff are having to flag up disadvantaged children in classrooms using coloured 'spots' so that 'everyone knows' their family background.

Such pupils are eligible for the 'pupil premium', extra money given to schools to provide extra help to deprived children.

The tactic is aimed at reminding school staff which pupils need special attention, as schools are under intense pressure to improve attainment among poorer pupils.

But yesterday there were questions over whether it was appropriate to be singling out children in such an obvious way.

Critics also said it could also disadvantage struggling children who were not eligible for the premium but still needed help.

The report, commissioned by the National Union of Teachers and conducted by London Metropolitan University, examined the impact of government accountability figures.

Professor Merryn Hutchings, who carried out the research, said she was 'shocked' to discover the impact of government attainment targets on classrooms.

The research, which included a survey of almost 8,000 teachers, found teachers were under 'huge pressure to meet accountability measures'.

It has led to teachers 'labelling' children according to their marks and their needs, with some schools putting pressure on children to achieve using wall charts to show their progress.

Professor Hutchings said: 'Some reported that pupils in their schools are openly labelled in relation to their attainment, their eligibility for the pupil premium, their special needs.

'For example, by putting spots on exercise books so that everyone knows this is a pupil premium child.

'Or in one school putting both attainment results and progress on the walls where all the pupils and teachers could see them.'

The research also found teachers were required to make 'detailed seating plans' for all classes with highly detailed personal information about each student.

This includes special educational needs, eligibility for free school meals or pupil premium and whether they are in the care of the local authority.

Teachers are also required to mark down whether pupils are native speakers of English, how good they are at English and maths and general notes about their 'aptitude and attitude'.

One teacher said that they were having to exclude children from enrichment activities meant for 'pupil premium' children, and found it 'hard to explain in a sensitive way'.

Others said that they were now having to focus on poorer children at the expense of those with special needs.

The report questioned whether the increasing focus on grades and targets had turned schools into 'exam factories'.

And it said teachers were witnessing 'unprecedented levels of school-related anxiety, stress and mental health problems amongst pupils, particularly around exam time'.

Kevin Courtney, Deputy General Secretary of the NUT said: 'Teachers have to spend too much time on paperwork and data analysis to satisfy external government measures.  'This leaves insufficient time for teachers to get to know their pupils as individuals.

'There is excessive and increasing pressure to identify pupils using numbers linked to rates of progress, or pupils' individual targets.  'Students are much more than a score, yet schools are measured largely on numerical data alone.'

'The high stakes nature of the tests and targets restrict and constrain how heads and teachers behave. Government policy increasingly views individual children and young people as units of data.'

A Department for Education spokesperson said: 'Part of our commitment to social justice is the determination to ensure every child is given an education that allows them realise their potential.

'That's why we are raising standards with a rigorous new curriculum, world class exams and new accountability system that rewards those schools which help every child to achieve their best.'


Tuesday, July 07, 2015

Some British schools are roughly as segregated as St Louis - the US city hit by the Ferguson race riots

Surprise, surprise! Blacks and whites self-segregate in Britain too!  There wouldn't be important differences between the two, would there?  Caring English parents move heaven and earth to keep their kids out of chaotic "black" schools

Some schools in Britain are more racially segregated than St Louis, the US city torn apart by race riots in November.

That's according to the first analysis of the racial divide in schools across England, which has found primary schools in the council area of Blackburn with Darwen have higher levels of segregation between the white British population and all ethnic minorities than the black-white divide in some St Louis neighbourhoods.

The analysis of the national pupil database by the think tank Demos has revealed ethnic minority children starting primary school in year 1 in Blackburn have the highest level of separation from the white British population.

According to The Sunday Times, the score of 0.764 is higher than the 0.706 rating for residential segregation in St Louis, Missouri, where race riots broke out last year after a grand jury decided not to charge white police officer Darren Wilson for shooting dead unarmed black teenager Michael Brown in the suburb of Ferguson.

The dissimilarity index, as the score is known, is calculated by taking the ethnic composition of an area and seeing how far the ethnic mix of the schools in that area deviate from it.

A score of 0 would show a perfect match between the two, while the closer the figure is to 1 the greater the ethnic segregation in schools.

The St Louis measure captures the degree to which two groups are evenly spread among census areas across the city, compared with the racial composition of the whole city.

A score of 0.6 and above typically points to social problems according to Eric Kaufmann, professor of politics at Birkbeck College, University of London.

Bradford came in second place with 0.710, followed by Oldham, Birmingham, Kirklees and Calderdale, both in West Yorkshire, and Rochdale, all with scores higher than 0.6. Bolton, Redbridge in northeast London and Leicester complete the top 10.

The three least segregated areas for year 1 pupils are Bracknell Forest (0.153), Sutton in southwest London and Brighton and Hove.

Trevor Phillips, former chairman of the Commission for Racial Equality and current head of the Demos integration hub, which did the analysis, said: 'There is obviously a difference between school segregation and residential segregation and in this country the schools tend to be more segregated than the neighbourhoods they are in.

'But even if that is true, it still means children are spending more than half their waking hours largely in the company of people like themselves, and that has to be unhealthy.'

In London, 90 per cent of ethnic minority children begin year 1 in primary schools where ethnic minorities are the majority of pupils. Across the country this applies to 61 per cent of ethnic minority children. By contrast, 94 per cent of white British pupils are in schools with a white British majority.

Phillips, who as chairman of the Commission for Racial Equality warned a decade ago that Britain risked 'sleepwalking our way to segregation', added: 'We have lost an entire decade trying to pretend that it would all come right and it clearly hasn't.

'We cannot afford to lose another decade, crossing our fingers and wishing that everything is going to get fixed by magic.

'I'd hope leading political figures would now have the grace to swallow their words and realise what they dismissed 10 years ago has turned out to be true.

'Their inaction and scepticism ... has damaged a generation of children.'

Phillips has previously spoken after the 7/7 London bombings and on Washington's response to Hurricane Katrina, which devastated New Orleans and exposed deep racial divides.

Ethnic minority children starting primary school in year 1 in Blackburn have the highest level of separation from the white British population.

Partly because they have larger catchment areas, secondary schools are less segregated, though Blackburn is still top with a score of 0.683 in year 7.

This is followed by the Isle of Wight, Bradford, Birmingham, Leicester, Bolton, Kirklees, North Lincolnshire, Redbridge and Westminster.

The least segregated is North Somerset, then Bracknell and Richmond.

Compiled for 2013 and 2008, the figures show a slight improvement across all ethnic groups over five years, but not enough to keep pace with the rate of change in the minority ethnic population.

Segregation levels for people of Pakistani and black Caribbean origin showed least improvement.

More than half of ethnic minority pupils in year 11 would have to move school for them to be spread proportionately across the school system.

Phillips claims segregation risks both cutting certain ethnic groups adrift and dragging down standards among the entire population.

He said: 'When you have a healthy mix of high-performing immigrants, that improves performances for everybody.'

Typically high achieving Chinese pupils are the most highly segregated in the first year of primary school with a score of 0.832 - something that worries Phillips.

A spokesman for Blackburn defended its record to The Sunday Times, saying: 'School admission is a matter of parental choice and faith schools make and decide their own admissions policies.

'Schools within Blackburn with Darwen have a good record of supporting cohesion and ensuring the borough's children understand a wide variety of different faiths and culture. [Our] schools perform strongly in the light of the social challenges they face — close to the national average at the end of secondary school in 2014.'


UK: Muslim junior school teacher banned for LIFE after spewing racist bile on Twitter

Including praising the beheading of Alan Henning and urging the murder of non-Muslims

A junior school teacher has been banned from the classroom for life after posting dozens of sick, racist tweets encouraging the murder of non-Muslims and praising the beheading of British aid worker Alan Henning.

Mother-of-one Nargs Bibi, 31, who worked at Knowsley Junior School in Oldham for three years, posted 40 offensive and malicious messages immediately after Mr Henning's brutal murder by Jihadi John.  A disciplinary hearing heard she also urged ISIS to kill all non believers.

Divorcee Bibi, who was fired from the school over another matter, also hurled a diatribe of abuse at Mr Henning's widow.

She admitted making the comments and accepted they amounted to unacceptable professional conduct and conduct that may bring the profession into disrepute.

Bibi did not attend a disciplinary hearing of the National College for Teaching and Leadership in Coventry and was not represented.

The messages began appearing on her Twitter account on the day of Mr Henning's death on October 3 last year and continued the following day. Taxi driver and humanitarian Mr Henning came from nearby Salford.

She was arrested by Greater Manchester Police but no further action was taken.

Bibi said the tweets were out of character and claimed she was suffering poor mental health at the time.

Chair Mrs Mary Speakman said: 'The panel considered that the nature of the tweets had the potential to incite religious hatred and expressed some extreme views.

'The messages would have been offensive to people of Muslim and other faiths and were self-evidently demonstrating intolerance to other faiths and beliefs.

'The panel was satisfied that such communications undermined fundamental British values of mutual respect and tolerance of those with different faiths and beliefs, and promoted political and religious extremism.'

She added that Bibi's extreme and malicious behaviour demonstrated deeply held beliefs that might lead to 'pupils being exposed to or influenced by her behaviour in a harmful way.'

Bibi was sacked from the school in December 2010 and was subject to an interim prohibition order for being abusive towards staff, including the head teacher.

She was making tentative steps to return to teaching and was hoping to engage in some voluntary work under the advice of her doctor, but the tweets have finally finished her career for good.

The panel recommended she be allowed to apply to have her position reviewed after five years, owing to her mental health problems but Alan Meyrick, representing Secretary of State for Eductation Nicky Morgan, overruled the recommendation.

He ordered that Bibi be prohibited from teaching in any school, sixth form college, relevant youth accommodation or children's home in England ever again.

He said: 'In my view this decision reflects the extreme nature of the material posted on Twitter and the regard with which the public will hold a teacher who has posted such material.'


Montana Teachers' Union Halts Much Needed Education Reform

While Montana parents are celebrating the new access to education tax credits, there is a giant upset over the still limited school choice in the state. This year, the Montana legislature proposed a whole slew of education bills during its session, ranging from Common Core repeal to greater school choice for parents. Yet, of the numerous bills introduced this year, only two education bills made it to Governor Steve Bullock's desk.

Bullock vetoed one and the other became law after the designated waiting period without objection or real input from the governor. In a state that was pushing to expand school choice, end Common Core, and reform student internet privacy, how was so little passed? Republican Senator Chris Hansen recently blamed the incredible power that teachers' unions hold over state politics:

“In Montana, if there’s any bill that isn’t 100 percent supported by the teachers’ union, the first claim is that it’s unconstitutional,” Hansen said. “The unconstitutional claim falls on a segment of the Montana constitution...Our constitution gives a division of power over education,” Hansen continued. “It is [the state legislature’s] responsibility to establish a free system of public schools. The next clause establishes the [Montana Board of Public Education] and gives the board general supervision over the public school system. That’s it. We’re supposed to be a local-control state, but that is totally broken in Montana.”

The constitutionality of the proposed bills wasn't the only thing causing frustrations. Efforts to repeal Common Core proved just as futile:

“Once I saw who was on the committee, I knew it wouldn’t get out of the Senate,” Lamm said. “Democrats were stacked with educators who wouldn’t buck the system.”

The power that teachers' unions hold over state continues to stifle efforts that strengthen the rights of parents over who can teach their children, and where and how they are taught. According to Senator Don Jones:

“The thing we have to do in Montana is to educate the people...When you get into these smaller communities, the first thing they’re afraid of is [school choice] getting their school shut down and often the school is the backbone of the community and the only thing bringing in revenue..."

Teachers' unions throughout the country have not only backed progressive candidates, but have stifled much-needed education reform in the past. Recently though, a large number of teachers who have broken the pattern of sticking to the regular progressive agenda have actually began to speak out against flawed programs such as Common Core. In January of 2015, the New Jersey Education Association was one of the first to take aim at Common Core and fight for the rights of parents and teachers:

“NJEA supports the parents rights to make the decision for their children about the test and get the best education for their children,” the union’s president said

These unions need to start looking out for the rights and privacy of students and their families, not backing legislation or candidates that create failed programs and harm the education of future citizens.


Monday, July 06, 2015

An End to Colleges’ Racial Discrimination in Admissions?

The U.S. Supreme Court has an opportunity to finally get rid of racial discrimination in college admissions.  The court agreed this week to review, for a second time, Abigail Fisher’s case against the University of Texas at Austin in its new term this fall.

This comes at a time when racial preferences in college admissions, practiced by universities across the county, are under fire.

Several new lawsuits are making their way up through the lower courts challenging the use of preferences at Harvard and the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill.

And earlier this year, Vijay Chokal-Ingam, brother of famed actress Mindy Kaling, publically criticized the use of racial preferences when he revealed the elaborate scheme he pulled off to get into medical school: He faked being black.

After witnessing his Indian-American friend fall victim to the use of racial preferences in medical school, Chokal-Ingam, also Indian-American, did some research to avoid the same fate.

“I studied the statistics and data made public by the Association of American Medical Colleges and came to a surprising conclusion. The data suggested that an Indian-American with my grades (3.1 GPA) and test scores (31 MCAT) was unlikely to gain admission to medical school, but an African-American with the same grades and test scores had a high probability of admission,” he said.

So he changed his name, shaved his head, joined the University of Chicago’s Organization of Black Students, and pretended to be African-American on his applications. And it worked. He was admitted.

Discrimination in Texas

Abigail Fisher also saw this discrimination first hand. In Texas, all state-funded schools automatically admit students in the top 10 percent of their high schools.

They subject remaining applicants, like Fisher, to a “holistic review” that includes racial preferences for underrepresented minorities.

The university rejected Fisher, and she sued for discriminating against her based on race.

In 2003, in Grutter v. Bollinger, the Supreme Court upheld racial preferences in state school admissions to the extent that they are “narrowly tailored to further compelling governmental interests.”

The court also determined that reaching a “critical mass” of diversity on campus to aid students in “obtaining the educational benefits of diversity” is a compelling interest.

But when the high court decided the Fisher case for the first time in 2013, it held that schools must prove their use of race meets that standard.

The court found that the lower courts had given too much deference to the University of Texas in determining whether its use of race in making admissions decisions was narrowly tailored.

It sent the case back to the lower court, directing it to apply strict scrutiny (the highest level of review) to establish whether it was necessary for the university to use race to achieve a critical mass of diversity.

The justices stressed that the lower court must look at actual evidence and not “simple … assurances of good intention” from the university.

But on remand, the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals ignored the Supreme Court’s instructions and again upheld the school’s plan, even though, as the dissenting judge pointed out, the school provided no evidence that racial preferences were needed to further their interest in “qualitative” diversity.

Fisher appealed to the Supreme Court again, and the court will hear arguments again in its 2015-2016 term.

However, since the 5th Circuit issued its decision, a scandal at the University of Texas has revealed that university officials had another, secret admissions process that they never revealed to the courts.

They regularly overrode their so-called “holistic review” to allow politically-connected individuals, such as state legislators and members of the university’s Board of Regents, to get family members and other friends admitted.

Additional Admission Factors

An investigation by Kroll Inc. found that many of these students were admitted “despite grades and test scores substantially below the median for admitted students.”

In fact, the admission rate for applicants given this special, secret consideration was 72 percent, while the admission rate for students through the “holistic review” was only 16 percent.

In 29 percent of the cases Kroll reviewed, “the files suggest that ethnic, racial, and state geographical diversity may have been an important factor,” making race and ethnicity an even more important factor in these “secret” admissions than in the holistic administration process.

The bad faith of the University of Texas in not telling the truth about its admissions policy the first time this case was before the Supreme Court could be an unexpected factor in the court’s reconsideration of the issue.

Racial preferences are nothing less than blatant racial discrimination no matter how “holistic.”

They remain a contentious topic in academia although not in America, where polls show that the public is overwhelmingly against them because they believe admission decisions made by colleges should be based solely on merit. What a concept!

As more people such as Chokal-Ingam speak out about how “affirmative action tends to promote racial resentment and perpetuates negative stereotypes” and how these programs don’t “fully benefit the underprivileged,” the Supreme Court ought to take note.

Hopefully the court will agree with Chokal-Ingam when he tweeted “affirmative action is DISCRIMINATION; it’s a lie to call it [something] else.”


Study Finds Students at Charters and Magnets Have Made ‘Meaningful Gains’

A newly released study by the Connecticut State Department of Education finds “meaningful gains” in two groupings of inner-city students attending the state’s public charter and magnet schools.

Data collected from 2010–12 revealed magnet and charter school students in 3rd through 5th grades and 6th through 8th grades fared better academically than students in traditional public schools.

“Evaluating the Academic Performance of Choice Programs in Connecticut: A Pretest-Posttest Evaluation Using Matched Multiple Quasi-Control Comparison Groups” found students’ scores on the Connecticut Mastery Test (CMT) showed “statistically meaningful gains” at the “proficient” level for the younger grade group attending magnet schools or “Open Choice” schools. CMT revealed similar results for the older grade group attending public charter schools.

“Every teacher was pleased to see the report,” said Bruce Douglas, executive director of the Capitol Region Education Council, one of six Regional Educational Service Centers (RESC) in Connecticut. RESCs exist in 40 states and act as an intermediary between states’ education departments and local school districts.

“I believe all teachers in Connecticut are committed to eliminating the achievement gap, but not all teachers are equally led, resourced, or given high quality professional development,” Douglas said. 

Underserved ‘Benefitting Academically’

“By looking at the performance of public schools of choice in Connecticut, this study shows students in our state’s urban and traditionally underserved communities are benefitting academically from having access to high quality educational options,” said Jennifer Alexander, chief executive officer for Connecticut Coalition for Achievement Now, a Hartford-based school reform advocacy organization.

“At [Connecticut Coalition for Achievement Now], we maintain that every child, regardless of race, wealth, or ZIP code, deserves access to a high quality education that will set them up for a lifetime of success and opportunity,” Alexander said.

Connecticut has nation’s worst achievement gap between black and white students, and it needs choice programs to enable children to attend better schools, Alexander says.

“The results of this study demonstrate the important role high quality schools of choice play in closing Connecticut’s worst-in-the-nation achievement gap and providing a great education for our kids, particularly for our most vulnerable students,” Alexander said. “With nearly 40,000 students currently attending chronically underperforming schools, we must continue to invest in high quality public schools of choice that are delivering results for our children and provide all our students with the ... world-class education they need and deserve.”

“Teachers in Connecticut, charter, local public, or magnet schools are focused on serving the best interests of children every day,” said Douglas. “That is why we are beginning to see a remarkable decline in the achievement gap in various schools and school districts. We should be very proud of and thankful for our teachers’ dedication and diligence. Yet, we still have a long way to go.”


Trigger warnings are educational suicide

Frank Furedi

Taking Durkheim's "Suicide" out of schools is madness

One reason I and many of my friends were drawn towards the discipline of sociology is because it helped us confront and understand many of the disturbing dimensions to everyday life. At its best, sociology gives meaning to what we perceive as private troubles, and allows us to understand those troubles within a comprehensible pattern of social interaction. So I am horrified by the argument being used by AQA, the largest exam board in the UK, to justify dropping the theme of suicide from its A-level syllabus.

AQA defended its decision on the grounds that a subject as disturbing as suicide posed a serious risk to the mental health of A-level students. Rupert Sheard, AQA qualifications manager, said his organisation has a ‘duty of care to all those students taking our courses to make sure the content isn’t going to cause them undue distress’.

But any version of sociology that does not disturb or distress people has little to do with the serious study of society. According to AQA, sanitising and impoverishing the sociology curriculum is a small price to pay for insulating 17- and 18-year-olds from disturbing aspects of everyday life. How long before A-level students are handed smiley-face stickers and offered a happiness sociology curriculum? If the teaching of sociology has to be reconciled with the supposed emotional disposition of students, then the integrity of the discipline becomes a negotiable commodity.

The argument used by AQA suggests young people studying A-level sociology should be regarded as patients rather than students. Good teachers have always sought to encourage students to feel good about the subjects they were studying. But teaching the knowledge content of a subject was always seen as the main mission of educators. According to AQA, however, it seems that subject content is subordinate to the alleged health risks posed by a discussion of suicide.

AQA’s decision to infantilise A-level students is the 21st-century equivalent of the traditional moral regulation of the education of young people. The classic exhortation, ‘Not in front of the children’, has been reconfigured as an exercise in therapeutic management. Traditional moral regulation has been displaced by the imperative of medicalisation. Ironically, the discipline of sociology – which has done so much to bring to light the moralising impulse driving the medicalisation of social life – has itself been medicalised.

AQA’s decision to remove suicide from the curriculum shows the extent to which education has fallen under the influence of therapeutic culture. Since the turn of the century, the desire to put up a moral quarantine around uncomfortable and distressing themes has been gaining momentum. A decade ago, I criticised a memorandum calling on academics at Durham University to obtain approval from an ‘ethics’ committee before they gave lectures on certain ‘distressing’ subjects, including abortion and euthanasia. At the time I received numerous emails from colleagues who were astonished by this illiberal incursion on academic freedom.

That was then. Over the past decade, numerous universities have introduced codes of conduct telling academics to ‘mind your language’, or urging them to ‘try to be sensitive to the feelings of others in the use of language’. The most frightening symptom of this medicalisation of the classroom is the introduction of so-called trigger warnings in higher education. In some North American universities, course handouts include trigger warnings about reading material. Novels and poems, which university students have read for centuries, are now assigned a health warning to indicate that they contain scenes of domestic violence, sexism, racism or a variety of other pathologies.

The premise of the trigger-warning crusade is that students cannot be trusted to engage with uncomfortable subjects. Nor can they be allowed to judge for themselves how to interpret difficult and challenging experiences and practices. Unfortunately, this attempt to quarantine the uncomfortable and dark dimensions of the human experience only serves to diminish education.

The emptying out of education

It is frequently suggested that the adoption of a pedagogy oriented towards therapeutic values need not encroach on the integrity of education. However, the subordination of education to therapeutic values does not leave the integrity of subject knowledge untouched. AQA’s decision to ‘protect’ students from a difficult subject like suicide is a case in point. Suicide is not just a peripheral issue for the discipline of sociology. One of sociology’s founding texts – Suicide (1897), by Emile Durkheim – is now represented as a potential risk to students’ wellbeing.

For sociologists, Suicide is not just another book. Rather, it offers a pioneering example of what the discipline of sociology can accomplish using a rigorous methodology and statistics. For almost a century, Suicide has been the text through which sociological concepts and methods were introduced to students. Getting rid of the treatment of suicide by Durkheim is like dropping the study of the Holocaust from twentieth-century history.

If the theme of suicide can be excised from the sociology curriculum, what happens to uncomfortable issues like racism, the oppression of minorities, exploitation, rape, domestic violence? There is an endless range of sociological topics that could trigger powerful emotions among sociology students. And why just focus on sociology? Will curriculum engineers now shift their focus to religious studies and quietly drop the Bible? After all, what could be more traumatic than a text in which fathers kill their sons, people indulge in ethnic cleansing, and suicide and rape are common. The Bible is far more haunting than the dry statistics contained in Durkheim’s Suicide. When the attempt to transform the classroom into a distress-free zone becomes widely accepted, the content of education becomes subject to criteria external to education.

The pedagogic strategy of treating students as if they were patients does students no favours. It deprives young people of the opportunity to develop the moral and intellectual resources they need to engage with challenging issues. Students are prevented from working out for themselves how to deal with issues like suicide. Instead of cultivating teenagers’ moral and emotional independence, therapeutic education reinforces their passivity and sense of powerlessness. Yes, some issues are distressing. But distress is not an indicator of illness; it is an integral part of people’s existence. When feeling distressed is medicalised, young people are prevented from developing their own ways of coping with painful experiences.

Neither teachers nor therapists can second-guess the reaction of young people to difficult themes or issues. Whether the content of a particular text causes distress to a reader cannot be worked out in advance, according to a pre-existing formula. Instead of turning sociology into an exercise in sensitivity training, educators should be encouraging students to gain a sociological understanding of their predicament. Compassion and thoughtfulness, not the avoidance of difficult topics, is the way forward.

As a discipline, sociology is in the business of questioning comfortable assumptions. In doing so, it frequently draws attention to the dark and destructive passions prevalent in human society. At its best, sociology really does disturb students, and force them to engage with some very uncomfortable realities. If AQA wants to turn education into a distress-free zone, it might as well stop offering sociology A-levels altogether.


Sunday, July 05, 2015

British teachers can confiscate and KEEP pupils' unhealthy food under government rules for lunchbox inspections

Teachers are free to take - and keep - any item from pupils' lunchboxes if they think they are unhealthy or inappropriate, the government has said.

Parents were outraged last month when it emerged children had scotch eggs and a Peperami confiscated under health eating policies.

Now ministers have backed the move, giving staff freedom to 'confiscate, keep or destroy' anything deemed to break school policies and setting out the procedure for carrying out lunchbox inspections.

The row over packed lunches erupted after Cherry Tree Primary School, in Colchester, banned junk food from packed lunches.

Outraged parents said it was unfair as the school's menu offers unhealthy food including high sugar desserts like flapjacks, cookies and mousse.

Vikki Laws, of Colchester, said her daughter Tori, six, was not allowed to eat her Peperami sausage snack, which was confiscated and only returned at the end of the day with a note from teachers.

She said another parent was also told her child was not allowed to have scotch eggs in her lunch box.

Parents were also in uproar after Manley Park Primary School in Manchester banned healthy snacks such as cereal bars from children's packed lunches - despite offering pizza, chocolate fudge cake and fish fingers on its lunch menu.

Two mothers claimed staff confiscated a nut cereal bar and a packet of 100 per cent fruit chews because of their 'hidden sugar'.

It reignited the debate about the quality of school meals, at a time when NHS chiefs have warned obesity is the biggest threat to the nation's health.

But the Department for Education has backed the move, insisting schools are free to ban whatever they like from lunchboxes.

Governing bodies can decide whether to 'ban certain products to promote healthy eating'.

Schools are urged to consult parents first to 'ensure that any adopted policy is clearly communicated to parents and pupils'.

But education minister Lord Nash added: 'Schools have common law powers to search pupils, with their consent, for items.

'There is nothing to prevent schools from having a policy of inspecting lunch boxes for food items that are prohibited under their school food policies.

In response to a parliamentary question, he set out how a search of a lunchbox could be carried out and who should be witnesses.

'It would be good practice for the pupil to be present during an inspection and for a second member of staff to be present if any items are to be confiscated.

'If authorities and schools are concerned about their legal position, they should seek their own legal advice.'

Iain Austin, a Labour member of the education select committee, said: ‘With Britain tumbling down the international league tables and with a generation entering the work force with less literacy and numeracy than the generation retiring, you would have thought that teachers might have better things to do than rummaging through children’s crisps and fruit.’

Ukip MP Douglas Carswell said: ‘The Department for Education really must be missing Michael Gove. They are resorting to the kind of nanny state stunts that you would have expected from Tony Blair’s Labour government 15 years ago.

‘It should be entirely up to schools and there is something sinister this. Government should get out of people’s lunchboxes and focus on trying to fix the big things like immigration and the deficit.’

Official figures show that around 20 per cent of children aged four and five in reception classes are classed as overweight.  But the figure rises to around 33 per cent among Year 6 children by the time they leave primary school.


Illinois teacher fired from school after stepping on American flag in class

An Illinois school board reportedly fired the teacher who stepped on an American flag in class on May 15 at a local high school.

The Mattoon Journal Gazette reports that the Martinsville school board voted unanimously Thursday to dismiss English teacher Jordan Parmenter, effective immediately.

Parmenter, 26, told the paper Sunday he was present in the meeting, where he was addressed by the board and answered questions from all six of the board members. Parmenter didn’t speak further into the matter until he had a chance to speak with a union representative.

After the incident occurred, Parmenter was placed on leave for the remainder of the school year. He subsequently wrote a letter apologizing to the school.

Parmenter told the Journal Gazette earlier in June the incident occurred when he was teaching his English class on free speech. Parmenter used the small American flag on the corner of the room as a pointer.

A student called Parmenter out for using the flag as a pointer, saying it was disrespectful. Paramenter said he then dropped the flag on the floor and stepped on it to show an example of free speech as part of the lesson.

Parmenter apologized to the class and instantly regretted the decision he made.  "What I did was never intended as a show of disrespect to our country, to our veterans, or to anyone, nor would I ever do or say anything with that intention,” he told the paper. “I love my country and have nothing but the utmost respect for those who serve it."

In the interview with the Journal Gazette, Parmenter said from talking with the community, he believes they are willing to forgive him.

"I have loved working for Martinsville and have greatly enjoyed the opportunity to help our students achieve success," Parmenter said in his apology letter to the school. "I assure you that nothing of this nature will ever occur again."


Seattle 6th Graders Can’t Get a Coke at School, But Can Get an IUD

Middle and high school students can’t get a Coca-Cola or a candy bar at 13 Seattle public schools, but they can get a taxpayer-funded intrauterine device (IUD) implanted without their parents’ consent.

School-based health clinics in at least 13 Seattle-area public high schools and middle schools offer long-acting reversible contraceptives (LARCs), including IUDs and hormonal implants, to students in sixth-grade and above at no cost, according to Washington State officials.

LARCs are associated with serious side effects, such as uterine perforation and infection. IUDs, specifically, can also act as abortifacients by preventing the implantation of a fertilized egg.

The state and federally funded contraceptive services are made possible by Take Charge, a Washington State Medicaid program which provides free birth control to adults who are uninsured, lack contraceptive coverage, have an income at or below 260 percent of the Federal Poverty Level -- or, in this case, to teens who don’t want their parents to know they’re on birth control.

In an email exchange with the Washington State Health Care Authority and, a Take Charge spokesperson acknowledged that underage students are eligible for a “full array of covered family planning services” at school-based clinics if their parents meet the program’s requirements.

Take Charge added that “a student who does not want their parents to know they are seeking reproductive health services is allowed to apply for Take Charge using their own income, and if they are insured under their parents’ plan, the insurance would not be billed.”

When asked if a sixth grader could get an IUD implanted without parental consent, Take Charge told “We encourage all Take Charge providers to offer long-acting reversible contraceptives (LARCs) in their clinics. A young person does not need parental consent to obtain a LARC or any other contraceptive method...If the young person is not choosing abstinence, she would be able to select a LARC and have it inserted without parental consent.”

So while the students can’t get a soda from the cafeteria due to the Seattle School Board’s 2004 ban on junk food, they can get an IUD implanted at their school’s health center without their parents’ knowledge or permission. 

According to the Washington State Medicaid website, health centers at four middle schools and nine high schools in Seattle participate in the Take Charge program. Other Take Charge providers are located in close proximity to schools.

“We have public health departments, community-based clinics, college and university clinics, pediatric clinics, private physician practices, and family planning clinics, like Planned Parenthood” as providers, Take Charge said in the email exchange. A total of 38 Planned Parenthood clinics participate in the Take Charge program.

Seattle school-based clinics participating in the program include Aki Kurose Middle School, Washington Middle School, Denny Middle School, Madison Middle School, Franklin High School, Nathan Hale High School, Roosevelt High School, West Seattle High School, Garfield High School, Ingraham High School, Rainier Beach High School, South Lake High School, and Chief Sealth International High School.

“Because we’re at the school, which is so wonderful, we have access to the students, and they have access to us, pretty much any time,” said Katie Acker, a health educator at two high school clinics run by Neighborcare Health, which participates in the Take Charge program.

“We will send them a pass for whatever class is easiest or best to get out of. Of course, there are always students who are like, ‘I wanna miss IB Math!’ We are not gonna pull you out of IB Math — how about ceramics instead?”

Washington State law grants any individual “a fundamental right of privacy with respect to personal reproductive decisions.”

A 2014 Washington University study “document[ed] the activities of the reproductive health educator and trends in teen LARC uptake” at clinics participating in the Take Charge program in West Seattle High School and Chief Sealth International High School. School-based health providers, Neighborcare administrators, public health officials, and community partners were interviewed.

Researchers found that “school-based health providers often cited their lack of formal training not only in inserting or removing IUDs and contraceptive implants, but also with the procedures in general.”

One health care provider who was interviewed reportedly commented: “It’s still scary to begin putting them in. Scary meaning that we know the biggest complication risk come with the least experienced providers. So how do you take that leap and just go for it?”