Friday, October 02, 2015

American Public Schools are Engaging in Islamic Indoctrination;  Parents are Fighting Back

As Islamic forces slaughter Christian minorities and terrorist groups gain an ever greater hold of territory in the war torn Middle East, American public schools have embarked on a liberal multiculturalist program whose end result would be the Islamic indoctrination of American children. Parents aren't standing pat. As the Conservative Tribune notes:

    "When a county in Georgia started indoctrinating their students in the Islamic faith, they figured that parents would just let it slide under the banner of multiculturalism. They figured wrong.

    Now, hundreds of Walton County parents are set to address the school board’s Oct. 10 meeting, looking to get equal time for Christianity and Judaism and to fix some of the misleading information in the curriculum. Especially controversial is a worksheet given to students where Allah is referred to as the “same god worshipped by Jews & Christians..."

Parents who want to opt their children out of the course must confront that doing so will result in their child receiving a lower grade. They are seeking a curricuulum that gives equal time to Christianity and Judaism. As the piece notes:

    "For parent Bill Greene, the issue was one of the county usurping one of the traditional functions of the family — the passing on of faith.

    “I believe my children are my responsibility and I believe I need to be the one teaching them what we believe instead of the school,” Greene said.

    Parents have started a Facebook group dedicated to criticism of the Islamic curriculum, and it has over 1,500 likes"

Meanwhile in Tennessee, the American Center for Law and Justice sent an open records request to 146 districts in the state. The group is investigating how Tennesee districts are teaching Islam, and so far districts have been unwilling to comply, citing the broad nature and impracticality of providing all the materials. As the Daily Caller reports:

    "The open records request is related to a grassroots reaction among parents — primarily evangelical Christian parents — against what they perceive as an inappropriate focus on Islam in history and social studies courses in Tennessee middle schools.

    Earlier this month, for example, parents in the Nashville suburb of in Spring Hill expressed alarm because their public middle school children are learning about Islam in a world history class but, the parents say, the course material pointedly ignores Christianity."

Whether or not the districts eventually choose to comply remains to be seen, but it's clear that parents aren't taking this relativist assault on their values lying down.  Source: AAN


Washington School District Bans 'Dangerous' Game of Tag

Physically and emotionally unsafe?

Michelle Obama says “Let’s Move!” But that’s hard to do when schools restrict age-old children’s activities, ostensibly “to ensure the physical and emotional safety of all students.” That’s the defense claimed by a Washington state district when it recently decided to prohibit tag on school grounds.

Communications director Mary Grady wrote in a statement, “The Mercer Island School District and school teams have recently revisited expectations for student behavior to address student safety. This means while at play, especially during recess and unstructured time, students are expected to keep their hands to themselves.”

As one agitated parent put it, “In this day and age of childhood obesity, there’s a need for more activity. Kids should be free to have spontaneous play on the playground at recess. It’s important for their learning.” Unless, of course, that activity could inadvertently hurt someone’s feelings.

As this mother demonstrates, parents know what’s best for their children. So why, then, are parents increasingly being left out of the conversation? The district didn’t even consult them before making a decision. Furthermore, most sports involve some form of contact — are we going go ban soccer and football next?

The absurdity of zero tolerance policies has a well-documented history. Fortunately, the furor has many districts reversing course. And the quicker they do, the better. Otherwise, before you know it, the PC police may visit you next, shouting, “Tag, you’re it!”


Deloitte in Britain has decided to keep quiet about where you went to school and university: Recruiter will deny background information to prevent 'unconscious bias'

Accent and deportment tell you everything about social class in Britain so this is just window-dressing -- JR

Deloitte has pledged to stop recruiters discovering where candidates went to school or university in a bid to stop ‘unconscious bias’ against people from underprivileged backgrounds.

The professional services giant said interviewers will be denied background information on education from now on until an offer is made.

Bosses hope to rid the firm of its reputation for favouring those from the top universities and elite schools and instead ‘ensure that the talent pool is diverse’.

But critics questioned whether the policy was really the best way to spot real talent and suggested it was a form of ‘social engineering’.

The US-based company is globally the largest of its kind and has been named by Bloomberg Business as the best place to launch a career.

Alongside the new ‘blind’ interviewing, ‘contextual’ data will also be used to identify candidates who have done exceptionally well in challenging circumstances.

David Sproul, senior partner and chief executive of Deloitte UK, said: ‘Improving social mobility is one of the UK’s biggest challenges. For us, there is also a clear business imperative to get this right.

‘In order to provide the best possible service and make an impact with our clients, we need to hire people who think and innovate differently, come from a variety of backgrounds and bring a range of perspectives and experience into the firm. We truly value this difference.’

The new process will be held during next year’s recruitment round to fill 1,500 jobs with graduates and school leavers.

Deloitte said the new ‘blind’ interviews will ensure that job offers are made on the basis of ‘present potential, not past personal circumstance’.

An algorithm will be used to assess ‘contextual’ information about past setbacks alongside academic results.

It will take into account disadvantages such as attending an under-performing school or coming from a deprived area.

As an example, Deloitte says an applicant getting three B grades at A-level could be seen as ‘exceptional’ if the average for their school was three D grades.

Mr Sproul added: ‘At Deloitte, we are working hard to ensure that our talent pool is diverse and reflects the make-up of today’s society. We want to show that everyone can thrive, develop and succeed in our firm based on their talent, regardless of ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, or any other dimension that can be used to differentiate people from one another.

‘This includes an individual’s social or economic background, which we know continues to be used to hold some people back.’

The move by Deloitte is the latest in a wave of changes by graduate recruiters wanting to look beyond academic results.

Ernst and Young has scrapped a requirement for school leavers to have the equivalent of three B grades at A-level or graduates to have an upper second class degree. The accountancy firm will remove all academic and education details from its application process.

PricewaterhouseCoopers earlier this year also announced that it would stop using A-levels grades as a threshold for selecting graduate recruits.

Last week, leading firms pledged to give special consideration to working class graduates and assess applicants’ GCSE and A-level grades in relation to the overall performance of their school.

Law firms including Ashurst and Baker & McKenzie have piloted the scheme, which was designed by recruitment agency Rare and will be used by up to 20 companies.  It allows them to access exam results of 3,500 schools and 2.5million postcodes.

But Alan Smithers, professor of education at Buckingham University, questioned whether the policy was the best way to spot real talent.  He said: ‘There’s an element of social engineering here because they’re responding to pressure from people like The Sutton Trust that has been taken up by politicians.

‘The emphasis should be on identifying untapped talent, not saying for moral reasons you’ve got to take someone who went to university having had free school meals.’


Thursday, October 01, 2015

CA schools to Pay Dearly for Underfunded Pension Plans

California school districts are heading for troubled times. According to Independent Institute Senior Fellow Lawrence J. McQuillan, the California State Teachers’ Retirement System (CalSTRS) promised public school teachers generous pension benefits, but it is short the estimated $74 billion to $104 billion necessary to pay for them. Governor Jerry Brown’s signing of Assembly Bill 1469 last year will help cover the shortfall by requiring larger contributions from teachers (28 percent more) and especially from school districts (132 percent more). Teacher hiring, school maintenance, and classroom resources will suffer.

The pension tsunami will devastate voters. “When politicians and bureaucrats compromise education to bail out an obviously broken pension system, a moral tipping point is reached,” McQuillan writes in an op-ed for the San Francisco Chronicle. “You can see the predictable results in Chicago, where the Chicago Public Schools system laid off 500 teachers and more than 1,000 support staff in August in response to out-of-control pension costs and a $10 billion unfunded liability. California is heading for a similar meltdown.”

The best way to reform California’s public pension system is to switch from defined-benefit plans to defined-contribution plans, like the 401(k) retirement plans common in the private sector. “Because government wouldn’t be locked into long-term, uncertain funding commitments, California could cap its unfunded pension liability and produce significant budget savings, which should be used to pay off the CalSTRS debt quickly,” McQuillan writes. “This would spare our children and grandchildren from the pension pain that schools and parents are feeling today.”


Pupils at small £11,000-a-year British private school are banned from using TVs, smartphones and iPads even when they're at HOME

A private school has banned pupils from watching television and surfing the internet even when they are at home as part of a strict ‘no-tech’ policy.

London Acorn School prohibits all use of smartphones, computers and iPads for under 16s in a drive to encourage children to learn from the natural world.

The school, for pupils aged 3 to 18, has also banned all television for under-12s and only restricted programmes for older children.

Only documentaries vetted by parents can be watched by those over 12, and films may only be watched by those over 14.

Computers are allowed for those over 14 on a limited basis for educational purposes only.

Parents who enrol their children have to commit to the same strict regime at home, with no television, computers or films, either during term-time or holiday.

Teachers say the £11,000-a-year school is meeting a growing demand among parents who are tired of their children being immersed in technology at a young age.

In contrast to other schools, there are no ICT suites, interactive whiteboards or television screens in any classrooms.

Parents’ groups have voiced concern that children are growing up too quickly because they are accessing inappropriate material online and on the television.

The ban comes just a week after it was revealed schoolchildren could be banned from taking mobile phones into class to stop them being distracted by the technology.

They may also face restrictions on the use of iPads in the classroom.

It emerged that the Department for Education was launching an inquiry into the effect on pupils’ behaviour of smartphones and tablets.

The probe, announced by Schools Minister Nick Gibb, will look into the effect of technology on pupils’ behaviour amid worries they are accessing porn sites as well as abusing each other online.

According to a study last year, two-thirds of schools now use tablets, while one in ten supply them to all their pupils.

They also use text messages to remind pupils about homework.

But teachers have repeatedly raised concerns that the use of such devices may hinder teaching and add to classroom disruption.

The school charter reads: ‘We are against all forms of electronics for small children, and only gradual integration towards it in adolescence.

‘That includes the internet. In choosing this school, you have undertaken to support that view, no matter what you may feel personally.’

The school currently has 42 pupils up to the age of 14 who are housed in a picturesque listed building owned by the National Trust in Morden, South London.

The pupils make their own exercise books and in woodwork classes they make items for the school such as hooks for the younger children.

Earlier this month, a global study by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) found that investing heavily in computers and new technology in the classroom did not improve pupils’ performance, with frequent use of computers associated with lower results.

Kevin Burchell, whose daughter Carmen, 12, joined the school last year, said: ‘It’s a big ask for parents. But it’s worth it, because the results in terms of how the children are is very special.

‘Once she was using the screens less at home, it was also cutting down on some of the more pernicious effects of popular culture.

‘The pressure on her to be a certain way and behave in certain ways. And she has more time to do all sorts of other things.’

Janice Moore, who has two children at the school, told the Guardian: ‘My husband works in IT, we are huge advocates of technology but [only when it is] age-appropriate. It’s very detrimental if it’s too much too soon.’

The school was opened in 2013 by a group of founders including Andrew Thorne and his wife, Sarah, who wanted to create a more wholesome learning environment.

It shares its ethos with the more established Acorn School in Nailsworth, Gloucestershire, and is heavily influenced by the controversial Steiner system, which also discourages screens until the age of 12.

The Thornes previously sent their two children to a Steiner school but were unhappy with the mystical ideas behind its education.

Rudolf Steiner, the intellectual father of Steiner schools, was an Austrian-born occultist who died in 1925 leaving a vast body of work on topics including biodynamic farming and alternative medicine.

The London Acorn School does not subscribe to Steiner teachings but borrows many of the natural world-focussed activities and lessons.

Last year, a glowing Ofsted report read: ‘Pupils’ outstanding achievement owes much to an approach to learning and personal development that is centred on their physical and emotional well-being and their moral and spiritual development.

‘Pupils’ outstanding personal development and behaviour are reflected in their very high attendance, love of learning, positive relationships with others and appreciation of the natural environment.’


New British Leftist leader backtracks on abolishing free schools

Labour will not abolish free schools under Jeremy Corbyn's leadership in what marks another significant backtracking for the new leader.

Mr Corbyn had described free schools and academies as "unaccountable" during his bid to become leader. It had been suggested that he could return them all under the control of local authorities.

Now, after a series of backtracking announcements in his first two weeks as leader, Mr Corbyn will no longer seek a takeover of the schools.

Lucy Powell, shadow education secretary, said that a Labour government would instead allow local education authorities to "intervene" when necessary.

When asked by BBC Radio 4's Today programme if she planned to bring free schools and academies back under local authority control, she said: "No, what I've said is that by 2020 nearly every secondary school and most primary schools will be a free school or an academy.

"I think the idea that the Secretary of State herself can manage and oversee and support all those schools directly is wrong-headed.

"We should have local oversight of those schools. It's not the same as how we used to have local government control. We will work through the exact detail of that. But, look, if you take things like supporting local schools, collaborating amongst communities of schools, place planning, which is a really critical issues that at the moment no one has an oversight of, which is why we have such chronic shortage of places.

"We need to have the ability for local authority and others to intervene in some failing academies as well, not just what we've seen under this government which has been a real focus on failure in maintaining schools.

"In a world where policy is being devolved back to communities, I live in Manchester and part of the devo-Manc agenda where we've got a real opportunity to tackle the root causes of low attainment in our community, to have schools outside of that remit is absolutely wrong-headed, so local oversight is where we are going."

Ms Powell, who ran Ed Miliband's leadership campaign in 2010 and backed Andy Burnham in this summer's contest, defended Mr Corbyn's policy making decisions.

She said: "I think he's got a direction of travel in the way he wants to do things and I think that is refreshing and something the public want to hear."

Responding to speculation that Labour’s position towards free schools is changing, Nick Timothy, Director of New Schools Network, said: "We very much hope this is a sign that Labour will consult before determining their position on free schools.

"It is not true, as Ms Powell once again seemed to imply today, that free schools and academies are less accountable than their locally maintained counterparts. On the contrary, free schools and academies are more accountable than maintained schools. They are scrutinised by the Education Funding Agency, Regional Schools Commissioners and parents directly, while ministers still retain the power, in extremis, to close down a free school.

“By contrast, of the ten local authorities with the poorest GCSE results that held council elections this year, the largest party retained or even gained seats in every single one.

“Free schools are better placed to give parents what they want and drive up standards because they give more control to headteachers, teachers and governors, rather than politicians and bureaucrats. We very much hope Labour will accept that free schools are here to stay and support the creation of more of desperately needed schools.”

David Cameron and the Conservatives have pledged to open up to 500 extra free schools by the end of this parliament.

Previous analysis from the think tank Policy Exchange appeared to disprove the claim from critics that free schools suck talent from competitors and undermine standards.

It suggested that free schools – set up by parents, teachers or third parties outside council control – have had a wider positive effect on education standards in areas where they are created.

Mr Corbyn announced during his leadership campaign, however, that he would set up a new National Education Service which would give greater opportunities for "lifelong learning" from nursery to adult education.


Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Confederate flags fly at Hurricane High School

One day last week at Hurricane High School, in the part of the parking lot nearest to Teays Valley Road, eight Confederate flags on six pickup trucks waved to passing drivers.

A couple of students have done it for a while, they said, but more started after the Confederate flag was removed from the state capitol in South Carolina this summer.

On Sept. 11, one student decided he had had enough. Police say the student used a box cutter to shred Confederate flags on other students’ trucks at a football game. He was suspended from school, and Hurricane Police Chief Mike Mullins said soon after the incident that police would probably file a juvenile petition in circuit court for destruction of property.

“He admitted to doing it and advised that he was offended by the flag,” said Mullins, who has not returned recent calls from the Gazette-Mail. The student and his mother would not agree to an interview.

Cody Barker, 19, was waiting this week for his friends to get out of school in the section of the Hurricane High parking lot that he called the “redneck station.”

“They all were going to fight him,” Barker said of the student who cut up the flag. “They weren’t too happy about it.”

Some schools ban the Confederate flags on clothes or vehicles, and have attempted to use flag controversies to explain why the flags are divisive and can be viewed as a symbol of hate. More have banned them since June 17, when nine black people were killed in a church in Charleston, South Carolina, by a man who posed with the flag in photos.

The debate holds more significance at Hurricane High, where a decade ago, a federal judge ruled that the school could not ban the Confederate flag. In that case, U.S. District Judge John T. Copenhaver ended the ban at Hurricane High, in part because the overwhelmingly white school did not have a history of racial tension or violence.

The judge ruled in favor of Frankie Bragg, an 18-year-old senior who regularly wore Confederate flag T-shirts to school. He said he wore them to honor his southern heritage.

Copenhaver wrote that he lifted the school’s ban on Confederate flags because the school had not had “flag-based physical violence between students, a pervasive background of demonstrated racial hostility or the involvement of any hate groups aligned on either side of a serious racial divide.” Without that racial turmoil, the school did not have the right to trample on Bragg’s First Amendment right to express himself freely, he ruled.

Hurricane High’s principal at the time, Joyce Vessey Swanson, had fought to keep the ban in place and said she had seen students at other Putnam County schools use the flag to harass black students.

Putnam schools spokeswoman Rudi Raynes said the county doesn’t have a policy regarding the Confederate flag, but directed a reporter to the 2005 court decision.

“Basically the ruling in that case was as long as the student was not being disruptive, intimidating anyone or trampling on the civil rights of others, they do have the freedom of speech,” she said.

Raynes said she didn’t know if students at Hurricane High were currently flying Confederate flags, and she could not comment on student suspensions. Putnam schools Superintendent Chuck Hatfield and Hurricane High Principal Richard Campbell did not return calls from the Gazette-Mail.

Hurricane students who fly the flags said they see the flags as an homage to Confederate heritage. They also said they feel like their free speech is being stifled.

School administrators have made them roll and zip-tie their flags, the students said, but the flags were flying free as traffic went by and students exited the building Wednesday afternoon.

Although they were quick to say the flags are not meant to send a message about race, the students seemed acutely aware that some people were taking them that way.

Thomas Joyce turned around to show the phrase “Heritage Not Hate” emblazoned on his shirt.  He said the wind must have unrolled his flag, one of which also read, “heritage not hate.”

Kailey Young rides home with her brother, who usually flies one on his vehicle.  “My stepdad’s black,” she said. “I would still fly one. We’re not doing it against black people at all.”

Other students didn’t agree. “I think they’re terrible and they shouldn’t be up because they’re offensive,” said Andrew O’Dell, a senior. “It’s like flying a swastika.”

Jamie Lynn Crofts, an attorney for the ACLU of West Virginia, noted that since the 2005 decision, the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Virginia, has upheld a Confederate flag ban at a public high school in South Carolina. In that case, Hardwick v. Heyward, the court noted examples of racial tension and found that school officials could reasonably predict disruption caused by a student wearing Confederate shirts.

“Although students’ expression of their views and opinions is an important part of the educational process and receives some First Amendment protection, the right of students to speak in school is limited by the need for school officials to ensure order, protect the rights of other students, and promote the school’s educational mission,” the decision read. The 4th Circuit is also the federal appeals court for West Virginia.

Several people upset about the flags at Hurricane High have suggested contacting the ACLU — not realizing the ACLU actually represented Bragg, the Confederate flag shirt-wearing student, in 2005.

“It’s not a Confederate flag issue,” Crofts said. “It’s a free speech issue.”

Hurricane High student Brent Price said he saw the student running near the trucks after slicing the flags with the box cutter at the football game. The flag on his own truck had been removed from the bed of the truck and tossed to the ground, he said.

He said he saw the student put a shirt on over a tank top, apparently to disguise himself, and Price ran over and lifted up the shirt, then told police.

“He hasn’t been back (to school),” Price said.

Price was asked why he flies the flag on his truck.

“Because people tell us we can’t,” he said.


You needn't be Christian to be head of Church of England school

Church of England schools are struggling to find enough Christian headteachers.

Primaries and secondaries are being forced instead to recruit ‘from other faiths or none at all’.

Practising Christians are in short supply for all teaching posts and those taken on must show only that they are ‘on board’ with CofE values.

In a ‘needs analysis’ report, the Church’s education office warns of a potential demographic time bomb with an increasingly elderly cohort of school leaders.

It says it needs to recruit significant numbers of strong heads, particularly in ‘hard to reach’ rural and coastal areas.

The document says: ‘Recruitment of school leaders with the necessary understanding and commitment is proving increasingly difficult, and sometimes impossible.

‘Many dioceses have become more flexible around the requirement that headteachers need to be practising Christians and can reference successful church school heads who are from other faiths or none at all but are able to maintain a clear vision for education.

‘However, in the long term there is a risk to the vision if sufficient numbers of teachers and school leaders with a deep understanding of and engagement with the Church of England cannot be deployed.’

The report also notes the danger of CofE schools being forced to join multi-academy trusts with no church affiliation. ‘In these cases the school’s vision and religious character may be at serious risk,’ it says.

Interviews with staff reveal that fewer and fewer senior leaders are willing to step up into the top jobs.

Some are deterred by the extra pressure and accountability, while there is also ‘a perception from outside that it may be more difficult to be a headteacher in a Church of England school’.

The Manchester diocese had reported no problems with recruitment, but more rural dioceses, including Exeter and Norwich, have had trouble.

The report argued for a training programme to recruit potential teachers who are ‘sympathetic to the Church’s vision for education’. It also recommended developing marketing materials for teachers outlining the benefits of leading church schools.

CofE schools are able to ask for ‘Christian commitment’ as one of the criteria used in making staff appointments to ensure the religious character of the school is maintained.

In voluntary controlled and foundation schools, governors may also ask how potential headteachers will maintain and develop the Christian character and ethos of the school.

Rabbi Dr Jonathan Romain, of the Accord Coalition, which campaigns to end religious discrimination in school staffing and admissions, said: ‘The growing number of Church of England schools that are appointing senior staff from outside the faith is encouraging.’


Group of Eight universities: End Australia's 'broken, mediocre' research system

Excellence must be recognized.  Not all research is equal. The Group of Eight is Australia's approach to an Ivy League

Australia will not develop the innovative economy envisaged by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull unless it stops rewarding mediocrity and ditches a culture of "every child gets a prize", the nation's most prestigious universities argue.

The Group of Eight universities – including the University of Sydney and University of Melbourne – is urging the federal government to fix the country's "broken" research funding system by targeting taxpayer funds at research judged to be of high quality.

This includes a contentious push for $680 million in annual funding for PhD and master's research to be restricted to institutions rated at or above world standard in their chosen fields.

The change would hit suburban and regional universities the hardest, leading to warnings it would entrench the privilege of elite institutions.

Go8 chief executive Vicki Thomson said: "Australia's research funding system is broken: it is over-complicated and rewards research that is below world standard.

"We are using scarce taxpayer dollars on research that is frankly mediocre.  "Instead of an egalitarian, 'every child gets a prize' approach we should be funding excellence.

"You wouldn't fund a mediocre sportsperson in the hope they can go on to win a gold medal. The Australian Institute of Sport takes athletes and invests in them because they believe they can be excellent. That's the approach we should take to research."

The Turnbull government has a slew of reviews under way including into: research funding and policy; research training; research infrastructure; and boosting the commercial returns of research.

Ms Thomson said: "It is fantastic to see the Prime Minister talk about innovation, and the key to a more innovative economy is university research and training."

Ms Thomson said 98 per cent of research at the Go8 universities is judged world standard or above, according to the Excellence in Research for Australia (ERA) rankings. By contrast, 38 per cent of research at non-Go8 universities is judged as below world standard.

The Go8 approach would see the University of Western Sydney and University of Newcastle lose funding for PhD research in the physical sciences, Macquarie University and La Trobe University for mathematics and Charles Sturt University for history.

Universities judged as excellent in their research fields – such as James Cook University for tropical science or the University of Tasmania for oceanography – would continue to receive funding.

Australian National University vice-chancellor Ian Young said in a speech earlier this month: "My concern is that we don't target our research investment in areas of demonstrable excellence and hence our average research performance trails our national peers.

"One has to ask if Australia's more egalitarian approaches represent good use of scarce research funding and whether it yields the country the best outcomes."

Australian Catholic University vice-chancellor Greg Craven said he supported universities focusing on their research strengths, but accused the Go8 of self-interest.  "The argument from the Group of Eight on research is essentially: let's give rich universities all the money," he said.

"That ignores the fact that some of these universities have been around for 150 years and have had a big head start with support from the taxpayer."

Regional Universities Network chairwoman Jan Thomas said the group opposed using "narrow" research scores to allocate funding. The scores were retrospective, didn't adequately recognise engagement with industry and ignored the strategic importance of research in regional Australia, she said.

Professor Thomas said research funding should be more focused on creating links between researchers and the private sector, including by creating new PhD scholarships for industry-based research and more funding for joint university-industry research projects.

Australia ranks 29th and 30th out of 30 developed countries on the proportion of large and small businesses collaborating with higher education and public research institutions on innovation, according to the OECD.


Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Does school choice undermine accountability?

A decision by the Washington State Supreme Court ruling charter schools unconstitutional has sparked a national conversation on the accountability of charter schools as opposed to traditional public schools, and the virtues of school choice in general. The chief issue in the case was the fact that charter school boards are not elected, and thus not eligible for public funding under the Washington Constitution. Unelected boards are regarded as unaccountable to taxpayers, and therefore undesirable.

While it is true that elections provide an important means of holding officials accountable, it is important to note that dollars are even more effective. Private companies do not hold elections for their officers, because there is already a clear barometer for success or failure, namely profits and losses. Elections are only necessary where funding is non-optional, as in most forms of government. An individual citizen can’t choose to not pay a congressman’s salary if he performs badly, so elections are a way to hold him accountable. Similarly, a parent can’t refuse to fund her local public school, so electing school board officials is an important check on power.

Charter schools, however, are different, because they allow parents a choice. You don’t have to send you child to a charter school, and since charters are usually funded on a per-pupil basis, the withdrawal of a child has a direct impact on the school’s budget. This means that there is a direct financial incentive for these schools to perform well. If they fail to serve their communities, they will lose funding, not only through lack of pupils, but by having their charters revoked by the state. This creates a layer of accountability totally absent in traditional public schools, and thus diminishes the need for elections.

If you want to talk about real lack of accountability, you need look no further than the federal Department of Education, where unelected bureaucrats make decisions that affect schools across the country, giving parents no recourse to protect the rights of their children. Federal programs like No Child Left Behind, Race to the Top, and Head Start, have all been measurable failures, yet we keep being forced to spend more and more money on the same debunked ideas.

If you want to talk about unconstitutionality, let’s again look at the federal level. You can search your U.S. Constitution’s in vain for the word “education,” yet the Department of Education continues to operate year after year in flagrant violation of the Tenth Amendment, which reserves all powers not expressly mentioned in the Constitution “to the States respectively, or to the people.”

This means that people of Washington can legislate how they choose, but from a parent’s perspective charter schools are a no-brainer. Choice is always better than no choice, and this applies to education as much as to any other good. Would you rather your daughters be able to buy one brand of shoes, or two? Would you rather your sons be forced into playing soccer, or have baseball as an option as well? Should your kids have to go to whatever public school happens to be nearby, or do you deserve a choice?

When all children in a particular neighborhood are forced to go to the same school, that school has little incentive to take their wishes or complaints into account. The audience is literally captive, bound by the legal requirement for mandatory schooling. With even one alternative in play, schools have to compete for your business. They have to please you, the customer, or else risk losing your business. That’s the democracy of the market, and why school choice is such an important issue in a country that claims to value democracy. That’s what real accountability means.

I don’t pretend to be an expert on the Washington State Constitution, so it’s not for me to say whether the Court got this one wrong. If the voters desire, they can amend the Constitution and allow charter schools to receive public funding again, and it seems like there is at least some support for doing so. What is clear is that school choice is a policy that is both effective and moral. Parents should be allowed to control their children’s education, and the competition that results brings better outcomes for individuals, and for society as a whole.


British mother-of-five faces jail because her son did not attend lessons while he was grieving the death of his father

A mother-of-five has been warned she faces jail because her son did not attend lessons while he was grieving the death of his father.

Tracey Fidler is being prosecuted by Reading Borough Council - the same authority her fiance Kris Jarvis, 39, was working for when he was hit and killed by a drunk-driver doing 70mph.

Mr Jarvis was cycling with his friend and colleague John Morland, 30, who also died at the scene in Purley on Thames, Berkshire, in February last year. It led Ms Fidler to campaign for tougher drink-drive sentences.

The driver, Alexander Walter, who was over the drink-drive limit, was given a 10-year jail term.

In the months after Mr Jarvis' death, his son Adam had an attendance record of 45 per cent from Battle Primary School, according to The Sunday Times.

Ms Fidler told education editor Sian Griffiths: 'After the crash my youngest child, Adam, was in bits.  'He didn't want to leave me because he thought if he did I wouldn't be there when he came back.'

Ms Fidler claims the school was aware of the circumstances but said it was not a good enough reason to justify keeping Adam at home.

Having pleaded not guilty in court Ms Fidler says she has now been warned she faces a custodial sentence.

She added: 'They want to put me in prison. I just can't believe it because Adam is now thinking he is going to lose his mum. He has already lost his dad.'

Adam's attendance is now back up to normal, Ms Fidler said.

His older siblings, who go to a secondary school in Reading, also missed lessons but their mother said the school was supportive of the reasoning.

Government rules state that a child can only be absent if they are too ill to go in or the parent has advance permission from the school.

An online petition calling on the council to drop the prosecution had collected 4,000 signatures less than 24 hours after it was launched at

A spokesman for Reading council told The Sunday Times that it was going to speak to the family with the aim of 'urgently finding a resolution'.

At the time of the crash, a spokesman for the authority said: 'It is with great sadness that news of the tragic death of two council employees reached us this morning.

'The thoughts of everyone at Reading Borough Council are obviously with their families at this sad time.'

The Government’s change to the law on school absences, introduced in September 2013, was designed to stop families taking pupils on term-time holidays.  But some parents have been penalised for children missing class to attend important events or medical appointments.


We’re all non-disabled now

The end of September sees the beginning of the academic year at universities, and according to a Times report on Saturday, ‘microaggressions – tiny perceived slights that may imply a broader insult – are now the talk of university campuses across America’. In New Hampshire, a ‘bias-free language guide’ has been compiled, advising against using the term ‘poor person’ in favour of ‘a person who lacks advantages that others have’. It also urges use of the non-gender-specific pronoun ‘zie’, rather than ‘he’ or ‘she’.

An old person should be called ‘person of advanced age’, an obese individual is ‘a person of size’, a foreigner is now an ‘international person’, and, rather than describe someone as ‘able-bodied’, one should instead say ‘non-disabled’. That one particularly took me back. You might as well call people who are alive ‘the undead’, refer to my laptop as ‘unbroken’, or refer to everyone not interested in football as a ‘non-football supporter’.

But it also encapsulates much that is vacuous and contradictory about identity politics. The double-negating term ‘non-disabled’ suggests that people who aren’t disabled are unusual. As a ‘non-disabled’ person, I am now a subaltern ‘other’ defined by the hegemonic disablist ‘centre’.

Identity politics always wants to have it both ways. It can’t decide whether minorities or the disadvantaged should be deemed the same or different, equal or special, victims or moral superiors.

We see this especially in gender politics. ‘Sexual orientation and gender are merely social constructs with no basis in biology’, pronounce the high priestesses of feminism and queer theory, before cheerily accepting that a man who undergoes surgery magically becomes a woman. If gender is all in the mind, why undergo surgery to change your physiognomy? A sex change to ‘become a woman’ is the most flagrant example of gender determinism there is.

Identity politics is incoherent because it is built on the crooked timber of emotion and feeling, and the voodoo conceit that changing language can alter reality. It’s the mindset of a confused teenager: desperately wanting to fit in but wanting to be different all at the same time. When one’s sense of self is of paramount importance, reason and logic take flight.


Monday, September 28, 2015

UK: Anxious parents 'breed generation of clueless children', says schools leader

Anxious parents are breeding a generation of “clueless” children who never experience any physical risks, a schools leader has warned.

In an effort to protect them from physical and mental harms, parents are leaving children unable to cross the road or walk to school on their own when they reach senior school, according to David Hanson, chief executive of the Independent Association of Prep Schools (IAPS).

Parents, he said, are also damaging children by wanting to live “precariously through their achievements” by adding unnecessary pressures in their academic and extra-curricular activities.

Speaking to the Sunday Telegraph ahead of the IAPS annual conference next week, Mr Hanson said: “One can understand why parents are anxious about their children. It’s very hard for them to be even handed and balanced.

“But sometimes parents put a cotton wool around children because they want to protect them from everything, including physical risks and mental challenges.

“There is a fear of failure but we actually want children to climb trees, fall out and scratch their knees. We want them to struggle with mental challenges and learn when they don’t achieve what they were hoping for.

There is a fear of failure but we actually want children to climb trees, fall out and scratch their knees.

Sheltering children, Mr Hanson said, can hinder children’s development because “they are never going to cope in the real world. Many parents drive their children to school and the children never learn common sense rules of being a pedestrian. They are clueless about crossing the road. When they walk to senior school the injury rates are horrendous.

“If children from a young age, walk to school with a gown up, they come to instinctively learn about traffic and how to cross the road in a safe manner. To suddenly discover this as a distracted teenager leads to the tragically high injury rate we see in this country.”

He added that “depending on circumstances” children should be let to walk to school or cross the road on their own at appropriate age. He added: “Parents should first protect, then lead and show and then support and then let go.”

Excessive expectations on performance can be as damaging as protecting children from mental and physical challenges, Mr Hanson added.

He said: “Parents almost wish to live precariously through the achievements of their child. They want their child to be the musician or the sportsman they were never themselves.”

Mr Hanson recalls how the pressure has reached over the top levels in some parents. At a sailing event recently a parent brought a professional trainer and a camera operator to give the child a professional debrief on how to be the best.

He discouraged this type of behaviour from parents. He said: “That’s just over the top. You’re knocking all the joy out of this. We need to find the balance between enjoying the game and wanting to win so that when you do fail, you fail with grace and you pick yourself up and you do it again.”

Mr Hanson also criticised parents who pushed children through “corrosive tutoring”.

He said: “The children have a good education at school and you don’t need to push them through hours and hours of tutoring. It’s very corrosive.

“Parents are spending a lot of money hot housing a child to get them through selective examinations. The child then gets into that highly demanding school and they are miserable because they have just been pushed to a point which will mean that secondary school will not be a happy experience.

“They are far better off going to a school where they will flourish, enjoy and achieve very good results.”


UK: 'Universities must not shy away from difficult subjects'

The Government’s anti-extremism plans risk curtailing academic freedom, when universities should be centres for debate, argues Sally Hunt

The Government’s controversial anti-extremism plans are scheduled to come into force in UK colleges and universities on Monday. According to Number 10, the plans are “part of the Government’s one nation strategy to confront and ultimately defeat the threat of extremism and terrorism.”

Critics, including my union – the University and College Union – argue they risk curtailing academic freedom and will create an uneasy relationship of mistrust between students and lecturers.

Lecturers’ opposition to the many forms of guidance that have been issued to further and higher education institutions is long-standing, including raising serious concerns about the Government’s definition of “extremism” and its attempts to make staff spy on their students.

The latest guidance will mean that for the first time that universities and colleges in the UK will be legally required to put specific policies in place to stop extremists. Legal advice produced when the subject was being debated in Parliament early this year pointed out that placing a legal duty on universities to prevent students from being drawn into terrorism was in conflict with existing law.

Other anxieties highlighted in February included those outlined by group of university vice-chancellors who argued that to be effective in countering terrorism and radicalisation, universities had to remain independent from government.

We are still seeking reassurance that academic freedoms will be protected and that there will be no grey areas over what can and can’t be debated. We are worried that the politicisation of the lawful expression of views is both counterproductive and unnecessary.

Leader of the French party National Front (FN) Marine Le Pen (C) arrives to give a speech at the Oxford Union's prestigious debating society in OxfordControversial topics: Leader of the French party National Front (FN) Marine Le Pen (C) arrives to give a speech at the Oxford Union's debating society  Photo: EPA

For a Government that likes to make much of the red tape and bureaucracy that apparently blights so many areas of our public service, it is rather keen to add yet more paperwork to a sector that has suffered more than most from form filling and box ticking in recent years.

All this sits against a backdrop where the workloads for staff may have increased considerably, but their pay has fallen dramatically in real terms.

Our universities and colleges are centres for debate and open discussion, where received wisdom can be challenged and controversial ideas put forward in the spirit of academic endeavour. The best response to acts of terror is to retain our universities and colleges as open democratic spaces.

"Students need to be confident that they can debate, explore and challenge serious topics in lectures and seminars."

Draconian crackdowns on the rights of academics and students will not achieve the ends the Government says it seeks. Students need to be confident that they can debate, explore and challenge serious topics in lectures and seminars.

Some of the subjects up for debate may be difficult ones, but shying away from them because people are fearful they may be considered extreme is no way to deal with any issue.

Universities and colleges already have a responsibility to ensure the safety of their students and staff, and not to allow activities which are intended to foment hatred or violence, or support for unlawful activities such as terrorism.

However, universities and colleges rightly cherish, and must continue to promote, academic freedom as a key tenet of our civilised society. It is essential to our democracy and right to freedom of speech that views are open to debate and challenge within the law.


UK: Secular activist who fled Iran’s repressive regime banned from speaking at university in case she ‘incites hatred against Muslims’

I should note that Namazie is an Iranian Tudeh (Communist party) supporter.  There would be no free speech if she had her way

A high-profile secularist has been banned from speaking at a university for fears she will offend Muslims.

Activist Maryam Namazie was due to make a presentation to Warwick University's Student Union on October 28, having been by the Warwick Atheists, Secularists and Humanists (WASH) group.

The group was contacted by the union to be told that her speech had been cancelled after 'a number of flags' were raised.

According to The Independent, the union told the group: 'After researching both [Ms Namazie] and her organisation, a number of flags have been raised. We have a duty of care to conduct a risk assessment for each speaker who wishes to come to campus'.

Articles written by Ms Namazie indicated she was 'highly inflammatory' and 'could incite hatred on campus', according to the union.

Ms Namazie fled Iran with her family in 1980 following the revolution.

She told the newspaper that she was going to be speaking about apostasy, blasphemy and nudity in the age of ISIS.

She was stunned that her talk was cancelled by the student union.  'They're basically labelling me a racist and an extremist for speaking out against Islam and Islamism,' she said.

'If people like me who fled an Islamist regime can't speak out about my opposition to the far-right Islamic movement, if I can't criticise Islam, that leaves very [few] options for me as a dissenter because the only thing I have is my freedom of expression.

'If anyone is inciting hatred, it's the Islamists who are threatening people like me just for deciding we want to be atheist, just because we don't want to toe the line.'

'To try to censor me, does a double disservice to those people who are dissenting by denying people like me the only opportunity we have to speak.'

WASH's president, Benjamin David, appealed the decision. He said: 'The infringement of free-speech is becoming insidiously ubiquitous, and many universities, including Warwick, are circumventing the freedom of speech in pursuit of inoffensive, sanitary narratives.'

Isaac Leigh, president of Warwick Student Union said: 'The initial decision was made for the right of Muslim students not to feel intimidated or discriminated against on their university campus, rather than in the interest of suppressing free speech.'

'A final decision on this issue will be reached by the most senior members of the Student Union in coming days.'


Sunday, September 27, 2015

Inspectors slam British primary school where there's no such thing as a naughty child and teachers are banned from raising their voices

A school which refuses to discipline misbehaving pupils saying there is no such thing as a naughty child has been handed the worst possible rating.

Then 355-pupil Barrowford Primary School has been told to improve or face action after it was branded 'inadequate' by Government inspectors.

The school has faced ridicule and condemnation after the head teacher ripped up the rule book and scrapped all punishments for bad pupils.

She also banned teachers from raising their voices insisted no child was ever to be considered naughty.

Traditional fixed times for playtime and lunch were also scrapped with the pupils deciding when they wanted to eat or have a break.

Instead of getting angry teachers were told to say: 'You have emptied my resilience bucket' and send misbehaving pupils to the 'nurture room' if their behaviour got out of control.

But last night the Lancashire school was handed a black mark by Ofsted school inspectors and warned it could put in 'special measures.'

Awarding the school the worst rating, Gill Jones, lead inspector said: 'Teaching is inadequate. Staff expectations of what pupils can achieve are not high enough. 'Behaviour requires improvement. In lessons, pupils do not always concentrate on what they are doing and are too easily distracted.

'The teaching of reading is ineffective. In some classes, the weaker readers read aloud too infrequently to an adult' and young children in reception 'are not prepared for the curriculum.'

Last night parents and campaign groups called for the resignation of head teacher, Rachel Tomlinson, whose controversial approach had led to the huge decline.

In 2012, the school - which is an Academy - was rated 'good' by Ofsted but in the latest report only 39 per cent of parents believed the school was doing enough to ensure the children were well behaved.

One parent said: 'She should resign. You can't experiment with childrens' futures, fail spectacularly and then keep your job. She should go.'

Another, with two boys at the school said: 'I teach my both my sons right from wrong when they are at home and I feel my hard work is being undone by the school.'  'If a pupil misbehaves, they are sent to a chill-out room where they play on iPads and Xboxes. That is just encouraging them to be naughty.'

A former parent, who did not want to be named, said: 'I took my child out of that school because of the sheer lack of structure, discipline, problem children and bullying.'

Chris McGovern of the Campaign For Real Education said the no-rules policy was an 'educational fantasy' that was a 'betrayal' of the children.  He said: 'A recipe of disaster is what it is. Children need boundaries, they need clarity and they need guidelines, and a free for all is almost destined to fail.

'This experiment education is really fashionable and schools shouldn't need Ofsted to tell them that this is damaging the children's education and future. That is unfair.

'The school should hang it's head in shame because it is betraying the children. I'm reassured to know that at least Ofsted has the integrity to make a statement and say this isn't working.'

Ms Tomlinson said she was very disappointed with the inadequate rating but was very positive and excited about the future. In a letter to parents she said: 'Throughout the summer, we have worked very hard to bring about continued positive change and we know that you will see this reflected in your children.'

Mrs Tomlinson, whose school motto is 'Love to learn, learn to love' said she had also bolstered the senior leadership team to make improvements.

One school policy states: 'A child is not to be defined as naughty. It should be explained to the child that they have made a wrong choice.'  When confronted by a misbehaving pupil they are told to avoid raising their voices and instead tell them they are 'wonderful' but their behaviour is 'mistaken.'

The school in the former mill town of Nelson also told pupils not to worry about their exam results, since tests could not capture all the qualities that made them each 'special and unique'.

Chairman of governors Doug Metcalfe, said: 'We were naturally very disappointed with the outcome and have spent the summer as a school and staff group making the changes and improvements highlighted. We have invited parents who have concerns to sit down with us one-to-one so we can talk through the changes we are making.'


Vicious California correctness

WHEN a high school student saw a blind classmate being beaten up by a bully he knocked the attacker out with a single punch.

But while his actions have led to him being hailed as a “hero” by many his school has taken a different approach, kicking him off the football team, CBS Los Angeles reported.

The move by officials at Huntington Beach High School in California was branded “stupid” and “petty” by online commentators after video of the fight went viral on Youtube.

In the shocking 30-second clip — since removed from Youtube — a teen in a hat is seen raining down punches on a visually-impaired student while a crowd looks on.

The other student, namedby friends as Cody Pine, then appears from behind, landing a punch to the head of the bully, who is knocked to the ground.

The bully lies bleeding while the attacker, after checking on the well-being of the victim, turns back to him asking: “’You trying to jump a f***ing blind kid, bro? What the f*** is your problem?”

The bully was later arrested on suspicion of misdemeanour battery by Huntington Beach Police, who said in a statement that he and the victim “have a history of not getting along”.

The statement added that no arrest was expected for Cody.

Online commentators praised his actions.

Anthony Zampi said: “This is heroism simple and plain. He exhibited the exact characteristics that make a good citizen. When other people would rather FILM this event, in stepped in and saved his fellow classmate.”

Mike Hallen wrote: “The day you punish people who protect the helpless is the day you’ve lost humanity. Don’t be STUPID!”
Bully gets a taste of his own medicine

However, school officials saw it differently, kicking Cody off the football team because they said his behaviour breached their “zero-tolerance” policy on violence.

The school’s actions have led to an online petition to have the intervening student reinstated on the football team. The petition, whose goal is 13,000 signatures, has so far been signed by over 12,000 people.


British universities ordered to ban campus hate preachers

David Cameron last night demanded universities clamp down on hate preachers on campus to ‘protect impressionable young minds’.

From Monday, colleges will for the first time have a legal duty to put in place specific policies to stop extremists radicalising students. They will also have to tackle gender segregation at events and do more to support students at risk of radicalisation.

The Government’s new Extremism Analysis Unit revealed that at least 70 events featuring hate speakers were held on campuses last year.

They involved speakers known to have promoted rhetoric that aims to undermine core British values of democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty and mutual respect and tolerance of those with different faiths and beliefs. The unit named and shamed the worst offenders – Queen Mary, King’s College, SOAS (the School of Oriental and African Studies) and Kingston – all universities in London.

Security officials also have concerns about the number of young people being radicalised and travelling to join Islamic State jihadis.

The Government has urged the National Union of Students to drop its opposition to the anti-radicalisation strategy, which critics have claimed will create a culture of suspicion at academic institutions and could restrict freedom of speech.

Mr Cameron called on universities to do more to ensure their institutions did not become breeding grounds for terror. ‘I said in July that tackling extremism will be the struggle of our generation; one which we will defeat if we work together,’ he said.

‘All public institutions have a role to play in rooting out and challenging extremism. It is not about oppressing free speech or stifling academic freedom; it is about making sure that radical views and ideas are not given the oxygen they need to flourish.

‘Schools, universities and colleges, more than anywhere else, have a duty to protect impressionable young minds and ensure that our young people are given every opportunity to reach their potential.

‘That is what our one nation government is focused on delivering.’

Updated guidance has been sent to universities and sixth-form colleges and will come into force on Monday. It requires establishments to ensure they have proper risk-assessment processes for speakers and ensure those espousing extremist views do not go unchallenged.

The guidance also sets out that institutions must ensure they have appropriate IT policies and staff training in place to recognise and respond to the signs of radicalisation. It follows the imposition of similar duties on councils, prisons, NHS trusts and schools in July.

Universities minister Jo Johnson has written to the NUS, saying it is ‘disappointing’ to see opposition to the programme and underlining their responsibilities. He said: ‘Universities represent an important arena for challenging extremist views. It is important there can be active challenge and debate on issues relating to counter terrorism.’

Nicola Dandridge, chief executive of Universities UK, said institutions already had procedures in place before external speakers are given the green light to address students.