Friday, April 08, 2016

Credentialism is alive and well in Australia

The value assigned to more and more education is a great folly.  Jobs that were once done perfectly well by a high school graduate now mainly go to university graduates.  Teaching is a good example.  You mostly now have to have a 4-year teaching degree to become a teacher.  Yet for two years I successfully taught senior High School geography even though my highest qualification for it was junior High School geography.  I just kept a chapter ahead in our geography book.

As the ups and downs of the mining boom stole the headlines Australia was experiencing a less celebrated economic transformation: a know-how boom.

Since the middle of last decade the share of adults with an advanced post-school qualification has swelled dramatically.

In 2005 the proportion of Australians aged between 20 and 64 with a Certificate III qualification or higher has jumped from 47 per cent to 60 per cent (Certificate III level recognises advanced technical skills and knowledge, such as a tradesman). In that period the share of 20- to 64-year-olds with a bachelor degree or higher has climbed from about 21 per cent to nearly 30 per cent.

The trend for school students to stay in class longer is similar. Over the past decade the national year 12 student retention rate has climbed from 74.7 per cent to 87 per cent.

Government policies have played a role in boosting the number of adults with university degrees and technical qualifications but the main driver towards obtaining those qualifications is a perception among individuals that know-how has become a modern necessity. It's a reflection of a momentous economic shift towards knowledge-based employment. Those with higher qualifications are more likely to be employed, to earn more when they are employed, to increase the productivity of their co-workers, to increase innovation and technical change and increase employers' profits.

The proportion of adults with a higher qualification is set to keep rising.

That's good news, overall. But the know-how boom has also exacerbated a hazardous political fault line.

Despite all those new qualifications, a big portion of voters still have little or no post-school education. And that leaves them increasingly vulnerable to economic change.

Employment in high-skill, high-value knowledge industries has tended to grow more quickly than other sectors, especially in big cities. Low-skill workers are likely to face growing competition from new migrants, offshoring and even robots.

"It's pretty Darwinian out there in the labour market these days," says Dr Nicholas Gruen, the economist who authors the Wellbeing Index. "If you don't have a post-school qualification the odds are stacked against you."

That's an obvious recipe for discontent. You don't have to look far to see the strife this growing educational-cultural divide can fuel.

In the US, Donald Trump's unsavoury campaign for President has been underpinned by poorly educated voters angry about how society is changing. His candidacy has exposed a deep fissure in US politics: class and education. Analysts note that the single best predictor of support for Trump during the Republican Party primaries has been the absence of a college degree.

In Britain, the educational-cultural divide is a factor in the campaign to exit the European Union, known as "Brexit.

The Economist magazine points out those without tertiary qualifications are much more likely to favour "Brexit" than graduates. It argues that "Britain's great European divide is really about education and class". Britain is scheduled to hold a referendum in June asking voters whether they want Britain to remain in the 28-nation economic block. The latest opinion polls show the "Leave Europe" camp with a solid lead.

Should Britain vote to leave the EU the uncertainty would shake global financial markets and probably take a toll on the global economy.

Australian politics isn't plagued by Trumpism or Brexit but it would be folly to assume politics here is immune to the educational-cultural divisions on show in English-speaking democracies with whom we often compare ourselves.

"It's a big new divide all right," says Gruen. "We've seen it before with Pauline Hanson and to some extent the National Party. It's a pretty toxic situation."

The know-how gap in Australia looms as a significant economic and political challenge. That should shine the spotlight on the effectiveness of our education systems: from early childhood through to universities.


No, charters aren’t ‘draining’ Boston Public School funding

MANY ARE the ways of expressing the same idea, some factual and precise, others crafty and misleading. Example? Well, if one says that education funding follows a student when she leaves a district school for a charter school, that’s factual. A listener hearing that would probably say: Makes sense to me.

It’s no surprise, then, that the teachers unions have devised a different way to describe that reality. “The MTA . . . opposes lifting the cap on charter schools because, among other issues, they drain resources from local districts, leading to the destabilization of public schools,” asserts the Massachusetts Teachers Association, taking aim at the Senate’s new charter-school bill.

“Currently charters drain . . . $121 million from the Boston Public Schools,” declares the Boston Teachers Union, which also opposes the Senate’s effort.

Here’s what “drain” really means: After a six-year transition period, district schools no longer receive any funding for a student who, more than a half-decade earlier, departed for a charter. (If your bathtub drained that slowly, you’d probably call a plumber.)

Now, the fact that the unions oppose a Senate bill that calls for $1.4 billion in new public-school funding and includes only a (disappointingly) small charter-cap lift suggests, once again, that their opposition isn’t primarily about district funding levels but rather about more disruptive competition from public schools that aren’t automatically unionized.

Still, given the union rhetoric, it’s important to realize that Boston’s district schools haven’t seen their funding “drained” by charters. “The contention that the Boston school budget is being affected by the increase in charter school tuition is not accurate,” notes Sam Tyler, president of the Boston Municipal Research Bureau, which just released a thorough new report on BPS funding.

Actually, BPS spending has grown even as its enrollment has declined. Yes, the increases were small during the last recession, but it’s been healthy since: Spending was up 6 percent in fiscal year 2013, 6.4 percent in 2014, 3.9 percent in 2015, and 4 percent in 2016. The total five-year increase: 23.4 percent. The 10-year increase: 41.2 percent.

One big issue the research bureau highlighted is that the district hasn’t adjusted for lower enrollment, only some of which was caused by students leaving for charters. The research bureau and the consulting firm McKinsey & Co. have both found that BPS has significant overcapacity. The research bureau conservatively estimates the potential savings of a right-sized district at about $21.5 million a year; McKinsey & Co. put possible savings at perhaps $90 million.

If BPS is to focus its spending more effectively, some tough decisions obviously lie ahead. But imagine if we had a truly innovative system, working with a forward-looking union. Why, they might even reconfigure the school day, stagger daily teaching and vacation schedules, and thus use the extra teaching capacity to significantly lengthen learning time.

After all, that’s part of what makes charters so attractive — and so successful.

Boston charter students typically get about 375 more school hours a year within the context of a 180-day year than do students in regular-day schools. Meanwhile, most charters have longer school years as well.

Currently fewer than half of BPS schools have an extended day. Adding another 40 minutes to the day, or about 120 hours a year, in another 50 schools — a change the district is implementing in fits and starts — will cost another $12.5 million a year.

There, charters are a real bargain. Longer day and all, their average cost per student is $560 less a year than the BPS’s.

So: Given the facts, calling charters a drain on the system is silliness on stilts. With their longer days and stronger results, they are a gain for the system.


Australia: Sydney University students claim they were left 'heavily traumatised' after they were 'violently pushed and viciously assaulted' by police during a library protest against fees

Defiant student protesters routinely claim police brutality when the police bring them under control

A group of students were left 'heavily traumatised' after police 'violently pushed' them out of The University of Sydney library during a protest against the deregulation of university fees.

Footage of the incident was posted online by the university's newspaper, Honi Soit, and showed officers grabbing students by the arm and pushing them through glass doors.

One of the protesters, Georgia Mantle, said police 'put me in a wristlock and pulled my hair and lifted me up by the ankles'.

The incident took place before the arrival of Federal Education Minister Simon Birmingham who was due to adjudicate the Liberal Club's annual John Howard Debating Cup.

Students had been chanting and delivering speeches for about 15 minutes before police surrounded them and forced them out, according to Honi Soit.

But one of the protesters, April Holcombe, said no-one had provoked the response as everyone was 'peacefully standing outside the venue when police came and violently pushed everyone out of the building'.

She said police had 'viciously assaulted' an Aboriginal woman as well.

Another student Liam Carrigan added fellow protesters were 'nearly trampled' during the incident.

As a result, a security door at the library was damaged.

In footage of the protests, students can be heard chanting: 'Simon Birmingham get out, we know what you're all about: Cuts, job losses, money for the bosses.'

One protester says over on a loud speaker: 'We're education activists and we're here because there's a Liberal education minister in this building and he has the gall to step into this university when he wants to deregulate university fees.'

'Officers attended the Sydney University campus where a small student protest was taking place,' she said.

'There were no arrests. However a small number of protesters were moved on after allegedly breaching the peace.'


Thursday, April 07, 2016

Satanic, Atheist Literature to be Distributed in Colorado Middle and High Schools

"The Satanic Children's Big Book of Activities" (screen capture)
News channel KJCT8 in Colorado is reporting that atheist and satanic groups are going to be circulating atheist, secular and satanic literature to middle and high school students in Delta County, Colorado.

In December, Gideons made Bibles available for students at public schools in Delta County. That led to a student complaint, and led to secular groups such as the Freedom from Religion Foundation, Western Colorado Atheists and Freethinkers and the Satanic Temple to apply for similar distribution.

 “The school district is not required to maintain this open forum and is free to close it rather than allow FFRF to distribute materials,” Freedom From Religion attorney Andrew Seidel wrote in a letter to the district earlier this month. “We do not think schools should be a battleground for religious ideas. But when schools allow the Gideons to prey on children, their message of eternal damnation for any who don’t believe in their God must be countered.”

Some of the brochures include “The Satanic Children’s Big Book of Activities,” “Top 10 Public School State-Church Violations and How to Stop Them,” and “What’s Wrong with the Ten Commandments?”

According to KJCT-TV, parents have expressed opposition to the upcoming distribution.

Kurt Clay, the assistant superintendent of the Delta County School District, told reporters this past week that the district can’t turn down the groups because of way the distribution policy is written. “The way the policy is written, cannot discriminate what is handed out. We just have to follow the process,” he said.


UC Disadvantages California Students, State Auditor Charges

As we noted, California State Auditor Elaine Howle has been riding herd on Caltrans for shoddy maintenance practices that promote waste, fraud and abuse. Now the auditor turns attention to the University of California in a new report charging that UC admissions and financial decisions have disadvantaged California’s own resident students. Over the past few years, the university has “undermined its commitment to resident students,” and “in response to reduced state funding, the university made substantial efforts to enroll nonresident students who pay significantly more tuition than residents.” By the auditor’s count, nonresident enrollment is up 82 percent and resident enrollment down 1 percent. The report helpfully charts the back story to the numbers.

The UC had previously demanded that nonresidents’ academic qualifications equal the upper half of residents’ qualifications. In 2011, however, the UC relaxed this admission standard and in the following three years, admitted “nearly 16,000 nonresidents whose scores fell below the median scores for admitted residents at the same campus on every academic test score and grade point average.” At the same time, “the university denied admission to an increasing proportion of qualified residents at the campus to which they applied.”

The University of California used to play fast and loose with academic standards to get the requisite number of minorities, and that too resulted in the denial of admission to many qualified students. Voters put a stop to racial and ethnic preferences in 1996 by passing Proposition 209, the California Civil Rights Initiative, but diversity dogma still dominates.

In response to reduced state funding, the University of California could opt to dramatically reduce bureaucracy, heavy with highly paid vice chancellors, assistant vice chancellors and such. Their preference has been to hike tuition, and when students have engaged in peaceful protest, campus police pepper-sprayed them. Fair to say that the UC also disadvantaged those students, and the ensuing crisis wasted more taxpayer dollars.


Australia: University of Queensland Union to host bake sale that charges based on gender

A bake sale that will charge customers based on their gender for a 'Feminist Week' at the University of Queensland has sparked outrage online with some students calling it discriminatory.

University of Queensland Union posted a list of events for an organised 'Feminist Week' from April 4-8 to their website including a Gender Pay Gap Bake Sale at the campus on Tuesday.

The University of Queensland Union is holding a bake sale to celebrate Feminist Week - but not everyone wants to have their cake and eat it too.

The event welcomes anyone to come and purchase a baked good, but created cost divisions between men and women.

"Each baked good will only cost you the proportion of $1.00 that you earn comparative to men (or, if you identify as a man, all baked goods with cost you $1.00!)," the UQU outlined on their site.

"For example, if you are a woman of colour in the legal profession, a baked good at the stall will only cost you 0.55 cents!."

Many voiced their outrage at the bake sale by commenting on a post put up by UQ student Ashley Millsteed to the UQ Stalkerspace Facebook page that called the bake sale discriminatory, citing the Queensland's 1991 Anti Discrimination Act and the national 1984 Sex Discrimination Act.

"UQU, which is meant to represent all students, is engaging in conduct that's blatantly discriminatory against men to try and make some asinine political point," he wrote.

"What's interesting is that this bake sale itself constitutes discrimination under both Queensland and Federal Anti-Discrimination law."

"This is incredibly disappointing. Shame on UQU for condoning this. This is exactly why more people are starting to reject feminism. It's insulting to the women (and men) who fought, and who continue to fight for equality," wrote another commentator.

The gender pay gap is the difference between women's and men's average weekly full-time equivalent earnings and is influenced by a number of factors including work, family and society.

The gender pay gap sits at 17.3% as of March 2016, the government funded Workplace Gender Equality Agency found.

UQ School of Education associate professor and gender studies co-convenor Liz MacKinlay said the bake sale was a clever way of raising attention.

"When we ask people to check their privilege and think about equality the people who are privileged seem to get the most upset because they have the most to lose," she said.

"The reality is that people who are not privileged don't get the choice to get upset or not because as soon as they raise their voice it is silenced."

"If people are upset about it, the next question that needs to be asked is 'Why are you upset about that? Think logically about the reasons why you are upset.

"You are being asked to think about why it might be that women get paid less over the course of their lifetime."

Professor MacKinlay said she gets "pretty frustrated" when she hears people calling events like the bake sale discriminatory.

"I get pretty frustrated when I hear people saying 'What about the men, isn't that discriminatory, isn't it reverse-sexism?'," she said.

"Many men generally speaking have the extra pay as an unearned privilege while women are disadvantaged and people of colour are disadvantaged and minority groups and people who don't conform to binary genders are disadvantaged.

"If we actually looked at that the work women do to raise children at home, what cost would we be putting on that, how much is that worth to us?."

UQU women's officer Madeline Price helped organise 'Feminist Week', which runs each semester, and said it was interesting that out of all the events, the bake sale had generated the most discussion.

"If people are upset they have to pay 35c more for a cupcake, how do you think the person who earns that much less per dollar each year for the same work feels?," she said.

"(The bake sale prices) look at every identity factor that that person identifies with, we have a comparison chart for all professions, and include such intersections as gender, disability, race, sexual identity and ethnicity.

"Most of the discussion generated online is about how discriminatory it is against men when in reality it is based on a lot of other factors, more than just gender."


Wednesday, April 06, 2016

‘Cupcake Nation Alert!’ Harvard Students Find Pro-lifers And American Flags Offensive

Idiocy has been running through America’s college campuses like a brush fire. From students triggered by pro-Trump slogans written in chalk to physical altercations about cultural appropriation and hairstyle, political correctness is the destructive and contagious Black Death infesting the progressive left. So, it should come to no one’s surprise that it’s struck Harvard.

Fox News’ Megyn Kelly had on Rachel Huebner, staff writer for The Harvard Crimson, who detailed how the PC police are destroying these institutions of learning because the latest batch of college students are coddled, soft, and downright incorrigible. One would think that the faculty or the administration would be the point of the lance in this war of free speech, but it’s not; it’s the students.

Huebner described an incident where a student felt she could not learn, let alone be in the same room, if she knew a classmate was pro-life. Having a view that’s different from your own is very, very offensive in delicate snowflake land. More disconcerting is a separate incident involving Huebner’s friend trying to put an American flag on the wall of his dorm room. He’s a freshman who was unpacking his things, when his roommate stopped him from displaying the flag, considering it an intolerable political statement that “he was unwilling to make.” This story drew laughter from Kelly’s crew–and rightfully so.


British teachers call for 'gender-neutral' toilets, changing rooms and uniforms so transgender pupils feel more comfortable

Schools should consider introducing ‘gender-neutral’ toilets, changing rooms and uniforms to make transgender pupils feel more comfortable, teachers suggest.

Members of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers teaching union will debate how to deal with ‘gender identity and trans issues’ at their annual conference tomorrow.

History teacher Julia Neal, chair of the union’s equality and diversity committee, put forward the motion challenging ‘gender identity prejudice’ in education.

She said school leaders could consider the possibility of providing some ‘non- gender-specific facilities’.

She told the Evening Standard: ‘It’s about senior management teams and governing bodies understanding that there are a lot of facilities in schools that are separated — changing rooms and toilets and uniforms are very gender-specific.

‘If there is gender fluidity they need to understand the importance of gender-neutral facilities. 'And they need to understand how pupils want to be referred to, as he or she.  ‘It’s a delicate area. Teachers are not confident, which is not a criticism.’

Ms Neal said ‘gender neutral’ facilities could be added to the existing male and female facilities.

But she said: ‘If you ban female or male toilets you might make other people feel uncomfortable.’

Her motion, which will be debated tomorrow, calls for teachers to be given information and training on how to support young people who have gender identity questions, and for trans role models to be celebrated in schools.

Ahead of the debate she said: ‘Teachers could be trained into how they can best use inclusive language.

'The terms which are used for gender identity are quite complicated.

She added: ‘My own view is that it doesn’t matter if it’s just one student who isn’t served by the lack of [teachers’] understanding. 'That is one student’s life that is very difficult.’


Lucrative posts lure school chiefs out of retirement

Mass: Communities across the state are struggling to find administrators to lead their public school systems, spurring some to hire retired superintendents — who can collect windfalls worth tens of thousands of dollars.

About one-fifth of the state’s 275 superintendents leave or retire each year, and there is a shrinking pool of qualified applicants to replace them. This year alone, eight formerly retired superintendents are leading school districts.

“We’ve got serious problems attracting highly qualified people who want to be a superintendent,” said Tom Scott, executive director of the Massachusetts Association of School Superintendents.

Long hours, an increasingly politicized climate — exacerbated by criticism on social media — and a data-driven mandate by districts for students to score well on MCAS and SAT tests have placed superintendents under intense scrutiny, Scott said. Most superintendents last just five years in the job, and that pressure limits the applicant pool, he said.

Traditionally, educators moved up the ranks from teacher to principal to assistant superintendent before applying for the district’s top job, which on average pays $155,000. But given the dearth of qualified applicants, more teachers and principals are now jumping directly into the superintendent’s chair.

At the same time, their relative lack of experience has given other districts pause, and some have halted searches for permanent superintendents in favor of veteran leaders who have experience assembling budgets and overseeing a district.

For retired leaders, taking an interim post can be highly lucrative. Many have taken advantage of a provision in state law that allows retired educators to earn a salary while also collecting a pension.

According to the state, the rehired leader can earn the difference between his or her annual pension and the amount currently being paid for the position from which the pensioner retired. The retiree can earn an additional $15,000 if a year has passed since retirement.

But districts that receive a waiver from the state Department of Education do not have to follow the formula and can pay retired superintendents whatever they see fit.

The department began granting waivers 16 years ago as more superintendents began to take advantage of the early retirement law, creating the shortage that persists today.

That gives interim superintendents the ability to receive hefty sums. In Brookline, interim superintendent Joseph Connelly will earn $150,000 this academic year and collect a pension of $119,000. In Andover, interim school chief Sheldon Berman is slated to make a salary of $206,000 and a pension of $60,700. And in Peabody, interim superintendent Herb Levine’s contract calls for him to be paid $158,400, even as he pulls in a $119,000 pension.

Boston Municipal Research Bureau president Samuel Tyler said he understands there is a shortage of qualified administrators to lead school systems but cautioned that the state should be careful in granting waivers. This year, the state granted waivers to five districts, allowing the interim superintendents to command market-rate pay and collect a pension without restriction.

“To have a person come back and receive full pension and full salary is excessive,” he said.

Mary T. O’Donoghue, chairwoman of the Andover Board of Selectmen, describes the practice as double-dipping and believes educators who collect pensions should remain in retirement.

“A pension is a pension,” she said. “It’s for when you retire.”

Levine, Peabody’s interim superintendent, doesn’t believe there’s anything improper about collecting a paycheck and a pension at the same time.

“I’m earning it,” said Levine, who added that he works seven days a week.

Since he retired 11 years ago as Salem’s superintendent, Levine has held a number of interim posts.

He collected a salary and pension while serving as interim superintendent in Blackstone-Millville and later became assistant principal at Marblehead High School before moving on to an interim superintendent stint in Peabody in 2011. Last summer, he began his second run as interim superintendent in Peabody, where he is slated to work until the end of the 2016-2017 academic year.

Levine said interim superintendents have substantial clout and flexibility because the appointments usually last just a year, making them less susceptible to the usual pressures and political issues of the job.

“Being an interim superintendent, really if you do it right, means never having to say you’re sorry,” Levine said. “It’s a position that you can get a lot of stuff done in a very positive way without having to look over your shoulder.”

Levine is one of several former superintendents who have served multiple years as an interim.

Since 2013, Alfred Skrocki has led the Lee Public School District and earns a salary of $79,200 and a pension of $84,900. Since 2012, Phil Devaux has worked two days a week as Nahant’s interim superintendent and received a $50,000 annual salary along with a $92,900 pension.

Brookline’s Connelly has worked steadily since retiring in 2007 as Stoneham’s superintendent. During that time, he has worked as the interim principal of two Brookline schools and as interim superintendent in Berlin-Boylston, Gloucester, and Harvard.

Connelly, who received a waiver from the state to receive a market-rate salary, defended the right to collect a pension and a salary.

“I’m filling a specific need for a short-term basis and that’s very different from going in and taking away a job from someone for many, many years,” said Connelly, who will retire again on July 1 when Andrew Bott, a Brookline elementary school principal, becomes superintendent.


Tuesday, April 05, 2016

State Senate Decision to Slash Funding to CUNY Over Antisemitism Will Send Message to Other Universities

The head of a major Jewish organization praised the New York State Senate’s decision last week to slash funding to the City University of New York (CUNY), telling The Algemeiner that the move was necessary to motivate CUNY to properly address the antisemitism across its campuses, and ought to serve as a precedent for other states and universities.

Morton Klein, president of the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA), told The Algemeiner, “This case will send a message to legislators around the country, to force public universities that are ignoring the real fears of Jewish students and staff to finally take appropriate and serious actions.”

Klein criticized CUNY’s announcement late last month — as reported by The Algemeiner — that it had ordered an independent probe into allegations of widespread campus antisemitism, and would assemble a task force to make recommendations for improving the university’s policies and practices.

“Universities always want to ‘study’ the problem of antisemitism instead of acting immediately against it,” Klein said.

When it comes to other incidents of racism and bias, Klein noted, universities act very differently. “Administrators promptly and rightly condemn the acts themselves and their perpetrators, who are immediately disciplined. But here, when presented with a long list of antisemitic incidents dating back several years with clear and consistent perpetrators, all they do is order an investigation — even though they already know all the facts.”

Last month, as reported by The Algemeiner, ZOA sent a 14-page letter to CUNY documenting many incidents at four of its 23 campuses, attributing them and what it considered a pervading anti-Jewish atmosphere to local chapters of the national group, Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP).

“SJP is a racist, antisemitic group,” Klein said, “which has held despicable campus rallies promoting hatred and violence against Jews, among other incidents. CUNY ought to suspend the group immediately for violating CUNY’s own rules of conduct. Instead, they issue a bland statement condemning antisemitism in general. If CUNY were serious about the problem, its administrators would use their own First Amendment rights to denounce SJP’s monstrous acts and statements.”

The New York State Senate is doing exactly the right thing, Klein noted, cutting CUNY’s budget at least partly because of CUNY’s lackluster response to the problem. He mentioned State Senator Jack Martins, who last week argued that CUNY should suspend SJP while it conducts its investigation, as reported by PoliticoNewYork. An article posted on the ZOA website quoted Senate Higher Education Committee Chair Ken LaValle as saying, “I want to hear from the [CUNY] Chancellor or someone there that they really were outraged by this.”

“The power of the purse is perhaps the only thing that will move CUNY,” Klein said, praising the Senate budget cuts. “Over the past couple of years, we’ve had several meetings with CUNY, we’ve written letters, but nothing. We have tried all other measures and gotten no results. Senate leaders recognize that CUNY simply calling for an investigation is inadequate. Other institutions of higher education should take note.”

Klein had particularly sharp words for College of Staten Island Professor Sarah Schulman, who serves as faculty adviser to her campus SJP. “She has stated, among other things, that murdering Arabs is a Jewish value. This offensive statement reflects a grotesquely false allegation that Israelis are intentionally ‘murdering’ innocent Palestinians, and echoes the lies and talking points of Hamas.”

ZOA has sent a letter to State Senator Martins about Schulman as well, as reported by the Daily News. “In light of the current situation on CUNY campuses,” Klein wrote to Martins, “combined with Schulman’s hateful rhetoric, we find it entirely inappropriate for her to be serving as a faculty adviser to SJP.”

Klein added, “Again, if CUNY were serious about antisemitism, they would also explicitly condemn Schulman’s hateful rhetoric.”

As reported by the Israeli daily Haaretz, CUNY Chancellor James Milliken wrote to the New York State Senate last week after the budget cuts passed. “We take seriously our responsibility to promote and encourage tolerance and civility,” the letter said. But as a public university, it added, “CUNY cannot infringe the constitutional right of free speech and association of its students faculty and staff.”


Muslim school 'says UK culture is poisonous'

The Islamic Tarbiyah Academy in Dewsbury, Yorkshire, was accused of promoting an extreme form of Islam that ‘divides’ communities.

The privately-run madrasa, which teaches 140 primary age children in after-school classes and runs full-time programmes for over-16s, is now being investigated by the Government. Mufti Zubair Dudha, the centre’s founder and head, is a respected cleric from the orthodox Deobandi sect.

An investigation by Sky News found he had compiled a leaflet which quotes the Protocols of Zion, an anti-Semitic document that claims Jews are engaged in a global conspiracy.

The cleric claimed films, magazines and celebrities are part of the conspiracy to ‘poison the minds’ of young Muslims. Other leaflets said all mixed-sex institutions are evil, warned Muslims not to adopt British customs, banned watching TV and told women not to work.

In a section on jihad, he told Muslims they should be prepared to ‘expend ... even life’ to create a world organised by ‘Allah’s just order’, although in other leaflets he condemned terrorism.

Dewsbury has a history of ties to radicalisation. It was home to Britain’s youngest suicide bomber, who blew himself up in Iraq, its youngest convicted terrorist, and Mohammad Sidique Khan, ringleader of the 7/7 terror attacks.

Keith Vaz, who chairs the Home Affairs Select Committee, told Sky News: ‘These kinds of leaflets serve no purpose but to divide in a poisonous and totally reckless way.’

But Mr Dudha told Sky News: ‘It saddens me greatly that certain extracts from our publications have been taken and misrepresented to link the Academy with extremism. We fully believe in the importance and need of integration whilst being able to practise our faith.’

It follows an announcement by the Government to crack down on madrasas, which have long operated with little or no scrutiny. Ofsted has uncovered 15 unregistered schools teaching a narrow Islamic curriculum in the last year.

The Department for Education said: ‘These serious allegations are under investigation. While it would be inappropriate to comment on the specific investigations, we are clear that extremism has no place in our society and we are determined to protect children from it.’

Mr Dudha did not respond to requests for a further comment.


Oxford theology students won't have to study Christianity throughout their degree after complaints about 'lack of diversity'

Students reading theology at Oxford University have managed to overturn the 800-year-old tradition that they have to study Christianity throughout their course.

Changes are being made to the three-year undergraduate degree to keep up with the changing face of Britain.

Students will study Christianity in their first year but from second year onwards will have the option of a broader choice of areas to study.

These modules are thought to include one called 'feminist approaches to religion and theology'.

The move, which was initially reported in the Times Higher Education magazine was instigated by both students and lecturers who challenged the lack of diversity in the curriculum.

They said that the way religion is seen and practised in the UK had changed dramatically over recent years. 

However, Oxford University's theology faculty’s board chairman Johannes Zachhuber said he doubted many students would chose not to study Christianity at all.

The driving force behind the move away from the study of Christianity entirely, was 'the dramatic change in the way religion is seen and practised in the UK,' Professor Zachhuber said.

'The dominance of the Church of England has been receding but at the same time religion hasn't disappeared.

'We want to offer to potential students what is interesting for them and that has changed a lot in the last 30 years.

'We recognise that the people who come to study at Oxford come from a variety of different backgrounds and have legitimately different interests. 'They come from the respected communities of Britain.'

He added that if a university has a rigid curriculum, there would be a growing gap between what lecturers are researching and what they're teaching.

A spokesman for Oxford Unviersity said: 'Christianity is still compulsory in the first year of the course – in fact there are two compulsory papers on it. So all students on the course will study Christianity.

'Christianity is still a major part of the course in second and third year, and it’s very unlikely that a student would choose options that do not cover Christianity in these years.'


Monday, April 04, 2016

For California Teacher Taking on Unions, Supreme Court Ruling Isn’t the End of Her Case

Two years after California teacher Rebecca Friedrichs first mounted her challenge to public-sector unions, she’s hearing the same thing today that she’s heard from fellow teachers all along: Keep fighting.

The Supreme Court ruled 4-4 Tuesday in the case that bears her name, Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, leaving in place agency fees public employees pay to public-sector unions and delivering a victory to labor organizations.

But Friedrichs and her legal team contend that their challenge to unions is hardly over. Rather, the 28-year California teacher told reporters she was prepared for a split ruling from the Supreme Court, and now, she and her legal team are planning to file a petition for a rehearing with the high court.

“All of us plaintiffs have been in the classroom for a very long time, so we’re very patient people, and we are definitely in this for the long haul,” Friedrichs told reporters. “Today’s decision isn’t the end of the case, and in our view, it simply just delays the final outcome.”

Friedrichs’ case challenged the agency fees that public workers must pay to unions to fund collective bargaining negotiations. At the heart of the case is a question of whether those agency fees violate public employees’ First Amendment rights to free speech.

Public-sector workers can opt out of paying full union dues, but they must pay agency fees to fund collective bargaining negotiations. Friedrichs and her fellow educators argue that collective bargaining is inherently political, since many of the positions unions take during negotiations with school administrators reflect their political choices.

“This is not an anti-union case. This case is about protecting the individual rights that each of us are guaranteed in the Constitution, and that includes the right to not fund political positions with which we disagree,” Friedrichs said. “I am aware that some of my teacher colleagues agree with the union on issues that are political and collectively bargained, and I support their right to be part of the union.

“I just also believe that I deserve to have the freedom to choose, as do other public sector employees across the nation.”

The Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the Friedrichs case in January. Following the arguments, court observers speculated that the high court would rule 5-4 in favor of Friedrichs and her fellow teachers.

Comments previously made by Justice Antonin Scalia left many assuming he would cast the swing vote, but his questions during oral arguments suggested he would side with Friedrichs.

Scalia’s death last month cast doubt on the outcome of the case, as a 4-4 decision became more likely.

Following the justice’s passing, lawyers with the Center for Individual Rights, which along with lead counsel Michael Carvin of Jones Day is representing Friedrichs, urged the Supreme Court to hear the case again.

Terry Pell, president of the Center for Individual Rights, told The Daily Signal in February they would file a petition for rehearing in the event that the court is split in its decision.

Pell reiterated today that plan to do so.

“We obviously have a lot invested in the Friedrichs case,” Pell told reporters. “We think it raises the issue in a clear and clean way and allows the court to decide this issue on the merits. So we think it would be a lost opportunity if the court did not decide Friedrichs in an authoritative way, and that’s why we’re investing further effort to make sure the court has the opportunity to at least decide the case with all nine justices.”

A split decision from the high court leaves in place a 2014 ruling from the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

The lower court ruled against Friedrichs—which her lawyers asked them to do—in 2014, citing precedent set by the 1977 case Abood v. Detroit Board of Education.

In that case, the Supreme Court ruled that public-sector workers can opt out of paying full union dues but still have to pay agency fees to fund their “fair share” of collective bargaining arguments.

Because of the Abood case, Friedrichs’ legal team said the case can be decided only by the Supreme Court.

A decision in favor of Friedrichs from the Supreme Court would’ve delivered a blow to public-sector unions, as it would’ve effectively made union dues optional for all public employees.

Though the Supreme Court’s decision today allows public-sector unions in 23 states to continue collecting agency fees from public workers, Pell said that it is in the best interest of both unions and Friedrichs for the high court to rehear the case.

“There are laws at stake here,” he said. “Unions feel strongly about this, and it would be in the union’s best interest to get an authoritative decision, since if we don’t get an authoritative decision, there are cases that could be filed at any time, and the unions are essentially under a cloud in terms of the constitutionality of their method of collecting dues.”

Pell said it’s not uncommon for the Supreme Court to rehear cases, particularly in the event that a justice leaves in the middle of a term. Landmark cases including Brown v. Board of Education and Roe v. Wade were reheard by the court, he said.

After Friedrichs’ legal team file the petition for rehearing, they expect the court to hold the petition until a new justice is confirmed.

Once that occurs, the nine justices will decide whether to rehear the case.

“The idea here is that there are a handful of cases that raise really fundamental issues of individual rights and that deeply divide the country, and this is one of those cases,” he said. “We’re talking about the laws in 23 states that would be struck down, and we’re talking about the free speech rights of tens of thousands of public employees.”


Arlington School Board: Adult Illegal Aliens Can Attend Public High Schools

The chairman of the Arlington Public School Board in Virginia said on Wednesday that she is “proud” that the Arlington school district allows illegal aliens to attend high school as adults – no age limit – and that they can stay in school until they graduate.

“One of the things that I am most proud that as the supervisor of English as a Second Language, we started a program for older English language learners – students that were 18 and older,” Emma Violand-Sanchez said in remarks at the liberal Center for American Progress (CAP) in Washington, D.C.

“And we are proud that in the Arlington Public Schools today, there’s 300 students that are older than 18,” she said, “and they can stay in high school until they graduate. There is no age limit.”

“That is a first for us to believe that all students, all residents, should be able to access a high school education,” Violand-Sanchez said.

The CAP event was entitled "Harnessing the Talent of DACA and Unauthorized Students at the K-12 Level." The event description said that "unauthorized youth who are navigating the U.S. education system face a patchwork of policies and practices in schools across the country," and that schools and teachers need to know how to addreess these "unauthorized students' unique challenges."

As CAP further explained, its panel discussion would be "about the current challenges and opportunities facing unauthorized and 'DACAmented' students in the K-12 levels and the innovative ways in which teachers and schools have helped these students succeed. Roberto G. Gonzales’ new book, Lives in Limbo: Undocumented and Coming of Age in America, tells the story of the two million unauthorized youths living in the United States and will be available for purchase at the event."

Violand-Sanchez also founded The Dream Project, a non-profit organization that “empowers students whose immigration status creates barriers to education by working with them to access and succeed in college through scholarships, mentoring, family engagement, and advocacy.”

She said illegal aliens in Arlington “face so many economic challenges,” including a high cost of living. “But yet they arrive, day in and day out, from Central America and from different countries,” Violand-Sanchez said. So the challenges can't be too bad

She also said that local, state, and federal authorities need to put into place policies that “help Dreamers to gain access to higher education.”

At the CAP event, the young people in the country illegally and who are attending American public schools and private colleges were referred to as “DACAmented” scholars.

This label was taken from the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, an executive action issued by President Barack Obama in 2012 that protects certain illegal aliens who were brought to the United States by their parents as children to be temporarily protected from deportation at two-year intervals and be given a work permit.

One of those “DACAmented scholars,” Yehimi Cambron, was given a full-ride, four-year scholarship at a private college in Georgia and now teaches 5th grade in that state. Cambron, who also spoke at the CAP event, said DACA needs to be expanded, not only for young people, but for their parents.  “My parents still have to drive without a license,” said Cambron.


Crackdown on British universities ‘giving firsts like confetti’

Universities that issue too many top degrees are facing a crackdown by the Government’s funding agency after criticism they are devaluing the qualifications.

Education experts say record numbers of firsts and 2:1s are being handed out ‘like confetti’ by institutions competing for students who pay up to £9,000 a year in fees.

The Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) is telling universities they must ensure their assessments of degrees is much more rigorous and can be compared across institutions to check they are not marking their students too generously.

Insiders are particularly worried that markers are under pressure to push candidates who are on the borderline between two degree classifications up into the higher one.

In addition, the role of external markers, who independently check university assessments, is to be boosted with extra training provided to ‘improve comparability and consistency’.

In a new report on quality assessment, the HEFCE said the current system, in which individual universities are allowed to decide their own marking methods, ‘does not provide direct assurance about the standard of marks made to students… or employers.’

HEFCE insiders said it would expect to see more ‘robust judgments’ about standards after criticism that some former polytechnics, where students can gain places with E grades at A-level, are awarding as many firsts and 2:1s as Oxford or Cambridge.

Professor Alan Smithers, the director of the Centre for Education and Employment Research at Buckingham University, said the handing out of firsts ‘like confetti’ at some institutions was devaluing them and action needed to be taken urgently.

A Mail on Sunday investigation into ‘rampant’ grade inflation three years ago revealed that, on dozens of British degree courses, from engineering to English, all the students were being awarded either firsts or 2:1s.

Research also shows that almost half of universities have changed how they calculate degree classifications in recent years to ensure that their students do not get lower grades than those at rival institutions, which could affect their positions in academic league tables.

A survey last year compared the proportion of first-class and 2:1 degrees awarded in 1998, when tuition fees were first introduced, with those awarded in 2014 and found 55 universities had increased the number of top degrees awarded by more than 30 per cent.

The highest increase was found at Liverpool John Moores University, where the proportion of firsts and 2:1s rose from 40.9 per cent in 1998 to 74.0 per cent in 2014 – a rise of 80.9 per cent.

Nicola Dandridge, chief executive of Universities UK, said: ‘The sector has recognised for some time that the current degree classification system is a blunt instrument, hence the trialling of the Higher Education Achievement Report.

‘The aim of this approach is to provide a more detailed account of what a student has actually achieved during their studies rather than just a one-off degree classification.’


Children with reading and spelling disabilities

An instructive  memoir from Australian psychologist, Ian Hills

When my mother Joyce Hills eventually decided that she had done as much as she could as Principal of the Kindergarten Teacher’s College she decided to follow her major teaching and research interest – children with reading and spelling disability.

She had longstanding personal as well as professional reasons for her interest: her husband and two sons had quite severe learning disability. She had already devoted a considerable amount of her career to understanding the disability, and a considerable amount of her parenting to dealing with it. Now she wanted to find out more and to make a difference to the wider community.

To this end mum enrolled in a psychology degree to learn more about assessing cognitive deficits and that was how she came to be enrolled in psychology at the time I started teaching it in 1966. At the same time she opened “The Children’s Centre” – the first school of it’s kind in Brisbane and possibly Australia. The model she developed – which I will call the Hills method - was to accept full-time enrolments of children with reading and spelling disabilities to focus for a few months on remediation and then return them to the schooling system. It turned out to be a remarkably successful model.

The field was ill defined in the sixties and over time it had acquired a fascinating cascade of names including specific learning disability, dyslexia, minimal neurological dysfunction, hyperactivity, organic behaviour disorder, hyperactivity and minimal brain damage among others. These terms reflect the confusion about the causes of the problem and the theoretical orientation of the various researchers in this broad field.

In the sixties the disorder was considered by many in the field to be a syndrome with a number of learning, behaviour, coordination and communication symptoms of which some or all may be present, with the underlying cause suspected to be neurological in origin.

These days the field has been divided by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Psychiatric Disorders (DSM) into a number of sections such “specific learning disorder”, “communication disorder”, “developmental coordination disorder”, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder” and “conduct disorder” with a vague nod in the direction of an underlying syndrome with phrases like “many children with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder also have a specific learning disorder”.

To my mind this subdividing has not served the field, the clinicians or the patients well. It tends to focus attention on only one problem a child has and other difficulties can be overlooked as a result.

The Hills approach was more holistic. If a child presented with learning difficulties one also investigated other factors such as behaviour problems, coordination difficulties and so on. Although the Hills method focussed on learning disability, mum was careful to include other problems in her treatment.

After many years working in this area mum had made three major breakthroughs in her approach, which underpin the Hills method.

The first was to focus most attention on the main problem. If the problem was reading then the focus was on reading with less attention given to underlying and associated problems such as coordination or behaviour. This was a little ahead of its time. In the sixties teachers and therapists were attracted to the notion that it was other problems such as coordination that were the underlying cause of learning disability and focussed their attention on these. In the sixties – the days that predated the “evidence based” approach to treatment – it took quite a while for the penny to drop that these “underlying problem” methods didn’t improve reading and spelling.

Unfortunately the idea that an underlying problem should be treated instead of the learning disability has persisted despite evidence to the contrary. Even today some “underlying problem” approaches to reading disability still persist despite overwhelming evidence that they are not effective in treating the main problem – reading and/or spelling. Among these is a focus on coordination and eye exercises, speech therapy and muscle balancing which may address associated problems but have little or no effect on improving reading and spelling.

Mum’s second breakthrough was to focus heavily on the phonic approach to reading and spelling
in which the learner is taught to associate letters and letter combinations with their speech sounds and in this way is able to “construct” any word they are presented with. This was also well ahead of its time. The sixties and seventies saw an explosion in new reading methods in particular the  “look-say” method in which the learner is taught to recognise the “look” of each whole word and “say” the word. This method is even used to this day despite considerable evidence that the phonic method is far superior in teaching reading and spelling.

Mum’s third breakthrough was to test for specific disability in skills that are necessary for reading and spelling and to tailor the reading and spelling program to each child’s strengths and weaknesses. This approach was also far ahead of its time in the mid sixties.

It was to acquire these testing skills that mum enrolled in a psychology degree.

The Children’s Centre was an immediate hit with the parents of children with reading and spelling disability. On the other hand it took some time for the Queensland Education Department to come on board and for some time it discouraged parents from sending their children to the Centre.  As a result the early students came part-time to the centre in addition to their normal school attendance. Once the Education Department gave its approval parents were allowed to send their children full-time. And they did, in great numbers.

Mum received enthusiastic support from SPELD (which stands for SPEcific Learning Difficulties) when it was established it in 1969 and SPELD continues to use the techniques that mum pioneered.

From the start in 1966, even though I was only just graduated, mum involved me in the activities of the Children’s Centre. From her I learned the intricacies of diagnosis and treatment of Learning Disability and after a while mum entrusted me with the running of a sub-branch at Nambour one day a week and later with most of the adult clients who wanted to learn to read. A few years later the Children’s Centre was the basis for my itinerant practice in Queensland that ranged from Brisbane to Cairns and west to Mt Isa.

I learnt an immense amount from working with mum, not only about children and learning disability, but also a basic pattern on which to build my practice of psychology. From her I learnt to put a client’s stated goals ahead of any theoretical considerations about treatment. I learnt to focus on the main problem and leave the underlying ones till later. I learned to value therapies according to whether they worked. Most importantly I learned the fundamental importance of measuring progress rather than relying on “clinical impressions”.


Sunday, April 03, 2016

Cruz: Abolish Dept of Education, Block-Grant Money to States, End Common Core, Allow School Choice

In response to a question about how to help U.S. companies find “talented and qualified” employees for growing companies, Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) said one place to start is education reform, by getting the federal government out of it, abolishing the Department of Education, block-granting money to the states, ending Common Core, and allowing more school choice.

“Now, in terms of getting new and able workers, we need to do several things,” said Sen. Cruz during CNN’s town hall program in Wisconsin on Tuesday evening.  “Number one, we need to reform education. You know, the step to having well-trained workers is having a strong education program.”

“And if you look at education right now, number one, I think the federal government needs to get the heck out of it,” he said.

“It's one of the reasons I promised on the very first day in office that I'm going to direct the Department of Education that Common Core ends that day,” said the senator.

Cruz continued, “And I think what we ought to be doing is abolishing the federal Department of Education and block-granting that money to send it back to Wisconsin. I think the people of Wisconsin know much better what to do with that money.”

“And part of that money, I think, should be directed at school choice programs, and allowing people who are trapped in failing schools to have the option of going to private schools, going to parochial schools, injecting competition in failing schools to empower parents and empower students,” he said.

“I think school choice is the civil rights issue of the 21st Century,” Cruz added.
Commenting further, the senator said.  “And part of that money as well in Wisconsin ought to be directed to vocational training, ought to be directed to different nontraditional ways where people can earn skills, whether it's distance learning, whether it is using the Internet, using options where your only option isn't spending $50,000 a year at a four-year college but expanding the options for people to get education.”


Hundreds of Stanford Students Want Western Civilization Requirement Back

Some millennials might be spurring a comeback of Western civilization at one of the nation’s premier universities.

Stanford University students will vote April 7 and 8 on whether to reinstate a two-quarter Western civilization requirement after the success of a campus-wide campaign.

A petition, emailed  to Stanford undergraduates by conservative student newspaper The Stanford Review, reads:

"In accordance with Stanford’s commitment to educating its students, and in recognition of the unique role Western culture has had in shaping our political, economic, and social institutions, Stanford University should mandate that freshmen complete a two-quarter Western civilization requirement covering the politics, history, philosophy, and culture of the Western world."

After gaining over 370 signatures, it qualified to be featured in the Associated Students of Stanford University elections ballot.

Harry Elliott, editor-in-chief of The Stanford Review, told The Daily Signal in an email that their efforts have “already accomplished the first meaningful discussion on Stanford’s humanities core in years.”

Two campus discussion events about the initiative, including one led by university faculty and students, were held on campus earlier this month.

Elliott said the array of courses offered to fulfill the university’s Thinking Matters undergraduate requirements has created a “race to the bottom.” The 2015-16 catalog lists courses such as “Food Talks: The Language of Food” and “The Science of Mythbusters.”

“I was lucky enough to be selected for Structured Liberal Education, a year-long residential humanities program teaching the Western canon; I think all students should be afforded that opportunity,” Elliott, an economics major, said.

Even if a vote is successful, the initiative would still require faculty approval.

“We hope to get a positive vote to push the Faculty Senate to discuss seriously the need for a civilization requirement, and the reasons the student body want that requirement to be focused around the West,” Elliott said.

Elliott says he has “had a number of people in person thank me for bringing this discourse to Stanford, but also a number of fairly unpleasant encounters, in the last few weeks.”

In an opinion piece published by The Stanford Daily, Mara Chin Loy claims that the initiative “actively participates in my dehumanization and the dehumanization of my communities.” Loy is an undergraduate student at the university and self-described “social activist.” 

“We don’t need to learn about Western civilization and its ideals, because we have spent every moment of our lives resisting and fighting to live and love ourselves, so that we can transcend Western values,” Loy wrote.

A Stanford Review editorial claims that a “common civilization requirement” is essential for students if they wish to understand the society in which they live.

Social awareness arises from a common set of values and norms. Societies neither function nor prosper without shared beliefs, values, or customs. Even if one disagrees with these principles and traditions, reform cannot occur without understanding the historical context in which they arose.


University Of North Carolina Diversity Workshop Brands Band-Aids As ‘White Privilege’

A “cultural competency workshop” at the taxpayer-funded University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is assigning scores to students based on how much “white privilege” they allegedly have.

The “cultural competency” workshop, which appears to be mandatory for certain students, requires participants to “examine white privilege and how it is more powerful than other types of benefits afforded by society” by completing surveys, reports Campus Reform.

“I can choose blemish cover or bandages in ‘flesh’ color and have them more or less match the color of my skin,” one statement on the surveys says.

Students are then supposed to choose a number between zero and five based on how closely their skin color matches the peachy color of many adhesive bandages.

(Presumably, “white privilege” survey makers at UNC-Chapel Hill are blissfully unaware of Ebon-Aide first aid bandage strips.)

“I can turn on the television or open to the front page of the newspaper and see people of my race widely and positively represented,” reads another question on the University of North Carolina “white privilege” survey.

“I can swear, dress in secondhand clothes, or not answer letters, without having people attribute these choices to the bad morals, the poverty, or the illiteracy of my races,” reads a third statement.

The workshop, which could last many long hours, students are warned, also includes a separate “cultural competency” survey designed to determine how rich or poor students are.

A handbook for workshop proctors reveals that some students are “mandated to attend” the “cultural competency” workshop, notes Campus Reform.

“Be aware that some members of the audience may not want to be there (e.g., they were mandated to attend),” the handbook for proctors indicates. “Try to encourage them to participate and change their feelings about the workshop.”

It’s not clear which students must attend the workshop or how those students are chosen.

The concept of white privilege was popularized in academic circles by a 1987 essay entitled “White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack.” The author was Peggy McIntosh, an inconsequential white feminist.

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is famous, of course, for a sickening athletic scam involving 18 years of rampant academic fraud.

The shocking con involved dozens of athletes who for years were deliberately enrolled in fake classes and awarded passing grades to keep them eligible for sports. Deans, coaches and professors within certain sham academic departments of the prestigious, public school were complicit in placing basketball and football players with underdeveloped learning skills in classes that didn’t exist and never actually met. Still, the players all received grades of either A or B.


Australia: Sydney University Catholic Society faces ban for Catholic-only board

The 88-year-old Catholic Society at the University of ­Sydney is facing deregis­tration on the grounds that it ­requires senior members to be Catholic.

In a move that has startled many of the university’s Catholic students, the society, formed in 1928, has been told that its membership requirements are discriminatory, and further funding could be denied if the Catholic stipulation is not ­removed.

“It’s a surreal situation,” ­society president Francis Tamer said. “We have been told we are discriminating against people ­because you have to be Catholic to be on the executive. Of course you do — we are the Catholic ­Society.”

One of the university’s best known Catholic alumni, Tony Abbott, agrees, saying “it seems like a hell of a double standard” given that Sydney University has long offered both a “women’s room” and a Koori Centre for ­indigenous students. The Catholic issue came to a head after the University of Sydney Union, which funds social clubs, this year decided to ­enforce a longstanding requirement that they be free of discrimination on the grounds of race, gender and religion.

Other clubs caught in the mire include the Evangelical Union, which requires members to pledge allegiance to Jesus Christ, but not the Wom*n’s Revue ­Society, which freely ­admits to producing a stand-up comedy show comprised only of “female-­identifying students”.

The USU president, Alisha Aitken-Radburn, said the issue had “turned into an argument over whether we are discriminating against Catholics or whether we are anti-Christian, which ­simply isn’t true”.

“We value religious clubs, but we don’t understand why they need to force their members to say this or sign that,” she said.

“We don’t mind if it’s voluntary, but we don’t want clubs to force members to have to do anything to join.”

Mr Tamer and fellow Cath­olics lodged a formal protest against the planned deregis­tration during a USU board meeting yesterday and after much discussion, the USU promised to “address the complex issues identified in this matter” and to seek legal advice, “because the law surrounding this matter is complex”, before axing the club.

“It’s a relief, ­although we’d still like more clarity because we don’t know if they’re putting it on hold forever, or for a day, or for what,’’ Mr Tamer said.

He said anyone could join the Catholic Society. “We get all kinds of people — Muslim, Jews, atheists — coming along, who might be curious,” he said, “but if you want to be on the executive ... you do have to be Catholic.”

Mr Abbott said the requirement was “sensible, because I’d assume that if you are the gymnastics club, you don’t want ­people coming along who have no particular enthusiasm or passion for gymnastics”.

The Catholic Society has won the support of other religious groups on campus, including the Sydney University Muslim Students Association, whose president Shahad Nomani said: “We have been toeing the line, saying you don’t have to be Muslim to join our executive, but it’s actually ridiculous. All members of our executive are Muslim but we are not allowed to say they must be Muslim.”

University Liberal Club president William Dawes said his club was also sympathetic to the Catholic Society’s cause: “We don’t force you to join the Liberal Party, but what would be the point of joining our club if you didn’t support the ... party?”

The president of the univer­sity’s ALP Club, Dylan Williams, said his club “doesn’t say you have to be a member of the ALP to join our club, but we exist to promote the ideals of ­social democracy, so it would be weird if a Liberal wanted to join”.

Ms Aitken-Radburn said the issue was “about the mandatory requirement for membership. I really don’t understand why clubs can’t ask members to stand up on a voluntary basis and swear ­allegiance to whatever, without forcing them to do it. What is the practical difference?”