Friday, October 28, 2016

NAACP Denies Education Civil Rights

It’s a rare day when the editorial pages of The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times and The Washington Post are of one mind.

But it just happened. Each of these newspapers, with the largest circulations in the country, and with views on the right and the left, weighed in with unanimity, criticizing the recent resolution of the NAACP calling for a moratorium on expansion of charter schools.

The NAACP wants to freeze expansion of charter schools until, according to the resolution, they meet the same “transparency and accountability standards as public schools,” no longer compete for the same public funds as public schools, don’t reject students that public schools accept, and that evidence of segregation is no longer evident.

It is disappointing that the NAACP, which defines itself as a civil rights organization, wants to deny a right as fundamental as parents determining how and where to educate their children. But although disappointing, it not surprising.

It is not just charter schools that NAACP opposes, but all alternatives to public schools.

This new resolution notes that it is an extension of NAACP’s 2014 resolution “School Privatization Threat to Public Education,” in which NAACP opposes school choice and markets and competition in education.

NAACP has supported lawsuits challenging voucher programs that are funded via tax credits to businesses that contribute funding for vouchers. So NAACP’s opposition to charters is really not about, as they claim, their concern about siphoning taxpayer funds from public schools.

It is about opposition to competition in education, to competition to public schools, and competition to teacher unions.

Arguments that charters and other competitive alternatives to public schools siphon funds away from public schools that are critical for their success are simply bogus.

As Gerard Robinson of the American Enterprise Institute points out, “Since World War II, inflation-adjusted spending in American public schools has increased 663 percent.” Yet despite this, “public school national math scores have been flat (and national reading scores have declined slightly) since 1992.”

Where’s the money going?

According to Robinson, much of the money is going to hiring more teachers and bureaucracy. From 1950 to 2009, the number of teachers increased 2.5 times more than the increase in students, and the number of administrators and other staff increased seven times more than the increase in students.

So it comes as little surprise that teachers unions share NAACP’s distaste for competition in education. Or that the two major teachers unions, American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association, have been generous contributors to both the NAACP and the Congressional Black Caucus.

One hundred and sixty black education leaders across the nation, including former education secretary Rod Paige, wrote to the NAACP urging that they not approve this resolution.

The letter states that these leaders write on behalf of “nearly 700,000 Black families choosing to send their children to charter public schools, and the tens of thousands more who are still on waiting lists.”

The letter cites a recent study from Stanford University’s Center for Research on Education Outcomes that concluded that black students in charter schools gained the equivalent of 14 extra days in learning in both reading and math, compared to their peers in traditional public schools.

The real discrimination that is taking place is taking education choice away from black parents and forcing black children to remain in failing schools that are disproportionately populated by black children from poor families.

The Wall Street Journal just reported that despite an increase in earnings of black workers exceeding that of white and Latino workers since the recession ended in 2009, median weekly pay for blacks still lags significantly, $685 compared to $854 for whites.

Education makes all the difference. Blacks need education freedom, and it is sad that the organization that claims to stand for civil rights opposes this.


Racist Berkeley students agitate for segregation

Students at the University of California, Berkeley held a violent protest on campus Friday to demand additional segregated “spaces of color” for non-white students.

The demonstration began at a key bridge on campus, where the protesters made a human chain to prevent white people from crossing, instead directing them to "go around" by trudging across the stream.

Later, the activists turned their ire against an on-campus store leased to a private company, posting a fake "eviction notice" on the building threatening that "community action will continue to escalate" if the space is not vacated immediately.

Students at the University of California, Berkeley held a violent protest on campus Friday to demand additional segregated “spaces of color” for non-white students.

A video of the protest shows demonstrators repeatedly heckling white passersby, barring them entry to a key bridge on campus by forming a human chain while simultaneously allowing students of color to pass unmolested.

At one point, the video even shows a protester refusing to allow an older white man to cross the bridge, eventually directing him to cross by way of a creek that flows underneath the bridge.

Just a few moments later, another white man attempted to cross the bridge by forcing his way through the crowd, only to be surrounded by a mob of students who began shouting expletives at him as they pushed him back in the direction he had come from.

Time and again, white students and professors were denied entry to the bridge as they were surrounded by aggressive protesters shouting “go around!”

Apparently, protesters were angered because one of their “safe spaces” was relocated to the basement of a building where it had previously occupied the fifth floor. When protesters were asked about the motive for their demonstration, though, they refused to be recorded, leaving little to no explanation for the rationale behind such an aggressive protest.

One protester did offer her take on the issue, however, when she was given the chance to speak to the crowd, shouting “Berkeley, why the fuck do you let UCPD do what they want with our bodies?” “I'm talking to you, UCPD,” she then asserts before declaring, “I don't give a fuck about you.”

The protest eventually made its way to an on-campus building that was apparently rented out to a private corporation, leading students to post an eviction notice on its doors alleging a “misallocation of space.”

“You are hereby notified by the students of the University of California, Berkeley to vacate the premises immediately,” it read, according to video footage of the demonstration.

“University administration wrongly allocated this two-story facility to a third-party corporation, keeping in line with its intensifying legacy of prioritizing financial profit over student needs.”

The mock eviction notice went on to demand that the building be converted into a “queer alliance resource center,” threatening that “community action will continue to escalate” if they “fail to vacate immediately.”

The protest then made its way through Berkeley’s student center, where the activists disrupted students from their studies with chants of “students over profit” before finally making their way to an off-campus intersection, where, naturally, they blocked the flow of traffic.


What's really behind Australia's declining international education results

Not mentioned below is that Australia has taken in a lot of Africans and Muslims recently.  Both groups have markedly lower IQs than the host population, so their children will too -- leading to poorer educational performance overall

Australian students' slide in the international benchmarks for reading and numeracy may not be the fault of the students, the teachers, or even the school system, says Finnish education expert Pasi Sahlberg.

He argues there is a key factor being overlooked, a shift so profound and complete we've almost forgotten life without it: the rise of the smartphone.

Finnish education guru Pasi Sahlberg explains how Finland built its highly regarded education system.

And Professor Sahlberg predicts a tobacco and big sugar-style marketing war between edutech-company-backed research and independent research in the next five years, over whether more technology in the classroom is beneficial or harmful to kids.

"We are not paying attention to the very rapidly increased use of screen technology," he said. "The first three PISAs were in 2000, 2003 and 2006, this thing didn't exist. There were no iPads or smartphones.

"So if you look at kids in Australia, they used a fraction of the time they use today with different types of smartphones and iPads and computer screens compared to the first three."

The Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) tests are run every three years by the OECD, comparing a sample of 15-year-olds in different countries on reading, maths and science.

As Australia's results have slipped against other countries, policy-makers and school systems have scrambled to figure out what's going wrong.

But Professor Sahlberg, who has recently returned with his family to Helsinki after three years working at Harvard in the US, said the decline in PISA performance is happening in all western countries.

"Reading performance has been drastically declining in Finland because of this. Our pedagogy and teaching has not changed, the curriculum has not changed. So how else can you explain this dramatic change?"

A second key factor, he said, is that the East Asian countries, which are rising strongly in the PISA rankings, drill their student populations and teach to the test.

"I go to Singapore, I do a lot of work in South Korea, it's all over the place. They have practice halls for the PISA. They practice using the PISA test items so the kids are familiar with that type of thing."

East Asian countries enrol the majority of students in "cram schools" or private tuition, where gadgets are banned while they study, he said. 

"It doesn't really tell you how good the overall system is. It tells you how good the system is at taking these particular tests. It's a different thing."

Professor Sahlberg has been a teacher, educator and policy adviser in Finland, and wrote the book Finnish Lessons 2.0: What can the world learn from educational change in Finland.

He told an audience of education leaders in Sydney on Thursday that it is just a theory, but research on the intrusion of digital technology is ramping up. Studies such as Growing Up Digital in Canada were reporting disturbing preliminary results, he said, with some making the argument that digital immersion changes the way children think and process information in a way that may make deeper learning difficult.

"We're going to see with in the future, a next five years, a war between these kind of research studies, trying to show that doing more screen time [in the classroom] at the time when it's already controlling the lives of young people doesn't make any sense; and then the tech companies will say if you build your teaching and learning around the technology you will decrease the dropout rate and increase the graduation rates - we' re going to see a lot of that in the future."

A frequent visitor to Australia, he is not here to sell the popular line that Finland is the perfect education system, and in fact argues that NSW could teach Finland a thing or two.

"I don't think that Finland has the magic answer to education or anything – no country whatsoever has that. In a way that's a myth."

What Finland does get right, he says, is its child-focused approach, with an emphasis on play, a later school starting age (7), and letting each child develop at their own pace.

"This conversation of having an extended childhood where children can play and be themselves, learn to be with other people – was recognised an important thing [in Finland].

"One thing that distinguishes Australia and Finland is we have much less concern about academic performance in the early years than you have here."

But he said Finland's student population was changing significantly due to increased migration, from almost zero immigrants 20 years ago to around 7 per cent and rising today.

"I think Finland can learn a great deal from Australia, NSW in particular. About what the system should do to be good for everybody, good for Aboriginal and minority children. This is something we are learning in my country right now."

Professor Sahlberg is in Sydney following a tour of regional and remote schools with Education Minister Adrian Piccoli, giving a speech on Thursday about the results of a study of the NSW school system that he supervised at Harvard. He said Australia has a far better system than the US.

An article by a US academic William Doyle who lived for six months in Finland published by Fairfax Media – Why Finland has the best schools – remains among the best read articles on the SMH website. Professor Sahlberg chuckled when I told him this.

"That was my friend," he said. "He's writing from the position of an American."


Thursday, October 27, 2016

Children at a British primary school that BANNED running because pupils kept 'bumping their heads' are bending the rules - by SKIPPING instead

That head bumps are educational seems to be overlooked

Children at a primary school that banned running because too many pupils were 'bumping their heads' have found a way to bend the rules – by skipping instead.

Youngsters at Summerhill Infants School in Bristol were told they must stop running in the playground over health and safety fears.

Teachers said too many children were 'bumping their heads' and warned that anyone caught running would be punished by standing against a wall for a minute.

But the youngsters have now found a way round the bizarre ban – by skipping in the playground instead.

One mother of a six-year-old boy said she discovered the pupils were bending the rules when her son came home and started 'skipping everywhere'.

She told The Sun: 'He said it was because they'd been stopped from running as too many kids were bumping into each other.

'It's every child's right to run about. To stop is health and safety gone mad.' Another mother, Christine Rumsby, added: 'It's beyond a joke.'

The parents are now calling for the ban to be lifted.

But the school is continuing to defend its position. Headteacher Ira De N'Yeurt said: 'On return from summer holidays we had a steep rise in head bumps. 'Keeping our children safe is our top priority.'

Summerhill is not the only school in the country to introduce a running in the playground ban.

Earlier this month, children at Hillfort Primary School in Liskeard, Cornwall were banned from running around because pupils kept 'ending up in first aid'.

Teachers instead told children they should take part in activities during the break times including sand play, playing with Lego or joining the school choir.

But parents condemned the school for using health and safety as an excuse to 'remove the liberty to spontaneously run in the playground'.

Parent Caroline Wills, who has a six-year-old daughter in Year Two, told MailOnline: 'Kids will be kids. How far is the school going to take this?

'In this day and age kids are stopped from being kids in so many ways. They have got to be allowed to be children.'

A petition, which has more than 150 signatures, was then started by Leah Browning, 32, whose son Jago attends the school.

In the petition, the parents said: 'Please lift the ban on running in the playground at Hillfort Primary School at lunch time break.

'Ensure that there is adequate funding and provision of suitable staff to safely supervise lunch break.

'Enable and empower children's right and freedom to run freely through spontaneous, child led play, in the playground during lunch time break.

'Stopping children running during free play due to bumping into each other is health and safety gone mad.

'Do not allow 'health and safety' to remove the liberty to spontaneously run in the playground during imaginative and child-led play.'

Andy Murray's mother Judy also got involved in the row, tweeting: 'A ban on running in a school playground? How utterly absurd. No wonder we are becoming a nation of fatties.'

Following her intervention, the school did a U-turn and described the situation as a 'misunderstanding.' It outlined that the ban only applied to running from one end of the playground to the other.

Last year Old Priory Junior Academy in Plympton, Devon, also banned children from doing cartwheels and handstands at break times over safety fears.

Pupils at that school were told in June 2015 that they couldn't perform 'gymnastic movements' in the playground after some children had been left with injuries.

Emma Hermon-Wright, the school's interim headmistress, said she introduced the ban because the children were attempting moves 'beyond their capability'.


Maryland High Schools Swap 'Traditional' Homecoming Court for 'Politically Correct' Alternative

For years, high school homecomings have centered around football games, pep rallies, and electing a homecoming king and queen.

But that all changed this year for two Maryland high schools, who are forgoing age-old traditions in the name of inclusiveness.

As NBC Washington reports, Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School had a “gender neutral” homecoming court — which allowed students to elect two boys, two girls, or a boy and a girl, or a transgender couple — regardless of “gender identity.”

Meanwhile, Walt Whitman High School chose to forgo homecoming court altogether.

Student Body President Ari Gutman told Bethesda Magazine most students just didn't care about crowning a king and queen:

    “At Whitman, the homecoming court is never really a big deal, it’s not really instilled in our school culture. We decided that instead of having the court, we would just not have it at all, so no one was left out,“ adding that ”the SGA worried the gender distinctions affiliated with the homecoming court could make gender non-binary or transgender students uncomfortable."

Walt Whitman principal Alan Goodwin told Independent Journal Review the decision was entirely in the students' hands:

    “Our student government decided to drop it because of a lack of interest in selecting a homecoming court. There has not been any ongoing discussion about it.”

Though the student government chose to nix time-honored homecoming traditions in the name of inclusiveness, plenty of parents on Facebook felt the move was a little too “politically correct.”

One Facebook commenter, Bonnie Miller, said:     “Let's just change everything. That way everyone can be happy. CRAZY.”

Chris Mika joked:  “The most important question: Does everyone get a participation award?”

Many said the move was “ridiculous” and inclusiveness was “getting out of hand,” though some parents felt it was the right call.

Megan Bailey-Hall summed their points up best:  “This is why I have so much hope for the future generations! This school gets it! Obviously times are changing- and is that a bad thing? I think not.”

The Maryland high schools aren't the only ones to adopt a more gender-neutral alternative for homecoming court. The University of Wisconsin-Stout recently replaced their king and queen with “sexless diplomats” instead.

According to the Minneapolis Star Tribune, the university broke an 80-year tradition and opted to have 8 to 10 recipients of the “Stout Ambassadors Spirit Award.”

Only time will tell if this “inclusive” homecoming tradition will soon be the new norm.


Australia: Parents' outrage over educational program that teaches children 'men are the greatest threat to women'

Rampant feminism.  The hate never stops

The organisers of an educational program which teaches school children 'men are the greatest threat to women' have received a barrage of hate mail.

Privately run Frame Initiatives travels between about 30 Western Australian schools to teach children about respectful relationships.

Last week, a Perth student set off outrage when he took a picture of a slide with the words 'globally and historically, men are the greatest threat to women' and posted it online, The Australian reported. The slide was part of the Men of Respect workshop for boys in Years 7 to 9.

Director Dan McGrechan said the words were taken out context and was referencing US comedian Louie C.K.  The controversial statement was intended to 'stimulate discussion', he told The Australian.

Critics have accused Frame of teaching superficial and biased content.

The barrage of hate mail appears to have led organisers to delete the Frame Twitter account.

The programs for girls include Please Like Me and Back Off: Sexual Harassment. Other programs for boys, aside from the Men of Respect workshop in question, include Problems with Porn, Sexual Harassment, and Date Rape and Consent.


Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Grand Theft Education

K-12 education gets the lion’s share of California’s budget, largely due to Proposition 98 (1988) author John Mockler, a lobbyist who became a millionaire working both sides of the table. In government monopoly education, the money goes directly to bureaucracies, the state department of education, the county offices of education, and local school districts. The money is not tied to any performance measure and the education collective farm always wants more money. As we noted, educrats use it to pay outlandish salaries to local superintendents based on their “vision,” not academic results. As Loretta Kalb notes in the Sacramento Bee, they also spend taxpayers’ money on political advocacy.

The Sacramento City Unified School District has been spending money on “robocalls” to thousands of parents on Proposition 55 and Measure G on the November ballot. The robocalls, Kalb wrote, “sent the scripted messages recorded by five district trustees through its automated telephone message distribution system, explaining how the two tax measures would raise money for school programs and services that otherwise could be slashed.” Measure G is a parcel tax and Proposition 55 would extend the Proposition 30 tax hikes of 2012, which governor Jerry Brown pitched as temporary.

The robocalls did not say “Vote for Proposition 55” but were completely one sided, and obvious advocacy. The district might have hosted a forum, with speakers from both sides, but district bosses always have their eye on the taxpayers’ money. They get that money, even if they fail to promote student achievement. They get the money even if parents choose to send their children to independent schools, or school them at home. They oppose all measures for full parental choice in education, and they spend parent’s tax money on robocalls to keep taxes high. That’s how government monopoly education works. Call it grand theft education.


Student Sues Over Iowa State’s ‘Speech Code’

A 34-year-old student at Iowa State University is suing the school over what he calls an “unconstitutional speech code.”

The student, Robert Dunn, says the university is forcing him to compromise his First Amendment rights by complying with “overly broad and vague” anti-discrimination and harassment policies. Failing to agree to abide by the policies, he added, could result in the school placing a “hold” on his diploma and a “review” by the dean of students.

The “speech code” Dunn is referring to is a university policy titled, “Sexual Misconduct, Sexual Assault, and Sexual Harassment Involving Students.” In August, prior to the fall 2016 semester, Dunn said he received an email announcing the new training program on “the university’s nondiscrimination policies and procedures” to be completed online.

Specifically, Dunn’s lawyers argue in the lawsuit, the policy “states that ‘gossip’ about a male student’s ‘feminine dress’ could be harassment, failing to even acknowledge that students also possess First Amendment rights that might be implicated.”

“The harassment doesn’t even have to be directly at the person,” Dunn told The Daily Signal in a phone interview. “So I didn’t feel comfortable saying that I was going to sign over my First Amendment right in order to comply with campus policy.”

Dunn is a resident of Ames, Iowa. He is a conservative, member of Young Americans for Freedom, and the founder and president of Iowa State’s Young Americans for Freedom organization. He is a senior at Iowa State, where he is majoring in accounting in order to pursue a new career path.

Dunn is being represented by lawyers at Alliance Defending Freedom, a Christian conservative nonprofit law firm that advocates for the right of people to live out their faith.

Casey Mattox, an attorney representing Dunn, said the policy at Iowa State is “one of the worst policies that we have seen in recent years.” “We handle a lot of university free speech cases,” Mattox said, adding:

The fact that it would affirmatively state that First Amendment protected speech can still be deemed harassment by the university and then just give administrators the authority to decide what those circumstances are, when free speech equals harassment, it basically eliminates any kind of protection for free speech. You can’t be put in a position as a student where you have to fear that whatever you say could be deemed harassment if someone else thinks the circumstances are such.

The Daily Signal contacted Iowa State about the lawsuit. A spokesman said “we have no comment.”

This is not the first time Iowa State’s anti-discrimination and harassment policies are being challenged. In previous years, Alliance Defending Freedom says it contacted the university about “flaws in the policies.”

“The university had responded in 2014 that it would [be] reviewing the policies over a one-year period. The recent revisions, however, failed to address the obvious constitutional defects,” Alliance Defending Freedom said in a press release.

Dunn said on campus, he has the support of both students and faculty.

“On our campus, there’s been a lot of chill and fear about speaking out. It’s not just students, but faculty, and I think a lot of people are wishing that they could be able to speak their mind and be able to say something without walking on eggshells when the person next to them could claim to be offended,” he said.

Dunn added that he thinks the issue “cuts across ideological spectrums.”

“I think a lot of commonsense liberals are starting to wake up and say, ‘Hey, this affects us too.’”

“Whatever backlash there is,” he added, “I think the positive aspects will eventually play out. Because I definitely see a lot of liberals say if we value our free speech, we have to value free speech of those we diametrically disagree with.”


UK: Third of new teachers leave within five years: 7,200 staff who qualified in 2010 are no longer in the profession

It's not a pleasant job in today's classrooms

Nearly a third of teachers who began work in England's state schools in 2010 were not in the classroom five years later, official figures show.

Around 7,200 of the 24,100 newly qualified teachers who joined schools in November 2010 had left the profession by 2015, according to figures published by schools minister Nick Gibb.

Around one in eight (13 per cent) had left after just a year.

The Government insisted that teacher retention rates have been 'broadly stable' for the last 20 years, but the Liberal Democrats warned that ministers must work with teachers to deal with the factors that make the profession feel 'demoralised and under-valued'.

The statistics, revealed in response to a written ministerial question submitted by Lib Dem MP Greg Mulholland, show that of those who joined the profession in November 2010, 87 per cent were still in the classroom a year later and 82 per cent were working as teachers two years later.

This dropped to 77 per cent after three years, 73 per cent after four years and 70 per cent after five years.

Lib Dem education spokesman John Pugh said: 'This is a damming record for Michael Gove's time as education secretary.

'It is bad enough that dedicated teachers are being driven away from the profession they love, but this is also laying the foundations for a disastrous teaching shortage in years to come if we cannot train new teachers fast enough to replace the ones which leave.

'The Government must urgently work with the teaching community to address the many factors which are making teachers feel demoralised and under-valued, as well as reversing their devastating cuts to school budgets which are putting increasing pressure on teachers and schools.'

A Department for Education spokesman said: 'Teaching remains an attractive career and we have more teachers entering our classrooms than those choosing to leave or retire.

'Teacher retention has been broadly stable for 20 years and the annual average salaries for teachers in the UK are also greater than the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) average, and higher than many of Europe's high-performing education systems like Finland, Norway or Sweden.

'We want every child to have access to great teachers that aren't weighed down with unnecessary workload so they have the time and freedom to do what they do best - inspire the next generation.

'We recognise teachers' concerns and are continuing to work with the sector to find constructive solutions to this issue.'

Kevin Courtney, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers (NUT), said: 'It is deeply regrettable that so many people have chosen to leave teaching, when we need new teachers more than ever.

'Despite high demand, there has been a consistent shortfall in the numbers recruited to training courses since 2010. 'On top of this, schools are now experiencing increased difficulties in retaining staff.

'Ministers need to ask themselves why this is happening, and to take immediate action.  'They need to face the fact that schools have become more difficult and less rewarding places in which to work.'


Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Professor writes entire nonsense paper using Apple autocomplete app only for it to ACCEPTED for an academic conference

Professor Christopher Bartneck never believed his research paper, written by Apple's iOS autocomplete, would be accepted for a nuclear physics conference

Professor Christopher Bartneck never believed his research paper, written by Apple's iOS autocomplete, would be accepted for a nuclear physics conference

An academic who jokingly wrote a research paper written entirely by Apple's iOS autocomplete - and was subsequently filled with nonsense - has been accepted to present his findings at a nuclear physics conference.

Christopher Bartneck, an associate professor at the University of Canterbury's Human Interface Technology laboratory in New Zealand, was stunned to discover he had been successful in securing a place at the conference, which takes place in America next month.

'I started a sentence with 'Atomic' or 'Nuclear' and then randomly hit the autocomplete suggestions,' wrote Bartneck in a blog post on Thursday. 'The text really does not make any sense.'

Bartneck's mischievous side was fired up after receiving an invitation from the International Conference on Atomic and Nuclear Physics, which will be held in Atlanta in November.

'Since I have practically no knowledge of Nuclear Physics I resorted to iOS auto-complete function to help me," explained Bartneck.

The resulting paper is complete gobbledygook.

'Nuclear weapons will not have to come out the same day after a long time of the year,' it states.

'The atoms of a better universe will have the right for the same as you,' it adds, before continuing: 'Physics are great but the way it does it makes you want a good book.'

In case that hasn't baffled readers enough, the paper concludes: 'Power is not a great place for a good time.'

The paper's title is also the brainchild of Apple iOS, with the incomprehensible: 'Atomic  Energy will have been made available to a single source.'

Bartneck added the first picture he came across on Wikipedia to illustrate nuclear physics and created a not-so-subtle fake name, Iris Pear - a play on Siri Apple.

Not thinking anyone could possibly take him seriously, he even made up 'Umbria Polytech University' located in 'Infinite Loop' in Cupertino, California.

But within just three hours he received an acceptance email in his inbox. 

'I know that iOS is a pretty good software, but reaching tenure has never been this close,' he wrote.

However, Bartneck drew a line under his prank when he was asked to register for the conference at a cost of $1,099 (£898). 

Speaking to  The Guardian Australia, he said: 'My university would certainly object to me wasting money this way. My impression is that this is not a particularly good conference.' 


The Value of Education

by Sean Gabb

I went yesterday evening to a seminar arranged in London by the Social Affairs Unit. This began with a brief lecture by Theodore Dalrymple, a doctor who writes an occasional column forThe Spectator. His theme was “The Proletarianisation of British Culture”. He explained how notions of politeness and restraint were vanishing from the middle classes, being replaced by an increasing vulgarity of thought and behaviour; and that this was not a vulgarity copied from the working classes, but was part of a general decline also affecting them. It was a brief lecture, and was intended as no more than a summary of the problem. The discussion was then thrown open for others to supply answers or other pertinent comments.

These seminars, I think, have been arranged to allow free discussion in private; and so I will not report the discussion, or even say who else was there. Instead, I will give my own thoughts on the problem. I believe that much of the vulgarity of thought and behaviour can be traced to a failure throughout the English speaking world, since about 1960, to understand the meaning and value of education.

I will not presume to say what is the purpose of life. Though I wish it were otherwise, I suspect there is no objective purpose, and it is up to us as individuals to supply our own. But whatever the case, I think it reasonable to say that our purpose ought to be to make ourselves as happy as we can, and to contribute as much as we can to the general stock of happiness.

Now, happiness comes in many forms and is found in many places. If we want ecstatic pleasure, that can be found in any number of legal and illegal substances. If we want uncomprehending contentment, there are lobotomies or courses of electric shock therapy. But given that most people reading this article are at least moderately intelligent, I will not bother with criticising these kinds of happiness. For us, happiness surely includes understanding and even wisdom. This requires some subordination of present to future objectives, and in particular getting the best education of which we are capable. I will define an educated person as someone who can hold an interesting conversation with himself throughout the whole uncertain course of his adult life—someone with a fair knowledge of human nature, a tolerance of the milder follies, an understanding of the limits of what is possible, a calm equanimity of temper, and, ideally, with a sense of humour. Some of these qualities are innate. Others must be acquired.

A person who possesses these qualities cannot fail to be an interesting and a pleasing companion to himself through life. And the existence of many such people, largely connected with each other, gives rise to what the economists call a positive externality. A country in which the tone of life is set by such a class of people is invariably a more pleasant place to be than a country where such a class does not exist. That country will be more beautiful in its arrangement of material objects, and more gentle in its courtesies. Its laws will be more humanely framed and more humanely applied. Its politics will be steadier in their course and more temperate in their ends. It will go to war less often, and then mostly for the pursuit of legitimate interests. Because of the greater security of life and property, and the greater respect for thrift and sobriety, it will also be richer and more powerful.

Such an education means a training in habits of thought and the exercise of general intellectual ability. It may require the acquisition of specific skills—for example, learning at least one of the classical languages and few modern languages, and learning some of the technical aspects of music and the visual arts. It may also require an understanding of mathematics and of the natural sciences. It certainly requires a long study of literature and history and philosophy and law and political economy. But none of this may be useful in any direct financial sense.

This is not to disparage purely technical or professional training. These are not at all to be despised. Some while ago, I took a course in bookbinding, and was filled with respect for the skill and dedication of the old man who taught me. Accountancy and legal practice and medicine and the ability to see and make use of previously undiscovered business opportunities, are all of high value. But they are not in themselves education. My instructor in bookbinding was a man of wide culture. Not only did he know how to put books together, but he also had a strong appreciation of what he was putting together. I know accountants and lawyers and physicians who can keep me happily awake until three in the morning as we discuss the state of the world. That, however, is because they are not just what they have trained to become. It is because they are also educated men.

The problem we are now facing is largely the outcome of a decline of respect for humanistic education. My dear friend Dennis O’Keeffe is famous for his denunciations of what he calls socialist education—this being a denial that there is any value in the traditional curriculum, and that the cultures of all social classes and of all racial and national groups are equally valuable; and even that ours is inferior, so far as it contains within itself at least the implicit claim to general hegemony over all others. With this goes the dangerous absurdities of structuralism and post-modernism.

Of course, Dennis is right. But it is not only Michel Foucault and Louis Althusser and Herbert Bowles and Samuel Gintis who are to blame for the attack on humanism. It is also the intellectual philistinism of our own intellectual allies. When I was a boy, I got into an argument with my mathematics teacher, an Armenian Marxist who wore jeans in class an long leather boots spray painted green—this was the 1970s. I asked him one day what was the value of the simultaneous equations he was trying to teach us how to solve. He made what I now realise was a good attempt to explain their value, but began to lose his temper when I failed to understand him. Many years later, I read of a similar exchange in Alexandria between Euclid and one of his students. Euclid, it seems, did not even try to explain himself. Instead, he told his assistant to give the man his money back and throw him into the street.

I now understand the value of knowledge that has no immediate or obvious use. Sadly, many others who call themselves libertarians or conservatives do not. With their talk of “vocational learning” and “learning based outcomes”, they deny the value of any education that is not directed to the gaining of marketable skills.

I know of schools that teach information technology but not history. Again, I do not dispute the value of technical skills. I am proud of my ability to build computers and to make software work: my own website is almost entirely crafted by hand in HTML. But history also is important. An accountant who is ignorant of the French Revolution, or cannot recognise sonata form, or knows not a line of poetry, is nothing more than a skilled barbarian. In a nation where only a small minority is truly educated, legal equality becomes a hard concept to maintain, let alone political equality. In a nation without even that minority, public life must inevitably become savage and arbitrary—a thing of wild, inconstant passions, led by those unable to perceive or follow longer term goods.

That is where, I think, we are now fast approaching. We have a Prime Minister who cannot spell, and is not ashamed of the fact. We have a political class in general that lacks nearly all skill of persuasive speech and seems ignorant of the past. Of the first Ministers appointed to serve under Tony Blair, apparently, the majority listed football as their main hobby in their Who’s Who entries; and not one listed any humanistic pursuit. I doubt if the Conservatives are much better. Perhaps the Judges and permanent heads of department will soon follow the trend. Little wonder our freedoms are being given up, one at a time, to moral panics and appeals to administrative convenience.

Is there anything to be done? I am not sure that there is in the short term. It takes centuries of moral evolution to achieve the level from which we have now declined. Between the renaissance vulgarities of behaviour described by Norbert Elias to the gentility of life in the 1900s lie 500 years of gradual improvement. To suppose that the present decline can be arrested and turned round in one lifetime is perhaps too optimistic. But there are certain steps that may easily be taken towards an eventual improvement. One of the participants in the seminar last night described how he had thrown out his television set, and how this had already contributed to the moral tone of his household. There is an example to be followed—and cheaply followed, bearing in mind the decadence of broadcasting.

Aside from this, we can hope for a collapse of the universities. There are always exceptions, but most are nowadays a combination of training schools for narrow professional disciplines, and academies of falsehood. George Orwell once declared of some absurdity “you need to be an intellectual to believe that”. This needs now to be amended to “You need a degree to believe that”. I am not sure the universities, taken as a whole, can be reformed: better, I suspect, either to wait for their natural decline into irrelevance or to shut them down at the first opportunity. One of the first acts of the Ayatollah Khomeini after taking power in Iran was to close all the universities for three years. The bloody revolution of which this was a part is, of course, to be condemned. But I have no doubt that Shiite theology and law were much closer to the humanistic ideal than the western sociology they replaced. Perhaps historians will one day trace the growing stability and democratisation of modern Iran to this educational reform.

But as my readers may have noticed, I tend to be better at describing problems than giving solutions to them. I can only conclude by thanking the Social Affairs Unit for inviting me to so stimulating a discussion, and to hope that I shall be invited to others in future.


Racial Indoctrination at School

“To be white is to be racist, period.” This statement was made by a high-school teacher to his class in Norman, Oklahoma. The statement was recorded by a student when she became offended by what her teacher was saying. The teacher continued, “Am I racist? And I say ‘yeah.’ I don’t want to be. It’s not like I choose to be racist, but do I do things because of the way I was raised?”

The student’s parents confronted the school over the issue, and the school responded by saying that the topic of racism is an important issue, though conceding, “We regret that the discussion was poorly handled.” The Norman Public Schools superintendent pledged to immediately address the issue, saying that members of the school board “are committed to ensuring inclusiveness in our schools.”

To conflate social standing and past injustices with ethnicity is racist. The Left’s demand that Americans accept their Marxian view of equality — that societal injustice is inherently tied to ethnicity — is the same argument used by the eugenicists of the 1930s. Those who venture down this road can then be easily persuaded to accept the conclusion that for the sake of social justice there are certain ethnic groups of people — white, conservative Americans in this instance — who for the good of society need to be at best suppressed and at worst eliminated.

Teaching children to view everything through the lens of race will only lead to more mistrust, division and conflict rather than greater unity. What has always united Americans has been those shared values espoused in our Constitution. The Left’s utter obsession with race can only divide us.


Monday, October 24, 2016

Charters used to enjoy bipartisan support. Not anymore

Massachusetts’ 23-year-old charter school experiment has long enjoyed bipartisan support. Just a few months ago, polls showed Democrats and Republicans alike supported an upcoming ballot measure that would allow for more of the schools.

But recent surveys show Democrats turning against the question — breaking the broad consensus on charters and threatening to stall one of the country’s most ambitious efforts to reshape public education.

A new WBUR poll out Wednesday morning has the ballot measure failing by 11 points overall, with Democrats opposing it 64 to 30 percent.

“It didn’t used to be a partisan issue, really,” said pollster Steve Koczela, who conducted the survey for WBUR and has worked for charter advocates in the past. “Now, it is.”

In recent weeks, with Election Day approaching, a handful of prominent Democrats like US Senator Elizabeth Warren and Mayor Martin J. Walsh have come out in opposition to Question 2, which would allow for the creation or expansion of 12 charter schools per year.

Approval of Question 2 would greatly increase the likelihood of school failures that hurt kids and discredit the education reform movement.

But political operatives say that high-profile opposition does not appear to be the driving force in liberal voters’ mounting worry over charter schools, which have a freer hand with budgets and curriculum than traditional public schools and are frequently not unionized.

Instead, they point to a teachers-union-backed “No on 2” campaign that has hammered home a simple message — that charters drain traditional public schools of hundreds of millions of dollars per year. The opposition of over 180 school committees and hundreds of individual teachers has been powerful as well, they say.

That’s evident in places like left-leaning Brookline, where blue-and-yellow “We Trust and Support Brookline Teachers” signs are on lawns all over town.

The placards refer to an ongoing contract fight, not the Question 2 campaign. But Democrat Anne-Marie Codur, a Tufts University researcher who sends her son to Brookline High School, said conversations with local teachers played a central role in building her opposition to charter expansion.

“I didn’t know, at the start, [where I would land on the issue],” said Codur, standing in her doorway on a recent morning. “But I read, I listened to NPR, and I talked to educators here — I know many teachers here, and they are the ones who really made up my mind.”

Of course, it’s not just Democrats who are talking with their children’s teachers about charter expansion. But for liberals, concerns about Question 2 carry a particular resonance because they bump up against some core beliefs.

Codur, who has planted a “No on 2” yard sign between her “Clinton-Kaine” and “Joe Kennedy for Congress” signs, cast her opposition as a defense of public education itself. And for many Democrats worried about the growing influence of “dark money” in politics, the flood of anonymous donations to the “Yes on 2” campaign — some donors can keep their names concealed by law — has hit a nerve.

Democrats make up just one-third of the electorate, with more than half of voters independent and about one in 10 Republican. But Democrats’ sharp turn against the question seems to be having a real effect on its overall chances.

In April, a Western New England University Polling Institute survey of 497 registered voters in Massachusetts found 45 percent of the Democrats polled supported charter expansion and 34 percent were opposed.

By the end of September and beginning of October, a survey by the same group found just 29 percent of Democrats in support and 54 percent opposed. The gap was even wider among likely Democratic voters, a more select group than registered Democrats.

The Western New England poll had Republican and independent support for charters declining, too, reflecting an overall tightening of the race. But those shifts, if substantial, were not as dramatic. Overall, 47 percent of likely voters opposed Question 2 and 34 percent supported it.

Even the one recent public poll that had the “yes” side winning showed Democrats opposed by a small margin.

Massachusetts Democrats’ shift against the ballot measure puts them at odds with the national leaders of their party. Both President Obama and Hillary Clinton are charter school supporters, something organizers of the “Yes on 2” campaign frequently invoke in their efforts to win over liberals.

And pro-charter strategists remain sanguine, overall, about their chances with Democrats and the broader electorate.

A recent analysis by the Center for Public Integrity showed supporters of the ballot initiative are outspending opponents on television advertisements by a two-to-one margin, in what has emerged as the most expensive ballot-question air war in the country.

Many of those ads dispute the opposition’s claim that charters are a financial drag on traditional public schools, citing newspaper editorials that say otherwise. Strategists say their polling shows the effort is working.

And in recent days, the “Yes” campaign has opened a new front: appealing directly to the conscience of white, suburban voters with a new ad that asks them to imagine what it would be like to have a child trapped in a struggling urban school.

“If you like your public school, Question 2 won’t affect you,” a narrator says, as a picture of a white family fades to images of black and Latino families. “But for kids stuck in failing school districts, Question 2 will let parents choose something better — and give all our kids hope.”

Massachusetts charter schools have performed well with low-income, minority students. A recent Brookings Institution report found that “test-score gains produced by Boston’s charters are some of the largest that have ever been documented for an at-scale educational intervention,” better than the Head Start early education program, for instance, or a small-class-size experiment in Tennessee.

That explains why one crucial bloc of the Democratic electorate — nonwhite voters — has consistently been in favor of charter school expansion in Massachusetts, even as white Democrats have begun to oppose Question 2 in greater numbers.

Reginald Gay, a black retiree who sent three of his four children to Boston charter schools, said they are “much better” than the traditional public schools in the city. “Most charter schools,” he said, eating breakfast at Brothers restaurant in Mattapan Square on a recent morning, “the children are pretty much guaranteed to go to college.”

Charter proponents say they dread the idea of black and Latino, inner-city families voting for more of the schools, only to be swamped by white, suburban voters opposing the measure. “I’m going to feel sick about this if that’s where we end up,” Governor Charlie Baker said in a recent radio interview.

Philip Johnston, a former chairman of the state Democratic Party who opposes Question 2, said the struggles of urban families do weigh heavily on left-leaning voters in better-off communities.

“Many of us are well aware of the fact that in minority neighborhoods ... public schools are suffering very badly and parents see the charter schools as their only alternative,” he said. “But I think many of us also feel it’s a sad day when society isn’t willing to put more resources into making those neighborhood schools . . . as good as the ones I went to in an affluent suburb.”

Johnston said it may ultimately take court action to steer more funding into traditional public schools in Boston, Springfield, and other urban centers. But many Democrats, he suggested, believe improving those schools, rather than expanding a separate charter system for the few, is the best approach.


The “Black Lives Matter at School” rallies attracted hundreds of students, parents and teachers on Wednesday

About 2,000 Seattle educators wore Black Lives Matter shirts at their schools Wednesday to call for racial equity in education.

Schools across the district held “Black Lives Matter at School” rallies before classes began for the day. Students, parents and teachers also wore stickers and buttons emblazoned with the “Black Lives Matter” slogan.

The purpose of the day was to affirm that “black lives matter in the public schools,” according to organizers, who are members of Social Equality Educators, a group of educators within the Seattle teachers union. Teachers also wanted to show their support for John Muir Elementary, which had its “Black Men Uniting to Change the Narrative” event canceled last month after receiving a threat over teachers’ plans to wear Black Lives Matter shirts.

Before school started Wednesday at Chief Sealth International High School, dozens of educators and students gathered outside the building and held up banners and signs.

About 60 Chief Sealth educators had ordered the shirts beforehand. Some of the shirts said “Black Lives Matter” and “#say­hername,” a reference to Sandra Bland, a black woman who died in police custody in Texas. Those shirts had an image of a fist. Others wore shirts that said “Black Lives Matter” and “We Stand Together” with an image of a tree.

Teacher Diana Romero said she decided to wear a shirt “to support our black brothers and sisters in support for justice.” As a Latina, she said she has seen firsthand the unfair treatment of people of color by police officers.

A sixth-grade class from nearby Denny International Middle School, whose teacher brought them to the Sealth rally, wore Black Lives Matter stickers. Teacher Ben Evans said he wanted them to see how their voices can be heard. Many of his students are aware of racial inequities already, he added.

“Black Lives Matter At School” wasn’t sponsored by the school district, but it coincides with Seattle Public Schools’ “day of unity,” aimed at bringing more attention to racial equity in education. The district said in a statement that it has asked students, family, staff and community members to “engage and join the conversation in our united efforts to eliminate opportunity gaps.” As a public institution, the district doesn’t take official positions on social or political movements, district spokesman Luke Duecy said in a statement earlier this week.

Because Wednesday’s rally at Sealth was not an official district event, teachers were told to leave before students started arriving for school. But members of the Black Student Union (BSU) remained until the start of classes.

For BSU President Precious Manning, 17, the rally and shirts represented the international school coming together in solidarity. Black Lives Matter means making sure everyone is included, she said. “Black Lives Matter means ‘don’t leave us out,’ ” she said.

Each school planned its own events for “Black Lives Matter at School” day. At Leschi Elementary, for example, participants taped notes on a banner that asked “What does Black Lives Matter mean at Leschi?” Lowell Elementary’s front sign read “Black Lives Matter at Lowell.”

In addition to Seattle schools, staff at Highline’s White Center Heights Elementary wore shirts.


UK: Banning chav costumes? I’m offended...

A chav is a young lower-class person typified by brash and loutish behaviour and the wearing of colorful clothes

As a working-class student, there are many things that worry me. Deadlines, budgeting and balancing a work and social life all weigh on my mind. In fact, these are things that concern most students. One thing that isn’t keeping me up at night is a chav-themed social. But, according to Bristol Students’ Union (BSU), it should be.

The BSU equalities officer has reprimanded the Bristol cheerleading society for planning a chav-themed social. Apparently, dressing up as a chav is ‘appropriating working-class culture’. And, as we have seen countless times in cases of campus censorship, the society has had to back down and cancel the event. Middle-class outrage has prevented students from having a bit of fun.

I have a message for BSU officers: how dare you presume being a ‘chav’ is part of my culture. How dare you think that because I am working class, I will be scared and offended by a little piss-taking fancy dress. To my mind, the truly offensive thing about this entire debacle is the fact that students – many of whom are working class – are being told what they can and cannot wear. Even though the organisers of the social pointed out to the offended officer that they themselves were working class, BSU decided that it knew best.

This cultural policing needs to stop – it’s patronising and insulting. No one owns a copyright to a culture. I know this may come as a shock to some students’ union officers, but some middle-class people like to relax in tracksuit bottoms and a hoodie. Are they appropriating working-class culture? Would I be appropriating middle-class culture if I turned up suited and booted to a black-tie event? No, of course not. People should be free to wear whatever they damn well like.

Never mind the cheerleaders, the BSU officers are the real snobs here. These white knights protesting against so-called cultural appropriation don’t give a damn about what working-class students want. No, they only care about their virtue-signalling crusade to implement what they think is acceptable forms of fun on campus. This means clamping down on banter, jokes, and now, Vicky Pollard-style get-ups.

So, students, dress up in whatever the hell you like. You’re adults at university. If someone tells you you can’t dress like a chav, tell them to do one


Sunday, October 23, 2016

A vast educational failure

American education is failing thousands of students every year. But this crisis is not just about poor scores in math and reading. It is a deeper failure, leaving entire generations of Americans without the most basic knowledge of the country’s past and its civic institutions.

As The Daily Signal reported, the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation’s first “Annual Report on U.S. Attitudes Towards Socialism” showed that just 42 percent of millennials view capitalism favorably compared to 64 percent of Americans over 65.

Perhaps more disturbingly, a third of millennials believe that more people were killed under former President George W. Bush than under notorious Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin, and just 37 percent of millennials had a “very unfavorable” view of communism.

These findings are merely the latest in a pattern of documented cluelessness on the part of the American population about history and civics—even among those with college degrees. This failure to teach citizens puts America’s future at risk and puts us out of step with the vision of the Founding Fathers.

In his advocacy for American education, Thomas Jefferson, author of the Declaration of Independence (for those who got the Stalin question wrong), wrote about the necessity of grounding young Americans in a solid base of knowledge about history, lest our republican form of government risk the rise of scheming demagogues and tyranny.

To Jefferson, the people were the ultimate guardians of their liberty—a tall order for those who remain completely in the dark about what liberty means or how it has been curtailed in the past. He wrote of the need to teach students history early in their lives, that “by apprizing them of the past will enable them to judge of the future; it will avail them of the experience of other times and nations; it will qualify them as judges of the ambitions and designs of men; it will enable them to know ambition under every disguise it may assume, and, knowing it, to defeat its views.”

It would be unfair to pin modern historical ignorance on the “stupidity” of millennials, who are generally entrepreneurial, and certainly tech savvy. There is certainly some blame to be shared by education institutions—K-12 and higher education alike.

Instead of merely lamenting the results of this tragic failure, concerned Americans can and should use the tools at their disposal to make things better for the next generations.

The educational choice movement, launched by economist Milton Friedman just over 60 years ago, has done a great job of opening up education options for American families using vouchers, tax credit scholarships, charter schools, and education savings accounts.

These programs have already produced some incredible results, but those who believe America needs to make a serious pivot toward a better civics education should look to growing freedom in the education sector as a way to reinvigorate civics.

“An education system that allows parents … to resolve the tensions between different visions of the purpose of education is key for America’s diverse republic.” —@InezFeltscher

For example, The Federalist author Joy Pullmann recently wrote about how a number of K-12 charter schools, which are publicly financed but privately run, have returned to focusing on a “classical education” for students. A Hillsdale College project called the Barney Charter School Initiative has founded 16 schools that focus on distributing “knowledge for and habits of self-government.”

As Pullmann noted, the purpose of these schools is to create an “academically coherent curriculum … that helps form a common culture and an attendant sense of national unity” that has not existed for generations.

Charter schools are not the only opportunity to improve civics education for young people. Innovative  education savings account programs, which give parents control over the money used for their child’s education may open up enormous opportunities for parents of all backgrounds to seek out the right situation for their child.

If states move toward a more universal education savings account  system, all parents will have the ability to seek out customized, quality education options, including civics and history courses. Imagine being able to pay for a history lesson being taught at a local university or on location at a historical site such as Gettysburg or Mount Vernon. Or, imagine, as education savings accounts allow, being able to hire a private tutor to teach a civics lesson, or to pay for on online history course.

Additionally, schools would have to compete for students and would have more pressure to give children a civics education their parents find satisfactory.

As American Legislative Exchange Council’s Inez Feltscher, my wife, noted in a paper about 21st century education savings account reform:

In an [education savings account] world, Hillsdale College, BJU Press [a source for Christian education materials], and college and career-ready standards would compete alongside dozens of other educational visions, from Howard Zinn’s ‘People’s History’ to hands-on learning to STEM-focused blended learning. An education system that allows parents, not politicians and bureaucrats, to resolve the tensions between different visions of the purpose of education is key for America’s diverse republic.

The depressing studies demonstrating rampant historical and civic illiteracy should provoke a sense of urgency rather than hopelessness. Future voters have a right to know what has gone before and we have the tools to make that happen, and parents should have the right to place their children in an educational environment that aligns with their values, civic and otherwise. The turnaround starts with educational choice.


NAACP Votes to Keep Students Enslaved

Charter schools are one of the few bright areas of America’s otherwise floundering education system. Sadly, that’s one of the reasons they are also the subject of fierce opposition. The Left’s utter hostility to school choice was on full display this weekend when the NAACP agreed to ratify “a resolution … adopted by delegates at its 2016 107th National Convention calling for a moratorium on charter school expansion and for the strengthening of oversight in governance and practice.” The board listed four conditions that must be met in order for it to retract its position on charter schooling:

(1) Charter schools are subject to the same transparency and accountability standards as public schools (2) Public funds are not diverted to charter schools at the expense of the public school system (3) Charter schools cease expelling students that public schools have a duty to educate and (4) Cease to perpetuate de facto segregation of the highest performing children from those whose aspirations may be high but whose talents are not yet as obvious.

The response from lower-income Americans should be nothing short of outrage. For many children — particularly minorities — charter schooling offers one of the few options they have of escaping the systemic problems associated with inner city public schools. But it seems leftists are more concerned with eliminating all options that don’t include public schools than they are on fixing the problems of their own making. As The Wall Street Journal editors put it, “If these gentry progressives are waiting for urban schools to reform without competition from charters or vouchers they are consigning generations of children to diminished lives.”

Another person who seems willing to cosign generations of children to diminished lives is Hillary Clinton, who columnist John Goodman says “has been inching ever closer to the teacher union view of the world” even though the evidence points to significant improvement in charter schools. According to Goodman:

A Stanford University study found that charter schools significantly improve the performance of children in urban areas and this is especially true for black, Hispanic, low-income and special needs students in math and in reading. Even the very liberal New York Times editorial page endorses charter schools. Yet I have seen no mention of how charter schools benefit students in Clinton emails so far. Oh, but of course. The kids don’t get to vote.
No, but parents can. And they “vote for charters with their feet when spaces are available,” the editors at WSJ write. At the rate the NAACP is going, there’s going to be a lot more stomping in the months and years to come.


Furious parents slam British school after pupils as young as 11 are asked to research essay on ABORTION

Furious parents have hit out at a school after pupils as young as 11 were asked to research and write an essay on abortion. Parents have criticised teachers at Murray Park School in Mickleover, Derby, for setting the project on the controversial subject.

Year 8 pupils - aged between 11 and 13 - were asked to look into UK laws and Christian beliefs on the matter.

They were then set an essay titled: 'The abortion laws in the UK are wrong and should be changed.

'Do you agree or disagree with this statement? Explain and justify your opinion.'

The class was given the homework a week ago and told to complete it by the end of the half-term holiday next week.

But some parents have slammed the school for setting the essay on such a sensitive subject at a young age and refused to let their children complete it.

One mother, who didn't want to be named, said her son deliberately left his homework on the window sill so she would find it and ask about it.

She added: 'He didn't want to bring the subject up himself and when I saw what it was about, I understood his reluctance.

'Myself and several other parents are concerned that this subject was not age appropriate and in researching the subject, the youngsters would be exposed to issues surrounding abortion such as rape.

'I am not sure that every child will have been taught sufficient sex education to put abortion into context. 'This seems morality-based rather than informative.'

Parents said they had been in touch with the school but received no response and had checked whether similar projects were set at other schools.

The mother added: 'I do not think other schools asks their pupils to do this kind of project on this subject at the age of 12.'

Father Paul Kennedy, 38, of Derby, added: 'I think it's a disgrace that they are teaching such a controversial subject at such a young age.

'They are barely teenagers and yet they are being exposed to extremely sensitive matters, which I don't think are appropriate at their age.'

Other parents took to social media to express their dismay at the decision to set the abortion homework.

Writing on Facebook, Sven Gem said: 'This isn't right yes, especially when 12 year olds shouldn't even be thinking about babies never mind abortions.'

Tania Wilson added: 'My son is 12 in January. He isn't aware of abortions or the consequences/thoughts on this and I don't want him to either.

'I ensure he doesn't experience things that are not age appropriate but understands things like sex ed as we discuss it at his level. 'I agree children need to be aware of how other religions view issues but I feel this is slightly too much for a young age.'

But other parents defended the school and said pupils aged 11 should be mature enough to learn about abortion laws.

Suzey Fletcher wrote: 'My son is in year 8 at this school and he has been set this homework. Initially he said I'm not doing it as no one else in the class is doing it.

'But then we sat down and discussed it so he understood what abortion was and what the UK rules are and how it's viewed in different religions and the reasons why people may choose this option. It was then down to him to pen an informed view of the subject armed with the relevant information.

'I don't see it as a bad thing that kids this age know the facts, I would rather this than subjects that are awkward getting swept under the carpet and becoming a taboo resulting in ill-informed young adults -who god forbid ever find themselves in a situation where abortion is an option and don't even know what it is.'

Michelle Hawley added: 'I don't see a problem with this personally as children now days are having sexual encounters at a young age so surely it's a good thing to teach them consciences and the options available if they did get into that situation.'

The PSHE Association - which provides materials for personal, social and health education in schools - was not involved in this particular project.

But a spokesman said: 'We aren't able to provide information on this particular school and situation.

'But the Department for Education's statutory sex and relationship education guidance from the year 2000 states that 'young people need to be aware of the moral and personal dilemmas involved in abortion and know how to access a relevant agency if necessary'.

'Parents have a right to question what goes on in their child's school but we would expect the best way to resolve issues or differences of opinion is for parents to communicate with the school and governing body directly.'

Murray Park School is a mixed secondary school in Derby which caters for boys and girls between 11 and 16. It had 860 pupils on the school roll when it was rated as 'good' at its last Ofsted inspection in June 2014.  The school previously hit the headlines in 2007 when it became the first in Britain to offer skateboarding on its PE curriculum.

A spokesman said asking Year 8 pupils to research an essay on abortion was 'entirely reasonable'.

They added: 'The delivery of moral and ethical education to young people at the school has been praised by various parties over many years and we are always concerned to reflect on what we do and get this right.

'In this case we have, entirely reasonably, used this topic as part of the KS3 syllabus which requires us to 'explore significant moral and ethical questions and choices' where we feel that groups are ready and able to discuss such matters.

'The task was presented in such a way as to allow students to provide a balanced argument in a response to a statement which is common practice. 'Students were also provided alternative tasks if they chose.

'Whilst we are confident we have acted reasonably and in line with guidelines in this instance, we are keen to ensure that we always work in partnership with parents and will now review the curriculum content in this area across the school.

'We will continue to respect parental rights to withdraw their children from elements of the curriculum and to listen to their views about how our curriculum is structured if they raise these concerns with the school.'