Friday, December 16, 2016

Eat, pray, study: Holy Cross students learn the language of serenity

Prepping for college finals can be a pageant of miseries: staggering through the overheated library in search of study space. Scarfing animal crackers from the dorm vending machine at 2 a.m. Trying to sleep through the rager next door.

But for the three dozen Holy Cross students who spent last weekend on an “Eat, Pray, Study” retreat at the college’s new contemplative center, the pre-exam period was positively restorative. Ensconced in the hilltop haven — more boutique hotel than monastery — they curled up in armchairs to review class notes and sipped cucumber- and mint-infused water from mason jars. They prayed, meditated, and practiced yoga at twilight in the glass-walled chapel.

After living cheek-by-jowl in dorms, where showering might involve someone warbling in the next stall, the weekend was a world apart.

“It’s so quiet,” marveled Julia D’Agostino, a freshman, a few hours into her stay. “At school, you’re very rarely by yourself.”

The College of the Holy Cross, like other Jesuit schools, has a long tradition of sending students on five-day silent retreats to practice a short version of the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola. Ignatius, who founded the religious order in the 16th century, devised the regime of prayer, meditation, and contemplation of the Gospels to help foster a personal and intimate experience of God’s love and guidance.

Participation in retreats has more than doubled over the last dozen years, to about 500 students annually. The trend, college chaplains say, partly reflects students’ growing need for respite from a culture of frenetic overcommitment, digital distraction, and gnawing worry.

“Students are so much more anxious than they were when I first came here” 25 years ago, said Marybeth Kearns-Barrett, director of the chaplains’ office. Retreats — which the college now offers in a variety of themes and lengths — offer “the opportunity to step away, to experience the sense of being loved — because sometimes these anxieties are people grasping for something. There is nothing grounding them,” she said.

The experience can transform young lives, said Megan Fox-Kelly, director of retreats at the college. She still has a letter that her grandfather, Frank J. Kinney Jr., wrote to his mother after a retreat he made as a Holy Cross student in January 1929. His days in silence, he wrote, were “the three days of my life which, if it were possible, I would like most to live over again. . . . Many of the problems of my life have been solved.”

Jesuit retreat houses in Gloucester and Weston hosted the retreats until the opening this fall of the Thomas P. Joyce Contemplative Center, a 34,000-square-foot building set on 52 acres in West Boylston, a short ride from the school’s campus in Worcester. The new space — which cost $22 million, $18 million of which was raised through gifts — has allowed the college to create programs for alumni and faculty, too.

This past weekend’s 29-hour retreat was a bit of an experiment, designed to be a doorway in to Ignatian spirituality. The idea was to offer a quiet place for students to study and unwind during the term’s most stressful period and to reconnect with their sense of God’s calling for their lives. It was also meant to teach lifelong techniques for slowing down and focusing.

“When you’re stressed out, you don’t do your best work,” Kearns-Barrett said at the brief orientation.

As the students arrived in their hoodies and Uggs, they seemed stunned by their surroundings — slate floors, vaulted ceilings, spectacular views of the Wachusett Reservoir. “I’m going on every single retreat!” one student breathed.

Freshman Riley Benner, who handed out bundles of towels and sheets for students to take back to their rooms, said he was ready to start chipping away at three papers and studying for two exams.

“I get distracted pretty easily,” he said. “I figured this would be a good opportunity to get away.”

After an introductory gathering and prayer — Sarah Fontaine-Lipke, the retreat leader, urged the group to put their phones on airplane mode — they sat down to homemade calzones and fire-roasted vegetable soup. (The “eat” part of the retreat was no joke: The chef proudly displays a letter from a student who visited in October, thanking the staff for their “extraordinary cooking,” which she said helped her overcome her eating disorder.)

Each of the young men and women carried along a litany of stressors: Ameer Phillips, a senior Spanish major on a pre-business track, was thinking not just of the 35 pages due by the week’s end but of postgraduation uncertainty. Vidya Madineedi, a freshman, had to write a sociology paper and prepare for exams in biology and psychology.

“We experienced finals in high school, but it’s nothing like what we’re experiencing now, with papers, projects, presentations,” she said.

Social media only amplifies the stress, said her friend, D’Agostino.

A friend shared “something about how some school decided, we’re going to have a group cry. BYOT — bring your own tissues,” she said, half-laughing. “Is that how I should feel?”

After lunch, some headed to a half-hour meditation class in the chapel, sitting on cushions before the floor-to-ceiling windows. Then, they settled in to study, write — or, in some cases, take an overdue nap.

The afternoon sun quickly faded, and a few students ventured into the frigid air outside, crunching over the snow-encrusted lawn. Others gathered in the chapel for a slow-flow yoga class as the sky turned from lavender to indigo, amplifying the glow of candles set around the room and the constellation of glittering softball-sized lights hanging from the ceiling. The lighting is a reference to the stars Ignatius contemplated on Roman rooftops 500 years ago.

Late in the evening, Fontaine-Lipke led an examen — a prayerful reflection on the day and a renewal of intentions for the next.

A few students woke early enough to watch the rising sun illuminate the mist over the reservoir. At morning prayer, Fontaine-Lipke read a Gospel passage about Jesus retreating from the crowds to rest and talk to God. “If Jesus needed time to recharge, so do you,” she said.

Then a breakfast of eggs, freshly baked muffins, and coffee.

“I was able to concentrate so well in my little room,” said Jaqueline Alvarez, a first-year student who spent some of her time preparing for a political science exam.

Later, as the light in the sky began to fade again, the students collected their books and clothes and gathered for a final moment together.

Each wrote a word or a phrase on a small card to remind them of their respite in the stressful days to come: “calm,” “peace,” “a good night’s sleep.”

“It was great,” said Phillips, as he prepared to board a bus back to campus. Speaking for pretty much everyone, he added with a smile: “It would be even better it were two nights.”


Scottish pupils are failing in the basics, say teachers

New figures indicate that standards decline generally throughout primary school

More than a quarter of children in Scotland cannot read, write or count to an acceptable standard by the time they finish primary school, according to teachers.

In findings that are likely to anger parents and have heaped fresh pressure on the SNP government, a stark attainment gap between the rich and poor was also confirmed, with the gulf widening as pupils progress through the school system.

The figures indicate that standards decline generally throughout primary school, with 28 per cent of children not hitting the expected benchmark in reading by P7.

Meanwhile, 35 per cent fall short in writing, 32 per cent underperform in numeracy and 23 per cent do not make the grade in listening and talking.


Bank and major universities launch Australian-first employment program for PhD students

Westpac and the Group of Eight (Go8) have partnered to offer the first program in Australia for Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) students with a focus on Science, Technology, Engineering, or Mathematics (STEM) to undertake employment with the Westpac Group during their studies.

The STEM PhD program was established in recognition of the importance of the STEM fields to the future of Australia and offers students paid, part-time employment with the Westpac Group while they undertake their PhD research at a Go8 university.

This joint collaboration between Westpac and the Go8 is the first of its kind in Australia and aims to deliver both greater research outcomes as well as to professionally develop researchers who can make an enhanced contribution to the economy.

Westpac Group General Manager for Enterprise HR Strategy & Services, Shenaz Khan, said the partnership forms part of Westpac Group’s investment in innovation and commitment to diversity. “There are huge gains to be made by connecting some of Australia’s best academic minds with Australian businesses,” said Shenaz. “This is a unique opportunity to develop researchers from our top universities as well as to deliver innovative solutions to the challenges we face in the commercial sector.

“A key requirement for the success of this program is a flexible working environment, where students can work on a part time basis and balance their commitments between Westpac and their university. At Westpac, we encourage employees to take advantage of flexible working and development opportunities so we’re well positioned to be the first to offer such a program. I’m confident our collaboration with the Go8 will lead to increasing engagement between academia and industry to benefit all Australians,” added Shenaz.

Chief Executive of the Go8, Vicki Thomson, said the employment program had been an exciting proposition from Westpac and the Go8 was sure it would now become an exemplar for PhD training collaboration.

“We have seen the economic value of such collaborative programs overseas, and the Go8 looks forward to ensuring this first of its kind in Australia delivers two things – encourages other companies to follow the Westpac lead, and illustrates the commitment to excellence of both Westpac and the Go8,” she said.

The successful students will undertake two 24-month rotations within selected business units at Westpac Group from February 2017. Students will be matched with a mentor who will guide them through their experience, providing mentorship, introductions and advice on how to balance their commitments.

Students will also participate in a professional development program which will be tailored to their skills and the development areas they nominate.

Karina Mak, a first year PhD student at the University of Sydney, Faculty of Science, has been selected to commence the STEM PhD program with Westpac in February 2017. “I’m excited to start at Westpac in the New Year. This is a fantastic and unique opportunity for PhD students to graduate with practical, on-the-job experience.

It’s encouraging to see that a company like Westpac is supporting STEM disciplines and emerging research that align with their commercial interests,” said Karina.

Press release

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Do Australian schools need more money, or better spending?

The article below asks the right question but is poor at answering it.  It starts out saying that educational success has little to do with money but then quotes a do-gooder saying that money is the key.  It also breastbeats about the bad performance by poor students and pretends that this can be improved.  It cannot.  Not by very much anyway.  Generally speaking, the poor are poor because they have low IQs -- and there is no remedy for that.

The two things that are REALLY needed to lift standards are:  1). Adoption of teaching methods that work -- e.g. phonics in literacy teaching; and 2). Segregating or effectively disciplining unruly students.  Unruly students take away time that should be used for teaching and make the classroom an unattractive place for potential teachers

It would also help if results from Aboriginal kids were reported separately and removed from the overall data.  School attendance is often very patchy among Aborigines and no teaching method is going to work on students who are not there

The relationship between spending and performance is not a simple one

Many countries that got similar average maths scores spent very different amounts on education — and many countries that spent about the same had very different scores.

For example, Australia's score in maths is better than the UK and the US, which each spent more per student.

But Australia's score is well below Korea, Estonia and Poland, who spent between $12,000 and $28,000 less on each student than Australia did.

Overall, the relationship between spending and results was not significant once spending per student passed above US$50,000.

In other words, take out the countries that are not spending very much, and the correlation between spending and performance disappears.

This tallies with Education Minister Simon Birmingham's comments that Australian school funding is at record levels and the focus can no longer be on how much money is being spent.
So how can Australia improve its schools?

Pete Goss from the Grattan Institute says that what matters most for Australia now is not how much money goes into education, but how the money is spent.

"To make sure money is well spent, step one is to distribute to the schools who need it most," he said.

"Step two is that whatever money schools get, it must be spent as effectively as possible on teaching approaches that have been shown to work and are cost effective.

"One side of politics seems to focus more on step one, where money is distributed. The other side focuses more on step two, how money is spent. "We have to get both right."

Laura Perry, associate professor of education policy at Murdoch University, says Australian education has a "distribution problem rather than an absolute funding problem".

"The biggest problem ... is we don't give as much money to the schools that really need it and we tend to give money to the schools that don't need it," she said.

Globally, the PISA data shows that students who are at a socio-economic disadvantage are almost three times more likely to fail to reach a baseline skill level in science.

A 'fair' education system was defined as one where a student's result reflects their ability, rather than things they can't control, like their socio-economic status.

On some measures of fairness, Australia fell below the average among the 35 OECD countries being compared.

Coming from an advantaged background in Australia adds 44 points to a student's science score for every unit increase in socio-economic advantage.

In many countries, including Vietnam, Canada and China, education was more equal than in Australia.

What's the result of unequal schooling?

The difference in education equality in different countries is most obvious in how the bottom quarter of students fares in each country.

Although Australia's bottom and top quarter of students are performing better than the OECD average, the bottom quarter is performing much worse than the bottom quarter in Singapore, Vietnam, Estonia and Japan.

Professor Perry says Canada is the most relevant comparison to Australia.

"We can say that low socio-economic status students ... perform much better in Canada than Australia," she said.

"If you look at the total average [score] for each country, it's higher in Canada and that's the main reason why."
Australia worst in OECD on staffing gap

Professor Perry says one of the explanations for the poor performance of Australia's lowest socio-economic students is their poor access to qualified teachers.

The gap between rich and poor schools' ability to attract qualified teachers in Australia is the largest in the OECD.

The data was gathered by asking principals how much their school's ability to teach students was affected by having unqualified or poorly qualified teachers.

Australian principals in schools in high socio-economic areas gave very different answers from those in poorer areas.

Shortages of qualified teachers were more likely in Australian public schools than private schools.

The same goes for education materials — things like IT equipment, classroom and laboratory materials. Only Mexico, Spain and Turkey had a more unequal split in terms of access to material.

Sue Thompson, director of educational monitoring for the Australian Council for Educational Research, says lots of students, particularly in junior secondary school, are being taught by teachers out of their field of expertise.

One Australian study showed that about 38 per cent of students were being taught by teachers not qualified in maths and science.

These teachers are limited both in their ability to find ways to teach the bottom-performing students, and to challenge the top students, Dr Thompson says.

"All of the OECD research on disadvantaged students shows that by lifting the success of disadvantaged students, you would increase the system as a whole but also you gain on the performance of the high-achieving students as well, as a result of better teaching," she said.

Professor Perry says the amount of social segregation between schools has become a "vicious cycle" in Australia: as teacher shortages become more pronounced in lower socio-economic schools, parents choose to avoid those schools, perpetuating the problem.

"A low socio-economic school, another word for that is a hard-to-staff school," she said.


Try Parental Choice to Reverse Poor Global Rankings

By the year 2000, American “students must be first in the world in math and science achievement.” That’s what President George H. W. Bush insisted in his 1990 State of the Union address.

Two leading international exams confirm we’re still not even close.

Results from the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) show that eighth grade math performance has improved slightly from 2011 (p. 8). However, there has been no statistical improvement in average fourth grade math and science performance or average eighth grade science performance since 2011 (pp. 7, 16 and 17).

That’s the good news. By the time American students approach the end of high school, they rank in the lower half of developed countries.

Results from the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) indicate that the average reading and science performance of American 15-year-olds is essentially flat compared to 2012, and that math performance has declined (pp. 15, 17, 20, 23, and 26).

This performance is not because the U.S. has more socio-economically disadvantaged students. Nor is it because the U.S. doesn’t spend enough. Currently we spend over $15,000 per pupil—more than every developed country except Luxembourg and Switzerland.

Results such as these also undermine claims that Washington, DC-driven Common Core standards are improving student achievement elsewhere.

For all the promises made by elected officials over the past several decades, not to mention all their costly federal programs, plans, and spending, American students still perform toward the bottom of the pack internationally. In 2015, compared to 35 developed countries, the U.S. ranked 19th in science, 20th in reading, and 31st in math (p. 18).

To be sure, there is no silver bullet when it comes to improving academic achievement for all American students. But one thing is clear: Washington, DC, does not know best when it comes to educating other people’s children.

Federal funding for K-12 education alone has increased by more than $17 billion since 2000 in real, inflation-adjusted dollars, and now stands at nearly $78 billion annually. Yet we have little to show for in terms of improved academic performance relative to our peers.

A growing body of evidence suggests that schools improve when they compete for students and their associated funding. If we’re serious about competing globally when it comes to academic performance, then we need to replace our top-down, one-size-fits all system with universal parental choice in education.


Snowflakes at AU retreat to 'stress free zone' for cocoa, corn hole

Students at American University can now escape from their final exams in the school’s all-inclusive “stress free zone” complete with board games and snacks.

A sign located outside the school’s new “stress free zone” in the Terrace Dining Room warns approaching students that there is “absolutely no studying for finals, looking at flashcards” or “calculating grades…tolerated beyond this point.”

“Relax! Enjoy your food! Play games!” the jovial sign advises students, who were also afforded the opportunity to partake in a nearby “Stress Less Fest” where they would be given “de-stress kits” while they sip “hot cocoa” and play “corn hole.”

Apparently, the “de-stress kits” came with a free stash of granola bars and soothing teas for students to enjoy while they study, along with a warning that alcohol and marijuana are ineffective ways of de-stressing.

“Using alcohol to de-stress may cause trauma to the brain's neurotransmitters. Because it’s a depressant, it causes the brain to slow down,” a brochure placed in the “de-stress kits” informs students, adding that “smoking marijuana can increase anxiety in the long-term” while “cigarettes contain stimulants, such as nicotine, that can increase stress levels.”

American University, though, is not the only school hosting a “Stress Less Fest” for its students, with places such as the University of Missouri, Kansas City offering “adult coloring and healthy snacks.”

Similarly, the University of South Carolina at Chapel Hill hosted a de-stressing event last year before final exams where students could play in a “giant ball pit” and make their own “s’mores kit.”


Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Schools in many parts of Australia are a study in self-segregation

So what?  People are still free to choose the company they keep as far as I know.  It is enforced or legal segregation that is problematical.  The big beef below is that parents avoid sending their kids to schools with big African populations.  That happens in the USA and UK too.  Why?  Because of the high incidence of aggressive and criminal behaviour among Africans.  Even Leftists avoid Africans

Public and private schools in Sydney’s north epitomise a broader racial polarisation within our school system, an ethnic divide that has academics and community leaders concerned we are creating schoolyard monocultures that fail to reflect the increasingly diverse society in which we live and work.

Demographic statistics from My School demonstrate how this polarisation affects academically high-flying as well as low-performing schools, rural schools and campuses in progressive suburbs in inner Sydney and Melbourne. Moreover, researchers warn this ethnic segregation parallels a drift towards private schools and academically stronger government schools that is creating a rump of "residual" public schools in which profoundly disadvantaged students, among them indigenous, refugee or non-English-speaking children, are often concentrated.

All of which raises the question: as the nation becomes more multicultural, are our schools ­becoming more racially segre­gated?

"I think our schools are ­becoming more segregated," says Christina Ho, a University of Technology, Sydney, academic who has investigated ethnic segregation at inner-city public schools, private schools and selective government schools.

Referring to Sydney’s lower north shore, Ho says: "I find it quite staggering that you can have schools that are so (ethnically) different from each other, and yet you can probably walk between two of them in 10 minutes. Why are families self-segregating?"

A senior lecturer at UTS’s faculty of arts and social sciences, Ho says this segregation is also found in gentrified, bohemian ­enclaves in Sydney and Melbourne. In these inner-city areas, the economic and racial divide is not nec­es­sarily the familiar one separating private and public schools; often the gulf is between white-dominated public schools with a privileged parent cohort and highly diverse public schools with economically disadvantaged parents.

During the past year, an incendiary debate has erupted in Victoria about "white flight" from disadvantaged public schools in Melbourne’s trendy inner north. Here, social housing towers built in the 1960s, home to a large population of mostly African refugees, loom sentinel-like over tastefully renovated Victorian terraces worth ­between $1 million and $2m. Fitzroy and Carlton are renowned for their 19th-century architecture, cosmopolitan food cultures, alternative arts scene and ardent support for the Greens — the area’s federal MP is the Greens’ Adam Bandt. Two schools that feature prominently in the white-flight ­debate were polling booths at the July election, and returned the ­nation’s highest two-party-preferred vote for the minority party, which has pro-refugee and asylum-seeker policies. At Fitzroy Primary School, the Greens attracted 82.4 per cent of the two-party-preferred vote, while a short distance away at the whiter, more ­advantaged North Fitzroy Primary School, the Greens won 81 per cent of the two party preferred vote.

The local council, City of Yarra, says the district has been a proud "Refugee Welcome Zone since 2002". Yet in Fitzroy, Carlton and surrounding suburbs, progressive, middle-class families have been accused of shunning public schools with high refugee populations.

"They are fleeing!" African community leader and former refugee Abeselom Nega says of white, inner-city families who apparently are rejecting diverse schools. This year, in a Melbourne newspaper, Nega accused families who avoided inner-Melbourne schools with large African-­Australian student cohorts of ­racism.

"The white parents don’t send their kids to these schools because all they see is black kids," he claimed. Nega admits to Inquirer that this allegation is "a big call. But in the absence of proper explanations as to why this has taken place, it can only be explained in the way I have said it." He chuck­les ruefully as he notes:  The irony is, in these places, the residents can be described as progressive; that is the contradiction."

The latest (2015) statistics from the My School website tell a story of stark ethnic segregation in these Greens-supporting precincts. Low-fee Catholic and public schools located near housing commission apartments in Fitzroy, Carlton and Flemington are clearly out of favour with Anglo parents. Between 90 per cent and 94 per cent of the students who attend Fitzroy Primary, Carlton Primary and Sacred Heart primary are from non-English-speaking or ­indigenous backgrounds. Only 3 per cent of Sacred Heart’s parents are in the top SES quarter, a measure of parents’ social and educational advantage.

Yet at nearby schools Fitzroy North Primary, Princes Hill Primary and Carlton North Primary, about 70 per cent of parents — ­almost three times the national ­average — are in the top SES bracket, while less than one third of students across these schools have LOTE backgrounds.

This ­entrenched racial and class division continues into high school. At the high-performing Princes Hill Secondary College, which hand-picks two-thirds of its student body, just 15 per cent of students are from LOTE families, while 68 per cent of parents are drawn from the top SES quarter.

Roughly 4km away is Mount Alexander College, where Nega sits on the school council. This recently renamed high school is within 500m of the Flemington public housing estate. Last year 71 per cent of Mount ­Alexander’s students were from LOTE backgrounds and 12 per cent of its parents were in the top SES quarter. In 2008, 60 per cent of the college’s parents were in the top bracket, suggesting a radical flight of higher-income families from the school.

While parents jostle to get their children into high-achieving inner-city public schools such as Princes Hill Secondary and Melbourne Girls College, Mount Alexander is only half full. The good news is that under a dynamic new principal, enrolments have risen 15 per cent this year, while the school’s top graduating students regularly achieve Australian Tertiary Admission Rank results in the 90s. Even so, Nega says the risk of the white exodus is that migrant children — in this case, African-background students — graduate from school with no contacts or friendships within the Anglo-Australian community, thus creating a deep sense of isolation.

Nega is the founder and chief executive of iEmpower, an organisation that aims to steer young ­African-Australians away from the justice system and into jobs. Many of his clients are young men who arrived in Australia in the 1990s as orphaned refugees and still live in housing commission flats in inner Melbourne. He ­believes that if the present generation of African school students are confined to schools filled with fellow refugees, while living among other Africans in social housing, "they are missing out. These kids will go into the labour market not having the opportunity to deal with (a diverse environment). I think it’s highly disadvantageous to those communities. We are also hearing some anecdotal evidence that even some exclusive public schools are excluding some sections of our community."

Princes Hill Secondary, one of Victoria’s top-performing government high schools, enrols out-of-area students on the basis of "curriculum grounds". To gain admis­sion, out-of-area students must have studied at least two musical instruments or been immersed in French — the kind of skills a refugee child from a single-parent home is unlikely to possess.

Nega says, "Everyone wants the best for their children; I get that." On the other hand, if even progressive parents avoid diverse schools, "knowing who is going to be left behind, I don’t know whether the response stacks up. You can’t have a voice saying, ‘Well, I am a progressive and I ­believe in multiculturalism and I want to be inclusive,’ and then not practise it."

For Vinu Patel, the decision to send his children to the solidly middle-class North Fitzroy Primary School was "very simple. It was the closest school to our home, so it was the obvious and natural choice, and it had a good name." Patel is president of North Fitzroy Primary’s parents association and he says the school is diverse in ways the My School data fails to reflect — there are same-sex parents, single parents as well as African and Asian parents with children at the school.

"It’s not just racial backgrounds, it’s all types of diversity," he says, adding that this was one of the key factors that drew his family to the campus. "It’s like licorice allsorts around here," jokes the management consultant who is of Indian and Malaysian heritage, and whose children are in Year 3 and Year 6.

Nevertheless, Patel does know of some parents who are in the catchment for the underprivileged Fitzroy Primary but have made a "conscious decision" to go to wealthier, less diverse North Fitzroy. He says accusing such parents of racism is "unfair. To call it ­racism is a big stretch. We are all trying to find the best education and best environment for our kids, and parents will do anything to achieve that as an outcome. It’s a rational response for many parents."

While Ho has documented class and ethnic segregation in Sydney schools, she says "the scale of that division (in Melbourne) did surprise me. I’ve been looking at that in terms of inner Sydney and I haven’t seen it to the same extent." Still, she says the trend is occurring in Sydney’s inner suburbs where, again, many progressives and Greens voters live.

Last year the academic co-authored a study on diversity and gentrifying school communities, focusing on two schools, Glebe and Forest Lodge public schools, in the city’s inner west. These schools, says Ho, are walking distance apart but Forest Lodge is "much wealthier and much more Anglo-Australian" while Glebe, closer to public housing, "is much more disadvantaged, more Aboriginal and has more kids from non-English-speaking backgrounds".

"So you definitely have that segregation, and I think you’d see that in a lot of suburbs, but especially where you have a concentration of public housing in an area that is gentrifying," Ho says. "You literally have these people buying up $1m, $2m houses that are next to social housing."

My School statistics reveal a pattern of racial and economic division across other inner-west public schools in Sydney. Only 16 per cent of students at Annandale North Public School have LOTE backgrounds, while 75 per cent of the parents come from the top SES quarter. It’s a similar situation at Newtown Public School — located in a suburb with a distinct bohemian vibe — where 80 per cent of the student body is white. Contrast these schools’ demographics to that of tiny Catholic school Our Lady of Mount Carmel Primary at Waterloo, which is near a cluster of social housing towers similar to those in inner Melbourne. Of 120 students at Mount Carmel, 71 per cent are Aboriginal and a further 25 per cent are from LOTE backgrounds. Although 90 per cent of this school’s students live in public housing, their academic results are improving significantly.

Ho argues that gentrifiers’ support for multiculturalism rarely extends to school choice. "When we interviewed people who had moved into inner Sydney, sometimes from more suburban areas, they would say, ‘Oh the restaurants and the diversity and we just love the gritty, urban feel,’ but that stops at the school gate," she says.

"They’re happy to eat at ethnic restaurants but they’re not neces­sarily happy for their kids to go to school with minority kids who might be ‘rough’ " — she says this in a sarcastic tone — "or who might be pulling their kids down or who don’t speak English. So there’s an acceptance of diversity that stops when it comes to ‘my own kids’. We saw that a lot."

Is this white flight a form of ­racial prejudice, as has been claimed? "I think that’s simplistic," responds Ho. "Sometimes I think it is overt racism but most of the time I think it’s a lot more complex than that."

She says school segregation is the result of ethnic and class factors that "work in different ways. There are some ethnic minority groups that people see as disadvantaged and dragging down their kids potentially … At the other end of the spectrum, you have avoidance of schools that are seen as Asian because they’re too successful. The students work too hard.

"There’s a strange combination of race and class which operates at different points on the spectrum. I’m quite saddened by both of those (trends), particularly in the inner-city areas where people have moved because they say they like the diversity.

Trevor Cobbold, a Canberra-based economist and convener from Save Our Schools, a lobby group for public education, says segregation in the nation’s schools "creates larger achievement gaps between schools because generally it’s the upper-income people that move. When you have schools with high concentrations of high disadvantage, that makes it really difficult to improve results."

He also warns that "for a highly successful multicultural society this is a very worrying trend ­because it has strong social implications about how our society works in the future". If students don’t grow up with other children of different ethnicities and class backgrounds, "it is going to be hard to expect people to do that in the workforce and in society more generally. In the past, Australia has been pretty successful at that."

What is driving this racial and economic segregation? Cobbold and Ho cite factors including rising parental anxiety about education; government policies en­couraging parental choice and the growth of private schools; ­income inequality; and a loosening of some public school catchments — again, to facilitate parental choice.

Ho says we have long been aware of a racial divide in rural areas between heavily indigenous schools and other schools. But since 2010 the My School website has provided information about the ethnic composition of every Aus­tralian school. "It was a revelation to me when those statistics came out," says the outspoken ­researcher, as the website exposed economic and racial gulfs across the nation. Less positively, she says, the website is "feeding into that culture of school shopping".

Recent research by think tank the Centre for Policy Development reveals a significant shift in enrolments away from disadvantaged public schools towards private schools and higher-perform­ing public schools. The re­searchers, retired school principals Chris Bonnor and Bernie Shepherd, found that parents were using National Assessment Program — Literacy and Numeracy results (also ­recorded on My School) to seek out better-performing schools. They warned this was creating a two-tiered education system comprising advantaged private and public schools and struggling public schools.

Cobbold contends that "unfortunately, I think a certain part of our community wants their children to go to school with kids that look alike or have similar cultural backgrounds. That is a factor, that there are some families who want to get away from the mob — the mob may be low-SES families or families from different ethnic communities." He says that apart from My School’s demographic statistics, "we’ve got no real overview or systematic study of what’s happened with ethnic segregation. I think it involves both race and class and the two factors interact."

When it comes to multiculturalism and independent schools — the least diverse school sector — Sydney Grammar principal John Vallance insists that "you can’t really generalise. Even the most expensive private schools are often far more diverse than you might expect." Even so, he believes "the more diverse a school population, the better the school. This is not just a matter of occupying the moral high ground. A ­diverse student body makes for a richer experience.

According to My School, the academically selective Sydney Grammar has a more diverse student population (25 per cent of its students have LOTE backgrounds) than most other elite private schools and some public schools. This reflects an intentional policy on Vallance’s part. "I have been keen," he says, "to stress the school’s status as an inclusive, secular institution — something unusual amongst traditional private schools — and I think this makes us more attractive to a wider range of people … Throughout its modern history, we have ­always had a high population of migrant families or the sons of ­migrant families." Every year the $32,000 a year school offers scholarships and most of those who sit for the scholarship test are from Asian backgrounds. Does this tell us something about how such migrant families value educational opportunity? "Yes indeed it does," replies the headmaster.

This year, self-described "book whisperer" and "PC lefty" Alice Williams bought into Melbourne’s heated schools and ethnicity ­debate and was surprised to find herself the target of "Twitter hate" from other PC lefties. Williams was called a racist — a charge she vehemently denies — after she took issue with the claim white families bypassing multicultural schools were racist.

The author, blogger and mother of one had argued in a comment piece published in The Age that it was "obnoxious" to argue that high-achieving students should remain in disadvantaged schools and "sacrifice their own education to somehow drag up the level of their peers".

Williams tells ­Inquirer she is no "white apologist". Rather, her point was "that it’s far too simplistic to cry ‘racism’ when parents choose not to send their children to underperforming schools. It ­ignores the fact that some schools are under-performing … (because) the kids there are starting from a lower educational base." She adds: "Of course parents aren’t going to want to send their children to schools where they’re not going to get a good educational outcome. That’s not racist. That’s about them wanting what’s best for their child."

Williams feels strongly about this issue partly because her left-wing parents sent her to a low-­performing Melbourne school with a majority migrant student base and a culture of low expectations. She dropped out of univer­sity "because I didn’t know how to study, I’d never had to study" ­before eventually returning to tertiary education and completing a communications degree. "In my experience, any school that has high levels of non-English-speaking students will have low literacy outcomes, and it’s not because of any race," she says. Some schools handle this challenge well, but "we can’t pretend it isn’t an issue".

Williams’s home is in the catchment for the in-demand Princes Hill Primary. Although her son is only five months old, she finds this school off-putting because it is "so incredibly white" and has a low vaccination rate. "It’s all these Greens voters who don’t vaccinate their children," quips the committed Greens voter. This year, two Princes Hill students contracted measles and a further 21 unvaccinated students were sent home — demonstrating how this overwhelmingly Anglo school attracts many nonconformist parents.


Grammars plan: heads tell education secretary of their 'deep opposition'

These heads are not impartial.  They just don't want to be left with "dreg" students only

A group of headteachers of non-selective secondary schools in Kent have written to the education secretary to voice their “deeply held, vehement opposition” to government plans to expand grammar schools across the country.

The group’s views are significant as they work in a county where the 11-plus and selection are still in place, so they have firsthand experience of the impact of grammar schools on non-selective schools in the area and the children who attend them.

The letter to Justine Greening, signed by 33 headteachers of Kent’s secondary non-selective schools and academies, was sent as the government’s consultation on extending selection in education closed on Monday. It warns of “philosophical and systemic flaws” in the proposals and calls for selection in Kent and elsewhere to be abandoned rather than expanded.

Kent is one of the few remaining authorities in England with a selective system. One headteacher of a non-selective secondary who did not want to be identified said he was appalled that more children across the country might have to go through the same experience that Kent children face as a result of government proposals.

The letter, which follows a similar one from concerned headteachers in Surrey, says the advantages for pupils in selective schools are obvious – a confidence boost, a sense of success for selected pupils and their parents, and a culture of high expectations and aspirations.

Those that are not selected, however, are left with a sense of being second best, the letter says. “It certainly serves to erode self-confidence, to limit aspirations and develop a culture of ‘second best’ that good leaders in non-selective schools then spend time undoing so that they can unlock the students’ true potential,” it says.

“The reality is that the students were not selected – this is a clear message and one that is hard to take and even understand for an 11-year-old. We challenge the government to provide convincing evidence to parents, school leaders and children that not being selected aged 11 will motivate any child to make better progress than before.”

The heads argue there is no compelling evidence on which to base the development of a new wave of grammar schools. “The experience of school leaders in Kent should be valued and heard,” the letter says.

“Kent has one of the widest gaps between the achievement of disadvantaged and non-disadvantaged students. The very existence of a two-tier selective system is the biggest cause of this inequality.”

Many in the education sector have made submissions to the government arguing there is no evidence that grammar schools have a positive impact on social mobility. Among them is the National Association of Head Teachers.

“The evidence does not support the expansion of grammar schools. They do not contribute to social mobility and will distract attention from the things that really matter,” said Russell Hobby, the union’s general secretary.

Earlier on Monday a report by the Education Policy Institute said less than 4% of local authority areas in England would see a boost to educational attainment from new grammar schools and attract the necessary parental support to make them a success.

The Department for Education said: “Our proposals are about creating more choice, with more good school places in more parts of the country. We want to do this by lifting the ban on new grammars, and harnessing the resources and expertise of universities, faith schools and independent schools. We welcome contributions to the consultation and will respond in due course.”


Public University Professors Demand "Sanctuary Campus" to Shield Illegal Aliens

Comparing immigration enforcement to "fugitive slave laws," professors at a taxpayer-funded university in south Florida are demanding that the school protect illegal aliens by creating a "sanctuary campus." Students at colleges around the nation have made similar requests to protect undocumented classmates after president-elect Donald Trump vowed to increase deportations and reverse an Obama administration measure that shields those brought to the U.S. illegally as children.

But the Florida professors are blazing the trail as the first faculty members to officially call for campus-wide sanctuary in the aftermath of the presidential election. They work at Florida International University (FIU), a public institution with 54,000 students, more than half of them Hispanic. One of the professors, Asia Eaton, teaches psychology and women's and gender studies and the other, Jason Ritchie, anthropology.

Dozens of other university staff members also signed the document making the sanctuary demand. It starts off like this: "Like many people in South Florida, we were caught off guard by the election." It continues to state that Trump's victory "laid bare the pervasive racism and sexism that have limited the life chances of too many Americans for too long. As a nation, we cannot continue to sweep these problems under the rug."

The professors reveal that they are "deeply worried about the dangers of a Trump presidency" to the well-being of their diverse student body. They specifically mention an Obama amnesty measure known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), which shields thousands of illegal immigrants brought to the U.S. as children "through no fault of their own" from deportation. In many cases, the so-called "dreamers" get driver's licenses, work permits and discounted tuition at public universities such as FIU.

During his campaign Trump said he would terminate DACA along with other Obama amnesty measures. The FIU professors point out that college presidents nationwide have determined that DACA is "both a moral imperative and a national necessity." No further evidence is provided to substantiate that absurd claim, however.

As preposterous as this may sound, the demand gets even crazier when the professors compare the college sanctuary movement to safe havens that shielded individuals and institutions that refused to comply with fugitive slave laws in the 1800s. They refer to it as a tradition in the U.S. of providing safe-haven to vulnerable populations. "In that spirit, we call on our administration to declare Florida International University a sanctuary campus, develop a plan for protecting undocumented students, and refuse to cooperate with any efforts to identify, detain, or deport undocumented students, even if DACA is repealed or any other laws or policies change."

The document further alleges that students are "under attack" and they cannot remain silent.

Students-and some faculty-in dozens of colleges and universities around the country have asked that their fellow undocumented classmates be protected from immigration authorities, but administrations remain largely silent. In Illinois, many of the state's public universities have been under pressure to declare themselves sanctuary campuses for illegal alien students but no official action has been taken.

One of the state's mainstream newspapers reported this week that the campuses have rejected the calls, instead outlining other (unofficial) ways they will offer protections. "The University of Illinois this week became the latest campus to dismiss the idea after thousands signed a petition asking school leaders to adopt the sanctuary label in an effort to protect undocumented students from being targeted for their citizenship status," the article says. "A similar petition at Northwestern University also failed last month."

Unrelated to this matter, but of interesting note is that two veteran FIU professors were convicted of spying for Cuba's communist government over nearly three decades. The husband-and-wife duo, Carlos and Elsa Alvarez, got convicted in a Miami federal court in 2007. Carlos was sentenced to five years in prison for acting as an unregistered Cuban agent and Elsa got three years for harboring her husband's illicit intelligence work and failing to report it to authorities.


Tuesday, December 13, 2016

UK: Why I’m fighting my University's ban on popular newspapers

Banning the sale of tabloids is slippery censorship and should be opposed

I feel like I watched campus democracy finally die last night. In an extraordinary act of authoritarian virtue-signalling at Queen Mary University in London (QMUL), where I’m a student, 13 student councillors revealed their inner tinpot totalitarian by deciding to ban the sale of newspapers on campus.

Like medieval cardinals, these censorious 13 decreed that the content of newspapers such as the Sun, the Daily Mail and the Express is unacceptable, and therefore such papers cannot be sold or bought.

Their illiberal stance echoes a recent similar ban on tabloid newspapers by City University’s Students’ Union (SU), and a ban on the sale of tabloids by Plymouth’s SU. I feel ashamed that QMUL has joined this paternalistic ban-happy club.

The council meeting had a staggering turnout of 25 student representatives. Complete with jazz hands to replace clapping – clapping can trigger distress, apparently – the gathering voted 13-3 in favour of the proposed motion to ban the sale of papers that contain ‘hateful discourse’. The other council members awkwardly chose to abstain from the vote. Cowards.

The representatives claimed that, as the elected spokespeople for QMUL students, they have a mandate to ban the sale of tabloids. One assured us that this motion is ‘supported by an array of migrant-solidarity, refugee-action and international student groups’. Notably, however, not a single one of these talked-up minority groups turned up to defend the motion.

There was much opposition to these student reps haughtily claiming to be censoring in the name of marginalised groups. There was a larger turnout of non-council members (who sadly couldn’t vote on the motion) than at any council meeting in ages. Others expressed their opposition to the ban online – until the council decided to stop (ie, ban) the livecast, too.

I used my two minutes on the platform to defend the right of students to buy and read whatever they like on campus, free from the diktat of a student council telling us which ideas are acceptable and which are not. I suggested that if we are going to ban the sale of newspapers that publish anti-migration stories, then surely we should ban the Labour Party, too? Who can forget that one of Labour’s main policies in the 2015 General Election was to cut immigration, as emblazoned on its ‘controls on immigration’ mugs? This is how ridiculous it is to allow a student council, or anyone, to decide what is offensive, and then to ban it.

Council members said the motion wasn’t about censorship. One said the motion was simply a statement that ‘as a union, we do not support that kind of “journalism”’. They compared their motion to the earlier boycott of Robin Thicke’s song ‘Blurred Lines’ by QMUL’s SU. ‘Idiots were in uproar. [But that] was a statement against rape culture. A gesture. Not censorship’, they insisted.

They protest too much. Make no mistake: a motion to ban the sale and stock of tabloid papers is an act of censorship. It is an attempt to control the distribution of literature on campus. It is about denying the right of students to buy, and also to sell, certain publications. Imagine if a student bookshop were told it could not sell a radical left-wing book or stock the New Statesman: that would be recognised as a political restriction on the right to promote certain material. This is the exact same.

The council members said they were devoted to ‘upholding our values of diversity and inclusivity’. Yet how can an SU be diverse if it restrains certain ways of thinking? By clamping down on newspapers and ‘offensive’ speakers and pop songs and so on, SUs around Britain have shown that they are deeply hostile to diversity of opinion. By ‘diversity’ they really mean ‘we accept everyone so long as they agree with us’.

Student officials love bans. It makes them feel powerful to control what students may buy and read and hear. QMUL’s anti-tabloid warriors received a tweet from the National Union of Students congratulating them on their ban.

What happened at QMUL last night was a disgrace. Thirteen council members, claiming to speak for a population of 22,000 students, expunged newspapers from campus shops. This is not radical; it’s deeply conservative. I’d like to propose my own motion to my fellow students: defy these bans. Bring tabloids on to campus, stock them in your union’s cafes, keep selling them in campus shops, and stand up for free speech. No one, least of all 13 council worthies, should get to tell us what’s ‘acceptable’.


Professor’s anti-Trump classroom rant snowballs into college scandal

A California college student and professor who he recorded criticizing Trump during the class have both fallen under fire amid threats of expulsion and legal action. It is the latest in string of incidences involving teachers expressing their views on President-elect Donald Trump in the classroom.

During a political discussion, Orange Coast College professor Ogla Perez Stable Cox is heard on a recording calling Trump’s election “an act of terrorism.”  “Our nation is divided. We have been assaulted. It is an act of terrorism,” she told the students.

College student, Josh Recalde-Martinez, a member of the school’s Young Republicans Club, told CBSLA he found the remarks insulting and made a video recording of the critique which he posted on YouTube, and it was later shared on Facebook.

Cox, who teaches a course on human sexuality, went on to critique Trump’s cabinet picks, advisers and vice-president elect, Mike Pence. “A white supremacist and a vice president that is one of the most anti-gay humans in this country,” she said.

Recalde-Martinez told CBSLA at that point “it’s not even education anymore. It's indoctrination.”

A lawyer for the Republicans Club filed a formal complaint against the professor accusing her of “hate speech and bullying tactics.”

Coast Federation of Educations circulated a letter on Thursday defending Cox. “This video violates the Coast District student code of conduct and California Education code,” they wrote. “The student(s) involved will be facing discipline.”

The California Education code says a recording in a classroom is prohibited without the prior consent of an instructor.

OCC President Dennis Harkins argued Cox had academic freedom to talk about things and that students aren’t legally allowed to record lectures unless the teacher indicated that it was acceptable. “It’s my understanding that the teacher’s syllabus indicated that recording is not permitted,” Harkins told Coast Report Online.

Cox’s class is one of the most popular on campus and covers topics of gender identity and sexually transmitted diseases.

While in this case it does seem the student violated recording prohibitions, it is the latest instance of a teacher getting into trouble for expressing their views, both left and right, in the classroom.

A teacher in Wesley Chapel, Florida is on administrative leave for reportedly threatening students with deportation. According to a post on by a parent on a student’s Facebook page, the high school teacher and coach John Sousa approached several African-American students in the hallway to ask them what they were doing. He then told them, “don’t make me call Donald Trump to get you sent back to Africa.”

In Tuscaloosa, Alabama, a teacher is on paid administrative leave for using an image of President-elect Donald Trump to criticize President Barack Obama. Northridge High School math teacher Scott Johnson projected an image of Trump in the style of the famous ‘Hope’ poster made famous during Obama’s first campaign. Instead of saying “hope,” though, the image used Trump’s famous tagline from ‘The Apprentice’: “Obama, you’re fired!”

While public school teachers are afforded the right to free speech under the First Amendment of the US Constitution, the freedom doesn’t extend to the classroom because according to the American Civil Liberties Union, public school students are considered “a captive audience.”

“What you say or communicate inside the classroom is considered speech on behalf of the school district and therefore will not be entitled to much protection,” ACLU notes. “Certain types of speech outside the school might also not be protected if the school can show that your speech created a substantial adverse impact on school functioning.”


The classroom is for teaching, not indoctrination

One would have expected the article below to come from a conservative but it is from Karen Brooks, an active Australian Lefty. Is the Trump effect making the Left more cautious?

From today “Teachers for Refugees”, a movement organised by Melbournian Lucy Honan, plan to wear T-shirts to work inscribed with slogans such as “Close the Camps, Bring Them Here” in certain Victorian schools.

They also intend to hold informal discussions with their students about Australia’s shabby treatment of refugees.

While there’s no doubt many Australians who support these sentiments, school is not the place for teachers to propagate personal political opinions.

Queensland teachers have been cautioned not to follow suit and all teachers have been told wearing a piece of politicised clothing could be in breach of their code of conduct.

Honan says those involved are committed to raising awareness of the conditions in offshore detention centres and aligning themselves with refugees, and has accused those admonishing teachers of “bullying”.

I’m disappointed the word “bullying” is being deployed to staunch criticism of what is, frankly, an act that defies both common sense and completely undermines the role and credibility of teachers — who already cop so much (unfair) flack.

The classroom is for teaching, not indoctrination. Even if it’s simply in the form of a slogan on cloth. Words, as we know, are powerful and influential. When it comes to young minds, so is the person in the T-shirt.

Let me make something very clear. Like many Australians, I’m completely sympathetic to the teachers’ views. I abhor our treatment of refugees and my heart aches for children in detention centres.

As any regular reader of this column knows, I’m passionately committed to a range of politically fraught issues. But do I want teachers wearing catchphrases addressing these issues to school? Absolutely not.

Just as I wouldn’t want them wearing shirts shouting: “Stop the boats” or, as Channel 10’s The Project suggested, “Kids deserve a mum and dad”, or anti-abortion mantras.

And herein lies part of the problem. If teachers wanting to instigate change and raise awareness about the atrocious plight of refugees start bringing their opinions so overtly into the classroom, where does it end?

What if the political views of the parents, kids, let alone other colleagues, don’t align with theirs? Will a student speak up? An anxious parent?

Appearing on The Project, Honan argued, “It’s definitely a teacher’s job to stand up to the abuse that’s happening in offshore detention; we’re mandatory reporters...”

No, you’re not. You must report suspected abuse of kids in your direct care but expressing your politics in such an overt way by wearing your heart on your sleeve isn’t “reporting”. It’s emphasising a specific political position. Which is your prerogative — in your private life.

It’s also fine for teachers to share their views with students — of course they should — but in context with others’ and invite students to offer theirs. The classroom isn’t a politically neutral space. The government intervenes in curriculum — what can and cannot be taught; it doles out funding, among other measures. Most subjects have political currency — some more than others, and teachers would be doing students a huge disservice if they didn’t encourage the sharing of distinctive facts and alternate viewpoints in order to help shape opinions.

However, there are so many ways of imparting knowledge, teaching respect for diversity (cultural, religious, racial, ecological, economic, sexual), reasoning how compassion and tolerance are worthy emotions and tools for change, and about consequences for inaction, fascism, wilful ignorance etc.

Teaching great literature, world history, geography, global politics, about war and its aftermath, genocide, science, deforestation, industrialisation and encouraging students to critically think, weigh the pros and cons of a debate and offer a range of perspectives on issues, allows them to form their own conclusions.

These teachers claim they’re professional when approaching the politically sensitive topic of asylum seekers and refugees, offering a range of sources. But, when they wear one standpoint over their hearts, then they privilege this above any others and undermine the appearance of heterogeneity.

We want our kids to make up their own minds (and they do) by being informed, stimulated, and challenged, not by having their often-beloved teachers “recruit” them to political causes.

School is about broadening young minds, not turning them into mini-activists. (Though, if that’s the outcome of a whole education, then so be it.)

With Australian students’ recent drop in global education rankings, this teacher-led crusade, as well-intentioned as it is, could not have come at a worse time.

These privately held, fervent political views reflect a personal humanitarianism to which many of us subscribe. But these should not be used by teachers exploiting their trusted position to promote political crusading or to use our kids as fodder in an ongoing ideological warfare.

This merely provides those who look to denigrate and blame teachers for every social ill with solid ammunition


Monday, December 12, 2016

Australia's Workforce Gender Equality Agency: More men to be recruited as teachers and nurses -- but how?

This is undoubtedly a desirable outcome but legislating for it is not likely to achieve much.  There were once quite a lot of male teachers in the schools.  I was taught by six of them that I can remember.  Where have they gone?  They have gone where a lot of capable female teachers have gone -- to more pleasant employment.  The undisciplined rabble that teachers in Australia's government schools are often confronted with is a pain which anybody with options would avoid. A restoration of discipline, including corporal punishment for chronically unruly kids, would be the first step to getting more male teachers.

Even that, however, could have quite limited results.  Because in the present climate of political correctness, any male engaging in teaching is a huge risk-taker.  There have been in recent years too many instances of disgruntled teenage female students making false complaints against male teachers after getting a poor grade or some other beef.

And the treatment of the male teacher in  such circumstances has usually been abominable -- with no regard for proper judicial procedures and standards or other protections for the falsely accused teacher.  Even the utterly basic  presumption of innocence is often denied, with feminist influence insisting that the presumption of truthfulness must be given to the female students.  And even after exoneration does finally  occur the teacher is still usually left with a shattered life.

Reviving the presumption of innocence would greatly improve the situation and matching all publicity to the publicity given to the complainant would also have a major effect.  If the complainant insists on public anonymity, the accused should get  that too. One imagines that false complainants would be particularly likely to demand no publicity of their identity so suppressing the identity of an accused teacher would be particularly appropriate in those circumstances.

I have no firm comment on men becoming nurses even though I have met and talked with the occasional "Mister Sister" over the years.  I have however heard reports of feminazi nurses finding ways to harass male colleagues -- with false reports etc. That has had distressing results to the harassed males. Once again, insistence on proper judicial proceedings and standards in assessing any complaints would go a long way to achieving a just outcome

MORE men will be recruited as teachers and nurses, as Australia’s sex equality watchdog pushes for "bloke quotas" in schools and hospitals.

The Workforce Gender Equality Agency — the federal government body set up to promote gender equality and equal ­opportunity at work — wants affirmative action to bring more manpower to the "caring professions".

Agency director Libby Lyons called for male recruitment targets to smash the ­"industrial and occupational segregation" which brands teaching and nursing as "women’s work".

"Set a target," she told The Saturday Telegraph. "That’s how you get cultural change."

Ms Lyons, a former teacher, said boys needed male role models in schools, where four out of five primary teachers and 58 per cent of high school teachers are women.

"Until we encourage more men into teaching we’re not going to see little boys feel more secure and thrive as we do little girls," she said.

"There’s no diversity of thought or innovation happening there in the classroom if we are solely relying on females, particularly in primary school."

Ms Lyons called on schools and hospitals to mimic the mining and rail industries, which set quotas to hire and promote women — and even banned blokes from applying for some jobs — in an effort to feminise the workforce.

She said children were "like sponges" in primary school and picked up on "innuendo and habits and culture" from teachers. She did not want any of her future grandchildren "being taught in schools just by women".

"I’m a woman. I like things that females like — but also let males project who and what they are as well," she said.

Ms Lyons also wants more men in nursing, given nine out of 10 nurses are women. "We need to challenge the norm that says men cannot care," she said. "Men can care — and do the job as well as women," she said.

State Education Minister Adrian Piccoli said he would "like more male teachers in our classrooms" but ruled out targets.

Federal Education Minister Simon Birmingham said teachers were role models.

"Ideally we would have both men and women providing outstanding examples to boys and girls in their schools," he said.


Leftist professors fear exposure

As the complaint below shows.  Excerpts only below. I have deleted most of the hysteria

This Monday, an organization called Turning Point USA launched a website called the Professor Watchlist, which provides the full names, locations, offenses—and sometimes photographs—of liberal academics it has singled out for ignominy.

The mission of the watch list, according to its website, is to “expose and document college professors who discriminate against conservative students, promote anti-American values, and advance leftist propaganda in the classroom.” The site invites users to nominate candidates, asking that they “submit a tip” about the nefarious pinkos who teach them

Some of the professors on the list have responded thoughtfully to their inclusion; others on social media have trolled the list with complaints about Indiana Jones and Jesus.

I contacted Kirk, asking him whether the timing was intentional, and whether the watch list was intended to intimidate, harass, or otherwise harm the people on it. He dismissed my suggestions as “preposterous,” and we had a brief, civil chat on the phone.

His organization, he was quick to emphasize, is a mainstream conservative student outreach group, devoted to the usual jazz about free markets and bootstraps and other sundry Rush lyrics. That is: While its website looks like a stock agency for photos of self-satisfied young white people, Kirk stresses that Turning Point USA is in no way affiliated with alt-right or similar hate groups, and is instead a mild-mannered fiscal-conservative outreach group that “believes that every young person can be enlightened to true free market values.”

He told me in no uncertain terms that he “denounce[s] completely” last weekend’s nauseating neo-Nazi Woodstock, and that the watch list’s launch had been planned for “months.” Its dovetailing with the white nationalists’ coming-out party—and the corresponding rash of grim, incredulous press coverage—was an unfortunate coincidence, and one that caused an unanticipated surge of traffic thanks to heightened media attention in the wake of the launch’s inauspicious timing. The intention, he said, is not to threaten or harm the professors—his commitment to free speech means he’ll “fight to the death” for their right to disagree with him—but to raise “awareness” for students and the parents who often pay their tuition.

But the photos? I asked. Did Kirk at least understand my unease about the photos? They’re “just stock images,” he said, publicly available, like all of the other information the site has aggregated—aggregated, he emphasized, not created. Plus, “Nowhere do we say they shouldn’t have the right” to express their views; the site has “no calls to action,” whether that be firing or worse.

Yes, it’s true that Turning Point USA didn’t create any original material on its compendium, and its claims of professorial malfeasance —from using swear words to attesting that racism is a thing— are reputably sourced. It’s also true that beleaguered conservative intellectuals have as much of a right to grumble as liberal professors have to grandstand. And I will take Kirk’s word that he didn’t create the site with the intent to intimidate, threaten, or bring harm to any of the human beings on it.

But what the site did do—what it continues to do—is compile a one-stop shop of easy marks and their precise locations, complete with descriptions of offenses against America, God, and the “children of the sun.”


UK’s ‘juggernaut’ HE bill may crush university autonomy

The UK government’s higher education bill has been criticised by peers as a “juggernaut” that will override universities’ autonomy and willingness “to speak truth to power”, with Conservative, Labour. Lib Dem and crossbench figures all joining the attack.

Sixty-nine peers – many with current or former senior roles in universities – spoke during the Higher Education and Research Bill’s second reading in the House of Lords on 6 December.

Many argued that the bill would give too much power to the government and to the new English regulator, the Office for Students. The OfS will have the power to strip universities of degree-awarding status and university title, even when granted by Royal Charter.

Peers also criticised plans to make it easier and quicker for new private and for-profit providers to gain degree-awarding powers, as well as plans for the teaching excellence framework to rate universities as “gold”, “silver” or “bronze” and the folding of the seven research councils into a single UK Research and Innovation body.

Lord Waldegrave, a former Conservative Cabinet minister who is soon to be installed as University of Reading chancellor, called the legislation “a juggernaut” and “a disappointing bill from a Conservative government”.

He said: “Arguably, it is the formal end of the delicate structure of autonomy under Royal Charters, which goes a long way back in our history.”

The Tory peer said the bill would move the sector “towards the sort of state governance structures that produce depressingly second-rate systems in, for example, France or Italy”.

Lord Willetts, a Conservative peer who was universities and science minister until 2014, backed the bill’s shift “to an open and transparent regulatory model”, but said peers had raised “legitimate concerns”.

He added: “Perhaps the biggest is about the autonomy of our universities. Some of the earlier government documents could have been read by some as implying that universities were a kind of poorly performing part of the public sector that needed a bit of a doing over.”

He continued: “I do not believe that it is the government’s intention to draw universities into their ambit, and I hope that the bill can be amended further to make that clear.”

Lord Mandelson, a Labour peer, former business secretary and now chancellor of Manchester Metropolitan University, said the government “must guard against lower entry standards for new challenger institutions, reducing the overall quality of Britain’s university offer. A ‘stack ’em high, sell ’em cheap’ approach will be hugely retrograde.”

Baroness Wolf, a crossbench peer who is Sir Roy Griffiths professor of public sector management at King’s College London and who carried out a review of vocational education for the Conservative-led coalition government in 2011, said the bill “proposes a dramatic change in how government relates to our universities…for the worse”.

She said the legislation “will have a knock-on effect on institutional autonomy and critical thought and inquiry, and it will corrode the willingness of universities to speak truth to power”. The powers created in the bill “may well be abused by governments in the not-so-distant future”, Baroness Wolf argued.

Peers sent the bill forward to a committee of the whole house and are likely to try to amend the bill significantly. No dates have yet been set for that stage.

Viscount Younger, the government’s higher education spokesman in the Lords, said the bill was much needed to remedy a regulatory system that is “complex, fragmented and out of date”.


Sunday, December 11, 2016

The Evils of Public Schools

I have not spoken poorly and with contempt for the government-run, tax-funded “public schools” for a while (except for those “affirming” the hurt of their little snowflakes over the recent election), so it is time to take a whack at these institutions of tyranny again.

And the Blaze provides the perfect opportunity. An 11-year-old girl, after sharing some fruit with a friend, has been suspended for violating the idiot school’s policy of “zero tolerance” for weapons. Not only that, but the schools turned the case over to the local police department (in some enclave from reality in Florida) who have in turn turned it over to the State’s Attorney to prosecute her for this hideous act of terrorism. Her crime? She used the butter knife (as admitted by the school in writing) from her cherished set of tableware (a knife, fork, and spoon with thick toddler handles and decorated with cartoon animal prints) to cut a peach in half so that she could share the peach with her friend.

I suppose she is fortunate that they did not also seize the fork with its FOUR (count’em FOUR) sharp points, and that it was not a peanut she was cutting in half to share. And I suppose she and her classmates are also fortunate that the idiots on the police force did not decide this incident required intervention by a SWAT team assaulting through the plate-glass windows of the cafeteria.

I fail to see how someone like the administration of this school, the “leadership” of this police force, and the decision makers in the attorney’s office can be STUPID enough to behave like this and STILL be able to tie their shoes and find their way to work in the morning. And I also fail to see how the so-called citizens – the voters and the parents – of this school district are so cowed and uncaring that they have not descended on the school to dismantle the building brick by brick, before tarring and feathering the faculty and administration and riding them on a rail to dump them into the ocean.

BUT this is America today, the Fifty States, in which someone writing the name of the next president of the United States with chalk on a sidewalk on a university campus can trigger a lock-down and cause a score of “safe spaces” to open their doors for business to coddle and comfort the frightened egos of a couple of hundred little snowflakes. Or where people can be praised for calling someone a rapist with NO proof or evidence, but at the same time condemn that man and those who support him as racists and sexists merely for voting for him.

And it is a land where a man arrested for “secret” charges (rumored to be related to weapons) by a sheriff, within hours of arrest and incarceration, and LONG before a trial is scheduled, let alone a verdict reached!, can have it assumed that he is fired from his job, his health insurance canceled and the process begun to take away his retirement. Yet I’ve seen it happen – in the reddest of red states in one of the most rural of its counties. Or how a man can be accused of wife and child abuse and have a permanent restraining order issued by a magistrate after hearing all of 15 minutes of testimony to support the claims of alleged abuse.

As long as government is involved in ANY way with schools, and especially with funding them, this kind of stupidity will be present and increase over time – even if it is temporarily rolled back by some congressional or executive action. The only way we will have schools that truly educate us (and our children and grandchildren) will be if those schools are completely separated from government – especially federal and state level, but even LOCAL government. Enough is enough.


UK: 'Cash for places’: leading private schools accept six-figure sums from rich overseas parents desperate to get their child admitted

One of Britain’s leading private schools is exposed for being prepared to accept vast donations to secure places for the children of overseas parents.

David Fletcher, the registrar at Stowe until this week, was filmed saying a six-figure payment would be helpful when there was a “marginal decision” over whether a pupil should be admitted.

Mr Fletcher, 60, told an undercover reporter that one overseas family had recently given £100,000 towards a project at the school, in order to help secure a place for their child.

Stowe, whose alumni include Sir Richard Branson, David Niven and two of Prince Harry’s former girlfriends, said that Mr Fletcher had now resigned, having made “inaccurate and inappropriate statements”.

The disclosure will raise questions about whether some public schools are willing to bend admissions rules for wealthy foreign parents, as well as the potential for other pupils to be denied places in favour of families who can afford to make generous donations.

Almost one in 10 public school pupils are from overseas, with the number from China trebling in the past decade amid rising fees.

The Telegraph investigation also found that educational consultants were prepared to facilitate payments of up to £5 million to high-profile public schools on behalf of families hoping to win places for overseas children.

Two agents in London said donations would help to secure places.  One suggested that any link between a payment and an offer of a school place could be downplayed by ensuring that the money was not donated until after the child had started.

He named one high-profile school where “if there is an opening to be exploited I know those guys, they’re ruthless and they will push for five [million pounds]”.

After receiving information that specific schools and agencies were taking money from wealthy foreign parents to secure places for their children, Telegraph reporters posed as representatives of a Russian businessman who wanted his son to study in England.

Over a number of months, reporters met several education consultants and school representatives, including Mr Fletcher.

The female reporter asked if her firm’s clients could “guarantee” places.

Mr Fletcher said they had to be “very careful” and that children always “have to be able to pass [the entrance exams]”, but payments would be looked upon favourably.

Separately, William Petty, a director of Bonas MacFarlane consultants, said it might be difficult to find a place because many schools were full. When the reporter asked if there were other “avenues”, Mr Petty said that while London schools would not let admissions be affected by donations, other institutions could be open to payments.

Mr Petty, whose consultancy charges £10,000 for each child who is found a place at a school, said that although there were rules, it might be possible for them to be “seriously bent”.

One high-profile school named by Mr Petty admitted that 19 families introduced to the institution by one consultancy firm since 2009 had made donations. In seven of these cases, the children won places, while two others were placed on the waiting list.

However, the school said it had clear rules and that any claim that places were secured using donations “is untrue”.

A second agent, Ekaterina Ametistova, a partner at Bruton Lloyd, told reporters she was aware of pupils being placed at top public schools in exchange for donations of at least £1 million.

She added: “But the boy has to be good. It has to be both.”

Alan Smithers, of the centre for education research at Buckingham University, said: “Our private schools have the reputation that they do because they offer places on merit. By admitting students on this basis they risk damaging their reputation which is vital to them in ensuring that parents come forward and are willing to pay the high fees that are in place in any case.”

Anthony Wallersteiner, headmaster at Stowe, said he was “shocked” by the suggestion a donation would have any influence, while Mr Petty said his firm worked “in accordance with legal obligations”.

Ms Ametistova said she never “placed pupils at top British independent schools in exchange for donations”.


Canadian  teacher fired for having the wrong opinion

A  B.C. case may be the first time a Canadian teacher has been fired not amid allegations of impropriety, but for having the wrong opinion.

A teacher at a posh private school in British Columbia was fired last month after making an innocuous comment about abortion to his Grade 12 law class.

Though there is no way of knowing, since discipline matters are shrouded in secrecy, it may be the first time a Canadian teacher has been fired not amid allegations of impropriety, but for having the wrong opinion.

Certainly,  Lori Foote,  a spokesperson for the 60,000-member-strong Ontario Secondary School Teachers Federation, said Wednesday that no one at the association is “aware of anyone being fired” in Ontario in comparable circumstances.

The 44-year-old teacher, who has asked that he not be identified to protect what’s left of his career, was teaching “the criminal law unit, a lesson on vice, ethics, morality and the law” to his small class in the Vancouver-area school in late November.

“I was working my way through examples of how some people’s sense of personal ethics was more liberal than the letter of the law,” he said in an email.

For example, he told them, many people might roll through a stop sign on a deserted country road, deeming it morally acceptable, even if unlawful.

Such is the cost of a small misstep in a crushingly politically correct world.

In other words, he said, in a pluralistic democracy, there’s often “a difference between people’s private morality and the law.

“I find abortion to be wrong,” he said, as another illustration of this gap, “but the law is often different from our personal opinions.”

That was it, the teacher said. “It was just a quick exemplar, nothing more. And we moved on.”

A little later, the class had a five-minute break, and when it resumed, several students didn’t return, among them a popular young woman who had gone to an administrator to complain that what the teacher said had “triggered” her such that she felt “unsafe” and that, in any case, he had no right to an opinion on the subject of abortion because he was a man.

The school, for the record, is a witheringly progressive one.

Before classes even started last fall, teachers underwent serious “gender training” given by QMUNITY, an organization for LGBTQQ2S (lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, queer, questioning and two-spirit) people. Teachers were told in no uncertain terms, for instance, that “no one is 100-per-cent male or female” and that everyone is somewhere on the “gender spectrum.”

Unsurprisingly, students at the school, where $30,000-a-year tuition buys small classes, regularly say “I’m so triggered” and are allowed to walk out of class.

What happened to the teacher over the ensuing few days sounds like something out of the Cultural Revolution in Mao’s China, where people were subjected to what were known as ideological struggle sessions, forced to “confess” to various imagined sins before large crowds, and roundly denounced.

Immediately after the student complained to the administrator, the teenager came, with a teacher at her side as support, to confront him in a public area of the school.

She pressed for an apology, but the teacher resisted, because, he said, it would set a dangerous precedent for a teacher to be reamed out in the presence of a colleague.

“When I didn’t show contrition,” he said, “I was summoned upstairs and grilled by two administrators who told me my job was on the line.”

Now panicking — he has a family to support and had just recently returned to teaching after several years in business with a relative — he apologized profusely and promised to apologize the next day to the offended student.

Instead, the school had an administrator take over the class for a day, whereupon, he was told, they would all discuss what went wrong in his absence. He would be invited back to “hear the grievances and offer an apology. It was clear I must do this successfully or I would be terminated.”

He repeatedly asked what he’d done wrong or if there was an allegation of misconduct.

“The answer I got back was that I was recognized as an outstanding teacher, but student ‘safety’ was the school’s primary concern.”

With the discussion now scheduled for the following day, the teacher, near to melting down with apprehension and disbelief, went to a walk-in clinic and asked for tranquillizers.

The discussion was postponed another day, and after “white-knuckling” it through his other classes, it came time for the law class.

It was exactly the horror show he’d imagined: His boss sat among a crowd of students, ran through a list of what had gone wrong and “what I needed to do to change.” While most students appeared to be on his side, the offended girl was still furious.

He apologized specifically to her, but then made what was apparently a fatal error: He said he liked her, that she was a bright and engaging student, and said he’d told her father just that at a recent parent-teacher night.

She stormed out of the class in tears, and he was again castigated by his superiors, this time for having been “too personal” in his apologia.

On Nov. 30, he showed up at the school, was retrieved by an administrator and taken to the “head” of school, the private school equivalent of a principal.

He was told he “could no longer continue in the classroom,” and was offered a short-term medical disability top-up for employment insurance.

He was then escorted down the hall and off the premises.

“Such is the cost of a small misstep in a crushingly politically correct world,” he said sorrowfully.

Postmedia is not identifying the school at the teacher’s request.

“They torched me,” he said, “but I’m reluctant to damage the brand … So many kids who would otherwise fall through the cracks … are valued and helped here,” he said.

So still a good teacher, then, after all that.