Wednesday, December 05, 2018

Maryland High School Football Players Accused of Raping Teammates Indicted by Grand Jury

This is clearly an initiation ritual, common in private schools, colleges, clubs, fraternities etc.  It has its place in the Army, where it is referred to as "bastardization, but it often goes too far in other settings.  It is right that this case is going to court

A grand jury on Thursday indicted four Maryland high schoolers accused of sexually assaulting football teammates involving a broomstick.

Damascus High School sophomores Jean Claude Abedi, Kristian Jamal Lee, Will Smith and Caleb Thorpe were previously charged with one count of first-degree rape, three counts of attempted first-degree rape and one count of conspiracy to commit first-degree rape, the Washington Post reported. The indictments added three more conspiracy charges for the 15-year-old suspects.

One of the victim’s father found out about the alleged abuse after finding his son crying in his room on Oct. 31, the same day as the assault. The father reported the incident to the school, according to ABC News.

“JC Abedi and KJ Lee grabbed (victim B) by the shoulders and threw him on the floor,” ABC News reported. “One of them held his feet down and while he was face down on the ground, his pants were pulled down and he was ‘poked in his buttocks with the wooden broom.’”

Another victim was allegedly punched in the face and stomped on, according to ABC News.

Some of the suspects and the alleged victims told officials the incident was part of a “tradition” done to junior varsity football players. School officials said they were unaware of the football program’s alleged tradition, according to The Washington Post.

Attorney Shelly Brown, who is representing Thorpe, believes her client “should be treated as a child in the justice system,” ABC News reported.

“Jean Claude is a young man who is caught up in case that is larger than him,” Daniel Wright, Abedi’s attorney, said to ABC News. “Why is the school and the state seeking to fix all of the blame only on children?”

Damascus High School is part of Montgomery County Public Schools, the largest school district in the state.


Chicago School Board Sues DeVos After $4 Million Funding Withheld over Alleged Incompetence

Chicago Public Schools sued Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and the U.S. Department of Education on Friday for withholding $4 million in grants.

The funds were withheld due to the district’s alleged mishandling of sexual assault complaints. The funds would have turned three public schools into magnet schools, the Chicago Tribune reported Friday.

Magnet schools are still public schools, but often specialize in specific themes like Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) or the performing arts.

“Chicago Public Schools is filing suit in an effort to restore millions of dollars in funding that was abruptly and unlawfully taken from low-income students without providing the district with the opportunity to appeal the decision,” CPS spokeswoman Emily Bolton said, the Tribune reported

The $4 million was part of a nearly $15 million Magnet Schools Assistance Program grant that would be given over five years, the Tribune previously reported.

CPS was notified about the revocation of the 2018-2019 academic year grant Sept. 27 by the DOE over alleged lack of compliance with Title IX rules.

The DOE’s decision came after the Tribune released a report claiming the district did not effectively respond to sexual assault allegations over the summer.

“Betrayed” alleges some teachers and principals did not immediately alert child welfare investigators when abuse allegations were made.

Inefficient background checks led to children being around employees with criminal convictions and arrests for child sex crimes.

The Tribune’s report resulted in CPS creating The Office of Student Protections and Title IX, which handles student-related sexual assault complaints.

The office received more than 600 sexual assault complaints in one semester, 133 of which were adult-related complaints.


Canberra (ACT) pulls out of 'costly' Teach for Australia program over retention rates

A copy of "Teach for America" program. It gets a few bright sparks into education but the reality of poorly disciplined schools puts off most

The Australian Capital Territory government has cut its ties with the controversial multimillion dollar Teach for Australia program, citing concerns about the program’s value for money.

Guardian Australia can reveal the territory formally split with Teach for Australia in July this year, unhappy with the cost of the program and unconvinced it was “delivering classroom ready graduates that remain in the teaching workforce”.

Launched by the Gillard government in 2009, Teach for Australia provides graduates from non-teaching backgrounds with 13 weeks of intensive training before they begin a two-year classroom placement at a regional or low socio-economic school.

The program has been hugely controversial since its inception. While successive governments have increased its funding, teachers’ unions have long criticised its costs and retention rate and argued it undermines the teaching profession by placing teachers who have not yet completed their qualifications in schools.

The ACT’s education minister, Yvette Berry, told Guardian Australia the decision to withdraw from the program was based on “two main factors”.

“The first of concern was the low retention of participants in the teaching workforce compared to the investment required to collaborate with TFA,” Berry said.

“The second of which is the ACT government’s focus on investment in strengthening initial teacher education, support for new graduates, and growing the existing workforce capability as one strong cohort of educators.”

But in questions to the ACT education department, a spokeswoman admitted cost had also been a factor. Guardian Australia understands the ACT paid about $15,000 for each new Teach for Australia graduate, while the commonwealth has committed $77m to the program between 2009 and 2021.

“Yes, on balance the TFA model proved costly without strong evidence of delivering classroom-ready graduates that remain in the teaching workforce,” the spokeswoman said.

With the ACT’s departure, Teach for Australia remains in Victoria, Western Australia, Tasmania and the Northern Territory. New South Wales, the state with the country’s largest teaching workforce, has refused to join since the program was launched.

In a statement the Teach For Australia chief executive and founder, Melodie Potts Rosevear, said the organisation was “very proud of what we have achieved in the ACT”.

The program, she said, had made “a significant contribution to reducing educational disadvantage over the past eight years, and will continue to support the active associate and alumni community in the region”.

“Our growth strategy is to partner with jurisdictions across Australia to place our associates in schools that are experiencing the most disadvantage,” she said.

“Next year will be our largest intake of associates yet, with growth in teacher placements across Victoria, WA, NT and Tasmania – with nearly half in regional and remote communities.”

The program has maintained the support of federal governments from both sides of the aisle since it was launched.

When a government-commissioned evaluation of the program released last year found Teach for Australia associates “outperform other early-career teachers” against professional standard measures, the then-education minister Simon Birmingham said its teachers were “helping plug the gap in disadvantaged Australian secondary schools”.

But the report also raised concerns about the Teach for Australia attrition rates and the placement of teachers.

While the program is designed to place graduates in socially disadvantaged schools, the evaluation report found that 13% of its associates worked in schools above the national disadvantage median.

It also found that three years after the placement had finished, less than 50% of graduates were still teaching. Only 30% of those left were in schools below the national disadvantage median.


Tuesday, December 04, 2018

Hey millennials, it's not your school's job to teach you life skills

I came across a post I wrote a while back, five years almost to the day in fact, about a workshop I had attended at my daughter’s school as she transitioned into high school.

One year to go, and she’s about to transition into the real world. Where did that time go?

The purpose of the workshop was to talk about our hopes and concerns for our daughters as they entered into high school, I wrote then.

“Parents were worried about bullying, time management, study skills, social media, friendship groups ... all valid concerns. I am concerned, but not overly, if I'm honest, about these things too.

“But then there were parents, and there's always a few, who brought up things such as pregnancy, drugs, boys; there was even one woman concerned about what was being done to ensure her daughter would get into university.

“But the main thing that came out of it for me was that it's not the school's job, indeed no school's job, to raise our children. That's our job as parents, sorry.”

I still think that’s the case. That too often we’re placing too much responsibility on schools to do the things we, as parents, should be doing.

And then I read Alana Leabeater’s piece this week, “I got a 99 ATAR [An Australian High School qualification] but I had a lousy education”, and got mighty cross.

I wanted to know what Ms Leabeater’s parents had been up to for the past 10 years. Not only did she bemoan the poor high school education she received, but she also seems to write off the four years she has spent studying science at university.

Here’s an idea: how about showing a little gratitude that your schooling was indeed competent enough for you to get into university in the first place.

Imagine if your biology teacher had spent all that time teaching you how to change a tyre, or your physics teacher skilled you in CPR, two things you wish you had learned at school.

Imagine then that perhaps you wouldn’t have achieved your close-to-perfect ATAR, and you’d be lining up for a job at the supermarket - but not getting it, because even you admit you’re always an employer’s second choice.

Maybe people don’t want to employ you because they don’t like people who lay the blame for their own shortcomings squarely at the feet of other people.

It’s terrifying for me that my own daughter isn’t far behind you in the grand scheme of things.

I wonder if I have prepared her well enough for this next life transition.

It scares me that perhaps I haven’t. I know I still mollycoddle her, and her brother, a few years younger. I know I do that because I do not want to face the fact that soon they will be adults and gone from my home.

As parents we want to keep our children as close as possible, at the same time equipping them to become independent.

I want to be able to ensure that when my children leave home they can do complex maths and be able to start a lawn mower.

I want them to be confident public speakers and know how to bake a perfect sponge cake.

Some of these things are their school’s job, some are mine.

It would be interesting to get those same bunch of year 6 parents back in a room together to see if our concerns, worries and expectations have changed over the years.

I know my daughter is smart enough to keep on top of her studies. She’s choosing a direction for further study that’s come out of left field but interests her, she has a super bunch of friends who all have each other’s backs, she’s funny, is killing it at her part-time job, and has proven a very capable young driver. She’ll be okay.

My concerns for her revolve around getting through the next year with her sense of humour intact, realising that an ATAR is not the be all and end all of life, that she’s brave enough to head out on her own and make her own choices, good and bad.

Back on that initial post five years ago, a teacher friend commented that as parents our job was to love and support our children “and help them make decisions you will be proud of”.

“You can't hold their hand 24/7, just give them the skills to make the 'right' decisions."

Ms Leabeater, maybe your ire should have been directed at your parents, not the education sysytem.


Louisiana School Famous For Rags-To-Riches Ivy League Acceptances Exposed As Fraud

T.M. Landry College Preparatory School in Lousiana made headlines with a series of viral videos showing their students reacting to news that they’d been accepted to Ivy League Universities.

But a new report from The New York Times has exposed the dark underbelly of the school that once boasted “a 100-percent college acceptance rate.”

According to the report, transcripts were doctored and extracurricular activities were invented. Students were encouraged to lie about their family situations in order to make their successes appear even more dramatic. And students and teachers alike described a “culture of abuse” that was widespread.

T.M. Landry rocketed to the top of the news cycle in 2017 when a number of their college acceptance videos went viral.

The colleges “want to be able to get behind the black kids going off and succeeding, and going to all of these schools,” said Raymond Smith Jr., who graduated from T.M. Landry in 2017 and enrolled at NYU. He said that Mr. Landry forced him to exaggerate his father’s absence from his life on his NYU application.

“It’s a good look,” these colleges “getting these bright, high-flying, came-from-nothing-turned-into-something students,” Mr. Smith said.

Most students and teachers admitted in a series of interviews with The NYT that parts of transcripts had been exaggerated or even invented in order to make the students more appealing to prestigious universities. But even more disturbing were the allegations of abuse — both emotional and physical.

Students described being “forced to kneel on grains of rice, rocks and hot pavement,” and said that they were often yelled at by Landry himself.

Landry, who described himself as a “drill sergeant,” admitted that he yelled “a lot” and openly encouraged competition among students because “that is how the real world works.” He denied having students kneel in harsh conditions or for longer than five minutes.

One student, Tyler Sassau, refuted that point, saying Landry had forced him to kneel on a bathroom floor for two hours. “I wasn’t going to get up without asking him, because if I did, I could’ve got something worse. I could barely stand when I got up,” he said.

The students who went on to the Ivy Leagues from Landry since 2013 — when the school’s first class graduated — have had mixed success.


Australia: 'Walk to school, make a sandwich and switch off your devices': Baby boomer slams 'selfish, virtue-signalling' school kids who skipped class to protest against climate change

A baby boomer has unleashed on 'selfish, virtue-signalling' school kids for skipping class to protest against climate change.

The man's rant, which went viral after being posted online, came after thousands of students walked out of class on Friday to demand federal government action on climate change in a series of coordinated rallies across Australia.

Shared to Facebook, the man's scathing attack began by addressing school kids who went on strike for climate change.

'You are the first generation who have required air-conditioning in every classroom. You want TV in every room and your classes are all computerized,' he wrote.

'More than ever, you don't walk or ride bikes to school but arrive in caravans of private cars that choke suburban roads and worsen rush hour traffic.' 

The man then continued by taking a swipe at young people's consumer culture, arguing the youth of today opts to replace 'expensive luxury items to stay trendy'.

'How about this... tell your teachers to switch off the air-con.'

'Walk or ride to school. Switch off your devices and read a book. Make a sandwich instead of buying manufactured goods.'

The post takes a turn, targeting the character traits of young Australians.

'No, none of this will happen because you are uneducated, selfish, virtue signaling little turds inspired by the adults around you who crave a feeling of having a ''noble cause'' while they indulge themselves in Western luxury and unprecedented quality of life.'

The man's post argued children were being used as 'political pawns' in a continuous game of seeking votes.

'This is weapons-grade autism at it's malignant best,' he finished.

The viral post was met with support and criticism by a number of social media users eager to share their opinion on the matter.

One viewer said the letter was 'great', claiming the children were 'brainwashed and spoilt'.

Another said 'it's a different world today' claiming they were glad they grew up without devices and material objects. 'Everything was homemade and all paper bags and cardboard boxes were repurposed,' they wrote.

Other social media users commended the children for taking action on an issue they were passionate about. 'Today's society has been created at a great cost and well done kids for taking your action,' wrote one viewer. 'I am proud of them standing up for what they believe in,' commented another.

Many drew attention to the fact climate change was not created by the school kids but the generations before them. 'Why take it out on the kids who have to inherit this s***y planet which I might add we f****d up as adults'.

The 'Strike 4 Climate Action' rallies involved children in capital cities as well as 20 regional centres across Australia.

An estimated 1000 protesters packed Sydney's Martin Place in the CBD on Friday afternoon, chanting 'climate action now,' with similar numbers in Melbourne.

The series of rallies were inspired by Greta Thunberg, a teenager who went on strike ahead of Sweden's national election. She demanded the country's leader address climate change back in September.

Federal Resources Minister Matt Canavan slammed the thousands of students who skipped school to protest climate change action in an extraordinary rant. Mr Canavan said students who truanted from the classroom 'may as well learn to join the dole queue.'

'These are the type of things that excite young children and we should be great at as a nation,' he told 2GB radio on Friday.

'Taking off school and protesting? You don't learn anything from that.

'The best thing you'll learn about going to a protest is how to join the dole queue. Because that's what your future life will look like, up in a line asking for a handout, not actually taking charge for your life and getting a real job.'


Monday, December 03, 2018

Student Wins After Freaked-Out Teacher Calls Him ‘A**hole’ over MAGA Hat

A teacher was caught on video angrily ranting at a student for calmly wearing President Donald Trump’s iconic “Make America Great Again” hat.

The video starts with the student calling out the teacher for targeting him because of his political views. “You’re admitting to discriminating against a certain group of people,” the student said.

Then, the teacher went on a long, incomprehensible rant about workplace “decorum.”

“I don’t get what that has to do with expressing my political views,” the student replied.

The teacher responded by accusing the student of using the hat to “provoke” others. “Stop provoking people… People are provoked by the presence of your hat,” the teacher said.

That’s an absurd reason to ask someone to remove their hat. Students are too sensitive if they are “provoked” by a campaign slogan used by their own president.

The date and location of the incident were not available, but the video was posted to YouTube on Sunday by a user identified as Frank Sharp. By Wednesday morning, it had amassed almost 200,000 views. And it’s easy to see why.

If students were truly upset about the student’s hat, which is sadly believable, then they shouldn’t have looked at it. The students should have focused on their lesson instead of letting themselves get “provoked” by a harmless hat.

But I guess the students couldn’t focus on their lesson even if they wanted to because their teacher stopped class to berate the hat-wearing student.

“You just need to be a bit cool, take your hat off, or get out,” the teacher pleaded.

The teacher seemed to be the most upset person in the room. I don’t think he’s cut out for the job if he’s going to make such a big deal out of a Trump hat.

“You’re putting me in a position where I’m either going to gather everyone up and go to another classroom, and you can remain here, like an a**hole, or you can take your hat off.”

“Don’t we have freedom of expression and freedom to education?” the student asked.

“I don’t care. You do not. You’re not an adult,” the teacher responded.

The student wouldn’t concede and the teacher gathered up the entire class to evacuate the classroom as if the MAGA hat was radioactive waste.

It’s sad that our tax dollars are being spent on whiny teachers who get triggered over Trump hats.

But as sad as it was, the teacher’s retreat was a win for the student. The whole incident showed just intellectually bankrupt the modern left actually is.


Teacher Describes an American High School: "Chaos"

Australia: Sydney University's theatre of the absurd

by Tom Switzer

Does studying the West imply superiority?

For generations, the university has been a place designed as a crucible of debate and discussion. That means allowing free-thinking and the exchange of ideas in order to acquire knowledge and intellectual substance.

It is the height of irony, therefore, that universities across the Western world should have been at the forefront, in recent years, of restricting freedom of speech. Across America and Europe, for example, anyone with counter-orthodox views about transgender issues, or same-sex marriage, or even aspects of capitalism, is liable to suffer the indignity of "no-platforming".

It is also ironic that, as Western civilisation should have reached this pass, some at my alma mater, the University of Sydney, are arguing that the subject of Western civilisation itself is inherently "racist". A proposal by the Ramsay Centre for Western Civilisation to start a course of such study in collaboration with the university, we are told, must be stopped.

I had the great pleasure of not only studying modern history at the University of Sydney (1990-93) but also tutoring and lecturing there (2008-17). It saddens me profoundly that so many former colleagues have worked themselves up into a frenzy of disgust and outrage at the thought of Western civilisation being taught on campus. If they succeed in their aims of preventing full and frank discourse on a subject rich in a cultural history essential to Australia, and to so much of the world, they will have undermined the very notion of what a serious university should stand for.

Before a public meeting last Monday evening, the opponents of Ramsay issued a statement breathtaking not just in its arrogance, but in its ignorance. It is always dangerous to impute motive to others, but that does not prevent these activists from doing so. They argue that "the sole rationale for its proposed curriculum is to reassert the supremacy of the 'West' over all other peoples of the globe."

Missing evidence

All that is missing from that assertion is a shred of evidence, but it allows them to play their trump card. Because of what they regard as the supremacist nature of the course, they claim "the only people who invoke 'Western civilisation' in anything other than a critical spirit are members of the racist right".

And, of course, the minute the "R" word is enlisted, all those who fear being tarred with it are expected to bow down, apologise and withdraw. Such bullying and illiberalism must be resisted vigorously. To do anything else would be to end the idea of a great intellectual institution as a place of free discussion and serious academic purpose.

The activists who wish the Ramsay Centre to be strangled at birth assert that "Western civilisation" is "a favourite umbrella term sheltering all manner of toxic and paranoid prejudices". In that case, many of the world's leading academics, who have taught aspects of this discipline for centuries – theologians, philosophers, classicists, linguists, historians, art historians, musicians and so on – must now be re-labelled as toxic and paranoid, not to mention racist. "We cannot allow," the campus radicals continue, "to offer a course which casts every student of non-Western background as culturally backward."

Never mind that part of the teaching of Western civilisations has been to encourage inquiry into other civilisations. Indeed, anyone who has looked at Persian, Indian, Chinese or Aztec cultures (to name but a few) will have grasped at once their sophistication and complexity.

In a serious university, they should be as open to study as anything else – and the question of what to study should remain a matter of wide-ranging choice. The activists must claim that offering courses in Western civilisation casts non-western students as culturally backward, when it manifestly does nothing of the sort, because the weakness of their argument demands such invention – which only increases that weakness. It is a bit like claiming that by offering natural science courses, a university suggests that those not of a scientific bent are themselves inferior in some way, which would be idiotic.

An eccentric minority

The activists object to European imperialism, which – they may not have noticed – went sharply into reverse a century ago, after the Great War. There is nothing wrong with an Australian university studying a civilisation that originated in Europe, not least given the undeniable effect that the civilisation had on Australia – including the importation of liberal values that the activists seem determined to crush.

Back in Europe and in America, a wave of populism has grown up in recent years. This is not least because of the bullying activities of illiberal intellectual elites, who seek to end debate about matters with which they disagree, and use the weapon of accusations of racism against those who continue to resist, in order to try to shame them into silence. The activists of Sydney should be careful what they wish for. They fail to appreciate just what an unrepresentative, eccentric minority they really are, and the contempt in which people genuinely wedded to the idea of liberalism hold them.

There is nothing to stop the University of Sydney, or any other university in Australia or the rest of the free world, offering courses in any other civilisation that people wish to study. But equally, nothing should stop Sydney offering this course in a civilisation whose influence in the world is indisputable.

To go through life without an understanding of ancient Greece, or the power of the Romans, or the birth and spread of Christianity, the development of the English language, the glory of the Renaissance, the widespread theological, cultural and economic effects of the Reformation, the wonders of the Enlightenment, the development of ideas such as democracy and the rule of law can only render someone thoroughly uneducated. So, too, would a failure to grasp all the scientific discoveries that came from the West, and which have underpinned our modern world.


Sunday, December 02, 2018

The Right Way to Cut College Costs

College students must realize that only conservatism can save higher education

Total student debt hit an astronomical $1.48 trillion this year. The average graduate now leaves school with $40,000 in loans hanging over his head.

So is it really a surprise that Senator Bernie Sanders (I., Vt.) won over millions of young people in 2016? After all, he campaigned on student-loan bailouts and “free college.” Many students desperate for an answer now support this agenda — in the hope of escaping crushing amounts in debt.

Yet government intervention is what created the higher-education bubble in the first place. One of the biggest factors behind skyrocketing tuition rates is the federal subsidization of student loans. Every dollar loaned out leads to an average 60-cent rise in tuition rates, as universities seize the opportunity to jack up prices in the face of heightened demand. That’s why the cost of public colleges has soared in recent years — it’s up 213 percent since 1988, adjusted for inflation. So any student who is serious about addressing the rising cost of college shouldn’t be looking to big government for relief, but rather to universities themselves.

Purdue University, for instance, is proof that colleges can be affordable — if they’re run as they should be.

Tuition hikes hit Purdue students hard between 2010 and 2012. But when former GOP governor Mitch Daniels took over as president in 2013, he implemented comprehensive reforms that slashed the cost of attendance. Daniels signaled his intentions from the onset, taking a salary $130,000 lower than that of his predecessor.

Daniels then took a hacksaw to the bloated bureaucracy on campus, cutting $8 million from the school’s operating budget. He also slashed the cost of room and board by 5 percent, trimmed the fat from the campus dining program to reduce prices by 10 percent, and struck a deal with Amazon that saved students 30 percent on textbooks. Yet Daniels didn’t just cut costs — he reduced classes, too. He introduced Purdue’s now-famous “Degree in 3” program, allowing liberal-arts students to graduate a year early and reducing the cost of college by 25 percent. This lets some students save as much as $20,000.

The result of these reforms? Under Daniels, Purdue has frozen tuition rates since 2013, students and their families have saved over $57 million, and student borrowing has drastically fallen. The total in-state cost of attendance is now just over $21,182 per year — an affordable amount compared with many other top public universities. And that figure doesn’t include financial aid or scholarships, so the bill many Purdue students actually pay is even lower.

Despite what critics predicted, Purdue’s reputation hasn’t suffered after the budget cuts. In fact, under Daniels’s leadership, the university has risen from 64th to 56th in the U.S. News & World Report rankings.

Although many Purdue students lean liberal, they’re having trouble denying the positive effects that fiscal conservatism is having on their campus — and their pocketbooks. When I talked with Bridgitte Buchanan, outreach director of the Purdue College Democrats, she told me she appreciated what Daniels has done to keep costs low for students, and she praised his Degree in 3 reform. Support for the university’s president is not partisan: Daniels is so popular on campus that students sometimes crowd around him at the dining halls and take pictures. It makes sense that conservatives would love him, but at least at Purdue, the Mitch Daniels model wins bipartisan support.

So in the face of an ever-expanding student-debt bubble, it’s time for this transformation to take place on the national level. Yet unfortunately, 77 percent of Millennials still support the “free college” proposals pushed by Democratic Socialists such as Senator Sanders. They ignore the alternative: reining in free-wheeling spending on campus and passing the savings on to students.

This is dismaying. Young people at colleges across the country are paying the price of administrative waste, bloated budgets, and frivolous expenditures. But they turn a blind eye to the solution, as do administrations across the nation. Students truly concerned about tuition rates and immense amounts of debt need to forget their infatuation with socialized higher education — and realize that fiscal conservatism is what will get us out of this mess.



What is a true education?

Jennifer Buckingham

A university student reflecting on her education recently published a disparaging critique. She condemned an “antiquated” model of education for rewarding her for learning maths and science instead of things she considers more important, such as “how to do a tax return, change a tyre, pay off a car, buy a house, nail a job interview, do CPR, start a self-managed super fund.”

As teacher and blogger Michael Salter pointed out, why shouldn’t this list of life skills include “caring for an infant? Caring for an aged parent? Sterilising formula bottles? Filling in a Centrelink form? Clearing leaves from gutters? Unclogging drains? Cooking a family meal? Or a thousand other things?”

The idea that our highly educated teachers should be spending precious class time on things that could easily be learned on a weekend from a relative or friend, or indeed by watching a Youtube video, is both nihilistic and utilitarian — two things a true education is not.

It would be easy to dismiss these sentiments as typically youthful lack of appreciation for the privilege of an academic education, but they are also endorsed by people of influence in education policy.

Schools and expert teachers exist to give children knowledge and skills that they are unable or unlikely to learn otherwise. While it might be true that many students will not make use of the maths they learned beyond Year 8, there is no way of knowing in advance which students will, and which won’t. Therefore, the most equitable thing is to provide all students with a strong maths education, so no student is denied the opportunity to study maths at higher levels for lack of a solid foundation in the earlier years.

Unfortunately, students — and their supporters — who think maths education is irrelevant might just get what they wish for. A report released this week by the Australian Mathematical Sciences Institute shows a looming critical shortage of qualified maths teachers:  only one in four students currently have a qualified maths teacher in every year between Year 7 and 10, and this likely to deteriorate without immediate action.

Why does this matter? As Chief Scientist Alan Finkel told the International STEM in Education conference last week, maths is “fundamental to science, to commerce, to economics, to medicine, to engineering, to geography, to architecture, to IT… maximising your choices is not the same as maximising your ATAR.”

A good school education is about maximising choices for students in their life beyond school, not delivering a narrowly functional set of life skills.


Having a degree increases average earning by 26 per cent for women - but only 6 per cent for men, study claims

Women have a much higher salary return from a degree at the age of 29 than men, and almost always benefit in cash terms from attending university, the study by the Institute for Fiscal Studies revealed.

Researchers found that a degree increases average earnings by 26 per cent for women, but only 6 per cent for men. In addition, in contrast to men, women see a salary premium for every subject – even ones which produce low earnings.

Women studying creative arts earn 9 per cent more than those who have no degree, while those studying social care earn 14 per cent more.

Experts say the trend can be explained by the vastly different paths men and women take if they do not go to university.

For women, not going to university often means having children earlier and therefore they are more likely to be working part-time or not at all by the age of 29.

There is also the issue of women choosing poorly paid non-graduate paths, such as beauty or childcare.

In contrast, men who do not go to university are more likely to choose male-dominated lucrative trades such as plumbing or construction.

Those with some years’ experience can earn £40,000 or more – much higher than many graduates.

The calculations for salary premiums took into account additional factors, such as the different levels of affluence and ability of people attending university.

The study also found the gender pay gap between men and women who have been to university is narrower than that of men and women who have not.

Examining the raw earnings only, the average salary at age 29 for a university-educated man is £36,000 while for a university-educated female it is £30,000 – a difference of £6,000.

For non-university-educated men it is £30,000, and for women it is £21,000 – a difference of £9,000.


Fun police strike again... Push to remove monkey bars from playgrounds after concerns they are 'too dangerous for children'

A set of monkey bars was once the staple of school playgrounds and parks across Australia.

But the humble play apparatus is now under threat from child healthcare experts who claim the equipment is one of the leading causes of injuries in young children.

One report from Monash University's Victorian Surveillance Unit claims there has been a 41 per cent increase in the number of monkey bar injuries leading to emergency room presentations.

Dr Lisa Sharwood, who worked on the report, told The Age there were 14,167 monkey bar-related injuries over the last 10 years - 81 per cent of which happened to kids between the ages of five and nine.Most of the subsequent hospital admissions were a result of upper limb and ankle injuries, she said.

A 2015 audit of child fractures at a Melbourne hospital also found more than half of the injuries were caused by children attempting to skip a rung on the monkey bars. 

There have been efforts in recent years to improve monkey bar safety, with an Australian Standards Committee limiting their height to 2.2 metres in 2014. The surface beneath the bars has also been made softer, with bark mulch now needing to be at least 40 centimetres thick.

But the chairperson of that committee, Professor David Eager from the University of Technology Sydney, believes the equipment should still be phased out in favour of space nets and spider webs.

The nets break children's falls and Dr Eager said injury rates have fallen as a result.

He told The Age: 'Monkey bars were OK when I was a kid 60 years ago, but they're not an appropriate form of play equipment in 2018. 'Most councils and schools have been pulling them out and replacing them with spatial nets but not as quickly as we'd like.'