October 9, 2014

No more boys and girls

School Told to Call Kids ‘Purple Penguins’ Because ‘Boys and Girls’ Is Not Inclusive to Transgender

A Nebraska school district has instructed its teachers to stop referring to students by “gendered expressions” such as “boys and girls,” and use “gender inclusive” ones such as “purple penguins” instead….

Despite controversy, Lincoln Superintendent Steve Joel has declared that he is “happy” and “pleased” with the training documents.

What idiocy.  I completely understand why homeschooling is booming. 

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:38 PM | Permalink

September 23, 2014

Who's really supports poor inner city students?

The Ancient Rule of St Benedict  Building Hope in Inner City School in Newark  via The Deacon's Bench

Released last week, “The Rule” is a documentary about St. Benedict’s, a Catholic high school in Newark’s heart that for a century and a half has served as an academic haven for the often-embattled young men there.  The school is run by the monks of Newark Abbey in accord with the principles set out in the 1,500-year old Rule of Saint Benedict. Originally intended as a guide for creating self-governing communities of faith in 6th century Italy, the rule can also turn poor, sometimes neglected boys into young men of integrity and promise.

St. Benedict’s graduates virtually all its students and sends them on to college, where 85 percent finish. By comparison, less than a third of Newark’s public-high-school students graduate in four years.

The secrets to St. Benedict’s success are no mystery. The teachers are dedicated and invested in the students’ lives. Some students live on campus, removing them from the distractions of chaotic homes. There is zero tolerance for drugs, violence or gangs. One offense and you’re out.  As one monk says, “You can only be in one gang — ours.”
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The motto that forms the basis of this community is “whatever hurts my brother hurts me,” and students take that to heart.
In trying to explain the success of St. Benedict’s amidst the failure of Newark, Father Ed says, “what we don’t have in Newark is a sense of connectedness, that’s why people can shoot each other.”

Watch the 2.5  trailer of The Rule on Vimeo and be amazed.

Not everyone wants to help the childrenDespite proven academic success of NYC’s charter schools, the mayor and unions are waging a war on city’s charter kids

Harlem Success Academy 3, an elementary school where 95.2% of the students are black or Hispanic and 80% are from poor households who qualify for free or discounted lunch, performed better on standardized reading and math tests than 99.5% of all elementary schools in the state.
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Wouldn’t you think that these Harlem charter schools would be recognized as academic models for the rest of the city and the state?
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Yes, except for a few major obstacles. The Success Academy charter schools are run by Eva Moskowitz, and her network of charter schools hire only non-union teachers, who are paid well but can be fired for non-performance. So the New York City teacher unions hate Eva Moskowitz despite her “off-the-charts success” at educating black and Hispanic kids in some of the poorest neighborhoods in the city. Likewise, instead of being thrilled that so many of the city’s low-income, minority students are being educated so successfully, the new New York mayor Bill de Blasio hates charter schools just as much as the entrenched teacher unions (who are a main part of his political base of support) and he is in a ferocious battle to stop Eva Moskowitz and the spread of charter schools.

Only non-union teachers can be fired.

Further reading:
Why Catholic Schools Spell Success For America's Inner-City Children

Attention from across the political and social spectrum is shifting to the astonishing success of inner-city Catholic schools in working with the very children the public schools have abandoned as uneducable. An abundance of recent research comparing public, private, and religious schools shows that Catholic schools improve not only test scores and graduation rates for these children, but also their future economic prospects-and at a substantially lower cost.

Why Catholic Schools Matter: They’re still the best hope for poor, inner-city kids by Sol Stern

It doesn’t take long, though, for a visitor to discover St. Aloysius’s most powerful asset: the rich content of its classroom instruction. St. Aloysius exemplifies the old-fashioned notion that school is a place where children learn about our civilization’s shared knowledge and values and where teachers remain the undisputed authorities in the classroom, imparting that knowledge and those values through a coherent grade-by-grade curriculum. This traditional approach has stood the test of time.
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The St. Aloysius parents I spoke with unanimously identified the school’s strong academic focus and sense of order as the main reasons they were willing to take on tuition bills rather than settling for a free public school…… “It’s more than worth it to me,” he says. “My children come home and they get right to their homework. They have developed a love for learning that comes from their dedicated teachers and also a sense of responsibility and independence to do the hard work.”
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I was able to appreciate the power of that mission-driven culture when I attended one of St. Aloysius’s Friday afternoon staff meetings. The teachers and the principals were working on revising a statement of core principles for the school, derived from Jesuit education doctrines, called “The Graduate at Graduation.” The purpose of the document is to remind St. Aloysius teachers in every grade of the character traits and intellectual qualities that they should develop in their students before graduation.

As several teachers made clear, the underlying premise of the document was to nurture good “Christian behavior” in the children. At one point, several teachers brought up the Jesuit ideal of becoming “men and women for others” and how that might translate into specific guidelines for classroom instruction. There then ensued a wide-ranging conversation about the meaning of generosity in students’ everyday behavior.

I listened to the conversation with amazement and thought about how unlikely this would have been in any public school. The constitutional prohibitions against religion-based activities in tax-supported institutions wouldn’t be the only obstacle; another would be the entirely self-imposed taboo against encouraging such virtues and practices as sexual restraint, hard work, and charity.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:45 PM | Permalink

September 1, 2014

How to get the most out of college

Read Walter Russell Mead's essay, Back to School

1.  The real world does not work like school.
Creativity, integrity and entrepreneurial initiative will pay off; following the old rules and hoping for the old rewards is a road to frustration.  You have to fight the tendency of the educational system to turn you into a timeserving baby bureaucrat, following the rules and waiting for the inevitable promotion…..

2.  Most of your elders know very little about the world into which you are
headed.
Technology is going to rock your world and economic changes and upheavals are going to change the rules on you over and over.  This is not how the  knowledge professions (law, medicine, teaching, the civil service) used to work. 

3.  You are going to have to work much, much harder than you pr
obably expect.
Your competition is in China and India – and your competition isn’t hanging out at frat parties or sitting around watching sitcoms with dorm-mates.  It isn’t getting stoned and it isn’t putting its energy into chasing the opposite (or apposite) sex.  Your competition isn’t taking lots of courses on gender studies; it isn’t majoring in ethnic studies, or (unless it is planning to go into movie making) the history of film.
Your competition is working hard, damned hard, and is deadly serious about learning.

4. Choosing the right courses is more important than choos
ing the right college.

5.  Get a traditional liberal education; it is the only thing
that will do you any good.
Following this advice will be hard; a liberal education is no easy thing to get, and not everybody wants you to have one.  However, in times of rapid change, it is paradoxically more useful to immerse yourself in the basics and the classics than to try to keep up with the latest developments and hottest trends.  …

First, getting a liberal education means you have to achieve literacy in math and at least in one science – and come to grips with the scientific method.  I’d recommend biology as the science you should spend the most time with; this is probably the science that’s going to be changing the world most radically during much of your life — and since you need some chemistry to make sense of it, you will be getting a grounding in two disciplines rather than just one.. …

Second, study the basic ideas, debates, books, people and events of the western world – with special attention to the Anglo-American subset of the western tradition.  You can’t understand other people’s cultures and traditions until you understand the one that surrounds you.  Art, literature and music are part of this.  Don’t neglect them.

Third, study the United States: its history, regions, culture, politics, literature and economy. You would be surprised how many highly educated people have never seriously studied (or traveled much in) their own country. Fourth, study at least one language and at least one culture that is alien to youFifth, learn to write well.  This paradoxically is going to be more important than ever for the next generation. 

Fourth, study at least one language and at least one culture that is alien to you.

Fifth, learn to write well.  This paradoxically is going to be more important than ever for the next generation.

6.  Character counts; so do good habits.
One of the weaknesses in contemporary college education is that many teachers and administrators don’t think enough about the need that students have for moral education: reflection on right and wrong, the development of good habits that make good decisions easier to make and easier to stick with, a healthy spiritual grounding that can see you through the storms of life, and the kind of self knowledge that can only come from a life of serious moral engagement and thoughtful reflection.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:32 PM | Permalink

For Math, rote memorization is far better than 'discovery-based learning' UPDATED

Memorization comes easily for children.  From time immemorial, children have been encouraged to memorize poems, historical dates, the alphabet and multiplication tables.    What is memorized in childhood is never forgotten

Only in our modern age have educators disparaged memorization in favor of understanding math concepts as if the former precludes the later.

Now neuroscientists using brain scans tell us that  Rote memorization plays crucial role in teaching students how to solve complex calculations.

Memorizing the answers to simple math problems, such as basic addition or the multiplication tables, marks a key shift in a child’s cognitive development, because it helps bridge the gap from counting on fingers to complex calculation, according to the new brain scanning research.
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In effect, as young math students memorize the basics, their brains reorganize to accommodate the greater demands of more complex math. It is a gradual process, like “overlapping waves,” the researchers write, but it clearly shows that, for the growing child’s brain, rote memorization is a key step along the way to efficient mathematical reasoning.

As a scientific justification of rote learning, the study seems likely to further polarize the controversy over math teaching styles, in which arithmetical fundamentalists are squared off against the popular and progressive forces of “discovery-based” learning, in which students are encouraged to find their own ways to the right answer.

By illustrating the benefit of repetition and memory, and showing how it serves as a stepping stone to mature calculation, the research is likely to embolden the fundamentalists, who have only recently started to win back lost ground.
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One critic of the government’s adoption of “discovery-based learning,” Ken Porteous, a retired engineering professor, put it bluntly: “There is nothing to discover. The tried and true methods of addition, subtraction, multiplication and division work just fine as they have for centuries. There is no benefit and in fact a huge downside to students being asked to discover other methods of performing these operations and picking the one which they like. This just leads to confusion which ultimately translates into frustration, a strong dislike for mathematics and a desire to drop out of any form of mathematics course at the earliest opportunity.”

UPDATE: Common Core Teaches Kids New Way To Add 9 + 6 That Takes 54 Seconds

Fourth-grade teacher Eileen Klag Ryan then demonstrates the Common Core way to add 9 + 6.  This Common Core method takes nearly a minute.

“Our young learners might not be altogether comfortable thinking about what 9 + 6 is,” Ryan relates. “They are quite comfortable thinking about their friend, 10.”    The novel addition method emphasizes 10 for younger students “as we’re working in ‘Base 10 System.’”

“So if we can partner 9 to a number and anchor 10, we can help our students see what 9 + 6 is.”    At no point does Ryan explain how this impressively complex method of adding 9 + 6 will lead students to any understanding of “why” 9 + 6 is 15.

“We’re going to decompose our 6,” the teacher continues, drawing two small diagonal lines under the 6, then adding a number 1 and a number 5.  “We know 6 is made up of parts,” she instructs. “One of its parts is a 1 and the other part is a 5.”

Then, things get super-complex.

“We’re now going to anchor our 9 to a 1, allowing our students to anchor to that 10″ Ryan says, while drawing a big, oblong circle around the 9 and the 1.”

“Now our students are seeing that we have 10 + 5,” she declares confidently. She stutters a bit and adds, “Having, uh, now more comfort seeing that 10 + 5 is 15. That’s much more comfortable than looking at 9 + 6.”
Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:03 PM | Permalink

June 19, 2014

Wouldn't this be better than common core?

William Logan gives us his ideal elementary-school curriculum which would require all children to learn:

(1) the times tables up to, say, 25;
(2) a foreign language, preferably obscure;
(3) the geography of a foreign land, like New Jersey;
(4) how to use basic hand tools and cook a cassoulet;
(5) how to raise a bird or lizard (if the child is vegetarian, then a potato);
(6) poems by heart, say one per week;
(7) how to find the way home from a town at least 10 miles away;
(8) singing;
(9) somersaults.

With all that out of the way by age 12, there’s no telling what children might do.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:19 PM | Permalink

May 21, 2014

National Report Card

The abysmal state of education today cheats our children and imperils our future. 
DC Schools spend $29,349 per pupil:  Result 83 % of eighth graders are not proficient in reading and 81% are not proficient in math.

Our National Report Card: No Education Progress Since 2009

According to the NAEP — a standardized test often referred to as the nation’s “report card” — just 26 percent of the country’s 12th graders are proficient in math. Only 38 percent are proficient in reading. Those numbers are entirely unchanged since 2009, when the NAEP was last administered.

Notably, reading achievement was significantly higher overall in 1992 when the NAEP exam was first administered in reading.
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If academic achievement on the NAEP is any measure, the policies of the past half century just aren’t working.

Since the 1970s alone, inflation-adjusted federal per-pupil spending (part of the goal of which was to narrow achievement gaps) has nearly tripled. The behemoth federal Department of Education filters all of this taxpayer money through more than 100 federal education programs, many of which are duplicative, most of which are ineffective. It’s no surprise then that this administration’s policies, which seem designed to increase program count and spending, haven’t moved the needle on achievement either.
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But at a minimum, policymakers should infuse a little flexibility into how the roughly $38 billion federal K-12 education budget is spent.

The conservative alternative to No Child Left Behind — the APLUS Act — would go a long way toward achieving that goal, by allowing states to put federal education funds toward any lawful education purpose under state law, instead of filtering funding through the labyrinth of federal programs.

States have demonstrated that they are far more effective at catalyzing innovation in education than the bureaucrats who brought you No Child Left Behind and now Common Core. Let’s allow states to totally opt out of No Child Left Behind, rather than have to navigate the quid pro quo waiver process the Obama administration has established, and direct dollars to their most pressing education needs.

Such an approach could also help to limit the number of non-teaching administrative staff in schools, whose primary purpose is complying with the paperwork burden handed down from the Department of Education.

The chart at the link shows that non-teaching staff has increased 138%  since 1970 while student enrollment has only increased 8%

Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:54 PM | Permalink

April 8, 2014

More money will not solve America's education problems

More money spent on schools does NOT equal better results, 40-year study finds
The performance of 17-year-olds has been essentially stagnant across all subjects despite a near tripling of the inflation-adjusted cost of putting a child through the K-12 system.  There has been essentially no correlation between what states have spent on education and their measured academic outcomes

 Spending Test-Scores Us Ed

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:43 AM | Permalink

March 25, 2014

"I’m not big into the ‘America’ thing.”

Neo neocon writes Keeping the younger generation dumb and happy—it’s working! 

The success of all of these efforts relies in large part on keeping the young voters dumb as well as happy with their pleasures. The “dumb” part apparently isn’t all that hard to do if you take over the educational and entertainment systems, weaken the family and other institutions that use to teach values, and control the press.

Here’s some strong evidence that the efforts to do this have been hugely successful. Read it and weep:

Last week, MRCTV’s Dan Joseph went to American University to give the student body a little general knowledge quiz.

When asked if they could name a SINGLE U.S. senator, the students blanked. Also, very few knew that each state has two senators. The guesses were all over the map, with some crediting each state with twelve, thirteen, and five senators.

The students passed the pop culture part of the exam with flying colors, as one might expect. This wasn’t a scientific survey, of course, and there were a few who knew the answers, but how many senators each state has is the sort of thing that not a single college student should be missing. However, as one of the interviewees said, “I’m not big into the ‘America’ thing.”
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One of the foundations of liberty is an informed electorate, and if that is lacking, tyranny will almost undoubtedly emerge. No accident, either.

These college students give us a glimpse into America's future.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 5:43 PM | Permalink

March 20, 2014

"Fertility is the missing chapter in sex education"

Camille Paglia talks sense when she writes  Put the Sex Back in Sex Ed

Fertility is the missing chapter in sex education. Sobering facts about women’s declining fertility after their 20s are being withheld from ambitious young women, who are propelled along a career track devised for men.

The refusal by public schools’ sex-education programs to acknowledge gender differences is betraying both boys and girls. The genders should be separated for sex counseling. It is absurd to avoid the harsh reality that boys have less to lose from casual serial sex than do girls, who risk pregnancy and whose future fertility can be compromised by disease. Boys need lessons in basic ethics and moral reasoning about sex (for example, not taking advantage of intoxicated dates), while girls must learn to distinguish sexual compliance from popularity.

Above all, girls need life-planning advice. Too often, sex education defines pregnancy as a pathology, for which the cure is abortion. Adolescent girls must think deeply about their ultimate aims and desires. If they want both children and a career, they should decide whether to have children early or late. There are pros, cons and trade-offs for each choice.
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Sex education has become incoherent because of its own sprawling agenda. It should be broken into component parts, whose professionalism could be better ensured.

First, anatomy and reproductive biology belong in general biology courses taught in middle school by qualified science teachers….

Second, certified health educators, who advise children about washing their hands to avoid colds, should discuss sexually transmitted diseases at the middle-school or early-high-school level. But while information about condoms must be provided, it is not the place of public schools to distribute condoms, as is currently done in the Boston, New York and Los Angeles school districts. Condom distribution should be left to hospitals, clinics and social-service agencies.

Similarly, public schools have no business listing the varieties of sexual gratification, from masturbation to oral and anal sex, although health educators should nonjudgmentally answer student questions about the health implications of such practices. The issue of homosexuality is a charged one. In my view, antibullying campaigns, however laudable, should not stray into political endorsement of homosexuality or gay rights causes. While students must be free to create gay-identified groups, the schools themselves should remain neutral and allow society to evolve on its own.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:20 PM | Permalink

February 8, 2014

Education roundup:Rigid public schools, rogue colleges, new crackpot regs and Catholic schools

Degrees of Value: Making College Pay Off by Glenn Harlan Reynolds. For Too Many Americans, College Today Isn't Worth It

America's higher education problem calls for both wiser choices by families and better value from schools. For some students, this will mean choosing a major carefully (opting for a more practical area of study, like engineering over the humanities), going to a less expensive community college or skipping college altogether to learn a trade.

But discounts don't address the real problem: high costs. What's really needed in U.S. higher education is major structural change. To remain viable, colleges and universities need to cut expenditures dramatically. For decades, they have ridden the student-loan gravy train, using the proceeds to build palatial buildings, reduce faculty teaching loads and, most notably, hire armies of administrators.

Most of the growth in higher education costs, according to a 2010 study by the Goldwater Institute, a libertarian think tank, comes from administrative bloat, with administrative staff growing at more than twice the rate of instructional staff. At the University of Michigan, for example, there are 53% more administrators than faculty, and similar ratios can be found at other institutions.

Under financial pressure, many schools have already farmed out the teaching of classes to low-paid adjuncts who have no job security and often no benefits.
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The economist Herbert Stein once said that if something can't go on forever, it will stop. The pattern of the last few decades, in which higher education costs grew much faster than incomes, with the difference made up by borrowing, can't go on forever. As students and parents begin to apply the brakes, colleges need to find ways to make that stop a smooth one rather than a crash.

Instead Reynolds writes Consider alternative schooling:  Don't fear innovation. Nobody ever got shot or pregnant from online or home schooling.

Last week, I wrote here about zero-tolerance stupidity, suggesting that as schools grow more and more willing to punish and stigmatize kids for reasons of bureaucratic convenience, it might be parental malpractice to put your kids in public schools. But there's another problem with public schools that goes beyond these kinds of problems: Even when they work well, public schools introduce all sorts of costs and rigidities into everyday life.

That's not surprising. Public schools were designed to be rigid. Back in the 19th century, when Massachusetts Board of Education Secretary Horace Mann toured Europe looking for models of public education to import to America, the one he chose came from Prussia. Inflexibility and uniformity were Prussian specialties, and when Mann brought Prussian-style education to America, those characteristics were seen not as a bug but as a feature.

School was practice for working in the factory. Thus, the traditional public school: like a factory, it runs by the bell. Like machines in a factory, desks and students are lined up in orderly rows. When shifts (classes) change, the bell rings again, and students go on to the next class. And within each class, the subjects are the same, the assignments are the same, and the examinations are the same, regardless of the characteristics of individual students.
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Many parents, thus, are embracing alternative education -- like homeschooling or online school -- not only as a way of escaping the often-poor instructional quality and questionable discipline of public schools, but also as a way of escaping the rigidities they bring.

Interview with Glenn, The School of Instapundit

The Outlaw Campus  Victor Davis Hanson writes the university has become a rogue institution in need of root-and-branch reform and he suggests reform in 10 areas:

1. Tenure.
2. Faculty exploitation.
3. Curriculum.
4. Admissions.
5. Administration.
6. The credential.
7. National competency testing.
8. Budget.
9. Publication.
10. Legal exemption.

"We have allowed the university to become a rogue institution, whose protocols are often at odds with normal practice off campus and secretive to a degree unknown elsewhere".

This won't work  Undisciplining Kids Through 'Restorative Justice'  as the IBD editorial points out.

Re-education: Under new federal guidelines for reforming "discriminatory" school discipline, the disruptive will learn quickly that their teachers must now tolerate even more disruptive behavior.

[In January] the Education Department warned the nation's school administrators it's not a good idea to remove unruly kids from the classroom. What about the violent ones? Suspend them only as a "last resort." Think twice about even sending them to the principal, and whatever you do, don't call the cops.

Obama's educrats say minorities bear the brunt of these "draconian" practices. And based on statistics they've cooked up showing racial "disparities" in punishment, they smell school racism on a national scale.

Instead they urge the implementation of a crackpot theory called

Restorative justice, also called reparative justice or distributive justice, is part of a fringe civil rights movement that demands the abolition of prisons. Under this approach to justice, there are no offenders. Just victims. It trivializes crime and has increased recidivism wherever it has been applied…..White staffers are taught to check their "unconscious racial bias" — also known as their "whiteness" — when dealing with minority students who act out. They are told to open their eyes to "white privilege" and have more empathy for black kids who may be lashing out in frustration. They're trained to identify "root causes" of black anger, such as America's legacy of racism. Teachers are advised to avoid "trigger" words, and watch their "tone."
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This is a prescription for disaster. Restorative justice practices already have been tried in Oakland, Calif., Baltimore and Portland, Ore. Students only grew more violent as schools slashed suspensions.

So why do students at Catholic schools always do so much better than those at public school?  William McGurn writes The Catholic school's secret: love.

we focus on more tangible measures of success: how 99 percent of Catholic school students get their high-school diplomas; how a black or Latino child is 2.5 times more likely to graduate from college if he or she has attended a Catholic high school; how Catholic schools manage to do all this at a fraction of the cost of public schools.
Sonia Sotomayor, an alumna of Blessed Sacrament in The Bronx, calls Catholic schools a “pipeline to opportunity” for people like her. That’s true. And it’s true largely because Catholic school students are not just taught, but loved. 
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:58 PM | Permalink

January 29, 2014

"It's a no brainer. … All you are doing is abandoning rules"

School ditches rules and loses bullies

Ripping up the playground rulebook is having incredible effects on children at an Auckland school.

Chaos may reign at Swanson Primary School with children climbing trees, riding skateboards and playing bullrush during playtime, but surprisingly the students don't cause bedlam, the principal says.

The school is actually seeing a drop in bullying, serious injuries and vandalism, while concentration levels in class are increasing.

Principal Bruce McLachlan rid the school of playtime rules as part of a successful university experiment.

"We want kids to be safe and to look after them, but we end up wrapping them in cotton wool when in fact they should be able to fall over."

Letting children test themselves on a scooter during playtime could make them more aware of the dangers when getting behind the wheel of a car in high school, he said.

"When you look at our playground it looks chaotic. From an adult's perspective, it looks like kids might get hurt, but they don't."
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Mudslides, skateboarding, bullrush and tree climbing kept the children so occupied the school no longer needed a timeout area or as many teachers on patrol.

Instead of a playground, children used their imagination to play in a "loose parts pit" which contained junk such as wood, tyres and an old fire hose.

"The kids were motivated, busy and engaged. In my experience, the time children get into trouble is when they are not busy, motivated and engaged. It's during that time they bully other kids, graffiti or wreck things around the school."

Parents were happy too because their children were happy, he said.

But this wasn't a playtime revolution, it was just a return to the days before health and safety policies came to rule---
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Schofield urged other schools to embrace risk-taking. "It's a no brainer. As far as implementation, it's a zero-cost game in most cases. All you are doing is abandoning rules," he said.

This is so much better than the "no winners, no losers " rule now being applied to rugby games in the U.K. and drawing widespread condemnation and ridicule.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:12 AM | Permalink

November 20, 2013

Put children first when it comes to education, not unions

If you care about children getting a good education, this will make your blood boil.  Teachers unions are far too powerful.  They put their own interests first  not those of children.  There are many good teachers who do put children first, but the unions don't. 

Teachers Unions vs. Charter Schools

The Beginning With Children charter school in New York City announced that it will close next year because operating under union work rules has made it impossible to provide students with a decent education.
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To understand how union work rules can impact the quality of a school, consider this passage from Steven Brill's "Class Warfare," in which he compares the teachers' contracts at Harlem Success Academy, a high-performing charter school in New York City, and a traditional public school that share the same building space and teach kids from the same socio-economic background.

"The Harlem Success teachers' contract drives home the idea that the school is about the children, not the grown-ups. It is one page, allows them to be fired at will, and defines their responsibilities no more specifically than that they must help the school achieve its mission. Harlem Success teachers are paid about 5 to 10 percent more than union teachers on the other side of the building who have their levels of experience.

"The union contract in place on the public school side of the building is 167 pages. Most of it is about job protection and what teachers can and cannot be asked to do during the 6 hours and 57.5 minutes (8:30 to about 3:25, with 50 minutes off for lunch) of their 179-day work year."

In the 2010, 29 percent of the students at the traditional public school were reading and writing at grade level, and 34 percent were performing at grade level in math. At the charter school, the corresponding numbers were 86 percent and 94 percent.

 Testing Results 2010 Nyc Schools

In Louisiana, Governor Jindal instituted a program whereby students in failing schools can receive scholarships in the form of vouchers to go to another school. Eight thousand students have received vouchers in the current school year, and over 93 percent of parents who have participated say they are satisfied with their child’s new school, according to Jindal’s office.

Governor Jindal said, “The scholarships are completely race blind.  It’s done by lottery. It’s one of the reasons over 90 percent of the kids are actually minorities.”

The Department of Justice filed a lawsuit to obtain a permanent injunction against the scholarship program blocking access to vouchers in districts that are under desegregation orders unless a judge approves them because it claimed the program is 'impeding desegregation'.

The Justice Department’s suit uses percentages of white and black students in schools in areas still facing desegregation orders

to argue that the voucher program uses state funding to thwart the federal government’s desegregation efforts. On closer examination, this argument is a sham. Two cases in the suit are particularly ludicrous. In one instance, six African American students leaving a school through the voucher program decreased the percentage of black students in the school from 30.1 percent to 29.2 percent. In another case, five white students leaving a failing school decreased the percentage of white students in the school from 29.6 percent to 28.9 percent, violating desegregation orders.

Jindal called the lawsuit “cynical, immoral, and hypocritical.”

“Nearly 50 years to the day of Martin Luther King’s famous ‘I have a dream’ speech, the Department of Justice under the Obama administration filed what I think is a despicable lawsuit,” he said at the National Press Club on Wednesday. “They went to federal court in Louisiana to try to trap thousands of children in failing schools.”

Yesterday, the DOJ abandoned its lawsuit

Unable to put forward concrete proof for the claim, the Justice Department abandoned its lawsuit, United States District Court Judge Ivan Lemelle said Friday. However, the Obama administration is still calling for the district court to grant a federal review of the program — with a hearing for that request scheduled for Friday in New Orleans.

GOP wins one for blue-collar parents in Louisiana

The change is a big win for Cantor and other high-powered House Republicans who have championed the school choice revolution in post-Katrina New Orleans.

GOP leaders are joining the fight partly because of their ideological support for school choice, but also to showcase support for American parents who are struggling to rescue their kids from failing, crime-ridden, autocratic, union-controlled, mandatory government-run schools.

Their participation, however, is also part of the GOP’s post-2012 effort to show support for working-class parents.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:01 PM | Permalink

November 14, 2013

“We’re lending money we don’t have, to kids who will never be able to pay it back, for jobs that no longer exist”

 Mike Rowe

Mike Rowe on How Many Are Following the "Worst Advice in the History of the World", i.e. ““the absurd belief that a four-year degree is the only path to success.”

Rowe’s motivation for the work largely began with what he described as “the worst advice in the history of the world” – a poster he saw in high school challenging students to “work smart, not hard.”  The picture of the person working “smart” was holding a diploma, and the person working “hard” looked miserable performing some form of manual labor.

“Today, skilled trades are in demand. In fact, there are 3 million jobs out there that companies are having a hard time filling. So we thought that skilled trades could do with a PR campaign,” he said with a smile. “So we took the same idea, went ahead and vandalized it. Work smart AND hard.’”
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Rowe said he wanted to make something clear.  “I’m not against a college education. I’m against debt,” he said. “That was the only four letter word in my family…”

What he’s against, Rowe added, is that we started promoting college “at the expense” of the vocational training that, in many cases, is what’s actually needed for the career.

Mike Rowe unveiled last month a new scholarship program to get high school seniors ready to enter the workforce with the skills they need to land jobs that are available in the U. S.    From his website

Personally, I think it’s insane to start a career thirty grand in the hole, especially when there are no jobs in your chosen field. The fact is, the vast majority of jobs today do NOT require a four-year degree. They require training, and a truly useful skill. I think we’ve confused the cost of an education with the price of a diploma. That’s why I started The mikeroweWORKS Scholarship Fund. I want to challenge the idea that an expensive four-year degree is the best path for the most people, and call attention to thousands of real opportunities in the real world that real companies are struggling to fill.
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To qualify for a mrW/MTI Scholarship, you have to be a high-school senior who is willing to learn a skill at MTI. You’ll need to write an essay. You’ll need to provide attendance records and references. You’ll also need to submit a short video and post it on Facebook. In short, you’ll need to make a case for yourself, because the public is going to vote on who gets the money. And the money at stake is significant – on average, $15,000 per scholarship. And something else – you’ll need to sign The S.W.E.A.T. Pledge (Skills & Work Ethic Aren’t Taboo).

This is great advice for many, many young people.  He knows what he's talking about.  He's had more dirty jobs than anyone. 

As the creator and executive producer of Discovery Channel's Emmy-nominated series Dirty Jobs With Mike Rowe, Mike has spent years traveling the country, working as an apprentice on more than 200 jobs that most people would go out of their way to avoid. From coal mining to roustabouting, maggot farming to sheep castrating, Mike has worked in just about every industry and filmed the show in almost every state, celebrating the hard-working Americans who make civilized life possible for the rest of us.

No one is better suited to the role of good-natured guinea pig than Mike — mainly because it's not a role. Dirty Jobs is entirely unscripted, and Mike doesn't cheat; he actually does the work, with a sense of humor rarely portrayed in such professions. In fact, the notion of depicting hard work as noble and fun is central to his personal mission.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:30 PM | Permalink

October 10, 2013

Anti-bullying programs teach bullies new and better ways to bully and how to get away with it

Anti-bullying programs promote bullying

Everyone knows that bullying is bad. Everyone also knows more and more children are being bullied. The pusillanimous leaders of our educational institutions have failed to take direct, punitive action against bullies. Thus, it continues, unmolested.

You will certainly not be surprised to learn that these same administrators have decided to fight bullying with increased self-awareness and consciousness-raising. They have instituted anti-bullying programs that make bullies feel bad about themselves and tell their victims how best to defend themselves. They seem to believe that empathy will solve the problem.

It’s almost as though they are trying to cure bullying through group therapy.

The result: more bullying. Not only that, more effective bullying.

A criminologist from the University of Texas at Arlington  did a national survey. He was shocked by the results:

University of Texas at Arlington criminologist Seokjin Jeong analyzed data collected from 7,000students from all 50 states.

He thought the results would be predictable and would show that anti-bullying programs curb bullying. Instead — he found the opposite.

Jeong said it was, “A very disappointing and a very surprising thing. Our anti-bullying programs, either intervention or prevention does not work.”

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In anti-bullying videos children are shown different types of bullying—presumably you don’t know you are being bullied until you’ve seen a video—and constructive ways to respond.

The result: the bullies are learning new and better ways to bully.

Amazingly the videos also teach bullies how better to get away with it:
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Consider this: if you show victims how they can respond, sensitively, you are telling the bullies that you, as an adult are not going to protect their victims. You are saying that no adult authority will intervene forcefully to stop the bullying. It's open season for bullies.

The moral of the story: as long as there are no real sanctions against bullies they will continue to do as they do. Appealing to their empathy for their victims just makes things worse.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 5:27 PM | Permalink

October 9, 2013

The Importance of Character and Tough Teachers

Why character is the key to a perfect education

This classical idea, that young people should be taught the best that’s been thought and written as well as being given the chance to develop their character strengths, has always been popular. A recent poll for The Jubilee Centre for Character and Values showed that 87 per cent of parents want schools to focus on character development and academic study. The independent sector – which has always been more responsive to parents than to passing fads – has long delivered this more rounded approach to schooling.

But research from the field of positive psychology has shown that focusing on pupils’ happiness, which is best achieved by improving their character strengths like optimism, perseverance, compassion and curiosity, actually leads to better outcomes in tests. Modern research is in the process of confirming the wisdom of the ancients.
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In his book How Children Succeed, Paul Tough argues that pupils’ characters traits are better predictors of whether they will lead happy and successful lives than their academic grades.
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As Martin Luther King said: “Intelligence plus character, that is the goal of true education.” Parents want it and young people need it.

Why Tough Teachers Get Good Results by Joanne Lipman in the Wall Street Journal.

It's time to revive old-fashioned education. Not just traditional but old-fashioned in the sense that so many of us knew as kids, with strict discipline and unyielding demands. Because here's the thing: It works.

Now I'm not calling for abuse; I'd be the first to complain if a teacher called my kids names. But the latest evidence backs up my modest proposal. Studies have now shown, among other things, the benefits of moderate childhood stress; how praise kills kids' self-esteem; and why grit is a better predictor of success than SAT scores.

the following eight principles—a manifesto if you will, a battle cry inspired by my old teacher and buttressed by new research—
1. A little pain is good for you.
2. Drill, baby, drill.
3. Failure is an option.
4. Strict is better than nice.
5. Creativity can be learned.
6. Grit trumps talent.
7. Praise makes you weak…
8.…while stress makes you strong.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:45 AM | Permalink

October 2, 2013

Are basic life skills an essential part of education?

Christine Gross-Loh in the Wall Street Jounal makes a good case for Home Ec as a Core Subject

In Japan, they teach meal planning alongside math, with impressive results.

But classes like home economics, woodworking, art or music are about more than learning to play a recorder, plan a menu or thread a needle. They foster concrete know-how, as well as the confidence to improvise. They teach children to make good choices, take the initiative and make connections. When a student measures the dimensions of a bookcase, he is learning math and geometry in a hands-on, applicable way. When Benjamin embroidered his dishtowel he was tapping into an engrossing creative process.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:18 AM | Permalink

September 9, 2013

Some good advice for college students

Walter Russell Mead gives some good advice for those college students heading Back to School

1.  The real world does not work like school.
Life in school is life in bureaucracy.  You follow the rules, do what you are told, and rewards follow.
….  You have to fight the tendency of the educational system to turn you into a timeserving baby bureaucrat, following the rules and waiting for the inevitable promotion.  As you go through college, think about ways you can fight the pressures of institutionalization.  Work or volunteer — not just for money, but to keep your hand in the real world.  Live off campus.  Start a business.  Shake things up.

2.  Most of your elders know very little about the world into which you are headed.
  In the old days, you got the right degree from the right school, got a job with a good employer and rose steadily through the ranks through a long and increasingly distinguished career.  At the end you had a safe pension.
Almost certainly, this is not going to happen to you.  At times, your career is going to feel like Eliza’s run for freedom across the half-frozen Ohio river — jumping from ice floe to ice floe with the hounds of hell behind you.  It won’t be all bad; there are rewards to this kind of life as well as risks, but you are going to need a different outlook on life and a different set of skills to cope.

3.  You are going to have to work much, much harder than you probably expect.
I’m sorry to bring you bad news, but your generation faces the toughest competition any American generation has ever known.
Your competition isn’t sitting in the next library carrel.  Your competition is in China and India – and your competition isn’t hanging out at frat parties or sitting around watching sitcoms with dorm-mates.  It isn’t getting stoned and it isn’t putting its energy into chasing the opposite (or apposite) sex.  Your competition isn’t taking lots of courses on gender studies; it isn’t majoring in ethnic studies, or (unless it is planning to go into movie making) the history of film.
Your competition is working hard, damned hard, and is deadly serious about learning.  There’s nothing written in the stars that guarantees Americans a higher standard of living than other people.  Those of you who spend your college years goofing off in the traditional American way are going to pay a much higher price for this than you think….

4. Choosing the right courses is more important than choosing the right college.
Your generation is going to have to scramble and you need every edge you can get.  Your generation can’t afford to throw these four years away; choose your courses carefully and seriously. Everybody has different needs; aspiring movie makers and aspiring physicists aren’t going to take all that many classes together, but there are some basic concepts that make sense….

5.  Get a traditional liberal education; it is the only thing that will do you any good.
In times of rapid change, it is paradoxically more useful to immerse yourself in the basics and the classics than to try to keep up with the latest developments and hottest trends.  You can be almost 100% sure that the hot theories making waves in academia today will be forgotten or superseded in twenty years — but fifty years from now people will still be reading and thinking about the classic texts that have shaped our world.  Use your college years to ground yourself in the basic great books and key ideas and values that will last.

For the same reason, don’t worry too much about getting specific skills at this stage.  You are going to keep learning new skills all your life and you are going to find many of your skills obsolete as time goes on (when I was a kid I was very good at operating something called a mimeograph machine).  What you want to do now is to develop your ability to learn…..First, getting a liberal education means you have to achieve literacy in math and at least in one science – and come to grips with the scientific method.  ……Second, study the basic ideas, debates, books, people and events of the western world – with special attention to the Anglo-American subset of the western tradition.  You can’t understand other people’s cultures and traditions until you understand the one that surrounds you.  Art, literature and music are part of this.  Don’t neglect them.
Third, study the United States: its history, regions, culture, politics, literature and economy.  You would be surprised how many highly educated people have never seriously studied (or traveled much in) their own country.  Don’t make that mistake – and study the parts of the US you don’t know.

Fourth, study at least one language and at least one culture that is alien to you.  Pick a language that opens the door to a big world: Mandarin, Hindi, Arabic, German, the Romance languages (if you get really good in one of these last you will have a surprisingly easy time dealing with others).  …

Fifth, learn to write well.  This paradoxically is going to be more important than ever for the next generation.  I can’t tell you how many editors at how many famous magazines have told me over the years that most professors and academics simply cannot write, and bemoan the immense amount of time they must devote to impose some kind of intellectual structure and comprehensible prose on the crabbed drafts they get from, often, fairly well known people.

Finally, unless you are following up on an interest that is already a deep and passionate one, try to take courses taught by great teachers.  The main purpose of an undergraduate education isn’t to polish up your knowledge and finish your learning.  It is to launch you on a lifetime quest for wisdom and understanding.  You want professors who can help you fall in love with new subjects, new ideas, new ways of investigating the world.  The courses that end up mattering the most to you will be the ones that start you on a lifetime of reading and reflection.

6.  Character counts; so do good habits.
One of the weaknesses in contemporary college education is that many teachers and administrators don’t think enough about the need that students have for moral education: reflection on right and wrong, the development of good habits that make good decisions easier to make and easier to stick with, a healthy spiritual grounding that can see you through the storms of life, and the kind of self knowledge that can only come from a life of serious moral engagement and thoughtful reflection.

Character and spiritual grounding are going to count much more in the tumultuous, uncertain environment that is approaching than in the more stable and bureaucratic world of the past.  ……There may be chaplains at your school who can help you with this side of life.  There may be courses on personal ethics; there may be faculty who you feel have something to teach as mentors and role models.  There are other students who have qualities that you wish you had — and there are student groups who read, pray, meditate and act together to help their members grow.  Seek out the people, the communities, the experiences that can help you grow.  College should be a time of spiritual as well as intellectual and career development and growth and you will be missing an essential element of your education if you do not engage with the world of faith and religion during your college years.

7.  Relax.
If you take this advice, you may still come out of school with too much debt — and the fields that interest you may be hard to break into, and the financial rewards less than you may have expected.  But you will be able to cope: you will have the education, the habits and the character traits that will enable to you find new opportunities and new careers even as old ones fade away.  And whatever happens to your bank account, your journey through life will be a rich and rewarding one if you come out of college with a good liberal education and a lifelong love of learning.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:12 AM | Permalink

July 30, 2013

More Classical Education, please

Anthony Esolen on Lessons Never Learned

Every big “reform” of the public schools for the last sixty years has been disastrousthe expunging of any trace of religion from the classroom; the replacement of small schools with hulking institutions; the consolidation of school boards to attenuate local control and personal oversight; the abandonment of geography; the shift from history to current events; the New Math; the basal reader; comic books to amuse the poorer students in high school; the war on boys; the expansion of health class to “sex education” (what the heck is so complicated?); the corruption of the latter; teaching to standardized tests; the absurdly biased textbooks; the abandonment of any systematic study of grammar; teaching foreign languages “conversationally,” which means, in effect, illiterately; the abandonment of math-based sciences such as physics and chemistry, in favor of biology, reduced to ecology, reduced to cuddles; what on earth would make us think that anything this system produces can do us any good? Homeschoolers enjoy their signal and mortifying success largely because they see everything that is done in school and then go and do precisely the opposite.

The Benefits of a Classical Education

The great Swiss historian Jacob Burckhardt gave praise to the ancient Greeks by commenting that “all subsequent objective perception of the world is only elaboration on the framework the Greeks began. We see with the eyes of the Greeks and use their phrases when we speak.” European culture and civilization, of which our own country is a part, are rooted in ancient Greece. Their educational methodology, though more than 2,500 years old, is still as relevant now as it was in the time of Plato and is known as classical education.

First, let us consider the objectives of classical education. The first objective is to transmit to our progeny, that is, to future generations, the knowledge, culture, and traditions preserved and passed on to us by our forebears. This is in contrast to so-called progressive education, which focuses on the flaws of the past (e.g., slavery) while ignoring the progress (e.g., the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution and the elimination, in America, of an institution that had existed throughout human history).

Second, classical education aims to provide students with the tools that will enable them to become their own teachers throughout their lifetimes. A vast, inexhaustible world of learning is opened and, furthermore, the student is equipped to discern between that which is wholesome — contributing therefore to the uplifting of the mind — and that which is corrupting or debilitating. In other words, the student will be able to think critically and independently. Progressive-minded teachers in government education, of course, despite claiming to support diversity, prop­agandize instead on behalf of a humanist, statist doctrine.

Third, classical education is, by its very nature, broad-based. The renowned Spanish philosopher José Ortega y Gasset and the American philosopher and historian Richard M. Weaver both decried the excessive specialization that, in modern education, produces men and women who are educated in one field only, and who are, in other fields, largely ignorant. Weaver referred to this as the “fragmentation” of knowledge. Classical education produced scholars who, he wrote, “stood at the center of things because [they] had mastered principles,” whereas “progressive education” produces people who have “acquired only facts and skills” and who are thus unable to achieve a general synthesis, that is, to integrate data from various fields into a cohesive whole.
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The trivium was the foundation of classical education. The Latin word “trivium” refers to “the three paths,” which are grammar, logic, and rhetoric. Grammar teaches us how to read and how to understand what we are reading, and it teaches us the rules for writing intelligibly, according to the rules of a particular language.  Logic teaches us how to think, how to reason analytically, so that we are not misled by fallacious arguments. Rhetoric teaches us how to express ourselves, to convey information accurately and, most especially, to be persuasive in discussions. … And so, the trivium arms the student with a thoroughgoing understanding of his language, the ability to reason critically, and the ability to express thoughts convincingly.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:31 PM | Permalink

June 26, 2013

What's better than the public education now on offer

Obama Wrong to Link Religious Education to Civic Division

A 2008 study by David Campbell compared civic engagement among students from Catholic, religious non-Catholic, secular-private, assigned public, and selective magnet schools and found that students at non-state schools—which are largely religious—performed better. This was particularly pronounced in the case of Catholic schools.
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Campbell’s results held even accounting for family factors like parental income, education, and religiosity and school-based factors like size and mandatory community service.
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“William Jeynes, a professor of education at California State University, recently analyzed multiple studies and data sets exploring the link between religious schooling and attainment and concluded that religious education helps all children academically, but particularly helps minority and low-socioeconomic-status students close the achievement gap.”

Many Studies Link Religious Education to Tolerance

The 2008 Campbell study is only one in a long line of empirical studies looking at how religious education (and also secular private education) affect tolerance for the rights of others, as well as other democratic values and practices such as voter participation and volunteer work. The positive impact of religious and private education on civic values and practices is confirmed across the body of studies, giving us a level of certainty that we can never have as the result of just one study. Moreover, some of the studies use random assignment methods, increasing the confidence we can have in the results.

Poor and Minority Communities Gain Big from Charter Schools  The updated study from Credo (Center for Research on Education Outcomes.

White students actually performed worse in charter schools, but black and Hispanic children from low-income communities saw big gains.

The Rise of Classical Education

Classical schools are less concerned about whether students can handle iPads than if they grasp Plato. They generally aim to cultivate wisdom and virtue through teaching students Latin, exposing them to great books of Western civilization and focusing on appreciation of "truth, goodness and beauty." Students are typically held to strict behavioral standards in terms of conduct and politeness, and given examples of characters from history to copy, ranging from the Roman nobleman Cincinnatus to St. Augustine of Hippo.

Parents like them, too; the number of classical schools - public and private - is growing. The curriculum has helped to boost enrollment at religious schools and inspired new public schools.
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Wisdom, eloquence and virtue – these are the aims of a classical education. The patriarchs of western civilization understood that education was more than the acquisition of basic skills and mere competency. The purpose of education was to transform, to elevate, and to refine the mind and the soul. This was the standard, not the exception. At the center of classical education is an emphasis on the Good, the True, and the Beautiful. Because these universal values serve as the building blocks of classical learning, the classical arts are timeless and proven, and have been known to produce many eloquent confessors and wise leaders. Our communities today are in dire need of just these sorts of men and women. In an endless pursuit of the latest educational dogma, many schools no longer have the capacity to judge what is Good, True and Beautiful, much less teach it. In forsaking the soul for the mind, they have forgotten how to educate both. Classical Education is a holistic approach to education, and a return to excellence in teaching, curriculum and expectations.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:01 AM | Permalink

June 24, 2013

Our education schools get an "F"

Massive Fail: Teaching Instruction An “Industry Of Mediocrity”  Walter Russell Mead

An important education story from earlier this week that we failed to note: a new study run by the National Council on Teacher Quality has called U.S. colleges of education an “industry of mediocrity” that churns out ill-prepared and under-qualified teachers.
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And meanwhile, teachers unions ensure that these incompetently prepared people are given lifetime tenure and protected evaluations. So not only are future educators prepared poorly for their jobs, but most receive job protection within one to seven years, consistently avoiding an evaluation that would allow parents to judge their effectiveness.

It’s a real nice system we have.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 5:23 PM | Permalink

June 21, 2013

Catholic schools in the inner cities

A Lifeline for Minorities, Catholic Schools Retrench

Sonia Sotomayor lives in Washington, but she has never forgotten her roots in the Bronx. On a drizzly March afternoon, she returned to Blessed Sacrament School, where she began her celebrated, if improbable, journey from her South Bronx childhood to the Supreme Court. But instead of a joyous reunion, it was more of a valedictory for her and the children — the school is closing for good.
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Justice Sotomayor’s emotions are shared by a generation of accomplished Latino and black professionals and public servants who went from humble roots to successful careers thanks to Catholic schools. But they fear that a springboard that has helped numerous poor and working-class minority students achieve rewarding lives is eroding as Catholic schools close their doors in the face of extraordinary financial challenges and demographic shifts.
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According to archdiocesan figures, enrollment in elementary and high schools shrank to 75,875 this year from 95,837 in 2006. While the Latino percentage of total enrollment increased during that period, the proportion of black elementary school students dropped precipitously, to 17 percent of enrollment from 31 percent.

Catholic high schools, which routinely boast of near 100 percent college admissions for their graduates, are worried that they will face harder times with fewer parochial schools to feed their ranks. And minority alumni are increasingly alarmed that New York will be deprived of a future generation of professionals — like lawyers, doctors and executives — to contribute economic and cultural vitality.
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Having moved away from the old parish-based elementary school model, Catholic school officials have created regional districts where resources and help are more efficiently shared. And for the schools that are vulnerable, especially those in places like the South Bronx, the officials have established a $20 million annual fund to provide scholarships and a $6 million fund for operating expenses.

“The inner city is where we do our best work,” said Timothy J. McNiff, the archdiocese’s superintendent of schools. “Why would we walk away from it?”

Only last week in Ireland President Obama said this, 'If Catholics Have Their Schools and Buildings and Protestants Have Theirs … That Encourages Division'

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:57 PM | Permalink

April 30, 2013

"We are crazy nor alone"

That's the consolation of reading the classics writes Victor Davis Hanson

Why Read Old Books

Classics are more than books of virtues. Homer and Sophocles certainly remind us of the value of courage, without which Aristotle lectures us there can be no other great qualities. Instead, the Greeks and Romans might better remind this generation of the ironic truths, the paradoxes of human behavior and groupthink. Let me give but three examples of old and ironic wisdom.

1. The Race Goes Not to the Swift

In the tragic world, thousands of personal agendas, governed by predictable human nature, ensure that things do not always quite work the way they should. We can learn from classics that most of us are more likely to resent superiority than to reward it, to distrust talent than to develop it. With classical training, our impatient youth might at least gain some perspective that the world is one where the better man is often passed over — precisely because he is the better man

2.  Becoming Affluent and Breaking Bad.  Material progress often comes moral regress.

3. Societies of Chaos - Most classical literature, let us admit it, is anti-democratic, moralistic in a reactionary sense, and deeply pessimistic — and therefore if not a corrective, at least a balance to today’s trajectory.  Would you not wish to see in advance where zero-sum interest, $1 trillion deficits, 50 million on food stamps, $17 trillion in debt, and the quality of today’s BA degree all end up?
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The world of fourth-century Athens is one of constant squabbling over a shrinking pie: “Don’t dare raid the free theater fund to build a warship. Pay me to vote. Give me a pension for my bad leg. The rich should pay their fair share. You didn’t build that. That’s my inheritance, not yours. Exile, confiscate, even kill those who have too much power of influence.” It is not that the Athenians cannot grow their economy as in the past, but that they despise those among them who think they still can.

The message reminds us that the health of the commonwealth hinges not on material resources, but always on the status of the collective mind. Usually the man who sees this — a Socrates in 399 BC, a Demosthenes in the shadow of Philip, even a shrill Isocrates — is branded a nut, ignored, or done away with.
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Great literature and a knowledge of history serve as friends that reassure us that we are neither crazy nor alone. We can anticipate disasters rather than always having to learn through them. We expect paradoxes, given human nature, and so we do not need to weep over what happens to us, as if it is unique and unprecedented.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:48 AM | Permalink

April 27, 2013

Has Democracy Had Its Day in the U.S.?

We are not passing on what we have been given.  The boomer generation never foresaw the consequences of "Never trust anyone over 30" that we are now living.  Little by little, we have betrayed the trust of the unwritten social compact between generations.  Everything has been politicized and our popular culture has become toxic.  There's been a cultural revolution and our general response has been indifference.    It all makes me want to weep.

Bill Bennett, former Secretary of Education, reflected on American education and What Our Kids Aren't Taught in a recent speech reflected  on ….

...the failure to impart our history and culture to our kids. He noted that only 22 percent of students scored proficient on a recent NAEP test on civics, and only 18 percent scored proficient in history. There are Americans, he said, with long bloodlines in this country who are nonetheless strangers to it, because no one had taken the time or the trouble to teach them that “In the long story of inhumanity and misery that is human history, the American achievement stands high and unique, and it’s worth knowing.

Donald Kagan, the 80 year old scholar of ancient Greece, in his farewell lecture at Yale University,"uncorked a biting critique of American higher education"  'Democracy May Have Had Its Day'

Democracy, wrote Mr. Kagan in "Pericles of Athens" (1991), is "one of the rarest, most delicate and fragile flowers in the jungle of human experience." It relies on "free, autonomous and self-reliant" citizens and "extraordinary leadership" to flourish, even survive.  These kinds of citizens aren't born—they need to be educated.
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The Kagan thesis is bleak but not fatalistic. The fight to shape free citizens in schools, through the media and in the public square goes on. "There is no hope for anything if you don't have a population that buys into" a strong and free society, he says. "That can only be taught. It doesn't come in nature."

Students today are afraid to say anything that's politically incorrect.

Christina Hoff Sommers, author of “The War Against Boys,” explains how political correctness in our culture seeks to silence opposing views. Whether someone is making an argument that contradicts the prevailing doctrines of feminism, or that challenges the “victim culture” that permeates the educational system, Sommers says free speech is constantly being challenged on campus. But if students are afraid to express views that are unpopular, critical thinking is stifled and the nation suffers.

The genius of America is the rising above ethnic and religious identities with everyone sharing a national identity based on the values of individual liberty, dignity and equality as articulated in the Declaration of Independence.    Identity politics and political correctness are putting an end to that.  Higher education in America has become an " intellectual monoculture dedicated to identity politics."   

We need look no further than the report on Bowdoin to see

how progressive ideology has altered the character of American higher education. By focusing on just one college in detail, the authors capture the full context of how advocacy and ideology have significantly displaced the pursuit of truth and the cultivation of character.

The full report makes fascinating if discouraging reading.

We wouldn't have such an in-depth report if it were not for  The Golf Shot Heard Round the Academic World The tale of a teed-off philanthropist and the head of Bowdoin College, where identity politics runs wild.    Thomas Klingenstein, the teed-off philanthropist

commissioned researchers to examine Bowdoin's commitment to intellectual diversity, rigorous academics and civic identity. This week, some 18 months and hundreds of pages of documentation later, the project is complete. Its picture of Bowdoin isn't pretty.
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Funded by Mr. Klingenstein, researchers from the National Association of Scholars studied speeches by Bowdoin presidents and deans, formal statements of the college's principles, official faculty reports and notes of faculty meetings, academic course lists and syllabi, books and articles by professors, the archive of the Bowdoin Orient newspaper and more. They analyzed the school's history back to its founding in 1794, focusing on the past 45 years—during which, they argue, Bowdoin's character changed dramatically for the worse…. the report demonstrates how Bowdoin has become an intellectual monoculture dedicated above all to identity politics.
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The school's ideological pillars would likely be familiar to anyone who has paid attention to American higher education lately. There's the obsession with race, class, gender and sexuality as the essential forces of history and markers of political identity.
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The Klingenstein report nicely captures the illiberal or fallacious aspects of this campus doctrine, but the paper's true contribution is in recording some of its absurd manifestations at Bowdoin. For example, the college has "no curricular requirements that center on the American founding or the history of the nation." Even history majors aren't required to take a single course in American history. In the History Department, no course is devoted to American political, military, diplomatic or intellectual history—the only ones available are organized around some aspect of race, class, gender or sexuality.

One of the few requirements is that Bowdoin students take a yearlong freshman seminar. Some of the 37 seminars offered this year: "Affirmative Action and U.S. Society," "Fictions of Freedom," "Racism," "Queer Gardens" (which "examines the work of gay and lesbian gardeners and traces how marginal identities find expression in specific garden spaces"), "Sexual Life of Colonialism" and "Modern Western Prostitutes."

Bit-sized Bowdoin report

Bowdoin, however, is presented as the stand-in for the whole category of highly selective old-line colleges that in recent decades have abandoned rigorous education in favor of winning over students to a progressive worldview. Lots of people, of course, have described and complained about this swap. But the NAS report is something brand new. No one until now has exposed the politicization of higher education in this kind of breadth and depth — by examining how it plays out at a single college. Nor has anyone before authors Peter Wood and Michael Toscano thought to mine a college’s own archives to substantiate charges of bias. With some thoughtful help from Wood and Toscano, Bowdoin virtually indicts itself.

Subverting Bowdoin

In late 60's or early 70's a great shift took place in American higher education. The idea that the students should all receive a basic grounding in history, government, social science, arts, and languages was discarded. Bowdoin abandoned its general education requirements in 1969. A deeply subversive and frankly weird ideology has become dominant in the trendier colleges. The ideology doesn't have an accepted name because the colleges deny that they have fundamentally changed their practices and beliefs. Sometimes it is described as an obsession with race, gender, and sex. It is characterized by political correctness. Orwellian misuse of language is practiced. An example is use of the word "diversity" to characterize aggressive discrimination in favor of certain racial groups and against others. Since racial discrimination is supposedly frowned upon or is illegal, they have to pretend it is something else. Many colleges suppress freedom of speech when the speech in question violates the canons of political correctness. The president of Harvard was fired for speculating out loud that women may be worse at math than men. Some things are unmentionable in academic company. At Hampshire College the speech code prohibited "psychological intimidation and harassment of any person or pet." Many colleges have speech codes that prohibit speech that might make someone else, especially members of favored minority groups, feel bad. However Hampshire seems to have been unique in attempting to protect the psychological well being of pets.
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Rather than bread and circuses, Bowdoin keeps its students occupied with alcohol, drugs, and sex.
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History majors at Bowdoin are not required to take any course in American History. Yale professor David Gelernter in his book America-Lite: How Imperial Academia Dismantled Our Culture suggested this:

Teaching American history, aside from a few marvelously evil incidents out of context, is dangerous to a basic tenet of the cultural revolution and must accordingly be stopped.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:52 PM | Permalink

April 22, 2013

Do parents have the right to educate their own children?

Yes in the United States and it's astonishing what homeschooling families can accomplish. 

Homeschooled students in grade school and high school

In 1997, a study of 5,402 homeschool students from 1,657 families was released. It was entitled, "Strengths of Their Own: Home Schoolers Across America." The study demonstrated that homeschoolers, on the average, out-performed their counterparts in the public schools by 30 to 37 percentile points in all subjects. A significant finding when analyzing the data for 8th graders was the evidence that homeschoolers who are homeschooled two or more years score substantially higher than students who have been homeschooled one year or less.

Homeschooled students in college

A new study published in The Journal of College Admission suggests that homeschool students enjoy higher ACT scores, grade point averages and graduation rates compared with other college students.
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Homeschool students earned a higher ACT score (26.5) versus 25.0 for other incoming freshmen.
Homeschool students earned more college credits (14.7) prior to their freshmen year than other students (6.0).
Homeschooled freshmen were less likely to live on campus (72.4%) than the rest of the freshmen class (92.7%).
Homeschoolers were more likely to identify themselves as Roman Catholic (68.4%).
Homeschool freshmen earned a higher grade points average (3.37) their first semester in college compared with the other freshmen (3.08).
Homeschool students finished their freshmen year with a better GPA (3.41) than the rest of their class (3.12).
The GPA advantage was still present when homeschoolers were college seniors. Their average GPA was 3.46 versus 3.16 for other seniors.
Homeschool students graduated from college at a higher rate (66.7%) than their peers (57.5%).

Of course, the big knock on homeschool students is that they never develop social skills since their classrooms are often their kitchen tables and their mothers are often their teachers. Cogan, however, noted that another homeschool study that looked at more than 7,300 adults, who had been homeschooled, determined that the homeschool graduates were more likely to have voted and participated in community service than other adults.

So successful have homeschooled kids been, USA Today reports the demographics are changing and expanding

Secular organizations across the country report their numbers are growing. Though government records indicate religion is still the driving force in home schooling, members of these organizations say the face of home schooling is changing, not because of faith, but because of what parents see as shortcomings in public and private schools.

We're just average folks': The family sending all ten of their home-schooled children to college by the age of 12

A mother who home-schools her ten children in Montgomery, Alabama, has opened up about how six of them began their college degrees by the age of 12.

Those of the Harding siblings who have already graduated from college have gone on to become a doctor, an architect, a spacecraft designer and a master's student. Another two - 12 and 14-years-old - are still finishing up their degrees.

But despite the Hardings' incredible achievements at such young ages, their parents - Mona Lisa and Kip - insist they are a family of 'average folks' who simply find and cultivate their children's passions early on.

Her website 

In 2010, a US immigration judge granted political asylum to Uwe and Hannalore Romeike of Germany

The family sought asylum in the United States because they homeschool their children, which is almost universally illegal in their home country.  It was the first case ever to recognize homeschooling as a reason for granting asylum. In his decision, Judge Burman observed that the rights being denied the Romeikes were “basic human rights that no country has a right to violate.”

But the Obama Administration appealed the decision and argued for their deportation.  The case is now on appeal and will be heard on April 23 by a three-judge panel in the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals.

Don Vincenzo comments

Unnoticed by the mainstream media, perhaps intentionally, was the decision by the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of (In)Justice to deny an application for political asylum to a German Evangelical family on the basis of their being subject to prosecution for their religious beliefs. Even for an administration that sees Christians and its followers as potential enemies, while trumpeting its “outreach” to Muslims, the case of Uwe and Hannalore Romeike should disturb those who believe that the United States is the “last great hope for mankind.”

In 2006, the Romeike parents, both music teachers, removed their children from their local German school in southwestern Germany in large part because the schools, “taught disrespect for authority.” It was their contention that it was the duty of parents to decide what children should learn, but in so doing the Romeikes ran directly into the maw of Socialist governments, which will not allow such autonomy in education. The Romeikes were threatened with heavy fines, confiscation of their home, and, most significantly, the removal of their five children from their care and supervision. Homeschooling families in Sweden have faced similar persecution. The Romeike family fled Germany to Tennessee in 2008, and applied for political asylum in 2010. Recently, a lower court federal judge turned down their asylum petition.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:23 PM | Permalink

April 17, 2013

Feminist mugged by reality

A Mother, a Feminist, Aghast
Unsubstantiated accusations against my son by a former girlfriend landed him before a nightmarish college tribunal.

I am a feminist. I have marched at the barricades, subscribed to Ms. magazine, and knocked on many a door in support of progressive candidates committed to women's rights. Until a month ago, I would have expressed unqualified support for Title IX and for the Violence Against Women Act.

But that was before my son, a senior at a small liberal-arts college in New England, was charged—by an ex-girlfriend—with alleged acts of "nonconsensual sex" that supposedly occurred during the course of their relationship a few years earlier.

What followed was a nightmare—a fall through Alice's looking-glass into a world that I could not possibly have believed existed, least of all behind the ivy-covered walls thought to protect an ostensible dedication to enlightenment and intellectual betterment.

What did she find in this world turned upside down and inside out?

Title IX, that so-called guarantor of equality between the sexes on college campuses, and as applied by a recent directive from the Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights, has obliterated the presumption of innocence .
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These safeguards of due process have, by order of the federal government, been replaced by what is known as "a preponderance of the evidence."
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the tribunal does pretty much whatever it wants, showing scant regard for fundamental fairness, due process of law, and the well-established rules and procedures that have evolved under the Constitution for citizens' protection. Who knew that American college students are required to surrender the Bill of Rights at the campus gates?
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my son later reported, he was expressly denied his request to be represented by counsel or even to have an attorney outside the door of the room.
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The many pages of written documentation that my son had put together—which were directly on point about his relationship with his accuser during the time period of his alleged wrongful conduct—were dismissed as somehow not relevant.
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witnesses against him were not identified to him, nor was he allowed to confront or question either them or his accuser.
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I  fear that in the current climate the goal of "women's rights," with the compliance of politically motivated government policy and the tacit complicity of college administrators, runs the risk of grounding our most cherished institutions in a veritable snake pit of injustice
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:42 AM | Permalink

April 7, 2013

Education Roundup

Shocker POLITICALLY CORRECT CURRICULUM IS BAD FOR STUDENTS:  Just ask Texas, most of which has been using the PC curriculum called CSCOPE for about 8 years:

The percentages of students scoring “unsatisfactory” on the new State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness/End-Of-Course tests illustrate the problem.

For Algebra 1 students, 13.74 percent in non-CSCOPE schools scored unsatisfactorily; for students in CSCOPE schools, it was 20.35 percent.
For Biology 1, those who ranked unsatisfactory in non-CSCOPE schools totaled 10.5 percent; for CSCOPE schools it was 14.86 percent.

For English Writing 1, the figures were 39. 48 percent for non-CSCOPE schools, and 46.3 percent for CSCOPE schools.
For geography, 17.78 percent of students in non-CSCOPE schools were unsatisfactory and 23.30 percent of those in CSCOPE schools.

Monitoring our kids’ early curriculum is critically important.  Failure to do this vigorously is one reason why so many bright young people don’t have a clue about American history and our Constitution.  If they don’t get this information in elementary and high school, it will be far, far too late by the time they get to college or graduate school, which are taught overwhelmingly by liberal/progressive professors, many of whom have an overt political agenda or affiliation.

In Atlanta, federal prosecutors indicted 35 “educators” for a conspiracy to cheat standardized test scores in public schools to cover up their failure to actually educate with video from CBS News.

And it seems there's Another public-school cheating scandal in Philly.  Two principals confessed to similar cheating, resigned and get to keep their pensions.

All of which calls to mind this quote from George Will writing about how Schools push a curriculum of propaganda.

Twenty-five years ago, President Reagan, paraphrasing Education Secretary William Bennett, said: “If you serve a child a rotten hamburger in America, federal, state and local agencies will investigate you, summon you, close you down, whatever. But if you provide a child with a rotten education, nothing happens, except that you’re liable to be given more money to do it with.”

Daren Jonescu,  "the grip of authoritarian pre-education camps we call "public schools."

The Jesuits said "give me the child for seven years, and I will give you the man."  Lenin boasted that he needed only the first four years to mould a child to the unshakable form that communism required.  It is no accident that John Dewey was primarily focused on early childhood education as early as the 1880s.  Or that Bill Ayers is today.  Yes, public education continues to deteriorate.  But that is the point: the deterioration is a continuation of something begun generations ago.  None of us who have been through any version of public schooling should fool ourselves about what this means, including and especially for our own souls.  This is no time for foolish pride; it is time for righteous anger, and the will to put a stop to more than a century of forced intellectual and moral decline.
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Universal public education is modernity's monster, the fatal mistake of a prosperous civilization imagining that it can take over where freed human nature left off, and even outdo freedom and nature, by mass producing, through government micromanagement, the kind of men who make liberty and civil society possible.

Anthony Esolen on The Vampire School that drains the life out of learning, producing dull workers for the Vampire State.

“Yet it appears to me as a schoolteacher that schools are already a major cause of weak families and weak communities.  They separate parents and children from vital interaction with each other and from true curiosity about each other’s lives.  Schools stifle family originality by appropriating the critical time needed for any sound idea of family to develop—then they blame the family for its failure to be a family.”  (John Taylor Gatto, Dumbing Us Down: The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling)

One day it struck John Taylor Gatto, Teacher of the Year for New York State in 1991 (and therefore, inevitably, disliked by his administrators), that our schools were not failing.  Rather, they were succeeding fabulously at what they were constructed to do: to produce dull and compliant workers in a technocratic economy. School, he argued, instills in us a perpetual childish neediness.  We need to toady for grades, because we need to get into the “best” schools, because we need to have a prestigious and well-remunerated job, because we need to buy a lot of stuff to pretend to fill the emptiness of our lives.  Among that stuff will be the odd child or two, who will also need to toady for grades, to get into the “best” schools, and so on, world without end, Amen.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:32 AM | Permalink

March 22, 2013

The takeover of public education by left-wing ideologues

I've posted a lot about the terrible state of education from kindegarden through college.

WHEN A SANDWICH IS RACIST, COMMUNISM IS AWESOME AND COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY DEMOCRATS STIFLE FREE SPEECH

THE SORRY STATE OF PUBLIC EDUCATION TODAY

BRING BACK HOME ECONOMICS CLASSES AND SHOP CLASSES AS WELL

"NO ONE SHOULD BE FORCED TO LIVE ACCORDING TO THE ‘NEW RELIGION’ AS THOUGH IT ALONE WERE DEFINITIVE AND OBLIGATORY FOR ALL MANKIND."

"I JUST COULDN’T LOOK MOTHER AFTER MOTHER IN THE EYE AND DENY THEIR CHILDREN THE OPPORTUNITY I WANTED FOR MY OWN CHILDREN"

TEACHING CHILDREN

THE DECLINE OF ACADEMIA AND THE RISE OF HOMESCHOOLING

LEFTISTS HATE HISTORY; STUDENTS SUFFER

THE MODERN UNIVERSITY TEACHES THAT THERE IS NO TRUTH, ONLY "LIFESTYLE."

The consequences effect students who graduate illiterate, ignorant and ill-equipped for life yet still-satisfied -  and all of us as well.

America's Sharp Left Turn Began With Education Takeover

But how did we get to this point? There had to be more. There was.

Along with destroying the fiber of two whole generations of Americans via the dumbing-down and moral neutering, the liberal education establishment pursued a third track very consciously, one that has involved injecting their ideological propaganda into the primary and secondary schooling process.

A large fraction of U.S. citizens under the age of 50 have received a heavy dose of liberal Democrat brainwashing during their school years.  Then, of course, it gets worse in college, as students' beliefs and attitudes are coached, and shaped, by the predominantly left-wing faculty.  You can see it vividly in college classrooms in the form of false but politically correct stereotypes and bromides our students internalize.

Make a statement of truly objective fact to many college students today, such as socialism doesn't work or Soviet communism was tyranny, or even that a higher minimum wage causes unemployment, and they would regard it as crackpot right-wing lunacy.

This is a result of the long-running re-education camp known as America's public school system, augmented by the mainstream media, Hollywood, and other functionaries of liberal culture who eagerly reinforce the programmed conditioning.  Concerning those mainstream media in particular, their role in the ideological transmogrification of American society has been profound.

Here's today's example:

What kind of a college professor would require his students to "write the name of Jesus on a piece of paper, fold it up, then step on it "  in his intercultural communications class and then suspend a student for failing to do so?

Florida Atlantic University professor Deandre Poole who is vice-chairman of the Palm Beach County Democratic Party.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:39 PM | Permalink

March 18, 2013

When a sandwich is racist, Communism is awesome and Columbia University Democrats stifle free speech

Of all the examples given in Education Gone Berserk which could indeed drive you berserk (originally a noun for a wild Norse warrior who fought with frenzy), probably the most ridiculous is the Portland teacher who explained that  “the word sandwich is a subtle form of racism in language.” A peanut butter and jelly sandwich could be racist and socially unjust.

How about teaching students how to think logically, how to read and write well, teach them grammar, how to spell, how to do math and percentages without the help of a calculator?

What the hell are they teaching public high school students in Texas?

1. Islam is awesome and the merits of the hijab.
2. Christianity is a cult that parallels the death and resurrection in the story of Osiris, the Egyptian god of the dead.
3. Communism is awesome while never mentioning the nearly 100 million people who died in the 20th century under various self-described communist regimes around the world.
5. The Boston Tea Party was a terrorist attack

And there was the teacher who encouraged high school girls to dress up in full-length Islamic burqas and then instructed the entire class that Muslim terrorists are actually freedom fighters.

A belated link to Rod Dreher 's Illiberal Education At Columbia

Kyle Dontoh, a student at Columbia University, writes in the campus paper about a ridiculous attempt to stifle free speech in the name of protecting students from having to hear opinions they don’t like.
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According to Dontoh, who supports same-sex marriage, it was a great program:

"The lectures were thoughtful and incisive—so much so that I quickly discarded my original plan of staying for a few sessions before returning to work. The speakers, to a T, were academics who based their arguments and presentations on facts and reason, not on bigotry or prejudice. Only one speaker, author Dawn Eden, made an argument based on religious grounds, and her lecture, “Everything is Tolerated and Nothing is Forgiven,” was about chastity and dealing with the excesses of permissiveness, not about the LGBT community. Only three speakers broached the issue of same-sex relationships, and only two of those three explicitly passed judgment on these relationships.

"Even then, the arguments were made on strictly rational grounds. Lynn Wardle outlined the case for traditional marriage on the notion that the family was the original, fundamental building block of society as envisioned by the Founding Fathers. Disagree as I may, this was not the rambling of a bigot. This was a reasoned, principled argument based on a fundamental respect for the LGBT community coupled with a specific interpretation of American history.

"As I listened to the issues—both agreeing and disagreeing at times—I felt a particular sense of excitement, picking up viewpoints I have seldom heard since coming to Columbia."

The reason why there were so many empty seats at the lecture, despite being 'sold-out' is that the Columbia University Democrats bought up all the tickets and thereby essentially denied students the opportunity to hear what others had to say, i.e. what conservatives had to say about the burning hot question of gay marriage.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:48 AM | Permalink

March 12, 2013

The sorry state of public education today

If you want to see just how terrible the state of our public education is just read Sarah Hoyt Malice or Incompetence?.  She tells a terribly story of how her son's school wanted to classify him as 'learning disabled" and someone who would probably never learn to read or write and threatened to take away her parental rights if she didn't do what was best for him.    She and her husband had her very smart son independently tested, brought the results to the teacher and school psychologist who reacted as if she had betrayed them by going behind their backs.  Her son is now in 'gifted' classes which is a lucky thing because the Title One classes the school  had wanted to put her son in are a disaster.

Recently I came across a news article estimating that 80% of NYC graduates cannot read and write and are functionally illiterate.  I’d bet those numbers are not far off across the country, and it wasn’t a surprise.  …

Five years ago, those numbers would have shocked me.  Then my blog got invaded by “children” in the eleventh grade of a gifted and internationally respected program in the high school my son was attending.  They seemed to have erratic spelling, the vaguest of acquaintances with grammatical rules and a thorough lack of ability to think.  (If you tried to challenge their assumptions or what amounted to received dogma, they reverted to profanity, in the hopes that it would make you pass out or go away and stop saying things that made them uncomfortable.)  It was clear their reading comprehension was iffy and their writing ability shaky.  (And the scary part is half of them were accepted into Ivy League schools a year later, which put paid to any idea I had this was a meritocracy.)
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Title One is – afaik – a Colorado program for children with learning disabilities.  To my knowledge, neither of the kids had been in it.  However, as I’ve learned over the years, my knowledge is often far from complete, and what happens OFFICIALLY is also not what happens in truth.  (For instance, if I’d known both the kids were sent to the school psychologist once a week through elementary, to fish for stuff that might be considered “abuse” – probably because Dan and I were troublesome – they would have been out of there so fast that the school’s head would spin.  Unfortunately both kids assumed this was “normal” and didn’t tell me till high school.  On paper, it never happened.)
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I’m surprised the literacy rate is 20%  I’m surprised it’s not 5%, and I wonder how many of those kids read well enough to read for pleasure.

Now, I realize that an illiterate peasantry is needed for a proper neo-feudal regime, but I wonder how many of these people are actually malicious, and how many are just full of their own self-importance and convinced that they are doing what is best for these children?
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But whether it’s from malice or misguided credentialism and do-goodism, what I can tell you is that our system of education is accomplishing the “miracle” of turning out a population MORE illiterate than the poor never-taught people in Tudor England.

SCOTUS to Texas: ‘Children Are Not Mere Creatures of The State’

Of all states, it would seem that Texas would be the last to need reminding of the Supreme Court’s admonition in Pierce v. Society of Sisters that “children are not mere creatures of the state.” The Lone Star State was one of the few that did not sign on to the Obama-fostered Common Core program, foregoing the dangled federal funds. Yet Texas wound up with a program eerily similar to the centrally planned Common Core standardization system, and one even less transparent.

As with other scandals, it is was as much the cover-up as it was the Texas curriculum management system’s — CSCOPE’s — violation of public trust that caused the uproar. Not only have nearly 80% of Texas schools organized their lesson planning under one “collaborative,” but the CSCOPE curriculum software contract — the “I agree” button — convinced a number of teachers of criminal penalties if they shared lesson content with parents or school board members.
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Recent examples come from the bizarre Texas education headlines that detail the photo and story of 9th grade girls donning burqas, Boston Tea Party protestors called terrorists, students asked to design a socialist flag, and a lawsuit filed last month over forced pledge of allegiance to the Mexican flag. It is the burqa flap and the ensuing saga that best illustrate why parents and the state school board have demanded oversight.

No wonder, putting a child in most public schools as they exist today is a form of child abuse.  Whenever parents have a choice to do something else, they choose it.

Walter Russell Mead, Charter Schools Surging in Big Blue Mass

America’s most successful anti-blue idea is thriving in a deep blue state: Democratic lawmakers in Massachusetts want to lift caps on charter schools and charter-school funding in 29 low-performing school districts
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There are now 31,000 Massachusetts students enrolled in charter schools, and another 45,000 applicants remain on waiting lists. Fifty-nine percent of Massachusetts charter schools achieved the state’s highest ranking in academic achievement and graduation rates, compared with just 31 percent of non-charter schools. The fact that Democratic lawmakers are getting behind charters likely means that low-income parents in Massachusetts like what they see and are demanding more.

The biggest impediment?  Teachers unions.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 5:15 PM | Permalink

March 6, 2013

Bring back Home Economics classes and Shop classes as well

In the U. K. there's a story of a cash-strapped mom who didn't know how to cook so she pureed cheeseburgers for her baby

Experts believe this grave situation is mirrored all over Britain because a generation with little or no parenting skills is bringing up their children on a diet of fast food.
Significant numbers of youngsters also arrive at primary school not toilet trained and cannot even use a knife and fork, according the Child Poverty Commission.
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Another woman who was given a carrot also admitted she had no idea what it was,

Knowing how to cook is a necessary life skill.  Otherwise, one must resort to processed foods, eating out or takeout food, all of which are contributing factors in the astonishing rise of  obesity.  I'm always surprised at the number of people who don't know how and don't care to learn. ( If you haven't been taught, pick up a beginner's cookbook, read and follow directions.)

I began thinking it's  to bring back home economics classes to junior and senior high schoolers.  What convinced me that the time has come was this article in the New York Times.  What Housework has to do with waistlines People aren't moving at home doing housework but plopping themselves down in front of one screen or another for hours at a time.  If you have a a reasonably sized house, there's no reason why you can't do you own housework  and save the money you would otherwise spend at a gym and on housecleaners.

Mothers aren't teaching their children how to do simple household tasks like laundry, deep cleaning, and ironing.  Maybe because they don't know themselves.  Home economics classes (the economics and management of home and community) would teach students how to properly run a family environment.  Classes include cooking and nutrition, cleaning, sewing as well as child development, managing money and relationships.  And why not an updated version of shop classes too to teach the basics of home repair, machine safety, design and technology as well as computer and security maintenance for every student?

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:03 PM | Permalink

February 27, 2013

"No one should be forced to live according to the ‘new religion’ as though it alone were definitive and obligatory for all mankind."

In the name of tolerance, tolerance is being abolished

In the name of tolerance, tolerance is being abolished; this is a real threat we face. The danger is that reason – so-called Western reason – claims that it has now really recognized what is right and thus makes a claim to totality that is inimical to freedom. I believe that we must very emphatically delineate this danger. No one is forced to be a Christian. But no one should be forced to live according to the ‘new religion’ as though it alone were definitive and obligatory for all mankind.”
Pope Benedict XVI

In Massachusetts, the Department of Education has issued a directive on the handling of 'transgendered' students and Students Who Refuse to Affirm Transgender Classmates Face Punishment.

Last week the Massachusetts Department of Education issued directives for handling transgender students – including allowing them to use the bathrooms of their choice or to play on sports teams that correspond to the gender with which they identify.

The 11-page directive also urged schools to eliminate gender-based clothing and gender-based activities – like having boys and girls line up separately to leave the classroom.
Schools will now be required to accept a student’s gender identity on face value.
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The new rules would also prevent teachers and administrators from telling parents with which gender their child identifies.
“School personnel should speak with the student first before discussing a student’s gender nonconformity or transgender status with the student’s parent or guardian,” the directive states.
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The Massachusetts Family Institute denounced the new rules calling them a violation of privacy.

“Fundamentally, boys need to be using the boys’ room and girls need to be using the girls’ rooms, and we base that on their anatomical sex, not some sort of internalized gender identity,” said Andrew Beckwith, the institute’s general counsel.

Beckwith told Fox News the new policy has a “very broad standard that is ripe for abuse.”
The policy allows students to have one gender identity at home and another at school,” he said. “And it refuses to let teachers and administrators tell parents what gender their child is at school.”

Another part of the directive that troubles parents deals with students who might feel comfortable having someone of the opposite sex in their locker room or bathroom.
The state takes those students to task – noting their discomfort “is not a reason to deny access to the transgender student.”

And any student who refuses to refer to a transgendered student by the name or sex they identify with could face punishment.

For example – a fifth grade girl might feel uncomfortable using the restroom if there is an eighth grade transgendered boy in the next stall.
Under the state guidelines, the girl would have no recourse, Beckwith said.  “And if the girl continued to complain she could be subjected to discipline for not affirming that student’s gender identity choice,” he told Fox News.  “It should not be tolerated and can be grounds for student discipline,” the directive states.

Gunner Scott, of the Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition, praised the directive – and said punishing students who refuse to acknowledge a student’s gender identity is appropriate because it amounts to bullying.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:34 PM | Permalink

February 11, 2013

"I just couldn’t look mother after mother in the eye and deny their children the opportunity I wanted for my own children"

The purpose of teachers' unions is to represent the job interests of their members.  They do no represent the best interests of children.
Which is why all the school reforms of the past 30 years haven't worked.  And it's why they will fight school choice to the death.

From Prager University, a 5 minute video on How Teachers Unions Hurt Schools

Michelle Rhee: My Break With the Democrats

As a lifelong Democrat, controversial education reformer Michelle Rhee never thought she’d support school vouchers. Until she did. In Radical, she details her transformation.

As a lifelong Democrat I was adamantly against vouchers. Vouchers provide public funds to parents who need help in paying tuition for private or parochial schools.
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I just couldn’t look mother after mother in the eye and deny their children the opportunity I wanted for my own children. It would have required me to say, “Gee, I’m sorry, you’re just going to have to suck it up. I know your elementary school is a failing school, and your child will probably not learn how to read, but I really need five more years to fix the system. And while I’m fixing the system, I need you and your neighbors to be really patient. Hang in there with me. Things will get better. I promise.”

If someone said that to me, I’d have said, “You may need more time to fix the system but my kid doesn’t have time. She has only one chance to attend first grade, and if she can’t learn to read by the end of first grade, her chances for success in life will be compromised. So with all due respect—heck no!”
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Here’s the question we Democrats need to ask ourselves: Are we beholden to the public school system at any cost, or are we beholden to the public school child at any cost?
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Think about it this way. Say your elderly mother had to be hospitalized for life-threatening cancer. The best doctor in the region is at Sacred Heart, a Catholic, private hospital. Could you ever imagine saying this? “Well, I don’t think our taxpayer dollars should subsidize this private institution that has religious roots, so we’re going to take her to County General, where she’ll get inferior care. ’Cause that’s just the right thing to do!”

Simple Justice: Kids Deserve School Choice

Rather than cave to self-interested protests against school choice from teachers unions, we should do what we can to make Catholic schools a viable school option for low-income children.
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The steady loss of Catholic schools is not only a crisis for the mission and ministry of the Catholic Church in America. It also threatens to detour, and in many cases to dead-end, that “road of opportunity.” What’s more, as new research by law professors Margaret Brinig and Nicole Stelle Garnett demonstrates, Catholic school closures in urban neighborhoods are associated with decreases in social cohesion and increases in disorder (see “Catholic Schools and Broken Windows”). Along with other scholars, Brinig and Garnett have reminded us of the importance of “social capital” and the anchoring, mediating institutions that strengthen communities and character alike. In our history, few institutions have played this role as successfully as Catholic schools have.

What’s more, for more than 150 years, and often despite bias and bigotry, Catholic schools have relieved governments of huge financial burdens while providing communities with immeasurable civic benefits. Indeed, America’s Catholic schools represent one of the most dramatic donations of time, talent, and treasure to the common good in our history. Perhaps instead of making the “heartbreaking” choice to close Blessed Sacrament School, Cardinal Dolan should call a press conference and present to the American people a sizable bill for services rendered.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:38 PM | Permalink

January 15, 2013

Teaching children

Are we ever to be done with the nonsense of teaching self-esteem instead of self-respect and self-control?  Here's yet another study that shows  Teaching Self-Esteem Undermines Students’ Academic Achievement

‘An intervention that encourages [students] to feel good about themselves, regardless of work, may remove the reason to work hard,’” notes “Roy Baumeister, a Florida State professor who’s studied the topic for years. ‘Self-control is much more powerful and well-supported as a cause of personal success,’ he says.”

Inflated self-esteem is why American students think they are doing much better than they are.  I trace it back to the pernicious notion that everyone must 'feel' good all the time.It's real achievement that leads to self-esteem.

Kids are not dumb.  Why praising your child may do more harm than good: Psychologist claims 'empty' comments makes them unhappy

Mr Grosz – who has practised as a psychoanalyst, a type of psychologist, for 25 years – said: ‘Empty praise is as bad as thoughtless criticism – it expresses indifference to the child’s feelings and thoughts."


The government (HHS) releases a study that shows: Head Start , the pre-school program federally funded for the past 48 years to the tune of $8 billion/year, has had no good effect once the students reach first grade.    A sad and costly secret.

According to the congressionally-mandated report, Head Start has little to no impact on cognitive, social-emotional, health, or parenting practices of its participants. In fact, on a few measures, access to the program actually produced negative effects.

The HHS’ scientifically-rigorous study tracked 5,000 children who were randomly assigned to either a group receiving Head Start services or a group that did not participate in Head Start. It followed their progression from ages three or four through the end of third grade

At last, an Education Hero, David Coleman

Our hero is David Coleman, president of the College Board, a Rhodes Scholar, and a former McKinsey & Company consultant.
Coleman used a grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to mold the requirements for the Common Core States Standards in English -- adopted by 46 states to be implemented in 2014 -- to mandate that 50% of reading assignments are non-fiction "informational text" in elementary school, and 70 percent by grade 12.
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Coleman does not mince his words: "People (employers) don't give a damn about what you feel and what you think. What they instead care about is, can you make an argument with evidence, is there something verifiable behind what you are saying or what you think or feel that you can demonstrate to me?"
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In addition to the inclusion of quality non-fiction, changes in fiction selections suggestions indicate a shift back to standards: Geoffrey Chaucer's Canterbury Tales; F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby; William Faulkner's As I Lay Dying; Thomas Paine's Common Sense; The Declaration of Independence; Frederick Douglass's "What to the Slave is the 4th of July?:," Allen Paulo's Innumeracy: Mathematical Illiteracy and its Consequences; Mark Fischetti's Working Knowledge: Electronic Stability Control; and George Orwell's "Politics and the English Language."

Another government study released in the dead of night by the Department of Justice on Dec 20th.  Violent Crime Against Youth, 1994-2010.

A new Justice Department study looking at violent crimes committed against “youth”—defined as Americans from 12 to 17 years of age—discovered that the rate of "serious violent crime" committed against youth by a perpetrator using a firearm dropped 95 percent from 1994 to 2010.
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American youth who were victims of a serious violent crime in 2010 were six times more likely to have been attacked by a perpetrator wielding a knife than one wielding a gun.
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An American youth was 3.8 times more likely to become the victim of a serious violent crime if he or she lived in a home where the householder was unmarried than if he or she lived with married parents
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:57 AM | Permalink

December 17, 2012

New Common Core State Standards Drop Literature for 'Informational Texts'

If you thought it was bad enough that the federal government was deciding how much food could be served to high school students, now they want to get rid of literature in favor government manuals.

Schools in America are to drop classic books such as Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird and JD Salinger's Catcher in the Rye from their curriculum in favor of 'informational texts'.

American literature classics are to be replaced by insulation manuals and plant inventories in US classrooms by 2014.

A new school curriculum which will affect 46 out of 50 states will make it compulsory for at least 70 per cent of books studied to be non-fiction, in an effort to ready pupils for the workplace.

Books such as JD Salinger's Catcher in the Rye and Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird will be replaced by "informational texts" approved by the Common Core State Standards.

Suggested non-fiction texts include Recommended Levels of Insulation by the the US Environmental Protection Agency, and the Invasive Plant Inventory, by California's Invasive Plant Council.

The new educational standards have the backing of the influential National Governors' Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers, and are being part-funded by a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Goodbye, Liberal Arts?

What if I told you that Obama’s education-policy reforms, arguably pushed through without the good graces of the law, were crippling children’s imaginations, stifling their creativity, and on the whole setting them up to become less moral, kind, empathetic people? It’s a strong statement, but one moored in fact. The president’s push for states to accept new curriculum standards should give chills to anyone who believes in the importance of the liberal arts. If you think it’s good for kids to read stories, these changes will probably disturb you.
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The new standards change how public schools teach reading, requiring that 50 percent of the texts read in grades K through 5 be informational. By twelfth grade, that figure rises to 70 percent.
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Professor Stephen Smith teaches at Hillsdale. ...When he taught high school, he found explaining the importance of fiction and poetry to be one of his greatest challenges. He offers the following defense of teaching lit to high-schoolers: “To experience great works that move you through their beauty to wonder and reason — this has always been in our tradition the beginning of serious reflection on the human person, on the best way to live, on those serious questions that sooner or later all of us must confront, and that the young really want answers to now.”
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Reading great literature helps students start to know themselves so they can begin “a life of reflection, a life wide awake,” Smith says. “Socrates said most folks sleepwalk through existence, and these books have a tremendous awakening power.” It’s safe to say that reading FedViews doesn’t……reading great literature can help students cultivate their emotions and capacity for empathy. It’s hard to write this without sounding sentimental, but stories bring us together and keep us together. Factoids do not.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:25 AM | Permalink

December 11, 2012

Is Poverty becoming the new normal?

One million Americans entered poverty in the last two months

Release delayed until after the election. Number of Americans on food stamps,  47.1 million,  not only a new all time record, but the monthly increase of 420,947 from July was the biggest monthly increase in one year.

in August and September, over three times as many foodstamp recipients were add to the economy as jobs (324,000).

Robert J. Samuelson  Is the economy creating a lost generation?

This is not a good time to be starting out in life. Jobs are scarce, and those that exist often pay unexpectedly low wages. Beginning a family — always stressful and uncertain — is increasingly a stretch. The weak economy begets weak family formation. We instinctively know this; several new studies now deepen our understanding.

When the labor market operates smoothly, it creates an economic escalator. Just out of high school or college, young workers typically switch jobs frequently until they find something that fits their talent and temperament. Job changes often mean higher pay; people move to advance themselves. The more they succeed, the more confident they feel in marrying and having children.
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Fully one-fifth of younger workers belong to the “underemployed.” As Shierholz notes, the young always have higher unemployment rates. It’s just worse now.


There may not only a lost generation but also lost states who have made everything worse by never facing up to their own debt.

In California, schools are taking virtual pay day loans to keep operating and end up getting only more deeper in debt.  According to NPR, one California school district, "a $2.5 million bond will cost the district a whopping $34 million to repay." 

In New York, the state is still repaying debt from the bonds it issued when the state sold Attica prison to itself during Mario Cuomo’s governorship in the early 1990s. The state has continually refinanced the debt and extended the term of the borrowing rather than repay it.

Michael Barone, Soul-crushing Dependency

“This is painful for a liberal to admit,” writes liberal New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof, in Profiting from a Child's Illiteracy,  “but conservatives have a point when they suggest that America’s safety net can sometimes entangle people in soul-crushing dependency.

Kristof is writing from Breathitt County, Ky., deep in the Appalachian mountains, about mothers whose Supplemental Security Income benefits will decrease if their children learn to read.

Evidently SSI administrators decided to be more generous to parents of such children. But, as Kristof notes, giving parents an incentive to keep children from learning to read works against the children’s long-term interest.

Kristof’s column makes a point similar to that in my Dec. 2 Examiner column on the vast rise in people receiving Social Security Disability Insurance payments. As with SSI, one imagines that those responsible for extending benefits to those not previously eligible did so out of a sense of generosity. But as I noted, “there is also a human cost. Consider the plight of someone who at some level knows he can work but decides to collect disability payments instead. That person is not likely to ever seek work again, especially if the sluggish recovery turns out to be the new normal. He may be gleeful that he was able to game the system or just grimly determined to get what he can in a tough situation. But he will not be able to get the satisfaction of earned success from honest work that contributes something to society and the economy.” Generosity that produces “soul-crushing dependency” is not really generosity.

Ace comments on Barone and expands the discussion to the dismal failure of the government-run, i.e. public school system.

When the media natters Republicans about intransigence and being held prisoner to their most "extreme" and ideological elements-- how come never a single word is mentioned about Democrats' evil obedience to the teachers' unions?

The incredible thing here is that almost every liberal will admit this, and almost every liberal in the business of politics has seen the documentary Waiting for Superman. They know the current system is more of a trap for, say, poor black kids than Jim Crow ever was.  And what do they propose doing about it? Absolutely nothing. Absolutely nothing.
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A reformer in Waiting for Superman made this point: If school districts had the power to fire (without the heavy union interference) merely the bottom 6% of teachers, 90% of the problems with public education would be solved.  But Democrats will never permit that. That 6% that is in danger of being fired are the most fired-up members of the Teachers Unions, because their livelihoods depend on the policy of absolutely no terminations for incompetency, and those most fired-up members of the Teachers Unions are in turn the shock troops of the Democratic turnout machine…..

It's the ultimate Cult of the Old -- we do this because we have always done so before. Not a single Member of the Herd of Independent Thinkers ever demonstrates all this "courage" they're always complimenting themselves for to question this demonic policy.

How tough it is these days to get out of poverty.  In Rust Belt, a teenager’s climb from poverty

Tabi shared the rental house with her mother and sometimes her mother’s boyfriend. Her four older siblings were grown. None of them had graduated from high school. They wore headsets and hairnets to jobs that were so futureless that getting pregnant at 20 seemed an enriching diversion. Born too late to witness the blue-collar stability that had once been possible, they occupied the bottom of the U.S. economy.

“I’m running from everything they are,” she said.
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Her mother had five kids and no husband at age 23. Tabi, the last born, was a welfare and WIC baby who grew up with evictions and lights getting cut off. Her 39-year-old mother remembers it differently.

The only people who are doing well are government employees. Americans believe public workers better paid and more secure (Bingo!)

"The federal workforce has become an elite island of secure and high-paid workers, separated from the ocean of average American workers competing in the global economy," according to a report this year by the Cato Institute.

That report found the average civilian federal government worker collected just under $84,000 a year in taxpayer money, about $32,000 more than the average private sector worker. That's a total federal worker package of about $236 billion a year.
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Even a plurality (48%) of government employees admit their private industry counterparts do work harder.

Another 67% believe that government workers have greater job security than those in the production- profit-driven private sector,

These two states in terrible financial situations,  California and New York, top the charts in the amount they pay their government workers.    There's been a 100%+ increase in California employee state pay since 2005 and at least one state psychiatrist earned $822,000 in one year !

Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:36 PM | Permalink

November 29, 2012

Why people don't like teacher unions

Because of behavior like this.

Louisiana Voucher Test  Meet 11-year-old Gabriel Evans, teachers union enemy No. 1.

Here's the bizarre world in which we live: In 2007 Gabriel Evans attended a public school in New Orleans graded "F" by the Louisiana Department of Education. Thanks to a New Orleans voucher program, Gabriel moved in 2008 to a Catholic school. His mother, Valerie Evans, calls the voucher a "lifesaver," allowing him to get "out of a public school system that is filled with fear, confusion and violence."

So what is the response of the teachers union? Sue the state to force 11-year-old Gabriel back to the failing school.
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The Louisiana unions know that putting their dismal classrooms into competition with private schools could eventually have students and parents trampling each other in a rush to the exits.

Louisiana's story is the latest study in how far the education bureaucracy will go to protect its money and power and resist the competition that comes from school choice, even when it means forcing kids to return to schools that steal their futures. The scholarships are only available to students in failing schools. If teachers unions want to stop their students from leaving, they don't need a lawsuit. They need to start serving 11-year-olds like Gabriel Evans instead of themselves.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:40 PM | Permalink

October 25, 2012

The decline of academia and the rise of homeschooling

Bruce Bawer interviewed in the Daily Caller  about his new book,The Victims’ Revolution: The Rise of Identity Studies and the Closing of the Liberal Mind.

What is the Victims’ Revolution?

Education in the humanities used to mean learning about, and learning to appreciate, the glories of Western civilization – accomplishments that were made possible, in large part, by capitalism and individualism. Now, too often, it means being taught to despise Western capitalism and individualism, and to see Western civilization as a plot by white males to oppress members of other groups. Students are trained to see everything around them in terms of the power of oppressor groups over victim groups. They’re trained to cultivate resentment and to pour out ideological, jargon-heavy rhetoric about revolution. They think they’re having their eyes opened about the world but all they’re doing is being turned into robots parroting old, worn-out Marxist slogans.
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What is wrong with “identity studies” – i.e. women’s studies, black studies, queer studies, etc.? Why aren’t they real academic disciplines?

Identity studies sum up everything that’s wrong with the humanities today. They’re about nothing other than group identity, group oppression, and group grievance. Instead of engaging in objective scholarly study of, say, black American history or women’s literature, these departments are boosters for everything having to do with the group in question. It’s all slogans. Kids don’t learn anything other than to think of themselves as having been wronged by capitalism, by the West, by America, by white men. College should bring together young people from different backgrounds so they can learn to get along, respect one another, and appreciate all that they have in common. Instead these pernicious “disciplines” encourage them to pigeonhole themselves and others and to see only differences.

From Minding the Campus  How the Colleges Skew U.S. History

The UCLA History Department offerings 2012

this semester the UCLA department website lists 16 courses in U.S. history since 1789. No courses deal with the Early Republic or the early 19th century. The only coverage of the Civil War comes in the form of small portions of thematic courses dealing either with race or gender (Slavery: Narrative, Novel, and Film, History of Women in the U.S., 1860-1980).It offers no classes on U.S. military history or U.S. constitutional history. The only standard survey comes in the class dealing with the New Deal, World War II, and the immediate postwar period.

Look what the department emphasizes. A quarter of the classes deal with race. Another two courses focus on ethnicity--including Asian-American cuisine; another two focus on gender. Fifteen or twenty years ago, students might encounter these courses in an ethnic studies department, not a history department at one of the nation's leading public universities.

Homeschoolers The Last Radicals

There is exactly one authentically radical social movement of any real significance in the United States, and it is not Occupy, the Tea Party, or the Ron Paul faction. It is homeschoolers, who, by the simple act of instructing their children at home, pose an intellectual, moral, and political challenge to the government-monopoly schools, which are one of our most fundamental institutions and one of our most dysfunctional. Like all radical movements, homeschoolers drive the establishment bats.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:54 AM | Permalink

September 13, 2012

Obama's war on the young

Walter Russell Mead, a Democrat writes  How The Student Loan Program Became Obama's War On The Young

The federal government that Democrats like to portray as the friend of the friendless, the hope of the poor, the light of the world and the most generous uncle that ever lived has turned into the most inexorable, hard hearted and relentless debt collector in the nation, hounding a generation of students literally into their graves over loans they will never be able to pay and which they cannot escape.

Using techniques that are banned by law when it comes to private debt collection agencies, the federal government is exempt from statutes of limitations and bankruptcy rulings and can garnish Social Security checks and disability payments.

Yes, handicapped, disabled people can have their meager checks cut to satisfy student loan debt on jobs their disabilities now make it impossible to do.
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The student loan program is a shining example of the blue social model in the midst of decay. It’s a program that used to work pretty well, but over time has morphed into a nightmare.
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This isn’t a minor issue in American life. Helping young people to make the transition from dependency into responsible adulthood is a critical task. When young people are so crushed by debt that they are delaying decisions like starting a family or buying a house, then the system isn’t working at a basic level. When growing numbers of young people are crushed by debts they did not understand, cannot pay and cannot discharge, then society is sitting on a time bomb. A generation of embittered deadbeats and angry, impoverished cynics is not the best foundation for a free and open society. When these alienated people living marginalized lives come disproportionately from the ranks of minorities, the divisive and destructive consequences of a social program gone to the bad can be serious indeed.

25 and deep in debt

At 25 years old, I have $188,307.22 in student debt, all of which is my sole financial responsibility. 

That exorbitant number was abetted by easy lending with a co-signer, negligence and lack of awareness, over-borrowing and the exponential growth of tuition.

I work both a full-time and part-time job, and abide by a strict budget. Yet, I still sleep in my parent’s basement and am dependent for food, gas and health insurance.

I am told I am not alone.

Crushing Debt Drove Me to Kosovo - And Then to Iraq

Ten years ago, I was nearly 30 and over $90,000 in debt. I had spent my twenties trying to build an interesting life; I had two degrees; I had lived in New York and the Bay Area; I had worked in a series of interesting jobs; I spent a lot of time traveling overseas. But I had also made a couple of critically stupid and shortsighted decisions. I had invested tens of thousands of dollars in a master’s degree in landscape architecture that I realized I didn’t want halfway through. While maxing out my student loans, I had also collected a toxic mix of maxed-out credit cards, personal loans, and $2,000 I had borrowed from my father for a crisis long since forgotten. My life consisted of loan deferments and minimum payments.
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I was finally reckoning with the fact that I was facing decades of unaffordable minimum debt payments. Any career ambitions I might have had would be put on hold indefinitely, possibly permanently. Travel was over. The full amount that I would have to pay off at the end of it all was too awful to contemplate. I felt trapped and hopeless. I was in a dark place.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:22 PM | Permalink

September 11, 2012

Education: Chicago teachers' strike, music training, classical education and Regnerus

Watching the mess in Chicago over the teachers' strike is the best argument for more school choice and vouchers.  Doors were shut to students who go to public school (404,000) but open to students(45,000) at charter schools, private schools and parochial schools.

The shakedown by the striking teachers union is egregiously unfair not just to the students but also to their parents who now must scramble to make arrangements to keep their children off the deadly streets of Chicago where there are more murders than in Afghanistan against U.S. troops.

Despite a 50% student dropout rate, despite the fact that 20% of the high school graduates are still functionally illiterate, despite the fact that the city is already broke, the public school teachers were offered a raise of 16% over four years and the union turned it down.  The real issue is whether the teachers will be held accountable for their performance.  The teachers' union doesn't want bad or ineffective teachers fired so it resists all attempts to measure their performance.

Chicago Bled Dry by Striking Teachers' Unions

Chicago teachers have the highest average salary of any city at $76,000 a year before benefits. The average family in the city only earns $47,000 a year. Yet the teachers rejected a 16 percent salary increase over four years at a time when most families are not getting any raises or are looking for work.

The city is being bled dry by the exorbitant benefits packages negotiated by previous elected officials. Teachers pay only 3 percent of their health-care costs and out of every new dollar set aside for public education in Illinois in the last five years, a full 71 cents has gone to teacher retirement costs.
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Just 15 percent of fourth graders are proficient in reading and only 56 percent of students who enter their freshman year of high school wind up graduating.

The battle over teacher accountability in public schools and the necessary sacrifice government paid teachers will have to make as the fiscal mess we're in only gets worse will take place all over the country.  The old battle cry 'it's for the children' doesn't work anymore.

Even a Few Years of Music Training Benefits the Brain

There is a body of research that suggests music training not only improves hearing, it bolsters a suite of brain functions. Musically trained kids do better in school, with stronger reading skills, increased math abilities, and higher general intelligence scores. Music even seems to improve social development, as people believe music helps them be better team players and have higher self-esteem. “Based on what we already know about the ways that music helps shape the brain, the study suggests that short-term music lessons may enhance lifelong listening and learning,”

Inspiration from Dorothy Sayers who lamented the inability of her "contemporaries to recognize shoddy reasoning and emotional manipulation" has lead to the case for  Classical Education in Catholic schools and the notable success of St Jerome's in Washington, D.C.

Disproving the notion that a classical curriculum is elitist, many students who previously struggled found motivation and success through the rich content and lively discussions that required them to think deeply.

“We have seen what it looks like for a child to be truly educated, and it is a very different thing than just the acquisition of skills,” said Donoghue. “This is about opening the treasure trove of the Catholic Church, and re-imagining ourselves in its heritage and thought.”

University upholds study finding children do better with straight parents than homosexuals

A Texas university has determined that “no formal investigation is warranted” against a professor who published a rigorous study this summer finding that children of heterosexual parents fare better in many respects than children of homosexual parents.

The University of Texas at Austin announced this week it would not pursue allegations against associate sociology professor Mark Regnerus an article published in the journal Social Science Research in July.

The announcement came in response to LGBT activist and blog author Scott Rosensweig, who had accused Regnerus of crafting a study “designed so as to be guaranteed to make gay people look bad, through means plainly fraudulent and defamatory,” and of “harbor[ing] anti-gay prejudices” because he is Catholic.

The study unearthed alarming disparities between the two family models, from suicide attempts and unemployment rates to sexual abuse.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:54 AM | Permalink

July 11, 2012

The Pathology of Privilege

I'm all for the free market, but I'm against crony capitalism when the government plays favorites with particular politically-connected businesses and industries
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Via the AEI blog, Bailouts are just the tip of the iceberg comes a wonderful interactive graphic at Mercator Net.  I just snapped a picture of it, so you should go to this link to see it in its full interactive splendor which will help you understand just how bad Cronyism is. 

Beyond Bailouts

The accompanying paper, The Pathology of Privilege lays out how tax credits, subsidies, monopolies, non-competitive bidding, loan guarantees and certain regulations distort the functioning of a  free market , threatens economic growth and undermines the legitimacy of both government and the private sector.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:00 PM | Permalink

April 12, 2012

Leftists hate history; students suffer

According to the American Council of Trustees and Alumni, 80% of seniors from fifty-five of the country’s most prestigious colleges and universities (including Berkeley and UCLA) received a D or F when asked basic questions about American history like identifying the Gettysburg Address or recognizing fundamental constitutional principles.

This is shocking. 

Richard Kirk on Ethics has more on how Leftists Corrupt Academia and the UC System.

A lengthy document submitted last week by the California Association of Scholars (CAS) to the California Board of Regents offers compelling evidence that these incoming freshmen will be paying more money for a lower quality education that’s heavily corrupted by leftist activism.
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The CAS report views the politicization of higher education as a major factor that’s fostered this state of affairs. After all, instructors besotted with ideology focus on indoctrination—not on dispensing a balanced portrait of complex issues and developing a student’s ability to critically evaluate competing perspectives.

In the words of the CAS study: “political activists tend to have a very different attitude to alternatives to their own convictions.” In their view competing beliefs “do not deserve sympathetic consideration, for they are at best wrong, at worst evil.”


What's most shocking is not the students' abysmal ignorance of American history. but the moral failure of the universities who have been given a great trust to pass on the legacy won for us by our ancestors.

Leftists hate history.  Anthony Esolen explains why in Progressive Inhumanity, Part Three: Hatred of the Past

I have long thought that the term "progressive" was a dodge, because no one could tell me exactly where we were supposed to be headed and why.

The progressive clamors for change with no goal in sight; change for change's  sake.

If we ask, "Change, for what?" we make the mistake of believing that our opponents retain a strong notion of human nature and of the moral laws that work towards its fulfillment. They do not. They therefore advocate change for its own sake; change, with perhaps an implicit trust that the change will eventually work towards some greater good, as if directed by social evolution, without their being able to specify exactly what that good would be.
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To greet change for change's sake is, then, less to unite one's heart to the homeland ahead (since there is no homeland ahead), but to divorce one's heart from the homeland behind. It is to uproot man from that soil wherein he grows in time but towards eternity.
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Am I being unfair to the progressive? The essential attitude of the progressive towards the past is that of contempt and hostility. What do we see in the past? A crime list of vices and stupidities.  It isn't just that we dwell upon the failings of our forebears and neglect to see their virtues. Very often we place upon our forebears the worst imaginable construction, or ascribe to them vices they did not possess and crimes they did not commit…The hostility is applied also to stupendous human works.
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But what is left of a truly human life? The commitment to change is like a ride on a roller-coaster, with one important reservation. We can enjoy a roller-coaster ride because we know that it will soon end, and we can put our feet back on the trusty solid ground. Imagine, though, a roller-coaster ride that does not end. Imagine a ride that has all the inconveniences of a bad journey — frenetic pace, confusion, dislocation, loss — and none of the consolations: no end of the journey, nothing but death, which is not now like arriving at a destination, but is instead like being at last tossed out of the car.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:44 PM | Permalink

April 4, 2012

The modern university teaches that there is no truth, only "lifestyle."

Western Survival Depends on Western Pride writes David Rusin

Due to “post-modernism, moral relativism, and multiculturalism, the West has lost all self-confidence in its own values, and seems incapable and unwilling to defend those values,” argues Ibn Warraq, author of Why the West Is Best. “By contrast, resurgent Islam, in all its forms, is supremely confident, and is able to exploit the West’s moral weakness and cultural confusion to demand ever more concessions from her.”

Warraq declares that if their system is to endure, Westerners must acknowledge that “the great ideas of the West — rationalism, self-criticism, the disinterested search for truth, the separation of church and state, the rule of law and equality under the law, freedom of thought and expression, human rights, and liberal democracy — are superior to any others devised by humankind.” Likewise, it is critical to compare Western ideals to those of the Islamists, which are antithetical to liberty and increasingly threaten it. A glance at how women and minorities are treated by strict Islamic law is sufficient to expose multiculturalism’s “lie that all cultures are worthy of equal respect and equally embracing of individual freedom and democracy,” to quote reformist Muslim Salim Mansur.

Astonishing isn't it, that people who point this out are often vilified and politicians who do so are raked over the coals for daring to declare the superiority of Western culture.

This decline in Western confidence was apparent 25 years ago when Alan Bloom first wrote, The Closing of the American Mind: How Higher Education Has Failed Democracy and Impoverished the Souls of Today's Students.    It was a book that drove them crazy

The crisis was​–is​–​a crisis of confidence in the principle that serves as the premise of liberal education: that reason, informed by learning and experience, can arrive at truth, and that one truth may be truer than another.
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He asked readers to consider contemporary students as he encountered them. They arrived ill-equipped to explore the large questions the humanities pose, and few saw the need to bother with them in any case. Instead, he said, they were cheerful, unconcerned, dutiful, and prosaic, their eyes on the prize of that cushy job. They were “nice.” You can almost see him shudder as he writes the word. “They are united only in their relativism,” he wrote. “The relativity of truth is not a theoretical insight but a moral postulate.”

Relativism, in fact, was the only moral postulate that went unchallenged in academic life.
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a professor at Carleton College, Michael Zuckert, told of canvassing the students in his class on American political thought. He asked whether they agreed that the truths in the first lines of the Declaration of Independence were indeed “self-evident.” Seven percent voted “yes.” On further conversation, he wrote, it turned out “that they were convinced there is no such thing as ‘truth,’ self-evident or otherwise, in the sphere of claims of the sort raised in the Declaration.”

An admirer of the book writes

The goal of Bloom’s book was to show how Americans of all political persuasions, social backgrounds and economic conditions are debating within a narrow modern world-view and have simply accepted as fact a mushy blend of modern theory that repeatedly contradicts itself and stands in sharp contrast to an almost entirely forgotten world of opposing thought: that of the ancients.
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Where the purpose of higher education once was to enable the student to find truth, the modern university teaches that there is no truth, only "lifestyle."
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Bloom simply wanted to make students think, to make them understand that there are different ideas of what man is and that they must confront these ideas if they wish to lead a meaningful life.

Andrew Ferguson writes another appreciation.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:15 AM | Permalink