Friday, September 13, 2013

Start schooling later than age five, say British "experts"

This is just another iteration of the old Finland controversy.  Leftists idealize Finland on very narrow grounds.  For a fuller view see here and here and here and here.  My view is that kids should start school as soon as they are ready for it -- some early, some late

Formal schooling should be delayed until the age of six or seven because early education is causing “profound damage” to children, an influential lobby of almost 130 experts warns.

Traditional lessons should be put on hold for up to two years amid fears that successive governments have promoted a “too much, too soon” culture in schools and nurseries, it is claimed.

In a letter to The Daily Telegraph, the group of academics, teachers, authors and charity leaders call for a fundamental reassessment of national policies on early education.

It is claimed that the current system robs infants of the ability to play and puts too much emphasis on formal learning in areas such as the three Rs at a young age. The letter warns that the Coalition is now ratcheting up the requirements with policies that prioritise “school readiness” over free play.

This includes the possible introduction of a new baseline test for five-year-olds in England and qualifications for child care staff that make little reference to learning through play, they say.

The letter – signed by 127 senior figures including Sir Al Aynsley-Green, the former Children’s Commissioner for England, Lord Layard, director of the Well-Being Programme at the London School of Economics, Dr David Whitebread, senior lecturer in psychology of education at Cambridge University, and Catherine Prisk, director of Play England – suggests that children should actually be allowed to start formal education later to give them more time to develop.

A spokesman for Michael Gove, the Education Secretary, said the signatories were “misguided”, suggesting they advocated dumbing down.

“These people represent the powerful and badly misguided lobby who are responsible for the devaluation of exams and the culture of low expectations in state schools,” the spokesman said.

“We need a system that aims to prepare pupils to solve hard problems in calculus or be a poet or engineer — a system freed from the grip of those who bleat bogus pop-psychology about 'self image’, which is an excuse for not teaching poor children how to add up.”

By law, children must be in school by the age of five, although the vast majority are enrolled in reception classes aged four.

Today’s letter says that children who “enter school at six or seven” – in line with Scandinavian education systems – “consistently achieve better educational results as well as higher levels of wellbeing”. It would mean putting off the start of formal schooling for up to two years for most children, with experts suggesting that they should instead undertake play-based activities with no formal literacy and numeracy requirements.

“The continued focus on an early start to formal learning is likely to cause profound damage to the self-image and learning dispositions of a generation of children,” the letter says.

The letter is circulated by the Save Childhood Movement, which is launching the “Too Much, Too Soon” campaign tomorrow.

It will push for a series of reforms, including a new “developmentally appropriate”, play-based early years framework for nurseries and schools, covering children between the age of three and seven.

Wendy Ellyatt, the founding director of the movement, said: “Despite the fact that 90 per cent of countries in the world prioritise social and emotional learning and start formal schooling at six or seven, in England we seem grimly determined to cling on to the erroneous belief that starting sooner means better results later.

“There is nothing wrong with seeking high educational standards and accountability, but there is surely something very wrong indeed if this comes at the cost of natural development.”

At the moment, most English children start school in nursery or reception classes at the age of three or four and are taught using the Early Years Foundation Stage — a compulsory “nappy curriculum”.

They are assessed against targets set out in the EYFS, which covers areas such as personal and social development, communication and early numeracy, before moving on to formal lessons in the first full year of school aged five.

Children are then subjected to further assessments in the three Rs at the age of seven.

The Government is now consulting on moving these later assessments in the three Rs forward to the “early weeks of a child’s career at school”.

Sir Michael Wilshaw, the head of Ofsted, said that the best nurseries and primary schools had a “systematic, rigorous and consistent approach to assessment right from the very start”.

The Government has also pledged to drive up standards of child care, including a requirement for staff to hold A-level style qualifications by 2014.

But the Save Childhood Movement claims that the threat of more rigorous assessments for four- or five-year-olds would undermine children’s natural development.

Speaking to The Daily Telegraph, Sir Al, who was the first Children’s Commissioner and is also emeritus professor of child health at University College London, said: “If you look at a country like Finland, children don’t start formal, full-scale education until they are seven.

“These extra few years, in my view, provide a crucial opportunity, when supported by well trained, well paid and highly educated staff, for children to be children”


Report: Parents who home-school question Common Core’s reach

There are few things 9-year-old Rhett Ricardo relishes more than curling up on his family’s living room couch and delving into a novel, like “Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea” – his imagination whirling as he reads the fantastical plot about a mysterious sea monster and a submarine, his mother says.

But Jill Finnerty Ricardo, of Dade City, Fla., who home-schools her three oldest children, has concerns about what is known as the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) – a national assessment standard adopted in 45 states that, among other objectives, seeks to balance out a perceived literature-heavy English curriculum with more non-fiction reading and writing, particularly informational text.. 

While the new standards, which purport to emphasize critical thinking and problem solving, are meant for public schools only, opponents say they will affect all children – including those who are home-schooled, especially when it comes to taking state standardized tests that are aligned with the Common Core.

It is up to each state whether home-schooled children must take standardized tests in grades three through eight, and once in high school. But all college-bound home-schooled students take the SAT, which is now being aligned with the new standards. The new head of the College Board, which is revamping the SAT, is David Coleman, the so-called architect of the Common Core.

“We home-school our kids to make sure we can support and encourage their individual interests, gifts and talents,” said 42-year-old Finnerty Ricardo, who holds degrees in marketing, public relations and biology. 

“Rhett loves novels,” she said, calling the perceived push to scale back on fiction and increase non-fiction “short-sighted.” 

“The value of using one’s imagination cannot be calculated,” she said. “Each child learns differently. Each person dreams differently.”

Common Core advocates claim misinformation, half-truths and ignorance have fueled opposition to the new standards, which were first introduced in the 2009 federal stimulus bill. A national PDK-Gallup poll, released last month, showed that two in three Americans had not heard of the Common Core.

The Hunt Institute, which supports CCSS, said the new standards were created “through a voluntary, collective effort by states” and serves as the “foundation for an education system that demands excellent teaching, high-quality professional development, rigorous curricula, and dynamic assessments.”

The educational policy group and others have addressed what they consider a widespread misperception about the Common Core: that teachers nationwide will have little or no flexibility in what they teach and how they teach it.

“Teachers and administrators, including principals and superintendents, will decide how the standards are to be taught and will establish the curriculum, just as they currently do -- allowing for continued flexibility and creativity,” the institute wrote in a briefing packet that seeks to explain the mission of CCSS.

“Teachers will continue to create lesson plans and tailor instruction to the needs of the students in their classrooms. States are currently in the process of implementing their new standards and are developing programs and materials that suit their unique needs,” the institute said.

But home-schooling groups, like the HSLDA, claim the Common Core creates a “one-size-fits-all approach to education” that rests on the “assumption that every child must learn the same things at the same speed.”

“We believe that the success of home schooling shows that the key to educational success is empowering parents and teachers, not educational bureaucrats,” the group said in a statement.

William Estrada, an attorney for the group, claims that CCSS is not a voluntary, state-led initiative, as supporters say. 

“The Common Core was pushed through the Race-to-the-Top program through federal funding,” he told “The federal government said that if states adopt the Common Core, they’ll get extra points for Race-to-the-Top and billions of dollars.”

“Instead of states looking at it carefully and considering whether it’s good for them, they rushed into it because they were desperate for cash,” Estrada said. 

“The primary problem with the Common Core is this national approach to education – a top-down approach saying that every kid everywhere is going to learn the same thing in the same way,” he said, adding that home-schooled children may be “disadvantaged” on standardized tests aligned with CCSS. Such tests are of critical importance to home-schooled students who are college bound because they do not have high school transcripts to submit to admissions offices.   

Estrada, who was home-schooled himself, argues the Common Core “takes away one of the beauties of home schooling – and that is the ability to choose a curriculum that is best suited for your child.” 

Approximately 1.5 million students are home-schooled in the United States, according to the most recent data from the Department of Education. Home school advocates, however, estimate that number to be even higher, claiming just more than 2 million children are home-educated -- which, if true, shows an increase in home schooling by as much as 75 percent since 1999.

Many educators claim the Common Core will likely have no adverse effect on home-schooled students, who, on average, already outperform their peers on standardized tests, including college-bound exams, according to some studies. Elite universities, like Stanford, have embraced home-schooled students, accepting a higher number over the last 10 years than in decades past.

While some home-school parents are wary of the Common Core, many, including Finnerty Ricardo, say they are optimistic their children will achieve high success on standardized tests despite the new standards.

“My hope is that because we have higher expectations for our kids than the Common Core, they’ll still do well on standardized tests,” she said. “We expect above and beyond what the Common Core requires.”


Dress code controversies in public schools

An op-ed in today’s Los Angeles Times entitled “School Dress Codes: Miniskirt Madness” by a New York law professor named Ruthann Robson demonstrates perfectly the difference between libertarians and statists.

Robson is upset over the increasingly strict enforcement of dress codes within America’s public schools. She says that enforcement of such codes interferes with what public schools should be all about — education. Now, that’s not to say that Robson is opposed to any dress codes. It’s just to say that she feels that the schools should enforce a type of limited dress code that she favors.

What do libertarians say about the dress-code controversy in public schools? We don’t say anything about that. Why? Unlike Robson and other statists, we don’t believe in public schooling. So, we don’t permit ourselves to get mired down in disputes over how public schools should be operated.

Citing a 1925 U.S. Supreme Court decision, Robson says that “the state does not have the power to ‘standardize’ its children, but too-detailed school dress codes seek to accomplish just that.”

What Robson unfortunately fails to recognize is that it’s not just strict dress codes that standardize children, it is public schooling itself that does that.

Keep in mind, after all, that public schooling is government schooling. Public schooling is, in principle, no different from the army, which, of course, is also run by the government. Like the military, the goal of public schooling is not so much education but rather training, conformity, obedience, and deference to authority. Its aim is to produce what we might call “the good little citizen” — the type who, while carping about how the government does certain things, never challenges at a fundamental level what government is doing.

Also like the military, public schooling is one gigantic socialist enterprise. The school’s curriculum and textbooks are determined by a central planning agency, whether at a local level (the school board) or a state or national level (departments of education). Funding is by taxation. Attendance is through compulsory-attendance laws.

Thus, why should anyone be surprised that public schooling is such a dismal failure when it comes to education and nurturing a love of learning and such a grand success in producing people who defer to authority and who are unable to engage in critical thinking with respect to the proper role of government in people’s lives?

Consider Robson. There is not one iota of indication in her 850-word op-ed that she has even considered the possibility of a total separation of school and state — a total free market in education. If she were to hear of such an idea, my hunch is that she would summarily dismiss it with nary a thought. Since a free-market educational system involves taking the education debate to a higher level — one involving a completely different paradigm — it’s simply much too frightening for most statists to even consider.

Robson complains that dress codes “rely on anti-democratic principles.” But how else are these types of disputes supposed to be resolved except by a democratic vote? People who favor strict dress codes are just as passionately committed to their position as Robson is to hers. How is the matter to be resolved? By the majority vote of the school board, which is elected by a majority vote of the electorate. And the losers must submit to the will of the majority.

In a free-market educational system, these disputes disappear. Parents are free to choose the educational vehicle that they believe is most appropriate for each of their children. Entrepreneurs are free to enter the educational market to compete for the parents’ business. If a school has a strict dress code, some parents will send their children there and others will not. The same holds true for schools with flexible dress codes.

As long as the government is permitted to run a schooling system, there will be never-ending, irreconcilable disputes such as the one involving dress codes. There will also be a never-ending stream of young people graduating who have come to hate learning and who have mindsets of conformity, obedience, and deference to authority.

There is only one solution to all this and it doesn’t involve getting one’s favorite dress code adopted by public schools. The solution to rise to a higher level and challenge the role of government in education, as our ancestors did with religion. The solution is to separate school and state, just as they did with church and state


Thursday, September 12, 2013

America's ruling class is crooked

That's what this news would seem to imply

Nearly half of new students starting at Harvard this year have admitted to cheating in their studies before starting at university.

A tenth of the incoming class have cheated on an exam, while 42 per cent admit to doing homework dishonestly, according to the results of a survey by the university’s own newspaper The Harvard Crimson.

Athletic students were most likely to cheat, with 20 per cent confessing to chicanery in tests, compared to nine per cent of those who do not play a varsity sport. Men are twice as likely to have cheated.

Yet despite such a high number of students admitting to academic dishonesty, 84 per cent of the 1,300 freshmen questioned say that academic work is their main priority, above sports, extracurriculars, employment and social life. Not one respondent intends to put academic commitments at the bottom of their list.

These results follow the largest cheating scandal at Harvard in recent memory, in which over 120 students were investigated for swapping answers on an exam in 2012. Since that controversy, Harvard has maintained a strict anti-cheating policy, insisting that ‘all work submitted for credit is expected to be the student’s own work’.

In an email to NBC News, Harvard representative Jeff Neal explained that a committee of staff and students had been established to address the ‘national problem in American education’.

“While the vast majority of Harvard and other students do their work honestly,” he said, “beginning this year, Harvard College has implemented a new, more robust strategy of communicating with all students, particularly first-year students, about the importance - and the ways to achieve - academic integrity.”

Perhaps cheating will no longer be necessary, however, as 36 per cent of students anticipate studying for between 20 and 29 hours a week in college, while another 26 per cent expects to dedicate an eye-watering 30 to 39 hours of their time to academic work.


Report: Parents opting kids out of standardized tests

 While his eighth-grade classmates took state standardized tests this spring, Tucker Richardson woke up late and played basketball in his Delaware Township driveway.

Tucker's parents, Wendy and Will, are part of a small but growing number of parents nationwide who are ensuring their children do not participate in standardized testing. They are opposed to the practice for myriad reasons, including the stress they believe it brings on young students, discomfort with tests being used to gauge teacher performance, fear that corporate influence is overriding education and concern that test prep is narrowing curricula down to the minimum needed to pass an exam.

"I'm just opposed to the way high-stakes testing is being used to evaluate teachers, the way it's being used to define what's happening in classrooms," said Will Richardson, an educational consultant and former teacher. "These tests are not meant to evaluate teachers. They're meant to find out what kids know."

The opt-out movement, as it is called, is small but growing. It has been brewing for several years via word of mouth and social media, especially through Facebook. The "Long Island opt-out info" Facebook page has more than 9,200 members, many of them rallying at a Port Jefferson Station, N.Y., high school last month after a group of principals called this year's state tests — and their low scores — a "debacle."

In Washington, D.C., a group of parents and students protested outside the Department of Education. Students and teachers at a Seattle high school boycotted a standardized test, leading the district superintendent to declare that city high schools have the choice to deem it optional. In Oregon, students organized a campaign persuading their peers to opt out of tests, and a group of students in Providence, R.I., dressed like zombies and marched in front of the State House to protest a requirement that students must achieve a minimum score on a state test in order to graduate.

"I'm opposed to these tests because they narrow what education is supposed to be about and they lower kids' horizons," said Jesse Hagopian, a teacher at the Seattle school. "I think collaboration, imagination, critical thinking skills are all left off these tests and can't be assessed by circling in A, B, C or D."

For many parents and students, there have been few to no consequences to opting out of testing. Most parents are choosing to take their younger children out of testing, not older students for whom it is a graduation requirement. It's unclear if things will change when the Common Core Curriculum and the standardized tests that will accompany it are implemented in the 2014-15 school year.

Some states were granted waivers for No Child Left Behind, which requires districts to have at least 95 percent of students participate in standardized testing or be at risk of losing funding.

Kristen Jaudon, a spokeswoman for the Washington Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction, said the test Seattle deemed optional is not required by the state. Ninety-five percent of students in a given school must take standardized tests that are required by state law. She said parents who pull their children out of testing wouldn't be able to identify if a student was having problems in a particular subject and the move would deny educators the chance to see if the curriculum is working.

"We are bound by state law to test kids in our state. It's not optional," she said.

Tustin Amole, a spokeswoman for the Cherry Creek School District in Centennial, Colo., said 95 percent of students in the district take standardized tests. If a child stays home on testing day, she said, it's difficult to know if the parent is opting the child out or if the child is home for personal reasons, such as being sick.

"We encourage parents to have their kids take the test, but there are no consequences of any kind," she said. "There's no formal process for opting out. They can keep their child home that day and write an excuse."

Maria Ferguson of the Center on Education Policy said she thinks the practice of parents pulling their kids out of standardized tests is symbolic.

"I think it shows that people are very scared and very confused by tests," she said. "I think it's representative that testing has a branding problem."

Julie Borst of Allendale, N.J., didn't want her rising ninth-grader to take state standardized tests last year because she has special needs and isn't learning at her grade level. Borst is also concerned about the corporate influence of testing on education.

Borst said the school and superintendent asked the New Jersey Department of Education for guidance. Rather than staying home, Borst's daughter had to go into the principal's office each morning of the test and refuse to take it. Borst then drove her home.

"It was kind of convoluted and kind of a dance you do, and the result is the school district, they don't get dinged," Borst said.

Michael Yaple, a spokesman for the New Jersey Department of Education, said about 98 percent of New Jersey students take standardized tests.  "Keeping a child home from testing does no favor to the child or the school," he said.

Morna McDermott, a Baltimore college professor who is a board member of United Opt Out, likens the battle against standardized testing to a fight for corporate reform.

"Ultimately this is an act of civil disobedience," McDermott said. "If this is going to change, it has to fundamentally be grassroots."

Darcie Cimarusti of Highland Park, N.J., didn't like that her twin daughters would have to agonize over a standardized test as first-graders so she worked out an agreement with the principal to move them into a kindergarten class during testing time.

"My goal is that my daughters never take a standardized test," Cimarusti said. "I see less and less value in it educationally and it being used more and more to beat teachers over the head."

Peggy Robertson, a teacher in Centennial, Colo., who is also an Opt Out board member, said she only expects the movement to grow.   "You can feel the momentum," she said. "I think we're headed for a full-on revolt next year."


Birmingham (UK) college bans Muslim veils

A college has been accused of discrimination after it banned Muslim students from wearing religious veils.

Birmingham Metropolitan College ordered all students, staff and visitors to remove any face coverings so individuals are "easily identifiable at all times".

The move led to claims that Muslim students were being discriminated against after women were told they could not wear the niqab, a veil that leaves only a slot for the eyes.

The disclosure comes as proposals to ban face coverings in public places are being debated in Parliament.

A private members bill proposed by Philip Hollobone, the Conservative MP for Kettering, would make it an offence for someone to wear “a garment or other object” intended primarily to obscure their face, in public.

Jack Straw, the Labour former foreign secretary, is among MPs who have drawn criticism by asking women visiting their constituency surgeries to consider removing their veils.

The college’s policy was disclosed to one prospective Muslim student at the start of the new term last week.

The 17-year-old girl, who did not want to be named, said: "It's disgusting. It is a personal choice and I find it absolutely shocking that this has been brought in at a college in Birmingham city centre when the city is so multicultural and so many of the students are Muslim.

"It upsets me that we are being discriminated against.  "I don't think my niqab prevents me from studying or communicating with anyone - I've never had any problems in the city before."

The teenager said she had decided to look for another college place in the city.

Hoodies, hats and caps have also been banned at the college, which was formed in 2009 after the merger of Matthew Boulton and Sutton Colfield colleges.

Dame Christine Braddock, the college’s principal, said the policy had been in place for some time and had been developed to keep students safe.

She said: "We have a very robust equality, diversity and inclusion policy at Birmingham Metropolitan College but we are committed to ensuring that students are provided with a safe and welcoming learning environment whilst studying with us.

"To ensure that safeguarding is a priority, we have developed our policy alongside student views to ensure we keep them safe.

"This needs individuals to be easily identifiable at all times when they are on college premises and this includes the removal of hoodies, hats, caps and veils so that faces are visible.

"All prospective and progressing students, as well as staff, have been advised of the policy, which will mean everyone allowed on the premises can understand and know each other in a safe environment."

But another student at the college, Imaani Ali, 17, who studies applied sciences, said her "freedom has been breached" by the rule.  "Me and another friend who wears the veil were only told we wouldn't be allowed inside the college after we had enrolled.”

She added: "They haven't provided us with another alternative. We said we would happily show the men at security our faces so they could check them against our IDs, but they won't let us.”

However, other students at the college - which has several campuses across the West Midlands - said the ban made them feel safer.  Chante Young, 17, a business student, said: "You don't know who is underneath it.  "You can't see any of their face - only their eyes."

Last month a judge has halted a court case after a Muslim woman refused to lift her face veil and prove her identity.


Wednesday, September 11, 2013

The Hill of Hypocrisy

Mike Adams

Late Friday morning of last week, I got interrupted by a call from Katie Pavlich. It's not like I was working - I haven't worked on a Friday morning since I got tenure back in 1998. It's just that I was cleaning one of my favorite .44 magnums and didn't want to be disturbed at that particular moment. Nonetheless, Katie was having some problems with the folks at UNC - Chapel Hill and she needed some help. So I put down my Smith and Wesson and gave her my best advice.

For those who haven't yet heard, Katie was invited by the College Republicans to speak at UNC-CH. But the folks in student government said she was "non-intellectual" and had "no value" as a speaker. So they refused to fund her speech and gave it to some feminists and anarchists instead. (Please pardon any redundancy in that last sentence).

Although Katie contacted me for support, I had to be honest with her. I agree with the UNC-CH student government. Katie is a non-intellectual with no value as a speaker. Furthermore, the funding debacle at UNC-CH is entirely her fault. If Katie knew anything about the UNC system, she could have taken any number of measures to ensure full funding of her event. I shared a number of examples with Katie. Just in case you're a conservative woman seeking an audience at UNC-CH, I'm sharing these tips with you, free of charge.

- Dress up as a six foot vagina. A few years ago at Appalachian State, which is in the UNC system, a feminist at the Women's Center went parading across campus dressed in a six foot tall vagina costume. She and her fellow feminists managed to get funding for The Vagina Monologues. They were also allowed to advertise for it with the giant vagina costume. Katie could have borrowed that costume and even given her speech wearing it. She would have looked every bit as intellectual as an Appalachian State feminist. Then, the UNC system would have funded her speech in a heartbeat. Sometimes appropriate business attire really makes a difference. This is especially true when you want to come across as a true intellectual.

On a side note, UNCW Feminists also managed to get funding to sell little vagina-shaped lollipops when they put on the Vagina Monologues. If Katie were to put in a request to sell these p*ssy pops (that is what they actually called them) at her speech, then she would likely get full funding. It's not a truly intellectually stimulating event unless feminists are walking around licking sugar-coated treats that look like genitalia.

- Drop your guns and celebrate "kick ass" feminism. Katie needs to get off of this gun kick. Last year, one of my feminist colleagues, Donna King, published a book called Men Who Hate Women: And the Women Who Kick Their Asses. In it, she advanced the concept of "kick ass feminism." One of the chapters in her book praised a feminist in a Stieg Larsson novel who retaliated against a man who had previously raped her. She accomplished the retaliation by finding him, tying him up, and then shoving metal objects up his rectum.

Clearly, Katie's ideas about preventing violence via lawful gun possession are anti-intellectual, even if supported by the work of scholars like John Lott. If Katie wants to be a true intellectual, she needs to renounce guns and convince women to wait until after they are raped to deal with the rapist via vigilantism. No need for guns. All you need is a little rope and a few metal objects to shove up the rapist's rectum once he's safely bounded and gagged. If a feminist intellectual recommends a vigilante course of action, you know it has to be sound. Plus, the word "vigilante" sounds similar to vagina. And that's always reassuring.

- Tell UNC feminists that some handguns can also be used as sex toys. A few years ago, UNC Chapel Hill decided that "orgasm awareness week" was of enough intellectual value to merit funding from the university. In fact, they built a temporary vibrator museum right there in the middle of the campus. I told Katie that she should just tell campus feminists that they don't have to be afraid of handguns. Tying it into sex (please, no bondage jokes) is a sure way to win over the hearts and minds of sex crazed, I mean, intellectually gifted UNC feminists. Tell them the guns can also be used as sex toys and you'll get full funding. Tell them that guns can also be used to perform late term abortions (4th trimester and beyond) and they'll make you director of the Women's Center.

- Dress up as a gorilla and throw bananas at the audience. A few years ago, our women's center paid for a group called the Gorilla Girls to come to campus. They were some serious intellectuals. They dressed up in gorilla costumes and threw bananas at audience members. I told Katie she should emulate them. Put on a gorilla outfit and throw bananas at students who are there earning extra credit. Hit them in the face with those bananas. I mean, knock the crap out of them. Hit them hard enough and they'll start to agree that they need to be armed with handguns to protect themselves from assault and battery.

- Fly in on a private jet. Arianna Huffington was paid $12,500 to fly into UNC - Wilmington on a private jet. During her tree hugging feminist speech, she lectured the audience about driving SUVs and wasting precious gasoline. Nothing communicates a need for a giant honorarium better than having your own private jet. And people who use a private jet to facilitate a lecture on energy conservation tend to be intellectually gifted, high value speakers.

- Stop wearing makeup and shaving your arm pits. I know she's never heard this before but Katie is not ugly. And that's a serious problem for her. These UNC feminists are tough on good looking women. They have a real disdain for makeup and razor blades. If Katie started looking a little more like a French foreign exchange student then she might be taken more seriously by the UNC feminists. In a nutshell, when a woman dresses and carries herself like Katie Pavlich, bad things are bound to happen. She really brought the whole thing on herself and should have sought my advice much sooner. If she had, she would be rubbing elbows with Gorilla Girls and making a down payment on her first private jet.

In all seriousness, I believe it’s time for UNC-CH to stop holding itself out as an institution interested in achieving intellectual diversity through the free and open exchange of ideas. And it's past time to get rid of its official motto, Lux Libertas.  How about Collis Hypocrisi instead?


Illinois School Keeps Students—and Parents—In the Dark

The lights are off every Tuesday inside Grove Avenue Elementary School in Barrington, Illinois, thanks to the Green Tuesdays program, aimed to raise awareness about the environment. The school also asks its K-5 grade students to wear an article of green clothing Tuesdays.

The program has some parents concerned about their children’s safety.

“I could see a kid tripping and getting hurt in some of those dark hallways by the lockers,” said Kenneth Rusin, who has two children in the school and two younger children who will attend in the next few years. “I’m also concerned if there was some type of intruder, a pedophile or somebody who would want to harm my children. I don’t know how it would be witnessed well in those dark areas.”

The school’s security cameras may not get clear images of intruders, he said, and the darkness could contribute to poor mental well-being.

“It just doesn’t feel very welcoming and comfortable to walk in the dark hallway,” he said.

The project is in keeping with safety codes, said principal Cindy Kalogeropoulos.  “We are a school with a lot of windows, so ... even with our hallways dimmed, it’s not like we’re searching for how to get down the hallway,” she said. “It’s dimmer light, there’s no doubt about it, but kids can easily find their way.”

Kalogeropoulos said administrators checked school codes to ensure they could keep the lights off for one-fifth of the school year, “So everything is fine.”

“It’s just a day every week that we try to raise everybody’s awareness,” she said. “Kids are very basic when they’re in elementary school, so it’s kind of a wakeup call for us to be conscious of things.”

The school also encourages children to donate to the local food pantry, allowing them to wear hats on Wednesdays if they bring in a donation. Food grown in the school’s garden is served in the cafeteria and, in the summer, donated to the food pantry.

The program happened without parents’ or school board members’ knowledge, Rusin said.  “It just came up,” he said. “The public didn’t hear about it, and the board didn’t know about it till I brought it to their attention.”

Rusin wrote a letter complaining to the principal, who wrote back explaining and defending the program. He has approached local public officials, including the police and fire departments, and an insurance company. The consensus was that everything’s up to code and their hands are tied until someone is hurt or files suit, he said.

“The superintendent told me that if I came to another school board meeting, that he and the principal would have 100 parents that agree with him,” Rusin said.

The fire department, insurance agency, and superintendent did not return calls for comment.

Kalogeropoulos said parents and staff have been “absolutely” supportive of the program, and that she has not heard any complaints from parents. She did not return calls or an email for comment about her response to Rusin’s letter.

The school board and principal are “adamant” about keeping the program, refusing to hear criticism of it, Rusin said.

All board members were emailed for comment but returned none, and Jeff Arnett, chief communications officer for the board, emailed back a week later to say media requests should go through his office.

The school board has never been involved in the program, Arnett told School Reform News.

“To my knowledge it’s never been raised during the public comments portion of a meeting, and it has not been an agenda topic at any of their meetings,” he said. “The school board makes decisions about things that have district-wide implications, and this is specific to Grove Elementary.”

Rusin said he’s been the most outspoken, but many parents are similarly concerned. He knows one family that pulled their children out of the school “because they didn’t like the way the principal was agenda-driven.”

“Most people think it’s not something that should be done and they’re against it, however, to get anybody to come to a board meeting or to write a letter or to bring it up, people ... don’t want to upset the staff, because maybe they’ll take it out on our children,” he said.

Safety issues aside, Rusin said schools aren’t the place for this.

“The way we’re looking at it, please just teach our kids reading, writing, arithmetic. Keep that stuff somewhere else, because it doesn’t seem like the right place for this age group, and it’s a little awkward when you walk into the main doors of the school and it’s pitch black on Tuesday.”

He said he feels the school is pushing a political agenda on the students.

“If there’s any question of jeopardizing health and safety, why is it important for them to hear about global warming when other schools aren’t doing it, at the expense of the children?” he said.


'Greedy' Scottish universities offer more clearing places to fee-paying English students

Scottish universities have been accused of “greed” for offering hundreds of courses through clearing to fee-paying English students that are not available to local school-leavers.

With just weeks to go until the start of the new academic year, institutions in Scotland still have nearly 1,000 subjects with places open to applicants from England, Wales and Northern Ireland, who must pay up to £9,000 a year in tuition fees.

However, Scottish students, who are not charged for undergraduate degrees, are now only able to apply for 326 different courses at their home universities through clearing.

The latest figures show that 4,150 English students won places at universities in Scotland this year, up 2.5 per cent on 2012 and the largest number in four years.

The Scottish Conservatives have accused the SNP-run Scottish Government of pursuing a “discriminatory” higher education policy that has put pressure on universities to take more fee-paying students.

Alan Smithers, professor of education at Buckingham University, argued that Scotland was only able to waive tuition fees for its students thanks to extra funding from Westminster.

He said: “It is really a bit greedy that they should be treating students from England differently because this is how they are able to afford the generous support for Scottish students.

“I think they are wanting to demonstrate that they are an effective government and that they can provide the support that the UK government is unable to provide in England.

“But they don’t acknowledge that they are only able to do it because of the generous tranche of UK taxpayer money that they get compared with England.

“Whether they are making a political point or doing it to generate income, I would guess is an interesting question.”

The popular University of Strathclyde in Glasgow, which levies the maximum £9,000 tuition fee for students from other parts of the UK, was today offering 236 subjects through clearing for English students, including history, modern languages, maths and physics, according to the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (Ucas) website.

By contrast, the only course still open to those living in Scotland was a post-graduate law degree.

Edinburgh Napier University had 162 subjects for English students and just one for applicants from north of the Border, while the figures for Glasgow Caledonian were 91 and none, and 80 and one for the University of the West of Scotland.

The institutions said the discrepancy was caused by the fact that the Scottish Government effectively imposes a cap on the number of taxpayer-funded degree places for students from Scotland, but there is no limit on how many fee-paying undergraduates can be admitted.

Alastair Sim, the director of Universities Scotland, said the fees paid by English meant that they chose to study at Scottish institutions for the quality of education on offer rather than because it was a “cheap option”.

He added: "The number of places available to Scots is controlled by the Scottish Government. Universities can only recruit to fill the places available and over-recruitment would result in fines.

“However, there has been a modest funded expansion of places for Scottish students this year, and this has resulted in an increase in the number of Scottish students accepted into university this year compared to last."

The Scottish Government said a record number of Scottish students had been accepted into universities north of the Border this year, meaning they had less need to depend on clearing.

“Access for Scots to Scottish universities is based on the ability to learn not the ability to pay, with students from Scotland receiving free tuition and the best package of support available anywhere in the UK,” a spokesman added.


Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Why Does College Cost So Much in the USA?

John C. Goodman

We spend about twice as much as other developed countries as a fraction of national output. Yet our results are mediocre. Public and private spending is growing much faster than our income ? putting us on a course that is clearly unsustainable. It appears we are buying quantity instead of value. Outcomes vary wildly from state to state. And programs that target the poor seem to be backfiring instead.

I could easily be talking about health care. Instead, I'm speaking about higher education ? making some of the same points that President Obama made the other day. Unfortunately, both fields have the same problem. The entity paying for the service all too often tends to be different from the person who is supposed to be benefiting.

Spending on higher education as a percent of GDP in the United States is about twice the OECD average (3.1% versus 1.5%). Yet our results are far from the top:

The U.S. once led the world in college graduates. As an example of this, Americans age 55-to-64 still lead their peers in other nations in the portion with college degrees (41 percent). But this number has flat-lined for Americans. In 2008, the same percentage of Americans age 25-to-34 and age 55-to-64 were college graduates.

Meanwhile, other nations have caught up, and some have pulled ahead. Among this younger age group, 25- to 34-year-olds, all of the following nations now have a larger percent of college graduates than the U.S.: Australia, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Ireland, Israel, Japan, South Korea, Luxembourg, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden and the United Kingdom.

Our mediocre ranking is not for lack of funds. According to Richard Vedder in the Wall Street Journal on Saturday, the explosion in college costs began about the same time as the cost explosion in health care ? with the Higher Education Act of 1965:

In 1964, federal student aid was a mere $231 million. By 1981, the feds were spending $7 billion on loans alone, an amount that doubled during the 1980s and nearly tripled in each of the following two decades, and is about $105 billion today. Taxpayers now stand behind nearly $1 trillion in student loans.

And the trend is ominous. According to President Obama, over the last three decades, fees at public universities have risen 250%, compared with a 16% rise in average family incomes.

So where is all the money going? Again from Vedder:

* Princeton [University] recently built a resplendent $136 million student residence with leaded glass windows and a cavernous oak dining hall (paid for in part with a $30 million tax-deductible donation by Hewlett-Packard CEO Meg Whitman). The dorm's cost approaches $300,000 per bed.

* Harvard's $31 billion endowment, financed by tax-deductible donations, may be America's largest tax shelter.

* The University of California system employs 2,358 administrative staff in the president's office alone.

* Since 2000, New York University has provided $90 million in loans, many of them zero-interest and forgivable, to administrators and faculty to buy houses and summer homes on Fire Island and the Hamptons.

* Former Ohio State President Gordon Gee (who resigned in June after making defamatory remarks about Catholics) earned nearly $2 million in compensation last year while living in a 9,630 square-foot Tudor mansion on a 1.3-acre estate. This Columbus Camelot includes $673,000 in art decor and a $532 shower curtain in a guest bathroom. Ohio State also paid roughly $23,000 per month for Mr. Gee's soirees and half a million for him to travel the country on a private jet.

So what is all this spending doing for the students? As President Obama pointed out, the average borrower now graduates with more than $26,000 of debt, loan default rates are rising and only about half of those who start college graduate within six years. What about low-income students? We seem to be going backwards: only about 7% of recent college graduates come from the bottom-income quartile, compared with 12% in 1970 when federal aid was scarce.

Reflecting his unquenchable desire to tell everybody what to do, President Obama's solution to all of this is top down all the way. He has already decided law school should be two years instead of three. You can think of his basic approach as pay-for-performance. It didn't work in health care, but what the hell? Why waste all the money we've invested in the idea without first trying it out in a few other fields.

My proposal is similar to what I've recommended for health care: a fixed sum voucher. Give students a bundle of money and let the colleges compete to see what they can provide for that sum. And give all the money to the students. The universities' income will depend exclusively on how well they compete. I would also get rid of all the tax breaks for donors ? but as part of overall tax reform. The money we would save by eliminating those tax breaks is a potential new source of funds for the student voucher.

I would also insist on some pretty strict standards for the voucher. It appears that we are sending too many people to college these days. (There are 115,520 janitors in the United States with bachelor's degrees?)

As for the pricing of the voucher, I would look carefully at fees charged for high quality, online courses. We certainly want the students to be able to afford those. Maybe we don't have to spend much more, however. And with technological improvements, the value of the voucher may not need to increase over time.


2,000 British schools are coasting, says watchdog as it cracks down on educational mediocrity

Thousands of coasting schools across the country have fallen foul of a tougher inspection regime, figures out today show.  In a crackdown on mediocrity, the schools watchdog Ofsted is ordering them to improve.

The move follows the introduction of hard-hitting inspections to rout out poor performance.

In a major speech today, Ofsted’s chief inspector, Sir Michael Wilshaw, will praise schools that strive to raise standards.  But he will warn that those only doing the minimum to get by will have to raise their game or face severe sanctions.

Since September 2012, all schools have been required to achieve at least a ‘good’ rating.

Before then, schools were rated as outstanding, good, satisfactory or inadequate. However, the satisfactory rating was scrapped and replaced by ‘requires improvement’ to highlight continuing weaknesses.

Schools are now rated on the four-point scale of outstanding, good, requires improvement and inadequate.

Ofsted figures released today will reveal that more than 7,000 state schools in England were inspected between September 1, 2012, and June 30 this year. Of these, almost a third – around 2,000 – fall into the ‘requires improvement’ category.

They will be inspected more regularly, with Ofsted monitoring progress and checking action plans, and will be subject to a full re-inspection within two years.

Schools judged to require improvement at three consecutive inspections are likely to be placed in special measures, which means they face the sacking of the head and other staff, the replacement of the governors and even the closure of the school.

Schools judged ‘satisfactory’ before September last year did not automatically fall into the ‘requires improvement’ category, but they are expected to improve before their next inspection. The changed ratings also mean that to be judged ‘outstanding’, a school must have outstanding teaching.

In addition, they face inspections at short notice, with the head only being notified at lunchtime the day before.

Speaking in Manchester, Sir Michael will insist that the overhaul is leading to improved standards across the country, with more schools moving into the ‘good’ category after rising to the challenge.

The former head teacher will be addressing an audience of outstanding head teachers and urging them to share their expertise.  He is expected to reiterate his view that the new inspection regime is having a ‘galvanising effect’ on head teachers and making them prioritise improvements.

Earlier this year, he said: ‘Heads and governing boards have a much greater focus on tackling the central issues of school improvement.’

Professor Alan Smithers, director of the Centre for Education and Employment Research, said yesterday: ‘Prior to the new category, we’d actually been fooling ourselves about how well our schools were doing.

‘We were marking them as satisfactory whereas this new category shows a lot of them weren’t satisfactory at all but needing improvement. Ofsted has raised the bar, so – rightly – it’s expecting more of schools. It’s giving us a clearer picture of how well schools are doing.  ‘It’s bringing things which need to be addressed to our attention.’

Chris McGovern, a former head teacher and chairman of the Campaign for Real Education, added: ‘It’s right there should be a more rigorous inspection as we obviously want the best for the children.  ‘For too long, schools have been prepared to accept a satisfactory grading as a green light to coast.’

Ofsted has already introduced a tougher framework to stop weak head teachers bumping up their overall ratings by concentrating on areas such as pupil wellbeing, spiritual development and community cohesion. Since last January, schools have been judged on four key areas – teaching, pupil results, behaviour and leadership.


British Higher education is in an expensive muddle with too many useless degrees

By businessman Roger Bootle

I have found myself reflecting on higher education. This isn't just idle speculation. Education is an important part of modern economies and has a major bearing on how they perform. This is an area in which Britain both excels and does appallingly badly – in different parts, of course.

I realise that what I have to say may tread on a few toes, because I am no professional expert in the field. Still, I do have some basis for comment. Many moons ago, I taught economics at various levels. I now consume large amounts of the output of the educational establishment, in the shape of applicants for jobs at my company. Above all, I am the parent of teenage children and, like so many other parents, am anxious about their prospects.

I think there is too much higher education. Roughly 50pc of youngsters now go to university to get a degree. In my day, the proportion was more like 5pc. (The policemen are getting younger too.) Now doubtless 5pc was too low but I am pretty sure that 50pc is too high.

Things are as they are primarily because education is a part of society where market forces have played little role. Now, regular readers will know that I am not a free market fundamentalist: I recognise market failure and I believe in some forms of government intervention. But when a whole segment of economic activity is scarcely touched by market forces then all sorts of peculiar things happen.

Thousands upon thousands of young Britons have been going to universities to get worthless degrees, which they have somehow thought would help them to progress in their careers. But many have been sold a pup or, rather, until recently anyway, they have been given one.

Now don't get me wrong. I am not an educational Luddite. I was very fortunate to be the beneficiary of an extremely good grammar school education which took me on to two Oxford degrees, for which neither I nor my parents paid a penny.

I am immensely grateful and I am appalled by the financial burdens that so many youngsters are saddled with today. But, that said, I approve of the way that finally some sort of market principles are making their way into the educational world and that youngsters and their parents are beginning to ask themselves whether it is actually worth going to university if this is what it costs.

For many students the rewards are paltry – or even non-existent. You regularly hear about the so-called graduate premium, that is to say the extra earnings that someone can command if they have a degree. This is often of questionable relevance in many thousands of marginal cases.

The average premium may be so many thousands of pounds per annum, including all the super-bright graduates, but of what relevance is this to our nice but dim Jason who is considering a degree in Beckham Studies at the University of Boothill?

Although having a university degree now confers much less status than it did, still so many of the old attitudes linger on. Parents are proud that little Johnny is now "a graduate", in the way that they never were. So Johnny is proud and, of course, the educational factories that pour out little graduate Johnnies are proud to be producing them.

Even so, we have reached the point where a lot of parents and their children have realised that the worth of many degrees is low but they fear that without one, umpteen activities are blocked because they admit only graduate level entries. And they are right to be worried. But these restrictions need to be radically relaxed.

The truth of the matter is that there are all sorts of things in life for which a higher academic training is extremely useful – and some for which it is positively useless or even disadvantageous. On the whole, academic studies do not teach you much about how to get on with work colleagues, to be decisive, to value timeliness, to realise what to prioritise and, of course, they do not teach energy.

As part of my job, I see umpteen CVs and I interview many young people. A lot of them suffer from what I call "qualificationitis", that is to say they study for one academic qualification after another without ever seeming to practice whatever it is that they have become qualified for.

Frequently, when they come for interview with me, they ask if there is scope at Capital Economics for them to acquire another qualification. A qualification for what I wonder?

"What is the learning method at Capital Economics?" they ask. The reply I give them, I am sure, frequently appals.

"Essentially, you are apprenticed to a master of their trade and you sit by him or her being given small tasks and absorbing what he or she does. As you become more proficient you are given bigger tasks under less supervision. Eventually you get to do stuff under essentially no supervision and at some later point you are given someone else to supervise."

Getting education right really matters. Michael Gove has made some real impact with secondary education and there has been an advance too in higher education.

The system of charging students a maximum of £9,000 per annum may not be perfect but the important thing is to get some sense of market value into the process. Not because education is all about money. It isn't, and it ought not to be.

There should be plenty of scope for some people to study ancient Egypt even though this will bring them no pecuniary reward. Equally, as the pace of technological change is incessant, we need people who have the ability to be able to acquire new skills as things change. This may argue for more general and less specific skill-focused education but does not excuse the disastrous and expensive muddle we have got into about higher education.

Too many people study too many useless degrees and too many resources are taken up in the teaching of them. We need to recognise that there are many worthwhile things that a youngster can work at which do not require a degree to be able to undertake them successfully. There is much more to life and learning than getting a degree.


Monday, September 09, 2013

British "Grammar" schools are 'bribed' by ministers to let poorer pupils jump the queue for oversubscribed places

Children from poor families are being allowed to jump the queue for sought-after places at top-performing grammar schools for the first time.  Until now, priority for oversubscribed places has been given to children who have passed the 11-plus exam and live closest to the school.

But a rule change introduced by Education Secretary Michael Gove now means schools can offer poor children places ahead of better-off youngsters who live nearer – with heads picking up hundreds of pounds in extra funding.

At least four grammars, where up to six pupils compete for every place, are among the first wave of state schools making the changes, risking a backlash among parents who fear they could lose out.

The move follows criticism that  better-off families are boosting their chances of getting into grammars by first sending children to independent schools, where class sizes are considerably smaller, and then moving them back into the state system once they have passed the 11-plus. Heads say this undermines the original aim of grammars in promoting social mobility.

In Buckinghamshire, Aylesbury Grammar, Aylesbury High School and Sir Henry Floyd Grammar are giving priority to children granted free school meals because their families are on benefits or earn less than £16,190.

As these children are eligible for the ‘pupil premium’ – extra Government funding allocated to recipients of free school meals – the schools will benefit by £900 per pupil this year.

Another grammar, Lawrence Sheriff at Rugby, Warwickshire, is also introducing new criteria that will allow it to favour children on pupil premiums over others who live closer.

Campaigners say parents who do not qualify for free school meals but are on low incomes would be infuriated by the changes. Margaret Morrissey, of pressure group Parents Outloud, said: ‘This is blatantly unfair. A child should be admitted to a selective school on merit, and it should have nothing to do with the family’s financial position. This is a form of social engineering.

‘Everything seems to go against  parents who provide for their children and support their education. Mr Gove seems to be doing everything in his power to make life more difficult for them.’

Chris McGovern, of Real Education, said: ‘Free school meals are a very poor indicator of social background.’

However, Stephen Lehec, head of  the 1,300-strong Aylesbury Grammar, founded in 1598, said: ‘These are people who need a leg-up. If they pass the 11-plus and need free school meals, they are often doing really well despite their circumstances.’

Peter Kent, head of Lawrence Sheriff, said just one parent had so far objected to the change, but the school hoped to regain the ‘socially diverse mix’ it had 15 or 20 years ago.

About 1.9 million children are eligible for the pupil premium, which is given to those who have been registered for free school meals at any point in the previous six years.

The Department for Education said: ‘The pupil premium priority was introduced to give children from low-income families a better chance of accessing good schools which they may not otherwise have considered.

‘All pupils must pass entrance tests before being considered for a place at a selective school.’


California schools sending parents 'fat letters' telling them their children are obese -- and they appear to be making a difference

Schools in California are sending letters to parents telling them their children are fat.  Referred to as ‘fat letters,’ schools in parts of California are warning parents their pre-school-aged children are at risk of becoming obese adults.

Despite some backlash, the letters appear to be making an impact.
About 200 of the 900 students reviewed by one nutritionist prompted warnings.

‘We let the parents know in a gentle fashion, but we also send out a ton of handouts to try to help that family,’ nutritionist Lauren Schmitt told CBS Los Angeles.

Determinations are made by looking at growth charts and percentiles, the nutritionist explained. If a child’s weight falls in the 95th percentile for their height, or their age, that child would be considered obese, she added, triggering a letter home.

Not everyone appreciates the ‘gentle’ approach notifying parents their children are ‘unhealthy.’  ‘Every year there are a few phone calls from parents who are upset,’ Schimitt told the station.

California is not alone in sending the so-called ‘fat letters’ to parents of obese children. 19 other states also employ the practice, and it’s meant to be a positive.  ‘It shouldn’t be a stigma, it’s not a way to categorize someone,’ Schmitt told the station. ‘It’s just showing that this child has increased risk to be obese as an adult, which then could lead to quite a few chronic diseases.’

Other school districts have resorted to sending body mass index test results to parents, the station noted.

The practice may be having an impact. Childhood obesity is down slightly in 18 states, according to the Centers for Disease Control, California is one of them.


British Catholic school ordered to change admissions policy

One of the country’s top Catholic state schools has been ordered by the Office of the Schools Adjudicator to change its admissions policy.

The London Oratory in Fulham, which has in recent years been attended by the children of a number of politicians, including Tony Blair and Nick Clegg, was criticised for prioritizing children based on their parents’ parish activities.

The British Humanist Association lodged an objection over the school’s rules saying it breaches England’s admissions code.

In its written ruling, the Office of the Schools Adjudicator said that the school argued the service criteria, which include such things as singing in the church choir, serving at the altar of visiting the sick, does not breach the code because the activities described are religious duties required by canon law.

But the ruling stated that it was a breach of the admissions code for the school to include “service in a Catholic parish or in the wider Catholic Church” as a criteria.

Adjudicator David Lennard Jones said that while he does not dispute the school’s reference to canon law, the admissions code does not allow practical support to a school, or organisation like the Catholic Church, to be used to prioritise children for places.

He said the system favours parents who are “good at planning ahead” and said it discriminates against Catholics who practise their faith in other ways, he said.

The adjudicator’s decisions mirrors the Diocese of Westminster’s 2009 ruling against the Cardinal Vaughan Memorial School, a mile away in Kensington.


Sunday, September 08, 2013

Are college costs not so bad after all?

Obama’s touting more free money, reports are pouring in that tuition fees are rising—but college is still well within reach for most of us, and the wage premium remains huge, says Nick Gillespie

It’s back-to-college time, which means it’s the season for bitching and moaning about rising college costs, lack of access to higher education, and the pressing need for even more taxpayer-funded subsidies to the leaders of tomorrow. In just the past few weeks, we’ve been subjected to breathless reports that “college tuition costs” have risen 500 percent since 1985 and a mini campaign swing by President Obama touting more free money for students and a federally sanctioned knockoff of college guides already provided by the Princeton Review, U.S. News & World Report, Washington Monthly, Barron’s, and countless other sources.

Enough already. The plain facts are that college is still well within reach of most Americans, the wage premium for a college sheepskin remains huge, and student loans are not a new form of indentured servitude. You wouldn’t get any of that from grandstanding politicians always looking for a new way to rob Peter to buy Paul’s vote, an educational establishment that’s always on the hunt for new revenue sources, and a news media that alternates between the credulity and ignorance of, well, a first-semester freshman.

According to the latest figures from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), total tuition, fees, room, and board at four-year colleges for the 2011–12 academic year came to $23,066 on average. For state schools, the cost was substantially less (about $16,000 per year), and for private schools, it was substantially more (about $34,000 per year). In inflation-adjusted dollars (as opposed to the unadjusted figures favored by alarmists), that’s about twice as much as costs were in 1985. As a recent New York Times headline put it, “College Costs: Rising, Yet Often Exaggerated.”

Rising costs (and we’ll get to reasons for those in a moment) haven’t deterred people from going to college. About 68 percent of high school seniors enroll in two- or four-year higher education right after they graduate, a percentage that has stayed at or near historic highs for the past decade. (In 1985, by comparison, just 58 percent enrolled.) If college were being priced out of the reach of most Americans, that percentage would surely be cratering, especially in the depths of the Great Recession.

Coming up with $23,000 a year for a conventional residential college is a lot of money, but the sticker price is routinely offset by various grants and other forms of aid (as in everything else, only suckers pay retail). There’s also a good reason why so many people go on for more schooling. Depending on your assumptions, a college degree generally increases lifetime earnings between $280,000 and $1 million. According to NCES, full-time, annual median earnings for college grads between 25 and 34 are about $15,000 per year more than they are for high school grads.

As important, college grads at every stage of their careers are far less likely to be unemployed than nongrads. Recent grads are about 2 percentage points less likely to be unemployed than the typical worker, and older college grads are half as likely to be unemployed as those with a high school diploma.

There’s been a lot of hand-wringing over whether today’s grads are overqualified for the jobs they do take. Ohio University economist and higher-ed curmudgeon Richard Vedder is always quick to point out that there are “115,520 janitors in the United States with bachelor’s degrees or more.” But as researchers at the New York Federal Reserve Bank have pointed out, the 1980s and ’90s saw similar levels of underemployment of recent grads. (My first job when I graduated from college in 1985 was pumping gas; six months later, I started my first full-time journalism gig.) Despite some delays caused by the rotten economy, there’s every reason to believe that college grads will continue to filter into jobs that are higher paying and more in line with their interests, skills, and abilities.

That’s good news for students who take out federally subsidized loans to pay for postsecondary education. Few aid programs come in for as much abuse as federal student loans, which, despite lower-than-market-level interest rates and longer-than-typical payback periods, are routinely castigated as rip-offs that push students into economic despair and neo-serfdom. That’s simply not true. For starters, just 35 percent of high school grads going on to two- or four-year institutions take out any loans (public or private) out in a given year. That’s according to Sallie Mae, the agency that oversees the federal loan program.


Michigan State reassigns teaching duties of professor caught on tape bashing Republicans

 Michigan State University has relieved one of its professors of his courses after he was recorded denigrating Republicans before a classroom of nearly 400 students.

But the professor remains a full-time faculty member at the university.

MSU administration officials began investigating professor William Penn and a nine-minute video of him telling his Integrative Studies in the Arts and Humanities class last Thursday that Republicans have a racist agenda and "raped this country."

On Thursday, the university reassigned Penn's teaching duties in the early afternoon.

"On Sept. 3, university leaders were made aware of several statements made by Professor William Penn in a classroom," MSU spokesperson Kent Cassella said in a statement. "Once MSU was made aware of the situation the Office of the Provost immediately began a review.

"The dean of the College of Arts and Letters and a representative from the provost’s office met with Penn, who acknowledged that some of his comments were inappropriate, disrespectful and offensive and may have negatively affected the learning environment."

Penn taught at least three courses this semester, all of which will be take over by alternate instructors, Cassella said.

"Michigan State University is committed to creating a learning environment that is characterized by mutual respect and civility where diverse ideas can be explored," Cassella's statement reads.

Penn, 64, has worked at MSU since 1987. He is a tenured writing professor at the university.

MSU spokesperson Jason Cody said Penn remains a full-time professor at the university, but a decision on his courseload for the upcoming semester had not been made by Thursday.

"His employment status remains unchanged—he's still a full professor," Cody said.

The secretly recorded video, publicized on a conservative college news website called, shows Penn lecturing during the first day of his IAH class on literature, cultures and identities. On the video, he tells students Republicans aim to suppress African American voters, then later criticizes Mitt Romney and takes a personal jab at Ann Romney.

"Ann Romney a first lady?" Penn says in the video. "And remember this if you're just going to be a greedy bastard your whole life and just try to get things... In order to be rich like Mitt Romney and hide all your income offshore in the Cayman Islands, you have to be—think about this—Mitt Romney.

"Anybody here want to be Mitt Romney? Him? I mean, married to her?"

The video made national headlines Wednesday, even appearing on Fox News' "The O'Reilly Factor."

The Michigan GOP issued a news release late Wednesday calling for Penn's resignation. Some members of the MSU Board of Trustees expressed their displeasure with the professor's remarks. Trustee Mitch Lyons hinted that the university should send a strong message and dismiss Penn.

Penn did not return multiple calls seeking comment.


Migrant influx fuels new crisis in British schools: Now secondary schools face 'timebomb' shortage of places, reveals secret report

Secondary schools face an overcrowding  crisis due to Labour’s failure to deal with the effects of immigration.

A leaked government document reveals that within two years, classes will struggle to accommodate tens of thousands of pupils.

The previous government’s ministers repeatedly ignored warnings about the fallout from soaring immigration and a baby boom – and even told councils to close schools with too many ‘surplus’ places.

Yet this week the Mail revealed how pupils are now packed into primary schools like sardines, with a third  of councils introducing extra reception classes.

The problem has already spread to many secondaries, with one in five either full or taking on pupils ‘in excess of capacity’. In response, councils are opening super-sized schools for 2,000-plus students.

Now a ‘restricted’ paper prepared by the Department for Education – which carries a warning that it is ‘very sensitive and should not be forwarded’ – has laid bare the scale of the so-called ‘ticking timebomb’ caused by Labour’s lack of planning, adding that ministers have ‘faced fears of an impending shortage for some years’.

A steady increase in the number of babies being born has helped fuel the crisis, with 120,000 more born in 2011 than in 2002. In addition, there has been a ‘threefold increase in net long-term migration since the mid-1990s’, the report adds.

The seven-page document cites evidence collected by the Home Office that the ‘impact of immigration has been substantial’, adding that it was seen ‘as an important contributory factor, through both the arrival of migrant children and the high birth rates of some migrant groups’.

It says an additional 35,000 secondary places will be needed by 2015, adding: ‘This shortage of places is the direct result of the increase in the birth rates since 2002 and the surge in net migration since the mid-1990s.’

It points out that despite multiple warnings to ministers, there was ‘no increase in funding to respond to the rising school population’ until the Coalition came to power in 2010.

Data released under the Freedom of Information Act confirms that internal estimates from the Labour government in May 2007 pointed to a rapid increase in the school population.

Nevertheless, seven months later Labour’s Education Department, then led by Ed Balls, advised councils to ‘close schools with consistently poor performance and/or excessive surplus places’.

Rocky Gill, deputy leader of Barking and Dagenham Council in East London, which is considering introducing three-day school weeks due to the shortage of places, said: ‘It’s a ticking timebomb as the kids go through the primaries, heading to the secondaries.

‘The Government really needs to act because otherwise we’ll have a national crisis for the secondaries in a matter of two or three years.’

The Coalition has more than doubled spending on creating new school places, with £5billion committed between 2011/12 and 2014/15.

For the start of the new school year, primary schools are expected to have 110,000 more places. Ministers insist their response will deal with the increasing demand.

But Michael Gove, the Education Secretary, said Labour ‘were warned repeatedly that they hadn’t done enough to plan for a growing population – and once more it’s been left to the Coalition government to clean up the mess’.

‘Labour cut 200,000 primary places, slashed the amount spent on areas of population growth, and let immigration soar – and all this in the middle of a baby boom,’ he said.