Friday, May 23, 2014

Blended Learning

Blended learning initiatives are becoming increasingly common in K–12 schools. These programs combine in-person “bricks-and-mortar” education with supervised and individualized online learning. Blended learning reduces student-teacher ratios while attending to each student’s individual needs. Drawbacks include the initial expense and the risk of losing face-to-face teaching, but overall, such programs are sweeping the nation and receiving broad public support.

By combining face-to-face interaction and online learning, teachers can tailor instruction to a student’s specific needs, increasing equity in education. For example, KIPP schools in Los Angeles rotate among small-group instruction with the main teacher, online learning, and small-group instruction with a secondary teacher. This allows large classes to be broken up and teachers to help individual students. Online learning programs allow students to work through problems and assignments at their own pace, which lets teachers know where students are struggling or succeeding. A 2010 meta-analysis published by the U.S. Department of Education suggests a combination of online learning and face-to-face education is the most efficient and effective way to learn.

Despite its proven success, states have laws that prohibit school districts from starting blended learning programs, including “highly qualified teacher” designations, student-teacher ratios, seat-time requirements, credit hour regulations, charter school caps, and geographic enrollment restrictions. States such as Nebraska and South Dakota offer little opportunity for charter schools or individual students to “self-blend” their own educations. Instead of ensuring quality education, these laws impede student success by restricting access to the best learning environments. States under budget pressures that make it difficult to devote time and money to blended learning programs can at least revoke laws that restrict schools’ freedom to develop these programs.

A 2012 study, “Keeping Pace with K–12 Online and Blended Learning,” notes that although many states have some form of online/blended learning, only Florida makes these options available to all students. In 2011, Florida passed legislation authorizing full- and part-time blended options for K-–12 students. In 2012, the state began to allow Florida Virtual School (FLVS) to provide part-time options for students in grades K–5. These policy changes expanded the programs, outlined effective funding mechanisms, and ensured participation of quality teachers.

Well-implemented blended learning programs provide quality teachers and innovation that allows students to seek individual attention and learn at their own pace. These programs can equalize student access to quality education. Legislators should consider reforms that allow blended learning to expand, such as relaxing seat-time and student-teacher ratio requirements, and expanding choice options such as charter schools, vouchers, education savings grants, and taxpayer savings accounts.


British minister warns over surge in demand for medicine degrees

This is crazy.  Britain has a large number of poorly trained overseas doctors.  They NEED more of their own doctors

Bright students should consider abandoning their dreams of becoming doctors because of a “gross excess” of applicants for medicine degrees, according to David Willetts.

The Universities Minister said the level of competition among sixth-formers for medical courses was “one of the most dysfunctional features” of the education system.

He insisted bright school leavers – particularly girls – should consider careers in engineering or science as a back up to avoid missing out on higher education places altogether.

The comments were made as new figures showed around 4,800 students with straight As at A-level failed to get in to British universities last year.

Of those, the largest number of “unplaced” students – 1,800 – were those aiming for medicine.

Girls were more likely to be left without a place than boys amid a surge in the number of females – notably from leading private schools – applying for courses in recent years.

In all, medical schools in Britain received more than 11 applications for every place last year, up from fewer than nine in 2008.

It is believed that the surge in interest for medicine is linked to rising parental pressure to secure well-paid jobs during the economic downturn – particularly following a hike in tuition fees.

The Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) said the vast majority of unplaced students were successful when they reapplied a year later.

But Mr Willetts said head teachers had “a responsibility” to explain the risks associated with medicine and ensure teenagers had a back-up plan.

He criticised the trend of allowing students to drop physics – which is not required for medicine degrees – at the age of 16 in a move that leaves many students struggling to get on to many other courses at a later date.

But the comments were attacked by private schools heads who warned that the NHS was failing to fund enough places on medical courses despite repeated complaints over a shortage of highly-trained doctors.

Mr Willetts said: “There are every summer several thousand very unhappy 18-year-olds, predominately but not exclusively female, who think they will become medics who, sadly, do not get a place despite being very smart and well-qualified. And this is one of the most dysfunctional features of the English school leaving A-level system.”

He added: “The truth is that the number of young people - and it does tend to me more girls than boys - with an aspiration to do medicine way exceeds any number of places that the NHS is likely to have.”

Previously, the number of students winning places on every degree course was closely capped by the government.

The Coalition has now largely abolished the quota system to allow universities to recruit unlimited numbers of students.

But medicine and dentistry courses remain subjected to strict controls because funding comes in part from the NHS which forecasts how many trainees the health system needs.

Mr Willetts said the country had a “gross excess of applicants over places”, meaning many straight-A students are missing out.

The number of “unplaced” students with AAA at A-level has dropped slightly from 5,060 to 4,785 over the last four years. But would-be medics make up an increasing proportion of those left without a place, rising from 28 to 37 per cent over the four-year period.

Some 1,780 straight-A medics were unplaced last year, including 930 women, it emerged.

Mr Willetts said many students aiming for medicine take biology, chemistry and maths at A-level, but drop physics.

But he insisted this often ruled them out of other degrees such as engineering, bioengineering and climate change which demand physics as a core requirement.

“This is really not a good way of running a school and university application process,” he said.

He told universities to be more flexible when offering places in engineering, including allowing top students without physics A-levels to take remedial physics catch-up classes to improve their skills.

Addressing a conference of head teachers last week, he said schools had a “responsibility to inform” students about the risks of medicine, adding: “We have so many students who are aiming for medicine and it’s way ahead of any likely number of medical places we may have. Part of my challenge to you as school heads is that your students do need to know that.”

Caroline Jordan, headmistress of Headington School, a girls’ school in Oxford, said around a fifth of her students who apply to do medicine miss out each year “despite being among our brightest and best”.

“It’s not as simple as saying, ‘well, they should consider other options’,” she said. “For these girls, it is a long-term commitment. Medicine is a vocation and it is clear to me that we need more places at medical school.”

John Claughton, chief master of King Edward's School, Birmingham, said around a fifth of would-be medics missed out on places each year.

In many cases, pupils are from Asian families where there is a “deep-seated ambition among parents” to aim for medicine, he said.

A Department of Health spokesman said: "The NHS of the future needs the right workforce in place to make sure patients get the best care.

"Planning the number of medical students ensures that there is a close match between the number of places and junior doctors' training posts available.

"It also ensures that money is not wasted training more doctors than needed who could end up going abroad to find work."


Punishment before trial: Education Department attacks due process rights at Tufts University

By Hans Bader

Imagine if you could be expelled from your dorm, or prevented from attending a class, just because someone accused you of something — even if the accusation was so weak or thinly-grounded that it never even led to a formal investigation or disciplinary hearing against you, or the complainant was unwilling to even let you have the opportunity to clear your name. Such “interim measures” by colleges seem to be what the Education Department recently required of Tufts University in Massachusetts, as a condition of settling a Title IX investigation against it after it found a student not guilty of sexually assaulting a classmate who denied those charges, after he convinced it that the complainant was not credible and had clearly lied about her medical history. If Tufts didn’t agree to the settlement, the Education Department could have cut off all federal funds to the University — millions of dollars — and all federal financial aid to its students could have been terminated. So the settlement was not exactly voluntary. (Tufts tried to back out of the settlement, but knuckled under due to adverse publicity and the risk of huge financial losses.)

The Education Department’s demands violate students’ due process rights. Although Tufts is a private university, the government cannot force a private institution to take an action that would violate due process if it occurred at a public institution. See Merritt v. Mackey (1987).

The settlement requires an “an explicit assurance that the University provide interim measures during the course of a complaint, or a university-initiated investigation; an explicit statement that interim measures are available even if the complainant does not file or continue to pursue a complaint.” (See pg. 9, paragraph 15).

But taking “measures” against someone can violate due process even when the measures are not criminal and designed to protect the complainant rather than harm the accused, especially when the measures are not brief and limited to the time needed for a prompt hearing on whether the accused really is guilty or innocent. (For example, in Sacharow v. Sacharow, the New Jersey courts ruled that a father accused of domestic violence had a right to defend himself before his ex-wife was put into the Address Confidentiality Program, which would have made it more difficult for him to maintain his relationship with his child. In Tyree v. Evans, the D.C. Court of Appeals ruled that a man was entitled not only to the opportunity to defend himself against domestic violence charges before a year-long restraining order could be granted to his accuser, but also the ability to cross-examine her.)

What are these “interim measures” the Education Department speaks of? As explained further below, it includes things like excluding the accused from a classroom or dorm he shares with the accuser. So applying such interim measures even if the complainant does not file or continue to pursue a complaint could result in them continuing indefinitely, and could result in the accused being excluded from classes or dormitories without ever having any opportunity to defend himself, in blatant violation of the Constitution’s due process clause.

Disturbingly, the Education Department’s Letter of Findings never even discussed the possibility that the accused student might be innocent of sexual assault, as the university fact-finder found, even as the Education Department asserted, without any analysis of the evidence, that the lack of measures against the accused “resulted in the continuation of a sexually hostile environment for the Student.” (pg. 23). Instead, it complained that the university allowed in potentially exculpatory evidence, rather than rigidly applying deadlines or exclusionary rules, writing that “The University allowed consideration of the Student’s medical history, contrary to the applicable policies, even after the Accused was found to have obtained the Student’s confidential medical information by misrepresenting himself as a University medical student; and the University repeatedly modified existing procedures in a manner that benefited the Accused, including by allowing the Accused to submit an Addendum to his response on July 28, 2011, and allowing him to include details of the Student’s sexual history” (pp. 21-22). The way the accused obtained the complainant’s medical information resulted in his own discipline by the University for misrepresentation, but it was not a basis for finding sexual harassment, much less blaming the college (or finding a Title IX violation), since if the accused was innocent of sexual harassment and assault, he by definition can’t have created a “sexually hostile environment” for her.

The Education Department’s coercive settlement with Tufts is even worse. It requires Tufts to revisit all past disciplinary proceedings through 2011, which could lead to punishment of someone previously found not guilty (double jeopardy in all but name); it promotes anonymous investigations; and it approves changes to Tufts’ harassment policy requiring “a statement that the alleged misconduct does not have to be ‘directed at’ a specific person or persons to constitute harassment” which means consensual speech between students can be banned as harassment when it is overheard by a third party who disagrees with it (raising serious First Amendment problems under court rulings like Rodriguez v. Maricopa Community College, which ruled that academic speech can’t be banned as harassment when it is not aimed at the complainant). See Voluntary Resolution Agreement, Tufts University, Complaint No. 01-10-2089, at p. 16 (reopen past investigations and complaints), p. 6 (need not be “directed at” complainant), p. 9, paragraph 15 (anonymous complaints).

The interim measures that the Education Department demands have serious due process consequences for accused people who may be innocent of any wrongdoing. (Under pressure from its Office for Civil Rights, colleges are now routinely expelling students who are very likely innocent of sexual harassment or assault, see here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.)

As the Education Department explains on pp. 21-22 of its letter of findings regarding Tufts, declaring it to have violated Title IX:

The University also failed to provide the Student with effective interim measures during the eighteen months that followed her January 2010 report that she had been sexually assaulted. While the University issued a stay-away order to prevent the Student and the Accused from communicating with each other, the University’s policies and procedures at the time did not include any mechanism to enforce physical separation of students unless/until there was an actual finding in a case or a court order required separation. The Student therefore obtained a court-ordered restraining order in February 2010 that the University enforced in the residence hall by requiring the Accused to move out of the residence hall and allowing the Student and the Accused to alternate attendance at the Program’s weekly seminar. After this restraining order was vacated, the University initially required the Student to attend weekly Program seminars for the Fall semester together with the Accused or risk expulsion from the Program, and then permitted her to miss the seminars altogether without penalty, which resulted in her not attending any Program seminars in the 2010-11 academic year.

Furthermore, the University did not inform the Student that she could request to move out of her residence hall for several months after she isolated in her residence hall room in the first part of 2010 until the Accused was required to move out of the residence hall and also reported being harassed by other students. Because of the arrangements made by the University, the Student was denied the opportunity to attend and participate fully with other students in the Program seminar, first when she alternated attendance at the seminar with the Accused in the Spring 2010 and then when she did not attend the seminars in person at all in the Fall 2011. In both instances, the University’s response deprived the Student of educational benefits offered to other Program students. Moreover, because of her continued concerns about not feeling safe on campus, the Student accelerated her education and graduated a year early. . . .

The Student was thus exposed to close physical proximity to the Accused and to harassment in the residence hall for several months. . .The interim measures provided by the University deprived the Student of an equal opportunity to participate with other students in the Program by first alternating her attendance at the weekly seminars with the Accused and then making arrangements in the Fall 2010 under which she did not participate at all in the seminars. . .The University’s failure to provide effective interim protective measures for the Student and, instead, placing the burden of interim measures largely on the Student was contrary to the requirements of Title IX to provide effective interim measures that minimize the burden on complainants of sexual harassment/violence.

(See Letter from Thomas J. Hibino, Director, Region 1, Office for Civil Rights, U.S. Department of Education, to President Anthony P. Monaco, President, Tufts University, regarding Complaint No. 01-10-2089).

Colleges already may have had large financial incentives to expel potentially innocent students, even without recent pressure from the Office for Civil Rights (I explained earlier why the Office for Civil Rights was wrong to force colleges to lower the standard of evidence in campus sexual harassment and assault proceedings in its April 4, 2011 “Dear Colleague” Letter, and wrong to tell them not to allow cross-examination by the accused).

For example, see this discussion at the end of a blog post at Andrew Sullivan’s Daily Dish:

Not only have people successfully sued for a million dollars or more under Title IX and its sister statute, Title VI (which deals with racial harassment), as in the Zeno case, but the Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights does in fact effectively impose sanctions on schools even when it doesn’t cut off their federal funds, since it sometimes conditions the end of the investigation on a resolution agreement that contains monetary compensation for victims.

For example, Tufts recently agreed to provide “monetary compensation” for a complainant, despite denying any wrongdoing, although it balked at an Education Department demand that it also declare itself in violation of Title IX: “Tufts signed an agreement with the government earlier this month, pledging to take a long list of steps in improving their policies, as well as providing monetary compensation to the student.”

Moreover, many seemingly-innocent students have been expelled or suspended based on meager evidence, as is evidenced by the cases cited on the web site of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, and in former Massachusetts ACLU leader Harvey Silverglate’s Wall Street Journal op-ed in discussing the Caleb Warner case. As I noted in the commentary below, “For examples of seemingly-innocent students expelled or suspended from school based on very weak evidence, in the aftermath of the Education Department’s “Dear Colleague” letter, see here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.”

Unfortunately, the deck is usually stacked against the accused student. School officials have every incentive to expel students if there is any chance they are guilty at all. A state university official who doesn’t kick out the accused can be individually sued under decisions like Murrell v. School District No. 1 and Fitzgerald v. Barnstable School Committee. That’s in addition to the fact that the university itself can be sued under Title IX. School officials can also be sued under state sexual harassment laws that reach further than Title IX, like New Jersey’s Law Against Discrimination, which provides for individual liability on the part of school officials, as well as liability based on constructive rather than actual notice.

By contrast, a school that expels an innocent accused probably can’t be sued, even if he is probably innocent, since the accused only has a right to PROCEDURAL due process, not any SUBSTANTIVE finding of guilt or innocence. So as long as the school goes through the motions of giving the accused a fair hearing, and follows its procedures, it can kick him out even if he is probably not guilty.

There is a division among courts as to whether public school officials can be sued individually under the Fourteenth Amendment for failing to remedy “peer harassment” (in addition to the school system itself, which can be be sued for failing to respond to peer harassment under Title IX). As I have explained earlier, teachers and school officials generally should not be subject to such individual liability, as a logical matter, given the Constitution’s “state-action doctrine,” which results in the Fourteenth Amendment being more limited than Title IX as to peer harassment. But courts are split on this subject, with some, like the Second Circuit, broadly allowing such suits against public school teachers and administrators over racial or sexual harassment by students, while others do not, only allowing the school system to be sued under Title IX, see, e.g., Soper v. Hoben, 194 F.3d 845 (6th Cir. 1999) (equal protection claim requires discriminatory purpose, while Title IX claim requires only showing of indifference to harassment); Morlock v. West Central Educ. Dist., 46 F.Supp.2d 892 (D. Minn. 1999) (same); S.S. v. Eastern Kentucky Univ., 2008 WL 2596660 (6th Cir. 2008) (same for disability harassment); UWM Post v. Board of Regents, 774 F.Supp. 1163 (E.D. Wis. 1991) (Equal Protection Clause requires showing that agent of college, not student, engaged in racial or sexual harassment).

Although private colleges are not governed by the Constitution, which only restricts governmental actions, the Education Department cannot force private colleges to discipline students in ways that would violate the First Amendment or due process guarantees if they were at a state college. The government cannot force a private institution to do something that the government cannot itself do directly. See, e.g., Merritt v. Mackey, 827 F.2d 1368 (9th Cir.1987) (due process); Okwedy v. Molinari, 333 F.3d 339 (2d Cir. 2003) (free speech); Rattner v. Netburn, 930 F.2d 204 (2d Cir. 1991) (free speech); Truax v. Raich, 239 U.S. 33, 38 (1915) (equal protection).


Thursday, May 22, 2014

School inspection abandoned after angry parents confront Ofsted staff for asking children as young as NINE about their attitude towards homosexuality

A school inspection was forced to be abandoned yesterday after angry parents confronted Ofsted staff over claims children as young as nine were asked about their attitude to homosexuality.

A review of the Olive Tree Primary School in Luton, a Muslim faith school, had to be halted after parents said they would withdraw their pupils from the school if the inspectors remained.

Parents were said to be concerned that the Ofsted staff were discussing sex with the children, without their consent.

A scheduled meeting between parents and inspectors saw the appropriateness of the questioning raised and after discussions the inspectors withdrew from the school a day early.

The chair of the school trust that runs the school, Farast Latif, said that the meeting between the parents and inspectors was largely amicable.  But added when the inspectors realised the parents were serious about pulling their children out of the school, they left.

Mr Latif told the Guardian's Richard Adam: ‘One of the parents said to them, and all of us agreed, this is a safeguarding issue, we are not comfortable about adults speaking to our children about issues of sexuality.

‘When they realised we were serious about that, they left. This is about sexualising young children.’

The Olive Tree primary does not come under the Independent Schools Council and is therefore inspected by OFSTED.

Their standards require pupils are taught tolerance of different groups within society.

A spokesman for OFSTED confirmed that inspectors withdrew from the school but that sufficient evidence was gathered to complete the inspection.

They also added that inspectors were left to their own discretion when asking pupils questions about sexuality.

The news that inspectors withdrew from the school comes following reports a similar line of questioning was used on Muslim pupils into an investigation into schools in Birmingham over the alleged Trojan Horse plot.

However, an OFSTED spokesman added that questions about sexuality weren’t restricted to predominantly Muslim schools.

A spokesman told the newspaper: ‘As part of any school inspection, inspectors will ask pupils about the effectiveness of the school’s actions to prevent and tackle discriminatory and derogatory language.’

The Trojan Horse plot involves the alleged ousting of headteachers, mainly in and around the Birmingham area, by Islamic extremists attempting to take over several top schools in a bid to target vulnerable young people.

Whistleblowers at Park View School in the city have claimed the school is in the hands of a group of extremists who infiltrated the governing body.


Headteacher bans fish from school dinners and lunchboxes because just ONE girl is allergic to them

Parents at a primary school have slammed a decision to take all fish off the menu and ban it from packed lunches - because one pupil is allergic.

Robert Le Kyng Primary School in Swindon, Wiltshire, sent the letter explaining the new pupil suffers severe reactions to haddock and tuna and a blanket ban was needed to avoid any risks.

The ban means fish and chips is now off the menu as well as all other dishes, such as fish finger sandwiches.

It also means that all children must refrain from having fish in their lunchboxes.

Headteacher Susan Smith said the menu change was necessary to protect the unnamed girl at the school, but parents slammed the move as 'over the top'.

In a letter sent to the school's 415 pupils, she said: 'This decision was not reached without seeking advice from the relevant medical professionals involved with this child.

'In this case, the child in question will be joining us full-time in September, but is coming in part-time until then as part of an extended induction.

'She has had severe reactions, not just to the smell of cooking fish, but also when her mother touched her after eating a tuna sandwich'

She added: 'This is about the life-threatening nature of the reaction.

'The school nurse has said it is a balance between a dietary change and a life-threatening issue, and we have to protect the children under our care.

'That is why we have asked for lots more detail so we can make a more informed decision.

'We can't completely avoid the risk, and that is why we have done additional training, and we are constantly reviewing the situation.

'We appreciate this is quite a large response but at the moment it is necessary. She has had quite severe reactions, and has been in hospital as a result.

'The reactions so far have been to haddock, tuna and one other fish. It is very unusual.


A Joint Statement Expressing Serious Concern About the UCLA Chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine

 Dear Chancellor Block, President Napolitano and UC Board of Regents:

We are deeply concerned about the behavior of a registered student group at UCLA, Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP).

In an attempt to target, harass and intimidate pro-Israel Jewish students at UCLA, SJP members recently launched a campaign calling for a Judicial Board investigation of student council members who have taken trips to Israel sponsored by Jewish organizations. The SJP also demanded that candidates for student government positions sign a statement pledging that they will not go on any trip to Israel sponsored by three Jewish organizations.

The SJP has targeted only Israel.  And it has targeted three Jewish organizations that sponsor trips to Israel.  Not a single church or mosque that pays for or sponsors Israel trips was singled out.

This is an outrageous and impermissible violation of students’ right to free expression, their right to free association, and their fundamental right to travel and move freely.  The SJP cannot be permitted to infringe on any student’s personal liberties and freedoms, or to bully students into not associating with certain Jewish groups that are dedicated to building love and support for Israel.

The SJP’s motive is clear:  to manipulate the composition of the student government so that it is filled with anti-Israel activists who support the SJP’s hateful agenda.  This is the SJP’s latest effort to harass, intimidate and bully pro-Israel Jewish students.  The group’s shenanigans plainly follow from the SJP’s failed attempt to get the student government to endorse an anti-Israel divestment resolution last February

Since the ASUC rejected the SJP’s divestment resolution, members of the SJP have engaged in what one Jewish student leader has described as a campaign of hatred and bullying directed "toward both the Jewish community and council members that voted against the resolution." Some students who opposed the anti-Israel divestment resolution reportedly feel uncomfortable even walking on campus because of the hate mail they have received.  According to the Jewish student leader, "Rather than dealing with their frustrations as a result of the failure of the resolution, members of SJP continue to target their anger at the Jewish community."

The SJP is the only university-funded student organization at UCLA whose very mission targets an ethnic minority for hatred and vilification and whose activities routinely harass, intimidate, threaten and seek to silence members of that ethnic minority on campus.

The SJP’s conduct violates the UCLA Principles of Community which state:

"We do not tolerate acts of discrimination, harassment, profiling or other conduct causing harm to individuals on the basis of expression of race, color, ethnicity, gender, age, disability, religious beliefs, political preference, sexual orientation, gender identity, citizenship, or national origin among other personal characteristics. Such conduct violates UCLA’s Principles of Community and may result in imposition of sanctions according to campus policies governing the conduct of students, staff and faculty."

The SJP’s conduct also violates Section 102.11 of UCLA’s Student Conduct Code, which prohibits harassment, defined as “conduct that is so severe and/or pervasive, and objectively offensive, and that so substantially impairs a person’s access to University programs or activities that the person is effectively denied equal access to the University’s resources and opportunities.”

The SJP’s scheme to prevent pro-Israel Jewish students from having equal access to positions in the student government is a disgraceful violation of the Code.

UCLA’s Code of Conduct and its Principles of Community are more than just words; they demand action.  Indeed, UCLA’s standards of conduct may be higher than what the law would require.  According to the Code, the regulations it contains were “developed to create and maintain a safe, supportive, and inclusive campus community” – values that the SJP is completely indifferent to and does not support.

As leaders of UCLA, you have a duty to stop to the SJP's acts of wanton discrimination, harassment and bullying, and its deliberate interference with students’ rights and freedoms.  We call on you to protect the safety and well-being of Jewish students at UCLA and hold SJP members accountable for their shameful misconduct.

Thank you, AMCHA Initiative Institute for Black Solidarity With Israel; The Lawfare Project; Scholars for Peace in the Middle East; Simon Wiesenthal Center; Campus Outreach; Stand With Us; Zionist Organization of America


Wednesday, May 21, 2014

U.S. Lifts Deportation Threat for Homeschooling Family

Obama clearly shrank back from the massive confrontations that conservatives would have given him as soon as he attempted to deport these people

Uwe and Hannelore Romeike—and their seven children—are breathing more easily after the Department of Homeland Security told them last month that it had reversed its earlier decision to deport them back to their native Germany, where they were in violation of laws that prohibit homeschooling. Their seven-year ordeal has finally ended. But until the decision was announced in April, the Romeikes were living a nightmare: repatriation could have meant criminal prosecution by German officials.

As Independent Institute Research Fellow Vicki E. Alger notes in the Daily Caller, the Romeike family had been granted legal asylum in the United States in 2010 only to see that status revoked by the Board of Immigration Appeals two years later. One year after that, on June 26, 2013, the Department of Justice told the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals that Germany’s government had every right to prohibit homeschooling and therefore Uwe, Hannelore, and their kids did not warrant asylum in the United States. Ironically, the U.S. government’s lawyers asserted that deportation was justified because Germany’s homeschooling laws were designed to teach tolerance!

The reversal is great news for the Romeike family. “For the nation, this family’s saga serves as a refresher course on the true origins of our fundamental rights,” Alger writes. Their saga also teaches a negative lesson, Alger adds: “An administration that would deport a family for doing just that should leave all Americans unsettled.”


Can the Academy be Reformed? Probably Not but There’s Hope

I'm a politically conservative academic who frequently encounters like-minded folk unfamiliar with today's campus. Almost invariably, I'm asked about loony professors, screwy courses built around racial/ethnic grievances and the liberal bias infusing so much of their research. "Surly we can do something about this mess," they ask...hopefully.

My response is always the same: yes, what you observe is sometimes true but it's a complicated story not suitable for a brief conversation, so perhaps over a few beers, I'll explain why restoring sanity is more arduous than you think. Alas, the opportunity for that fuller account never seems to arrive so let me explain the situation here. Caution: what follows is a bit depressing but I will conclude on an upbeat note.

Let's begin with some extreme classroom ideology mongering--Brent Terry, professor of Creative Writing, who told his Eastern Connecticut State University students that Republicans are "racist, misogynist, money-grubbing people" and that "colleges will start closing up" if they re-take the U.S. Senate." He further added that Republicans "want things to go back-not to 1955, but to 1855," and that they do not want minorities and young people to vote." This is not invented-everything, every single lie was recorded.

At first glance, this type of abuse of classroom power certainly warrants serious investigation if not formal removal proceedings. Hard to imagine the rants on the course syllabus so Terry's behavior verges on commercial fraud-students are promised one thing for their tuition but receive something worthless.  Moreover, as far as could be inferred, Professor Terry lacks expertise on American politics so his fulmination is without pedagogical value. If undergraduates want radical political polemics, they can attend campus lectures by visiting Marxists.

Can the Left be prevented from indoctrinating students under the guise of educating them? Based upon my decades of academic experience, the answer is "not much." Professor Terry's colleagues (many who probably share his views) will predictably cry free speech to justify his ill-informed musings while the professor himself will assert that he only tried to "get his students thinking about timely issues" and perhaps, he might confess, he got too emotional but no harm was intended.

I doubt Professor Terry would suffer anything worse than an official letter cautioning him about "offending" students. In today's university, firing professor for unprofessional conduct is exceeding rare and, if done, usually involves failure to perform essential duties like showing up for class, repeated blatant sexual exploitation or chronic racial/gender offensiveness. Bashing the GOP doesn't count.

Moral of the story I: removing unprofessional ideologues like Professor Terry is an unwinnable battle. Better to expend the effort elsewhere.

Far more consequential than turning the classroom into a bully pulpit is the one-sided research published by the armies of PC faculty.  These studies often shape public debate, guide court decisions and find their way into legislation. The damage here can be immense but outsiders barely notice. Unfortunately, it is far easier to scrutinize Professor Brent Terry than read boring one-sided scholarly tomes.

The problem here is that un-PC research will seldom, if ever see the light of day thanks to having to run a gauntlet dominated by those with an ideological ax to grind. In today's academy, if you want success, don't rock the PC boat. This is invisible censorship, so to speak.

Consider the fate of Mark Regnerus, a University of Texas sociologist who in 2012 published an empirical study in a peer-reviewed journal demonstrating that same-sex parents faced severe disadvantages vis-à-vis different sex parents when raising children. Social conservatives were delighted but soon the roof fell in. Critics pointed out that his one study contradicted three decades of research showing no difference while the study's technical choices were endlessly picked apart. Critics also noted the Regnerus's study benefited from $700,000 in conservative funding. Two-hundred social scientists signed a letter deploring the study's "scholarly merit" and the peer-review journal that published it conducted an investigation into the anonymous reviewers and found blatant conflicts among those approving publication.

Regnerus responded to his adversaries in detail, but his defense has been drowned out by far more numerous critics. Moreover, and speaking as one who has conducted such research for decades, no social science research can survive relentless nitpicking-there's always a different way of doing things. No doubt, if the exact same data were twisted to show that children raised by gay parents had the best possible home life, Regnerus's research would have gone unchallenged.

Moral of the Story II: Be suspicious about an academic study on some hot button issue. That it survived close scrutiny by the PC crowd tells you something.  Seek truth elsewhere.

But, do not abandon hope.  First, campus life in the sciences, engineering, and elsewhere are unaffected by madness. Few journalists report on Berkeley's department of Molecular and Cell Biology; far more attention-grabbing is to expose how campus Stalinists have yet again disputed a talk by an Israeli diplomat.

Moreover, distinguished scholars are finally abandoning the PC faith, for example, there's Harvard's Steven Pinker's whose Pulitzer Prize nominated Blank Slate rejects the environmental determinism dominating today's social science. An alternative universe of think-tanks and policy centers now sponsors research impermissible on today's PC campus. Think Thomas Sowell at the Hoover Institution, Charles Murray at AEI, Andrew Coulson at CATO, among dozens more. None of these scholars are employable at today's universities but all regularly publish widely read "heresies" (The Bell Curve sold over 400,000 copies).

There is also a growing public awareness that the college degrees, especially in such "soft" fields as English are not worth the skyrocketing cost (and this includes Professor Terry specialty, Creative Writing). The academic ideologues who dominate the humanities and social sciences will soon preach to shrinking captive audience and, eventually, these infected departments will shrivel as youngsters switch to more lucrative fields such as engineering or even plumbing.

The best news is that the marketplace of ideas does work, albeit slowly. My sense-and I stress that this is purely anecdotal-is that today's campus-based social science research is gradually sliding into irrelevance while research conducted in privately sponsored think tanks grows more prominent. Perhaps in a decade, Brent Terry and his PC co-believers will be treated as comic figures, good a for a few laughs, and all of today's PC flavored academic research will be put on library shelves right next to archaic treatises on astrology.

Moral of the story III: Yes, today's Left-dominated universities may cause the blood to boil, but matters are improving, and those of us who want this change should focus on alternatives, not fight unwinnable Quixotic battles.


UK: 'Call female teachers SIR', demand feminist academics in bid to end 'sexist' culture in the classroom

When introduced to pupils as ‘Professor’, she may not have expected them to appreciate her academic achievements – but she did expect them to address her accordingly.

Instead, Jennifer Coates says she was ‘demeaned’ by the youngsters simply calling her ‘Miss’.

Professor Coates described it as ‘a depressing example of how women are given low status and men, no matter how young or new in the job they are, are given high status’.

Now the emeritus professor of English language and linguistics at Roehampton University has called for the traditional titles ‘Sir’ and ‘Miss’ to be banished from schools to stop sexist views taking root among pupils.

Her call was backed by several other academics – including one who said teachers should instead be called by their first names.

Professor Coates told how she had been introduced to pupils at Harris Girls’ Academy East Dulwich, where she was volunteering, as ‘Professor Coates’, but they soon reverted to calling her just ‘Miss’.

‘The men on the staff are all in their twenties and they were all called Sir,’ she said. ‘Sire is what you called the king. And Sir is a knight. There weren’t women knights but Miss is ridiculous: it doesn’t match Sir at all.

‘It’s just one of the names you can call an unmarried woman.’

She said that for both men and women using their ‘title plus last name would be better’.

Professor Coates, who taught a course for undergraduates on sexist language, warned that terms such as ‘Sir’ and ‘Miss’ risked reinforcing the message that ‘women are lesser beings to men’.

Their use dates back to the 16th century, when schoolmasters were often of a lower social status than the children they taught.

They insisted on being called ‘Sir’ to reinforce their authority, education historian Jacob Middleton told the Times Educational Supplement.

Meanwhile women in the late Victorian era were discouraged from working once they married, leaving schools mainly staffed by men and single women referred to as ‘Miss’.

Robin Lakoff, professor of linguistics at the University of California, Berkeley, in the US, said that Sir for male teachers ‘always conveys respect’ while Miss does not.

‘It’s very hard to create linguistic equality between people who, in many people’s minds, aren’t equal,’ she said.

‘At school, we have children who are still really only learning language. They pick up on it very readily and then the next generation gets exposed to the prejudices of the previous generation.’

Professor Sara Mills, from Sheffield Hallam University, urged schools to abandon titles altogether and allow pupils to use first names.

But Debbie Coslett, chief executive of the Brook Learning Trust, which runs three schools in the South East, said: ‘If I’m in a school where students don’t know me and they call me “Miss”, I’m fine with that. They’re showing respect by giving me a title rather than “hey” or “oi, you” or whatever.’


Tuesday, May 20, 2014

How a ‘New Secessionist’ Movement Is Improving school standards in the South

Sixty years after Brown, whiter, wealthier communities are breaking away from racially and economically diverse school districts.

A new secessionist movement, anchored in the South, provides yet another reminder that “separate” still means “unequal” when it comes to the racial dynamics of the nation’s public schools.

The small middle-class town of Gardendale, Alabama, outside Birmingham, voted on November 12 to secede from the Jefferson County school district and then to raise taxes on themselves to finance the solo venture. Then, in March, Gardendale’s 14,000 residents finally got their own Board of Education. Soon after his appointment, one new board member, Clayton “Dick” Lee III, a banker and father of two, said he aspires to build a “best in class” school system “which exceeds the capabilities of the system which we are exiting.”

As Gardendale officials try to construct that “best in class” system in their prosperous community, they’ve relied on advice from their neighbors to the east in Trussville, a wealthy white suburb that broke away from the county schools in 2005. Gardendale, where about 86 percent of residents are white, is the fourth district since the late 1980s to secede from Jefferson County’s schools. About half the students in Jefferson County’s schools are either African-American or Latino, and 57 percent of students receive free or reduced lunch, the standard marker for poverty in public education.

With 36,000 students, Jefferson County’s shrinking catchment area is emblematic of a new secessionism in which cities, towns, even unincorporated areas renounce membership in a larger school district to strike out on their own. A trend befitting our individualistic times, secessionism, in many cases, cracks apart well-established, broadly defined educational communities into ever more narrow and ever more racially homogeneous ones. Sixty years after Brown v. Board of Education, new break away districts threaten to exacerbate resource disparities between wealthy and poor communities and sweep away any remnants of desegregation.

In Baton Rouge, Louisiana, an organized group of residents from an unincorporated, predominantly white, relatively affluent area with a strong tax base are trying to form an entirely new eighty-five-square-mile city for the express purpose of separating from the East Baton Rouge Parish Schools, which, by the way, enroll a majority of black and economically disadvantaged students. At the same time, a bill that would create four semi-autonomous school districts in this same southern section of Baton Rouge is being considered by the Louisiana legislature. The proposed new city, St. George, would not be the first secession from East Baton Rouge Parish schools. In recent years, three municipalities have created their own school districts, though not all were particularly affluent or predominantly white.

Next fall, the rapidly growing, predominantly white Alabama community Pike Road, with only 6,500 residents, will open its first K-8 school post-divorce from Montgomery County Public Schools, where 83 percent of its some 32,000 students are either African-American or Latino and 76 percent qualify for free and reduced lunch. Since the mid-2000s, six suburban, predominantly white unincorporated areas outside Atlanta incorporated and became cities. A bill being debated in Georgia’s legislature would amend the state constitution to give the new municipalities authority to secede from county school districts to create their own systems.

Secession efforts are not limited to the South, with efforts cropping up recently in Malibu, California, and in northeast Pennsylvania. But the movement is centered in the South because the region’s districts tend to be larger, often enrolling students who live in cities and towns throughout an entire county as opposed to a small municipality.

Several years ago, Memphis, Tennessee, briefly appeared to be going against the secession trend. In 2010, the cash-strapped city school board voted to dissolve its mostly African-American urban district and merge with Shelby County’s racially and economically diverse public school system. After the vote, the Shelby County School Superintendent John Aitken welcomed new students from the city, telling reporters, “My family just got bigger.”

“A lot of people did see this merger as a foundation on which to build something better,” said Daniel Kiel, a law professor at the University of Memphis who grew up in the city and attended racially diverse magnet schools there. “We looked at as a first step for bridging racial divides and economic divides. We thought maybe we had a place from which to begin creating something more cohesive.”

But not long after Memphis entered the county system, six predominantly white, relatively affluent suburbs promptly voted to leave it. Then, in 2013, Tennessee lawmakers passed a bill that lifted a prohibition on creating new school districts. In turn, each suburb created its own school district last summer. The new school board in one of those suburban districts, Collierville, hired Aitken, the Shelby County superintendent who had spoken such welcoming words, to be its superintendent.

“Within these movements, you hear a lot about a desire for local control and academic excellence. No one is going to say, ‘We don’t want to share our schools with poor black people.’ But the effect matters, no matter the intent,” said Dennis Parker, director of the Racial Justice Program at the American Civil Liberties Union. “And the effect will not be positive for the families in the larger system. The damage to school communities of color is very real.”

New municipalities and neighborhoods take a variety of resources with them when they leave bigger systems. Most obviously, they take students on which tax dollar distributions to schools are based. In most cases, newly created districts capture all taxable property within tighter boundary lines, cutting off the larger district from revenue that had been shared. Rapidly developing or well-developed suburbs, thus, have a huge advantage over older communities that typically suffer from declines in population and shrinking tax revenue. The creation of St. George, one study estimates, would result in a $53 million shortfall for East Baton Rouge Parish. According to a report from the Baton Rouge Area Chamber of Commerce, the incorporation would impede economic development by “the interjection of sales tax competition between two cities currently considered one community.”

Other losses are more difficult to measure. Student test scores are closely correlated with students’ socioeconomic class. If a new district enrolls a large share of affluent students, that district’s aggregate test scores, now the default measure of “quality,” will likely be high. Immediately, the new district will appear far more “successful” than the nearby larger district. For example, Louisiana publicly awards A to F letter grades to its school districts. In 2011, East Baton Rouge earned a D, but by 2013 had brought that grade up to a C, though secession advocates still routinely refer to it as a “failing” district. Meanwhile, the more affluent districts nearby, Zachary and Central, which not long ago were part of the East Baton Rouge district but now enroll relatively small shares of students from low income families, earned As from the state in 2013.

“It’s a form of branding,” said Jefferson County Public Schools Superintendent Stephen Nowlin, who publicly opposed Gardendale’s efforts to secede from his district. “The idea is that more affluent school district can attract businesses, increase property value, bring in a certain type of resident who can lend economic stability and enhance a particular image. I can respect the interest in that and their right to do this. I just worry that we’ve gotten away from thinking about the larger community.”

The desire for “good schools” drives people’s decisions about where to live. And as research by Professor Jennifer Holme of the University of Texas–Austin has shown, white people’s presumptions about “good schools” are driven by “status ideologies” formed by race and class biases. Secessionism makes it even easier to act on such prejudices because it creates school districts that are starkly identified by the race and social class of students. Home values, tied to a school district’s reputation, will likely go up or go down accordingly, further aiding a community’s ascension or decline.

Parents and educators fighting against secessionism in their communities caution that the phenomenon shouldn’t be seen only as a manifestation of white people’s desire to avoid sharing classrooms with African-Americans. In many places—Memphis, Baton Rouge, much of Alabama—housing segregation is so extreme that post-desegregation, individual schools tend to be racially segregated even if a school district as a whole enrolls a racial mix of students. Beginning in the 1990s, a series of Supreme Court decisions made it easier for school districts that had been under desegregation orders to be freed from judicial oversight. Post-desegregation, many school boards in the South went on to redraw school attendance boundaries coterminous with racially segregated neighborhood configurations. The proposed new city of St. George in Louisiana would be nearly a quarter African-American, according to some estimates.The city of Baton Rouge is about 55 percent African-American.

Nowadays, it may be tax dollars, benefits of economic growth, or power on school boards that secessionists would prefer not to share. Perhaps secessionists don’t want to be associated with a lower-status school district that posts lackluster test scores. Even if we assume non-racial motivations, secessionism could still undermine the hard-won racial diversity lingering in some schools.

East Baton Rouge provides a case in point. Like a lot of other big districts in the South, it operates several well-regarded racially diverse magnet schools. Originally created under desegregation, the popular programs were retained even after they were released from court supervision. East Baton Rouge Parish’s school superintendent Bernard Taylor has said that magnet schools may not survive under St. George’s incorporation. The new district would siphon a large share of the district’s white students and a chunk of the tax dollars that pay for the specialized programs.

“I very strongly prefer that my children attend racially diverse schools,” said Tania Nyman, a white mother of two, who is trying to prevent creation of new districts in Baton Rouge. “I believe that a public school system that is truly public and welcomes all children in the entire community is a really, really important foundation for democracy. But I suppose that sounds very old-fashioned. Doesn’t it?”


Fit To Print?

Something is wrong when a family newspaper won't publish in this space a book passage that public schools assign to fourteen-year-olds. Last week, a father was arrested at a school board meeting in Laconia, New Hampshire for "disorderly conduct" for exceeding the board's two-minute speaking limit when commenting on the passage in question. Someone videoed the incident and posted it on YouTube with text of the passage superimposed on the screen. Otherwise I couldn't have known what it was to which the father, William Baer, so strenuously objected. If you want to read it, you'll have to watch it:  (Warning: Video has text from book)

Hence, the dilemma. Most people won't ever read it and therefore won't know what the salacious passage describes: rough sex between a teenage boy and girl. As a teacher and columnist, I was frustrated several times by just this kind of conundrum. Because newspaper standards didn't allow it, I couldn't show parents and taxpayers what schools were actually doing with both their children and their tax money. In the book I'm writing, however, I've been able to describe appalling examples to which I could only refer obliquely in columns. Once, an editor was ready to dump my column after I wrote a critique of "The Vagina Monologues," showings of which are paid for by taxpayers at hundreds of public colleges. I considered the column quite restrained compared to the play I was describing.

During his turn to speak, Mr. Baer seemed surprised by the two-minute rule, which he claimed was just for that meeting. Eventually, he passed out copies of the licentious passage to school board members and challenged them to read it, but by that time, the chairwoman, Sue Allen, told him his two minutes were up. He sat down, but after a subsequent speaker accused Baer of wanting to dictate what students could or could not read, Baer spoke up again from his seat claiming the man's comments were absurd. "No one's talking about censoring the book. No one's talking about banning the book or burning the book or anything..." he said. Chairwoman Sue Allen talked over him to ask that he be respectful of other speakers, none of whom had the floor at that time. Baer continued talking and a police officer walked into the seating area and asked him to leave. Baer remained seated and the officer took him by the arm, led him out of the room, then handcuffed him before taking him outside to a cruiser.

Never having seen a police officer at numerous school board meetings over the years when I was teaching in nearby western Maine, I assume the board arranged for the officer to be there for that night. The Laconia Daily Sun had reported two days before the meeting that Mr. Baer intended to ask the board members to read the passage in question and quoted him saying: "I'd like to see them read this. To see them squirm." However, the video shows him asking the superintendent to read a copy of the notice that went home to parents indicating that the book "depicts high school relationships, some of them unhealthy."

Baer considered that insufficient warning and after reading the passage, I have to agree with him. He would have been better off using his two minutes to read the passage aloud himself, but maybe he was too embarrassed. It's that graphic.

Media from all over the United States and Europe reported on Baer's arrest but none that I read printed the salacious passage. I can't help but wonder if he'd still have been arrested for reading it aloud without exceeding the two-minute limit. Perhaps not, but most if not all present would have been uncomfortable listening to it.

No one can make a judgment about the whole incident without first reading the passage, but it can't be printed or recited in polite company. Baer had asked the Laconia Daily Sun to print it but, according to the Sun's article: "Editor Ed Engler declined, saying he thought some of the description[s] rendered were not suitable for publication in 99 percent of daily newspapers in America, ‘Maybe 100 percent.'"

Baer claimed the Manchester Union Leader also refused to print it, and asked: ‘It's not fit to print, but it's okay for my daughter to read it and discuss it? My goal is to have everyone in the United States read what's on page 313 of that book ["Nineteen Minutes" by Jodie Picoult]," he declared, ‘except my daughter.'"

Teaching fourteen-year-olds for most of my career, I saw many girls reading books by Jodi Picoult. Book critics claim the rough sex act described in "Nineteen Minutes" is not gratuitous but integral to the story line about a fictitious school shooting. I'm not a novelist and I haven't read the book, but I doubt the scene was necessary.


Harry Potter stardust helps boarding to keep its sparkle

Until Harry Potter started waving his wand in the late 1990s, and reminded people that the right sort of school could be far more fun than home, it looked as if the days of the old-fashioned English boarding school were numbered. The idea of sending children away from home for months on end ran so contrary to the zeitgeist that even parents able to afford boarding-school fees shrank from taking that course.

From 1987 to 2000, the number of pupils boarding at independent schools in the UK fell steadily – from just over 110,000 to just under 70,000, according to the annual census compiled by the Independent Schools Council (ISC), which represents more than 1,200 schools. But since then, confounding the pundits, the figures have flat-lined. Around 13 per cent of pupils in ISC schools are now boarders, and there seems little prospect of that percentage changing.

What has changed, dramatically, is the number of overseas pupils at UK boarding schools. There is still a significant tranche of British-born boarders whose parents work overseas, perhaps in the services or the banking sector, but it is the boarders with non-British parents who are really changing the educational landscape.

Pupils with foreign surnames at English schools used to be exotic figures, the object of curiosity and, in some cases, a little light teasing. But at ISC schools, there are now more than 25,000 non-British pupils whose parents live overseas. The overwhelming majority of them board full-time, many at schools within striking distance of Heathrow, for obvious reasons.

In terms of countries of origin, China and Hong Kong lead the way, accounting for 37.1 per cent of the total, followed by Europe, with 35.3 per cent. But the pupil profile is changing the whole time. In 2012-13 alone, the number of Russian pupils at UK boarding schools rose by 27.4 per cent, the number from Nigeria by 16.3 per cent and the number from China by 5.4 per cent. Even factors that might have been expected to cause a fall in numbers – such as the recent stricter rules for student visa applications – have not dampened the enthusiasm for the British boarding-school product among wealthy parents, from Lagos to St Petersburg, from Dubai to Singapore.

Different schools have risen to the challenge of internationalism. Some of Britain's best known independent schools have set up teaching outposts abroad – for example Sherborne in Qatar, Harrow in Bangkok and Dulwich in China. In fact, there are now nearly 20,000 pupils being educated at overseas "branches" of UK independent schools.

Others have invested in facilities – for example, individual bedrooms, rather than dormitories, and state-of-the-art IT facilities – that a teenage boarder from abroad, perhaps coming from a wealthy family, would regard as acceptable.

The kind of Spartan conditions for which British boarding schools used to be associated are passing into history. Today's boarding schools boast of creating "a home from home environment", a warm human space where children are nurtured; and many of them are as good as their word, offering a high standard of pastoral care and zero tolerance of drugs and bullying. But although beatings and cold showers no longer go with the territory, most British boarding schools, even the best endowed, bear only a fleeting resemblance to five-star hotels.

Stories abound, not all of them apocryphal, of daughters of Russian oligarchs expecting the sheets on their beds to be changed every day or assuming a cross-country run would be cancelled because of light drizzle. Some schools have also reported clique-ishness: overseas pupils mixing with pupils of their own nationality rather than spreading their wings.

It would be fair to say that some English independent schools have welcomed overseas pupils more out of necessity – to compensate for falling revenues – than positive choice. But others – for example, Sevenoaks School in Kent, where around a quarter of the pupils now come from overseas – have made a virtue of internationalism.

Who would have guessed that learning Mandarin would one day be compulsory at Brighton College? Or that there would be so many Chinese pupils at Harrow that English is now taught as an Additional Language?

For expats and wealthy parents in Hong Kong or Moscow or Qatar – parents with the ambition of giving their children an international education in English – the choice tends to be between the best local international school and a reputable English boarding school.

Weighing the pros and cons of each can be a delicate exercise. There are good international schools all over the world, particularly in cities with a high proportion of wealthy parents and a multinational workforce. They can be great places to learn, network, grow in confidence, get into a good university and generally develop a world view that is not overly shaped by the cultural values of one country.

Some academic subjects, notably maths, are taught far better in other parts of the world than Britain. Earlier this year, a cadre of English-speaking maths teachers from China were flown into the UK to impart their superior knowledge to arithmetically challenged British pupils. It was a wake-up call for an education system that often seems more fixated on the past than the future.

But if British independent schools are far from perfect, the best of them continue to tick most of the key academic boxes. In recent PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment) findings by the OECD, UK independent schools came out as the top-ranked in the world, alongside the improbable pairing of New Zealand and South Korea.

"In Singapore, there is a perception, both among expats and locals, that the standard of education is higher in UK schools than here," says Donna Brereton, Singapore editor for Good Schools Guide International ( "I know one Cambridge-educated Singaporean who has sent his son to Millfield, hoping he will follow in his footsteps."

It will not have escaped the attention of ambitious parents abroad that, when it comes to getting pupils into top universities, particularly Oxford and Cambridge, the leading British boarding schools, such as Eton and Cheltenham Ladies' College, have a formidable track-record.

Nor will it have escaped such parents that girls who have attended top co-ed British boarding schools have done themselves no harm in the matrimonial stakes. Marlborough College alone has not just educated the Duchess of Cambridge and Samantha Cameron, but the wives of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the Speaker of the House of Commons and the Governor of the Bank of England.

"There are many reasons, both academic and non-academic, why parents might want to send their children to board in the UK," says Harriet Plyler, the editor of Good Schools Guide International. "Even if their local international school is first-class and academically the equal of an English boarding school, parents think their children are more likely to learn to speak fluent English, with all the benefits that brings, if they are immersed in the language at a relatively early age."

Montse Domenech, who lives with her husband and three children in Barcelona, is typical of the kind of parent to whom a British boarding school naturally appeals. The couple are planning to send their eldest child to an English school in the sixth form and, hopefully, to an English university as well. They hope to send their two younger children on the same path.

"Increasing globalisation has made English the key language," explains Mrs Domenech, "but unfortunately Spanish schools are not very good at teaching other languages. There is also no real culture of boarding schools in Spain. Children at day schools work to a very tight timetable whereas, under the British boarding-school system, there is the time and the flexibility to do art, drama, music and a wide range of sports."

As recently as 20 years ago, the idea that parents in Russia and Africa and the Far East would be straining every sinew to get their offspring into institutions that reached their heyday when Queen Victoria was on the throne would have seemed ridiculous. But, like the British monarchy, those institutions have proved far more adaptable than their critics expected. A boarding-school education is never going to suit all children, but the British version on offer in the 21st century can easily become a stepping-stone to higher things.


Monday, May 19, 2014

The secret to becoming a millionaire: Go to university and get a degree, according to official British figures which show one in five graduates are worth £1m or more

Mostly due to increases in property values, however

One in five graduates who hold at least one university degree goes on to become a millionaire, according to new data.

Official figures from the Office for National Statistics show that 20 per cent of all adults who complete higher education, which is equivalent to more than two million people, have a wealth of £1million or more.

In contrast only three per cent of people who have assets totalling more than £1million have no formal qualifications.

The figures also reveal that education is becoming more important to becoming a millionaire as in 2006-07, only 16 per cent of graduates were worth more than £1million.

David Willets, the universities minister said the new study revels why going to university is a very good deal, despite rising tuition fees.

He told the Telegraph: It shows why it’s fair to ask graduates to pay back the cost of their higher education, and why increasing the number of people who go to university will spread wealth and opportunity.’

In addition, Britain’s richest families own almost half of the country’s household wealth.

The wealthiest 10 per cent of households hold 44 per cent of the total money tied up in property, pensions, possessions and hard cash.

Amazingly more than one in 10 people own a second home and a similar proportion can call themselves millionaires.

In 2010-12 the combined wealth of all private households in Great Britain was £9.5 trillion, up by almost 12 per cent £8.4 trillion in 2006-08 as the financial crisis hit.

The average household total wealth stood at £218,400 in 2010-12, up from £196,700 in 2006-08.

Even after the financial crash, wealth is skewed towards the richest 10 per cent, who held 44 per cent of all wealth.

By comparison the poorest 50 per cent of households owned just 9 per cent of total aggregate household wealth, the Office for National Statistics said.

Overall 9 per cent of households have more than £1million, the same proportion who have less than £12,500.

The gap between rich and poor also appears to be widening. In 2010-12, the wealthiest 10 per cent of households were 4.8 times wealthier than the bottom 50 per cent.

The wealthiest 20 per cent of households had 105 times more than the least wealthy 20 per cent, up from 92 times more in 2008-10.

Rachael Orr, Oxfam Head of UK Poverty Programme said: 'This is another shocking chapter in a tale of two Britains, further evidence of increasing inequality at a time when five rich families have the same wealth as 12 million people.

'We need our politicians to grasp the nettle and make the narrowing gap between the richest and poorest a top priority. It cannot be right that in Britain today a small elite are getting richer and richer while millions are struggling to make ends meet.'

Private pensions and property each account for 38 per cent all wealth, with financial wealth making up 14 per cent and physical wealth – possessions – just 12 per cent.

The value of physical wealth – including furniture, clothing and gadgets – varies widely. Around two per cent have household contents worth more than £100,000, while 52 per cent say their poseesions are worth less than £30,000.

There are also variations across the country. Average household wealth in the South East stood at £309,700 in 2010-12, more than double the £142,700 in the South East.

The impact of the financial crash in 2007 has also been more dramatic in the north and Midlands. Between 2006-08 and 2010-12, household wealth in London rose by 31 per cent, but it fell by 10.1 per cent in the North East, and barely rose in the West Midlands (0.8 per cent) and East Midlands (0.5 per cent).

Three-quarters of families own a car, and 4 per cent have a motorbike. Meanwhile 7 per cent have a personalised numberplate, up from 5 per cent in 2006-08.

Separated men and women were the most likely to live in households with total wealth of less than £12,500 (23 per cent and 21 per cent respectively), the ONS said.

Married men and women were the most likely to live in households with total wealth of £1 million or more (14 per cent and 13 per cent respectively).

The ONS added: ‘Compared with single and cohabitating individuals, married individuals are on average older.

‘Knowing also that the earnings of older workers are higher than those of younger workers and that those older individuals will have had longer to accumulate wealth might go some way towards explaining these differences.

‘Compared with single individuals, those who were married might have accumulated more wealth if they were both working and in receipt of a higher joint income.’

The under-35s were most likely to live in households with the lowest amounts of total wealth.

In 2010-12, 13 per cent of 0-15 year olds and 14 per cent of 16-24 year olds and 25-34 year olds were living in households with a total wealth of less than £12,500.

Just 4 per cent of people aged 55-64 years or over-65 lived in households in this lowest total wealth band.

However, 22 per cent of all 55-64 year olds were living in households with total wealth of £1 million or more.

The ONS said: ‘Individuals in this age group still find themselves in the wealth accumulation phase, and income, such as earnings from employment, enable opportunities to increase total wealth.’

There was also a small increase in the percentage of households who own an extra property is up from 10 per cent in 2008-10 to 11 per cent in 2010-12.

This included 3 per cent with a second home, 4 per cent with a buy-to-let and 3 per cent who own land or property overseas.


Inside the Mormon prom: The dance where students keep a respectable distance, short skirts are banned and parents party in a nearby room

Keeping a respectful distance on the dance floor, no short skirts and no alcohol-fuelled after-parties: this is no normal prom.

In fact, it's the eighth annual 'Mormon Prom' in Morristown, New Jersey, a night of modesty at a decorated basketball court at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Nearly 300 students aged between 16 and 18 gathered at the hall on Saturday - some traveling from outside states to attend - for a night of good clean fun.

The event, which started after local teens complained about lewd behavior at their schools' proms, was open to students of any religious affiliation, not just Mormons.

But all had to abide by its rules - no drinking, inappropriate clothing or alcohol.

'There is no pressure to do anything immodest or reckless, like party or drink afterwards,' Anna Jensen, a Mormon who attended the dance with two Catholic friends, told the New Jersey Star-Ledger.

'The music was clean and the dancing was also clean. Overall, it was just a group of kids, Mormon or not Mormon, that wanted to enjoy themselves without being influenced by what our modern society believes to be the norm.'

The students were encouraged to skip the usual pricey practices, such as buying new dresses or arriving in a limousine, and most were taken by their parents, who then socialized together in a separate room.

Some students like Anna and junior Matt Norton said they would also be going to their school's prom, while others attended instead of their school's event.

'I'm going to my school prom in May,' Norton, a fellow Mormon who attends Morristown High School said. 'The types of dancing and music will be very different. It will be more inappropriate at the school prom.'

And he added: 'Girls still look good in modest dresses.'

The prom began eight years ago when students complained to their parents about their high school dances, the Star-Ledge explained.
Respectable distance: Mckenzie Alvarez, 16, and Joe Cicon, 16, share a dance at the Mormon prom - an event that began 8 years ago when teens complained about their lewd school dances

Respectable distance: Mckenzie Alvarez, 16, and Joe Cicon, 16, share a dance at the Mormon prom - an event that began 8 years ago when teens complained about their lewd school dances

Two local Latter-day youth leaders, Cindy Manchester from Pompton Plains and Heidi Elton from Short Hills, joined together to address the concerns their daughters and other students had with their school dances, including steep prices and immodest clothes.

They approached their church leaders and their plan was approved, with the first prom being held in 2006. Mormon churches across New Jersey sponsor the prom.


Teen protests suspension over T-shirt with image of AK-47

A Hinsdale Central High School student is challenging a suspension he said he received for wearing to school a T-shirt that depicts an AK-47.

Senior Chris Borg, 18, of Hinsdale, appeared before the Hinsdale Township High School District 86 school board Monday to make the request that the suspension he received on May 6 be removed from his record.

Borg told the board that he wore a T-shirt with the outline of an AK-47 depicted on the back, a url for the website of a Kentucky armory club that supports gun rights and the words "TeamAK" on it. He said the shirt did not identify the gun as an AK-47 in writing.

Borg said he was stopped for wearing it by hall monitors. He said the dean of students, Kimberly Dever, offered him the chance to turn the shirt inside out, wear another shirt or be suspended for the day.

"I decided to go home for the day because I felt it was a infringement of my First Amendment right to freedom of expression," Borg told the board.

Supt. Bruce Law said the T-shirt is a violation of the dress code outlined in the school's handbook.

The handbook states that students are subject to disciplinary action when they wear clothing that "is deemed vulgar, inappropriate, unsafe or disruptive to the educational process (e.g., advertising/display of alcohol, drugs, tobacco, sexual innuendo).

Borg said he was told the T-shirt was unsafe and disruptive.  "Pictures of firearms can be found in our history textbooks, but you don't see people freaking out about that," Borg said. He also pointed out that the school's team mascot, which is a Devil, holds a trident, which is a weapon.

Law contends that schools have the right to restrict students from wearing offensive clothing.  "Every school I've ever worked at has restrictions on what a student can wear when it's offensive or could be predicted to be offensive, when it promotes drugs, alcohol or violence," Law said.

Law said he does not plan to investigate the suspension. He said Borg has the right to seek to have the suspension removed from his record. The decision on whether the suspension should be removed would be made by the school's principal.

Borg's father, Kevin Borg, said he supports his son's quest to have the suspension expunged.  "He's not advocating violence. He's an Eagle Scout. He's a straight-up kid," Kevin Borg said.

Kevin Borg said if he'd known his son was going to wear the T-shirt to school he probably would have suggested that he not wear it.  "But he's 18. He makes his own decisions," Kevin Borg said. "I respect his right to express his feelings."

Kimberly Dever referred questions on the suspension to the district office.


Sunday, May 18, 2014

Kangaroo Courts on Campus?

By Thomas Sowell

There seems to be a full-court press on to get colleges to "do something" about rape on campus.

But there seems to be remarkably little attention paid to two crucial facts: (1) rape is a crime and (2) colleges are not qualified to be law-enforcement institutions.

Why are rapists not reported to the police and prosecuted in a court of law?

Apparently this is because of some college women who say that they were raped and are dissatisfied with a legal system that does not automatically take their word for it against the word of someone who has been accused and denies the charge.

There seem to be a dangerously large number of people who think that the law exists to give them whatever they want -- even when that means denying other people the same rights that they claim for themselves.

Nowhere is this self-centered attitude more common than on college campuses. And nowhere are such attitudes more encouraged than by the Obama administration's Justice Department, which is threatening colleges that don't handle rape issues the politically correct way -- that is, by presuming the accused to be guilty and not letting Constitutional safeguards get in the way.

Anything that fits the "war on women" theme is seen as smart politics in an election year. The last thing Attorney General Eric Holder's Justice Department is interested in is justice.

The track record of academics in other kinds of cases is not the least bit encouraging as regards the likelihood of impartial justice. Even on many of our most prestigious college campuses, who gets punished for saying the wrong thing and who gets away with mob actions depends on which groups are in vogue and which are not.

This is carried to the point where some colleges have established what they call "free speech zones" -- as if they are granting a special favor by not imposing their vague and arbitrary "speech codes" everywhere on campus.

The irony in this is that the Constitution already established a free speech zone. It covers the entire United States.

Have we already forgotten the lynch mob atmosphere on the Duke University campus a few years ago, when three young men were accused of raping a stripper?

Thank heaven that case was handled by the criminal justice system, where all the evidence showed that the charge was bogus, leading to the district attorney's being removed and disbarred.

If all the current crusades to institutionalize lynch law on campuses across the country were motivated by a zeal to protect young women, that might at least be understandable, however unjustified.

But those who are whipping up the lynch mob mentality have shown far less interest in stopping rape than in politicizing it. Many of the politically correct crusaders are the same people who have pushed for unisex living arrangements on campus, including unisex bathrooms, and who have put condom machines in dormitories and turned freshman orientation programs into a venue for sexual "liberation" propaganda.

They laughed at old-fashioned restrictions designed to reduce sexual dangers among young people on campus. Now that real life experience has shown that these are not laughing matters, the politically correct still want their sexual Utopia, and want scapegoats when they don't get it.

There is a price to pay for allowing unsubstantiated accusations to prevail, and that price extends beyond particular young men whose lives can be ruined by false charges. The whole atmosphere of learning is compromised when male faculty have to protect themselves from accusations by female students.

People today are amazed when I tell them about a young African woman who had just arrived in America back in 1963, and who was so overwhelmed by everything that she fell far behind in my economics class. I met with her each evening for an hour of tutoring until she caught up with the rest of the class.

There is no way that I would do that today, and there is no way that she would have passed that class otherwise. Instead, she would have returned to Africa a failure. There are many unintended consequences of lynch law policies that poison the atmosphere on campus and diminish American life in general.


Diversity-Hating Liberals On College Campuses Wage War On Tacos, Spanish Language

This month, a tiny minority of Latino students has effectively banned everybody else on college campuses from having a good time celebrating Cinco de Mayo, a once-obscure Mexican holiday that was popularized by the makers of Corona beer.

For example, the all-you-can-eat “Pi Phiesta” taco bar fundraisers that some chapters of Pi Beta Phi sorority throw each year around Cinco de Mayo to raise money for local charities are likely going extinct thanks to the forces of political correctness.

Pi Beta Phi’s May 5 fundraiser was dramatically altered by the sorority’s chapter at Stanford University, reports The College Fix.

The sorority felt compelled to change its “Pi Phiesta” into an ocean-themed party where tacos happened to be served.

In the future, “Pi Phiesta” fundraisers are probably not long for this world because, as The Stanford Daily notes, critics call Cinco de Mayo celebrations involving tacos “cultural appropriation” — “actions that trivialize aspects of a culture by not respecting a custom’s symbolic significance or the history of a style of dress or other artifact.”

Pi Beta Phi’s national office has advised its local chapters to avoid all taco-eating around Cinco de Mayo.

“While a couple of Pi Beta Phi chapters have held Pi Phiesta fundraisers, that theme is not recommended and only a few of our 136 chapters host one,” a Pi Beta Phi spokeswoman told The Fix.


Fencing Team Banned from North Dakota State University Because of "Weapons Policy"

Fencing, an Olympic sport sponsored by more than 30 NCAA schools, involves two athletes engaging in what is effectively a sword fight with a foil, saber, or épée. The equipment is blunted and does not have any actual blades or sharp tips. Unfortunately, for the newly-formed club fencing team at North Dakota State University, fencing equipment counts as a weapon, and the club has been barred from practicing on campus.

Naturally, the club members and their coach are not thrilled about this decision:

"The current interpretation of the non-weapon policy in NDSU...understands our fencing equipment as weapons," says the club's coach Enrique Alvarez.

Alvarez has been fencing since his early teens. He says despite their appearance, the foils, epees and sabers they use don't have sharp edges or points.

"This is a spring and a flat tip that if you press the spring against the body of the other person, will be awarded a point," he demonstrates.

Nonetheless, NDSU's Police and Safety Office Director Ray Boyer cited the school's policy manual and Code of Student Behavior, saying sabers and swords are prohibited on campus:

"They are deemed weapons, and as such, possession or use on University owned or controlled property is prohibited," he says.

The team has been forced to practice off-campus, a move they say has reduced the number of members in the club.

This policy is ridiculous, especially considering that NDSU has baseball, softball, and golf teams that presumably are permitted to practice on campus. Fencing equipment is not lethal, whereas baseball bats and golf clubs have actually been used to kill people. The school is certainly overreacting in this situation.