Friday, September 26, 2014

Obese pupils 'do worse at school'

No mystery why.  It is mostly the poor who are fat and the poor have lower average IQs.  This is an IQ effect, nothing else

Its damage to health is well known but obesity could take a heavy toll on a child’s grades.

At least six studies have found that boys and girls who are dangerously overweight do worse at school than others – with girls particularly vulnerable.

Researcher Anne Martin said the effect is big enough to make a difference to grades and urged teachers to think about the effects of obesity on their pupils.

It is unclear why being overweight harms academic success but possible reasons include fat children being written off by teachers and obesity slowing the development of the brain.

Bullying may also take a heavy toll, especially on girls.

Miss Martin, who is close to completing a PhD, found and analysed 14 pieces of research into the topic.

Around half of the studies showed that children who became obese or who stayed obese did worse in maths over time.

The studies also suggested that the effects aren’t instant – with obesity in primary school taking until secondary school to impact on achievement.

Girls may be particularly vulnerable, with a British study showing that those who were obese at 11 did less well in maths, science and English at 16.

The effect was big enough to make the girls drop down from an average grade C, to a D, the UK Congress on Obesity heard.

Miss Martin, of Edinburgh University, said it is possible that girls are more psychologically scarred by the bullying that fat children often suffer.

Other reasons for the phenomenon include teachers writing off overweight children as lazy or naughty, poor diet and lack of exercise.

It is possible that obesity affects brain development – and also that the diabetes and sleep problems that can accompany obesity lead to youngsters missing more school than usual.

Miss Martin said the finding is important because a child’s performance in school affects their chances of going to university and the kind of job they get.

She says that headteachers need to realise that educating children on obesity could improve academic success, rather than simply waste valuable time.

However, it is not all bad news.  One of the studies Miss Martin analysed showed that obese youngsters who slim down end up doing better in maths than children who have never had a weight problem.


Anti-Religion Group & Satanic Temple to Distribute Materials in Public Schools

Despite their continued verbal commitment to keeping religious materials out of public schools, both the Satanic Temple and The Freedom From Religion Foundation have publicly announced plans to disseminate printed information among public school students in Orange County, Florida.

Some of the educational materials produced by the organizations include  The Satanic Children’s Big Book of Activities and An X-Rated Book: Sex & Obscenity in the Bible.

On the Satanic Temple’s official website, the New York-based group stated that, “In cooperation with The Freedom From Religion Foundation, and in accordance with School Board policy that allows religious material dissemination, The Satanic Temple announces they will distribute Satanic literature in Florida Public School district.”

According to the announcement released on Sept. 14, distributed materials will include “pamphlets related to the Temple’s tenets, philosophy and practice of Satanism, as well as information about the legal right to practice Satanism in school.”

The Satanic Temple’s website also advertises activity books for children, including coloring pages and connect-the-dots activities to help children learn to draw pentagrams.

Satanic Temple spokesperson Lucien Greaves told during a phone interview that the Satanist group decided to pass out their own materials after talking with The Freedom From Religion Foundation.

“I don’t know if you could define it as a partnership, but we consulted with them and we ran it through them because we knew – we found out about this through the stories that were written about The Freedom From Religion Foundation,” Greaves explained. “They had a previous lawsuit and they took issue with the previous religious materials being disseminated in schools.”

“We’ve been quite clear about the fact that we don’t want to disseminate our own materials in the school, if the other materials aren’t there,” Greaves said.

“[FFRF’s] thinking is the same as ours: that religious materials are probably better off left away from the schools. But so long as there’s going to be one represented, they have to accept them all,” he said, adding the group plans to pass out information primarily to high school students.

Anti-Religion Group & Satanic Temple to Distribute Materials in Public Schools, While Opposing Materials’ Distribution
(Photo: The Satanic Temple.)

The day after The Satanic Temple announced their plans to give out their own materials in conjunction with the Freedom From Religion Foundation, the foundation issued a statement apparently seeking to distance itself from the Satanic Temple’s materials.

“FRF does not believe that Satanists or Christians or even atheists should be distributing literature to public school students,” the group said in a news release on Sept. 15.

When asked if he thought passing out Satanist materials while condemning the distribution of any religious information could be considered hypocritical, Greaves said he did not think so.

“Well, it would be hypocritical of us if we were to push to have our literature disseminated to the school when there wasn’t already this breach of church and state, but I don’t think there’s a hypocrisy in us putting our material out when the other material is there. Because that is our position, that so long as that is taking place, it’s orders of magnitude better that a plurality of voices is represented rather than just one,” he said.

Like The Satanic Temple, the Freedom From Religion Foundation claims to be against the distribution of materials of any kind, religious or non-religious, in public schools,  but has filed lawsuits demanding the right to do that very thing.

After discovering a local Christian group was handing out Bibles in Orange County public schools,The Central Florida Freethought Community, a subgroup of The Freedom From Religion Foundation, sued the Orange County School last year over the right to distribute their own atheist materials. While the lawsuit was ultimately dismissed, the group has since been permitted to pass out their materials.

In the latest news release, the group announced it will distribute its materials again in January to public school students in Orange County.  “FFRF will only distribute its own materials this January, including pamphlets such as An X-Rated Book: Sex & Obscenity in the Bible, the group announced.

This book, essentially a small collection of brochures the foundation has passed out for nearly two years, includes a cover showing an image of an anthropomorphized, cartoon Bible sexually assaulting a screaming woman.

In the news release, the group also claimed to be “consistent” in their message.

“FFRF has remained consistent throughout this ordeal: Public schools should not be allowing the distribution of Bibles, atheist materials or any other religious or nonreligious material,” the group said in the news release. “We do not want the Satanic Temple preying on students any more than we want evangelical Christians preying on students.”


Girl, 11, told by school not to wear 9/11 T-shirt

The stepdaughter of a U.S. veteran was told last week that she was not allowed to wear to school a T-shirt to honor the men and women who died in the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks.

According to CBS 13, Tim Foster was told by administrators in the Orangevale school system that his stepdaughter, 11, who is in the sixth-grade, would be violating the dress code if she wore the T-shirt, which the family has worn every year since the attacks. The shirt lists the names of those who lost their lives that day in the shape of the twin towers.

We “wear it to honor what had happened on 9/11 and all the people that have perished and the lives that were changed on that day,” Foster, who has served for nearly 25 years, including two tours in Iraq, told the station.

But Foster’s stepdaughter wasn’t allowed to wear the shirt last Thursday, on the 13th anniversary of the attacks, and administrators said she had to wear her uniform – a T-shirt with the school’s name and logo.

Foster said he understands the school’s policy, but was hoping officials would understand the significance of the day and let her wear the commemorative T-shirt.

District spokesman Trent Allen said students are only allowed to wear clothing other than their uniform on free dress days, and Sept. 11 isn’t one of those days


Thursday, September 25, 2014

Disrupting the student loan bubble

In 21st century America, disruptive technology is all around us. Smartphone apps allow us to summon transportation at the touch of a button, to book accommodations in a stranger’s apartment, to arrange an impromptu dinner party with people we have never met and to navigate our way through unfamiliar cities without the need of a map or compass.

Of course, not everyone is delighted by these miraculous innovations. The people still doing business the old-fashioned way see technology as an existential threat, and are scrambling to find ways to defend their positions — typically through the use of government regulations.

The world of higher education is being disrupted by technology as well, in perhaps a more dramatic way than any other sector of the economy. Thanks to the Internet, the range and accessibility of free educational content has never been greater. Those who want to learn about a subject can now do so from their own homes. And this does not just mean reading page after page of dry, textbook-like material — on the contrary, the web offers no end of immersive, interactive resources for the eager student, all without the necessity of shelling out thousands of dollars for a glorified piece of paper from an accredited institution.

Just as taxi companies are trying to shut down Uber, however, and just as hotel chains are trying to stop Airbnb, the educational establishment wants to use government power to protect itself from the competition created by technology.

President Obama has argued that “college has never been more important,” all the while decrying the high costs of education. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., is pushing legislation to allow students to refinance their loans “just like you can refinance your mortgage,” in a pattern eerily similar to the run up to the housing crisis in 2008. Meanwhile, total student debt has topped a trillion dollars — a bubble which, when it inevitably bursts, could wreak economic devastation on an entire generation that was told the only way to succeed in life is to mortgage its future to get a bachelor’s, and then a master’s and then a doctoral degree.

Government policies to extend student loans to help cover the cost of college are creating the very problem they purport to solve. Easy credit drives up the demand for higher education, which in turn drives up the price. The result is Ivy League schools with beautiful campuses and massive gymnasia turning out students who still can’t find a job. In the universities’ struggle against obsolescence, they are merely delaying the inevitable, holding back progress and simultaneously laying the groundwork for economic disaster.

Franz Oppenheimer, the German sociologist, observed that there are two ways to generate income. He called these the economic means, and the political means. Under the economic means, people make money by adding value to society and engaging in voluntary exchange with other. Under the political means, they rely on government force to boost their profits and cripple their competitors. Oppenheimer wrote a century ago, but today we have a clear example of the political means at work: The higher education industry operating through the mechanism of student loans.

We need to stop propping up colleges and universities with government loans and propaganda campaigns on the importance of meaningless certificates. Instead of attempting to treat the symptom of high education costs, we should be treating the cause. If Americans learn to embrace the alternative education approaches that technology makes possible, the demand for traditional universities will drop, and tuition prices will drop with it. The increased competition will result not only in cheaper degrees, but in higher quality education for all.


British school bars Muslim pupil, 16, in row over face veil

A Muslim student at a girls’ school known for its liberal approach cannot start her A-levels because she wants to wear a face veil in the coeducational sixth form.

The 16-year-old is understood to have been barred from Camden School for Girls in north London by the headmistress, Elizabeth Kitcatt, if she insists on wearing the niqab, which shows only the eyes, as it goes against school rules.

More than 300 people have signed an online petition headed “Stop the Islamophobia” in support of the unnamed girl. Her sister, Sagal Ahmed,18, said: “I don’t feel like her education should be compromised or the way she dresses should affect the way anyone looks at her.”

The school does not have a uniform, but there is a dress code. The headmistress said that the school does not comment on individual cases. A statement says: “We have an appearance policy and students at the school may wear what they wish subject to any requirement in the interests of teaching and learning, health and safety. Inappropriate dress which offends public decency or which does not allow teacher-student interactions will be challenged.”

According to the petition, the 16-year-old has been studying at the school for five years and sat her GCSEs wearing a niqab. “But … when the student returned to the school, wearing the niqab, a teacher claimed that she could not be allowed to study.” It added: “This school is renowned for its 'individuality’ and 'strong feminist views’. However, this poorly thought out decision by the school contradicts this.”


Marlborough Master: private schools must avoid being 'isolated enclaves of privilege'

Private schools must avoid becoming "isolated enclaves of privilege" by engaging with the community and neighbouring state schools, a leading public school headmaster has said.

Speaking to the Telegraph, following the college’s success in Tatler’s annual School Awards last week, Jonathan Leigh, Master of Marlborough college, also said that schools must fully embrace the arts and sport alongside traditional academic pursuits if they are to develop the entire character of a pupil.

Following concerns that certain subjects, including music and art, are being sidelined in favour of more academic pursuits, Mr Leigh said that any education system that diminishes the arts, is “missing a trick” as they are “vital” in creating rounded pupils.

He stressed that a healthy music curriculum, covering different disciplines, would be inspirational to any pupil, and that drama can “challenge pupils to think well beyond themselves”.

“These pursuits give pupils individuality within the larger team,” he said. “They learn a lot about themselves, at the same time as contributing to the whole.”

Mr Leigh, who has been Master of Marlborough – a £33,000 per year independent boarding and day school – for two years, also stressed that while GCSE and academic results are important, they are not the “be-all and end all”.

“If everything is just measured in terms of examination results then we are not producing the whole character,” he said. “The whole character is something that is immeasurable. There’s something incredibly exciting about drawing that character out.”

While recognising the advantage public schools have in encouraging these subjects, Mr Leigh also said that much needed to be done to “demystify the difference between state and private education.”

The college currently has an ongoing partnership with Swindon Academy [charter school], which sees academy pupils travel to Marlborough to take part in co-curricular activities and clubs, and a new relationship is currently being developed with the rural comprehensive, Pewsey Vale School.

“We have pupils who teach youngsters to read in local primary schools and we have others who travel to nearby Brimble Hill School to help those with multiple learning difficulties.

“As a school, we don’t want to be an isolated enclave of privilege stuck on the corner of a town,” he continued. “We would like to be able to contribute the best of what we offer, so we are not simply cocooned in a bubble.”

Addressing the Headmasters’ and Headmistresses’ Conference in October last year, Sir Michael Wilshaw, the head of Ofsted, told private school heads that they had to offer state schools more than just “crumbs off your table” in order to bridge the gap between state and private education.

However, Mr Leigh said that rather than simply looking at academy sponsorship and “imposing set values”, the key for independent schools is to “get involved in a multitude of different projects”.

According to figures released by the Independent Schools Council (ISC) last year, while less than three per cent of public schools currently sponsor academies, 92 per cent are involved in active partnerships with state schools; sharing classes, clubs and facilities.

Yet critics say that more could still be done by private schools to lessen the gap between state and independent education.

Ahead of next year's General Election, last week the Sutton Trust set out suggestions in its new ''mobility manifesto', calling for the barriers between state and private schools to be broken down.

The Trust called for support – including state funding – for a scheme to open up leading fee-paying day schools, with pupils admitted based on their academic abilities rather than their family's ability to pay.

However, according to Mr Leigh, a high percentage of independent schools are currently working to break down these barriers, by forming lasting local partnerships.

“Marlborough is an Anglican foundation that goes back to 1843 and, as such, it’s got one of those classic mottoes ‘Deus dat incrementum’ (god gives the increase),” he said.

“The implication is that if you’ve been given the increase, you are meant to do something responsible with what you have acquired. Part of that is to understand that this is an increase that is meant to be shared."

Barnaby Lenon, Chairman of the ISC, said the council had a "strong commitment to social mobility" and that there were many ways independent schools currently contribute to maintained schools and to the community:

"We have over 110 independent schools, either individually or in partnership with federations or groups of schools, who are leading the sector’s involvement with academies and free schools," he said.

“But sponsoring academies is one way we contribute. Our schools work with maintained schools in all sorts of ways: to offer GCSE or A-level revision classes; classes in subjects not on offer at some state schools, such as classics and languages; university entrance workshops and mock interviews; aspiration programmes; shared subject workshops and talks, as well as support or coaching with music, drama and sport."


Wednesday, September 24, 2014

D.C. Gets an ‘F’ in Academic Achievement for Low-Income & Minority Students

The District of Columbia in 2014 received an “F” grade in academic achievement for low-income and minority students attending its public schools, according to a report from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

The Chamber, which released a report entitled Leaders and Laggards: A State-by-State Report Card on K-12 Educational Effectiveness, ranked states on nine indicators to see which states were the national leaders in educational performance and which states were lagging behind.

The Chamber looked at metrics, in public schools and charter schools, like the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) to measure academic achievement, AP exams to measure post-secondary and workforce measurement, and various teacher workforces of schools, to name a few measures.

Out of nine indicators of educational achievement that the District of Columbia was applicable for, D.C. received five F’s, one D+, one C+, and two A’s.

The District got  F’s  in the Academic Achievement, Academic Achievement for Low-Income and Minority Students, International Competitiveness, Post-secondary and Workforce Readiness, and Return on Investment metrics.

According to the report, “The District of Columbia earns a failing grade in academic achievement for low-income and minority students. The District has the highest percentage nationwide of both African-American (76%) and low-income (78%) students. Fourth and 8th graders in both groups perform below the national average at or above the proficient level on the NAEP reading exam.”

Other failing metrics for D.C. were workforce readiness and international competitiveness. “The District earns a failing grade preparing its students for college and careers. Students’ chances for college attendance by age 19 are the lowest in the nation,” said the Chamber of Commerce. “The District earns a very low grade preparing its students to compete in a global economy. Only 10% of students are proficient in reading and math – the lowest percentage in the nation – compared with an international standard.”

D.C. also fared poorly, a grade of D+, in the 21st Century Teaching Force metric. “The nation’s capital does a weak job of creating a strong teacher workforce. It does not successfully identify effective teachers or remove ineffective ones,” said the report.

The district fared better in metrics like parental options and data quality. “The District does an excellent job providing parents with strong school choice options. It has one of the strongest charter school laws in the country and more than half of all students attend a school of choice – the highest in the nation,” said the Chamber.

“The District earns an excellent grade collecting and reporting high-quality education data," states the report.  "It provides funding to expand its longitudinal data system and links student performance data with teacher data.”


Don't Know Much About...

Last Wednesday, September 17, was Constitution Day, marking the 227th anniversary of that wondrous document’s ratification. Unfortunately, a new survey released the same day by the Annenberg Public Policy Center reveals an embarrassing but ultimately predictable level of public ignorance regarding its contents.

The numbers are stark. While just 36% of the 1,416 adult respondents could name all three branches of the federal government, another 35% couldn’t name a single one. Only 27% of Americans know it takes a two-thirds vote of the House and Senate to override a presidential veto, and over one-in-five (21%) believes a 5-4 Supreme Court decision will be sent back to Congress for reconsideration.

Even worse, the survey reveals the term “low information voter” is not only distressingly accurate, but maybe far more endemic than even an ardent pessimist might have imagined. When asked which party has the most members in the House of Representatives, 38% correctly answered Republicans, while 17% said Democrats, and a whopping 44% admitted they didn’t know. That last number represents a 17 point increase from the 27% who had no idea in 2011.

The numbers were no better with regard to who controls the Senate. While 38% correctly answered Democrats, 27% thought it was Republicans, and another whopping 42% didn’t know, the same 17 point increase from the 27% who didn’t know in 2011.

“Although surveys reflect disapproval of the way Congress, the President and the Supreme Court are conducting their affairs, the Annenberg survey demonstrates that many know surprisingly little about these branches of government,” said Kathleen Hall Jamieson, director of the Annenberg Public Policy Center (APPC). “This survey offers dramatic evidence of the need for more and better civics education.”

What’s the likelihood of that occurring? A column I read just under two years ago haunts me to this day. In “Education’s Great Divide: My Time in the Trenches,” writer Glenn Fairman speaks of his discovery during a stint as a substitute teacher in a social studies class some 20 years earlier. It relates directly to the subject at hand. “In a dusty corner shelf of the room was a set of thirty-year-old textbooks from the mid-1960s, and although my memory cannot now recall their title, their contents burned themselves into my brain,” he writes. “As I flipped through the pages, I was astonished to find what I would now consider an upper-level college textbook under color of what in the high schools used to be termed ‘civics.’ … I spent the rest of the day in slack-jawed amazement, perusing what a student in a working-class town was expected to know before the mavens of education began tinkering with the curricula of our schools.”

This past summer I took the opportunity to fill a hole in my own civics education and picked up a copy of the Federalist Papers. What struck me above all else was the profound understanding exhibited by authors James Madison, Alexander Hamilton and John Jay – not of government, but of the various aspects of human nature that must be recognized and reconciled to produce a viable government. I was fascinated by the brilliance of these men and their spirited arguments in favor of the new Constitution – yet I couldn’t shake the feeling that their eloquence would be incomprehensible to the average American at the present time.

The above survey confirms my worst fears.

Unlike many of my fellow Americans, I don’t believe those who are conspicuously lacking in a fundamental understanding of our government are stupid. I believe they are ignorant, and while I used to believe that ignorance was a direct byproduct of educational establishment’s incompetence, I have changed my mind. I now believe the dumbing down of Americans is being intentionally cultivated. “From elementary school and into the colleges, disciplines of objective knowledge have been either discounted or leveled, and critical thinking has been pushed aside for the subtle indoctrination of a specific worldview,” echoes Fairman.

Unfortunately, it is the progressive worldview, a vapid stew of feel-good “isms” that has elevated “caring” above the acquisition of critical knowledge far too many Americans lack. A 2006 Zogby poll illuminates the same lack of knowledge about the three branches of the federal government – only 42% could identify them eight years ago. But that poll added a dose of cynicism to the mix, revealing nearly three-in-four of those same Americans could name each of the Three Stooges. I’d bet my life Moe, Larry and Curly could name all three branches of government. They were educated in a time before the current wave of mavens and their union collaborators took the best system in the world and tossed it over a cliff.

In a couple of recent columns, I spoke about “Jihad Chic” and what attracts young men and women to a group like ISIL, and its glorification of bloodthirsty depravity. As crazy as it might sound, the Annenberg poll gives one a hint. The foundation of our entire culture is the Constitution, and the glaring ignorance demonstrated by the poll respondents suggests a profound cultural rot – one that might be accelerating faster than we know. When our own commander in chief tells us that the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant “is not Islamic,” we are in a place where truth itself is apparently optional, which in turn suggests our entire cultural ethos is being stripped of all substance and meaning. ISIL may be a savage organization, but their cultural ethos radiates clarity.

The dire implications? You can’t beat something with nothing. And we have allowed the cultural flagellators, who reduce America to little more than a nation that must atone for its “sins,” to dominate the conversation for far too long. The spectacular theories that formed the basis of our Constitution, our government and our nation have been bastardized beyond recognition, and unless we restore them to their former greatness, a giant darkness will descend. Not just upon us, but everyone who sees this nation for what it truly is: an exceptional beacon of freedom throughout the world.

The good news? During the restoration process, we have nothing to lose but our ignorance.


Teach children a lesson in good character

Sir Michael Wilshaw, the pugnacious Chief Inspector of Schools, has yet again put his finger on the pulse of the nation, daring to say things that most know are true but few are brave enough to say.

This week he will publish an Ofsted report claiming that low-level disruption in British schools is damaging the quality of learning and the atmosphere of school life. Teachers are too often intimidated and are unable to teach properly. Students who want to learn are thwarted from doing so, and an atmosphere of disorder permeates the classrooms and corridors in schools across the country. Wilshaw will criticise head teachers for not applying strict enough punishments to inculcate proper discipline.

I have taught for more than 30 years, and run schools for over 20. Two things are entirely obvious to me: one is that without real discipline – where students know who is in charge – learning is severely hampered and the dominant culture is determined by aggressive and loud-mouthed students rather than by the teachers. The second truth is that too many schools are not nearly disciplined enough, and teachers often feel ill-supported by their senior teams.

Nothing worthwhile in life can be achieved without discipline, obedience to authority and hard work. Few institutions are more disciplined than the Royal Ballet or the Royal Shakespeare Company. Companies with lax regulations do not flourish.

Discipline has to be learnt at home and carried out at school. And if there is none in the classroom, then learning won’t take place. Unless students are utterly clear where the boundaries lie, the more timid members of the class will not contribute for fear of ridicule or harassment. The inescapable irony is that liberal and liberating learning only occurs when there is structure and order.

Everything begins with the head and the school leader. If the head does not ensure that good behaviour prevails, that one’s students are punctual, uniform is properly worn and no one speaks out of turn, then the school will not function properly. The best heads are constantly out walking the corridors and know exactly what is going on in their classrooms; the worst heads spend all their time in their offices or out of school attending conferences. They know neither their students nor their parents.

So, bravo Michael Wilshaw! Let’s hope that your words are listened to and acted upon, and that change does come to all our classrooms.

However, in one respect, the chief inspector does fall short. In laying so much stress on discipline and compliance, he is ignoring the more important ingredient of a well-ordered school, which is self-control and intrinsic good behaviour. The problem with a school in which there is good behaviour merely for fear of punishment is that the students learn little about life and the difference between right and wrong. They do not learn about the human qualities that make up a good society, and they leave school with little awareness of personal responsibility.

Good schools need to couple firm discipline with a very strong emphasis on values and the development of good character. All students need to be taught the difference between good and bad, the importance of punctuality, respect for peers and adults, and the importance of kindness and consideration.

Michael Gove was an outstanding education secretary who had a profound passion for ensuring that all students, regardless of disadvantage, should have an academic curriculum. But it was only just before he left the Education Department in July, that he realised the central importance of character. He came to recognise that the best state schools lay a heavy emphasis on the development of citizenship, and that the teaching of character and values is not the enemy but the ally of a good academic education.

The best state schools across the country – such as the King Solomon Academy in Paddington, or Kings Langley School in Hertfordshire – all know this, and avidly emphasise it. Their classrooms are turning out academically successful students as well as ones who know how to behave and contribute to society beyond school.

Children learn much less from what adults say than from what they see them doing. It is essential, thus, that teachers and support staff provide an excellent example for students (and another reason why going on strike is so appalling). Older students, too, should be much more fully used across schools, given good responsibility for looking after younger students. Teachers and institutions tend to infantilise their older students, not realising that they are capable of doing far more to contribute to the good running of the school than is often realised.

Nicky Morgan, the Education Secretary, is showing every sign of understanding the importance of the development of good character, and is holding conversations with professionals with a track-record in this field. Here is a golden opportunity vastly to improve behaviour in our schools. So two cheers for Michael Wilshaw for your clarion call, and a third cheer if you start talking more about character and not just punishment.


Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Compulsory relationship lessons should be included in curriculum to prevent violence against women, says Shadow Home Secretary

Probably not a bad idea in theory but what will be taught?  A lot of feminist and socialist nonsense, probably.  And that is more likely to do harm than good.  Telling boys that girls are just the same as them will only invite derision.  Teaching old-fashioned gentlemanliness would be more beneficial

Children should receive compulsory relationship lessons to prevent violence against women, Yvette Cooper has said.

Speaking in the wake of the Rotherham sex abuse scandal, the Shadow Home Secretary said the lessons should be included in the curriculum to help change attitudes.

She insisted a 'massive culture change' was needed to stop sexual abuse victims from receiving blame.

She also accused the Government of refusing to carry out work in schools to change the attitudes of boys.  [Changing people  -- the old socialist nostrum]

Speaking ahead of this weekend's Labour Party conference, Ms Cooper raised questions about the Home Office's commitment to an historic child sex abuse inquiry to be led by Fiona Woolf.

Last month, Professor Alexis Jay's report revealed at least 1,400 children were sexually exploited in Rotherham - sparking criticism of the police, councillors and local authority officials.

Professor Jay outlined details of exploitation over a 16-year period with examples of girls who were raped, trafficked, threatened with extreme violence and ignored by the statutory authorities.

In a wide-ranging interview, Ms Cooper told The House magazine: 'If you look at the Jay report and the descriptions of the attitudes of police officers and social services, there was this idea that if somehow girls were involved in sexual activity that they must have consented, that it must be their fault. 'We need a massive culture change on this.

'The reason we want mandatory reporting is also to have the law changed to kick start that culture change.

'But it's much wider, that's why it has to be about attitudes and sex and relationship education going right the way up through school.'


Student Suspended for Selling Illicit substance Out of His Locker

Alberta high school student Keenan Shaw was suspended for two days after he got caught selling an illicit substance from his locker at Winston Churchill his school. Weed? Nope. Booze? Nope. Acid? Nope.

Shaw says all those treats (and more) are on offer in the school's corridors:

"I'm not going to name any names, but I know a couple of people selling marijuana, there's kids selling smokes, there was a kid last year selling meth, as well as a kid selling acid," said Shaw.

But his drug of choice is full-sugar Pepsi. Commerce in the sweet, sweet drink is banned at his school, which allows only diet sodas to be sold on premises.

This case of capitalism gone awry started small in Grade 9:

The Grade 12 student, who realized only diet pop was being sold in the cafeteria, made the short trek to a local grocery store to pick up a case of Pepsi.

“I decided if I wanted a pop, maybe others do, too,” he said.

Shaw brought it back to Churchill, and within 20 minutes, sold every can of pop.

“From an entrepreneurial perspective, he said, ‘Wait a second, I just paid $5 for a case of pop and got $12 back,’” said his mother, Alyssa Shaw-Letourneau, whose son sold the pop for $1 a can. “From a business perspective, it’s smart.”

Shaw says he'll abandon his soda sales rather than risk expulsion.


The Buckley Program Stands Up for Free Speech

The William F. Buckley Program at Yale University lately showed bravery unusual for an academic institution. It has refused to be bullied by the Muslim Students Association and its demand that the Buckley Program rescind an invitation to Ayaan Hirsi Ali to speak on campus September 15. Hirsi Ali is the vocal Somalian critic of Islamic doctrine whose life has been endangered for condemning the theologically sanctioned oppression of women in Islamic culture. Unlike Brandeis University, which recently rescinded an honorary degree to be given to Hirsi Ali after complaints from the Council on American-Islamic Relations, the Buckley Program rejected both the MSA’s initial demand, and a follow up one that Hirsi Ali share the stage with one of her critics.

The Buckley Program is a rare instance of an academic organization staying true to the ideals of free speech, academic freedom, and the “free play of the mind on all subjects,” as Matthew Arnold defined liberal education. Most of our best universities have sacrificed these ideals on the altar of political correctness and identity politics. Anything that displeases or discomforts campus special interest groups––mainly those predicated on being the alleged victims of American oppression–– must be proscribed as “slurs” or “hateful,” even if what’s said is factually true. No matter that these groups are ideologically driven and use their power to silence critics and limit speech to their own self-serving and duplicitous views, the modus operandi of every illiberal totalitarian regime in history. The spineless university caves in to their demands, incoherently camouflaging their craven betrayal of the First Amendment and academic freedom as “tolerance” and “respect for diversity.”

In the case of Islam, however, this betrayal is particularly dangerous. For we are confronting across the world a jihadist movement that grounds its violence in traditional Islamic theology, jurisprudence, and history. Ignoring those motives and their sanction by Islamic doctrine compromises our strategy and tactics in defeating the jihadists, for we cripple ourselves in the war of ideas. Worse yet, Islamic triumphalism and chauvinism–– embodied in the Koranic verse that calls Muslims “the best of nations raised up for the benefit of men” because they “enjoin the right and forbid the wrong and believe in Allah”–– is confirmed and strengthened by the way our elite institutions like universities and the federal government quickly capitulate to special interest groups who demand that we endorse only their sanitized and often false picture of Islam. Such surrender confirms the jihadist estimation of the West as the “weak horse,” as bin Laden said, a civilization with “foundations of straw” whose wealth and military power are undermined by a collective failure of nerve and loss of morale.

This process of exploiting the moral degeneration of the West has been going on now for 25 years. It begins, as does the rise of modern jihadism, with the Ayatollah Khomeini and the Iranian Islamic revolution. The key event took place in February 1989, when Khomeini issued a fatwa, based on Koran 9.61, against Indian novelist Salman Rushdie for his novel The Satanic Verses, which was deemed “against Islam, the Prophet, and the Koran,” as Khomeini said. Across the world enraged Muslims rioted and bombed bookstores, leaving over 20 people dead. More significant in the long run was the despicable reaction of many in the West to this outrage against freedom of speech and the rule of law, perpetrated by the most important and revered political and religious leader of a major Islamic nation.

Abandoning their principles, bookstores refused to stock the novel, and publishers delayed or canceled editions. Muslims in Western countries publicly burned copies of Rushdie’s novel and encouraged his murder with impunity. Eminent British historian Hugh Trevor-Roper suggested Rushdie deserved such treatment. Thirteen British Muslim barristers filed a formal complaint against the author. In their initial reactions, Western government officials were hesitant and timorous. The U.S. embassy in Pakistan eagerly assured Muslims that “the U.S. government in no way supports or associates itself with any activity that is in any sense offensive or insulting to Islam.”

Khomeini’s fatwa and the subsequent violent reaction created what Daniel Pipes calls the “Rushdie rules,” a speech code that privileges Islam over revered Western traditions of free speech that still are operative in the case of all other religions. Muslims now will determine what counts as an “insult” or a “slur,” and their displeasure, threats, and violence will police those definitions and punish offenders. Even reporting simple facts of history or Islamic doctrine can be deemed an offense and bring down retribution on violators. Ayaan Hirsi Ali, for example, earned the wrath of Muslims in part for her contribution to Theo van Gogh’s film Submission, which projected Koranic verses regarding women on the bodies of abused women. Van Gogh, of course, was brutally murdered in the streets of Amsterdam. And this is the most important dimension of the “Rushdie rules”: violence will follow any violation of whatever some Muslims deem to be “insulting” to Islam, even facts. In effect, Western law has been trumped by the shari’a ban on blaspheming Islam, a crime punishable by death.

The result is the sorry spectacle of groveling and apology we see almost daily from our government, the entertainment industry, and worse yet, universities. Trivial slights and offenses that civilized nations leave to the market place of ideas to sort out are elevated into “slurs” and “hate speech” if some Muslim organization deems them so. A reflexive self-censorship has arisen in American society, one based on fear of violent retribution or bad publicity harmful to profits and careers.

Thus the government officially proscribes words like “jihad” or “Muslim terrorist” from its documents and training materials in order to avoid offending Muslims. Similarly the Muslim terrorist, a fixture in recent history since the PLO started highjacking airliners in the 60s, has nearly disappeared from television and movies, replaced by Russians, white supremacists, and brainwashed Americans. And when a Muslim terrorist does appear, his motivations and violence are rationalized as the understandable response to the grievous offenses against his faith and people committed by the U.S. and Israel. Islam is airbrushed from the plot, as in the recent series Tyrant, a dramatization of a fictional Arab Muslim state that somehow manages to ignore Islam as a political force. More seriously, universities disinvite speakers at the faintest hint of protest from Muslim organizations, even as they accept Gulf-state petrodollars to create “Middle East Studies” programs that frequently function as apologists and enablers of terrorist violence.

“Free men have free tongues,” as the Athenian tragedian Sophocles said. One of the pillars of political freedom is free speech. When the ability to speak freely in the public square is extended beyond an elite to a large variety of people with clashing views and ideals, speech necessarily becomes rough and uncivil. Feelings get hurt, passions are aroused, and language becomes coarse and abusive. That’s the price we pay for letting a lot of people speak their minds, and for creating a process in which truth and good ideas can emerge from all this rambunctious, divisive conversation.

But when we carve out a special niche for one group, provide it with its own rules, and protect it even from statements of uncomfortable facts, then we compromise that foundational right to have our say without any retribution other than a counterargument. So three cheers for the Buckley Program. It has stood up against intimidation and defended one of our most important and precious freedoms.


Monday, September 22, 2014

Heartland Institute Responds to Activist Groups’ Attempt to Purge Texas Text Books of Inconvenient Climate Science Facts

The National Center for Science Education (NCSE) and the Texas Freedom Network, two left-wing activist groups, released a report this week claiming non-alarmist facts about the climate “distort” science and must be removed from drafts of new social studies textbooks for Texas public schools.

The five-page report, titled “Analysis of Climate Change in Proposed Social Studies Textbooks for Texas Public Schools,” singled out The Heartland Institute for criticism, saying it has no standing to provide balance to the alarmist views of the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The Heartland Institute has published five reports of the Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change (NIPCC), which amount to more than 3,000 pages of research with several thousand citations from peer-reviewed scientific literature. The two latest reports are Climate Change Reconsidered II: Physical Science (2013) and Climate Change Reconsidered II: Biological Impacts (2014).

Among the claims of the NCSE and the Texas Freedom Network:

- 97 percent of all climate scientists believe human activity is causing a climate crisis; and

- No prominent climate scientists believe Earth is in a cooling trend.

The Heartland Institute has long pointed out that the “97 percent consensus” figure often cited by activists and the media is a myth based on a purposeful misreading of flawed surveys. It is also a fact that, based on NASA satellite temperature data collected by Remote Sensing Systems, atmospheric temperatures have not risen for more than 17 years. In addition, Dr. Judith Curry, professor and former chair at the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at Georgia Tech University, noted in a presentation this week that the IPCC has acknowledged a “hiatus” in global warming, adding that evidence of a global cooling phase continues to accumulate.

Read the summaries and reports of the Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change (NIPCC) at the Climate Change Reconsidered website. Watch hundreds of presentations by leading scientists who reject climate alarmism at the archive site for The Heartland Institute’s nine International Conferences on Climate Change.

The following statements from environmental policy experts at The Heartland Institute – a free-market think tank – may be used for attribution.

“The National Center for Science Education (NCSE) has long used attacks on Heartland as a fundraising tactic, and this latest flimsy report is part of that effort. Even the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was forced to admit earlier this year what the data shows their alarmist predictions of runaway global warming have not come to pass.

“Students in Texas and across the country need to know the truth, which is obtained through strict adherence to the scientific method, not alarmism and appeals to authority. The IPCC’s Nobel Peace Prize – accepted in person by a politician and a bureaucrat – doesn’t make its politicized claims about the climate infallible. In fact, it only makes them more suspect.”

Jim Lakely, Director of Communications, The Heartland Institute

“The National Center for Science Education (NCSE) asserts the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is the world’s leading scientific authority on climate science. Such an assertion is nonsense. IPCC is a political rather than a scientific organization. Its participants are chosen by governments, not scientific organizations. Many of its participants are not even scientists. Its lead authors are often agenda-driven environmental activists from groups such as the World Wildlife Fund, Environmental Defense, and Greenpeace. “In contrast to IPCC, the Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change (NIPCC) is a scientific report, written by scientists, with hundreds of pages of text and thousands of citations to peer-reviewed literature indicating global warming is not a human-created crisis. Even if environmental activists at NCSE refuse to acknowledge this, practicing scientists do.

“NCSE grossly misrepresented the results of two surveys in an attempt to attack science and shut down scientific discussion and debate. NCSE falsely claimed the two surveys (which themselves contain serious methodological flaws) rule out significant natural contribution to recent global warming. Instead, the two surveys merely claim human activity is a significant factor.

“Obviously, one significant factor does not exclude other significant factors, including factors of even greater significance. NCSE misrepresents these two surveys because NCSE has no valid justification for shutting down scientific discussion and debate on such a contested issue. NCSE has lost all scientific credibility by so grossly misrepresenting its two asserted sources of supporting evidence.”

James M. Taylor, Senior fellow for Environmental Policy, The Heartland Institute

“Textbooks should always strive for accuracy and avoid political spin. Nowhere is this more true than on questions of science. Concerning the ongoing scientific debate surrounding the causes and consequences of climate change, the proposed Texas textbooks have struck the right note. Any claim that a consensus of 97 percent of scientists agree that humans are causing catastrophic global warming is false, and those making the claim know it.

“One can only hope that the members of the Texas Board of Education reviewing these books will stand up for students and not buckle under the pressure being applied by these activist groups to alter these books in order to deny the open questions in the climate change debate.”

H. Sterling Burnett, Research Fellow, Environment & Energy Policy
Managing Editor, Environment & Climate News, The Heartland Institute


Ofsted: British primary schools 'place too much focus on three-Rs'

Ofsted inspections in primary schools could be overhauled to place a lesser focus on English and maths amid fears pupils are missing out on a “broad and balanced” curriculum.

The education watchdog said it was considering reforming the inspections process because an overemphasis on the three-Rs often came at the expense of children’s understanding of other subjects.

The move – to be outlined in a consultation document – will represent a significant shift for primary schools in England which have been repeatedly warned of the importance of the two core subjects for pupils aged under 11.

Mike Cladingbowl, Ofsted’s director of school standards, said the watchdog needed to be sure that it had struck the right balance between English and maths and other subjects such as art, music, history and geography.

The move follows the watchdog’s inquiry into the alleged Trojan Horse plot to impose hardline Islamic teaching in Birmingham schools.

It led to the introduction of a new inspection framework – imposed this month – that places a greater weight on ensuring of all schools run a “broad and balanced” curriculum to prepare children for life in modern Britain.

But speaking to the Times Educational Supplement, Mr Claddingbowl said further work may need to be done to emphasise the importance of all subjects and prevent primary schools focusing just on the three-Rs.

“We must continue to emphasise the importance of English and maths, but we should not do that at the expense of other subjects,” he said. “There will be certain circumstances where it’s right for children to be given additional help with English and maths at the expense of something else, to get them to a point at which they can access the curriculum properly.

“But, through our consultation, we’ll want people to ask themselves searching questions about to what extend that should happen. At what point should it stop?”

Teachers have repeatedly complained that they have been forced to marginalise other parts of the curriculum to pass Ofsted inspections, with sport and art frequently being downgraded.

Labour famously introduced the literacy and numeracy hours in the late 90s that enshrined the importance of the three-Rs in law. The Coalition has also promoted these subjects, with a new national curriculum setting out more thorough requirements for the teaching of English, maths and science than other disciplines.

Mr Claddingbowl said Ofsted now favoured a “broad and balanced” curriculum that did not “limit children’s experiences or… fail to prepare children for secondary school or life in modern Britain.”

“We want to look and see if we’ve got the balance right between the core subjects and the foundation subjects; between English and mathematics, and art, history, music, geography and so on," he added.

But head teachers’ leaders warned that any rebalancing of the inspections system would fail because SATs tests taken by all 11-year-olds are based around performance in the core subjects – forcing schools to give them a higher priority in the timetable.

Russell Hobby, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, said: “What Ofsted focuses on tends to get done, but floor standards for English and maths are still a powerful driver that is out of Ofsted’s control.”


Australian women desert technology courses, as tertiary IT enrolments fall

Enrolments in Australian tertiary information technology courses have been falling, as local female students recoil from the sector's masculine reputation.

Among domestic students, enrolments have dropped from a peak of 46,945 in 2002 to 27,547 last year, the latest available figures show.

While enrolments have rallied slightly in recent years, the proportion of students studying IT has reached an all-time low. IT courses made up 4 per cent of tertiary enrolments last year, compared with 9 per cent in 2001.

Figures from the Department of Education show just over one in four domestic IT enrolments were female in 2001, but by 2013 girls made up fewer than one in five tertiary IT students.

Three times more Australian female tertiary students were studying IT in 2001 than last year, despite a 50 per cent jump in total tertiary enrolments among girls over the same period.

The courses' dwindling popularity echoes a similar trend in final-year IT enrolments in Victoria, which have reached a 20-year low. But the trend does not apply to international female students who are choosing IT ahead of locals. A total of 4526 Australian female students were studying IT last year, compared with 5381 international students.

RMIT Computer Science senior lecturer Phil Vines said there was a prejudice in the way people continued to see information technology and engineering as not a "feminine discipline".

"Fifteen years ago we were scratching our heads and saying 'what can we do?' so it's not a new phenomenon," Dr Vines said.

University of Wollongong Information Systems and Technology Associate Professor Katina Michael said the lack of female role models for girls contemplating IT was a factor in lower enrolments, as views of the sector were focused on company founders like Mark Zuckerberg, Larry Page and Bill Gates.

She said women brought unique perspectives to the industry and were generally better communicators and big picture thinkers. "Women are generally good strategists," she said. "They can think laterally, they can multi-task and be personal at the same time."

On a more general level, she said IT courses faced additional competition from other disciplines such as business and marketing, which were incorporating elements of technology training into their courses. "The purest form of IT is being somewhat ignored but should not be," Dr Michael said.

Australian Computer Society spokesman Thomas Shanahan said he expected total IT enrolment numbers to rebound "once people realise how important digital literacy is going to be" and as the demand for graduates with technology skills increases.

"We can't continue relying on mining and manufacturing," he said. "We have to be building the world's most digitally educated future workforce."

He pointed to the British curriculum, where there are classes in coding for primary school students, as a step in the right direction.


Sunday, September 21, 2014

FBI: Cuban Intelligence Aggressively Recruiting Leftist American Academics as Spies, Influence Agents

Cuba’s communist-led intelligence services are aggressively recruiting leftist American academics and university professors as spies and influence agents, according to an internal FBI report published this week.

Cuban intelligence services “have perfected the work of placing agents, that includes aggressively targeting U.S. universities under the assumption that a percentage of students will eventually move on to positions within the U.S. government that can provide access to information of use to the [Cuban intelligence service],” the five-page unclassified FBI report says. It notes that the Cubans “devote a significant amount of resources to targeting and exploiting U.S. academia.”

“Academia has been and remains a key target of foreign intelligence services, including the [Cuban intelligence service],” the report concludes.

One recruitment method used by the Cubans is to appeal to American leftists’ ideology. “For instance, someone who is allied with communist or leftist ideology may assist the [Cuban intelligence service] because of his/her personal beliefs,” the FBI report, dated Sept. 2, said.

Others are offered lucrative business deals in Cuba in a future post-U.S. embargo environment, and are treated to extravagant, all-expense paid visits to the island.

Coercive tactics used by the Cubans include exploiting personal weaknesses and sexual entrapment, usually during visits to Cuba.

The Cubans “will actively exploit visitors to the island” and U.S. academics are targeted by a special department of the spy agency.

“This department is supported by all of the counterintelligence resources the government of Cuba can marshal on the island,” the report said. “Intelligence officers will come into contact with the academic travelers. They will stay in the same accommodations and participate in the activities arranged for the travelers. This clearly provides an opportunity to identify targets.”

In addition to collecting information and secrets, Cuban spies employ “influence operations,” the FBI said.

“The objective of these activities can range from portraying a specific image, usually positive, to attempting to sway policymakers into particular courses of action,” the report said.

Additionally, Cuban intelligence seeks to plant disinformation or propaganda through its influence agents, and can task recruits to actively disseminate the data. Once recruited, many of the agents are directed to entering fields that will provide greater information access in the future, mainly within the U.S. government and intelligence community.

The Cubans do not limit recruitments to “clandestine agents,” the report said. Other people who do not have access to secrets are co-opted as spies because of their political position or political views that can be exploited for supporting Cuban goals, either as open supporters or unwitting dupes.

“Some of these individuals may not be told openly that they are working for the [Cuban intelligence service], even though it may not be too hard for them to figure out,” the report said. “The relationship may openly appear to be a benign, mutually beneficial friendship.”

Chris Simmons, a retired spycatcher for the Defense Intelligence Agency, said Cuban intelligence has long targeted U.S. academics. For example, Havana assigned six intelligence officers to assist Council on Foreign Relations Latin Affairs specialist Julia E. Sweig in writing a 2002 book on the Cuban revolution, he said.

“College campuses are seen as fertile grounds for the recruitment of the ‘next generation’ of spies,” Simmons said. “Cuba heavily targets the schools that train the best candidates for U.S. government jobs, like Georgetown University, Johns Hopkins University, and George Washington University.”

One goal of the Cubans is to recruit students prior to federal employment, a method that allows Havana to direct a recruited agent into targeted key spy targets, like Congress or the FBI, Simmons said.

“A preferred target are ‘study abroad’ programs in Cuba, as participating students are assessed as inherently sympathetic to the Cuban revolution,” Simmons said.

Cuban intelligence has recruited numerous spies in the past that became long-term penetration agents inside the U.S. government. According to the CI Centre, a think tank, there have been 25 Cuban spies uncovered in the United States since the 1960s, including former CIA officer Philip Agee to who defected and worked closely with both Cuban intelligence and the Soviet KGB starting in 1973.

One of the most notorious Cuban spy cases involved Ana Montes, a senior analyst who worked in the highest levels of the U.S. intelligence and policymaking communities.

Montes, a former Defense Intelligence Agency analyst, pleaded guilty in 2002 to spying for Cuba for 17 years. She is serving a 25-year prison term.

Montes was recruited by Cuban intelligence in 1984 while a student at the Johns Hopkins’ School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS), where she was a graduate student and had voiced her hatred of the then-Reagan administration policy of backing anti-communist rebels fighting the Sandinista regime in Nicaragua.

She was recruited at SAIS by another Cuban spy, Marta Rita Velazquez, who worked for U.S. Agency for International Development and fled the country after Montes was arrested in 2001.

Two other notable Cuban spies were Walter Kendall Myers, a State Department Foreign Service contractor who worked for Cuban intelligence from 1979 to 2007, and his wife Gwen Myers. They were recruited after visiting Cuba. Walter Myers was a leftist who criticized “American imperialism” in a diary entry after visiting Cuba. He held a top-secret security clearance and in 2010 was sentenced to life in prison after a conviction for spying.

Cuba’s spy agencies “actively target academia to recruit agents and to support Cuban influence operations.”

“Unfortunately, part of what makes academic environments ideal for enhancing and sharing knowledge also can assist the efforts of foreign intelligence services to accomplish their objectives,” the report concludes. “This situation is unlikely to change, but awareness of the methods used to target academia can greatly assist in neutralizing the efforts of these foreign intelligence services.”

The FBI report was based largely on testimony from José Cohen, a former officer of the Cuban Intelligence Directorate, known by its Spanish acronym as DGI, who defected in 1994.

The targeting of American spies takes place at schools, colleges, universities, and research institutes. “Cuban intelligence services are known to actively target the U.S. academic world for the purposes of recruiting agents, in order to both obtain useful information and conduct influence activities,” the FBI said.

The academic world, because of its openness and need for networking, “offers a rich array of targets attractive to foreign intelligence services,” the report said, noting that U.S. government institutions draw on academia for personnel, both for entry level staffing and for consultation from established experts.

Cuban intelligence seeks leftists and others sympathetic to Cuba’s communist regime because it lacks funds needed to pay recruited agents, the report said.

The process includes targeting American and Cuban-American academics, recruiting them if possible and eventually converting them into Cuban intelligence agents.

Cuban front groups also are used to recruit spies in the United States, including a network of collaborators and agents in Cuba that make contact with counterparts in the United States.

Specific universities in Washington and New York that were not specified by the FBI are targets because they are close to Cuban intelligence posts in those cities.

An example of the recruitment effort was provided to the FBI by a “self-admitted Cuban intelligence” officer outlining how a spy is recruited at a U.S. university.

“The Cuban intelligence officers located at the Cuban Mission to the United Nations in New York, New York, or the Cuban Interests Section in Washington, D.C., obtain a published work by a specific professor or student … from a university the [Cubans] are monitoring,” the report said.

A Cuban control agent in Havana studies the work and works together with a co-opted Cuban academic and together the pair analyzes published material and forms a plan of action that may include a personal letter to the targeted individual in the United States.

“The letter will suggest a ‘genuine’ interest in starting a friendship or contact regarding the topic of the article,” the report said. “The personal letter becomes a pretext for the Cuban intelligence officer stationed in the United States to use for initial contact with the targeted individual.”

A Cuba spy posing as a diplomat develops a relationship with the academic that can last months or years of assessing motivations, weaknesses, and current future and access to information.

In some cases, the Cubans use compromising video or audio and sexual entrapment to develop U.S. spies.

“Ultimately, when the time is right, the plan will be executed and the targeted individual will be approached and formally asked to help the government of Cuba,” the report said.


Religious education 'too weak' in Anglican primary schools

More than half of Church of England primary schools are delivering poor quality religious education lessons that give pupils little more than a “superficial” grounding in the subject, according to official Anglican research.

A study by the Church’s education division found that under-11s were being fed a “narrow diet of Bible stories” rather than in-depth classes designed to boost their understanding of Christianity.

Researchers found that RE was “not good enough” in 60 per cent of primary schools and officially “inadequate” in one-in-six of those inspected.

It was revealed that Anglican primaries performed no better in the delivery of RE than schools without any religious character at all.

The study found that standards were considerably higher in secondary schools, where children “generally enjoyed their RE lessons and valued the subject”. In all, 70 per cent of secondaries delivered the subject to a high standard.

But a failure to promote the subject to large numbers of the youngest pupils will alarm faith leaders who have repeatedly called for RE to be given greater prominence as a core discipline in all schools.

It came as Prof A.C. Grayling, master of the New College of the Humanities, London, called for RE to be abolished altogether – alongside collective worship in schools – in favour of philosophy lessons.

Writing in the Times Educational Supplement, he said worship in schools was “insidious”, adding: “I would be loath to treat theology as a serious subject of study any more than I would so treat astrology or the divinatory tarot.”

The latest Anglican study – Making a Difference? – said the “key weakness” of RE in the majority of primary schools “was the superficial nature of the pupils’ learning”.

“Too often teaching failed to challenge pupils,” it said. “As a result, the depth of pupils’ knowledge and understanding of religion and belief was not good enough. Specifically pupils were not developing a coherent understanding of the key beliefs, practices and ways of life of Christianity.”

It said the Christian ethos of Anglican primaries appeared to create a culture that “sometimes restricted the breadth of learning about Christianity to a narrow diet of Bible stories”.

The research, which was based on an analysis of 60 schools, found that primaries did give RE a “high status” in the timetable, with almost all schools devoting an hour a week to the subject.

But it said individual teachers often “lacked confidence in teaching RE and did not have the subject expertise needed to be effective”.

“Often the activities provided for pupils, while enjoyable, lacked a clear purpose and failed to extend and deepen their knowledge and understanding,” it said. “The connection between the purpose of the lessons and the tasks given to the pupils was unclear.”

The report made a series of recommendations, including telling schools to review their RE curriculum and widen access to staff training.


Anger as British children aged four are given just ONE chicken nugget as part of new free school meals scheme

A row has broken out over school dinners after it emerged reception pupils were being given just one chicken nugget for their lunch.

Infant pupils around the country are all entitled to a free hot meal every lunchtime under the government's flagship scheme brought in this month.

But the quality of the food they are being given was called into question today when the measly meals being served up to the youngest pupils in Birmingham were revealed.

City Councillor Valerie Seabright said: 'I welcome free school meals, but I'm seriously concerned having been to see a school that was not the best quality.

'The rations and portions are not brilliant. In reception class, children get just one nugget, Year 1 get two and Year 2 get three or four.

'The whole point is to make sure that children get adequate meals with good nutrition. In one class I went to the children didn't get any fresh vegetables or fruit.

'This is serious. It is not working. I think we should insist that there is more training of staff. They need to know about sizes of rations.'

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg launched plans to give all under-sevens a free meal at lunchtime and the scheme started in schools earlier this month.

But the idea has already suffered setbacks after it emerged some schools had to bus in meals and others were providing cold food for pupils.

Councillor Seabright said council-owned food provider Cityserve - which is responsible for meals at 92 per cent of the city's schools - was leaving youngsters short-changed.

She added: 'It's all very well just saying 'We have free school meals', but you have to be able to implement that policy.

'The children obviously didn't just get the one chicken nugget, there was potato and vegetables on offer too, but I don't know if they should be given this processed food at all.

'All the children are getting the same money per head so it's a bit naughty of the company to give the reception class less.'

Others in the area pointed out that even if children were given more generous portion of nuggets, the food was unlikely to provide the nutrition children need.  Labour's Barry Bowles said: 'These are processed foods. Why are we not giving them fresh food?' [Like raw chicken?]

Birmingham City Council's children's boss has admitted the situation is 'unacceptable' and said bosses are investigating meals provided by Cityserve.

Nutrition expert Mel Wakeman said the vague advice schools are given for dinners alow them to serve up inadequate meals.

She said: 'The way the guidelines are worded, children could potentially have two portions of fried food and two pastry based meals a week, which would be too much.

'I don't think we should just get rid of all the food children like because we have to be realistic, they just won't eat what is put in front of them if it's really boring.

'But with things like chicken nuggets, I don't think they should have that kind of fried food more than once a week.'