March 26, 2008
This is the kind of . . .
. . . Government and Politics class that every single high-school student in this country should take.
My AP Government and Politics students are studying economic and social policy this week and so we've been looking at the federal budget. First, I gave them a list of the major items that are part of the federal budget and had them guess what percent of the budget was spent on each category. Almost uniformly the students were way off guessing that the biggest percent of the budget went for defense and guessing from 30 to 50% went to defense instead of about 20% which is the actual percent. Then they spent today's class playing this budget simulation game which readers might enjoy trying out. You get to play around with the increasing or decreasing items in the budget as well as taxes and then find out the effect your new numbers have on the federal deficit. First I told the kids to just take a bit of time and pretend they had complete control of the budget and see what they could do with the deficit. The kids cheerfully cut Social Security and Medicare. Many cut defense spending sharply and raised taxes. Even so, few were able to balance their budgets.
Then I told them to work in groups and pretend they were congressmen who wanted to get reelected so that they could only make cuts or raise taxes that they could sell to their constituents. They soon realized that it would be impossible to make any dent in the deficit. Then I asked them what they could accomplish if they had to hold all the mandatory spending on entitlements and interest on the debt. They immediately realized how hopeless any budget balancing would be at that point.
We've also been talking about the looming problems with Social Security, facts that the newest report on shortfalls on entitlements makes even clearer. My hope is that my students at least will listen more skeptically when they hear candidates making promises about new spending programs while swearing fiscal sanity. They are aware what an impossibility it has become for any reform of Social Security and why they should be demanding that politicians address their concerns that they're going to spend their peak earning years paying for my generation's retirement while they will have no guarantee that those same benefits will be there for them when they are ready to retire.
It's not the most entertaining unit that we cover all year, but I believe that it's one of the most important that we cover all year in preparing them to be intelligent voters.
Bless you, Betsy.
October 16, 2007
George Will has an alarming column up at The Washington Post about universities coercing students into supporting political/socialogical agendas in order to pass. Here's how he starts:
In 1943, the Supreme Court, affirming the right of Jehovah's Witnesses children to refuse to pledge allegiance to the U.S. flag in schools, declared: "No official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion or other matters of opinion, or force citizens to confess by word or act their faith therein." Today that principle is routinely traduced, coast to coast, by officials who are petty in several senses.
They are teachers at public universities, in schools of social work. A study prepared by the National Association of Scholars, a group that combats political correctness on campuses, reviews social work education programs at 10 major public universities and comes to this conclusion: Such programs mandate an ideological orthodoxy to which students must subscribe concerning "social justice" and "oppression."
I read about a very similar situation in several history books. They recounted how the Third Reich came into being through forcefully educating the German people in the "correct" sociopolitical doctrine -- the Nazi doctrine.
Go read the whole thing.
March 29, 2007
An inconvenient truth about education
The Anchoress has a post up about the dangers of 'teaching to the test'.
Good writing skills go hand-in-hand with good reading skills, and with critical thinking. These skills are not really taught any more. Rather, students are being taught “to the test,” and for that, neither thinking nor information need be clear. Like so much of post-modernist bunk, students can meet the trick if they simply learn “the form” of a thing without learning its function or substance.
She goes on, in great form, and includes a snarky-but-true observation about the decontructionists among us.
December 06, 2006
The Young Conservatives of Texas -- University of Texas Chapter is planning to display an 'ACLU Nativity Scene' this Chrismas.
Way to go, Longhorns!
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Conservative Students to Display “ACLU Nativity Scene”
Young Conservatives of Texas at UT Austin
November 29, 2006
Contact: Tony McDonald, Chairman 512.923.6893
AUSTIN, TX – The Young Conservatives of Texas - University of Texas Chapter announced today that they will be displaying an “ACLU Nativity Scene” on the West Mall of the University of Texas campus on Monday and Tuesday, December 4th and 5th. The group’s intent is to raise awareness on the extremity of the ACLU, and bring to light its secular-progressive efforts to remove Christmas from the public sphere. The display, the first of its kind in the nation, will feature characters that are quite a bit different than the standard crčche.
“We’ve got Gary and Joseph instead of Mary and Joseph in order to symbolize ACLU support for homosexual marriage, and of course there isn’t a Jesus in the manger,” said Chairman Tony McDonald. “The three Wise Men are Lenin, Marx, and Stalin because the founders of the ACLU were strident supporters of Soviet style Communism. The whole scene is a tongue-in-cheek way of showing the many ways that the ACLU and the far left are out of touch with the values of mainstream America.”
The scene will also display a terrorist shepherd and an angel in the form of Nancy Pelosi.
“The ACLU and other left-wing extremist groups are working diligently to destroy American’s rights to the free expression of religion,” said Executive Director Joseph Wyly. “We’ve already seen in Chicago an attempt to censor the nativity by a city government this week. It’s just more evidence that there is a War on Christmas being waged by the far-left in this country.”
Young Conservatives of Texas, a non-partisan conservative youth organization, has been fighting for conservative values for more than a quarter century in the Lone Star State and publishes the most respected ratings of the Texas Legislature. YCT has chapters at universities across Texas including Texas A&M University, West Texas A&M University, Baylor University, University of Texas at Austin, Southern Methodist University, Midwestern University, Texas State University, University of Texas San Antonio, University of North Texas, Hardin-Simmons University, Texas Tech University, and Stephen F. Austin University.
October 05, 2006
The Coming Crisis in Citizenship
The National Civic Literacy Board of the Intercollegiate Studies Institute has released a troubling report: The Coming Crisis in Citizenship: Higher Education's Failure to Teach America's History and Institutions. There's more of the executive summary below the fold.
The report presents scientific evidence that,
for the very first time, reveals how much American colleges and universitiesâ€”including some of our most elite schoolsâ€”add to, or subtract from, their graduates' understanding of America's history and fundamental institutions.
It presents four key findings:
FINDING 1: America's colleges and universities fail to increase knowledge about America's history and institutions.
- Seniors scored just 1.5 percent higher on average than freshmen.
- If the survey were administered as an exam in a college course, seniors would fail with an overall average score of 53.2 percent, or F on a traditional grading scale.
- Though a university education can cost upwards of $200,000, and college students on average leave campus $19,300 in debt, they are no better off than when they arrived in terms of acquiring the knowledge necessary for informed engagement in a democratic republic and global economy.
FINDING 2: Prestige doesn't pay off.
- Colleges that rank high in the U.S. News and World Report 2006 ranking were ranked low in the ISI ranking of learning in these key fields. Specifically, a 1 percent increase in civic learning as measured in our survey corresponded to a decrease of 25 positions in the U.S. News ranking.
- There is no relationship between the cost of attending a college and students' acquired understanding of America's history and key institutions. Students at relatively inexpensive colleges often learn more, on average, than their counterparts at expensive colleges.
- At many colleges, including Brown, Georgetown, and Yale, seniors know less than freshmen about America's history, government, foreign affairs, and economy. We characterize this phenomenon as "negative learning." A majority of the 16 schools where senior scores were actually lower than freshman scores are considered to be among the most prestigious colleges in the United States.
FINDING 3: Students don't learn what colleges don't teach.
- Student learning about America's history and institutions decreases when fewer courses are taken in history, political science, government, and economics.
- Schools where students took more courses in American history, political science, and economics outperformed those schools where fewer courses were completed.
- Civic learning is significantly greater at schools that require students to take courses in American history, political science, and economics. Student knowledge in these key areas improves significantly at colleges that still value excellent teaching in the classroom.
FINDING 4: Greater civic learning goes hand-in-hand with more active citizenship.
- Students who demonstrated greater learning of America's history and institutions were more engaged in citizenship activities such as voting, volunteer community service, and political campaigns.
And makes recommendations:
The report concludes with five recommendations aimed at improving undergraduate learning about America's history and institutions:
- improve the assessment of learning outcomes at the college and university level;
- increase the number of required history, political science, and economics courses;
- hold higher education more accountable to its mission and fundamental responsibility to prepare its students to be informed, engaged participants in a democratic republic;
- better inform students and their parents, public officials, and taxpayers of a given university's performance in teaching America's history and institutions; and
- build academic centers on campuses to encourage and support the restoration of teaching American history, political science, and economics.
ISI offers this report with the hope that it will stimulate corrective action and accountability among those immediately responsible for higher education—trustees, donors, alumni, parents, public officials, administrators, faculty, and students. It is still possible to improve the teaching at our colleges and universities of America's history and institutions, and thereby to forestall the coming crisis in citizenship.
You can truly see symptoms of this deficiency just by looking at the political environment in which we find ourselves. Politicians, journalists, and pundits alike consistently fail to apply reason to a given situation. Why? Because the electorate tends to go with whatever is shouted the loudest and shouted the most recently.
I fear that this is the dumbing down of America in terms of our politics, our understanding of history, and our duty to community and nation.
I pray that I am wrong.
September 15, 2006
Thomas Sowell weighs in about the New York Times article that nastily (and erroneously) smears four conservative think tanks. And he adds some thoughts that should make all of us stop and examine the greater issue that he refers to.
The self-infatuated idea nobody could disagree with you for honest and informed reasons is far more dangerous than possible influence from donors' money. Far more is involved here than cheap-shot journalism. It is the audience for such journalism that is the real concern.
Our whole educational system, from the elementary schools to the universities, is increasingly turning out people who have never heard enough conflicting arguments to develop the skills and discipline required to produce a coherent analysis, based on logic and evidence.
Read the whole thing. Then think about it.
July 12, 2006
Psychopathy in Palestine
Dr. Sanity has a thoughtful and enlightening post about how psychopathic characteristics are being inculcated in Palestinian children. And elsewhere in the Middle East. Islam seems to be the key.
Islam has become toxic, infusing the entire Middle East with a culture inimical to not just the 50% who are female; but equally to the half who are male and consider themselves "superior". Children are raised in a misogynist family and cultural environment and the young boys are thus encouraged to hatred and violence. This has been going on for decades among the Palestinians in particular; but everywhere the jihad mindset has spread it cancerous message.
This is well worth your time to read. Even if you do not agree with it all, she makes some good points.
May 12, 2006
An open market for education
Michael Strong makes a strong case for opening up education to market forces.
It is possible to create safer, better, happier, healthier, schools, and many parents would send their children to such schools if they had the option. An open education market would create an innovation dynamic that would allow for steady improvements in the school communities in which young people spent most of their waking hours.  Had we followed Milton Friedman's advice in 1955, millions of young people would not have died, and millions more would be healthier and better off today. Parents, choosing among educational entrepreneurs, could solve the problem of adolescent health far more quickly and more effectively than can academics trying to guide public policy.
He has some interesting points. Recommended.
May 05, 2006
Penn State censorship
A rundown on censorship at Penn State University. This is my mom and dad's alma mater, and I almost went there myself.
I'm sorry to see Penn State having to go through this.
May 01, 2006
Jeffy Jacoby points out the trash they are teaching in Massachusetts public schools. And the public educators are adamant about it, too.
"We couldn't run a public school system if every parent who feels some topic is objectionable to them for moral or religious reasons decides their child should be removed," Lexingtonâ€™s superintendent of schools, Paul Ash, told the Globe. "Lexington is committed to teaching children about the world they live in, and in Massachusetts same-sex marriage is legal."
Some places seem like they're going to Hell faster than others.
April 07, 2006
Texas education reform
Bill Murchison, senior columns writer for The Dallas Morning News has an op-ed up at Townhall.com that is rather pessimistic about the prospects of real education reform in Texas this year.
Because government social policy requires every student to succeed, government practically forbids you not to procure a high school degree. That's if you stay in school -- something huge numbers of students don't do. Likewise, government education policy forbids even the most awful schools to fail absolutely. The teacher unions wouldn't like it if dues-paying members lost their jobs.
As a remedy, government-funded vouchers for students who transfer to private schools make absolute sense. As a political expedient, no way. The education unions won't allow in public education the sort of accountability the free market enforces in commercial situations: i.e., succeed -- or go out of business.
I'm a bit pessimistic, as well. Real reform needs to happen. Government-run accountability is not working very well. I think we need to introduce some free-market processes into public education in order to truly reform it. In fact, it is my belief that they would revolutionize public education and forge our education system into the best on Earth.
There . . . I've said it.
My lovely wife has been a teacher in public schools for over 20 years. She does not embrace free-market solutions like I do, but she does acknowledge that the current system has many, many problems.
Ross Perot was on the right track 20 years ago . . . only he didn't go far enough.
April 06, 2006
Just the facts -- please!
Thomas Sowell has an excellent commentary over at Townhall about the shortage of factual information in our media and our classrooms. Here's how he begins:
What is more frightening than any particular policy or ideology is the widespread habit of disregarding facts. Former House Majority Leader Dick Armey put it this way: "Demagoguery beats data."
People who urge us to rely on the United Nations, instead of acting "unilaterally," or who urge us to follow other countries in creating a government-run medical care system, often show not the slightest interest in getting facts about the actual track record of either the UN or government-run medical systems.
March 19, 2006
Good parenting wanted
Laura Hirschfeld Hollis, Associate Director of the Academy for Entrepreneurial Leadership at the University of Illinois, and colleague to several public school teachers, has published an op-ed which asserts that poor parenting and government are the reasons our children are not getting the education that we are paying for. Here's an excerpt:
When I say that "parents aren't being parents," I mean that in the most basic sense: children come to school not properly fed; their clothes aren't clean; no one makes them do their homework or go to bed at a decent hour each night; there is no discipline or organization (and children desperately need both).
Then there are the parents whose night lives (read what you want into that) send a very clear message to their children about insecurity and promiscuity - not to mention priorities. Oh, and did we mention the parents with substance abuse problems? Or those in and out of jail whose children have been passed from relative to relative or have been in and out of foster care?
And this is not a function of socioeconomic class. . .
As the husband of a veteran of over 20 years of teaching in public schools, I have heard many stories that back up the claims in this article.
Our education system in America has a two-fold problem: poor parenting (not a majority, but widespread), and an education system that tries, and fails, to compensate for poor parenting by doing the parenting itself (thus compounding the "poor parenting" problem).
I would like to add one further observation about our education system. In general, the management in public education is abysmal. The administrators generally suck. This leads to a lot of other problems and greatly exacerbates the lack of competent parental support.
When the superindendent is good, and he or she has hired a good team of administrators and principals, the teachers are able to concentrate on teaching, and the students find themselves in an education-friendly environment.
And they learn things a lot more easily as a result.
Just sayin' . . .
March 16, 2006
Economics professor, Dr. Walter E. Williams, has something to say about dishonesty in the classroom. Here's an excerpt:
It's academic and intellectual dishonesty when a teacher, who is supposed to be teaching geography, uses his classroom to indoctrinate relatively uninformed teenagers. Recording the teacher's comments broke neither school policy nor Colorado law. But more importantly, I believe that what teachers say in class should be subject to parental and public scrutiny.
As a parent who is married to a teacher, I agree wholeheartedly that teachers must have transparency to their lessons, and that they must keep their teaching based upon fact -- not opinion. They should be providing their students with the tools necessary to facilitate critical thinking, problem solving, and decision making.
Public teachers should never indoctrinate their students with the teacher's opinions or beliefs. All that does is show the teacher as being a close-minded, controlling, bigot . . .
Like the Taliban in 1990s Afghanistan, for example.
March 13, 2006
Hypocrisy at Yale
John Fund is taking no prisoners in his commentary about Yale welcoming a Taliban official as an honored student. He points out the inherent hypocrisy in Yale's position opposing military recruiters because of the way the military treats homosexuals, and the open-armed reception of a prominent member of the Taliban -- an organization that murdered homosexuals by bulldozing brick walls over them.
The article is in the extended entry. Recommended.
Taliban Man at Yale
University officials are embarrassed--but not embarrassed enough.
Monday, March 6, 2006 12:01 a.m. EST
Are there no limits to how arrogant and out-of-touch America's Ivy League schools can get? Last week it emerged that Sayed Rahmatullah Hashemi, former deputy foreign secretary of the Taliban, is now a student at Yale while at the same time the school continues to block ROTC training from its campus and argues for the right of its law school to exclude military recruiters. King George's troops played the music to "The World Turned Upside Down" as they surrendered at Yorktown. Perhaps the Ivy League should adopt that tune as they surrender all vestiges of common sense.
Yale's decision to admit Mr. Rahmatullah is particularly jarring given constant reminders of the Taliban's crimes--both past and present. Last week, as President Bush visited democratic Afghanistan, its TV news aired fresh footage of beheaded bodies being paraded through a street. The men had been murdered because they opposed local Taliban and al Qaeda terrorists.
Last week I described Mr. Rahmatullah's remarkable visit to The Wall Street Journal's offices in the spring of 2001. After a meeting in which he defended the Taliban's treatment of women and said he hadn't seen any evidence that their "guest" Osama bin Laden was a terrorist, I felt I had looked into the face of evil.
I walked Mr. Rahmatullah out. I will never forget how he stopped at a picture window and stared up at the World Trade Center, which terrorists had failed to destroy in 1993. When I finally pried him away, I couldn't help but think, He must have been thinking about the one that got away.
You would think Yale would feel compelled to explain its decision to admit Mr. Rahmatullah. Instead, a cone of silence has descended over the university. Yale officials didn't return my calls or those of other reporters for several days last week. Finally on Friday, spokesman Tom Conroy said the university would have no comment, citing privacy concerns that preclude it from discussing any individual student.
Almost no one will now defend Mr. Rahmatullah's presence as a special student, even though a week ago many had no such inhibitions in a splashy New York Times magazine piece, which broke the news that he had been at Yale for eight months. In that piece, Richard Shaw, Yale's dean of undergraduate admissions before he took the same post at Stanford, explained that Yale had missed out on another foreign student of the same caliber as Mr. Rahmatullah but that "we lost him to Harvard," and "I didn't want that to happen again."
Now Mr. Shaw isn't returning phone calls, and much of the reaction from Yale to the outside world is downright hostile. One faculty member told me he wasn't interested in questions about Mr. Rahmatullah and accused me of pursuing "another Journal attack on Yale's lax liberal standards." He then threatened to attack me in print as "slimy."
At the same time, many Yale alumni and students tell me they are concerned that Yale refuses to explain why it honored Mr. Rahmatullah with a prize perch when countless well-qualified Americans--not to mention other Afghans--would jump at the chance but will never get it.
To understand what prompted Yale to invite Mr. Rahmatullah to its campus, I interviewed several Yale students and faculty members. Here are their explanations along with my analysis.
The Taliban were a dictatorial regime, but not dramatically different from many others. Their coming to power was originally welcomed by many people tired of civil war.
It's certainly true that in 1996 the country more or less fell into the lap of the Taliban, a group of young fanatics straight out of "Lord of the Flies." After the Soviet departure from Afghanistan in 1989, the country had become an anarchic stew of feuding warlords. The Taliban consolidated power into a central government and soon had control of 90% of the country.
But as soon as they were secure in power, they revealed they were medieval fascists. Homosexuals were thrown into ditches and then had concrete walls bulldozed over them. Women caught wearing nail polish had their fingernails pulled out or in some cases their fingers chopped off. Everything was banned from television to kite flying to paper bags. Paper bags? Apparently one of the mullahs heard that bags in Kabul's market had been made out of recycled copies of the Koran, so they had to go.
Mr. Rahmatullah became an apologist for all of this during his propaganda tour of the U.S. in the months before 9/11. Michael Moore's "Fahrenheit 9/11" captured one testy exchange he had with an exiled Afghan woman who told him, "You have imprisoned the women. It's a horror, let me tell you." The Afghan diplomat responded with a sneer: "I'm really sorry for your husband. He must have a very difficult time with you." Asked by the Times of London last week if he regretted that statement now, he replied: "That woman, for your information, did divorce her husband." He told the New York Times that if he had it to do over again he would have been "a little bit" softer in his 2001 speeches.
Mr. Rahmatullah now sincerely regrets serving as a high Taliban official and has rejected their hatred of the West.
He does say that some of his views have changed. "I was very young then," Mr. Rahmatullah, now 27, told the Yale Daily News last week. "At that age, you don't really have the same sensibilities that you may have later." He has told fellow students he now believes in free speech and the right of women to vote. He told the New York Times the Taliban were bad for his country because "the radicals were taking over and doing crazy stuff," implying that the early days of Taliban rule were benign. He says he believes that after graduation, he can serve as a bridge between the Muslim world and the West.
If that's true, it's time that Yale and the State Department, which issued his student visa, realize that there's evidence his views are still pretty unreconstructed and, in fact, would be rejected by most of the world's Muslims. Mr. Rahmatullah isn't giving interviews now, but last Wednesday he did talk with Tim Reid of the Times of London. He acknowledged he had done poorly in his class "Terrorism: Past, Present and Future," something he attributed to his disgust with the textbooks. "They would say the Taliban were the same as al Qaeda," he told the Times.
He shifted blame for many of the Taliban's brutal practices onto its Ministry of Vice and Virtue, even though he had defended their actions in 2001. As for the infamous filmed executions of women in Kabul's soccer stadium? "That was all Vice and Virtue stuff. There were also executions happening in Texas."
One shouldn't depend on one interview for a full picture of someone's current views. But late last year, Mr. Rahmatullah wrote an essay titled "Ignorance! Not an Option," which appeared on the Web site of the International Education Foundation, the charity headed by CBS contract cameraman-producer Mike Hoover that is sponsoring Mr. Rahmatullah's stay in the U.S. In the essay, Mr. Rahmatullah takes Americans to task for both their "xenophobic" attitudes and ignorance of the Taliban. He claims the Taliban "were too ignorant to know that their guest"--Osama bin Laden--"was harming other people." He concludes that the Taliban "honestly practiced what they had learned in their religious schools. They did what they had been taught to do. Whether what they had been taught was good or bad is another subject." If this is sincere repentance, Yale needs to acknowledge that at the school that fathered literary deconstructionism, the term has lost its meaning.
Mr. Hoover, a swashbuckling filmmaker who has worked for CBS off and on for two decades and who befriended Mr. Rahmatullah during three visits to Taliban-ruled Afghanistan, also holds curious views about his former hosts. He wouldn't return my calls, but when Fox News Channel's Sean Hannity asked him Friday if the Taliban was a "brutal" regime, Mr. Hoover would say only that "parts of them were. It wasn't as monolithic as we'd like to make it out to be."
Mr. Hannity quoted from Mr. Rahmatullah's article on the International Education Foundation's Web site in which Mr. Rahmatullah called Israel a "franchise state" serving "as an American al Qaeda against the Arab World." Mr. Hoover said, "I had never heard that before." In fact, not only did the article appear on a Web site Mr. Hoover operates, but after the al Qaeda quote appeared in the Yale Daily News on Wednesday, the article mysteriously vanished--two days before Mr. Hoover claimed to be unaware of it.
Yale needs to be an international school, tolerant of the views of other cultures and willing to understand them.
Having lived overseas as a child and traveled to many developing countries, I am all for students knowing more about the world. But the arguments for accepting Mr. Rahmatullah are surreal. "If we didn't accept him and try to learn from him, how could we say we're this diverse body and institution of higher learning?" freshman Benjamin Gonzalez asked the New York Sun. "If we just dismiss him, what does that say about us?" It may say that moral relativism has such an entrenched hold on campus that some people can no longer make needed distinctions.
Some, though, are more discerning. James Kirchick, a senior who describes himself as a liberal Democrat, is appalled that campus feminists and gays trash American society as intolerant but won't protest now that "an actual, live remnant of one of the most misogynistic and homophobic regimes ever" is in their midst. "They have other concerns, such as single-sex bathrooms and fraternities," he told me.
There was a time when some at Yale summoned outrage at the Taliban. In 2000, a band of 30 protesters gathered outside Pierson College when it hosted a "master's tea" for Taliban representative Abdul Hakeem Mujahid. While the protesters chanted outside, Mr. Mujahid calmly told his audience that "99% of [Afghan] women approve" of the Taliban and that the regime was committed to elevating the status of women in society. Eli Muller, the reporter who covered the event for the Yale Daily News, was shocked that his lies "went nearly unchallenged."
After the talk, Mr. Muller observed someone approach a spokeswoman for the Taliban and invite her to give a talk at the law school on women's rights. Mr. Muller concluded in an op-ed piece entitled "Sympathy for the Devil" that the "moral overconfidence of Yale students makes them subject to manipulation by people who are genuinely evil." That year, Lynn Amowitz, a faculty member at Harvard Medical School, found that 18% of the 223 women she interviewed who lived under Taliban rule had attempted suicide by drowning in local rivers, drinking pesticides or overdosing on children's medicines.
Six years later, even after 9/11, the Yale community represents the world turned upside down. Beth Nisson, a senior, writes that Mr. Rahmatullah's admission to Yale "should serve as a model for American higher education." Della Sentilles, the co-author of a feminist blog at Yale, insists one can't be judgmental about the Taliban. "As a white American feminist, I do not feel comfortable making statements or judgments about other cultures, especially statements that suggest one culture is more sexist and repressive than another," she writes. "American feminism is often linked to and manipulated by the state in order to further its own imperialist ends."
Ziba Ayeen, a Afghan-American who fled her native land with her family in the 1980s, isn't amused by such thinking. "The irony of Yale educating an official in a regime that barred women from going to school is too much," she told me.
When I asked several people at Yale if the reaction to Mr. Rahmatullah would be different if he were, say, a former official of the apartheid regime of South Africa, the reaction was universal: Of course he would be barred. When I asked why, I was told I had no idea how liberal a place Yale was. "But what is liberal about the Taliban, then or now?" I innocently asked. Eric White, a senior, told me that many students believe that regimes run by whites, such as apartheid South Africa or Nazi Germany, come out of Western traditions and are judged differently than non-Western regimes. "There's a real feeling that we don't have the right or understanding to be able to hold those regimes to the same standards."
When I asked Prof. Vivek Sharma, who briefly had Mr. Rahmatullah in one of his seminars, about this double standard, he explained, "There's a belief among many at Yale that we really have to specifically understand the Middle East because of the American occupation there and that we must understand our enemies as deeply as we can."
But if Mr. Rahmatullah's admission was motivated by a desire to understand the enemy, why was Yale mum about Mr. Rahmatullah's background for eight months, until he himself chose to reveal it to the New York Times? Nat Hentoff, a columnist for the Village Voice and a First Amendment champion, says Mr. Rahmatullah's admission might have value as a "laboratory experiment" to see how far "tolerance of anti-tolerance" might go. "But the whole thing looks fishy given Yale's reluctance to tell people about their educational prize," he told me. "Thus it looks to be more about the lasting effects of political correctness than a desire to hear other points of view."
Somebody else is responsible for Mr. Rahmatullah's admission as a Yale student.
No one is more surprised than Mr. Rahmatullah at his good fortune. "I'm the luckiest person in the world," he told the New York Times. "I could have ended up in Guantanamo Bay. Instead I ended up at Yale." What explains his luck?
The buck-passing has been brisk the past week. Yale has privately told some people that since the State Department approved his student visa, there must not be a problem with the former Taliban official. State Department spokesman Adam Erelli says that "given what he was doing and why he wanted to come to the United States, [there were no] grounds for ineligibility" for a visa. Another State Department official told me off the record that because Mr. Rahmatullah had been accepted by so prestigious an institution as Yale the probable assumption made by lower-level officials was that he was OK.
P.J. Crowley, a former official in the Clinton National Security Council, speculated that perhaps Mr. Rahmatullah had been an intelligence asset for the U.S. and his admission was a reward for that help. But my calls to several sources turned up no hint of that. Laili Helms, a former spokeswoman for the Taliban who lives in New Jersey, claims that Mr. Rahmatullah met with officials at the CIA and the State Department during his 2001 tour and proposed the Taliban hold Osama bin Laden in a fixed location long enough so the U.S. could find and kill him. My sources at both agencies say there is no evidence such a proposal was ever made.
So the mystery deepens. Even Mr. Hoover, who frequently visited the Taliban in an effort to secure an interview with Osama bin Laden, is vague about the details of why his charity is paying for his friend to come to the U.S. Indeed, it sounds as if he is shifting responsibility. When asked why Mr. Rahmatullah is here, he told Fox News: "Those are questions for all of the people all down the chain of command that have backed him coming to the country, starting with the American generals who OK'd it for him to come, the people in Islamabad that gave him the visa and the people at Yale who decided to put him on into the campus."
As for who finances his foundation, Mr. Hoover said it was a group of friends who after finding out "about his background, and heard his ideas, they were behind helping fund him to go to Yale."
Kurt Lohbeck, who worked with Mr. Hoover as a contract reporter/producer for CBS News in Afghanistan is skeptical about the whole matter. "I worked in the region for 10 years, and there are a lot of people there who should go to Yale before Rahmatullah," he told me. As for Mr. Hoover's curious ambivalence today about the Taliban, Mr. Lohbeck said Mr. Hoover would not have been able to go back so frequently as a guest of the Taliban "unless he had kowtowed to them on the first visit. They would have had to grease the skids for him."
For all his faults, Mr. Rahmatullah is a positive influence on campus.
How good a role model could Mr. Rahmatullah be? He got into Yale with a fourth-grade education and a high-school equivalency degree. Next month, he will apply to become a full-time student working towards a degree in political science. To his credit, Harold Hongju Koh, dean of Yale Law School and a former Clinton administration human-rights official, says that before Mr. Rahmatullah is accepted, "it would be good to know more about how he came to work for the Taliban in the first place and whether he's fully repudiated their views." Mr. Koh engaged in a somewhat heated debate with Mr. Rahmatullah at Yale during his 2001 U.S. tour and only "reluctantly" shook his hand afterwards.
Mr. Rahmatullah has retained his habit of heated argument. Last year, he attended Prof. Sharma's seminar on war in Europe during the Middle Ages. "He was antagonistic toward other students and he tended to take over the class discussion," one student recalled. "He would talk all the time about life in the mountains of Afghanistan." During the last class Mr. Rahmatullah attended, Mr. Sharma says, "he interrupted me constantly." When I asked the professor to confirm student reports that he had asked Mr. Rahmatullah to leave his class, he replied "That's not quite true. I forcefully made it clear what I thought of him wanting to draw attention to himself." Mr. Rahmatullah never returned to his class, taking advantage of an opt-out provision.
Others say Mr. Rahmatullah has been better behaved, albeit sometimes brusque. Amy Aaland, the executive director of the Jewish center where Mr. Rahmatullah frequently eats dinner, has no problems with him. She told the Yale Daily news that she sees his story "as representative of Yale's rich student diversity."
But rather than defend their prize diversity catch, the university and the other enablers of Mr. Rahmatullah's presence there are clamming up and hoping the furor goes away. "Yale has weathered storms like this before with complete silence," one former Yale administrator told me. "It's cold game theory on their part. They've already alienated conservative alumni; they're not giving much anymore. If they can keep broader donor anger at bay, they feel they don't have much to lose."
Well, perhaps Yale does. In a column lamenting how Larry Summers was deposed as president of Harvard, the New York Times' John Tierney, a Yale graduate, reports on all the reasons American higher education refuses to change. He quotes Fred Siegel, a historian at Cooper Union, as saying "the Achilles' heel of academics is their status anxiety. The only way to attack them is with mockery."
It's been more than half a century since William F. Buckley mocked the wooly-headed thinking he found at his alma mater in "God and Man at Yale." Now we have Mr. Taliban Man at Yale. If that doesn't cry out for mockery, nothing does.
[Used with permission from OpinionJournal.com, a web site from Dow Jones & Company, Inc.]
February 24, 2006
Thomas Sowell has a piece up at TownHall that discusses the lack of tolerance for diverse viewpoints in academic circles these days. He illustrates his points by describing some of the troubles of the recently-resigned president of Harvard University.
The kind of activity that Lawrence Summers wanted to see from West was the kind of activity expected from full professors at a leading university -- scholarly research and writing. Cornel West wrote lots of things in lots of places but even an editor of the liberal New Republic characterized West's books as "almost completely worthless."
Although the discussion between Summers and West was private, Cornel West himself made it a public issue -- and a public scandal. West and his supporters made this a racial issue. That made facts and logic irrelevant.
That should tell us all we need to know about Harvard and about academia in general. Neither truth nor standards matter when it comes to one of the ideological raw nerves like race.
Read the whole article. I hope you are disturbed by it.
February 23, 2006
Thomas Sowell on lowering education standards
Thomas Sowell makes a good argument against lowering test standards for our public students.
Let's face it: Reality can be stressful and can sometimes get very rough. Everyone has an incentive to postpone it. Most of us, however, learn the hard way that postponing reality only makes it far worse than facing it early on. The problem gets more complicated in politics, where one set of people has the power to postpone facing reality and a different set of people have to pay the price later on.
Our educational system is a classic example. Nothing is easier than to lower the standards today, avoiding all sorts of problems that arise with students and their parents when higher standards are imposed.
I agree with his op-ed on this. Recommended.
February 09, 2006
Carnival of Homeschooling
If you are interested in Homeschooling, the Carnival of Homeschooling is up.
(This is in honor of my Floridian Sis-in-law who has successfully homeschooled two of her children and is currently homeschooling her youngest.)
February 03, 2006
Betsy Newmark seems to be doing an excellent job of educating her AP Government students. She assigned viewing the State of the Union address to her classes and the next day they discussed what her students thought about various aspects of the speech. The responses ran the gamut from super-liberal to hyper-conservative with everything in between. She was also impressed with the general perceptiveness of her students.
It's a good read. Recommended.
January 19, 2006
Why are some people so scared of Intelligent Design?
Juliana Barbassa has an article up at TownHall about a school district in California that was forced to drop an elective course on 'Intelligent Design' from their curriculum.
A group of parents had sued the El Tejon school system last week, accusing it of violating the constitutional separation of church and state with "Philosophy of Design," a high school course taught by a minister's wife that advanced the notion that life is so complex it must have been created by some kind of higher intelligence.
Who are the ones being close-minded about things now?
November 14, 2005
Lost: L.A. public education
Larry Elder describes how the Los Angeles Unified School District approaches education. And it is not pretty:
World Can't Wait -- an anti-Bush, anti-war group, recently staged nationwide protests. The organization coordinated rallies in Chicago, Seattle, New York, San Francisco -- and Los Angeles. The Los Angeles Unified School District took things a step further. The district helpfully agreed to provide buses -- that's right, buses -- as well as "adult supervision" to the nearly 800 high school students who walked out of 10 high schools. District officials said they thought it best to provide adults and transportation, since, you know, the kids intended to go to the rally, anyway. "Our issue . . . was safety," said the district's chief operating officer, "and I think we fulfilled our mission, frankly."
Really? Forgive some of us for thinking that the district's mission was . . . education. And, given the less-than-superb academic performance of Los Angeles public school students, the educrats, one would have thought, would have frowned on allowing the kids to skip classes.
No wonder the teachers' union was so opposed to the California proposition making it easier to fire teachers! What a waste! What a horrible disservice to all of those kids . . .
You should read the rest.
November 13, 2005
Friedman & vouchers
Here's another call for the widespread use of vouchers in education.
While Friedman has wanted the poor to have a choice, he foresees vouchers as improving education nationwide. He would give all parents vouchers, thus establishing a market in education. In commerce markets provide improved and diversified products at lower costs. In education a market would do the same. Writing in the November issue of The American Spectator, Friedman notes the evolution of cars and TVs in our market economy. At first they were only purchasable by the well-off "at high prices [that] thereby supported production while the cost was being brought down, until what started out as a luxury good for the rich became a necessity for the poor." By introducing competition among schools, vouchers would create educational curricula for different needs and at a lower cost.
I honestly think it would be worth a try. I have firsthand knowledge of what can happen to the quality of education when a school district loses sight of their mission. Read it and tell me what you think . . .
October 03, 2005
Character on the football field
The California Conservative gives a good illustration of character-building.
September 30, 2005
Kathryn Newmark (quite a productive family, those Newmarks), over at The American Enterprise, has published an article about school vouchers as a part of the federal Katrina relief effort.
Katrina left an estimated 372,000 students without schools. To help other schools absorb these students, the administration has proposed $2.6 billion in aid, which includes up to $7,500 per K-12 student for the 2005-06 school year. And the federal money will follow students to both public and privateâ€”the Department of Education is setting aside $488 million to compensate families for the costs of private school tuition.
It makes for interesting reading.
August 20, 2005
The next generation
Teach for America is an organization of recent college grads who volunteer to teach for two years in public schools (usually troubled ones). This article describes how it originated sixteen years ago and how well our college students are volunteering to do this work:
This spring on many college campuses, something absolutely remarkable happened: Talented young people lined up by the scores to teach lower-income kids in urban and rural public schools. In years past, investment banks like Goldman Sachs were the recruiting powerhouses at top campuses; this year, they were joined by Teach for America, a program that expresses the fresh idealism and social values of this new generation.
At Yale, no fewer than 12 percent of the graduating seniors--nearly 1 out of every 8--applied. At Dartmouth and Amherst, some 11 percent did; at Harvard and Princeton, 8 percent. Hundreds more signed up at Northwestern, Boston College, the University of Texas, and the University of California-Los Angeles. Altogether, over 17,000 seniors applied for 2,100 openings.
It goes on to cite some very positive results. Is the NEA paying attention?
August 02, 2005
Willie Jude -- retiring principal
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinal's online edition, JSOnline, has a good article about a retiring principal named Willie Jude. He has some interesting insights, like:
You show me a youngster who is being successful in school, Iâ€™ll show you a household where someone is spending time with that youngster.
I recommend you go and read the rest.
July 30, 2005
Merit pay for teachers
July 28, 2005
Student loans retard free-market forces
Brendan Miniter has an op-ed posted at OpinionJournal that suggests a link between student loan guarantees and the spiraling cost of higher education. He says a lot more, as well. It is an interesting read.
I have reprinted it in the extended entry.
Though parents may wonder if their kids learn anything in college economics classes, Uncle Sam certainly has gained an education in market economics from lending to them. Mr. Miniter is assistant editor of OpinionJournal.com. His column appears Tuesdays.
Uncle Sam's Tuition Bill
Breaking the culture of dependency on campus.
BY BRENDAN MINITER
Tuesday, July 26, 2005 12:01 a.m. EDT
The federal government first got involved in the student loan business on the grounds that, left to their own devices, rational lenders wouldn't offer loans to college students. Who'd lend money to somebody with no job, no visible means of support except mom and dad, and thousands of dollars in annual expenses? Well, the answer is just about every bank out there, as credit card company reps patrolling campus will attest.
Nonetheless, based on its original miscalculation, the federal government has now become the co-signer on nearly every student loan, even paying the loan's interest while the student is in school, and guaranteeing to lenders at least 98% of their principal should the student default. The government also guarantees private banks that they will turn a profit on student loans no matter how low interest rates fall. Under President Clinton, Uncle Sam even started lending to students directly.
This year the federal government will make more than $70 billion in financial aid available by guaranteeing loans, lending money directly to students, or handing out grants. Pell Grants alone will cost more than $13.4 billion next year as 5.4 million students will receive direct government funding (a million more than when President Bush took office in 2000). Moreover, the pressure to keep upping the ante is unrelenting from Democrats and Republicans alike, who never tire as posing as the protectors of children against the scourge of rapacious tuition increases.
Unfortunately, by footing these bills and turning higher education into an entitlement, Congress itself is primarily responsible for isolating academia from normal consumer pressure by shielding most students (and their parents) from the true cost of higher education. That's why schools can keep ratcheting up tuitions beyond what any middle class family can reasonably afford to pay--because they know taxpayers stand ready to take up the slack.
Worse, this culture of dependency doesn't even end when a student walks across the stage to receive a diploma. Yet another subsidy is available to help them "consolidate" their loans. Which brings us to the brave effort of House Education Committee Chairman John Boehner and handful of GOPers who, in a small way, are finally taking steps to impose limits on the student loan boondoggle.
Under the government's consolidation program, former students can lock in a low fixed rate while the interest rate the government guarantees to banks remains tied to the 91-day T Bill. It doesn't take an economist to figure out the problem with this scheme. When the dot-com bubble burst, Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan cut short-term interest rates to historic lows in hopes of getting the economy moving again. Well, students must have learned something in their econ classes after all. Thousand moved quickly to lock in ridiculously low interest rates. Now, as interest rates are rising again, Uncle Sam is on the hook for an estimated $14 billion, not including loans consolidated in the past year.
To make sure this never happens again, Mr. Boehner & Co. would require students either to continue paying a variable rate after they consolidate their loans or pay a premium for locking in a fixed rate, as happens in the private sector. That seems reasonable enough, as do other reforms in the House legislation that would reduce the guarantee the government extends student loans to 95% of the principal. Private lenders would have that much more incentive to do their jobs properly, making sure taxpayer-backed loans go to students who are good risks.
Still, it took a 26-20 party line vote to get the GOP bill out of committee. Expect a floor fight in the House in September, just a parents are dropping their children off at college. Education Secretary Margaret Spellings has already made the administration's support of the House bill clear, leaving the Senate as the big question mark.
Congress is a long way from recognizing its own gigantic role in distorting the tuition market and driving prices out of sight. Mr. Boehner's struggles demonstrate just how difficult it is to bring even a small amount of commonsense reform to the great, unrecognized middle-class entitlement that the federal student loan programs have become.
Though parents may wonder if their kids learn anything in college economics classes, Uncle Sam certainly has gained an education in market economics from lending to them.
Mr. Miniter is assistant editor of OpinionJournal.com. His column appears Tuesdays.
[Used with permission from OpinionJournal.com, a web site from Dow Jones & Company, Inc.]
July 27, 2005
Education: quality vs. spending
An interesting article about spending for education points out that spending is at an all-time high, yet little or no improvement can be attibuted to that higher level of spending. Here's an excerpt:
Education economist Caroline Hoxby explains that public schools today are doing less with more: school productivity -- achievement per dollar spent -- declined by 55 to 73 percent from 1971 to 1999. Meanwhile, private and charter schools are boosting student achievement with lower expenditures per pupil than public schools. In other words, there is no consistent, systematic relationship between education spending and student outcomes.
I agree with what is presented in the article. My theory as to why spending has increased without corresponding increases in quality revolves around my wife's experience as an educator. She has described to me an entire bureaucracy that has been built around "managing" the school district -- complete with largely unqualified managers and staff. Unfortunately, that bloated bureaucracy only incidentally addresses the real reason for the existence of a school district: the education of our children.
July 21, 2005
Sowell on dogma vs. reality
Another astute, politically incorrect viewpoint about educating black children in America.
July 17, 2005
Good news in education
Betsy Newmark has posted about better test scores for grade school students in the last few years.
It makes for encouraging reading. And also makes me wonder how we can accelerate the process . . .
NEA stands for . . .
Unfortunately, the NEA has become just another union lobby group. Educating children no longer seems to be important to them anymore.
It's a shame, really. In fact, the NEA should be very ashamed.
June 10, 2005
Friedman and vouchers
Economist Milton Friedman was talking about school vouchers in 1955. Fifty years later vouchers are beginning to become more popular as a means to provide parents with a greater variety of educational choices and, according to recent surveys in areas that promote vouchers, a higher quality education for their kids. Mr. Friedman has published an op-ed at OpinionJournal that reiterates his reasons for vouchers then and now. Here's an excerpt:
Throughout this long period, we have been repeatedly frustrated by the gulf between the clear and present need, the burning desire of parents to have more control over the schooling of their children, on the one hand, and the adamant and effective opposition of trade union leaders and educational administrators to any change that would in any way reduce their control of the educational system.
Registration is required at the site (it's free), but for those who prefer, I've reprinted the article in the extended entry.
Free to Choose
After 50 years, education vouchers are beginning to catch on.
BY MILTON FRIEDMAN
Thursday, June 9, 2005 12:01 a.m. EDT
Little did I know when I published an article in 1955 on "The Role of Government in Education" that it would lead to my becoming an activist for a major reform in the organization of schooling, and indeed that my wife and I would be led to establish a foundation to promote parental choice. The original article was not a reaction to a perceived deficiency in schooling. The quality of schooling in the United States then was far better than it is now, and both my wife and I were satisfied with the public schools we had attended. My interest was in the philosophy of a free society. Education was the area that I happened to write on early. I then went on to consider other areas as well. The end result was "Capitalism and Freedom," published seven years later with the education article as one chapter.
With respect to education, I pointed out that government was playing three major roles: (1) legislating compulsory schooling, (2) financing schooling, (3) administering schools. I concluded that there was some justification for compulsory schooling and the financing of schooling, but "the actual administration of educational institutions by the government, the 'nationalization,' as it were, of the bulk of the 'education industry' is much more difficult to justify on [free market] or, so far as I can see, on any other grounds." Yet finance and administration "could readily be separated. Governments could require a minimum of schooling financed by giving the parents vouchers redeemable for a given sum per child per year to be spent on purely educational services. . . . Denationalizing schooling," I went on, "would widen the range of choice available to parents. . . . If present public expenditure were made available to parents regardless of where they send their children, a wide variety of schools would spring up to meet the demand. . . . Here, as in other fields, competitive enterprise is likely to be far more efficient in meeting consumer demand than either nationalized enterprises or enterprises run to serve other purposes."
Though the article, and then "Capitalism and Freedom," generated some academic and popular attention at the time, so far as we know no attempts were made to introduce a system of educational vouchers until the Nixon administration, when the Office of Economic Opportunity took up the idea and offered to finance the actual experiments. One result of that initiative was an ambitious attempt to introduce vouchers in the large cities of New Hampshire, which appeared to be headed for success until it was aborted by the opposition of the teachers unions and the educational administrators--one of the first instances of the oppositional role they were destined to play in subsequent decades. Another result was an experiment in California's Alum Rock school system involving a choice of schools within a public system.
What really led to increased interest in vouchers was the deterioration of schooling, dating in particular from 1965 when the National Education Association converted itself from a professional association to a trade union. Concern about the quality of education led to the establishment of the National Commission of Excellence in Education, whose final report, "A Nation at Risk," was published in 1983. It used the following quote from Paul Copperman to dramatize its own conclusion:
"Each generation of Americans has outstripped its parents in education, in literacy, and in economic attainment. For the first time in the history of our country, the educational skills of one generation will not surpass, will not equal, will not even approach, those of their parents."
"A Nation at Risk" stimulated much soul-searching and a whole series of major attempts to reform the government educational system. These reforms, however extensive or bold, have, it is widely agreed, had negligible effect on the quality of the public school system. Though spending per pupil has more than doubled since 1970 after allowing for inflation, students continue to rank low in international comparisons; dropout rates are high; scores on SATs and the like have fallen and remain flat. Simple literacy, let alone functional literacy, in the United States is almost surely lower at the beginning of the 21st century than it was a century earlier. And all this is despite a major increase in real spending per student since "A Nation at Risk" was published.
One result has been experimentation with such alternatives as vouchers, tax credits, and charter schools. Government voucher programs are in effect in a few places (Wisconsin, Ohio, Florida, the District of Columbia); private voucher programs are widespread; tax credits for educational expenses have been adopted in at least three states and tax credit vouchers (tax credits for gifts to scholarship-granting organizations) in three states. In addition, a major legal obstacle to the adoption of vouchers was removed when the Supreme Court affirmed the legality of the Cleveland voucher in 2002. However, all of these programs are limited; taken together they cover only a small fraction of all children in the country.
Throughout this long period, we have been repeatedly frustrated by the gulf between the clear and present need, the burning desire of parents to have more control over the schooling of their children, on the one hand, and the adamant and effective opposition of trade union leaders and educational administrators to any change that would in any way reduce their control of the educational system.
We have been involved in two initiatives in California to enact a statewide voucher system (in 1993 and 2000). In both cases, the initiatives were carefully drawn up, and the voucher sums moderate. In both cases, nine months or so before the election, public opinion polls recorded a sizable majority in favor of the initiative. In addition, of course, there was a sizable group of fervent supporters, whose hopes ran high of finally getting control of their children's schooling. In each case, about six months before the election, the voucher opponents launched a well-financed and thoroughly unscrupulous campaign against the initiative. Television ads blared that vouchers would break the budget, whereas in fact they would reduce spending since the proposed voucher was to be only a fraction of what government was spending per student. Teachers were induced to send home with their students misleading propaganda against the initiative. Dirty tricks of every variety were financed from a very deep purse. The result was to convert the initial majority into a landslide defeat. This has also occurred in Washington state, Colorado and Michigan. Opposition like this explains why progress has been so slow in such a good cause.
The good news is that, despite these setbacks, public interest in and support for vouchers and tax credits continues to grow. Legislative proposals to channel government funds directly to students rather than to schools are under consideration in something like 20 states. Sooner or later there will be a breakthrough; we shall get a universal voucher plan in one or more states. When we do, a competitive private educational market serving parents who are free to choose the school they believe best for each child will demonstrate how it can revolutionize schooling.
Mr. Friedman, chairman of the Milton and Rose D. Friedman Foundation, is a senior research fellow at the Hoover Institution and a Nobel laureate in economics.
[Used with permission from OpinionJournal.com, a web site from Dow Jones & Company, Inc.]
June 06, 2005
Alternative routes to teaching
The Washington Times published an article on 3 June about the surprising (to some) success that teacher certification through "alternative routes" (other than the traditional four-year teacher collegiate program) have had.
Alternative certification programs were borne out of necessity, and were criticized by the National Education Association and the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education.
Results, however, are encouraging, according to president and chief executive officer of the federally funded National Center for Alternative Certification:
But those warnings turned out to be wrong, Mrs. Feistritzer said, and alternative-licensed teachers have proved to be among the most competent. Today, 140 teacher colleges offer alternate route programs, said Arthur E. Wise, president of the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education.
And the president of the American Federation of Teachers, Arthur E. Wise, agrees.
Betsy Newmark, an educator who has a blog here also agrees, and goes on to say:
This is all to the good. I think that new teachers can learn all they need from education classes in one summer seminar that would cover topics such as lesson planning, classroom discipline, and grading methods. The rest comes from experience and learning from teachers in action. There was so much that was totally worthless in all the education courses I had to take in order to get certified. I know that almost every certified teacher I've talked to feels the same way. One of the many blessings of working at a charter school is that we have much more leeway in hiring teachers who have knowledge of the subject matter, although no teacher certification. Once they're hired, they can take a few courses and get certified through alternative routes. As states face more and more teacher shortages, the strangehold grip that education schools have had on teacher hiring will be loosened. And the more teachers who come to teaching through alternate routes and succeed the less necessary education school training will seem. Bravo.
I think that it is important for teachers to be well-grounded in the subjects they teach, but it is equally important for them to be able to successfully convey that knowledge to their students. These alternative routes seem to be ensuring that both conditions are true. However, I'm a bit nervous that the increasing reliance on alternative routes will also enable a lot of unqualified individuals into our childrens' classrooms. Let's hope that adequate safeguards are in place.
June 03, 2005
Alternative training for dogs
Here's a tongue in cheek article posted over at The Onion. Just think about it.
MONTEREY, CAâ€”Dogs who attend the Kylee Alternative Training Institute are exposed to a "creative canine learning environment where less emphasis is placed on obedience," director Morgan Kylee said Monday. "We believe in helping our students to discover their own potential, rather than forcing them to conform to the traditional idea of what a dog should be," Kylee said. "Dogs that mess on the carpet or bark incessantly are not scolded, but praised for finding their own parameters. Our motto is 'If it feels good, chew it.'" Classes at the school include Holistic Heeling, Elective Fetching, and Removing The Leg-Humping Stigma.
(h/t Joanne Jacobs)
June 01, 2005
Avg. 40 days absent for the school year?!
Joanne Jacobs has a post about a model program in a Phliadelphia school. I just couldn't get past the percentage of absences . . .
TD students average 40 absent days a year versus 49 days off for non-TD students. Philadelphia's school year runs 188 days, so these kids are missing 21 to 26 percent of instructional time.
May 31, 2005
No Child Left Behind
Betsy Newmark makes a good case for supporting the NCLB act. Here's her conclusion:
So, that is why I supported No Child Left Behind. I abhor the idea of the national government getting involved in local issues like education. However, now that NCLB has been implemented, schools across the nation are discovering the inspiration that the carrot-and-stick approach to accountability can have to force administrators to focus on raising the achievement levels of those students who previously were getting left behind.
Go read her whole post.
May 29, 2005
Joanne Jacobs has a disturbing post about students' self-esteem. Here's an excerpt:
Students suffer from unwarranted self-confidence writes Marlene Zuk, a UC-Riverside biology professor. Her students don't think their low test scores or inability to answer questions reflects ignorance. They don't read the book or remember lectures; they can't discuss the concepts. Yet they believe they deserve high grades. They feel good about their understanding.
Talk about lambs to the slaughter . . .
May 28, 2005
This article makes me sad. I can't help but think that this state would be so much greater if it made quality education a high priority.
Here's an excerpt:
Looking six stories down from the VIP-ready "Texas Room" to a field made of the same brand of artificial turf on which the Dallas Cowboys play, Ken Purcell declares, "This is probably the best high school football stadium in the country. I'm not making any apologies."
Purcell, Denton Independent School District's athletics director, said he asked architects to incorporate aspects of state-of-the-art fields in Waco, Southlake and Mesquite, as well as the Cowboys' Texas Stadium, into Denton's $20.5 million football field, which opened in September.
Hence the separate locker rooms for each team's offensive and defensive squads; the three-story, $900,000 instant-replay scoreboard; the spacious two-level press box; and the glass wall separating the athletics staff offices, trophy hall and banquet room from the north end zone.
The 12,000-seat complex, which Denton voters approved by a 3-to-1 margin in a 2002 bond election, is one of 23 new or planned public school stadiums in the Houston, Dallas/Fort Worth, Austin and San Antonio metropolitan areas, according to a Houston Chronicle survey of the districts.
The combined price tag: $305.4 million.
May 18, 2005
Betsy has a post about a charter school in Connecticut that is doing something radical -- they are focusing on discipline and esprit de corps.
And it's working. Wonder of wonders.
Why does this surprise some people?
May 05, 2005
Charter Schools & Choice
Debra England at townhall.com has an interesting article about charter schools. Here's an excerpt:
Given the sturm und drang which has accompanied the arrival of charter schools on the public education scene, one might be surprised to discover that charter schools enroll only 1.5% of the public school students nationwide. Three times as many U.S. children are home schooled as are educated in charter schools. What, then, accounts for the vehement resistance charter schools have encountered including state caps on the numbers permitted, localized fights against granting charters, and union attacks on charter school achievements?
Here again, economics provides the answer. The educational bureaucracies and their political allies have largely managed to maintain what Milton Friedman rightly calls â€śa tyranny of the status quoâ€ť in their fight against school vouchers for impoverished inner-city children trapped in the most dysfunctional parts of this failed government monopoly. But they have been less successful in their fight against charter schools. Thus, despite the near-epic battle waged against the introduction of any form of parental choice, charter schools have become the camelâ€™s nose inside the educational bureaucraciesâ€™ tent.
Being married to a dedicated public school teacher has given me an insider's perspective on charter schools and how public schools view them. And this article basically sums up that view. Public school officials are scared of charter schools. They are scared that they will lose money, and perhaps, ultimately, their jobs.
My lovely Lady has worked as a public school teacher for 24 years. She has worked in 4 Texas school districts, for 9 different principals, and considers only two of them as being competent administrators. Assuming that my Lady's experience is typical in Texas public schools, and since most school officials start their administrative carrers as school principals, it would be easy to say that over 75% of school officials are not qualified. In that case, I can very much understand why there is so much resistance to charter schools by public school officials -- they're scared for their jobs!
The free market system has brought so much to America. Why can't we adapt it for educating our children? One thing we certainly don't want is to rely on advertisements for schools -- because a school with a good marketing strategy does not necessarily mean the school is good at educating students. So we'll have to have some form of standardized metric that we can use to judge the school's (or district's) worth.
Why not use the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills (TAKS)? It is certainly the standard in Texas, but I'm not sure that we really want to use it -- the Texas education system is very much wrapped around TAKS already (to the point that many teachers feel as if they have to "teach to the test" in order to prepare their students for that test).
I'm not sure I can work out the best way to leverage the advantages of the free-market system into public education (a "free-market education", if you will). But I'm willing to bet that universities, both public and private, could help out a great deal in this area.
What do you think?