March 22, 2006

So what's the rest of the country like?

It's a sad statement on the state of statistical literacy in this world when no one seems to recognize a useless study for what it is:

Remember the whiny, insecure kid in nursery school, the one who always thought everyone was out to get him, and was always running to the teacher with complaints? Chances are he grew up to be a conservative.

At least, he did if he was one of 95 kids from the Berkeley area that social scientists have been tracking for the last 20 years. The confident, resilient, self-reliant kids mostly grew up to be liberals...

The study from the Journal of Research Into Personality isn't going to make the UC Berkeley professor who published it any friends on the right...[Researcher] Block admits in his paper that liberal Berkeley is not representative of the whole country. But within his sample, he says, the results hold...

So, in other words, Block can give no reason why he feels these results would generalize to the population, meaning every line in this article suggesting that these results do generalize is completely, utterly wrong. I'm not surprise the reporter doesn't realize this. I'm astonished that Block doesn't seem to realize it - else, why would he make such a dumb statement? Of course the results hold within the sample, that's...the sample he used. In the world of research, that's wholly beside the point.

Block's statement reminds me of a particular kind of student in the statistics classes that I've taught - the ones who understood the segments on descriptive statistics, sort of, but hit a brick wall when it came to inferential statistics. They could crunch numbers on a dataset, but never could grasp the concept that we sample data for the purpose of generalizing to the population, and that the representativeness of the sample directly effects the extent to which the results can be generalized.

Instead of failing these students outright, I always took them aside to have a chat - the empathetic, caring, Perhaps A Major That Requires A Course In Statistics Is Not For You talk. They always got the message and dropped the course. Block is obviously made of sterner stuff and persevered despite his utter lack of statistical knowledge. Nice.

(Ace is but one of the whiny conservatives having fun with this article.)

Posted by kswygert at 06:11 PM | Comments (321) | TrackBack

Next phrase to be banned - "the little black dress"

Am I the only one who read the first few lines of this article and thought, "What about those goth sheep who dress all in black?"

Has anyone ever actually seen a rainbow-colored sheep? That's surely what a few British toddlers are asking. Teachers at nursery schools in Oxfordshire, England, have asked children to change the words of "Baa, Baa, Black Sheep" to "Baa, Baa, Rainbow Sheep" to avoid the possibility of offending anyone.

Yes, I suppose I was. But at least I was thinking, and I'm not sure that anyone else involved in this silly situation was doing any of that.

Posted by kswygert at 01:28 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

March 20, 2006

Uproar over virtual (and possibly nonexistent) Bullies

One Florida school boards tries to block the release of a video game about bullies:

The Miami-Dade school district in Florida is attempting to become the first major school district to fight against the release of Rockstar's upcoming game, Bully. According to the Miami Herald, School Board member Frank Bolaños proposed a resolution to pressure Rockstar into withholding the release of the action game, which is set in a reform school, asking local merchants not to carry the game and urging parents not to buy the game.

''This game is built entirely around bullies and is staged in a school -- it's the antithesis of everything we're trying to promote,'' he said.

(1) Lots of free publicity for the game - 'nuff said.
(2) Additional glamour surrounding the game - students may assume that anything the school board hates would be fun.
(3) Further eroding of parental responsibility - the school board wants to make the call whether students are mature enough to experience the game. Are they going to demand that R-rated movies be banned next?

The only information that's online from Rockstar are screenshots. It seems this game has been under development for quite some time, but doesn't actually exist yet. How, then, can any school board justify a preemptive call for a ban?

In Delaware, on the other hand, they're at least attacking existing games, although it seems very silly to attack games that are already rated 'M' and are not to be sold to anyone under the age of 18. The Entertainment Software Rating Board, on the other hand, claims that the vast majority of these games that fall into the hands of children are bought by parents. I wonder if they know that such statistics play into the hands of outright bans, such as those suggested by the Miami-Dade school board.

Posted by kswygert at 11:59 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

February 23, 2006

Trophies for all

At this point, should it still even be called a "trophy?"

When a youth basketball league in Framingham finishes its season next month, every fifth- and sixth-grader will receive a shiny trophy. Even those on the last-place team. ''We want them to be happy and come back to play the following year," said the Temple Beth Am Brotherhood league's director, Rich Steckloff.

In communities across Boston's western suburbs, at the end of long seasons on the soccer pitch, hoop court, or baseball diamond, kids are getting trophies not for winning championships, but for simply participating.

On the one hand, yes, participating is better than not participating, so you do want to recognize that. On the other hand, one of the purposes of youth sports is to teach the valuable lessons of good sportsmanship and how to be a polite, non-trophied loser. Giving everyone a trophy waters down the whole concept behind awarding trophies; the winners may feel less of a sense of accomplishment. (John Hawkins seconds the notion.) Better to give none at all than to give everyone one.

Update: On a not-unrelated note, John Rosenberg wonders why we're so eager to redefine the "gifted student" category to include students for whom there's no traditional evidence of being gifted:

...the reason students are “shut out of” gifted programs are not at all “difficult to pin down.” It’s the same reason so many applicants are “shut out of” Harvard, Stanford, et. al; they don’t score high enough on admission tests. Now, the reasons for that may be difficult to pin down, but opening up gifted programs to students “who might have special abilities but may not have been recognized through traditional screening methods” would not seem the way to provide answers.

I find these two situations analogous because what's happening in both contexts is that adults are trying to redefine the scoring of the "game." They're allegedly doing so for the benefit of the children involved, but I think they're making things worse. In the first situation, trophies are being given out right and left, despite the fact that you can't be a winner unless you score more points than the other team. A trophy and no points will not, in the real world, be worth much.

Being placed in an advanced class after one hasn't demonstrated basic skills as measured on a standardized test might not be worth much to a student, either.

(Via Joanne.)

Update: Dr. Helen sees this all as more support for the homeschooling choice:

Wouldn't the proper way to answer the question of why Blacks and Hispanics are lagging behind Whites and Asians be to conduct research on the factors that may be causing the discrepancies and remedy those rather than setting up a phony group of gifted students whose only gift may be that they have a teacher who holds self-esteem and looking diverse in higher regard than children actually learning anything?

With such unscientific inquiry, it is no wonder more and more parents are homeschooling or turning to private schools to educate their children...

Posted by kswygert at 10:18 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

February 21, 2006

What's the value of a math-phobic "journalist"?

Start here with Joanne's comments and read the tale of the student who's flunked algebra six times - and who is being reassured, by the Washington Post, that that's just fine.

Pharyngula puts the hurting on scaredy-cat Richard Cohen: "It's about what you'd expect of a fellow who brags elsewhere in his essay that his best class in high school was typing." The comments are pretty phenomenal, too.

Let me just add my $.02. It should be a criminal offense for a journalist to address this issue (on any school subject) and fail to ask: "Were her teachers any good? Did they offer any tutoring? When she failed once, did they try something different the second time? And how many other students are this frustrated as well? How many of them all have the same teacher?" To add to this lack of any sort of journalistic investigation the insistence that the problem is the math, because it's just a bad old hard subject that adults almost never use in real life, is idiotic as well.

Posted by kswygert at 10:12 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

January 13, 2006

My guess is, the parents who didn't call were speechless

There's GOT to be more to this story:

Freshmen at Brooklyn High School were given an unorthodox homework assignment. They were told to do research about porn. The students were asked to research porn on the internet and list eight facts about the porn industry. They were also told to write down their own personal views about pornography and any experience they may have had, good or bad.

Three parents called the district to complain so the principal, superintendent and health teacher decided it was best to scrap the assignment.

Which is a shame, because we all know that in order to teach health, high school teachers are required to make sure their students know how to find porn on the web, and that they should be prepared to tell adults about their "personal" views and "experiences" in researching such. Being forced to look at things they might not be prepared to see (and probably downloading about 8700 viruses and spyware bots to boot) and tell an adult what they thought about it is so healthy, you know.

Sounds like the teacher isn't even going to lose his/her job, despite the fact that any other adult who wanted to know about a 14-year-old's "experience" with online porn would probably end up facing sex crime charges.

Posted by kswygert at 06:11 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

December 23, 2005

School principal fears Christmas, er - what?

Some parents are scratching their heads after school administrators insisted students call a Christmas tree a "magical tree," the color red was removed from green and red elf hats, and songs from "Jesus Christ Superstar," were pulled from a winter concerts.

"I can see a religious holiday being offensive to those who don’t celebrate it," said Dale Fingar, whose sixth-grade son brought home 10 red and green elf hats Monday and requested she replace the red fabric with white. "But red and green hats? Come on."

Handfuls of parents said they were upset with the administration’s handling of "a couple" of complaints from parents who were offended by Christian religious themes in the middle school’s holiday programming. Sixth-graders were scheduled to perform portions of several songs from the musical "Jesus Christ Superstar," in the holiday concert today. Last week, Middle School Principal Joanne Senier-LaBarre wrote parents a letter explaining those songs had been cut from the performance.

"The philosophy of the middle school is one of acceptance for cultural and religious diversity. The study of Jesus Christ, Superstar was approached from a strictly musical perspective," Senier-LaBarre wrote. "However, in retrospect, we understand that some members of our school family are uncomfortable with what they feel is a musical work that has religious ties. After much discussion, we have decided not to include the rock opera in our performance," the letter continued.

I fail to see how respecting religious diversity requires that we remove references to a religious holiday. This isn't respecting religion, but denying it. One parent makes a very good point:

Paul Danehy was perturbed yesterday morning after leaving his third-grader’s holiday concert at Memorial School. Instead of "We Wish you a Merry Christmas," the students sang, "We Wish you a Swinging Holiday"...He said he was "sent into orbit" after learning students were encouraged to call a Christmas tree a magical tree.

"I know what a menorah is," Danehy said. "I’m not calling it a candleholder."

This story is so over the top that I'm wondering if it's for real.

Posted by kswygert at 11:06 AM | Comments (10) | TrackBack

December 01, 2005

A terrible teach-in

Joanne Jacobs wonders why a murderer who doesn't admit to his crimes should be the focus of a teach-in:

A Tookie Teach-In at Oakland's Street Academy High School turned the gang leader and multiple murderer into a martyr, writes Justin Berton in East Bay Express. Tookie Williams has written children's books expressing his regrets at founding the Crips, but hasn't admitted to the four murders for which he's scheduled to be executed Dec. 13.

Joanne notes that the invited speaker doesn't exactly seem to stick to facts on the topic of politics and crime:

Faucher said there's little evidence Williams is guilty. Or O.J. either. She also said Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger isn't a U.S. citizen, but wavered when a student asked how he could be governor without being a citizen.

The East Bay Express article also notes that Faucher claimed that black criminals overwhelmingly get the death penalty, while most reliable statistics I've seen suggests that it's the race of the victim, not the criminal, that is related to the likelihood of getting the death penalty. Given that much crime is intra-race, it's not surprising that whites make up the largest percentage of those on Death Row since 1976. Is it a problem that the race of defendents seems to matter? Yes, it is, but that's not what Faucher is arguing.

In fact, the concept of compassion or concern for victims is completely absent from Faucher's statements. The goal of the teach-in was to invite students to write to Gov. Schwarzenegger to ask for Tookie's clemency. Funny how they weren't invited to write letters of condolences to the families of the victims.

Posted by kswygert at 11:14 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

November 29, 2005

The Nasty, Nutty Professor

I caught this story at the tail end, which was (thankfully) a sane and appropriate conclusion to a sad tale.

Warren County Community College adjunct English professor, John Daly resigned last night before the school’s board of trustees began an emergency meeting to discuss the professor’s fate. On November 13, Daly sent an email to student Rebecca Beach vowing “to expose [her] right-wing, anti-people politics until groups like [Rebecca’s] won’t dare show their face on a college campus.” In addition, Daly said that “Real freedom will come when soldiers in Iraq turn their guns on their superiors.”

Beach's "anti-people politics" include being a member of the Young America's Foundation, the purpose of which is to provide American college students with a balanced education. Beach's apparent violation of the campus PC code was to send an email to professors announcing the upcoming speech of decorated war hero Lt. Col. Scott Rutter and his topic, American accomplishments in Iraq.

This was too much for Professor's Daly's sanity, as evidenced by the reply he sent to Ms. Beach:

...I am asking my students to boycott your event. I am also going to ask others to boycott it. Your literature and signs in the entrance lobby look like fascist propaganda and is extremely offensive...If you want to count the number of deaths based on political systems, you can begin with the more than a million children who have died in Iraq from U.S.-imposed sanctions and war. Or the million African American people who died from lack of access to healthcare in the US over the last 10 years.

I will continue to expose your right-wing, anti-people politics until groups like your won't dare show their face on a college campus. Real freedom will come when soldiers in Iraq turn their guns on their superiors...

The college tried to defend Daly's nasty email as "free speech," but it was apparently pointed out to them that it might be a tad hypocritical to censure students who violate campus speech codes, while defending professors who threaten students that "groups like your [sic]" would be removed from campus entirely. Good for Warren County Community College for finally taking the steps to defend students from this kind of professorial misbehavior.

(Via Michelle, and others like SingleMind.Net, who notes that "...Daly is hardly a lone voice in academia.")

Posted by kswygert at 12:33 PM | Comments (12) | TrackBack

November 07, 2005

A professor fights back - against free speech for graduate students

On the one hand, any intelligent person should realize that anything they post on the web under their real name could be read by anyone, even those to whom the remarks/arguments were not addressed.

On the other hand, if I made a reasonable and rational set of statements, such as those made by Purdue University grad student Paul Deignan made in a thread about confirming Judge Alito, and the result was that another commenter decided to throw his educational weight around and contact my dissertation advisor with a great deal of defamatory words, I'd be pretty ticked.

You'll need to follow this link to read Paul's statements, because the site on which he posted decided, after nastily calling him names, to delete the whole thread. If that's what bitchPHD considers "trolling", I find it hard to understand how she functions in the real world, unless she's managed to create one where everyone worships her perfect little self. Here's hoping Paul's advisor will be smart enough to call everyone involved in this little brouhaha - except Paul himself - an idiot.

Dean's World calls the Professor Hettle "vicious and childish." My Vast Right Wing Conspiracy uses stronger language. Considering how quick Professor Hettle was to resort to insults, I hope he can take them as well. I also hope he's ready for the legal and verbal onslaught that's coming from Paul, who's a student of game theory and doesn't back down easily.

Posted by kswygert at 05:36 PM | Comments (15) | TrackBack

Bizarro World

I find it hard to believe that skipping school to protest is all that much fun when you have the permission of the grown-ups to do so. The professional protesters go to a lot of trouble to round up high school students, but - teenagers being teenagers - those who show up look bored and apathetic. Perhaps the real way to rebel these days is to ignore the moonbats and stay in school?

A Canadian high school cafeteria sees sales drop when healthy fare is on the menu. I'm wondering why they sell food at all if they let even the middle-schoolers leave campus at lunchtime.

Carlisle High School (PA) has discovered a magic wand that sniffs BAC from the air and transports students on a magic carpet straight from the dance floor to drug and alcohol counseling. Allegedly there are no "false positives" from this type of gadget, which would make it very different from every other alcohol test on the market.

Fort Lewis College (CO) students are living in the 70's. How long until 8-track tapes and vans with shag carpeting come back?

In the US, students who are caught cheating are often punished. Over in Russia, they get to brag that their innovative implements are now museum pieces. Women's panties with logarithms on them? That sounds less like a cheating tool and more like fetish gear for a lovesick mathematician.

Finally, do NOT miss the chance to see the photo of Victoria University students who reacted in ass-inine ways when university officials raised tuition fees (I love newspapers Down Under). Note to Victoria University council secretary Christine Turner: Hold the meetings in rooms above the first floor from now on. That won't completely stop the mooners, but it'll make it a bit tougher for them to plant their behinds so close to you. As for the students, it's hard to understand what they're getting for all that money if this was the most effective way they could think of to protest.

Posted by kswygert at 09:53 AM | Comments (11) | TrackBack

October 28, 2005

A fear of ghosts

The celebration of witches and skeletons and ghosts won't happen this year at a Massachusetts elementary school:

When students at Underwood Elementary School walk to their classrooms on Monday, there will be no witches, SpongeBob SquarePants, or Johnny Damons there to greet them.

The school's principal said yesterday he acceded to the complaints of a handful of parents who said that because the school's traditional Halloween celebrations offended their religious beliefs, they would not send their children to school if the revelry continued this year.

''Not everyone is going to agree with the decision, and I really understand that," said principal David Castelline, who last year grew a beard and dressed up as Johnny Damon. ''But I felt the goal was really important to make it a respectful and open and welcoming place for all members of our community."

I don't know if he's as calm about the situation as he sounds. Any principal willing to grow a beard for his costume sounds pretty committed to the ideals of Halloween.

But seriously, these sorts of things always amaze me. I'm surprised schools give in when parents threaten to keep children home. If parents are really that concerned about the holiday, then they should be allowed to work out a plan that will allow their child to stay home without falling behind. But to ban a holiday because a few people are offended does seem to open up the door for banning other holidays as well. And it seems very odd - and hypocritical - to me that schools would work so hard, in general, to promote diversity and open-mindedness, and not ask for parents and students to in general be tolerant of activities in which they choose not to participate.

Posted by kswygert at 11:27 AM | Comments (41) | TrackBack

October 11, 2005

Is an injury-free world possible?

Even school board members admit this is crazy, but they're tired of getting letters from lawyers before the ambulances even arrive:

Andrea Levin is grateful that Broward County schools care about her daughter's safety. But this year when they posted a sign that demanded "no running" on the playground, it seemed like overkill...

Broward's "Rules of the Playground" signs, bought from an equipment catalogue and displayed at all 137 elementary schools in the district, are just one of several steps taken to cut down on injuries and the lawsuits they inspire. "It's too tight around the equipment to be running," said Safety Director Jerry Graziose, the Broward County official who ordered the signs. "Our job was to try to control it."

How about swings or those hand-pulled merry-go-rounds?

"Nope. They've got moving parts. Moving parts on equipment is the number one cause of injury on the playgrounds."


"Nope. That's moving too."


"Well, I have to be careful about animals" turning them into litter boxes.

Cement crawl tubes?

"Vagrants. The longer they are, the higher possibility that a vagrant could stay in them. We have shorter ones now that are made out of plastic or fiberglass"...

"We could do a lot more if we didn't have to watch our back every single second," said Graziose, who has led a playground safety committee for 17 years. "We sometimes get a letter from the attorney before we even get an accident report from the school."

Posted by kswygert at 10:47 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

September 21, 2005

Seniority doesn't matter if you don't toe the PC line

This is one of the most appalling things I've ever read:

An unnamed Florida Congressman (or more likely their staff) took a letter from Orange County elementary school teacher Jan Hall and turned it over to a Spanish language newspaper. As her letter was filled with anti-immigrant rants from her perspective as a teacher at Sadler Elementary School, it ignited a firestorm which eventually lead to suspension, resignation, and now a lawsuit. You don't have to agree with Hall's opinions to be outraged that a piece of mail to a Congressional office would be deliberately leaked to a news organization solely to draw a massive amount of negative publicity to her private communication. You can read the whole sorted story at WorldNet Daily, or dive back into the history of the story via Google News.

I went to WND site and read quotes from the letter. From what I see, she's guilty of being politically incorrect and nothing more.

...I can truthfully say that Puerto Rican teachers at my school ask me continually for help with math, as they do not get but the equivalent of a fifth grade education in Puerto Rico. They almost always can do no algebra and rely on the system to get by.

I find that Haitian children are more aggressive in the classroom and have not been to school regularly. Their poor conduct is yet another real problem...

Please be sure to note an on-the-job injury that didn't stop Hall from teaching before:

The private letter, which apparently was leaked to the Spanish paper by a member of Congress, was roundly criticized, resulting in Hall's suspension without pay by the school district.

"She has been removed from Sadler Elementary and will not be returning to Sadler Elementary regardless of the outcome of the investigation," Orange County Schools spokesman Frank Kruppenbacher said, according to WKMG-TV in Orlando. "The letter was written by an employee of our district that contained information that does not reflect the views of this school district or its leadership. Nor is it condoned by this leadership."

Hall submitted her resignation on Aug. 30, saying, "I'm tired of fooling with them. I'm sure I can go to work in a private school in another county."

WKMG reported Hall had gotten high marks from principals over the years – she's been a teacher for nearly three decades – but some Hispanics in her classroom have complained about how they were treated. The district offered several options, including teaching homebound students, if she apologized and met with a psychiatrist...

Hall said she rejected the offers because officials did not address her key issue – investigating how a principal at Englewood Elementary handled her complaints when a student battered her in 2002 so badly she underwent reconstructive surgery.

Emphasis mine. Try, if you will, to imagine the public outcry that would erupt if a teacher who had been attacked on the job were fired after she wrote a letter spouting the Cindy Sheehan moonbattery to her Republican congressman and he leaked it to a newspaper. It would be on the news channels 24-7 if it were to happen, which it never will.

Despite all the nonsense I've read over the years about the political brainwashing that takes place in some schools of education, it's hard for me to believe this has happened. Hall has resigned and is suing the school district. Blogger Pat Campbell is asking some blunt questions, and I'll be amazed if he ever gets any answers.

Some very serious charges are raised in this letter including the fact that many teachers are not properly certified. The school district superintendent Ron Blocker refuses to respond when asked if there is any validity to these charges. Also, a crime may have been committed here. Theft of mail is a federal crime punishable by jail time. How did this private letter fall into the public domain.? Why did the newspaper El Nuevo Dia publish it without Jan Hall's permission?

Because someone hoped to gain by this. It will be interesting if we ever discover who that was.

Posted by kswygert at 07:16 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

September 09, 2005

No Child Left Bulky

Pennsylvania is now offering a useful indicator for parents who happen to be blind:

As they wait for their children's first report card to come home this year, elementary-school parents across Pennsylvania also can expect to receive a separate report on a key indicator of their children's health.

In an effort to combat childhood obesity, the state Health Department is requiring school nurses to compute students' body-mass index - or height-to-weight ratio - during annual growth screenings, starting this year with children in kindergarten through fourth grade.

Oh, wait - you mean this isn't just for blind parents? It's for all parents, because the PA Health Department is assuming that parents have no clue how wide their kids are compared to their height? The department is also assuming that parents will receive this report card, smack their foreheads in disbelief, and exclaim, "My God, I never noticed it before, but little Johnny is fat!" They're also assuming parents would never think of taking "little" Johnny to the doctor unless the report card said to do so.

Far be it from me to stop schools from trying to improve the health of students, but what are they going to do if parents ignore these notices? What happens if the kids come back even fatter next year?

Posted by kswygert at 08:18 PM | Comments (19) | TrackBack

August 10, 2005

The Misspelling Artist returns

Some of you might remember the ridiculous story of The Artist Who Couldn't Spell that was featured here last fall. In short, one California town who hired an artist - who was a former schoolteacher - to paint a mural discovered that while bright colors were included, correct spelling were optional. In fact, the artist in question demanded $6000 more to re-do the mural with the correct spellings of such relative unknowns as Einstein. If you haven't read the full story, I urge you to click on the link above.

Anyway, guess what? She got her six grand:

Make that “Shakespeare.” Miami artist Maria Alquilar, much maligned for 11 misspellings that popped up in the educational mural she designed for the Livermore public library last year, spent today under the hot sun correcting her mistakes. In addition to fixing the bard’s name, she changed “Eistein” to “Einstein,” “Gaugan” to “Gauguin” and more.

But Alquilar, who at first claimed artistic license and said she wasn’t going to return to fix the faux pas because people were being too mean about it, was giving no media interviews as she worked under a broad-brimmed straw hat and blue tent. She sliced and diced the tiles with power tools, protected from the public by a barrier.

She wagged her finger at a television cameraman and threatened to throw a rock at a print photographer.

“No pictures of me!” she yelled. “If I’m in it, I’m going to sue you.”

What a lovely person. At the original cost of $46,000, the mural was clearly overpriced, but at least now kids won't be confused about who "Gaugan" was.

(Via Instapundit.)

Posted by kswygert at 12:23 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

July 19, 2005

Defining failure away

A group of British teachers have discovered a way to keep all students from failing:

The word "fail" should be banned from use in classrooms and replaced with the phrase "deferred success" to avoid demoralising pupils, a group of teachers has proposed. Members of the Professional Association of Teachers (PAT) argue that telling pupils they have failed can put them off learning for life.

A spokesman for the group said it wanted to avoid labelling children. "We recognise that children do not necessarily achieve success first time," he said. "But I recognise that we can't just strike a word from the dictionary," he said.

You just know they really do want to strike that word from the dictionary, don't you?

This is related to the self-esteem tangent I went on, earlier; these teachers are utterly unable to conceive of children whose self-esteem might lie in non-academic pursuits. They're also unable to comprehend how children might understand that a "fail" grade in a course doesn't mean they're failures overall. These teachers are horrified of the word "fail" because they believe the self-esteem of a student will be - nay, should be - defined by academic labels; they believe that what they say to a student will trump all other sources of self-esteem.

What arrogance.

Update: Joanne, as always, summarizes things perfectly: "Some British teachers want to ban the word "fail" in classrooms, replacing it with 'deferred success'...How, um, deferred do they think their students are?"

That's right up there with the Fark commenter who suggested that being turned down for a job should be called "deferred employment."

Posted by kswygert at 10:20 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Schools and self-esteem

The Ebonics debate continues on the web, and Dangerous Dan's post opens with a general discussion of self-esteem:

One of the worst concepts of modern education is that it is the responsibility of schools to maximize their charges’ self-esteem. A youngster’s self-esteem is seen as all-important and so curriculum and policy get centered around it. Receiving an ‘F’ would be too harsh and detrimental to Johnny’s well-being, so he will get an ‘incomplete’ instead. Though Suzy’s work is inadequate and below average, she will get a B. Bobby can’t spell, but the teacher will coo at him about what a good effort he’s putting in, even if he’s putting in no effort at all.

Personally, I don’t give a damn about students’ self-esteem. The purpose of school isn’t to make one feel good about himself, it’s to educate him. I suppose self-esteem has a bearing insofar as the student shouldn’t be humiliated or purposely degraded, but no efforts should be made to falsely increase it either...You now have teenagers and young adults entering the work force and they’re shocked at just how little employers care about their individuality or self-perception and how preoccupied said employers are with their knowledge and performance.

I agree wholeheartedly, because this has been my experience teaching college classes. I would see the same phenomenon over and over again - a student would struggle, I would meet them after class, we would work on the material, the student would not improve, and then I would suggest that perhaps they drop the class and try again next year, and I would suggest that if they thought statistics was so hard, perhaps they should switch majors.

And then I would have to console them, because they would act convinced that I thought they were a bad, or stupid person for failing this course. And I always thought, where is this coming from? They don't love stats. They're free to leave, blow off the class, take the F, and switch their major to Art so it wouldn't matter (I basically did the same thing, in reverse). They're young adults who have hundreds of choices. Why do they care what the teacher thinks about them so much?

A-ha. They care because all this focus on self-esteem in schools may have created students who only think well of themselves when their teacher approves of what they do, and they're stunned when they meet one who is blunt and doesn't coddle them. Admittedly, my evidence is anecdotal, but it seems reasonable to assume that if the teacher spends all day saying nice things solely to boost self-esteem, then when that stream of compliments goes away, the shaky sense of self-worth might, too.

Posted by kswygert at 09:22 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

July 18, 2005

Ebonics rears its head (again)

As the UC system drops the PSAT/NMSQT like a hot potato, due to the performance of minority students, the San Bernardino school district floats the idea that the self-esteem of black children is dependent not on their academic achievements, but on their cultural identity, which means schools should affirm Ebonics. You may remember this controversy from 1997; now, it's back.

Incorporating Ebonics into a new school policy that targets black students, the lowest-achieving group in the San Bernardino City Unified School District, may provide students a more well-rounded curriculum, said a local sociologist.

The goal of the district's policy is to improve black students' academic performance by keeping them interested in school. Compared with other racial groups in the district, black students go to college the least and have the most dropouts and suspensions...

Mary Texeira, a sociology professor at Cal State San Bernardino, commended the San Bernardino Board of Education for approving the policy in June. Texeira suggested that including Ebonics in the program would be beneficial for students. Ebonics, a dialect of American English that is spoken by many blacks throughout the country, was recognized as a separate language in 1996 by the Oakland school board.

If Ebonics is all that's keeping them interested, what's going to happen when they enter the real world, where Ebonics won't be the accepted form of communication?

Len Cooper, who is coordinating the pilot program at the two city schools, said San Bernardino district officials do not plan to incorporate Ebonics into the program. "Because Ebonics can have a negative stigma, we're not focusing on that,' Cooper said. "We are affirming and recognizing Ebonics through supplemental reading books (for students).'

Emphasis mine. Imagine, if you will, any other controversial program or movement, for which a coordinator can say that negative stigma can be "ignored," while the idea that generates such stigma still deserves to be "affirmed." Scientology, neo-Nazism, flat-earth "science" - all of those things have a negative stigma, too, and no reporter with half a brain would let a coordinator get away with a "but we're avoiding the stigma by bringing it in through the back door" attitude. They shouldn't be doing so here, either.

As for the sociologist quoted in the article, she reveals herself to be veritable font of lunacy:

Texeira urged people not be quick to judge the new program as socially exclusive. She said people need to be open to the program. "Everybody has prejudices, but we must all learn to control that behavior,' Texeira said. She said a child's self confidence is tied to his or her cultural identity.

She compared the low performance of black students to starvation. "How can you be angry when you feed a family of starving children?'

1. If my self-esteem is tied to my cultural identity, don't I have to immerse myself in that culture? Won't I be thinking highly of myself because of my culture? Wouldn't it necessarily follow that I don't think as highly of other cultures? And won't my self-esteem be threatened by people who are not of that culture, or don't value that culture? This is a recipe for prejudice.

2. Any sociologist who dares refer to the problem of underfed children in the US at the same time that she is defending Ebonics as a path to self-esteem and educational achievement for black children should be laughed out of town, if not tarred and feathered first.

If you think my response is rough, you should see some of the other posts out there. That one's a satire, but it's ugly nonetheless - and you know that others along the same lines won't be meant to be funny. Bear To The Right comments, while ReidBlog notes that this program's only chance of actually being useful is if it is teaching educators to help children switch from Ebonics to English, as though they are second language learners. I found other research online that defends the acceptance of Ebonics in schools, but the gist of it seems to be, "Well, teaching them English won't solve all their problems anyway." True, but it doesn't follow from this that insisting English be spoken in schools will hurt minority children. An attitude such as "Why worry about Ebonics when schools don't have enough textbooks?" is missing the point.

Regardless, while the optimism about Ebonics merely being considered a second language is nice, I think bloggers like Reidblog should reread all that hooha quoted above about self-esteem and cultural identity. That doesn't sound like motivation for immersing children into English classes and away from Ebonics as soon as possible. Joanne notes this as well:

Ebonics is back in San Bernardino County, which is trying to raise the achievement of black students by...Well, it's not clear from the story what they're doing, but it seems to come down to the same old esteem boosting that's done nothing to help students in the past...

You'd think that would mean teaching English to these foreign language speakers, but apparently not...

Instead, Students Accumulating New Knowledge Optimizing Future Accomplishment Initiative (sankofa is a Ghanaian word that means remembering the past) will celebrate students' racial identity. The role of Ebonics is murky...An example would come in handy.

Beginning in the 2005-06 school year, teachers will receive training on black culture and customs. District curriculum will now include information on the historical, cultural and social impact of blacks in society. Although the program is aimed at black students, other students can choose to participate.

So the role of blacks in American society is going to be taught as a separate course, not an integral part of American history.

Remembering the past is all very well. Why not remember the failure rate of race-conscious school programs?

A good question.

Update: LaShawn Barber is not impressed. Ramblings Journal sounds beside himself. Resurrection Song believes this is a way to make black students feel like they're not really part of America. And Michelle predicts a Bill Cosby meltdown.

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June 27, 2005

Mama don't let your babies grow up to sing folk songs

Quick, what's the scariest monster you can think of? A vampire? A zombie? A werewolf?

Me, I think of over-earnest old hippies writing drippy songs for little kids who get picked on in school:

New York City...seems to prefer, in these post-Giuliani years, to be an avatar of positive reinforcement...Over the course of the next year, the Department of Education will introduce into all of its elementary and middle schools “Operation Respect: Don’t Laugh at Me,” an intensive curriculum in character development. The program, which is the brainchild and heart’s desire of Peter Yarrow, of Peter, Paul & Mary, aims to combat bullying by emphasizing the moral lessons of folk music.

“Don’t Laugh at Me” (or dlam) was born when Yarrow—a veteran of the civil-rights, gender-equality, nucleardisarmament, peace, and Amtrak-subsidization movements—heard a country ballad of that name at the Kerrville Folk Festival, in the summer of 1999. Moved to tears by its swelling harmonies and first-person testaments to the effects of ridicule—“I’m a little boy with glasses, the one they call a geek / A little girl who never smiles ’cause I’ve got braces on my teeth”—he decided to incorporate the tune into Peter, Paul & Mary’s repertoire.

At a gig with the National Association of Elementary School Principals, the group played the song. “The principals gave a tremendous response to it, and said, ‘We need this in our schools,’ ” Chic Dambach, Operation Respect’s president and C.E.O., said the other day. “And Peter, being the activist and the organizer that he is, said, ‘You won’t just have a song but a whole program.’ ” dlam is now used in at least twelve thousand American schools and camps.

Be sure to check out the assignments, as we learn how Magic Markers are useful for teaching people to “explore creating agreements around behaviors." Oh, if there are any parents of 14-year-old daughters among my Devoted Readers - be sure to let me know how you'd feel knowing that a man who was convicted of this in 1970 was designing these sorts of "educational" programs.

(Hat tip: Ace of Spades.)

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June 13, 2005

How 'bout, "The Elementary School From Another Universe"?

The Education Intelligence Agency tweaks the self-important twits of the Berkeley Unified School District:

On June 22, the school board of the Berkeley Unified School District will vote on whether to change the name of Jefferson Elementary School to Sequoia Elementary. "Debate over the name of the school has continued for more than two years after several teachers, including an African American mother of three former Jefferson students, said Jefferson's name offended them," reported the San Francisco Chronicle...

The people most involved with the school should be able to name it whatever they want, and it is on this basis that the school board will probably approve the name change. What is more disturbing is how uninformed the "people's collective sorrow" is – and I don't mean about Thomas Jefferson.

For a group so grimly determined to be outraged, one wonders why they chose to live in a city named Berkeley. The city was named after the philosopher and Anglican bishop George Berkeley (1685-1753), who purchased and worked slaves on his Rhode Island plantation.

Read on - it gets better. Human Events Online was on this story months ago; it would interesting to see if anyone voting in favor of the name change could list any of Jefferson's accomplishments mentioned by HEOnline. If this craze for doing away with names in such a knee-jerk, uninformed manner catches on anywhere outside Berzerkeley, the students of the Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology in Alexandria, VA, had better watch out.

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May 18, 2005

A hair-raising encounter

First schools harass kids who pass up test items, now they're banning certain hairstyles on test days:

The parents of a Norton fifth-grader demanded an apology after a school principal forced the 10-year-old boy to remove cornrow braids he'd put in his hair to copy his favorite Boston Red Sox pitcher. Zach Schwieger arrived at school Monday sporting a hairstyle modeled on that of Red Sox pitcher Bronson Arroyo, said his stepfather, Robert Alves. Arroyo no longer sports the braids but they were his trademark during last year's season when the Red Sox won the World Series. Principal Janice Pomerleau demanded that he go to the bathroom immediately and remove his braids, saying it would disrupt classmates as they prepared to take a standardized test. "It if wasn't test day, he would have kept it,'' Pomerleau said. Zach's parents said Norton's Henri A. Yelle School has no written policy banning specific hairstyles and that they would take the matter to court unless Pomerleau admits her mistake.

I don't think this is something worth going to court over - but neither do I think a funky hairstyle interferes with concentration. The hairstyle is butt-ugly, as far as I'm concerned, but I have a hard time believing that chaos would reign and test scores would plummet had the boy been allowed to keep his hair like this.

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May 09, 2005

The dumbing down of science education

The RightWingNuthouse has a lovely round-up of links relating to the dumbing down of science education in the name of multiculturalism and fundamentalism:

What is going on here? While the goals of the moonbats and idiotarians are different, the motivations behind the meddling in science curricula are similar; to bend science to fit a specific worldview. While it’s pretty easy to make fun of “monkey trials” and attempts to equate tribal shamans with medical doctors, the sad fact is that by fiddling with the way science is taught, our children are the ones who suffer the consequences.

RWN quotes liberally from the appalling Weekly Standard article, "A Textbook Case of Junk Science." There are misrepresentations, omissions, and disproportionate chunks of text...

Affirmative action for women and minorities is similarly pervasive in science textbooks, to absurd effect. Al Roker, the affable black NBC weatherman, is hailed as a great scientist in one book in the Discovery Works series. It is common to find Marie Curie given a picture and half a page of text, but her husband, Pierre, who shared a Nobel Prize with her, relegated to the role of supportive spouse. In the same series, Thomas Edison, inventor of the light bulb, is shown next to black scientist Lewis Latimer, who improved the light bulb by adding a carbon filament. Edison's picture is smaller.

Jews have been awarded 22 percent of all Nobel Prizes in science, but readers of Houghton Mifflin's fifth-grade textbooks won't get wind of that. Navajo physicist Fred Begay, however, merits half a page for his study of Navajo medicine. Albert Einstein isn't mentioned. Biologist Clifton Poodry has made no noteworthy scientific discoveries, but he was born on the Tonawanda Seneca Indian reservation, so his picture is shown in Glenco/McGraw-Hill's Life Science (2002), a middle-school biology textbook. The head of the Human Genome Project, Francis Collins, and Nobel Laureates James Watson, Maurice H.F. Wilkins, and Francis Crick aren't named.

...and then there are downright ludicrous falsities:

Several centuries ago, some "very light-skinned" people were shipwrecked on a tropical island. After "many years under the tropical sun," this light-skinned population became "dark-skinned," says Biology: The Study of Life, a high-school textbook published in 1998 by Prentice Hall, an imprint of Pearson Education.

"Downright bizarre," says Nina Jablonski, who holds the Irvine chair of anthropology at the California Academy of Sciences. Jablonski, an expert in the evolution of skin color, says it takes at least 15,000 years for skin color to evolve from black to white or vice versa. That sure is "many years." The suggestion that skin color can change in a few generations has no basis in science.

I'm not sure if I agree with RWN's Godwinizing of the argument, in which he suggests that, for example, purging the names of the three men who unlocked the secrets of DNA is remiscent of the Nazi drive to remove Jewish scientists from textbooks (and the world, for that matter). On the other hand, it's hard to understand what possibly could be the motive for leaving the names of those three men out of a biology textbook.

The WS article doesn't mention if the topic of DNA is avoided altogether, which seems impossible, or if the textbook merely jumps into the discussion of DNA without naming the men who made all the work in that area possible, which seems more likely. The textbook writers may have been determined to avoid spending too much time featuring "dead white males," but in the process they'll have helped create a cohort of culturally-illiterate students who will give blank stares when the name Francis Crick is mentioned.

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May 04, 2005

How many lite scientists does it take to change a light bulb?

The Telegraph is reporting on the new, better science that British youths will be required to study:

The science that all pupils study from the age of 14 is to focus more on "lifestyles", general knowledge and opinion and less on chemistry, biology and physics, says the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority. It published a "revised programme of study" that will govern the content of GCSE from 2006, to "ensure increased choice and flexibility for pupils so that they can study science relevant to the 21st century".

Instead of learning science, pupils will "learn about the way science and scientists work within society". They will "develop their ability to relate their understanding of science to their own and others' decisions about lifestyles", the QCA said...

Science content of the curriculum will be kept "lite".

Ken Boston, the QCA chief executive, said: "It is essential that the curriculum keeps pace with the changing world."

If the changing world is one that is scientifically illiterate, I'd say this'll work. I have to say, though, that unlike Ken Boston, I haven't been kept up nights obsessed with the thought that the UK was going down the tubes because its young citizens were too scientific, and not concerned enough with the softer sides of science.

What do you know? Some actual scientists have a problem with this new curriculum:

Rosemary Davies, from Save British Science, welcomed the fact that "communication issues and ethics" were on the curriculum but said: "It could well be seen as a soft option or a waste of time." Pupils might think that "all they have to do for homework is read a newspaper". She said ethical issues might be better taught in personal and social education classes than science lessons.

There's that proper British restraint for you. The Save British Science website is more blunt:

Fed up with low-paid, short-term contracts? Tired by the media portraying scientists as the baddies? Disappointed with the quality of science education? Annoyed by the government expecting more and more, while failing to provide the necessary resources?


And we're campaigning to change it all.

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May 03, 2005

Keeping parents out of sex ed

In Maryland, the Montgomery County Public Schools attempted to pilot a sex-ed program that barred parents from the classroom. It seems they've now reversed course on that controversial decision:

A Montgomery County Public Schools spokesman said yesterday that the district will not bar parents from sitting in on a sex-ed course that begins this week, and that they never intended to. "Parents of kids in those classes will be allowed [in]," said spokesman Brian Edwards, contradicting statements he made days before to The Washington Times. In a phone interview Friday, Mr. Edwards, who has been with the school district since November, said "no" when asked whether parents would be allowed to audit the sex-ed classes.

"When you're talking about a sensitive topic like this, and you're relying on the trust you've built up with your students, it's probably not advisable" to have parents in the class, he told The Times. Yesterday, however, the district's public relations chief reversed field, telling The Times and other local news organizations that parents would be barred only if their behavior was disruptive or disturbing to school operations...

The pilot class begins Thursday at Springbrook, Seneca Valley and Bethesda Chevy-Chase high schools, and White Oak Middle School. The course will begin testing at Tilden and Martin Luther King middle schools later this month. In November, the county school board voted unanimously to approve a tryout of the new curriculum.

The curriculum, which was slightly revised last month, defines one's sexual identity as including sex identity, which is "a person's internal sense of knowing whether he or she is male or female." The instruction also says, "Most experts in the field have concluded that sexual orientation is not a choice."

Also, households with same-sex parents are identified among nine types of families. Next to that listing, a new phrase has been inserted as instruction to teachers -- not students. It reads in parentheses: "This should not be interpreted as same-sex marriage."

Leaving aside the topics taught for a moment, why on earth would the school have thought they could get away with barring parents from auditing a sex-ed course, especially considering that the school district's official policy encourages classroom visits?

(Via Powerline.)

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April 25, 2005

I'm just suprised she didn't say, "under your lifestyle"

Reporter Linda Seebach sends this one along for the "You Can't Make This Stuff Up" file:

Seventh-grader Bailey Pierce, hand pressed against her heart, was reciting the Pledge of Allegiance when the voice over the intercom said something that stopped her cold. "One nation, under 'your belief system.' "

Bailey said that guidance counselor Margo Lucero substituted the phrase for "under God" while leading the morning pledge at Everitt Middle School on Wednesday...

"It was completely inappropriate," Jefferson County School District Superintendent Cindy Stevenson said. "We completely believe any teacher or student has the right to follow their individual conscience, however, when leading children, you adhere to the Pledge of Allegiance."

Lucero said she didn't intend to be offensive but rather wanted to mark the sixth anniversary of the Columbine High School slayings by evoking a sense of tolerance.

What about tolerance for the Pledge as it was originally written? Or about teaching children that, in the US, the "with liberty and justice for all" spirit applies even to those who leave out the "under God" part, so that the Pledge itself doesn't need to be changed to be more "tolerant"?

Update: I stand corrected (so stop filling up my comment section in correcting me, y'all). As originally written, the Pledge did not include the words, "under God." So I fall back on my second argument, that the liberty and justice for all part is still the most important, and introduce a third argument, which is that "your belief system" is just a goofy phrase.

Posted by kswygert at 10:37 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Drumming up trouble

Another school district misses the point of the First Amendment:

A New Britain High School drum major has enlisted the American Civil Liberties Union of Connecticut after he was disciplined for posting a profanity-laced entry in an online journal. Daniel Gostin, 18, a senior, was stripped of his drum major position, given an in-school suspension and barred from participating in music-related extracurricular activities and performances for the remainder of the year.

Lori Rifkin, an ACLU lawyer who represents Gostin, says the school's actions violate his free-speech rights. In a letter to schools Superintendent Doris Kurtz on Wednesday, she asked that Gostin be reinstated as drum major, his disciplinary record be expunged and that he resume participating in musical activities. The posting "contained no threats nor did it contain any other statements which would interfere with the ability of school administrators to maintain order and discipline at the school," Rifkin wrote.

A teenager rants on a personal webpage about aggravations with the school, and gets punished for it two months after the fact. Unbelievable.


Posted by kswygert at 10:31 AM | Comments (43) | TrackBack

April 20, 2005

Some students are more equal than others

I have to agree with Lee on this one - a school that wants to make sure that only certain student groups can wear political/sexual t-shirts is a school that is mightily confused about free speech:

A student-led effort to oppose homophobia at Homewood-Flossmoor High School may have backfired Tuesday when hundreds of students donned shirts with Christian and anti-gay slogans. Student activists who wore shirts emblazoned with the words "gay? fine by me" said they were outnumbered by peers wearing hateful messages and were targeted for harassment...

Students estimated more than 100 students wore anti-homophobia shirts, and more than 200 students wore shirts that listed "Crimes committed against God." The crimes included the elimination of school prayer and separation of church and state, but did not include anything about homosexuality.

Other male students wrote slogans on white T-shirts such as "I hate gay people" and "Gay? Not fine by me (unless you're a lesbian)" and "Gay? More chicks for me," students said.

The school's reaction? Three guesses, and the first two don't count:

Students...claimed teachers were reprimanded for distributing shirts with Christian messages...The event's organizers got permission Tuesday from the student council to recognize the school's gay support group as a club. Club status will allow the group to hold the T-shirt day next year without opposition, Norby said.

Everyone at school needs a lesson on the First Amendment (as it applies to freedom of speech and freedom of religion). Then the school should decide whether to honor everyone's right to their opinion (on a t-shirt), or no one's.

Oh, and they need to assign Animal Farm as required reading, too.

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April 14, 2005

Sending the wrong message

Illuminaria is appalled, and with good reason:

ROME, Georgia (AP) -- A high school is looking for a few good snitches. Using revenue from its candy and soda sales, Model High School plans to pay up to $100 for information about thefts and drug or gun possession on campus.

"It's not that we feel there are any problems here," said Principal Glenn White. "It's a proactive move for getting information that will help deter any sort of illegal activity." Under the new policy, a student would receive $10 for information about a theft on campus, $25 or $50 for information about drug possession, and $100 for information about gun possession or other serious felonies.

So let me get this straight. The school currently doesn't have a problem with guns, drugs, violence, etc. And yet the best way it can think of to spend the money from the soda machine is to encourage students to rat out other students who might have strayed? Illuminaria brings up two very real problems with this scenario:

Have you ever heard of a more awful idea? Police informants undertake a terrible risk of backlash. Is there any reason to think that there would not be any similar risk in setting up an informant program at a school? What happens when some kid gets put in the hospital for informing on some character? It’s not like the kid who gets informed on is necessarily going to jail, they’d still be able to easily retaliate.

In addition, there would most likely be a spate of false allegations that would take up the valuable time and effort of both administrators and students. What does the informant have to lose by making false allegations for revenge or profit?

There's yet another wrinkle to consider. When I was in high school, I would have considered myself honor-bound to report a serious crime. Drug possession I would have (and did) let slide, but I would have told a teacher if someone had had a gun. I would have drawn the line at a situation in which people could hurt someone other than themselves; I would have considered tattle-telling to be on one side of the line, but civic duty to be on the other, and I would have ratted out the kid with the gun out of a sense of responsibility and morality, not a sense of greed.

Adding money to the equation here is sending the message that monetary desire should drive these sorts of decisions, when it absolutely should not, and it also leaves the impression that kids who tell are doing so just to make some extra cash. I would have been furious back in the day had anyone suggested that I made the tough decision to tell on another student for money, and students should be just as furious about the suggestion now.

Update: Linked to Wizbang's 10 Spot trackbacks.

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April 11, 2005

College protestors hit a new low

This is absolutely appalling:

UC Santa Cruz junior Jonathan Perez dressed in a suit and tie Tuesday, hoping to impress company recruiters at the campus job fair. But more than 200 student anti-war protesters got there first, storming the Stevenson Event Center, shouting and banging on windows and demanding that military recruiters in the corner of the room leave.

The noisy sit-in ended after an hour of chaos and tension when military representatives vacated their posts. Student protesters hugged each other happily after administrators allowed them to hand out information on alternatives to military careers and agreed to a meeting to discuss future job fairs.

They're college students, and yet they're thrilled that they were able to deny others the opportunity to learn about military careers by hooting and hollering like a bunch of children. I take this as a tacit admission by them that these students aren't capable of arguing intelligently against the military or the war. This laughable, pretentious letter by a bunch of members of Students Against War doesn't convince me otherwise, because their message boils down to, "We don't care that we inconvenienced people or disrupted the job fair, because our concerns about the military are much more important than the needs or wants of the unlightened masses."

Know-nothing elitism at its finest, folks.

Update: Illuminaria's Voice has much, much more (and a spiffy new design for the site). You have to love a blogger who starts by saying, "I simply cannot express how absolutely disgusting I find this behavior," and then continues on for another good two paragraphs. She also invites readers to email the planners of this ridiculous stunt.

Posted by kswygert at 01:47 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

The color of failure, again

Oh Lord, this silly theory is making the rounds again (I've addressed it previously). Will we ever be free of the ridiculous "educational" idea that the color of an "A" or an "F" matters more than the learning behind them?

At Daniels Farm Elementary School in Trumbull, Conn., teachers are no longer grading papers in red ink. Parents complained that students get stressed out by red ink. Blue and other colors are now being used. Red has become so symbolic of negativity that some principals and teachers across the country are not touching it.

Joseph Foriska, the principal of Thaddeus Stevens Elementary School in Pittsburgh, Pa., has instructed his teachers to grade with colors with more "pleasant-feeling tones" so that their instructional messages do not come across as derogatory or demeaning.

Yet the one teacher interviewed at the end of the article says that she uses different colors because her kids are so used to red that they tune it out. So we're supposed to believe that red ink is both horribly traumatic and completely ignorable. Mm-hmm.

For the record, teachers should use whatever ink color they please. Principals should stay out of it. And there's a whole lot of psychic energy being wasted here by educators who should be worrying about much more important topics.

Posted by kswygert at 01:38 PM | Comments (10) | TrackBack

This year's theme: "Party Like It's 1899"

Good sense on campus in Louisiana? Or a violation of the Fourth Amendment?

Saturday night is Erath High's school prom, something many students have been looking forward to. But before they enter the gymnasium where the celebration is being held, they must pass a very important test, a breathalyzer. And while the theme of the prom is a surprise, the test is not.

School officials will insist that they will just be calling parents, not the police. That's some consolation, I guess, but I'm curious as to what the "drunk/not drunk" standard will be.

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March 29, 2005

She's not heavy, she's my teacher

As much as teachers complain about tests like the PRAXIS, I can't imagine what they'll say about this kind of assessment:

A state lawmaker has suggested Hawaii's public schoolteachers be forced to weigh in as part of the fight against obesity in students, KITV in Honolulu reported. [Hawai'i] State Rep. Rida Cabanilla introduced a resolution in the house requesting that the Board of Education establish an obesity database among public schoolteachers.

"You cannot keep a kid to a certain standard that you yourself is not willing to keep," Cabanilla said...The resolution calls for all public schoolteachers to weigh in every six months.

Not surprisingly, the union has already spoken:

The teachers union said it agrees that teachers are at the front line when it comes to the education and health of children, but it says the resolution is misguided. "I think at this point and time, the focus really needs to be on putting highly-qualified teachers in the classroom," Hawaii State Teachers Association President Roger Takabayashi said.

New catchphrase for the HSTA - "Highly-qualified teachers come in all sizes!"

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March 25, 2005

Missing the forest for the trees

Would you be upset if your child's elementary school was named after a former president who also owned slaves?

Parents, students and teachers at Berkeley's Thomas Jefferson Elementary School will soon vote on whether to rename their school because the nation's third president was a slave owner. The question of whether to rename the school has been debated for more than two years -- since several teachers, including an African American mother of three former Jefferson students, said Jefferson's moniker offended them and suggested a name change.

Found via Joanne, who also notes that California's graduation rate is at a low 71%, with only "about half of California's African American and Latino ninth-grade boys graduat[ing] from high school within four years." Doesn't that suggest that debating a school's name change for two years was a bit of waste of time and energy?

And I can't even deal with this - it makes my head hurt. I guess it's okay to be "imperfect" as long as you're PC about it.

Posted by kswygert at 03:28 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

March 23, 2005

Running amok at West Seattle High

At West Seattle High School, the organization Operation Support Our Troops provided three pro-military speakers for what they were told would be a balanced presentation of issues surrounding the war. Instead, they walked into the most moonbattish spectacle you could imagine:

Three invited pro-military speakers were shocked last Friday when they arrived for a West Seattle High student assembly to confront a theater stage strewn with figures costumed as Iraqi men, women and children splashed with blood. It was a warm-up for the "Iraq Awareness Assembly" so no students except the actual actors saw the skit before the military guests complained to principal Susan Derse and she put a stop to it. And here comes the crucial part: no teachers or advisers were on hand or evidently even aware of the content although that part is one of several things still under investigation...

For Nadine Gulit of Operation Support Our Troops, the spectacle was sickening. She had been asked by student organizers to provide three speakers and she delivered. "I was told there would be three on each side. No debates. No rebuttal," she said in the e-mail she fired off to members of the Seattle School Board. "At no time was I referred to a teacher nor did a teacher contact me. As I walked into the theater there was a young girl wearing a mask and crawling on the floor. And, over the loud speaker (someone) was denouncing our military, saying 'Americans are killing my family!' "

...With her speakers in tow, Gulit saw the bloodied figures on the floor. Stage right were students in orange Abu Ghraib-style prison jumpsuits, hoods over heads, pounding on plates with spoons. Next, a student dressed as a grieving Iraqi woman knelt near a bloody body while, over a microphone, a narrator wailed the story of civilians shot, kicked and beaten by American soldiers.

Not exactly the civil, balanced forum that Operation Support the Troops was led to expect. Matt Rosenberg lets fly:

Seattle's flailing, public schools are seeking to "stave off bankruptcy" of more than one kind. It's a disgrace that time best used for core subject mastery is squandered to advance an anti-American, anti-military political agenda. Please note that I am talking about the loaded, unbalanced depiction of our country's role, and our military's essence in Iraq; not the different, and entirely acceptable expression of opposition to the Iraq War. Both sides were in fact aired at the speaking forum, which continued as planned, after the principal pulled the plug on the stealth "performance art" planned for the event.

A post-forum writing assignment on the war would have been a good idea, as opposed to politicized theatrics beforehand. As the State Superintendent of Public Instruction reports, only one-third of the West Seattle High School 10th graders tested last school year could pass all three mandatory sections (reading, writing, math) of the Washington Assessment of Student Learning (WASL); which will be required for graduation as of 2008.

The seque from this disgrace to the low passing rates is a nice touch. Brian Crouch of Sound Politics has a follow-up that quotes in full a letter written to the the Seattle school board by Major Terry Thomas, USMC, who was present for the whole shebang. This paragraph says it all:

Within the auditorium, numerous adults appeared to have been supervising this behavior and children were literally running amok. What is going on in your classrooms and auditoriums? Who supervised this program? Who are these grown adults dressed as prisoners and performing such the attics on the stage of our public schools? Since when has it become Seattle School Board policy to take an official anti-troops position and declare returning combat veterans from Iraq such as myself as killers of innocent women and children as if this war were some sick sport. As an Iraq war veteran I am outraged by what I witnessed going on at West Seattle High School!

My only complaint is that Major Thomas should have put the words "grown adults" above in double-quotes, as any person who would have willingly participated in this type of outrageous ambush is neither a grown-up nor an adult.

(Everybody scooped me on this, because it happened last week while I was bogged down and getting sick, but here are a few more takes on it: Michelle Malkin, The Prickly Pear, and Hennessy's View, who actually has some emails from WSHS administrators.)

Update: Lots of comments over at LGF on this topic.

Posted by kswygert at 08:29 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 16, 2005

The un-diverse students have had enough

A speaker who was "passionate on the topic of diversity" left some students at a Catholic high school feeling, well, offended:

HADDON TOWNSHIP, N.J. -- Some white students at a South Jersey Catholic school walked out of classes Tuesday in protest over a speech by the New Jersey Secretary of State Regina Thomas. Tensions have been building up at Paul VI High School since Thomas' speech on racial justice last week.

Many students and faculty members walked out of the speech offended. They said that she lambasted one student for not knowing his black history and that she insinuated that the students were racist. "It's, like, really crazy right now. Teachers are just standing by the doors. Kids are trying to get out. Kids are in the hallway, they won't go to class," one female student said...

Many students said the racial problems began only after the secretary's speech. "I think she just started up a bunch of stuff and basically tried to start something," a student said. "There's an issue at every school, it's no more of an issue at this school than any other school," another student countered.

Thomas issued a statement Tuesday in which she said that she is passionate about the topic of diversity and wanted to raise the level of awareness. She said that she never meant to be personal or critical of the students or the school.

If she walked into the school and said that white-on-black racism was a problem, she should be honest about that and not hide behind mushy statements of "raising awareness" and "diversity." Racist acts are behaviors. If you accuse a bunch of students of racist behaviors, or if you accuse them of allowing those behaviors to happen, then you are criticizing those students. It's perfectly appropriate for those being criticized to walk out and tell you you're full of crap for assuming they're racist. And it's perfectly appropriate for others to criticize the secretary's commitment to racial peace if all she cares about is white-on-black racism.

Allegedly there's a backlash against black students in the school now. So much for "diversity."

The secretary isn't going to let the rest of us know what she said, either:

Secretary of State Regena L. Thomas said her March 7 presentation to 600 freshmen and sophomores at Paul VI High School in Haddonfield was not meant to belittle the predominantly white audience, as some have charged. "My purpose was to raise the level of awareness and discourse of these issues, and to leave an impact," Thomas said in a statement issued Tuesday. "It was never meant to be personal or critical of the students or school."

Thomas was not available to be interviewed Tuesday and a written copy of her remarks was not available, said her spokeswoman, Regina Wilder.

At least one attendee was quoted as saying that Thomas concluded her speech with the statement that she hoped she'd made some students angry. She got her wish.

Update: Far as I can tell, no transcript of the speech has been released. But I did find one website that alleges a quote from it:

I first heard about this last week, from a neighbor who's son attends SP6. Then I read the article today. And on the ride home, heard Dom Giordano talking about it. Now, from what I've heard of the tone and content of her remarks, they were out of place and out of line. Had a few things been reversed, like the skin color of the speaker, there would be calls for a head to roll. As it is, many parents have written the school expressing concern or even anger, over this speech. At least a few more, like my neighbor, are still stunned.

She's amazed that her son had to listen to this rant, and the implied message that white people are racists and the a black person can't get a fair shake. This, after she and her husband work 3 jobs between themselves, so they can afford our blue collar neighborhood and send their 2 children to nice schools. And what did one of the ranking members of our state's government tell their 14 year old son? You're black. The world is against you. The boys and girls, to your right and left, are racists. I don't need to know them or meet them. You can tell too, if you just look at that white skin.

Hube describes another outrageous comment by the secretary. La Shawn Barber also had a bit to say about this:

...Thomas had no business saying or implying that these white kids were racists, and her passion for the “topic of diversity” is a poor excuse for this grown woman’s behavior.

I hope more white students (Black ones, too!) get fed up with these bureaucratic “diversity” shills and stage similar walkouts. Don’t let anyone intimidate you into backing down from what you believe. Don’t sit there and swallow garbage, either. Stand up for yourself, be bold and don’t be afraid of the old “You’re a racist!” tripe.

Good for these students. I hope it happens more often.

I think the walking out is the most hopeful aspect of this whole debacle (that and the fact that the students are sticking up for themselves, and their school, in the press as well). It's appalling that Black History Month was followed by this sort of abuse and name-calling, rather than by a speech by someone who was genuinely interested in fostering education as well as racial harmony.

Posted by kswygert at 03:00 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

March 14, 2005

Even a have-not can pick his underwear up off the floor

Oh, this is just ridiculous. Please tell me this is satire.

After recent approval by Associate Dean of the College Thomas A. Dingman ’67, other members of the Dean’s office, and all 12 House Masters, a new student service is sweeping onto campus. Dormaid, founded by Michael E. Kopko ’07, is a cleaning service that allows students to avoid the perennial problem of dingy, smutty, questionably-habitable rooms. But as appealing as the thought of a perpetually tidy room may be, (independent of family visits), Dormaid could potentially mess up as many rooms as it cleans. By creating yet another differential between the haves and have-nots on campus, Dormaid threatens our student unity.

There are already plenty of services at Harvard that sharpen the differences between socioeconomic classes. Harvard Student Agency Cleaners, for example, lets some students pick up clean and neatly-folded clothes in crackling plastic bags. The less well-off among us, however, make semi-weekly journeys to the basement with bulging mesh laundry bags and quarters in hand...while class differences are a fact of life—yes, there are both rich and poor people at Harvard—there is no reason to exacerbate these differences further with a room-cleaning service.

Dorm life is one of the few common experiences left that all students, regardless of class or background, have to endure with a measure of equality. The egalitarian nature of dorm life helps to foster a sense of collegiate camaraderie, an unadulterated respect for peers; it generates a level playing field that encourages learning between people of all upbringings. A service like Dormaid can bring many levels of awkwardness into this picture. For example, do two people sharing a double split the cost? What if one wants the service and the other does not? What if one cannot afford it?

If this is not satire - and I'm 65% convinced that it is ("crackling plastic bags" seems like a giveaway) - I'm a tad surprised that the authors don't give Harvard students credit for the intelligence to figure out a solution to the question of "do two people sharing a double split the cost?" Are we supposed to believe that Tomorrow's Leaders would be stymied by a situation that your local community college grad would deal with in a skinny minute?

Hey, Harvard Men, if you want to expand your brains a bit - and get better chicks - either clean up your rooms yourselves or figure out a way to pay someone else to do it. Either way, the ladies will be more impressed by that than if you sit around in the clutter and pontificate that your pigsty is fostering "a sense of collegiate camaraderie."

Oh, and if this is satire - bravo. Every site I've seen linking to it is taking this high-minded diatribe seriously.

Posted by kswygert at 04:55 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

March 09, 2005

Some names are worse than others

In London, they're getting quite specific when combating bullying:

Teachers are warned today that words such as "slag" and "slut" lead to boys feeling superior to girls and make domestic violence seem more acceptable. The call comes as the Government and the National Union of Teachers launched a joint campaign to reduce assaults in the home. School staff will be encouraged to spot signs that pupils may be living with a violent parent and report their concerns. And they will also be urged to intervene if they hear sexist language used by pupils. The NUT lists unacceptable insults including "lezzie", "pro" and "your mum's a whore".

Boys should be challenged if they are heard directing such terms at girls. It is considered equally unacceptable for girls to aim such insults at one another. Teachers' leaders said such language is common in secondary schools and even among older children at primaries.

And what about girls calling boys names, or boys calling boys names? Is that now okay? Is that not considered bullying?

A leaflet circulated to schools says: "Sexist language and playground banter that seeks to legitimise violence against women should be challenged." An NUT spokeswoman said: "Words like these promote the attitude that females are lesser beings, and as lesser beings they can become the target of violence. It doesn't have to be physical violence to be mentally destroying. We need to nip that attitude in the bud and get kids to treat each other with respect."

I'll pass up the obvious joke about the teacher's union acronym, lest I be accused of encouraging violence against women. And the last sentence quoted here is correct; I just disagree with the specifics of going about it. I've written before about why I don't think that anti-bullying rules that single out certain groups, or require students to accept other students, are useful.

In this case, if teachers are worried about name-calling, a ban on that across the board is the only fair thing to do. All this discussion about domestic violence is interesting but may not be related to what's actually going on with bullying in schools; to say that teachers should be more concerned with "sexist" bullying terms is splitting hairs in a way that may not get to the root of the problem.

The Ankle-Biting Pundits have a more humorous take on the topic:

Now we sure don't promote kids using such language, but come on. Banning kids from insulting each other with sexist insults? They might as well try to stop the sun from rising in the east.

But the article gave us an idea. We'd like to hear from you on some of the funniest and best stories from your childhood playground, preferably those that invovled bullying or insults. Please use the Comments section to add your story. Yes, it's juvenile and idiotic - but no more so than the rules they're trying to set up over there. Oh, and can one of our Brit readers tell us what a "pro" is? I'm guessing it means a prostitute?

Posted by kswygert at 12:55 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

March 07, 2005

That's quite a welcome mat

Should I tell them I supported NCLB?

Ocean Haven: Nature friendly lodging on the beautiful Oregon Coast.

WE WELCOME DIVERSITY: Respecting the interdependence & diversity of all life....



NO VISITORS: We charge for all persons on premises, regardless of age or length of visit...

No Hummers, No RVs, No Bush Voters (due to his environmental destructive policies.)

Good thing I wasn't planning on staying there anytime soon, eh?

(Via Opinion Journal's Best of the Web.)

Posted by kswygert at 04:48 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

February 25, 2005

Ideological blinders at RIC

Joanne Jacobs correctly summarizes the attitudes of the educrats in the social work program at Rhode Island College: "Conform or get out."

A master's student in social work at Rhode Island College failed a course because he refused to lobby the legislature for liberal causes he didn't support, reports FIRE. Bill Felkner took Professor James Ryczek’s fall 2004 “Policy and Organizing” class, which required students to lobby for one of a list of causes, none of which Felkner supported.

The details (at FIRE's website) are atrocious:

Last fall, master’s student Bill Felkner received a failing grade after protesting a professor’s admitted bias in class and after writing an essay in connection with a lobbying assignment that dissented from that professor’s approved perspective. Felkner’s situation comes in the wake of RIC’s attempt to punish a professor for refusing to censor constitutionally protected speech...

Bill Felkner’s trouble with the RIC School of Social Work began in Professor James Ryczek’s fall 2004 “Policy and Organizing” class. When Felkner wrote an e-mail to the professor about what he felt was liberal ideological bias at the school, Professor Ryczek responded, “I revel in my biases,” and added, “I think anyone who consistently holds antithetical views to those that are espoused by the profession might ask themselves whether social work is the profession for them.” Ryczek suggested that if Felkner did not agree with the school’s political philosophy, he should consider leaving or finding another line of work. After Felkner made Ryczek’s comments public, the professor refused to communicate any further with him through e-mail.

RIC’s infringement of Felkner’s rights continued after Ryczek’s e-mail. In class, Ryczek assigned students to form groups to lobby the Rhode Island legislature for social welfare programs from an approved list. If a student could not find a suitable social welfare topic on the list, he or she could also lobby for gay marriage. Felkner did not support any of these programs or issues and asked Ryczek if he could instead lobby against one of them or for the Academic Bill of Rights. This request was refused.

Bill's own words are here:

Don't misunderstand. There are great professors at Rhode Island College, but in the School of Social Work (SSW), even the good ones practice political indoctrination. As one faculty member put it, "The SSW is not committed to balanced presentations, nor should we be." How does this loss of academic freedom affect Rhode Island? Besides robbing us of intellectual diversity that spawns creativity and knowledge, it does tangible damage to our economy and, more important, the poor.

One requirement of graduation is that we lobby the State House on social-justice issues. I selected the Education and Training bill, as it is the core of welfare reform, my career interest.

Welfare programs are employment- or education-focused, further defined by "strict" or "lenient" requirements. Rhode Island has a "lenient, education-focused" model, and the proposed legislation advocates greater leniency. Statistics provided by the school, backing this approach to welfare, seemed persuasive to me at first. However, I found the school's study inadequate, so I looked for more information...

When I told my professor that the research suggests that I advocate for "employment-focused" programs, I was told that this was a "perspective school," and they don't teach that perspective. If I lobby on this bill, I must advocate for the perspective mandated by the school.

Let's draw a straight line: The school teaches the "perspective"; graduates get jobs at the state Department of Human Services and the Poverty Institute; the DHS testifies (using Poverty Institute "research") to the State House on how well programs are doing. How can we blame politicians for developing ineffective programs when they are guided by biased testimony?

And please remember Thomas Wright. He was beaten to death, allegedly by foster parents deemed acceptable by this same "perspective." A girl, pregnant at 16, dropped out of high school, had a second child on welfare, and is now 21. Your taxes paid her to be a proper "role model" for Thomas.

When you look at only one point of view, you never know if you are right or wrong. You just continue to think you are right (until someone gets killed).

Posted by kswygert at 12:07 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

February 21, 2005

Dashing their spirits

On the one hand, teachers should be applauded when they assign meaningful writing assignments, such as writing letters to elected officials or military members. On the other hand, when teachers don't bother to teach children what the proper time and place is for positive vs. negative communication, the results can be ugly:

Pfc. Rob Jacobs of New Jersey said he was initially ecstatic to get a package of letters from sixth-graders at JHS 51 in Park Slope last month at his base 10 miles from the North Korea border. That changed when he opened the envelope and found missives strewn with politically charged rhetoric, vicious accusations and demoralizing predictions that only a handful of soldiers would leave the Iraq war alive.

"It's hard enough for soldiers to deal with being away from their families, they don't need to be getting letters like this," Jacobs, 20, said in a phone interview from his base at Camp Casey...

Most of the 21 letters Jacobs provided to The Post mentioned some support for the armed forces, if not the Iraq war, and thanked him for his service. But nine of the students made clear their distaste for the president or the war. The letters were written as a social-studies assignment.

The JHS 51 teacher, Alex Kunhardt, did not return phone calls, but the school principal, Xavier Costello, responded with a statement: "While we would never censor anything that our children write, we sincerely apologize for forwarding letters that were in any way inappropriate to Pfc. Jacobs."

Ah, I see. Educating children to be polite to letters to servicemen, and to avoid rash charges of murder and mayhem in unsolicited written communication, would be "censorship." Got it.

Wizbang is equally unimpressed, and notes that the teacher is obviously guilty of failing to teach geography as well:

Jacobs was stationed in South Korea, far away from Iraq. Even though Jacobs was not in Iraq, why did the teacher allow these letters to be sent? Aren't teachers supposed to be the responsible adults in the classroom, is it too much to ask that the use a little common sense?

Update: Commenter LC ima mommy has the following:

The soldier in the article is my little brother, and my family appreciates you taking the time to write in support of him. There will be a follow up in the Post tomorrow, and my dad will be on Hannity and Colmes to discuss the issue...

The followup is here (thanks, KimJ!):

The city Department of Education, red-faced over Brooklyn sixth-graders who slammed a GI with demoralizing anti-Iraq-war letters as part of a school assignment, will send the 20-year-old private a letter of apology today. Deputy Schools Chancellor Carmen Farina, who has a nephew serving in Iraq, plans to personally contact Pfc. Rob Jacobs and his family, said department spokeswoman Michele McManus Higgins...

The GI got the ranting missives last month from pint-sized pen pals at JHS 51 in Park Slope. Filled with political diatribes, the letters — excerpts of which were printed in yesterday's Post — predicted GIs would die by the tens of thousands, accused soldiers of killing Iraqi civilians and bashed President Bush.

Teacher Alex Kunhardt had his students write Jacobs as part of a social-studies assignment. He declined to comment yesterday on whether he read the rants before passing them along, but said he planned to contact Jacobs soon to explain the situation.

In an accompanying letter to Jacobs, Kunhardt had written that the students "come from a variety of backgrounds and political beliefs, but unanimously support the bravery and sacrifice of American soldiers around the world."

"Support" was not the word that came to Jacobs' mind when he read the letters.

The understatement of the year, given the dire predictions and statements in the letters. If one were feeling charitable, one could assume that the teacher didn't read the letters (I suppose that would have been "censorship"), and conclude that the teacher in question is guilty only of failing to teach the students to be kind.

Others are not feeling so charitable today:

What a freaking joke. Are we supposed to believe that no teacher even read these letters before sending them out? They knew damned well what was in there and chose to send the package anyway. The children may have even been coached to write this garbage. It’s disgusting, and it’s more than a little frightening for the future to think that children’s opinions are being shaped by the kind of anti-American nutjobs who can read a letter predicting death and defeat for our troops and see nothing wrong.

Even though I'm in a charitable mood, I find it hard to believe that sixth-graders naturally came by the rants about killing innocent people and only 100 soldiers surviving the war.

Wizbang has a follow-up in which a blogger from the planet Bizarro thinks that all of us outraged by this story are just "Republican attack hamsters" who are picking on poor defenseless sixth-graders. But then he goes on to say:

The kid has an excuse for being stupid---he or she is eleven years old.

It seems to have escaped this blogger's notice that everyone else linking to this story is criticizing the teacher, not the kids, for allowing this to happen, and this "enlightened" blogger is the only one I've seen who calls the kids "stupid." Who, exactly, is picking on the kids, again?

Update #2: One of LGF's commenters notes that the middle school in question, JHS 51 in Park Slope, is a feeder school for the Acorn High School for Social Justice:

The ACORN High School for Social Justice created by a resolution of the Board of Education on June 24, 1999 opened its doors to students for the first time in September of 1999. The school offers an opportunity for students to engage in a comprehensive academic program and to participate in citywide campaigns dealing with issues of social injustice which affect the Bushwick Community and the larger Brooklyn community. ACORN High School for Social Justice's mixture of academic and community involvement helps the students to become lifelong learners.

Fascinatingly, Acorn students show a higher number-per-thousand of the students involved in police department incidents than students at similar schools or city schools, at least for the "non-criminal" incidents. Guess the school does a good job of preparing students to be arrested at protests.

Posted by kswygert at 01:08 PM | Comments (18) | TrackBack

February 17, 2005

When reality and satire overlap

The Onion is a popular publication in my household, namely for its ability to recognize the cruel realities of everyday life, and push them about 10 steps further:

Teach For America, a national program that recruits recent college graduates to teach in low-income rural and urban communities, has devoured another ethnic-studies major, 24-year-old Andy Cuellen reported Tuesday...Just one of the 12,000 young people TFA has burned through since 1990, Cuellen was given five weeks of training the summer before he took over a classroom at P.S. 83 in the South Bronx last September.

"I walked into that school actually thinking I could make a difference," said Cuellen, who taught an overflowing class of disadvantaged 8-year-olds. "It was trial by fire. But after five months spent in a stuffy, dark room where the chalkboard fell off the wall every two days, corralling screaming kids into broken desks, I'm burnt to a crisp"...

According to Dartmouth literature, as a member of the ethnic-studies department, Cuellen learned "to empower students of color to move beyond being objects of study toward being subjects of their own social realities, with voices of their own."

Teach For America executive director Theo Anderson called ethnic-studies departments "a prime source of fodder."

"Oh, I'd say we burn through a hundred or so ethnic-studies majors each year," said Anderson, pointing to a series of charts showing the college-major breakdown of TFA corps members. "They tend to last a little longer than women's studies majors and art-therapy students, but Cuellen got mashed to a pulp pretty quickly...

Giggle. Best "quote": "No one can tell you that you can't make a difference. It's something you have to figure out for yourself."

(Via Joanne Jacobs.)

Posted by kswygert at 02:11 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

No snowmen for you!

From Devoted Reader Erica comes this handout on playground safety, given to her daughter by her elementary school's gym teacher. I've removed all the identifying information - what's left is a perfect example of a school district that is afraid to let students do anything imaginative on the playground:


I should write this school and tell them that one of the ways my fiance won my heart was by showing me a trick he perfected in elementary school - a back-flip dismount off a swing. At age 31, he can still do it, which impressed the heck out of me.

Posted by kswygert at 11:54 AM | Comments (27) | TrackBack

February 11, 2005

Will "adult" words be used in this bee?

When our educational system favors preserving "self-esteem" over anything else, is it a surprise that even highly-educated adults are afraid to face spelling bees alone?

"I have nothing to gain. And everything to lose," Brett Barker said with a moan Tuesday afternoon. The assistant professor of history at the University of Wisconsin Marathon County was contemplating his participation in the Marathon County Literacy Council's Adult Spelling Bee.

The spelling bee will be held from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. on March 5 at Wausau East High School. The proceeds from the fund-raiser will be used by the Literacy Council to train more tutors and buy more resource materials to help people across the county learn to read and write...

So Barker knows he's putting his intellectual reputation on the line for a good cause. He also knows that the event is going to be fun. But still, it wouldn't look good for a history professor to go down in the first round with a word such as "colonial." Solsrud said spelling bee organizers understand the risks to the participants, so they softened the traditional competition by allowing teams of three people to compete together and consult with one another.

"Fun is the operative word," Solsrud said...

OK, I'm kidding when I rag on these guys, because I understand that with adults, even if spelling skills are exemplary, memory may not be. Also, the purpose of this is not to win a prize, but raise funds. But am I the only one who thinks this will look awfully weird to those kids who complete in bees without any "consulting" help?

Posted by kswygert at 05:16 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

February 06, 2005

A lesson with wings, but little weight

An interpretive dance teacher is let loose among innocent schoolchildren:

Berkelely performance artist Patricia Bulitt was ready to give an Oakland elemantary school class an hour that was strictly for the birds. Specifically, it was for the local birds, a tribute to the winged denizens that inhabit nearby watersheds, from stately herons to common pigeons...

The children first listened to a story about a pair of birds, the ill-fated Hector and his mate, Helen, residents of the Lake Merritt watershed. It was a classic Greek tragedy -- Hector got tangled up with carelessly discarded fishing line and perished. The class then used felt-tip pens to write their thoughts on little shirts and dresses from the Goodwill Store.

And then the dancing began. Picking a cloth partner, the children fluttered four at a time as Bulitt recited their written words in a sing-song manner, which was repeated by the kids who were not dancing:

"Dear Hec-tor," sang Bulitt.

"Dear Hec-tor," echoed the class.

"I'm sor-ry."

"I'm sor-ry."

"That you got stuck in the fish-ing line."

"That you got stuck in the fish-ing line."

"When you died."

"When you died."

"From, Ja-cob."

"From, Ja-cob."

The class, initially shy, warmed up quickly and soon nearly everyone was vying for a chance to do a shirt dance...

"To children, the notion of the shirt or dress is like feathers," Bulitt said. "Clothes hold memories, and they can write something down and leave it behind for the birds."

Eric at Classical Values is unimpressed: my local Berkeley Gazette, there's a picture of the artist flapping about in front of the kids -- and a boy in the picture does not appear terribly interested in "environmental performing art." No wonder they have to resort to Ritalin!

I guess I should be glad I don't have kids. Otherwise, I might have to spend my time Googling for stories about "Hector" and "Helen" at Lake Merritt. I found an actual account of the tragedy:

....two white pelicans, Hector and Helen, and seven other half-growns, were brought to the refuge from Pyramid Lake courtesy of the Fish and Wildlife Department. The two were picked to remain at the lake through a partial pinioning that kept them from full flight. Although the others eventually flew away, H & H remained behind to delight thousands of people through the years with photographic beauty and comical antics...a noble sacrifice that they seemingly enjoyed. They were fed three pounds of smelt every day, plus scooping up some lake herring on the side, too! Hector became tangled in a rope and drowned in the mid-1980's, but Helen lived on alone for ten years, escorting wild visiting white pelicans around the lake, and she was often courted by a white mute swan that mysteriously appeared off and on.
Captive bird tangled on a rope, huh?

So what's with the the "fish-ing line" line?

I don't know, but the artist also dances with trout. (The latter was a performance for "Culvert Action II" -- a precursor to an ongoing (if economically chaotic) program to "daylight" a creek which runs through downtown Berkeley.) Daylighting creeks is a deadly serious business (and I don't think hunting and fishing is on the agenda)...

...I'm not a little boy. As I've said before, boys prefer toy guns. And I think they'd rather go fishing for trout than dancing with them.

Under the circumstances, who wouldn't need Ritalin?

The school which brought in the performance artist was Montclair Elementary, which seems to have a good reputation - and a strong PTA. API's not bad, either. Let's hope all the fluttering and flapping doesn't get in the way of the real education at the school.

Posted by kswygert at 04:45 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 31, 2005

A swing and a miss

Reader BBeeman sent a link my way about a pretty horrifying example of one university's opposition to free speech. It seems that LeMoyne College has rescinded their acceptance of a masters-level student in education for a paper that he wrote. No, it wasn't plagiarized - it just expressed a viewpoint with which they disagreed (free reg required):

LeMoyne College expelled Scott McConnell, a student from its Masters of Education program, for writing a paper in which he advocated the use of corporal punishment in schools, he said. The paper, written for a class on classroom management, originally earned McConnell an A-. However, when he attempted to enroll in classes for the spring semester, he found he couldn't.

"LeMoyne doesn't believe students should be able to express their own views," McConnell said. "If you differ from our philosophical ideal you will be expelled from our college."

McConnell, who hopes to become an elementary school teacher, was informed last Tuesday that he couldn't continue at the school. "LeMoyne has handled the situation poorly," he said.

McConnell was raised in Oklahoma, where corporal punishment was used when he was a student, he said. In the fourth grade he was paddled by a teacher for being unruly.

"It worked. I never talked out of turn again," he said.

Let's count all the things wrong with this story, if in fact it is accurate:

(1) Arguing for corporal punishment in the classroom - not putting it into practice, just reporting that it might be useful (and legal in 22 states, if not in New York), presumably in the context of a research paper - is grounds for expulsion.

(2) The punishment for making such an argument isn't made clear in advance, otherwise it's doubtful that McConnell would have written the paper.

(3) The punishment for such an argument is not in fact even clear to the faculty, or the paper would not have originally garnered an A-.

The mysteries remain. When did paddlings in school become not only wrong, but evil, with those who dare even think about it cast out from the crowd? Who made the decision to expel McConnell? What other transgressions of thought are unacceptable at LeMoyne? If you ask me, McConnell should put the paper on the web and let the rest of us read it. I'm not a fan of corporal punishment, but I'd really like to see if it's a well-done paper that addresses the multitude of anti-corporal-punishment research that's out there. I can't find anything else out about this story via Google, so if you know of any related links, let me know.

Update: Incorrect references to Syracuse U fixed. The Education Wonks also have a roundup of other responses to this story. Captain's Quarters notes that LeMoyne is a Catholic college that follows the Jesuit tradition and found this additional news article that has much more about the decision to refuse McConnell and the details in his paper:

Dr. Cathy Leogrande, director of the Graduate Education Program, told McConnell in the letter that she had reviewed his grades and talked to his professors. "I have grave concerns regarding the mismatch between your personal beliefs regarding teaching and learning and the Le Moyne College program goals," leading to the decision not to admit him, Leogrande wrote...

[McConnell] said he's also been trying to find out what Leogrande meant by "mismatch." College administrators have told him, he said, that it stems from the four-page "Classroom Management Plan" he submitted Nov. 2 for his Planning, Assessing and Managing Inclusive Classrooms class.

In the opening paragraph of his essay, McConnell wrote: "I do not feel that multicultural education has a philosophical place or standing in an American classroom, especially one that I will teach. I also feel that corporal punishment has a place in the classroom and should be implemented when needed." He got an A for the course.

In general terms, he said, the college's teacher training includes evaluating students' teaching philosophy and approach and the way they follow state guidelines. It also looks at how the student adheres to Le Moyne's mission, he said, "one of a caring community, one that strives for diversity."

Hoo boy. So McConnell didn't fit in because he refused to toe the diversity line, eh? Interesting, because one of CQ's commenters notes that the college's mission also says that "every student needs to grow as an independent learner." Just not too independent, I suppose.

To be honest, it doesn't look like LeMoyne would have been a good match for him, not if they're unwilling to tolerate any discussion of the "diversity" principle.

McConnell said he knew he was stating a view that contradicted the curriculum when he wrote his paper. The essay stresses "strong discipline, hard work," teaching respect for adults and heavy parental involvement. Students would have basic rights in his classroom, and individual needs and abilities would be dealt with as they appear, he wrote. But all children are special, and none should get special rights, he said...

Rewards and praise would be used to build a strong work ethic. Rule breakers would have to write rules 100 times and apologize in writing to teacher and classmates. More consistent troublemakers also may get their parents called and be isolated from all but instructional activities. "The classroom environment would revolve strictly around the American culture and the state culture, not multicultural learning," he wrote. He defined multicultural learning in an interview as the notion that a student's native culture should take precedence over American culture.

Sounds like an edublogger to me.

The part that interests me is - had LeMoyne left out the more controversial aspect of corporal punishment, would he still have gotten booted out? I think he might have. In that case, the school's rigid adherence to politically-correct ideologically would have been even more evident. However, thanks to the paddling aspect, any public debate on this story will probably focus more on McConnell's alleged "pro-violent" beliefs than on the school's insistence on conformity of vision.

The Captain:

This shows that far from striving to provide students the ability to debate and discuss all points of view, colleges and their administrations have developed a thought police of almost Orwellian proportions to defend their last bastion of Utopian thought.

Posted by kswygert at 08:20 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Some high school students express opinion that the government should control their opinions

This is pretty frightening:

One in three U.S. high school students say the press ought to be more restricted, and even more say the government should approve newspaper stories before readers see them, according to a survey being released today. The survey of 112,003 students finds that 36% believe newspapers should get "government approval" of stories before publishing; 51% say they should be able to publish freely; 13% have no opinion.

Asked whether the press enjoys "too much freedom," not enough or about the right amount, 32% say "too much," and 37% say it has the right amount. Ten percent say it has too little.

The survey of First Amendment rights was commissioned by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and conducted last spring by the University of Connecticut. It also questioned 327 principals and 7,889 teachers. The survey "confirms what a lot of people who are interested in this area have known for a long time"...Kids aren't learning enough about the First Amendment in history, civics or English classes.

Yes, but don't these kids read blogs? If nothing else, the blogosphere is about as fine a lesson in free speech as one can get. Or even LiveJournal.

I'm being facetious, of course, but only partially. What's more, it's very hard to believe that mere ignorance of the particulars of the First Amendment leads to not only the assumption that the government can interfere with journalism, but that it should. That second assumption smacks more to me of a an overfamiliarity with speech codes and politcally-correct educrats who spend far too much time demonizing those who don't the party lines.

Editor and Publisher also covered this story:

The study also revealed that the more students were exposed to First Amendment and new media courses in the classroom, the more involved they were in student journalism. For example, among those students who had taken First Amendment or other press-related courses, 87% believed people should be allowed to express unpopular opinions, while only 68% of those who had not taken such classes shared the belief.

Again, I say: Blogs. The wave of the future. Hope HTML programming is included in those student journalism classes; if it isn't, students should branch out from the "school newspaper" model. One of the reasons those newspapers might be biting the dust in such numbers is because many people, young or old, get their news from alternative sources nowadays.

Posted by kswygert at 05:06 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

January 28, 2005

Learning a valuable lesson

Remember the hapless yet litigious Wisconsin student that I mentioned last week? The one who is suing over having had to do homework assignments over the summer for an (honors, elective) course in the fall?

Well, he may not have learned any pre-calculus last summer, but he's learning a valuable lesson now:

On Thursday, Wisconsin Attorney General Peggy Lautenschlager released the state's reply in which she asked the court not only to dismiss the suit but suggested Larson and his father may need their knuckles rapped for bringing a no-merit lawsuit.

Her filing in county court in Milwaukee said the state had "no authority to implement any policy regarding course assignments" and that local school districts had the power to abolish summer vacation completely and hold classes all year long.

She also said that because the Larsons had been advised of the same thing informally beforehand, and sued anyway, the state schools superintendent "should be reimbursed for costs and attorney fees incurred in responding to the ... unmeritorious complaint," to be assessed against the Larsons.

That lesson being: The squeaky wheel might get the grease, but the tallest blade of grass often gets cut first. Will Larson win and be hailed a hero by his fellow students? Or will he be spending even more time working outside of school to pay the court costs? Be interesting to see what ruling the court hands down.

Posted by kswygert at 06:52 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

January 21, 2005

Teachers who don't teach - the next radical "education" idea

UK comprehensive school St. John's has apparently decided to abdicate most of its responsibilities and put the pressure for teaching students completely on the parents:

All 12-year-olds at a comprehensive will be told today that homework is being scrapped because teachers have better things to do than mark it.

Dr Patrick Hazlewood, the head teacher of St John's in Marlborough, Wilts, who has already scrapped subject teaching, will not put it quite like that, of course. He will tell them that, to make their schooling more "relevant to life in the 21st century", they are to be given responsibility for "managing their own learning".

Parents, who were told on Monday, are confused because, according to school policy, "regular homework is an essential element of learning and contributes to the development of sound study habits". They are also asked to say if they think their child has been given too little.

St John's sees itself as at the forefront of radical educational change and Dr Hazlewood is testing a futuristic project devised by the Royal Society for the Arts which rejects the notion that a teacher's job is to transmit a body of knowledge to pupils.

The project aims instead to encourage pupils to "love learning for its own sake" and the project is intended to replace the "information-led, subject-driven" national curriculum with one based on "competences for learning, citizenship, relating to people, managing situations and managing information".

The point of schooling, the RSA says, is to acquire competence not subject knowledge. It believes that exams only impede pupils' progress.

Hoo boy. It's hard to imagine a more complete stew of inane "educational" theories. I'd say it's amusing to contemplate how St. John's will teach students to "manage information" when they're retreating from an "information-led" curriculum, but I imagine the parents of kids there don't think it's very funny. And it's absolutely horrifying to realize that a group of "educators" consider themselves radical, futuristic, and ground-breaking because they've trashed "the notion that a teacher's job is to transmit a body of knowledge to pupils."

I'm sure the kids are thrilled, though. No subjects, no homework, and they get to grade each others' work! All in the interest of giving students "responsibility" for their own learning, and in forcing parents to teach their children.

Captain Ed has the right response:

...what St. John's proposes is to switch places with the parents. St. John's said that teaching the national curriculum "grinds teachers into the ground," but what good are the schools if they don't teach any specific subjects? They want to teach values and how to get along with others in the sandbox while parents have to force their children to follow a curriculum in the hope that they won't give up like their teachers did.

I have a better idea for the parents of St. John's pupils. Pull them out of the school entirely and home-school them. The administration of St. John's proposes to transform itself into a day-care center for adolescents instead of an educational facility, a pointless exercise except for indoctrination. Parents will find it no more difficult to school their children directly and honestly, and this way they don't have to expose their kids to St. John's surrender ethics.

Update: Uh-oh, now the American students are getting ideas. And silly ideas, at that. How big of wanker do you have to be to bitch about summer homework for a presumably-voluntary honors pre-calculus class? Presumably, this kid knew that the fall class required summer homework when he signed up for it.

And do you even deserve to take the class when three "complex" assignments over the summer push you to the point of litigation?

The teacher gave Larson and his classmates three complex math assignments to do over the summer. Larson said it just wasn't right to get such difficult work over the summer. 'I had no energy at the end of the day to actually do it during my week. I only had one day off each week when I actually came home, and I could not do it then because I was catching up on sleep or just enjoying myself because that's what I should be able to do during the summer,' Larson said.

Excuse me, I just rolled my eyes so hard that I lost a contact lens.

Posted by kswygert at 09:36 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

January 19, 2005

Will colleges ask for BMI GPAs?

You know, I hear a lot of complaints from educators about standardized exams and how they "reduce children to a number." The idea of computing one score, one result, one piece of data, and attaching that to a student as a measure carrying consequences fills them with horror.

Not surprisingly, I think they'll also react negatively to the idea of reducing a child to a BMI:

Texas school districts would be required to include the body mass index of students as part of their regular report cards under a bill introduced Tuesday by a lawmaker seeking to link healthy minds with healthy bodies. When the measurement, which calculates body fat based on height and weight, indicates a student is overweight, the school would provide parents with information about links between increased body fat and health problems, said Democratic state Sen. Leticia Van de Putte.

More than a third of school-age children in Texas are overweight or obese, according to the Texas Department of Agriculture.

Eric Allen, a spokesman for the Association for Texas Professional Educators, said most parents don't need to be told their child is overweight. "It doesn't have a place on a report card," he said.

This article contains quotes from the senator which will frighten the pants off of every libertarian and small-government supporter:

"We should be just as concerned with students' physical health and performance as we are with their academic performance," said Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, D-San Antonio.

"Just as concerned"? Let's see, what usually happens when the government decides to become "concerned" about something? Fines, fees, regulations, red tape....if teachers and parents are having a hard enough time dealing with NCLB, what's it going to be like when No Child Fattened Up gets implemented?

Please, Sen. Van de Putte. We have a hard enough time getting schools to focus on things that should be on report cards (reading, writing, 'rithmatic). Sure, send all the health information home to parents (or teach it during health class), but it's hard to imagine the rationale for preserving for all eternity one's BMI during elementary school.

Posted by kswygert at 03:02 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

January 18, 2005

Making math more complicated than it needs to be

Tom Mountain of the Newton Tab believes he's uncovered the reason for the sudden drop in local MCAS math scores:

The school department was recently forced to publicly admit that the sixth-grade MCAS math scores have steadily declined over the past three years to the point where 32 percent of sixth-graders are now in the "warning" or "needs improvement" category. This means that if we were to attach a letter grade to these sixth-grade MCAS math results it would be a D-plus, with only 68 percent of the students passing...

Since the school department has neither an explanation nor a solution to the problem, and since it's likely that these same highly paid administrators will still be in their positions overseeing this problem for which they have neither an explanation nor a solution, there is every reason to assume that this downward trend will continue....why have the sixth-grade MCAS scores plummeted in just three years? What mitigating circumstances, such as demographic or economic factors, could have contributed to this downward spiral?

Since Newton has been curiously alone in this decline, surely we can't blame the MCAS itself, especially since the test has hardly changed in just three years. The demographics of the city haven't shifted in so short a period. The socioeconomic level of the population has risen steadily. The school budget has dramatically increased...

The only logical and remaining explanation is change that occurred in the Newton math curriculum itself...In short, what has changed in the elementary and middle school math curriculum to have affected such a dramatic decline in the MCAS scores?

Answer: the new math curriculum, otherwise known as anti-racist multicultural math.

Say what?

In 2001 Mr. Young, Mrs. Wyatt and an assortment of other well-paid school administrators, defined the new number-one priority for teaching mathematics, as documented in the curriculum benchmarks, "Respect for Human Differences - students will live out the system wide core of 'Respect for Human Differences' by demonstrating anti-racist/anti-bias behaviors." It continues, "Students will: Consistently analyze their experiences and the curriculum for bias and discrimination; Take effective anti-bias action when bias or discrimination is identified; Work with people of different backgrounds and tell how the experience affected them; Demonstrate how their membership in different groups has advantages and disadvantages that affect how they see the world and the way they are perceived by others..." It goes on and on.

Here are the core values for Newton Public Schools:

to provide--and be self-reflective about--authentic, effective, challenging and
creative instruction that is responsive to different learning styles and improves
student achievement. Respect for human differences places the learner at the
center of the teaching and learning and fashions instruction that builds upon the
learner's unique strengths and addresses his/her needs.

to encourage the broadest understanding and acceptance of human differences
(including differences in socio-economic class, gender, race, ethnicity, culture,
language, learning styles, special needs, physical appearance, sexual orientation, etc.) while affirming fundamental similarities of the human community

Can anyone translate that into plain English for me? And can anyone see in there, anywhere, a commitment to educating Newton's youth to their fullest potential by increasing their literacy, numeracy, scientific understanding, self-discipline, motivation, and all that other stuff that is so crucial to genuine education?

I also note that Newton makes sure to define any sort of standardized test as an assessment that is not "authentic," whereas their definition of an "authentic" assessment is so vague as to be laughable.

It's not a wonder that MCAS math scores have precipitously declined; it's only a wonder that every other MCAS scores hasn't declined as much.

More takes on the topic from Joanne Jacobs, Chris Correa (who begs to differ from Mountain on the topic), and Gene Expression (who begs to differ with Correa).

Posted by kswygert at 02:01 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

November 17, 2004

Gives a new meaning to the phrase, "poetry slam"

Boulder (CO) High School has moved beyond focusing on reading, writing, and 'rithmatic; its students have time to assemble talent acts that call for presidential assassinations:

Colorado high school talent show turned into a political hot potato after some parents said a trio of students planned to use a Bob Dylan song to say they wished for the death of President Bush (news - web sites), officials said on Friday.

Calls were made to the school, students were interviewed, local talk radio jumped into the fray and the U.S. Secret Service even sent two agents to interview the principal at Boulder High School.

Even if there was a misunderstanding over whether the students -- some of whom called themselves the "Talibanned" -- meant to wish harm to the president, they learned how offended people can get.

Why, isn't that sweet. Aren't we glad to know that these high-school students are just now figuring out that it might be a tad ugly to - as was alleged - alter anti-war lyrics to call for the assassination of President Bush - and to chant those lyrics while flashing a photo of the president on a big screen?

Of course, the whole thing could be overblown, since it appears to have started from rumors spread by those who were not directly involved. Then again, this is the same school where students recently staged a sleep-in to protest the presidential election. You mean, teenagers can use sleeping as a form of protest? What genius!

Via Ace of Spades and his comment section, I found an additional article on the topic:

The students told ABC News affiliate KMGH-TV in Denver they are performing Bob Dylan's song "Masters of War" during the Boulder High School Talent Exposé because they are Dylan fans. They said they want to express their views and show off their musical abilities. But some students and adults who heard the band rehearse called a radio talk show Thursday morning, saying the song the band sang ended with a call for President Bush to die...

The 1963 song ends with the lyrics: "You might say that I'm young. You might say I'm unlearned, but there's one thing I know, though I'm younger than you, even Jesus would never forgive what you do ... And I hope that you die and your death'll come soon. I will follow your casket in the pale afternoon. And I'll watch while you're lowered down to your deathbed. And I'll stand o'er your grave 'til I'm sure that you're dead."

Let me guess - they had to make sure to take out the line about Jesus before they chanted it. Can't have that reference to Christianity in there when wishing someone dead.

The students insist they just planned to use the song as is, and not make any direct references to President Bush. On the other hand, they also had planned to call themselves the TaliBand. And one teacher who had originally planned to play backup for the group had this to say:

Vacca praised a group of 70 students after they camped out overnight in the school library last week to protest the results of the presidential election and to announce their worries about the direction of the country. The students wanted to meet with Colorado's political leaders to get assurances that they were being heard. The students said they worried about war, a return of the draft and the future of the environment after the election in which they could not participate.

"In an age where narcissistic college students riot in an inarticulate drunken stupor, you have students here at Boulder High School, principled, thoughtful and yet scared of four more years of pre-emptive war, the Patriot Act and an increase in militarism at school through the No Child Left Behind Act," Vacca had said.

NCLB increases militarism in schools? The worries about the draft are thoughtful and principled, as opposed to influenced by rumor and wholly uninformed about the reality of such a process? Rooting out the enablers of those who attacked us three years ago is considered "pre-emptive"? And students who live in an area where the median income for a family is over $70K are somehow powerless and dispossessed?

Who knew?

Posted by kswygert at 09:13 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

October 25, 2004

I'm thinking of changing my name to "This Kimberly Person"

Anyone remember this post, back in April of this year, in which I expressed concern that a teacher named Linda Sorter who spends her time teaching "peace activities" in the classroom?

I thought my opinions were expressed rather mildly - instead of getting all fussy about someone dragging politics into the classroom, I merely asked the following: "Why can't Ms. Sorter just admit that teaching her students her particular, one-sided political beliefs is a big part of her agenda, if not the main part?"

Ms. Sorter was welcome to reply to me to clear up some of my other questions, including whether students who believed that winning the peace means waging war would be welcome in her classroom. I would have posted such a reply had I gotten it (and do note that when a former student of hers posted a comment to defend her, I did not remove it).

Ms. Sorter has indeed written me, but not to clear up any misconceptions I may have. Here is her email, in its entirety:

Kimberly, I stumbled into your website and was quite shocked to find myself "reviewed and evaluated" by you. I have no idea who "you" are, and you, having not the decency or the courtesy to meet me, have NO idea who I am. I can accept any criticism based on fact, but you have no idea what you are talking about. It was pretty awful reading your catalog of lies. Sure gave me enough to know and evaluate you. My former student, JR who responded to your degrading and ridiculing comments, said it all. Thank you, my dear former student, for defending the teacher who always gave the best of herself in her classroom, and for growing up to practice the principles you learned there. Surely you are making the world a better place. Which is a lot more than I can say about this Kimberly person. I will not read your site again, so your response is meaningless to me. Suffice to say, I feel sorry for you, Kimberly.

Note that she didn't actually correct anything I said. She didn't address any of my questions. She just insulted me. So mature. So effective. And so worthy of someone who considers herself an "educator."

What's more, her shock at realizing that her publicly-available information has been read on the Internet, and judged by the public, suggests a bit of discomfort, shall we say, with the Information Age. Somehow, I believe even Miss Manners would support me in my belief that I was in no way discourteous in commenting on news articles about Ms. Sorter's doings without introducing myself to her first.

On the other hand, I can't really say that she didn't clear up any of my misconceptions. I think after reading her reply, we can all guess just how she would have responded to a student who disagreed that origami cranes are useful for spreading the "peace", can't we?

Posted by kswygert at 03:10 PM | Comments (14) | TrackBack

October 21, 2004

I guess "The Wizard of Oz" is off the playlist this year

Good grief.

PUYALLUP - "Let them have their 30-minutes of dressing goofy and having candy," said Silas Macon on the grounds of Puyallup's Maplewood Elementary School Wednesday afternoon. He'd just learned the grade school tradition of a party and parade in costume during the last half-hour of class before Halloween night won't happen this year in the Puyallup School District for his two daughters.

The superintendent has cancelled all Halloween activities.

A letter sent home to parents Wednesday states there will be no observance of Halloween in the entire school district...superintendent made the decision for three primary reasons. First, Halloween parties and parades waste valuable classroom time. In addition some families can't afford costumes.

It's the third reason some Puyallup parents are struggling with.

The district says Halloween celebrations and children dressed in Halloween costumes might be offensive to real witches...Number eight on the district's guidelines related to holidays and celebrations reads as follows: "Use of derogatory stereotypes is prohibited, such as the traditional image of a witch, which is offensive to members of the Wiccan religion"...

A Puyallup School District internal email dating from October 2000 warns that "the Wiccan religion is a bona fide religion under the law, and its followers are entitled to all the protections afforded more mainstream religions. Building administrators should not tolerate such inappropriate stereotyping (images such as Witches on flying brooms, stirring cauldrons, casting spells, or with long noses and pointed hats) and instead address them as you would hurtful stereotypes of any other minority."

2004, however, is the first year that the superintendent decided to cite that concern, along with loss of classroom study time and protection for students who can't afford costumes, as motivation for canceling in-school Halloween activities.

"They're so worried about being politically correct anymore that we're not allowed to do much of anything," said parent Tonya Reynolds whose daughter attends Maplewood Elementary.

So, let me get this straight. Christians who don't like Halloween, and don't allow their children to celebrate it, are just narrow-minded bigots who shouldn't be allowed to push their views on the rest of us. After all, there's nothing on the district guidelines about not offending Christians.

But Wiccans who don't like Halloween - they're perfectly okay? And banning Halloween costumes and celebrations for everyone, regardless of their religious identity, is somehow not narrow-minded in this circumstance?

I know Wiccans out the yin-yang. While they aren't impressed with the Hollywood portrayals of witches (insane, sex-crazed, scary, or some combination of the three), I've yet to hear one complain about children's Halloween costumes. My Wiccan friends are too busy dressing up as goddesses, men, or Jeannie from "I Dream Of Jeannie" to really care what anyone else is wearing.

Update: Via Wizbang, I found the Downtown Chick Chat, who says:

Give me a break! What's next? Pumpkins will go on protest for pumpkin cruelty because people are carving them as jack-o-lanterns and removing their guts?...

I believe in God but I don't get all pissy about people dressing up as Angels, Devils, Nuns and so on. Lighten up people!

Yeah. What she said.

Posted by kswygert at 01:34 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

October 11, 2004

Presenting one side of the story

Aussie Mike Jericho is highly unimpressed that, in Texas, the R-rated Fahrenheit 911 is apparently considered suitable classroom viewing:

When not encouraging students in public schools to spurn Christianity... but embrace Islam, high school teachers are moonlighting as propaganda disseminators, spreading the word for John Kerry, and against President Bush.

Whose word? Why, Michael Moore's, of course:

A Southeast Texas businessman is upset that his son's English class watched Michael Moore's scathing documentary on President Bush and his handling of events after the terrorist attacks. Michael Kurth, a veteran, said he was opposed to the film "Fahrenheit 9/11" based on its R rating and political partisanship. His son Matthew, 17, said that he put his head on his desk and tried to sleep through it.

"It bothered me," he said.

Moore's condemnation of Bush's actions regarding the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon became the first documentary to top the $100 million mark domestically. In the film, Moore examines the Bush administration's alleged financial ties to Saudi Arabia and the bin Laden family.

"It is spun to a very liberal viewpoint," the businessman said. "It is absolutely wrong for teachers to take a political position with some of these kids at legal voting age."

Michael Ryals, principal of Pathways Learning Center, said that he previewed part of the film before he allowed the teacher to show it in class Friday.

"I didn't hear anything that was offensive to me," he told the Beaumont Enterprise in today's editions, adding that he did not know of the R rating.

How hard can it be to discover the rating of a film before showing in class? And why are we supposed to be impressed that, when told by a student of films that present an opposing viewpoint, the teacher then offered to show one of those films in class? If this were really about presenting a wide range of viewpoints, as opposed to propaganda, the teacher would have had a dissenting film ready to go. Instead, he figured he could get away with just showing this one. If he really wants to stimulate discussion, I suggest that he starts with Dave Kopel's work.

Posted by kswygert at 11:32 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 01, 2004

Where in the bill of rights is a free college education guaranteed?

Students who oppose the military were among the collection of whackos, moonbats, and unemployed "activists" protesting the Republican National Convention this week, and their exploits are lovingly detailed in this article on EdWeek:

Now 17 years old, Ms. Gordon-Loebl, a Manhattan public school student, is a more seasoned activist, but no less strong-willed. On Aug. 29, the day before the Republican National Convention opened, the high school senior-to-be joined tens of thousands of protesters in a march that took them through the heart of Manhattan past Madison Square Garden, the site of the GOP gathering...

Many of the student-protestors vented anger over a provision in the No Child Left Behind Act, the sweeping federal education initiative Mr. Bush signed into law in 2002, that requires schools to give military recruiters greater access to students' personal information and makes it more difficult for districts to bar the recruiters from high school campuses. Those policies, at a time when the United States is immersed in conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, seemed to galvanize many of the activists...

"A school's a place for knowledge, a place to learn, not necessarily what to think but how to think," said Ms. Gordon-Loebl, wearing sunglasses over her close-cropped hair. "To have militaristic propaganda, to have the government recruiting for combat, for war, for violence, is wrong. ...A lot of people say well, it's so easy to turn down a military recruiter. But a lot of people really don't have other options. They're recruiting people to go die for them. It's not [students'] cause."

I can't say I believe Ms. Gordon-Loebl has learned much about "how to think," not if she's merely parroting the standard bumper-sticker slogan that "War is wrong." She also obviously doesn't think much of other students' rights to choose their own causes and make their own decisions.

Numerous students pointed out that the maximum Pell Grant award has remained stagnant under the Bush administration (at $4,050 a year), and they predicted that rising tuition costs will force them to take out more loans, work more off-campus jobs, and eventually graduate with larger debt.

"The Bush administration has not been friendly to college students, and students in general," said Ashwini Hardikar, 19, who attends the University of Michigan. "Higher education should be a right, not a privilege. Overwhelmingly, it's the privileged classes that have access."

Ah, there's the classic "it's a right, not a privilege!" argument, which translates to "Give me more of your money now!" Hardikar could benefit from a few economics classes at U Mich, where hopefully they will convey the fact that someone has to pay tax money for all those grants and loans, and that working one's way through college has traditionally been thought of admirable, not pitiable.

But hey, there is one kid in the crowd with some sense - and he's from New Jersey, to boot:

Not all students in Manhattan that day were keen on the protesters' message. Michael Garson, 16, caught a glimpse of the protestors not long after he and his family exited their train, having just arrived from Marlboro, N.J. He blamed the activists for taxing security forces that were already burdened with the week's security concerns.

As the New Jersey student saw it, the protestors' worries about education issues were overblown. Students still had every right to turn down military recruiters' overtures, he said, despite what the activists claimed; and when it comes to paying for college, there was no reason the federal government's obligations needed to grow.

Posted by kswygert at 10:52 AM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

The "free" schools that we all pay for

Blogger Dave Huber boggles at this cornucopia of the Obvious & the Inane, otherwise known as the resolutions passed by the National Education Association. Dave's already done the heavy lifting here, so I'll just list some of his better quotes (NEA resolutions are in italics, Dave's replies in bold):

Resolution B-15: Discriminatory Academic Tracking. The NEA believes that the use of academic tracking based on socioeconomic status, ethnicity, race, or gender must be eliminated in all public school settings.

There's an inherent contradiction in this resolution. "Academic tracking" is based on just that -- academics. I know of no tracking system which is based on that which the NEA proposes. That would be highly illegal anyway. Can you imagine an honors-level student being told "Well, son, you're an outstanding academic student but your dad only makes $18,000 a year. So, you'll have to attend the low-SES class"? It just doesn't happen!

On the other hand (and this is what I believe the NEA is actually referring to), if academic tracking results in classes that are "identifiable" by SES, ethnicity, race, etc., that's a completely different matter and subject to debate.

Resolution B-19: Education of Refugee and Undocumented Children and Children of Undocumented Immigrants. The NEA believes that, regardless of the immigration status of students or their parents, every student has a right to free public education..."

Don't you hate it when people dub something "public" as "free"? In terms of public education, it's hardly free -- we all pay for it, usually through property taxes.

Resolution H-3: The Right to Vote. The NEA further supports voter education programs and uniform registration requirements without restrictive residency provisions.

Those nasty residency provisions. After all, why not allow someone to be registered in more than one state/region, and perhaps even vote more than once in a given election?

Resolution B-40: Physical Education. Physical education programs ... should be cooperative in nature, and culturally sensitive..."

Can't have competitive games now, can we? (How can you avoid it? By having no winners?) And what the hell is "culturally sensitive" phys. ed.?

Ask the dean of the Lewis & Clark Graduate School of Education, Dave. I'm sure he could tell you.

Posted by kswygert at 10:36 AM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

August 30, 2004

Join me, fellow twinkletoes, on a journey of dreams!

Devoted Reader John L. sends along a candidate for Idiotarian of the Year. Out of - surprise! - Oregon comes the most flowerly, nonsensical paen to progressive "education" that I've ever read, and that's saying something, even for the dean of a school of education:

Follow me on a little imaginative journey: You and I have invented the wondermeter, a device that captures bold ideas and original insights.

Which, like the wondermeter, aren't worth much unless they're patented. But I digress.

Using the wondermeter we are able to measure the daily wonder production of Oregon. As it turns out, every Oregonian has at least three bold ideas and original insights a day. The population of Oregon is almost 3.6 million. According to the wondermeter, at least 11 million bold ideas and original insights erupt in Oregon every day. That's approximately 4 billion bold ideas and original insights a year. Four billion.

Do you find it as amusing as I do that the type of touchy-feeling educators who are always saying that we can't quantify learning have so boldly quantified ideas here? Nope, we can't trust test scores - but we can trust their estimate of 4 billion!

The news that Oregon's middle- and high-schoolers are not doing well on standardized tests is disappointing, but it may also be pointing us in the wrong direction. More scientific discoveries have taken place in the last 10 years than in the previous 600. To reduce learning to the measuring and mismeasuring of antiquated knowledge is a huge strategic error that will result in considerable suffering and a weakened economy.

1. How many scientific discoveries have been made by kids who haven't mastered basic science skills?
2. How many scientific breakthroughs were generated by people who consider scientific facts, and vast stores of scientific knowledge, to be "antiquated knowledge"?

It is said that Oregon loves dreamers. What would an inclusive, high-performance education system look like for Oregon's dreamers?

Four billion ideas a year, bouncing around, with no discipline, factual knowledge, or structure to ground them to anything in reality. That's what it would look like. Neurotics build castles in the air, psychotics live in them - and Peter W. Cookson Jr. of the Lewis & Clark Graduate School of Education would like all of your children to spend at least 8 hours a day there.

Maybe more:

Coordinate all the state's educational assets. There is a disconnect between higher education and K-12 education, there is a disconnect between the public sector and the private sector, and there is a disconnect between universal education and education for economic productivity. Instead of a competitive model, let's imagine a cooperative model where all the state's assets are used.

Can you say, "cradle-to-grave welfare state?" I knew you could!

...Enable Oregonians to be culturally competent. A just education system ensures that each student, no matter what his or her age or background, is celebrated and supported. Oregon has already made great strides through the state's Department of Education by placing cultural competency at the forefront of the educational agenda. This effort ought to be emphasized and enlarged.

Because, as we all know, scientific breakthroughs, and strong economies, depend on the cultural competency of students. This is why cultural competency - not reading skills, not the ability to compete in a global economy through the use of mathematics and computer science - should be at the forefront of the educational agenda, according to them.

At least they're honest about their priorities.

Accountability is one of the current buzzwords in education, but accountability is too often translated into test scores. I am suggesting an accountability that goes far deeper. We are accountable for the welfare of our citizens. Oregon's dreamers deserve opportunities to make their dreams real. Wonder is our most precious natural resource; we dare not squander it.

We can be the authors of our own miracle.

Five bucks to the first person who can explain just what the heck this means.

Posted by kswygert at 11:33 PM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

August 24, 2004

A Catholic school that isn't catholic in the least

FrontPageMagazine has an editorial from someone who recently escaped a horrific Catholic school. No, it wasn't horrific because nuns were roaming the halls swatting kids with rulers; it was horrific because left-wing groupthink was expected - and enforced:

The following are some instances of liberal indoctrination that I experienced at my Catholic high school...

On the first anniversary of the September 11th terrorist attacks, a teacher gave us a rather lengthy handout that argued that whether a culture is “civilized” is relative. The handout was full of statements such as “a terrorist loves his truth just as much as I love mine,” and “one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter.” Our teacher went on to say that America imposing its view of what it is to “be civilized” on the Afghan people is bigoted. It would be disgusting to initiate such a discussion on the anniversary of 9/11, even if my school wasn’t located 15 miles from Ground Zero. Many students in our school, including myself, lost family members the day of the attacks. Regardless of one student’s crying in class, the teacher continued to be downright nasty when some of the other students expressed their outrage.

Students at my school endured multi-annual presentations, videos, and lectures on the "forgiveness of world debt." All of the videos attributed footage of Africans living in squalor to the United States’ “selfishness” in not forgiving debts of developing countries. Forgiveness of world debt is a rather complex economic concept, but the general conservative stance regarding debt forgiveness is that doing so would result in little or no improvement of third world living standards. At the end of my Senior year, in a totally unrelated project, I decided to survey the political knowledge of some of the teachers at my school. The teacher who was the biggest proponent of forgiveness of world debt could not even name the governor of our state...

That's so outrageous that I hope this young woman is exaggerating the matter. I fear that she isn't. Her last name is unusual (Inauen) and via Google I found her listed on the debate team at the Catholic University of America, which is presumably where she's now an undergraduate. I hope her undergraduate career offers more freedom than her high school years did.

Posted by kswygert at 08:23 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

August 23, 2004

An F is an F by any other color

Just when I think the cult of self-esteem can't advance any further in our educational system, they prove me wrong:

When it comes to correcting papers and grading tests, purple is emerging as the new red.

"If you see a whole paper of red, it looks pretty frightening," said Sharon Carlson, a health and physical education teacher at John F. Kennedy Middle School in Northampton. "Purple stands out, but it doesn't look as scary as red."

That's the cue pen makers and office supply superstores say they have gotten from teachers as the $15 billion back-to-school retail season kicks off. They say focus groups and conversations with teachers have led them to conclude that a growing number of the nation's educators are switching to purple, a color they perceive as "friendlier" than red.

Come ON people! If your students are flunking, do you really think it matters - to them, to their parents, to their lives - what color you use on their papers? My dissertation advisor used nothing but green ink in his pens and at times my dissertation drafts looked like leprechauns had bled to death on them. Do you think I felt better about having to change every word, twice, just because I got the message in green rather than red?

Here's a hint, teachers - if your students' papers are swimming in a sea of red ink, you have many more important things to worry about than the colors of your pens. Trust me on this.

A mix of red and blue, the color purple embodies red's sense of authority but also blue's association with serenity, making it a less negative and more constructive color for correcting student papers, color psychologists said. Purple calls attention to itself without being too aggressive. And because the color is linked to creativity and royalty, it is also more encouraging to students.

"The concept of purple as a replacement for red is a pretty good idea," said Leatrice Eiseman, director of the Pantone Color Institute in Carlstadt, N.J., and author of five books on color. "You soften the blow of red. Red is a bit over-the-top in its aggression."

This is why I don't drink while blogging - I'd spit my mead all over my keyboard laughing. It's nice to know that a deep purple pen can make it all better for a student who received a D-minus. Yes indeedy. And now the teacher can feel better about herself, too, because she's not being "over-the-top" in her "aggression", which is what touchy-feely types define as "grading objectively" these days.

"I do not use red," said Robin Slipakoff, who teaches second and third grades at Mirror Lake Elementary School in Plantation, Fla. "Red has a negative connotation, and we want to promote self-confidence. I like purple. I use purple a lot."

Sheila Hanley, who teaches reading and writing to first- and second-graders at John F. Kennedy Elementary School in Randolph, said: "Red is definitely a no-no. But I don't know if purple is in."

Hanley said a growing contingent of her colleagues is using purple. They prefer it to green and yellow because it provides more contrast to the black or blue ink students are asked to write in. And they prefer it to orange, which they think is too similar to red.

Are these the same teachers who are complaining that the testing requirements leave them no time to teach? I can help them save a few hours right here - just use whatever pen is cheapest and mark the darn papers.

But aside from avoiding red, Hanley said she is not sure color matters much. At times, she uses sticky notes rather than writing on a child's paper. What's important, she said, is to focus on how an assignment can be improved rather than on what is wrong with it, she said.

Isn't it sad when the argument that teachers should be wary of pointing out what is wrong with papers is the most sensible thing in an article? No, I take that back, the article actually winds up with a quote from a model of common sense, although we're probably suppose to conclude that she's hopelessly old-fashioned:

Red has other defenders. California high-school teacher Carol Jago, who has been working with students for more than 30 years, said she has no plans to stop using red. She said her students do not seem psychologically scarred by how she wields her pen. And if her students are mixing up "their," "there," and "they're," she wants to shock them into fixing the mistake.

"We need to be honest and forthright with students," Jago said. "Red is honest, direct, and to the point. I'm sending the message, 'I care about you enough to care how you present yourself to the outside world.' "

Note to the Boston Globe - Ms. Jago, and others like her, are not defending the color red. They are defending the right to ignore these silly issues and the cult of self-esteem, and focus instead on teaching their students.

Update: More from Joanne Jacobs, from Tiffany, and from Snooze Button Dreams. Best Quote award goes to Tiffany:

In my opinion, the fear associated with getting an essay back that's been marked up with red ink is the best conditioning a student can get. They'll want to improve to prevent errors and the emotion associated with failure.

What the hell is purple going to connote? "Oh, Jilly, I love you very much, but could you please not use so many comma splices, thank you!"?

Posted by kswygert at 09:40 PM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

March 31, 2004

Do Glock 9mm's come in pink?

Okay, this is...strange:

MERRILLVILLE, Ind. -- Officials have banned pink clothing for the remainder of the school year out of concerns that the color has become associated with gang activity. Administrators last week told students at the city's high school and two middle schools to avoid wearing pink clothing or accessories, said Michael Berta, associate superintendent in the Northwestern Indiana district.

"There is no evidence of gang activity. But because of the growing use of the color pink we decided to be proactive. Girls and boys are supposed to avoid wearing pink," Berta said Monday.

None of the district's 6,500 students have been disciplined for wearing pink, he said. Berta said the issue came up at a recent administrator's meeting when a principal remarked that there were more students wearing pink. "Not only were there more kids wearing pink T-shirts and pink hats, but also pink shoelaces, which was unusual," he said.

Does it make sense to be this "proactive" for something there's been absolutely no sign of, especially when the color is so fashionable among non-gangsters? Since when did gangs decide to co-opt a color that's so....fruity? And if I were a student at this school, my response would be that they'd have to pry my Coach bag from my cold, dead hands. And my pink Doc Martens, too.

Update: ZeroIntelligence has more, much more:

Gang activity? Gangs wearing pink? Does this actually happen outside of an 1980's Michael Jackson video?

Hee hee hee.

Update: Don't miss Protein Wisdom's comments:

C'mon. What kind of self-respecting band of marauding punk thugs would make pink their gang color? The 6th Street Birthday Cakes? The Highland Park Bubble Gum Chewers? The East Side Pepto Bismallers...? Can you even pull a gun out of a pair of pink pants without eliciting a chuckle and a ten-gallon bitchslap? I should think gang members would prefer "menacing" to "he looks like he's a very good dancer."

Posted by kswygert at 02:50 PM | Comments (19) | TrackBack

March 22, 2004

Soothing the self-esteem of prisoners

See where the cult of self-esteem gets us? First "child-centered" education, now "inmate-centered" prisons:

Corrections Canada won't let guards at maximum security prisons wear stab-proof vests because it sends a confrontational "signal" to prisoners. "If you have that kind of presence symbolized by (a stab-proof vest), you're sending a signal to the prisoner that you consider him to be a dangerous person," said Tim Krause.

"It interferes with what we call 'dynamic security.' We want staff to talk to prisoners, to see how they're doing."

The guards know how they're doing, and they know the inmates are dangerous. Otherwise, most of them wouldn't be there. Self-protection and open conversation are not mutually exclusive, and it takes a particularly PC-addled sort of brain to want to break down the physical barriers between inmates and guards. Does Krause want to get rid of those nasty old bars and locks too, on the basis that those might interfere with "dynamic security?"

Posted by kswygert at 02:51 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

March 19, 2004

Gives new meaning to the phrase "Fairy Tale"

A book on gay marriage - suitable for school libraries and kids age 6 and up?

The parents of a first-grader are fuming over the book their daughter brought home from the school library: a children's story about a prince whose true love turns out to be another prince. Michael Hartsell said he and his wife, Tonya, couldn't believe it when Prince Bertie, the leading character in "King & King," waves off a bevy of eligible princes before falling for Prince Lee.

The book ends with the princes marrying and sharing a kiss. "I was flabbergasted," Hartsell said. "My child is not old enough to understand something like that, especially when it is not in our beliefs."

Barbara Hawley, librarian and media coordinator at Freeman Elementary School, said the book has been on the library's shelves since early last year.

"What might be inappropriate for one family, in another family is a totally acceptable thing," said Elizabeth Miars, Freeman's principal.

Way to espouse moral equivalence, Ms. Miars! But by that reckoning, shouldn't there be books in the library which state unequivocally that marriage should be forbidden to gays, because some families - like the Hartsells - consider that "totally acceptable"? And why haven't we heard this type of defense from schools when it comes to Christmas songs and decorations?

I should note here that I don't have an opinion one way or another on the legality of gay marriage. I just find it ridiculous when the double standard of "open-mindedness" is displayed in the defense of politically-correct ideas; we all know that sort of excuse wouldn't fly with children's books espousing politically-incorrect ideas.

Dadgum, Joanne Jacobs came up with a snappier post title again! I keep trying, but she always beats me at that game.

Posted by kswygert at 11:41 AM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

March 09, 2004

"The nuttiest idea I've ever heard"

I know from my reader mail that many of you (who are of, shall we say, a certain age) believe that "kids today" aren't well-educated and lack the skills to adequately prepare for the future or cope with complex issues. Others of you believe that, of all the problems with the public school system, the worst ideologies and practices are in California.

If you believe one or both of the two abovementioned theories, this should scare the heck out of you.

If I follow Vasconcellos correctly, he believes his (harebrained) proposal is no different from allowing (adult) women to vote and (adult) minorities to vote. He thinks he's praising the kids; he's really insulting the adults. And his comments about cell phones and the Internet are non sequiturs; a new mode of communication does not in and of itself raise the level of discussion conducted via that mode. Vasconcellos needs to hang out in a few chat rooms and read a few text messages to get this nonsensical idea out of his head.

Update: Commenter and Devoted Reader Mike D. reminds us that "Sen. Vasconcellos is the creator of CA's infamously 'successful' self esteem program." Oh, and he's the sponsor of two bills to "celebrate" the "success" of the self-esteem program as well. One bill is intended to force foster parents to receive training "in the importance of self-esteem;" the other bill is a plan to force UC and CSU students to complete 30 hours of community service work each year.

The senator's homepage is here; be sure to drop him a line and tell him what you think of his ideas! I should have previously provided the link to this notorious shirt from Urban Outfitters as well. What say we order Vasconcellos one while they're still available?

Posted by kswygert at 03:23 PM | Comments (16) | TrackBack

March 04, 2004

Dr. Mike Adams is here to stay

Dr. Mike Adams, conservative professor and gadfly of the UNC-Greensboro administration, finally has his own website that contains links to all his online articles. Don't miss his discussion of UNC-Greensboro's sponsorship of a porn star speaker - excuse me, "sexual health expert" - here and here.

Haven't bought his new book yet, but it's going on the wishlist.

Posted by kswygert at 10:55 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

March 03, 2004

How long before someone claims the "White King" is President Bush?

Devoted chess player Bill Ware supports the idea of black students learning chess and becoming proficient in algebra. That's good. But Bill Ware also believes that chess, as it's currently played, is "racist" because it pits white pieces against black pieces, and the white pieces always move first. That's....surreal.

Bill Ware, a devoted chess player, is one of these people and has come up with a new form of chess. "By saying that white automatically is offensive, it states that white is better than black," Ware said.

His idea is to remove color superiority in chess by focusing the game on variables. He calls his new way of chess "Algebra Chess" paralleling it to The Algebra Project by Robert Moses. Moses and Ware came up with the basic concepts of The Algebra Project in 1969. Also around this time, Ware began formulating the plan of attacking racism in chess.

Moses implemented The Algebra Project in the 1980s as he taught the students in his daughter’s eighth grade algebra class. After his success, he began a nationwide plan to provide all students with a conceptual understanding of mathematics and know it as a language of practicality, not abstraction...

In Algebra Chess, Bill Ware plans on removing color superiority by allowing the pieces to either be the same or different colors such as red, blue, green, etc. The determining factor on who moves first depends on what square the queen sits on...

"My way of chess involves algebra because by removing the colors and focusing on the spaces of the board, it forces the player to use and understanding variables. If you can understand chess, you can understand algebra," Ware said.

Just like Moses, Ware said he wants the students he helps to teach the skills they learned to others. He also wants to eliminate the stereotype that if you’re white you’re right and if you’re black, step back.

Am I crazy, or is this very similar to Chris Rock's "Nat X" skit on Saturday Night Live, in which he plays a black militant who goes to any length to see racism in every aspect of life, and rails against pool as a racist game because the object is for the white ball to knock all the colored balls off the table?

Minority youth in this country face a lot of obstacles today, but the colors of chess pieces are not one of them. I find it very hard to believe that any black student learning chess has taken away the lesson, "If you're black, you have to step back" in doing so. And as Best of the Web puts it:

This is a good opening move, but it's not nearly enough. Chess is not only racist but sexist, classist and homophobic. How come you can sacrifice your queen, but if you lose your king, the game is over? Why is there an underclass of "pawns"? Oh sure, they're promised they can be upwardly mobile if they only play by the rules, but how often does a pawn actually become a queen? And why are rooks only allowed to move straight? The time has come to demand equality for all chess-Americans and free the game from its checkered history!

Posted by kswygert at 04:16 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

March 02, 2004

One ring to annoy them all

The "progressive" school board of Nyack, NY, has decided that class rings with the image of the Nyack Indian on them are offensive to actual Indians and create a "hostile" environment to the Nyack Indians, none of whom attend the schools or sit on the faculty. Their guideline was this sanctimonious USCCR statement which says that Native American references in school logos or symbols are by definition "disturbing," un-diverse, and a perpetuation of negative stereotyping.

So the school board met with ringmakers Jostens, which had a contract with the school board, to ensure that no students could obtain rings with the "offensive" image - one that's been used by the school for 75 years - on them. Unfortunately for the school board, the Nyack Indian Foundation got a competing ring company, Artcarved, to make the images available on rings for students who want them.

One can reasonably argue that people don't buy $400 rings that contain images of people they don't respect. One can also argue that a historical image that represents an historical fact of the town is not demeaning, no matter what the USCCR says. And David Yeagley, himself a member of a Comanchi tribe, asks, who's the lord of the rings?

After the Nyack boards tyrannical decision to ban the Nyack Indian, the ring company contracting with the Nyack high school refused to offer any more rings with the Nyack Indian engraved on them. The Jostens ring company issued a letter to the protesting student body that there would be no more Indian rings available for purchase. (Word has it, however, that some offended students were so vociferous about it that they were able to obtain the coveted, traditional ring of the Nyack Indians.) Then Jostens declared they would sell no more Indian rings, on or off campus.

The new Nyack Indian Foundation came to the rescue.

The Foundation contacted another ring company, Artcarved, and Nyack Indian rings were soon made available to the students through a local jeweler. The Foundation has also scheduled two nights at the local American Legion Hall when students can come and purchase their Indian rings.

Is this a simple story, or is this a classic case of tyranny by a public school board, with openly leftist members who are determined to wipe out freedom of choice, freedom of expression, and even free enterprise?

It takes a village, indeed. Only in a small idyllic community could such oppression be pawned off as “caring” and “compassionate.”

I couldn't find the specific Nyack Indian image on the website, but Artcarved offers "Braves" and "Chiefs," neither of whom look like they're being mocked in the designs. And Frontpage Magazine has several more articles on the Nyack Logo flap, including one article about a public forum in which 194 of 200 local attendees argued in favor of keeping the Indian logo.

Posted by kswygert at 08:04 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

February 19, 2004

UN influence on US schools

Dissecting Leftism points the way to a WorldNetDaily article which suggests that the UN-sponsored efforts to teach middle-schoolers about "global citizenship, peace studies and equality of world cultures" is not a benevolent enterprise, nor one friendly to the idea of US students being well-schooled in US civics, law, and history:

The U.N.'s global education program took a major step in 1968, when UNESCO provided the funding to create the International Baccalaureate Organization, a non-government organization, in Geneva, Switzerland. The IBO is now providing the curriculum for 33,000 teachers in nearly 1,500 schools around the world, 55 of which are middle schools in the Washington D.C. area.

UNESCO says the IB curriculum promotes human rights, social justice, sustainable development, population, health, environmental and immigration concerns...

Jeanne Geiger, an outspoken critic of the program in Reston, Va., wrote to a local newspaper: "Administrators do not tell you that the current IB program for ages 3 through grade 12 promotes socialism, disarmament, radical environmentalism and moral relativism, while attempting to undermine Christian religious values and national sovereignty"...

The goals and methods of the IB program reach much further than the 502 U.S. schools now officially enrolled. The Center for Civic Education, which, by law, writes the curriculum for civics education in the United States, says:

"In the past century, the civic mission of schools was education for democracy in a sovereign state. In this century, by contrast, education will become everywhere more global. And we ought to improve our curricular frameworks and standards for a world transformed by globally accepted and internationally transcendent principles."

A critical review of "We the People; the Citizen and the Constitution," a civics textbook written by the Center for Civics Education, reveals that the teaching of historical facts is replaced with teaching attitudes and values about multi-culturalism and world-mindedness. A review of science, and even math texts, reveals that sustainable development, environmental protection and social justice dominate the material children are taught.

No longer are American children learning about the structure of a federal republic compared to a parliamentary democracy. No longer are children learning the difference between capitalism and socialism. No longer are children being taught why the United States became the most powerful economic engine the world has ever known.

Instead, they are being taught that with less than 5 percent of the world's population, the U.S. uses 25 percent of the world's resources and produces 25 percent of the world's pollution. They are being taught that the U.S. is the No. 1 terrorist nation. They are being taught that the rest of the world is mired in poverty because of the greedy capitalists in the United States.

I admit I know little about the specifics of IB programs, but I do wonder why, at a time when so many American students have trouble with basic reading and writing skills, that the U.S. Department of Education issued a $1.2 million grant to help this kind of "education" reach middle-schoolers. Some parents disagree with the IB program as well:

Critics of the International Baccalaureate program at Reston's Langston Hughes Middle School and South Lakes High School have focused on the program's promotion of cultural egalitarianism, pacifism and what they say is its anti-Western bias.

Such concerns don't seem important to IB supporters:

Rena J. Berlin, Fairfax County's IB coordinator at Langston Hughes Middle School, said she knows Mrs. Geiger and other critics "very well," but believes "that all students who learn how to think globally, how to make connections between subjects, and how to 'learn how to learn' will be better prepared to be IB diploma students when they get to 11th grade."

Posted by kswygert at 11:54 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

Child-centered and destined to fail

Reform K12 has a hilarious take on the ultimate "child-centered" school:

Regular readers of ReformK12 know that we spare no effort in criticizing Progressive educators and the whole child-centered mindset. A few months ago we posted a comparison of what would happen if you took the Progressive model and the Traditional model to their respective extremes. At the time, we felt that Summerhill exemplified the Progressive approach.

Today we learn that Summerhill's been trumped.

By way of Joanne Jacobs we find a story both shocking and sobering, of one truly child-centered school. Published at Strike The Root, a market anarchist site, Bernard Chapin writes of his life at a school run by a marvelous caricature called Princess Sparkle.

By the way, if Strike the Root sounds familiar to you guys, it might be because I blogged in May 2002 about a StR article in which the writer criticized testing and fell into the common argumentative trap of disdaining tests while using test scores to support anti-testing arguments. In that article, a student called for the abolition of standardized tests, while supporting homeschooling because "All reports show that those students who are home schooled...score consistently higher on the SAT." Mm-hmm.

Anyway, back to Reform K12. His comments are in bold; the article he is citing is in italics:


It is my role to academically assess, on an annual basis, all of the children at our alternative school. This is due to our kids being exempted from district wide testing based on what I call “The Spicoli Effect.” This refers to their habit of drawing rocket ships on evaluation protocols if left unsupervised in auditoriums.

Rocket ships? Where's a psychometrician when you need one? Oh, and The Spicoli Effect is named for Jeff Spicoli of Fast Times at Ridgemont High, who talks like this.

Darn it Charles, you know where a psychometrician is when you need one. :)

One day Mr. Chapin was administering a timed math test to a student when there was an announcement for everyone to go to the gym for a tug-of-war. Mid-problem the kid stops, because naturally the event is more important.

What occasion were we celebrating on that day in October? The fall harvest? No, it was yet another in a long line of contrived events, and this one happened to be titled “Wacky Wednesdays.” Bizarre holidays from curriculum have become the rule rather than the exception since our school hired a new principal in 2001.

That would be Princess Sparkle.

It is a most appropriate nickname for our leader as it surgically captures her vapidity, lust for attention, lack of seriousness, and ever-present sense of entitlement.

The child's abandonment of his math assessment was the straw that broke Mr. Chapin's back, and he requested a meeting with the principal and her supervisor.

I began slowly and pointed out that our students are schooled only from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. every day, and that those six hours already included breaks, lunch, gym, and movies on Friday afternoons [in fact, one teacher I know refers to another’s classroom as “the Cineplex” because his VHS player is rarely off].

This sounds familiar.

I stressed that there was altogether too much “play” and not enough “work” at our facility. I reasoned that these children had more play in their lives than any of those present had ever experienced (other than Sparkle) over the course of the last 30 years.

Progressive educators criticize Traditionalists for "taking the joy out of childhood" (as if school were the only place for joy), and this school takes that message to heart (and to foot, and hand, and earlobe . . . ).

Mr. Chapin criticizes the permissive nature of the students' homelives, concluding:

Home is one big MTV video. Their schooling should not be a continuation of the party. That is why I concluded my argumentation with the statement, “School should be a sober place, but ours is not.”

So, how did Princess Sparkle's supervisor react to these charges?

Every point I made he responded to with complete denial. He even informed me that Sparkle was doing an excellent job following his “community model” and that our children needed positive interactions more than they needed books or lectures.

That's the Progressive vision in a nutshell. All children need are positive interactions and all will be well in the world. The supervisor then said, in effect that "our students never tested well and that assessing their education was useless because they never improved"...

When children are being sold up the river, they call that slavery. When children's futures are being sold down the river, we call that Progressive Education.

We challenge anyone to explain to us how this isn't a racist or classist way of running a school.

If we abandoned the pretense of imparting knowledge, then there would be no way to evaluate the entire venture (analyzing future incarceration rates would not help our cause). Accountability was no longer possible, which may have been their goal in the first place.

So here we have a school, which for some reason has a special exemption from standardized testing, and accountability seems to be the scarlet letter A, which no one wants to wear.

What will follow will be more of the same, as the public invests millions in a school that has been deliberately engineered to fail.

"No, he gets it all wrong," Progressives protest, "that school was deliberately engineered to be child-centered." Enough said.


Kudos to Charles of Reform K12 for his comments.

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February 13, 2004

The Internet: Making the world safe for teenagers

News stories are rife with lurid tales of the dangers of the Internet for unsupervised kids (and naive women). Cathy Seipp, on the other hand, has observed first-hand the power of the Internet to free independent teenagers from the bonds of PC-addled teachers.

Backstory: Cathy's teenage daughter is blogging under the name of Cecile DuBois, and used one post to vent about a particularly idiotarian teacher of hers. It seems Cecile suffered some humiliation after writing a paper in which she theorized that women have achieved the rights that suffragists fought for so many decades ago, and that these suffragists would have been appalled by separate Women's Studies programs. The teacher disagreed; using the classic hostile argumentative mode of bait-and-switch, she did her damndest to make Cecile seem like a KKK member:

And yes I did, I poured it all out, given the opportunity because the discussion was on womens rights and for some reason my teacher asked me if I agreed with affirmative action. Does affirmative action relate to womens rights? Not in my world it does. I guess in her world where being against illegal immigration and calling African-Americans "black" are racist, it does. Well, if asked a question, I am compelled to answer honestly. My mother suggested I could have asked her what it had to with Mary Wollstonecraft, but I was so flustered by her laughter at me, I replied. I said "No". And did that cause commotion!...

"Do you believe in socio-economic affirmative action where poor kids get into college?" she asked.

"Um, yeah I suppose so since I support people like that girl from Homeless to Harvard!"

"Well, what kind of people live in poor areas?" she asked with a superior tone.

"Hispanics, blacks..."

"Well--those are the groups that you are against if you disagree with affirmative action!"

"Yes, but I don't agree illegal immigrants should be given priority. I don't believe colleges should have to accept them just because of their race or part of town they live in".

She interpreted my "illegal immigrants" referring to the Hispanics and assumed I was racist, again.

Then a Hispanic girl next to me started giggling as if everything were cool and I was stupid and ignorant and should be excused. The class chimed in I was ignorant and narrow-minded and had no valid arguments. But the teacher questioned my sentence in which modern feminists are overly concerned with their uteruses. When I read it aloud, she doubled up in her plastic chair, laughing like I was too stupid to be taken seriously.

Since I was stuck on the spot with my futile attempts to convince the class I was not racist and mentally sane, I moved on to the second paragraph of my "paper" that even my mother said had weak arguments. I claimed that since women have the capability to earn more than their husbands and thus have equal rights, modern feminists standpoint is unnecessary in today's society. If women are equal to men now, would more "rights" enable them to have more power over men? The response from the class was that I was sexist...

After periods of my teacher talking all about me, I heard from a friend most of the English class hated me for being racist and someone thought I was in the KKK...

Instapundit wasn't any more impressed with the teacher's comments than Cecile was:

MORE CRUSHING OF DISSENT, this time involving Cecile Dubois, whose teachers are stigmatizing her for being an individual, and trying to get her to adopt their rigid middle-class code of denial and conformity.

The "Instalanche" resulted in an outpouring of support for Cecile, and today Cathy Seipp is celebrating the blogosphere's power to give her daughter a much more open view of the world:

Blogging is essentially an unregulated, free-agent activity, and that can drive people who prefer rules and regulations and decision-by-committee crazy. From its earliest days, I noticed a tone of disapproval towards bloggers that reminded me of school, what with all the carping from magazines like The Nation and The American Prospect about the blogging world's sorry lack of supervision. The tongue-clucking made me think of the teacher's pet constantly raising a hand to protest: "Miss Jones! Miss Jones! Johnny's reading ahead again! Unsupervised!"...

...even if she hadn't received such an outpouring of support, I think Cecile's regular stops in the blogosphere would have served as an antidote to what happened at school this past Friday. Certainly if a teacher implies a student is a racist idiot one day, and by the next some 200 smart and articulate adults have said she's not and here's why, that rather counteracts the original lesson plan. Now that so many teens have blogs, concerns about doctrinaire teachers may be passé. Our sons and our daughters are beyond their control.


Posted by kswygert at 08:14 AM | Comments (4)

January 25, 2004

Does this mean all those bumper stickers are illegal?

We all knew this day was coming, didn't we?

The school honor roll, a time-honored system for rewarding A students, has become an apparent source of embarrassment for some underachievers. As a result, all Nashville schools have stopped posting honor rolls, and some are also considering a ban on hanging good work in the hallways -- on the advice of school lawyers.

As Lileks would say, Jeebus Chrysler. Doesn't it matter that the kids who do good work will now recieve less and less public admiration for it? Or are we not supposed to be concerned with their self-esteem?

After a few parents complained that their children might be ridiculed for not making the list, lawyers for the Nashville school system warned that state privacy laws forbid releasing any academic information, good or bad, without permission.

Whatever happened to teaching kids not to ridicule other kids about grades? Is the assumption that neither teachers nor parents are teaching kids how to behave? And what happened to teaching your kids snappy comebacks to snotty kids who brag about anything - grades, clothes, the number of Valentine's cards they received?

The change has upset many parents who want their children to be recognized for hard work.

"This is as backward as it gets," said Miriam Mimms, who has a son at Meigs Magnet School and helps run the parent-teacher association. "There has to be a way to come back from the rigidity."

Ms. Mimms is more understated than I would be in this situation. Substitue the words "asinine", "success-hating," and "condescending" for her "backward" comment, and you start to understand how I feel about this situation.

The problem appears unique to Tennessee...

Thank Goddess for that.

School officials are developing permission slips to give parents of the Nashville district's 69,000 students the option of having their children's work recognized. They hope to get clearance before the next grading cycle -- in about six weeks at some schools.

Wait. I thought the whole point of this was that parents of low-achievers didn't want the high-achievers to be publicly honored. If only the parents of high-achievers sign the slips, then we're back to the same situation.

Others think it might be a good idea to get rid of the honor roll altogether, as Principal Steven Baum did at Julia Green Elementary in Nashville.

"The rationale was, if there are some children that always make it and others that always don't make it, there is a very subtle message that was sent," he said.

I'd laugh, if this weren't so tragic for the kids involved. Principal Baum, the message sent with an honor roll is neither subtle nor problematic. Kids on the honor roll are being honored for their academic achievement. Kids not on the honor roll can find other ways to achieve. If you're assuming that removing the honor roll will remove the "subtle" inclination that kids have of assessing each other on multiple dimensions, you're wrong. The kids will still know who's smart and who's not, and they'll hopefully behave politely about it. Removing the honor roll seems to assume that kids on the roll are brutalizing the ones who aren't (or vice versa).

Why hasn't Principal Baum considered sending the "subtle" message that kids who do well in school deserve to be honored for it, but everyone has their special capabilities, and everyone deserves to be treated with respect?

Baum thinks spelling bees and other publicly graded events are leftovers from the days of ranking and sorting students. "I discourage competitive games at school," he said. "They just don't fit my worldview of what a school should be."

I really shouldn't have read that last sentence, not so soon after being sick with something that made my stomach hurt. Because hearing about Principal Baum's attempts to inflict his non-competitive "worldview" on his school REALLY makes my stomach hurt. I don't care if he personally is terrified of competition, but he has no right to "teach" his students that all such competition is bad and old-fashioned. This does nothing but foster the idea that kids cannot handle challenges at all.

Parents at most schools, though, have been close to outrage over the new rule.

"So far, what we've heard parents say is 'This is crazy. Spend your time doing other things" said Teresa Dennis, principal at Percy Priest Elementary School. "It does seem really silly."

My guess is Ms. Dennis edited the parental statements here. If Tennessee's parents have any gumption at all, their reactions should be comments that can't be published in a family newspaper. Joanne Jacobs was also appalled.

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January 20, 2004

Those pesky, free-thinking students

Students from two different schools - Omaha, NE's Westside High School, and the University of Colorado - are in trouble for not following the party line. Students being rebellious? Imagine that! (Both links found through Best of the Web.)

The kids in Omaha are in trouble because of their response to a contest for the school's "Distinguished African American Student Award." It seems that some students put up flyers nominating a South African student - who happens to be pretty pale of skin - for the award. Other students circulated petitions that criticized the singling out of black African Americans for the award. This was all done on - you guessed it - Martin Luther King Day. And everyone involved has been suspended, including the South African kid:

Karen Richards said her son, Trevor, who was pictured on the posters, was suspended for two days for hanging the posters. Two of his friends also were disciplined for hanging the posters. A fourth student, she said, was punished for circulating a petition Tuesday morning in support of the boys. The petition criticized the practice of recognizing only black student achievement with the award...

Karen Richards said her son and his friends were not trying to hurt anyone.

"My son is not a racist," she said. "He has black friends, friends from Bangladesh and Egypt. Color has never been an issue in our home."

"It was a very innocent thing," she said. Richards said her family moved to Omaha from Johannesburg six years ago. Trevor, she said, "is as African as anyone."

I'm fairly sure the suspended kids understood the spirit as well as the letter of the law, but it's a judgment call whether mere "offensiveness" justifies this sort of punishment.

Next up, the College Republicans of the University of Colorado have begun a website where students can report incidences of liberal bias in the classroom. And it doesn't sound like the teachers at UC like that one bit:

Most faculty and many Democrats deny liberal indoctrination exists on campuses.

"I'm shocked the students would resort to this,'' said Barbara Bintliff, a CU law school professor and chairwoman of the Boulder Faculty Assembly. "I'm concerned they may wind up with a blacklist."

To which I can only reply - get real. She's shocked that students created a website to help other students who might be victims of discrimination? Are students not allowed to decide what classes and what professors they prefer? Are they not allowed to ever mention that political ideologies can affect grades in college? Doesn't a law professor understand the difference between a "blacklist" that is created by someone in a position of power, vs. a website where students can trade war stories about classes where the teacher's politics are on display?

And would this professor make the same hysterical statement about blacklists if a group of minority students created a website to protect other minority students from professorial bias?

Update: The Volokh Conspiracy has more to say about the Omaha case:

Under Tinker v. Des Moines Indep. Comm. School Dist. (1969), speech may be restricted if it's disruptive -- but not because it's "inappropriate and insensitive," something that many students no doubt thought about the anti-Vietnam-War black armbands that Tinker held to be protected speech.

Of course, if a school has content-neutral rules prohibiting students from putting up posters on doors or lockers, the school may evenhandedly enforce this policy; the doors and lockers are its property, and it may bar students from using them as their own billboards. But if it's punishing students for the views that their posters are expressing -- for instance, if posters are generally allowed, either officially or de facto, but these were the only ones that were punished -- then that seems like a violation of the Tinker doctrine. Likewise for the school's punishing the student who circulated a petition "criticiz[ing] the practice of recognizing only black student achievement with the award."

Volokh claims this is a legitimate First Amendment issue. Wonder if the school administrators stopped to think about that?

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January 06, 2004

The perils of parenting in the Bay Area

I've always had the notion that California's Bay Area is rather unfriendly to parents who support school choice, tougher standards, and charter schools. But if Oakland resident Jennifer Nelson's article is to be believed, Bay Area residents dislike parents - period: the months and years that followed [the move to Oakland], I discovered an angry, unpleasant element to the Bay Area kookiness. My first real experience with the rude attitude prevalent in the area started when I found my way into Berkeley. A friend had recommended Berkeley Bowl as a great alternative to haunting farmer's markets.

Berkeley Bowl is a fabulous market. The parking lot and many of the patrons, however, are not. I have never seen such angry people as I saw on my first visit to Berkeley Bowl (and every visit thereafter)...After parking and shopping next to these folks for three years, I'm starting to think that a steady diet of edamame, veggie burgers, organic greens and soy milk makes people really, really angry.

Part of my problem, I've decided, is that I'm easily tagged as a "breeder" by the many folks in the Bay Area who believe in population control or who just dislike children... Probably the strangest experience I've had is being pregnant in the Bay Area. During my other pregnancies, I lived in Sacramento and was used to people smiling when they saw a pregnant woman. Here, no smiles -- mostly scowls...

After my [third] baby was born, the hostile looks and mutterings continued. While I was waiting in line for coffee one day with the kids in tow, one woman offered to me that she thought three children constituted a big family. When I told her it really isn't considered a large family in many other parts of the country, including the Midwest town I had recently moved from, she asked me with disdain, "Where was that, a religious community?" Then there was the woman who said to me as she pushed by my stroller, "Three? Don't you think you have enough?" It's not like I was asking her to contribute to their college fund! I was just taking my kids to the bathroom.

Hopefully, Mrs. Nelson is getting used to this sort of hostility while her kids are in strollers. It will give her the strong will she'll need to deal with naysayers should she decide to homeschool, or to push for school reforms in her district. Oh, wait, she's already started raising heck about that. Good for her!

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December 18, 2003

PETA: Worse than I ever imagined

Remember the PETA flyer I mentioned earlier this week? The one that PETA believes is suitable to distribute to children attending ballet performances? John of Right Wing News has a copy of it up on his site.

Oh. My. God. If I needed any more evidence that PETA has gone completely around the bend, here it is.

I agree entirely with two of the commenters on John's site:

PETA is about hate and twisting minds and pretending to care about something that they don't actually care about. PETA is about throwing paint on someone's hard earned $8000 fur coat and pretending that's all good. PETA is all about trying to take meat out of my diet, without which I would probably become as anemic and stupid as you seem to be.


Why do PETA wackos target small children and old ladies wearing fur? Because it's infinitely safer than hassling bikers wearing leather.

Posted by kswygert at 01:29 PM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

Dreaming of a Winter Bungleland

I just can't improve on Joanne Jacob's comment on this tale of PC-ridiculosity sent by a reader: "Stupidity, apparently, knows no limits."

A Fox reader named Michelle in a small town in Texas sent me this amazing e-mail:

My kindergarten daughter was informed that in the song "We Wish You a Merry Christmas," her class was to sing: "We Wish You a Merry Hissmas." This prompted her young mind to ask me what holiday Hissmas was, among other questions.

The mother told her daughter to tell the teacher that the family celebrates Christmas, not Hissmass. The teacher told the girl she could sing "Christmas," but to sing quietly...

Well, my family and I would like to wish you and yours a very Merry Hissmas and a Happy New Ear!!

Don't miss all the commenters on Joanne's post. As for me, my pet snakes and I will have a very Merry Hissmas this year, thank you very much.

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December 17, 2003

Using the Children

The hot new approach to tackling controversial issues: Don't target the adults who can actually do something about those issues. Target their kids instead.

Democratic National Committee chairman Terry McAuliffe used this tack when he visited a New Hampshire high school, ostensibly to give a lecture on "democracy and the political process". Instead, he launched into a bizarre anti-Bush diatribe, all for the benefit of listeners not yet old enough to vote:

During the presentation, McAuliffe told students that due to Bush’s mismanagement of the country, 70 percent of college graduates will not be able to find a job upon graduation. He also told students that if the war in Iraq continues as it has, there could be a reinstatement of the draft.

As Instapundit put it so well: "Talk to some kids who mostly can't vote. Generate bad press for the Democrats nationwide among those who can. Brilliant. "

(And don't miss Darren Kaplan's fisking of Terry's comments.)

PETA plans to follow the same path with their new anti-fur campaign. Nope, they're not targeting women who wear fur; they're going after the children who have accompanied a fur-coat wearing Mommy to performances of The Nutcracker across the US:

Animal rights advocates will single out small children at performances of "The Nutcracker'' in the next few weeks by handing out fliers saying "Your Mommy Kills Animals'' to youngsters whose mothers are wearing fur.

"Children can't look up to a mom in a battered-raccoon hat or a crushed coyote collar,'' said Ingrid Newkirk, president of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. "Maybe when they're confronted by their own children's hurt looks, fur-wearers' cold hearts will melt.''

Frankly, Ingrid, I'd teach my kids not to look up to a woman who says:

"Even if animal research resulted in a cure for AIDS, we'd be against it."


"There is no rational basis for saying that a human being has special rights. A rat is a pig is a dog is a boy. They're all mammals."


"Six million Jews died in concentration camps, but six billion broiler chickens will die this year in slaughter houses."

At least their mothers have hearts to melt, Ingrid; I'm not so sure about you. Anyone who can compare chickens to Jews, rats to boys, and wish AIDS on those who are (literally) dying for a cure is missing at least her heart, and quite possibly her brain.

The fliers include a color drawing of a woman plunging a large bloody knife into the belly of a terrified rabbit. The fliers urge kids to "ask your mommy how many dead animals she killed to make her fur clothes.

"And the sooner she stops wearing fur, the sooner the animals will be safe. Until then, keep your doggie or kitty friends away from mommy - she's an animal killer.''

Brookline child psychologist Dr. Carolyn Newberger called the tactics "terribly dangerous to children.'' "

It's using children in the worst possible way,'' she said. "If (the activists) want to legitimately work to protect animals from destruction for fashion, they have every right to. But to do so by targeting children and making them feel their mothers are murderers is absolutely unconscionable.''

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December 10, 2003

Ann Arbor's celebration of "diversity"

Federal judges in Michigan have ruled that the Ann Arbor School District in Michigan violated a student's free speech rights after school officials informed a student that she could not - get this - publicly criticize the Diversity Week program at her school. In Ann Arbor, actual diversity of opinion is apparently not allowed:

At the 2,700-student Ann Arbor Pioneer High School, students held a Diversity Week in March 2002 that included discussions on race, religion and sexual orientation.

One panel organized by the Gay/Straight Alliance included six religious leaders and was titled "Religion and Homosexuality." The panel was arranged with the belief the leaders supported the view that religion and homosexuality aren't inconsistent -- and that all were "welcoming and affirming" of gay rights.

Betsy Hansen, a member of Pioneers for Christ, asked that an alternative viewpoint be added to the panel: that in her view, the Bible teaches that homosexuality is a sin. The district refused.

Of course they did. You don't think the school was actually interested in presenting diverse opinions, do you? Of course not.

A faculty adviser, Sunnie Korzdorfer, sent organizers an e-mail saying the school might face legal action if they kept another viewpoint off the panel. "They have a legal right to say that homosexuality is not a valid lifestyle. That is the bottom line," she wrote. "I am treading on shallow ground here, as I do not want to get sued."

Hansen was then offered a chance to make a two-minute speech at an assembly. School officials read a draft of the speech and said she couldn't read a section that criticized Diversity Week.

"I completely and whole-heartedly support racial diversity, but I can't accept religious and sexual ideas or actions that are wrong," she wrote, in the section that was deleted by school officials.

Hansen and her mother filed suit against the district in July 2002. Rosen said the district's decision to "censor" Hansen's speech was discrimination and violated her First Amendment and 14th Amendment equal protection rights.

Ann Arbor Public Schools "discriminated against Betsy Hansen on the basis of both message and religion, denying her the right to deliver her own message while at the same time affording the (Gay/Straight Alliance) the right to deliver its own religious message," Rosen ruled.

But one teacher at the school, Parker Pennington, told the student newspaper that "allowing adults hostile to homosexuality on that panel would be like inviting white supremacists on a race panel."

At a time when schools complain that NCLB regulations force them to cancel all non-academic lessons, it's nice to see that Ann Arbor has an entire week to devote to "diversity." And why did the school call it a "Diversity" panel when they so obviously were not interested in diversity of opinion? If they're going to spend time and money on discussions that demand one viewpoint on homosexuality, at least be honest and declare it a "pro-homosexuality" panel.

And, Ms. Pennington, a truly diverse panel on race would include racists. A panel on which anti-racist folks civilly debated supremacists of any race would be far more educational than a bogus "diverse" panel, because the students would be able to learn exactly what arguments some people put forward for racism, and students would learn how to counter those arguments.

They would also learn that it is not illegal for people to declare beliefs that others might find offensive, such as a religious opposition to homosexuality. Students used to learn from their teachers that the Bill of Rights protects even "undiverse" speech. Now it takes a federal judge to get that point across.

Because of Hansen's suit, the district canceled Diversity Week this year.

I think that's the best decision. If Ann Arbor really wants its students to experience diversity, there's a wealth of good literature out there that will expose them to a wide range of human experience and beliefs. So how about a "Literature Week" instead?

Posted by kswygert at 04:18 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

December 08, 2003

Feelings, nothing more than feelings...

A great Tech Central Station article by James Harrigan on how "feeling" has now replaced "thinking," often with ridiculous results:

At some point in the late 20th century the English language underwent a silent revision. The verb "to think" was replaced by "to feel," and as a result feelings have overtaken thoughts in American public discourse.

By the time this silent revolution in language was complete, what has been termed the Oprah Winfreyization of America was a foregone conclusion. In the vernacular of present-day America, the phrase "I feel" dots the linguistic landscape, and when it is uttered the unspoken assumption is that all feelings are equally valid, no matter how unwarranted those feelings might be. This pernicious trend invariably finds its fullest expression in the context of race...

Take, for instance, America's on-again off-again hate affair with the word "niggardly." A word meaning "miserly" is by definition pejorative, but the actual meaning of the word scarcely matters when feelings are concerned. The real problem with the word niggardly is that it shares its first four letters with the granddaddy of all racial slurs. That the words derive from different roots and thus mean different things is quite irrelevant...

...a University of Wisconsin student called for the banning of the word on campus after a professor used it in a discussion of Chaucer. The fact that Chaucer himself had used a form of the word in Troylus and Cryseyde was apparently irrelevant. And then there was the case of Stephanie Bell, a fourth-grade teacher in Wilmington, North Carolina, who in 2002 had the nerve to use the offending term in a classroom discussion. A parent, Akwana Walker, claimed offense. Ms. Bell was ultimately forced to apologize to Walker, whose child was transferred to another (presumably less literate) class. Bell was also, according to her son, formally reprimanded for "lacking sensitivity to the school's diverse population of students and not being aware of cultural differences." In order to become properly sensitized, Bell was required to attend sensitivity training.

One wonders why the school board, principal, and offended parent were not compelled to take English lessons...

One is hard pressed to see how any of these are properly understood as racial issues, but the feelings of the offended are all that matters. And these feelings are valid, in beautiful circularity, simply because they are felt. In the end, common sense, civility, and language are held hostage when all feelings are equally valid, and we are all slaves to our unthinking, if sensitive, masters.

Posted by kswygert at 05:29 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

The horrors of a "racest" government

Aussie Blogger Tim Blair reports on a terrifying trend in Australian schools. Not only are members of the Australia Education Union urging young students to write letters to the Immigration Minister Amanda Vanstone regarding the detention center inhabitants, but the letters seem to indicate that no one is in charge of these students' education:

LOOKING through the mail of Immigration Minister Amanda Vanstone makes me wonder what hatred some teachers preach in class.

The Australian Education Union this year campaigned against the Howard Government's wickedness, boasting of ``the critical role that public education plays in achieving a harmonious, tolerant and peaceful society''.
Harmonious? Tolerant?

Here's the harmony and tolerance that blooms when a teacher at a state school in Melbourne's inner-north gets a Year 4/5 class to ask Vanstone to free the children held in our detention centres.

``Dear Minister, . . . I think you are a racist pig,'' goes one typical letter, decorated with a picture of a pig's head, helpfully labelled ``you''.

``Dear Minister, . . . You completely and uterly (sic) suck,'' says another, signed by ``your Nemisis (sic)/arch enemy''.

``You should be fired and turned into a hobo . . . I hate you nin (sic) hundred zillion plus one.''

Another letter, also decorated with a pig's head, reads: ``Your (sic) being a racist pig just because their (sic) not Australian and don't speak english doesn't mean you can put them in prison.''

``You Imbasil,'' writes another child from the same class. ``You are so raset (sic).''

``I think you are being very racest (sic),'' agrees yet another.

``I will tell my parents not to vote for you (not that they ever did),'' warns a classmate.

``You are a racist!'' writes a student who signs off as ``arch enemy/nemesis/rival/hater''...

Of course, any sensible reader will immediately notice that the ``peace movement'' led by our teacher-preachers yet again seems scarily hate-filled. Ask the police where they feel in most danger -- at a ``peace'' protest or a building workers' rally.

You'll also notice, I'm sure, that the teacher of these 10 and 11-year-olds would have done better giving them extra lessons in spelling rather than politics. Why weren't the letters at least corrected and the children made to rewrite them before they were bundled up and sent to the Minister?

Typically sloppy, I'm afraid, leaving the students unable to spell the abuse they recite.

Bad enough they're teaching these young kids that Australia's Howard Government must be completely racist, but when do the teachers plan on getting around to conveying the idea that, if you're going to call someone nasty names, you might want to make sure to spell them correctly?

Posted by kswygert at 04:11 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

November 18, 2003

Historical offensiveness

Joanne Jacobs reports, via Tongue Tied, that two Florida 11th-graders are in counseling because their teacher read a racial slur aloud from a book entitled, A Land Remembered, described as "a fictional account of Florida’s history as seen through the eyes of one family."

The parents of the traumatized students have hired a civil rights attorney and they may sue the school. According to the AP, the two students (who were in separate classes) were upset when the word was read aloud to them. One student alleges that white students snickered (why didn't the teacher say something to them?), and another student alleges that his teacher sent him to the office after he objected to the term (why didn't the teacher deal with that in a more appropriate fashion?).

Joanne, as always, cuts right to the heart of the issue: "I wondered why an 11th grade teacher is reading aloud in class. Can't the students read for themselves?"

Posted by kswygert at 06:59 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

October 15, 2003

What's wrong with this picture?

A woman leaves her 21-month-old child alone in a car. Mom is a smoker and "inadvertently" drops a still-burning cigarette onto the car seat beside the baby. The baby, who is now 13 years old, suffered burns over 77% of her body, with results including amputation of all her fingers and loss of hearing (from antibiotics), which led to "a limited ability to speak."

Which outcome of this heinous situation this do you think is more probable?

(A) The child is removed, or is threatened with removal, from the mother's custody while still in the hospital, while the mother is jailed for child neglect (leaving such a young child alone in the car - a felony in the state in which this took place) and reckless endangerment of a child (leaving something burning alone in a car with the child).

(B) The mother is awarded a $2 million settlement by the tobacco company, Philip Morris, because the company was neglectful in creating cigarettes that "burn down their filter even when they [are] not being smoked." The company's rectification of this matter in 2000 by creating new cigarettes that fail to burn when not being smoked is not heralded as a new safety feature, but instead presented as proof that the company should be held liable for innocent victims of cigarette-related fires before 2000.

Sadly, if you guess (A), you're wrong. How have we reached an age where Child Protective Services workers might decide to investigate, without due cause, homeschooling parents for abuse, yet this woman was apparently off the hook because there was someone with deeper pockets to sue? Smoking is politically incorrect these days - but how does that translate to letting a smoking parent off the hook for her contribution to the severe impairment to her own child?

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