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Power User
Posts: 42512

« on: January 18, 2007, 09:36:38 AM »


Aztecs vs. Greeks
Those with superior intelligence need to learn to be wise.

Thursday, January 18, 2007 12:01 a.m. EST

If "intellectually gifted" is defined to mean people who can become theoretical physicists, then we're talking about no more than a few people per thousand and perhaps many fewer. They are cognitive curiosities, too rare to have that much impact on the functioning of society from day to day. But if "intellectually gifted" is defined to mean people who can stand out in almost any profession short of theoretical physics, then research about IQ and job performance indicates that an IQ of at least 120 is usually needed. That number demarcates the top 10% of the IQ distribution, or about 15 million people in today's labor force--a lot of people.

In professions screened for IQ by educational requirements--medicine, engineering, law, the sciences and academia--the great majority of people must, by the nature of the selection process, have IQs over 120. Evidence about who enters occupations where the screening is not directly linked to IQ indicates that people with IQs of 120 or higher also occupy large proportions of positions in the upper reaches of corporate America and the senior ranks of government. People in the top 10% of intelligence produce most of the books and newspaper articles we read and the television programs and movies we watch. They are the people in the laboratories and at workstations who invent our new pharmaceuticals, computer chips, software and every other form of advanced technology.

Combine these groups, and the top 10% of the intelligence distribution has a huge influence on whether our economy is vital or stagnant, our culture healthy or sick, our institutions secure or endangered. Of the simple truths about intelligence and its relationship to education, this is the most important and least acknowledged: Our future depends crucially on how we educate the next generation of people gifted with unusually high intelligence.

How assiduously does our federal government work to see that this precious raw material is properly developed? In 2006, the Department of Education spent about $84 billion. The only program to improve the education of the gifted got $9.6 million, one-hundredth of 1% of expenditures. In the 2007 budget, President Bush zeroed it out.
But never mind. A large proportion of gifted children are born to parents who value their children's talent and do their best to see that it is realized. Most gifted children without such parents are recognized by someone somewhere along the educational line and pointed toward college. No evidence indicates that the nation has many children with IQs above 120 who are not given an opportunity for higher education. The university system has also become efficient in shipping large numbers of the most talented high-school graduates to the most prestigious schools. The allocation of this human capital can be criticized--it would probably be better for the nation if more of the gifted went into the sciences and fewer into the law. But if the issue is amount of education, then the nation is doing fine with its next generation of gifted children. The problem with the education of the gifted involves not their professional training, but their training as citizens.

We live in an age when it is unfashionable to talk about the special responsibility of being gifted, because to do so acknowledges inequality of ability, which is elitist, and inequality of responsibilities, which is also elitist. And so children who know they are smarter than the other kids tend, in a most human reaction, to think of themselves as superior to them. Because giftedness is not to be talked about, no one tells high-IQ children explicitly, forcefully and repeatedly that their intellectual talent is a gift. That they are not superior human beings, but lucky ones. That the gift brings with it obligations to be worthy of it. That among those obligations, the most important and most difficult is to aim not just at academic accomplishment, but at wisdom.

The encouragement of wisdom requires a special kind of education. It requires first of all recognition of one's own intellectual limits and fallibilities--in a word, humility. This is perhaps the most conspicuously missing part of today's education of the gifted. Many high-IQ students, especially those who avoid serious science and math, go from kindergarten through an advanced degree without ever having a teacher who is dissatisfied with their best work and without ever taking a course that forces them to say to themselves, "I can't do this." Humility requires that the gifted learn what it feels like to hit an intellectual wall, just as all of their less talented peers do, and that can come only from a curriculum and pedagogy designed especially for them. That level of demand cannot fairly be imposed on a classroom that includes children who do not have the ability to respond. The gifted need to have some classes with each other not to be coddled, but because that is the only setting in which their feet can be held to the fire.

The encouragement of wisdom requires mastery of analytical building blocks. The gifted must assimilate the details of grammar and syntax and the details of logical fallacies not because they will need them to communicate in daily life, but because these are indispensable for precise thinking at an advanced level.

The encouragement of wisdom requires being steeped in the study of ethics, starting with Aristotle and Confucius. It is not enough that gifted children learn to be nice. They must know what it means to be good.

The encouragement of wisdom requires an advanced knowledge of history. Never has the aphorism about the fate of those who ignore history been more true.

All of the above are antithetical to the mindset that prevails in today's schools at every level. The gifted should not be taught to be nonjudgmental; they need to learn how to make accurate judgments. They should not be taught to be equally respectful of Aztecs and Greeks; they should focus on the best that has come before them, which will mean a light dose of Aztecs and a heavy one of Greeks. The primary purpose of their education should not be to let the little darlings express themselves, but to give them the tools and the intellectual discipline for expressing themselves as adults.

In short, I am calling for a revival of the classical definition of a liberal education, serving its classic purpose: to prepare an elite to do its duty. If that sounds too much like Plato's Guardians, consider this distinction. As William F. Buckley rightly instructs us, it is better to be governed by the first 2,000 names in the Boston phone book than by the faculty of Harvard University. But we have that option only in the choice of our elected officials. In all other respects, the government, economy and culture are run by a cognitive elite that we do not choose. That is the reality, and we are powerless to change it. All we can do is try to educate the elite to be conscious of, and prepared to meet, its obligations. For years, we have not even thought about the nature of that task. It is time we did.

The goals that should shape the evolution of American education are cross-cutting and occasionally seem contradictory. Yesterday, I argued the merits of having a large group of high-IQ people who do not bother to go to college; today, I argue the merits of special education for the gifted. The two positions are not in the end incompatible, but there is much more to be said, as on all the issues I have raised.
The aim here is not to complete an argument but to begin a discussion; not to present policy prescriptions, but to plead for greater realism in our outlook on education. Accept that some children will be left behind other children because of intellectual limitations, and think about what kind of education will give them the greatest chance for a fulfilling life nonetheless. Stop telling children that they need to go to college to be successful, and take advantage of the other, often better ways in which people can develop their talents. Acknowledge the existence and importance of high intellectual ability, and think about how best to nurture the children who possess it.

Mr. Murray is the W.H. Brady Scholar at the American Enterprise Institute. This concludes a three-part series which began on Tuesday.
« Last Edit: February 01, 2007, 12:56:35 PM by Crafty_Dog » Logged
Power User
Posts: 9479

« Reply #1 on: February 01, 2007, 12:37:33 PM »

First, my comment that the above piece by Charles Murray is excellent!
This post could be classified as 'parenting'; I'll assume that's included in 'Education'. The author is the only conservative ever hired by the Mpls. Star-Tribune (known affectionately as the Red-Star). Her employment and columns are openly despised by their own editorialists and other columnists as covered by powerline a couple of days ago, "When envy met Kathy"

In today's column she correctly explains a lot of problem behaviors we see as the result of the newly labeled malady: DDD, Discipline Deficit Disorder.  If the DB common bond is martial arts, I assume that isn't that as big a problem around here.

A character-killer is lurking in your neighborhood
There's a childhood epidemic sweeping Minnesota and the nation. Its warning signs aren't fever or skin rashes. The symptoms are behavioral -- and unmistakable.

By Katherine Kersten, Star Tribune

Consider a recent, particularly virulent outbreak of the affliction in Maplewood, N.J., as reported by the New York Times. In the last few years, out-of-control kids from the middle school have overrun the town's library after school. They routinely mouth off to librarians, disrupt common areas, leave restrooms a shambles and race about, sometimes almost knocking over elderly patrons.

Lately, problems have escalated. There have been fights, and graffiti have been scrawled on the walls. Librarians have had to summon police. In December the library board voted to close the building daily for two hours after school. A few weeks later they revoked their decision under pressure, but only after hiring guards.

Maplewood must be the kind of place where drug dealers skulk on the corners, right? Wrong. Money magazine recently listed the cozy suburb as one of America's Best Places to Live, according to the Times.

What is this character-killing disease, which can unleash an adolescent rampage in the best of places?

Dr. David Walsh of the National Institute on Media and the Family in Minneapolis calls it discipline deficit disorder: DDD. In his new book, "NO: Why Kids -- of All Ages -- Need to Hear It and Ways Parents Can Say It," Walsh emphasizes that DDD is an equal-opportunity malady.

"It may look a little different in inner cities and affluent suburbs," he says, "but there are underlying similarities."

Discipline deficit disorder springs from a persistent lack of a single word in young people's lives. That word is "no." In an effort to make kids happy and ease their way in life, parents are increasingly failing to discipline them, and showering them with the things they demand. But without rules and limits, kids become self-absorbed, disrespectful and unable to delay gratification, says Walsh. And without challenge and disappointment, they fail to develop the "psychological muscles" -- resilience, resourcefulness and determination -- that they will need to cope with life's inevitable adversity.

"We all have an inborn drive to seek pleasure," Walsh explains. "Unfortunately, kids don't learn to manage that drive on their own. They outsource the job to us -- parents, teachers and other adults. Our job is to help them learn self-discipline -- the core trait they need to balance competing drives -- so that they, not the drives, are in charge."No" is not just a word, Walsh emphasizes. It's a parenting strategy.

In his search for a prescription for DDD, Walsh dug back into his own past. His mother, he recalls, had no trouble saying "no" to his pleas for a dime when the ice cream truck passed by. "I want you to learn an important lesson," she told him. "You don't always get what you want."

So what's changed?

Contemporary parents have to contend with pressures that his mother never faced, says Walsh. Today, popular culture -- "the culture of yes" -- exalts the drive for pleasure as life's highest good. Its slogan: "More, Easy, Fast and Fun." Kids get this message from movies, TV, video games and a consumer culture that bombards them, on average, with 23 million advertisements before they are 21.

Among those troubled by the discipline deficit are educators and business leaders, Walsh says. One-third of teachers are so discouraged by student behavior that they have considered abandoning their profession, according to research cited in his book.

Walsh also cites an October 2006 Conference Board study on work readiness. One of its biggest surprises is the degree of concern American business leaders express about young people's lack of work ethic, he says.

"Work ethic," he adds, "is the adult equivalent of self-discipline."

So are we parents enablers of DDD, or just the dupes of popular culture, as peddled by slick media types? Too often, it seems, we are willing accomplices in DDD's rapid spread.

Walsh has a telling anecdote: "Recently, a teacher came up to me after a workshop. 'I realized during your talk that I never give Cs or Ds anymore,' she told me. Why? 'I don't want to fight with the parents,' she said."
Power User
Posts: 42512

« Reply #2 on: February 02, 2007, 08:27:24 AM »


"DDD" -- I will be using this term!  With the influences that surround my children, it is sometimes hard to be a good father in this regard precisely because I am at variance with the larger cultural environment.

Changing subjects, here's this contrary to common perception piece from today's WSJ:


$34.06 an Hour
That's how much the average public school teachers makes. Is that "underpaid"?

Friday, February 2, 2007 12:01 a.m. EST

Who, on average, is better paid--public school teachers or architects? How about teachers or economists? You might be surprised to learn that public school teachers are better paid than these and many other professionals. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, public school teachers earned $34.06 per hour in 2005, 36% more than the hourly wage of the average white-collar worker and 11% more than the average professional specialty or technical worker.

In the popular imagination, however, public school teachers are underpaid. "Salaries are too low. We all know that," noted First Lady Laura Bush, expressing the consensus view. "We need to figure out a way to pay teachers more." Indeed, our efforts to hire more teachers and raise their salaries account for the bulk of public school spending increases over the last four decades. During that time per-pupil spending, adjusted for inflation, has more than doubled; overall we now annually spend more than $500 billion on public education.

The perception that we underpay teachers is likely to play a significant role in the debate to reauthorize No Child Left Behind. The new Democratic majority intends to push for greater education funding, much of which would likely to go toward increasing teacher compensation. It would be beneficial if the debate focused on the actual salaries teachers are already paid.

It would also be beneficial if the debate touched on the correlation between teacher pay and actual results. To wit, higher teacher pay seems to have no effect on raising student achievement. Metropolitan areas with higher teacher pay do not graduate a higher percentage of their students than areas with lower teacher pay.

In fact, the urban areas with the highest teacher pay are famous for their abysmal outcomes. Metro Detroit leads the nation, paying its public school teachers, on average, $47.28 per hour. That's 61% more than the average white-collar worker in the Detroit area and 36% more than the average professional worker. In metro New York, public school teachers make $45.79 per hour, 20% more than the average professional worker in that area. And in Los Angeles teachers earn $44.03 per hour, 23% higher than other professionals in the area.

Evidence suggests that the way we pay teachers is more important than simply what they take home. Currently salaries are determined almost entirely by seniority--the number of years in the classroom--and the number of advanced degrees accumulated. Neither has much to do with student improvement.
There is evidence that providing bonuses to teachers who improve the performance of their students does raise academic proficiency. With our colleagues at the University of Arkansas we found that a Little Rock program providing bonuses to teachers based on student gains on standardized tests substantially increased math proficiency. Researchers at the University of Florida recently found similar results in a nationwide evaluation.

Of course, public school teacher earnings look less impressive when viewed on an annual basis than on an hourly basis. This is because teachers tend to work fewer hours per year, with breaks during the summer, winter and spring. But comparing earnings on an annual basis would be inappropriate when teachers work significantly fewer hours than do other workers. Teachers can use that time to be with family, to engage in activities that they enjoy, or to earn additional money from other employment. That time off is worth money and cannot simply be ignored when comparing earnings. The appropriate way to compare earnings in this circumstance is to focus on hourly rates.

Moreover, the earnings data reported here, which are taken directly from the National Compensation Survey conducted by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, do not include retirement and health benefits, which tend to be quite generous for public school teachers relative to other workers. Nor do they include the nonmonetary benefit of greater job security due to the tenure that most public school teachers enjoy.

Educators sometimes object that hourly earnings calculations do not capture the additional hours they work outside of school, but this objection is not very compelling. First, the National Compensation Survey is designed to capture all hours actually worked. And teachers are hardly the only wage earners who take work home with them.

The fact is that teachers are better paid than most other professionals. What matters is the way that we pay public school teachers, not the amount. The next time politicians call for tax increases to address the problem of terribly underpaid public school teachers, they might be reminded of these facts.

Mr. Greene holds the endowed chair of education reform at the University of Arkansas and is a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, where Mr. Winters is a senior research associate. Their report, "How Much Are Public School Teachers Paid?," was released this week.
Power User
Posts: 197

« Reply #3 on: February 04, 2007, 08:55:21 PM »

Great thread idea.
I always found it intriguing how various cultures raised their youth, especially how the Greeks/Romans prioritized the mind over the heart or what is logical and what is not. Another interesting convo is how the Spartans raised their youth.

DDD- wow that is definately a new term to me, but we have all seen this plague. If we want America to be strong again we must stop this, along with the classes of "no child left behind' which is actually hindering the gifted ones.
Power User
Posts: 42512

« Reply #4 on: March 26, 2007, 07:58:12 AM »

Published: March 26, 2007
NY Times

A much-anticipated report from the largest and longest-running study of American child care has found that keeping a preschooler in a day care center for a year or more increased the likelihood that the child would become disruptive in class — and that the effect persisted through the sixth grade.

N.I.C.D. Study of Early Child Care ( effect was slight, and well within the normal range for healthy children, the researchers found. And as expected, parents’ guidance and their genes had by far the strongest influence on how children behaved.

But the finding held up regardless of the child’s sex or family income, and regardless of the quality of the day care center. With more than two million American preschoolers attending day care, the increased disruptiveness very likely contributes to the load on teachers who must manage large classrooms, the authors argue.

On the positive side, they also found that time spent in high-quality day care centers was correlated with higher vocabulary scores through elementary school.

The research, being reported today as part of the federally financed Study of Early Child Care and Youth Development, tracked more than 1,300 children in various arrangements, including staying home with a parent; being cared for by a nanny or a relative; or attending a large day care center. Once the subjects reached school, the study used teacher ratings of each child to assess behaviors like interrupting class, teasing and bullying.

The findings are certain to feed a long-running debate over day care, experts say.

“I have accused the study authors of doing everything they could to make this negative finding go away, but they couldn’t do it,” said Sharon Landesman Ramey, director of the Georgetown University Center on Health and Education. “They knew this would be disturbing news for parents, but at some point, if that’s what you’re finding, then you have to report it.”

The debate reached a high pitch in the late 1980s, during the so-called day care wars, when social scientists questioned whether it was better for mothers to work or stay home. Day care workers and their clients, mostly working parents, argued that it was the quality of the care that mattered, not the setting. But the new report affirms similar results from several smaller studies in the past decade suggesting that setting does matter.

“This study makes it clear that it is not just quality that matters,” said Jay Belsky, one of the study’s principal authors, who helped set off the debate in 1986 with a paper suggesting that nonparental child care could cause developmental problems. Dr. Belsky was then at Pennsylvania State University and has since moved to the University of London.

That the troublesome behaviors lasted through at least sixth grade, he said, should raise a broader question: “So what happens in classrooms, schools, playgrounds and communities when more and more children, at younger and younger ages, spend more and more time in centers, many that are indisputably of limited quality?”

Others experts were quick to question the results. The researchers could not randomly assign children to one kind of care or another; parents chose the kind of care that suited them. That meant there was no control group, so determining cause and effect was not possible. And some said that measures of day care quality left out important things.

The study did not take into account employee turnover, a reality in many day care centers that can have a negative effect on children, said Marci Young, deputy director of the Center for the Child Care Workforce, which represents day care workers. Most employees are “egregiously underpaid and have no benefits,” Ms. Young said, and when they leave for other work, “children experience this as a loss, and that does have an effect on them.”

The study, a $200 million project financed by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, recruited families in 10 cities from hospitals, after mothers gave birth. The researchers regularly contacted the mothers to find out where their children were being cared for, and visited those caregivers to see how attentive and how skilled they were with the youngsters.

In 2001, the authors reported that children who spent most of their day in care not provided by a parent were more likely to be disruptive in kindergarten. But this effect soon vanished for all but those children who spent a significant amount of time in day care centers.

Every year spent in such centers for at least 10 hours per week was associated with a 1 percent higher score on a standardized assessment of problem behaviors completed by teachers, said Dr. Margaret Burchinal, a co-author of the study and a psychologist at the University of North Carolina.

The Children’s Defense Fund estimates that 2.3 million American children under age 5 are in day care centers, many starting as toddlers and continuing until they enter kindergarten. Some 4.8 million are cared for by a relative or a nanny, and 3.3 million are at home with their parents.

The study was not designed to explain why time in day care could lead to more disruptive behavior later on. The authors and other experts argue that preschool peer groups probably influence children in different ways from one-on-one attention. In large groups of youngsters, disruption can be as contagious as silliness, studies have found, while children can be calmed by just the sight of their own mother.

“What the findings tell me is that we need to pay as much attention to children’s social and emotional development as we do to their cognitive, academic development, especially when they are together in groups,” said Ellen Galinsky, president of the Families and Work Institute, a nonprofit research group.

Loudell Robb, program director of the Rosemount Center in Washington, which cares for 147 children ages 5 and under at its main center and in homes, said she was not surprised that some children might have trouble making the transition from day care to school.

“At least our philosophy here is that children are given choices, to work alone or in a group, to move around,” Ms. Robb said. “By first or second grade, they’re expected to sit still for long periods, to form lines, not to talk to friends when they want to; their time is far more teacher-directed.”

And as parents in the thick of it know all too well, the stress of juggling chores, work and young children does not help. “It’s not an easy ride,” Ms. Robb said, “and you can see that here at drop-off time and in the evening when kids are picked up.”

The continuing research project began in 1991. The investigators have financing to follow the same children into high school, and are proposing to follow some into their 20s.

Power User
Posts: 42512

« Reply #5 on: March 01, 2008, 01:46:30 PM »

School Choice Isn't Enough
February 27, 2008

I began writing about school choice in City Journal more than a decade ago. I believed then (as I still believe) that giving tuition vouchers to poor inner-city students stuck in lousy public schools was a civil rights imperative. Starting in the 1980s, major empirical studies by sociologist James Coleman and other scholars showed that urban Catholic schools were better than public schools at educating the poor, despite spending far less per student. Among the reasons for this superiority: most Catholic educators still believed in a coherent, content-based curriculum, and they enforced order in the classroom. It seemed immoral to keep disadvantaged kids locked up in dismal, future-darkening public schools when vouchers could send them to high-performing Catholic ones--especially when middle-class parents enjoyed education options galore for their children.

But like other reformers, I also believed that vouchers would force the public schools to improve or lose their student "customers." Since competition worked in other areas, wouldn't it lead to progress in education, too? Maybe Catholic schools' success with voucher students would even encourage public schools to exchange the failed "progressive education" approaches used in most classrooms for the pedagogy that made the Catholic institutions so effective.

"Choice is a panacea," argued education scholars John Chubb and Terry Moe in their influential 1990 book "Politics, Markets and America's Schools." For a time, I thought so, too. Looking back from today's vantage point, it is clear that the school choice movement has been very good for the disadvantaged. Public and privately funded voucher programs have liberated hundreds of thousands of poor minority children from failing public schools. The movement has also reshaped the education debate. Not only vouchers, but also charter schools, tuition tax credits, mayoral control and other reforms are now on the table as alternatives to bureaucratic, special-interest-choked big-city school systems.

Yet social-change movements need to be attentive to the facts on the ground. Recent developments in both public and Catholic schools suggest that markets in education may not be a panacea--and that we should re-examine the direction of school reform.

* * *

One such development: Taxpayer-funded voucher programs for poor children, long considered by many of us to be the most promising of education reforms, have hit a wall. In 2002, after a decade of organizing by school choice activists, only two programs existed: one in Milwaukee, the other in Cleveland, allowing 17,000 poor students to attend private (mostly Catholic) schools. That year, in Zelman v. Simmons-Harris, the Supreme Court ruled that limited voucher programs involving religious schools were compatible with the First Amendment's establishment clause. The 5-4 decision seemed like school choice's Magna Carta. But the legal victory has led to few real gains. Today, fewer than 25,000 students--compared with a nationwide public school enrollment of 50 million--receive tax-funded vouchers, with a tiny Washington, D.C., program joining those of the other two cities.

Proposals for voucher programs have suffered five straight crushing defeats in state referenda--most recently in Utah, by a margin of 62% to 38%. After each loss, school choice groups blamed the lobbying money poured into the states by teachers unions, the deceptive ads run by voucher foes, and sometimes even voters' commitment to their children. When the Utah results came in, the principal funder of the pro-voucher side, businessman Patrick Byrne, opined that the voters failed "a statewide IQ test" and that they "don't care enough about their kids." If vouchers can't pass voter scrutiny in conservative Utah, though, how probable is it that they will do so anywhere else? And denouncing voters doesn't seem like a smart way to revive the voucher cause.

Voucher prospects have also dimmed because of the Catholic schools' deepening financial crisis. Without an abundant supply of good, low-cost urban Catholic schools to receive voucher students, voucher programs will have a hard time getting off the ground, let alone succeeding. But cash-strapped Catholic Church officials are closing the church's inner-city schools at an accelerating rate. With just one Catholic high school left in all of Detroit, for instance, where would the city's disadvantaged students use vouchers even if they had them?

Even more discouraging, vouchers may not be enough to save the Catholic schools that are voucher students' main destination. Archbishop Donald Wuerl of Washington, D.C., recently announced plans to close seven of the district's 28 remaining Catholic schools, all of which are receiving aid from federally funded tuition vouchers, unless the D.C. public school system agreed to take them over and convert them into charter schools. In Milwaukee, several Catholic schools have also closed, or face the threat of closing, despite boosting enrollments with voucher kids.

During the 15 years since the first voucher program got under way in Milwaukee, university researchers have extensively scrutinized the dynamics of school choice and the effect of competition on public schools. The preponderance of studies have shown clear benefits, both academically and otherwise, for the voucher kids. It's gratifying that the research confirms the moral and civil rights argument for vouchers.

But sadly--and this is a second development that reformers must face up to--the evidence is pretty meager that competition from vouchers is making public schools better. When I reported on the Milwaukee voucher experiment in 1999, some early indicators suggested that competition was having just that effect. Members of Milwaukee's school board, for example, said that voucher schools had prompted new reforms in the public school system, including modifying the seniority provisions of the teachers' contract and allowing principals more discretion in hiring. A few public schools began offering phonics-based reading instruction in the early grades, the method used in neighboring Catholic schools. Milwaukee public schools' test scores also improved--and did so most dramatically in those schools under the greatest threat of losing students to vouchers, according to a study by Harvard economist Caroline Hoxby.

Unfortunately, the gains fizzled. Fifteen years into the most expansive school choice program tried in any urban school district in the country, Milwaukee's public schools still suffer from low achievement and miserable graduation rates, with test scores flattening in recent years. Violence and disorder throughout the system seem as serious as ever. Most voucher students are still benefiting, true; but no "Milwaukee miracle," no transformation of the public schools, has taken place. One of the Milwaukee voucher program's founders, African-American educator Howard Fuller, recently told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "I think that any honest assessment would have to say that there hasn't been the deep, wholesale improvement in MPS [Milwaukee Public Schools] that we would have thought." And the lead author of one of the Milwaukee voucher studies, Harvard political scientist Paul Peterson, told me: "The research on school choice programs clearly shows that low-income students benefit academically. It's less clear that the presence of choice in a community motivates public schools to improve."

* * *

What should we do about these new realities? Obviously, private scholarship programs ought to keep helping poor families find alternatives to failing public schools. And we can still hope that some legislature, somewhere in America, will vote for another voucher plan, or generous tuition tax credits, before more Catholic schools close. But does the school choice movement have a realistic Plan B for the millions of urban students who will remain stuck in terrible public schools?

According to Ms. Hoxby and Mr. Peterson, perhaps the two most respected school choice scholars in the country, no such plan is necessary. In their view, the best hope for education improvement continues to be a maximum degree of parental choice--vouchers if possible, but also charter schools and tuition tax credits--plus merit-pay schemes for teachers and accountability systems that distinguish productive from unproductive school principals.

That "incentivist" outlook remains dominant within school reform circles. But a challenge from what one could call "instructionists"--those who believe that curriculum change and good teaching are essential to improving schools--is growing, as a unique public debate sponsored by the Koret Task Force on K-12 Education revealed. Founded in 1999, the Koret Task Force represents a national all-star team of education reform scholars. Permanent fellows include not only Ms. Hoxby and Mr. Peterson but also Mr. Chubb, Mr. Moe, education historian Diane Ravitch, Thomas B. Fordham Foundation president Chester Finn, Stanford economist Eric Hanushek, and the guru of "cultural literacy," E.D. Hirsch Jr. (recently retired). Almost from the start, the Koret scholars divided into incentivist and instructionist camps. "We have had eight years and we haven't been able to agree," says Hoxby. But in early 2007, members did agree to hold a debate at the group's home, the Hoover Institution at Stanford University: "Resolved: True school reform demands more attention to curriculum and instruction than to markets and choice." Mr. Hirsch and Ms. Ravitch argued the affirmative, Ms. Hoxby and Mr. Peterson the negative.

Mr. Hirsch and Ms. Ravitch opened by saying that while they had no opposition to charter schools or other forms of choice, charter schools had produced "disappointing results." Try a thought experiment, urged Ms. Ravitch. Say that one school system features market incentives and unlimited choices for parents and students, but no standard curriculum. Then posit another system, with no choice allowed, but in which the educational leadership enforces a rich curriculum and favors effective instructional approaches. In the market system, Ms. Ravitch predicted, "most schools will reflect the dominant ideas of the schools of education, where most teachers get their training, so most schools will adopt programs of whole language and fuzzy math. . . . Most students under a pure choice regime will know very little about history or literature or science." The system with the first-rate curriculum and effective pedagogy, Ms. Ravitch argued, would produce better education outcomes.

Responding, Mr. Peterson and Ms. Hoxby paid respects to good curricula and instructional methods. But the key question, in their view, was who would decide which curricula and instructional methods were best. Here, the pro-choice debaters made no bones about it: the market's "invisible hand" was the way to go. As Ms. Hoxby put it, educational choice would erect a "bulwark against special-interest groups hijacking the curriculum."

I had supported the competition argument for school choice as a working hypothesis, but my doubts about it grew after recent results from the Milwaukee experiment, and nothing said in the Koret debate restored my confidence. And something else caught my attention: Ms. Ravitch's comment about "the dominant ideas of the schools of education, where most teachers get their training." The statement slipped by, unchallenged by the incentivist side.

While the arguments about school choice and markets swirled during the past 15 years, both Ms. Ravitch and Mr. Hirsch wrote landmark books ("Left Back" and "The Schools We Need and Why We Don't Have Them," respectively) on how the nation's education schools have built an "impregnable fortress" (Mr. Hirsch's words) of wrong ideas and ineffective classroom practices that teachers then carry into America's schools, almost guaranteeing failure, especially for poor minority children. Mr. Hirsch's book didn't just argue this; it proved it conclusively, to my mind, offering an extraordinary tour d'horizon of all the evidence about instructional methods that cognitive neuroscience had discovered.

* * *

If Ms. Hoxby and Mr. Peterson were right in asserting that markets were enough to fix our education woes, then the ed schools wouldn't be the disasters that Mr. Hirsch, Ms. Ravitch, and others have exposed. Unlike the government-run K-12 schools, the country's 1,500 ed schools represent an almost perfect system of choice, markets and competition. Anyone interested in becoming a teacher is completely free to apply to any ed school that he wants. The ed schools, in turn, compete for students by offering competitive prices and--theoretically--attractive educational "products" (curricula and courses). Yet the schools are uniformly awful, the products the same dreary progressive claptrap. A few years ago, the National Council on Teacher Quality, a mainstream public education advocacy group, surveyed the nation's ed schools and found that almost all elementary education classes disdained phonics and scientific reading. If the invisible hand is a surefire way to improve curriculum and instruction, as the incentivists insist, why does almost every teacher-in-training have to read the works of leftists Paolo Freire, Jonathan Kozol and William Ayers--but usually nothing by, say, Mr. Hirsch or Ms. Ravitch?

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« Reply #6 on: March 01, 2008, 01:47:26 PM »

For a good explanation, look to the concept of ideological hegemony, usually associated with the sociological left. Instead of competition and diversity in the education schools, we confront what Mr. Hirsch calls the "thoughtworld" of teacher training, which operates like a Soviet-style regime suppressing alternative perspectives. Professors who dare to break with the ideological monopoly--who look to reading science or, say, embrace a core knowledge approach--won't get tenure, or get hired in the first place. The teachers they train thus wind up indoctrinated with the same pedagogical dogma whether they attend New York University's school of education or Humboldt State's. Those who put their faith in the power of markets to improve schools must at least show how their theory can account for the stubborn persistence of the thoughtworld.

Instead, we increasingly find the theory of educational competition detaching itself from its original school choice moorings and taking a new form. Vouchers might have stalled, but it's possible--or so many school reformers and education officials now assure us--to create the conditions for vigorous market competition within public school systems, with the same beneficent effects that were supposed to flow from a pure choice program.

Nowhere has this new philosophy of reform been more enthusiastically embraced than in the New York City school district under the control of Mayor Michael Bloomberg and schools chancellor Joel Klein. Gotham's schools are surging ahead with a host of market incentives, including models derived from the business world. Many of the country's major education foundations and philanthropies have boosted New York as the flagship school system for such market innovations, helping to spread the incentivist gospel nationally. Disciples of Mr. Klein have taken over the school systems in Baltimore and Washington, D.C., and Mr. Bloomberg's fellow billionaires Eli Broad and Bill Gates are about to launch a $60 million ad campaign to push the market approach during the presidential election season.

Don't get me wrong: Market-style reforms are sometimes just what's necessary in the public schools. Over the past decade, for instance, I often called attention in City Journal to the destructively restrictive provisions in the New York City teachers' contract, which forced principals to hire teachers based solely on seniority, and I felt vindicated when negotiations between the Bloomberg administration and the United Federation of Teachers eliminated the seniority clause and created an open-market hiring system. Similarly, the teachers' lockstep salary schedule, based on seniority and accumulating useless additional education credits, is a counterproductive way to compensate the system's most important employees. The schools need a flexible salary structure that realistically reflects supply and demand in the teacher labor market.

Unfortunately, the Bloomberg administration and its supporters are pushing markets and competition in the public schools far beyond where the evidence leads. Everything in the system now has a price. Principals can get cash bonuses of as much as $50,000 by raising their schools' test scores; teachers in a few hundred schools now (and hundreds more later) can take home an extra $3,000 if the student scores in their schools improve; parents get money for showing up at parent-teacher conferences; their kids get money or--just what they need--cell phones for passing tests.

Much of this scaffolding of cash incentives (and career-ending penalties) rests on a rather shaky base: the state's highly unreliable reading and math tests in grades three through eight, plus the even more unreliable high school Regents exams, which have been dumbed down so that schools will avoid federal sanctions under the No Child Left Behind act. In the past, the tests have also been prone to cheating scandals. Expect more cheating as the stakes for success and failure rise.

While confidently putting their seal of approval on this market system, the mayor and chancellor appear to be agnostic on what actually works in the classroom. They've shown no interest, for example, in two decades' worth of scientific research sponsored by the National Institutes of Health that proves that teaching phonics and phonemic awareness is crucial to getting kids to read in the early grades. They have blithely retained a fuzzy math program, Everyday Math, despite a consensus of university math professors judging it inadequate. Indeed, Messrs. Bloomberg and Klein have abjured all responsibility for curriculum and instruction and placed their bets entirely on choice, markets, and accountability.

But the new reliance on markets hasn't prevented special interests from hijacking the curriculum. One such interest is the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project--led by Lucy Calkins, the doyenne of the whole-language reading approach, which postulates that all children can learn to read and write naturally, with just some guidance from teachers, and that direct phonics instruction is a form of child abuse. Ms. Calkins's enterprise has more than $10 million in Department of Education contracts to guide reading and writing instruction in most of the city's elementary schools, even though no solid evidence supports her methodology. This may explain why, on the recent National Assessment of Educational Progress tests--widely regarded as a gold standard for educational assessment--Gotham students showed no improvement in fourth- and eighth-grade reading from 2003 to 2007, while the city of Atlanta, which hasn't staked everything on market incentives, has shown significant reading improvement.

One wonders why so many in the school reform movement and in the business community celebrate New York City's recent record on education. Is it merely because they hear the words "choice," "markets" and "competition" and think that all is well? If so, they're mistaken. The primal scene of all education reform is the classroom. If the teacher isn't doing the right thing, all the cash incentives in the world won't make a difference.

* * *

Those in the school reform movement seeking a case of truly spectacular academic improvement should look to Massachusetts, where something close to an education miracle has occurred. In the past several years, Massachusetts has improved more than almost every other state on the NAEP tests. In 2007, it scored first in the nation in fourth- and eighth-grade math and reading. The state's average scale scores on all four tests have also improved at far higher rates than most other states have seen over the past 15 years.

The improvement had nothing to do with market incentives. Massachusetts has no vouchers, no tuition tax credits, very few charter schools, and no market incentives for principals and teachers. The state owes its amazing improvement in student performance to a few key former education leaders, including state education board chairman John Silber, assistant commissioner Sandra Stotsky, and board member (and Manhattan Institute fellow) Abigail Thernstrom.

Starting a decade ago, these instructionists pushed the state's board of education to mandate a rigorous curriculum for all grades, created demanding tests linked to the curriculum standards, and insisted that all high school graduates pass a comprehensive exit exam. In its English Language Arts curriculum framework, the board even dared to say that reading instruction in the early grades should include systematic and explicit phonics. Now a professor of education reform at the University of Arkansas, Ms. Stotsky sums up: "The lesson from Massachusetts is that a strong content-based curriculum, together with upgraded certification regulations and teacher licensure tests that require teacher preparation programs to address that content, can be the best recipe for improving students' academic achievement."

The Massachusetts miracle doesn't prove that a standard curriculum and a focus on effective instruction will always produce academic progress. Nor does the flawed New York City experiment in competition mean that we should cast aside all market incentives in education. But what has transpired in these two places provides an important lesson: education reformers ought to resist unreflective support for elegant-sounding theories, derived from the study of economic activity, that don't produce verifiable results in the classroom. After all, children's lives are at stake.

Mr. Stern is a contributing editor of City Journal and the author of "Breaking Free: Public School Lessons and the Imperative of School Choice."

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« Reply #7 on: March 22, 2008, 12:45:56 PM »

Certifying Parents
March 22, 2008; Page A24
In the annals of judicial imperialism, we have arrived at a strange new chapter. A California court ruled this month that parents cannot "home school" their children without government certification. No teaching credential, no teaching. Parents "do not have a constitutional right to home school their children," wrote California appellate Justice Walter Croskey.

The 166,000 families in the state that now choose to educate their children at home must be stunned. But at least one political lobby likes the ruling. "We're happy," the California Teachers Association's Lloyd Porter told the San Francisco Chronicle. He says the union believes all students should be taught only by "credentialed" teachers, who will in due course belong to unions.

California law requires children between six and 18 to attend a full-time day school. Failure to comply means falling afoul of the state's truancy laws, which say kids can't play hooky without an excuse. But kids who are taught at home are less likely to be truants. Their parents choose to spend their time teaching English, math and science precisely because they don't think the public schools do a good enough job.

The case was initiated by the Los Angeles Department of Children and Family Services after a home-schooled child reportedly complained of physical abuse by his father. A lawyer assigned to two of the family's eight children invoked the truancy law to get the children enrolled in a public school and away from their parents. So a single case of parental abuse is being used to promote the registration of all parents who crack a book for their kids. If this strikes some readers as a tad East German, we know how you feel.

That so many families turn to home schooling is a market solution to a market failure -- namely the dismal performance of the local education monopoly. According to the Home School Legal Defense Association, the majority of states have low to moderate levels of regulation for home schools, an environment that has allowed the option to flourish, especially in the South and Western U.S. Between 1999 and 2003, the rate of home-schooling increased by 29%.

For some parents, the motive for home schooling is religious; others want to protect their kids from gangs and drugs. But the most-cited reason is to ensure a good education. Home-schooled students are routinely high performers on standardized academic tests, beating their public school peers on average by as much as 30 percentile points, regardless of subject. They perform well on tests like the SAT -- and colleges actively recruit them both for their high scores and the diversity they bring to campus.

In 1994, a federal attempt to require certification of parent-teachers went down in flames as hundreds of thousands of calls lit up phone banks on Capitol Hill. The movement has since only grown larger and better organized, now conservatively estimated at well over a million nationwide. But what they can't accomplish legislatively, unions are now trying to achieve by diktat from the courts.

If John McCain wants an issue to endear him to cultural conservatives, this would be it. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama rarely stray from the preferences of the teachers unions, but we'd like to know whether they really favor the certification of parents who dare to believe they know best how to teach their children.
« Reply #8 on: September 09, 2008, 02:54:45 PM »

September 09, 2008, 8:00 a.m.

Rhee Reform
Reforming D.C. schools, whatever the political consequences.

By Elise Viebeck

Every July, an elite group assembles in the mountain resort of Sun Valley, Idaho, for a private retreat. It’s like summer camp for the executive set, with golf, rafting, and fishing for seasoned attendees like Bill Gates, Rupert Murdoch, and Michael Bloomberg. Recreation is combined with more intellectual pursuits, however, including closed-door panels that survey economic, geopolitical, and cultural trends.

This past summer, there was a new face in the mix: Michelle Rhee, reform-chancellor-extraordinaire of the D.C. public-school system. And though she’s only headed into her second year on the job, Rhee says she felt at home among the Sun Valley crowd, populated not only by wealthy moguls, but also by some the most successful entrepreneurs in recent memory. “These are folks who really understand what it takes to run a high-functioning, high-performing organization,” Rhee told National Review Online. “And they were incredibly supportive, incredibly excited about what we’re doing here in D.C.”

Rhee’s results-oriented efficiency often evokes comparisons with elite corporate leaders. Yet for Rhee, the week of casual luxury in Sun Valley was an anomaly — a far cry from her daily grind in D.C., where she’s confined to a business suit, a rigorous schedule, and a flood of e-mail she answers herself. As the sixth school chief in ten years, she has taken up the burden of a district she says is a victim of “extremely failed bureaucracy.”

“Look at the fact that so few of our kids are performing at grade level; that we have a 70-point achievement gap between wealthy white students and poorer minority students; that of all ninth-graders in the district, only 9 percent graduate from college within five years,” she says. “These are our data points.”

She insists that her obligation is to D.C. public-school students — all 49,400 of them. That “do it for the children” rhetoric doesn’t fall flat coming from Rhee — she has two daughters who attend elementary school in the district. You read that right: elementary school. At 37, Rhee is the District’s first superintendent under the age of 50. This daughter of South-Korean immigrants is also the first Asian-American superintendent — and the first non-black superintendent in nearly 40 years.

Rhee assumed control of D.C.P.S. having earned a master’s degree in education policy from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. But her zeal for education reform she credits to the three years she spent teaching in an elementary school in Baltimore. She had joined Teach for America after graduating from Cornell University and was sent to a second-grade classroom at Harlem-Park Elementary, where she and a co-worker were able to raise their students’ failing scores to the 90th percentile.

The difference, she notes, was in the approach to teaching. “Teacher quality is the single factor that has the most influence on student performance, without a doubt,” she says. “I learned as a teacher that what second-graders can do depended on my expectations. If you have extraordinarily high expectations of kids, that they can meet them.”

Later, Rhee founded the New Teacher Project, a nonprofit that puts qualified teachers, sometimes recruited from industry, in underperforming schools throughout the country. Her insistence on teacher quality as has been the cornerstone of her reform agenda as chancellor. She is currently in the process of negotiating “the most radical teachers’ union contract in the country” — one that would introduce the option of merit pay for district teachers.

In discussing those contract negotiations, she emphasizes that two parties sign — so if the contract is flawed, the district can’t grumble without admitting partial blame. “A lot of things in collective bargaining agreements in urban school district do not serve children well. . . . Those provisions need to be aggressively reformed.”

Rhee has remained impervious to political interests while making tough choices on how best to administer the district’s resources, and (as you’d expect) a number of the decisions she’s made — school closures, for example, or the choice to fire non-union central-office workers — have proven controversial. Rhee has intrepidly crossed a number of such minefields in her brief tenure. That’s probably because Rhee is a rare breed in D.C., having been appointed without political experience or aspirations. She has said that this is a “one-time gig,” allowing her to pursue her reforms without worrying about the political ramifications.

Now, at the start of a new school year, Rhee’s hard-charging leadership has drawn predictable criticism from teachers’ unions as she plans another year of energetic reform. “I’m a very disillusioned Democrat,” she laughs, and continues earnestly. “The Democratic party must break ties with the teachers’ unions. There is no way that we will see radical reforms in urban school districts until that happens. In the last decade, the educational policy of the Republican party has been much, much stronger.”

“I am a big believer in school choice,” she explains. “I would never do anything to limit a parent’s ability to choose the school that is best for their child. But it’s also true that we at D.C.P.S. can be much, much more competitive.”

That competitiveness is the goal of a small group of reform-minded urban superintendents — including New York’s Joel Klein, Chicago’s Arne Duncan, and Atlanta’s Beverly Hall — who have dared to break with the Democratic party on key education policies. “We’re all Democrats, but we’re also all up on a hill saying ‘Do not roll back No Child Left Behind!’ Democrats’ soft ideas on accountability are not going to help the kids in the nation’s capital or in other urban areas. The Democratic party needs to get moving with policies that will actually help poor and minority kids.”

Rhee says that the political waters in heavily Democratic D.C. are navigable thanks to Mayor Adrian Fenty, who supports her “100-percent, 100 percent of the time.” Also a fresh presence in D.C. politics, Fenty pried D.C.P.S. from the grip of the educational bureaucracy by placing it under the jurisdiction of the mayor’s office, creating the possibility for a schools’ chancellorship that was a more dynamic and effective position.

Her esteem for Fenty is obvious. “He is truly unlike any politician I have ever met in my life,” she says. “He is willing to put all of his political capital on the line to ensure that the schools are successful. He doesn’t look at this from a political angle at all. Many things that I’ve done have resulted in a backlash against him, impacting his approval ratings — but he never, ever hesitates. Few superintendents in the country get the kind of support that I do.”

Looking forward, her agenda includes reforms that will involve the private sector in the management and funding of troubled schools; in fact, she’s already established a separate 501(c)3 to field philanthropic donations to the district. In this vein, her time in Sun Valley may eventually reap dividends for D.C.P.S: though she would not give details, Rhee says that many fellow conference attendees expressed an interest partnering with her to achieve real reform in D.C. schools.

“Our goal is very clear. We want to be the highest-performing urban school district in the country. We want to be the district of choice for the families in D.C., and we want to close the achievement gap between wealthy white students and their poor minority counterparts.”

In the meantime, Rhee seems to welcome the pressure, as she weighs the support of many D.C. residents, the criticism of her opponents, and the district’s students. “Feeling the means we’re doing the right thing.”

— Elise Viebeck, a Collegiate Network intern at National Review, is an editor emerita of the Claremont Independent at Claremont McKenna College.
National Review Online -
« Last Edit: September 09, 2008, 04:48:50 PM by Body-by-Guinness » Logged
« Reply #9 on: March 19, 2009, 06:09:01 PM »

NEA to Dems: HEY! We Paid Good Money for You!!!

Posted by Andrew J. Coulson

Here’s an interesting letter penned by Dennis Van Roekel, president of the National Education Association — the largest union in the country (hat tip to Cato’s own Neal McCluskey). It reads, in part (boldface added, ALL CAPS “shouting” in the original):

Letter to the Democrats in the House and Senate on DC Vouchers

March 05, 2009

Dear Senator:
The National Education Association strongly opposes any extension of the District of Columbia private school voucher (”DC Opportunity Scholarship”) program.  We expect that Members of Congress who support public education, and whom we have supported, will stand firm against any proposal to extend the pilot program.  Actions associated with these issues WILL be included in the NEA Legislative Report Card for the 111th Congress.
Vouchers are not real education reform.  Pulling 1,200 children out of a system that serves 65,000 doesn’t solve problems - it ignores them.  Real reform will put a qualified teacher in every classroom, keep their skills up to date with continuing education, and raise pay to attract and retain the best teachers.  Rather than offering a chance for a few, we should be ensuring that every child has access to a great public school.

Opposition to vouchers is a top priority for NEA.  Throughout its history, NEA has strongly opposed any diversion of limited public funds to private schools….

According to his bio, president Van Roekel used to teach high school math, so I assume he is an able number cruncher. But as someone who used to be a computer software engineer, I think an old comp. sci. adage is apropos: “Garbage-in, Garbage-out.” It doesn’t matter how good your number crunching is if the numbers you crunch are nonsense.

As I have previously pointed out, enrollment in DC this year is nearly 20,000 students lower than Van Roekel imagines. The “limited public funds” he seems to think are allocated to k-12 education in DC amount to $26,555 per pupil. The DC voucher program’s enabling legislation actually increases funding to DC public schools by $13 million per year, and the average tuition charged by voucher-accepting private schools was $5,928 last year.

So the DC voucher program is 4 times more efficient than DCPS, and gets far more positive reviews from parents in the bargain, according to the Dept. of Education’s own study of the program. If it were expanded to serve every student in the district, it would save on the order of half a billion dollars, even allowing for a higher average tuition.

Now let’s see… what other reasons might president Van Roekel have for wanting to kick 1,700 poor kids in DC out of schools they love?
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« Reply #10 on: March 15, 2011, 08:08:02 AM »

Oh, to be a princess!
Katie Hinderer | 12 March 2011

There is some concern in feminist circles that the current girly-girl
culture of adolescent and tween girls is harmful to their future as
independent, free thinking, strong women. The idea is that all those pink
tutus, perfect princesses, high heeled shoes and plastic jewelry is negating
the hard-fought struggle for equality of the sexes. This young generation
appears to be taking a step backward, embracing the frilly and feminine.

But is that really so bad? Perhaps there are benefits to the youngsters’
move away from sameness between the sexes; maybe the real problem comes in
when adults get involved in the equation. Maybe the younger generation sees
something that we adults are missing in the princess, girly-girl trend.

For example, a young girl’s perception of what makes a princess is largely
based on the movies they watch and how adults talk to them. When a
five-year-old is complaining that she wants a new toy and her mother gives
in and says, “Oh, you’re such a princess!” the little girl files away in her
brain the information that complaining till you get what you want is the
right thing to do. But the same scene could be played with the mother
instead pointing out that Cinderella proved herself a princess by learning
how to deal with what she had, never complaining and re-using her old
clothes to make something new.

After all, the princesses in most Disney movies, TV shows or fairy tales are
young women with virtues. While everything works out for them in the end, it
is not without struggle and determination on the girl’s part.

Thus, Cinderella is kind and innovative. She never loses her temper with the
new chores she is told to do. She never yells at her step-sisters. She’s
environmentally minded, thrifty and economical – re-using the things left
behind my others.

Belle, from Beauty and the Beast, my personal favorite, sees the true beauty
that exists beyond the exterior. She is honest and forthright, speaking her
mind when the situation calls for it. And she is a true friend, sticking up
for the Beast when everyone else is against him.

Tiana, from the Princess and the Frog, is an entrepreneur, working hard to
achieve the goal she had set when little. And yet, while working to achieve
this dream she is still kind to those in her life and puts others before

Jasmine, from Aladdin, refuses to be cowed by cultural norms that tell her
she must marry royalty. Instead she acts according to what she knows is
right, even if it goes against what society thinks and expects.

These princesses all have a lot to offer the younger generation if things
are explained in this way. But it would be up to parents to point out these
positive images of what a woman should be. Instead, what often happens is
that girly culture falls victim to adult sexualization. Suddenly Jasmine’s
ability to buck an unjust social trend is degraded to a midriff-baring
Halloween costume. Or Cinderella’s kindness and modesty is swapped for a
strapless poufy prom dress on a high school girl who thinks her knight will
be asking her to dance (and who knows what else) that night.

There is a notable difference between focusing on the virtues and positive
character traits of these princesses, and letting children (and adults)
parade around in the Disney-inspired clothing. True, high heels, make-up,
jewelry, and pretty dresses are normal childhood playthings for a young
girl, and perhaps this is where a gray area comes in. When is playing
dress-up just a good creative childhood pastime for a young girl and when is
it projecting an image of someone far beyond her age and wisdom?

The pageants and youngster beauty competitions play on this princess theme,
desiring to make even the most innocent and unassuming of children into next
top models or beauty icons. At that point princesses are no longer the
dramatis personae of a girl’s imagination and creativity, but rather a way
to flaunt exterior beauty and the perception of perfection. While it is true
that many of these events have a non-beauty related component, giving the
young lady a chance to showcase talents and offer her thoughts on weighty
matters, these too often become contrived routines specifically engineered
to win. The responses and talents are often missing the true princess
qualities of honesty, ingenuity and uniqueness.

Still, rejecting the girly-girl youth culture for these reasons would be
like failing to discern the princess beneath Cinderella’s rags. Wouldn’t it
be much more fruitful to encourage proper princess behavior? Adults could
give young girls a true concept of the strong, determined and courageous
women portrayed through their favorite princess, while encouraging them to
be equally inspirational in the realm of daily life.

Katie Hinderer is a freelance journalist currently based in Boston and
editor of the MercatorNet blog, Tiger Print.
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« Reply #11 on: March 15, 2011, 08:09:16 AM »

second post of the morning

The bride who was groomed for a career
Lea Singh | 12 March 2011

Recently, a possibly tragic event took place: a highly educated young woman
I know got married. Radiant in her delicate lace dress, full of joy and
optimism about the future, this blushing bride was not yet aware of the
reality of her situation: that she has been groomed through her many years
of education to be, well, the groom – and this fact is very likely to cause
friction for her and her family as she tries to achieve the deepest hopes
and dreams of her heart.

On the heels of International Women’s Day, which celebrated all that
feminism has achieved for women’s progress in society and the workplace, it
seems that this young woman’s educational path is the modern girl's dream.
Whip-smart, she holds two degrees from Ivy League universities. She has had
scholarships and fellowships in the best places and with the most renowned
scholars. Just before her wedding she graduated from the most exclusive
educational program in her chosen professional field and passed the state
exams for her profession. Her career glistens ahead of her with sky-high
potential. She could be the next big name in her field, even a Nobel
laureate one day.

Only now, she has a husband, and should children come along…what happens

The story of this young woman is far from unique. Many women experience
aspects of this story upon graduation from university and while beginning
their careers, as I did eight years ago. Having graduated from Harvard Law
School, passed the New York Bar and headed out to a major law firm to begin
my career, I asked myself at 26 where my life was headed. I was not yet
married, but I was beginning to realize that with my six-digit salary and
two-digit workday hours, I was in a great position to be my future family’s
financial provider, but not so much the actual wife and mother.

I wanted to get married and have children, and I deeply believed that
children needed their mommies. On the other hand, I also had a great burden
on my shoulders – the weight of my as-yet unfulfilled career “potential”. I
wanted to put my expensive, extensive and exclusive education to “good use”
and to make something of myself in the world, not just at home. In some ways
I felt like Frodo carrying the Ring of Power – what will I do with this
career potential of mine? Any high school dropout can stay at home with
children – but a successful career is not easily achieved or thrown away.

This is a very difficult dilemma for many young women today. The higher
women climb on the education ladder, the harder it is for many of them to
get off the track. There are several reasons for this, including the years
of invested sweat and money, as well as the deeply-held career goals that
have been created over years of academic success, but which clash in reality
with the role of a wife and mother.

These are not popular words, and many will surely take vehement issue with
what I am writing here. There are so many examples of women who seem to
“have it all” – substantial career success as well as seemingly functional
and happy children and families. And so many women – and men – want to
believe that women can be superheroes: CEOs and moms of five kids at the
same time.

But now as a stay-at-home mom, I have come to a different conclusion. Caring
for children, at least while they are small, is a full-time job, and
creating and maintaining a family’s home, including the cooking, is no easy
task either. Women have only two choices when it comes to these matters – do
it themselves or get someone else to do it for them. There is a price to pay
for getting others to do the work for you, and it’s not just financial. Much
of the emotional price for outsourced childcare is paid by the children. As
my husband remarked the other day, it’s funny how much they need us, since
we don’t really need them (at least in the same way). When I hear my
children crying “Mama”, I am glad that it is me – and not someone else -
who is there for them.

As I think about how I want to raise my little girl, there are things I want
to do differently. When I was growing up, academic success and my future
occupation were the focus of my world. I spent high school and university
pondering what kind of job I wanted to get after university. Somehow, it was
assumed that the role of wife and mother would eventually just coexist
alongside my career ambitions. It was never clarified how this would work in

I wish that as I was growing up, the role of wife and mother had been more
fully present as a respectable and important option that also needs time and
training, not just an afterthought that automatically tacks on to a career.
Much of the skill set I acquired in university is not very useful in the
home. Although I know how to write legal briefs, I wish I knew how to sew,
play family songs on the piano and cook without a cookbook, and even that I
was more familiar with caring for little ones and for a busy household. All
the chores I was protected from in order to enable me to study as I was
growing up – maybe I should have done them after all, including some
babysitting. I want to give these experiences to my daughter, so that she
will be better equipped not just for a career, but also for motherhood.

I even wish – and this is sure to get some hair frizzed – that it had been
explained to me that a high-flying career does not go well with family life.
Men and women really are different. When the man gets married, it is just a
sweet step in the direction of all his life dreams. He can climb up the
career ladder and still be a good father to his nine kids. He will get a
deep sense of meaning and fulfillment from providing for his family.

But where feminism has confused women, it has made us dream that we are the
same as men. Men are not mothers, and children don’t need them in the same
way as they will inevitably need us. So if we want to have children, we can’t
pretend to be men in our career plans and aspirations. Do we really want to
have someone else caring for our homes and our children? It does not have to
be that way. We need to embrace a model of life success that is less
career-oriented and more family-centered. Giving of oneself to others, while
it comes without diplomas, year-end bonuses and frequent-flyer miles, is
just as worthy and important as building up one’s own career.

Lea Singh writes from Canada.

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Posts: 42512

« Reply #12 on: March 22, 2011, 09:19:55 AM »

Boys' and girls' brains are different—but not always in the ways you might think.

A common stereotype is that boys develop more slowly than girls, putting them at a disadvantage in school where pressure to perform is starting ever younger. Another notion is that puberty is a time when boys' and girls' brains grow more dissimilar, accounting for some of the perceived disparities between the sexes.

 This time-lapse video shows MRIs of a girl and boy brain combined as they age from 9 to 22 and their their gender difference disappear as they age. Video courtesy of NIH.
.Now, some scientists are debunking such thinking. Although boys' and girls' brains show differences around age 10, during puberty key parts of their brains become more similar, according to recent government research. And, rather than growing more slowly, boys' brains instead are simply developing differently.

"There's a lot of work right now trying to go beyond sweeping generalizations, like boys aren't as good at reading," says Jay Giedd, chief of Brain Imaging at the National Institute of Mental Health's Child Psychiatry Branch.

The NIMH, as part of a 20-year-old brain-mapping project, has been doing MRI scans of young people's brains, age 9 to 22. By measuring the thickness of the brain's cortex and how it changes over time, scientists have found that boys' and girls' brains, on average, differ significantly at age 9. But by the time the participants reached age 22, the brains of the two sexes grew more alike in many areas critical for learning. In general, most parts of people's brains are fully developed by the age of 25 to 30. The NIMH study, which involved 284 people, was published last year in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

View Full Image

National Institute of Mental Health (3)
Scientists combined MRIs of a girl and a boy brain. Blue shows where the two differ most, purple is a little different, and white virtually the same. At age 10, differences dominate. Similarities increase over time. (Click to graphic to enlarge.)
Gender Development
Some typical milestones and when boys and girls tend to hit them:

At birth: Girls are a few weeks more mature neurologically and have more advanced hearing. Boys on average weigh half a pound more.

First words: Girls typically utter their first word at 11 or 12 months, one month ahead of boys.

Vocabulary: At 18 months, girls on average know 86.8 words, more than double boys' 41.8 words. By 30 months, boys' and girls' language skills have converged, at about 500 words.

Walking: Caucasian girls and boys tend to walk around 12 months. African-Americans walk sooner, at nine to 10 months.

Potty training: Girls are fully trained by 36 months, according to one study. Boys took a bit longer, training by 38 months.

Onset of puberty: For girls, the process can start at age 9 to 10. For boys, it's closer to 11 to 12.

Source: WSJ research
.Another finding: Young girls' brains tend to mature faster in the front part, which is responsible, among other things, for language learning and controlling aggression and impulsivity. For boys, the fastest development is in the back of the brain, which performs visual-spatial tasks at which males tend to excel such as geometry and puzzle-solving.

The findings come as education experts debate the best ways to approach gender issues in schools. Aspects of the government research appear to support a push for segregated classrooms of boys and girls, especially at younger ages when their brains are the most different. But other educators and scientists cite other parts of the data to reject the idea of single-sex classrooms.

Leonard Sax, an advocate for single-sex classrooms, says, "If you're teaching 9-year-olds you need to understand that what the 9-year-old boy needs in the classroom may be very different than what the 9-year-old girl needs."

Dr. Sax, a physician and author of books on gender differences, worries that in kindergarten many boys aren't ready to learn to read the way it is usually taught—stressing sitting still and being quiet—and therefore may be turned off to school. The nonprofit National Association for Single Sex Public Education says that more than 500 public schools nationwide offer single-sex classrooms, compared with just 11 schools in 2002.

Woodward Avenue Elementary in DeLand, Fla., introduced single-sex classrooms in conjunction with educational experts at nearby Stetson University. Some differences: In the boys' classrooms, activities include tossing balls while reciting math facts, which helps turn boys on to learning, say the Stetson professors, Elizabeth Heins and Kathy Piechura-Couture. Classrooms for girls are conducted in lower tones, on the assumption that girls do better in quieter classrooms.

Torrence Broxton, the school's principal, says students in the single-sex classrooms often outperform their peers in coed rooms. He says parents rarely ask for a child to be switched out of a single-sex class.

Other education experts are concerned that single-sex curricula can reinforce gender stereotypes and don't mirror real-world circumstances. They also say scientific research doesn't support separate classrooms.

"There is much more similarity between the sexes than difference," says Lise Eliot, a neuroscientist at Chicago's Rosalind Franklin University who has authored a book about brain development in boys and girls. Brain differences, she says, "are real but they are small."

Dr. Eliot cites a neuro-imaging study from last year that showed the female brain has stronger neuronal connections than the male brain in certain areas, and vice versa. But in general, the study found that the male and female brains show more commonality than difference, Dr. Eliot says. The study, which looks at about 1,100 brain scans, was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Dr. Giedd of the NIMH says his research also showed there are exceptions. In about 10% of the young people studied, boys' and girls' brains were more similar to the brains of the opposite sex than to others' of the same sex. Dr. Giedd says many factors can affect the rate of brain development, including the strength or weakness of testosterone receptors. Testosterone, a hormone usually associated with male traits, is present in both sexes and can help determine how quickly parts of the brain develop that account for typical male-dominated functions.

Dr. Giedd also cautions that even though boys and girls may end up by early adulthood with many parts of the brain's cortex showing similar thickness, that doesn't mean they will necessarily have similar behaviors or ability. Instead, he says other research has shown that the way the cortex develops, and not its thickness, is more important in determining such factors as a person's level of intelligence.

« Reply #13 on: March 29, 2011, 10:11:04 AM »

Respecting Teachers in the Sunshine State
A new law largely dismantles Florida’s unfair, tenure-based system in the public schools.

27 March 2011

Last week, the Florida state legislature passed sweeping changes to the state’s law for employing public school teachers. The new regime effectively eliminates tenure for newly hired employees; requires districts to evaluate teachers based in part on student performance on standardized tests; abolishes the rule that seniority determines teacher layoffs; and lets districts establish performance-based salary schedules. Former governor Charlie Christ vetoed a similar bill last year, which is one reason that he’s not a public official today (he lost in a bid for the Senate last year). Newly elected governor Rick Scott is expected to sign the bill into law soon.

Not surprisingly, public school teachers in Florida have vigorously opposed the changes, as have teachers’ unions in other states considering similar, if less comprehensive, reforms. The Florida Education Association, the state’s teachers’ union, has already threatened to file a lawsuit to block or overturn the law. The unions’ most frequent objection is that the state’s unilateral imposition of new work rules is disrespectful to teachers.

Yet it’s the current system that treats teachers as interchangeable widgets. Under Florida’s current rules, the process for evaluating teachers is essentially a rubber stamp—it is common for 99 percent or more teachers to earn “Satisfactory” or higher ratings. The state’s teachers earn uniform pay based exclusively on two attributes: years of experience and possession of advanced degrees, criteria mostly unrelated to the quality of their teaching, research shows. One study conducted by Dan Goldhaber found that only “about 3 percent of the contribution teachers made to student learning was associated with teacher experience, degree attained, and other readily observable characteristics.” Moreover, once teachers enter the classroom, they receive little meaningful feedback about their performance. Nearly all teachers who choose to remain in the classroom longer than three years win job protections that make it so hard to fire them that few schools even try. In short: the current system makes no meaningful attempt to distinguish between great and not-so-great teachers. Its underlying premise is that anyone who becomes a teacher is doing just fine.

But everyone knows that not all public school teachers are good at what they do. Empirical research finds wide variation in teacher quality, and further, that the difference between being assigned to a high-quality or to a subpar teacher means as much as a grade level’s worth of achievement for a student over the course of a school year. Any education system that ignores the obvious variation in teacher quality devalues teaching. Treating teachers as if they’re all identical, as the union prefers, is ultimately no different from treating them as if they don’t matter.

By contrast, the premise underlying reforms like those pursued in Florida is that teachers are the most important resource in public schools and thus worthy of careful consideration. Unlike today’s rubber-stamp approach, for example, an evaluation system based partly on student performance provides teachers with a substantive measure of how well, or poorly, they’re doing their jobs. Committed educators can then use this feedback to improve their classroom effectiveness. Moreover, removing ineffective teachers, regardless of how many years they’ve worked—which the new law will enable schools to do—opens the door to new, potentially excellent teachers. Rewarding the best teachers with higher pay is not only just; it will also help schools retain the educators they can least afford to lose. The Florida reforms are an encouraging sign that some states are finally getting it: our public schools need outstanding teachers, not tenured bureaucrats.

Marcus A. Winters, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, conducts research and writes about education policy.
« Reply #14 on: March 31, 2011, 12:51:45 PM »

Ben Boychuk
Triggering School Reform in California
Parents push for their legal rights to better schools, but the education establishment pushes back.
3 March 2011

Compton, California seems an unlikely place for black and Latino parents to unite for fundamental education reform. But the Los Angeles–area city known best for its political corruption, racial division, and gang violence is the first proving ground for California’s Parent Empowerment Act, also known as the “parent trigger.” A Wall Street Journal article recently called the parent trigger “the radical school reform law you’ve never heard of,” but people are hearing about it now—and California’s education establishment, from South Central to Sacramento, is doing everything possible to stop it.

Under the law, if at least half of eligible parents at a persistently failing school sign a petition, the school district must undertake one of several prescribed “intervention models.” The district can close the school and let students enroll in a higher-performing public school nearby; convert the school into a charter school, which would operate with greater autonomy from local and state regulations; or implement the “turnaround” and “transformation” requirements set forth under Race to the Top, the Obama administration’s education-reform program, which would involve replacing staff, extending school hours, and revising the curriculum. Parents have the first choice of which intervention model should be used. If a district determines that it cannot carry out the particular reform that parents want, officials must adopt one of the others.

California’s Democrat-dominated state legislature narrowly passed the law in January 2010, as part of the state’s effort to win a piece of the $4.35 billion in federal funding for Race to the Top. California failed to win any money, but the landmark law remains on the books. The law caps the number of schools subject to the parent trigger at 75 statewide, even though at least 1,300 out of California’s 9,000 public schools would qualify—that is, they have missed federally mandated Average Yearly Progress goals for four consecutive years, as established under the 2002 No Child Left Behind law. A school with a California Academic Performance Index score below 800—a measure the state calculates by taking students’ standardized test scores and comparing them with students sharing similar demographic and academic characteristics—is considered failing.

In early December, 61 percent of parents of McKinley Elementary in the Compton Unified School District, taking advantage of the law, signed a petition to convert McKinley into an independent charter school. Without question, McKinley Elementary qualifies as a failing school. Ranked among the bottom 10 percent of California schools, McKinley has met its AYP goals only once since 2003. Not that the rest of Compton Unified district is any better. A state audit in July painted a picture of a district mired in dysfunction, where school personnel routinely “exhibit a lack of civility and respect” for parents and “the focus . . . is primarily on adult issues and not on student needs.”

District apologists, however, oppose applying the parent trigger to McKinley, pointing to its API score of 684, a 26-point improvement from 2009. “The parent trigger law was never intended to apply to a school making gains like these,” the Compton Education Association, the local teachers’ union, said in a statement on February 23, the day after Compton Unified trustees rejected the parents’ petition. In a unanimous vote, the school board denied the McKinley parents’ petition on the thinnest of pretexts: some of the signatures may not have been valid; a few signatures were duplicated; the petition had some embarrassing typographical errors; and parents didn’t attach supporting documentation properly. For want of a staple—and other minor technicalities spelled out in a seven-page staff report made public only a few minutes before the meeting began—the school board deemed the petition “insufficient.” There was no discussion.

“The district reviewed the petition not to verify the signatures, but to disqualify them,” said Jeff Senik, an attorney representing the Compton parents, who have filed a lawsuit against the trustees. A partner with Kirkland and Ellis, Senik said he is confident the district’s decision will not hold up in court.

Even before the McKinley Elementary parents submitted their petition, officials’ “lack of civility and respect” was on full display. Two parents filed formal complaints in January with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights, claiming some teachers had threatened and intimidated their children over the parents’ support for the petition drive. Once the petition was filed, the district escalated its campaign of misinformation and intimidation.

Abetted by the state and local teachers’ union and the PTA, the district charged that parents had been badgered or tricked into signing the petition. About 10 parents withdrew their signatures as a result. District surrogates also claimed parents were dupes for charter schools. In fact, the McKinley parents did get help canvassing neighborhoods from the Los Angeles Parent Revolution, a liberal activist group with ties to Green Dot Charter Schools, a nonprofit organization that runs over a dozen charters in the Los Angeles area. But they chose Celerity Education Group as their charter-management organization, not Green Dot.

When Compton Unified couldn’t persuade enough parents to withdraw their signatures to sink the petition campaign, officials adopted a more coercive approach. In late January, district officials informed parents that they would need to appear at the district office for a “short interview” and sign a form verifying their petition signatures. Otherwise, the officials said, the signatures would be disqualified. In their lawsuit, parents called the district’s ultimatum “burdensome and intrusive.” A judge agreed and on February 3 granted a temporary restraining order against the district, barring officials from requiring parents to verify their signatures in person but stopping short of suspending the verification process entirely.

Now opponents of the parent trigger want to exploit the Compton controversy to eviscerate the law. The California Teachers Association, the California School Boards Association, the state PTA, and other education-establishment groups are demanding extensive verification rules for parent signatures, mandated public meetings where school district officials would control the agenda, and supermajority requirements for petitions that Democrats would otherwise reject as undemocratic.

One problem with the law, for its supporters and opponents alike, is its brevity. At less than 600 words, the statute contains few nitty-gritty details about how the parent trigger should work in practice. The legislature left it to the State Board of Education to spell out tedious but essential details, such as how petitions must be formatted, who’s qualified to sign, how quickly a school district must act on a valid petition, and how parents may appeal adverse district decisions. The board passed temporary, “emergency” regulations last summer and was poised to approve permanent regulations at its January 12 meeting—but then new governor Jerry Brown intervened.

Less than a day after taking the oath of office on January 3, Brown sacked seven members of the 11-person board. Apart from being appointed by Brown’s predecessor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, the ousted board members had something else in common: all were vocal supporters of the parent trigger. Out went the business-minded reformers—almost all of them Democrats critical of the education status quo. They included Ted Mitchell, president and CEO of NewSchools Venture Fund, and Ben Austin, a former advisor to Bill Clinton and L.A. mayor Richard Riordan as well as executive director of Parent Revolution, the group assisting the Compton parents. Taking their place were more conventional Democrats, reflecting the constituencies that helped return Brown to the governor’s office after a 28-year hiatus: Carl Cohn, the former superintendent of Long Beach Unified School District; James Ramos, chairman of the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians in Southern California; and Patricia Ann Rucker, chief lobbyist for the California Teachers Association. Michael Kirst, an emeritus professor from Stanford who advised Brown on education during the 2010 gubernatorial campaign, replaced Mitchell as board president.

Also in the mix is California’s new Superintendent of Public Instruction, Tom Torlakson, whose job is to carry out the policies the board sets but who also has a prominent voice in setting the policies. As a state assemblyman from the East Bay town of Antioch, Torlakson—a former California Federation of Teachers executive—voted against the parent trigger “on philosophical grounds.” Torlakson explained he doesn’t believe parents should have so much power over a vital public asset. Torlakson and his chief deputy, Richard Zeiger, told state board members at their February meeting that the draft version of permanent rules for the parent trigger may not align with state law. “The law is difficult,” Zeiger said. “It’s vague where you want specificity, and specific where you would want a little more flexibility.”

Torlakson’s solution, which the board endorsed, is to rewrite the parent trigger law. Such “cleanup” legislation is not uncommon. The problem is the people doing the cleaning up. The lead author of the new bill is Assemblywoman Julia Brownley (D-Santa Monica). As currently written, Brownley’s bill would make what the legislative counsel’s summary calls “technical, non-substantive changes” to the parent-empowerment law. She previously offered a watered-down version of the parent trigger in 2010, which would have given parents the right to petition not for a school overhaul, but merely for a hearing to air their grievances before district officials. Given district officials’ behavior, such grievances would likely have been ignored. Both Torlakson and Brownley insist, “Parent empowerment is here to stay.” If that’s true, they should ensure the law and the rules supporting it remain faithful to the original framework.

“The parent trigger law is about empowering parents, not about empowering bureaucracies to find technicalities to disenfranchise parents and defend an indefensible status quo,” Parent Revolution’s Austin said following the Compton Unified vote. That means parents shouldn’t have to seek the help of one of the most powerful law firms in the United States to vindicate their rights. That also means parents should be protected against harassment from district officials and their surrogates. Districts should be held to tight deadlines for evaluating parent petitions, and signature verifications should be straightforward and unobtrusive.

And given the institutional advantages school districts already hold over parents, it’s hard to see why parent groups should be forced to be more transparent than school district employees. If parents must file notice that they are engaged in a petition drive to convert, reform, or close a school, they deserve access to the data and resources a district or its union surrogates might use to oppose such an effort.

Above all, parents need clarity. Education “experts” often discuss policy using mind-numbing terminology indecipherable to lay people. They have a vested interest in everything except whether kids succeed. By itself, the parent trigger may not turn around low-performing schools, but it can help reframe the way parents and policymakers approach education reform. It cuts through bureaucratic jargon and gives parents a clear and powerful means of bringing about change. It’s no wonder lawmakers in more than a dozen states are contemplating their own versions.

For the time being, California’s parent-trigger law remains in force with or without regulations. Even if the legislature passes Brownley’s “cleanup” bill and Governor Brown signs it, the new law wouldn’t take effect until January 2012. In the meantime, parents in the city of Carson and the L.A. suburb of Sunland-Tujunga are busily circulating petitions of their own as Compton’s parents prepare for their first court date on March 22.

Ben Boychuk ( is managing editor of The Heartland Institute’s School Reform News.
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« Reply #15 on: April 01, 2011, 11:17:27 AM »

I don't know if this should be under education but it is a state university sponsored event.  Perhaps a thread on the further degradation of even the semblence or facade of common decency in our culture today is more like it. 
***Snooki Gets $32K to Dish on "Jersey Shore" Lifestyle at Rutgers
Her advice to students: "Study hard, but party harder."Friday, Apr 1, 2011 | Updated 10:04 AM EDT 57

advertisement The pouf is mightier than the pen when it comes to speaking fees at New Jersey's largest university.

The Rutgers University Programming Association paid Nicole "Snooki" Polizzi of the reality TV show "Jersey Shore" $32,000 Thursday to dish on her hairstyle, fist pumps, as well as the GTL -- gym, tanning, laundry -— lifestyle.

Money for Polizzi's appearance came from the mandatory student activity fee. She was booked by a student-run entertainment organization.

University officials booked Nobel-winning novelist Toni Morrison for $30,000 to deliver Rutgers' commencement address in May. This year marks the first time Rutgers has paid for a commencement speaker.

As for Snooki's speaking price, Freshman Adham Abdel-Raouf told The Star-Ledger of Newark he thought it was a bargain given the pint-sized star's popularity.***
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« Reply #16 on: April 05, 2011, 09:26:32 AM »

Another example of liberals ruining education:
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« Reply #17 on: April 05, 2011, 01:56:02 PM »

I had a history professor who threw a guy out of his class for reading another coarse's textbook while he lectured.  He would also fail you if you wrote, it's, in a paper or essay.  The professor was Sicilian and very intimidating,  I found him to be a very good teacher, in fact one of my favorites.    The world has changed.
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Posts: 15533

« Reply #18 on: April 05, 2011, 02:02:37 PM »

That snotty student is in for a big shock when she gets to the real world.
« Reply #19 on: May 06, 2011, 11:44:41 AM »

If Supermarkets Were Like Public Schools
What if groceries were paid for by taxes, and you were assigned a store based on where you live?

Teachers unions and their political allies argue that market forces can't supply quality education. According to them, only our existing system—politicized and monopolistic—will do the trick. Yet Americans would find that approach ludicrous if applied to other vital goods or services.

Suppose that groceries were supplied in the same way as K-12 education. Residents of each county would pay taxes on their properties. Nearly half of those tax revenues would then be spent by government officials to build and operate supermarkets. Each family would be assigned to a particular supermarket according to its home address. And each family would get its weekly allotment of groceries—"for free"—from its neighborhood public supermarket.

No family would be permitted to get groceries from a public supermarket outside of its district. Fortunately, though, thanks to a Supreme Court decision, families would be free to shop at private supermarkets that charge directly for the groceries they offer. Private-supermarket families, however, would receive no reductions in their property taxes.

Of course, the quality of public supermarkets would play a major role in families' choices about where to live. Real-estate agents and chambers of commerce in prosperous neighborhoods would brag about the high quality of public supermarkets to which families in their cities and towns are assigned.

Being largely protected from consumer choice, almost all public supermarkets would be worse than private ones. In poor counties the quality of public supermarkets would be downright abysmal. Poor people—entitled in principle to excellent supermarkets—would in fact suffer unusually poor supermarket quality.

How could it be otherwise? Public supermarkets would have captive customers and revenues supplied not by customers but by the government. Of course they wouldn't organize themselves efficiently to meet customers' demands.

Responding to these failures, thoughtful souls would call for "supermarket choice" fueled by vouchers or tax credits. Those calls would be vigorously opposed by public-supermarket administrators and workers.

Opponents of supermarket choice would accuse its proponents of demonizing supermarket workers (who, after all, have no control over their customers' poor eating habits at home). Advocates of choice would also be accused of trying to deny ordinary families the food needed for survival. Such choice, it would be alleged, would drain precious resources from public supermarkets whose poor performance testifies to their overwhelming need for more public funds.

As for the handful of radicals who call for total separation of supermarket and state—well, they would be criticized by almost everyone as antisocial devils indifferent to the starvation that would haunt the land if the provision of groceries were governed exclusively by private market forces.

In the face of calls for supermarket choice, supermarket-workers unions would use their significant resources for lobbying—in favor of public-supermarkets' monopoly power and against any suggestion that market forces are appropriate for delivering something as essential as groceries. Some indignant public-supermarket defenders would even rail against the insensitivity of referring to grocery shoppers as "customers," on the grounds that the relationship between the public servants who supply life-giving groceries and the citizens who need those groceries is not so crass as to be discussed in terms of commerce.

Recognizing that the erosion of their monopoly would stop the gravy train that pays their members handsome salaries without requiring them to satisfy paying customers, unions would ensure that any grass-roots effort to introduce supermarket choice meets fierce political opposition.

In reality, of course, groceries and many other staples of daily life are distributed with extraordinary effectiveness by competitive markets responding to consumer choice. The same could be true of education—the unions' self-serving protestations notwithstanding.

Mr. Boudreaux is professor of economics at George Mason University and a senior fellow at the Mercatus Center.
« Reply #20 on: May 12, 2011, 01:40:33 PM »

The Failure of American Schools


By Joel Klein

Above: Joel Klein in Brooklyn on the first day of school, two months before he resigned as chancellor

THREE YEARS AGO, in a New York Times article detailing her bid to become head of the American Federation of Teachers union, Randi Weingarten boasted that despite my calls for “radical reform” to New York City’s school system, Mayor Michael Bloomberg and I had achieved only “incremental” change. It seemed like a strange thing to crow about, but she did have something of a point. New York over the past nine years has experienced what Robert Schwartz, the academic dean of Harvard’s education school, has described as “the most dramatic and thoughtful set of large-scale reforms going on anywhere in the country,” resulting in gains such as a nearly 20-point jump in graduation rates. But the city’s school system is still not remotely where it needs to be.

That story holds more than true for the country at large. Nearly three decades after A Nation at Risk, the groundbreaking report by the National Commission on Excellence in Education, warned of “a rising tide of mediocrity that threatens our very future as a Nation and a people,” the gains we have made in improving our schools are negligible—even though we have doubled our spending (in inflation-adjusted dollars) on K–12 public education. On America’s latest exams (the National Assessment of Educational Progress), one-third or fewer of eighth-grade students were proficient in math, science, or reading. Our high-school graduation rate continues to hover just shy of 70 percent, according to a 2010 report by the Editorial Projects in Education Research Center, and many of those students who do graduate aren’t prepared for college. ACT, the respected national organization that administers college-admissions tests, recently found that 76 percent of our high-school graduates “were not adequately prepared academically for first-year college courses.”


VIDEO: Joel Klein explains the twisted politics of New York education in a conversation with Atlantic editor James Bennet
While America’s students are stuck in a ditch, the rest of the world is moving ahead. The World Economic Forum ranks us 48th in math and science education. On international math tests, the United States is near the bottom of industrialized countries (the 34 members of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development), and we’re in the middle in science and reading. Similarly, although we used to have one of the top percentages of high-school and college graduates among the OECD countries, we’re now in the basement for high-school and the middle for college graduates. And these figures don’t take into account the leaps in educational attainment in China, Singapore, and many developing countries.

During the first three-quarters of the 20th century, America developed an enormously successful middle class, first by making high school universal, and then, after the Second World War, by making college much more available, through the GI Bill and other scholarship programs. As a result, our educational attainment kept pace with our strong technological advancement. But that’s changed markedly since 1980, and now our technological progress is advancing more rapidly than our educational attainment. From 1960 to 1980, our supply of college graduates increased at almost 4 percent a year; since then, the increase has been about half as fast. The net effect is that we’re rapidly moving toward two Americas—a wealthy elite, and an increasingly large underclass that lacks the skills to succeed.

This division tears at the very fabric of our society. Nevertheless, there’s little national urgency to fix its underlying causes. Unlike a bad economy, poor educational achievement creeps up on us. Right now, if you were running for office, would you be more concerned with unemployment or education? Also, unlike terrorism, an educational crisis has a different impact on the powerful than it does on most of society. Their children, who are in private schools or elite public schools, receive a decent education, so it’s hard to get them fully engaged in the broader national debate. Plus, unlike in health care, for example, where we perceive the quality of care to be good and worry instead about controlling costs and covering the uninsured, in education, despite massive increases in expenditure, we don’t see improved results. That leads too many people to suspect that poverty is destiny, that schools can make only a small difference, and that therefore we’re unable to fix this problem, regardless of its seriousness. So why try?

If the forces behind reform seem scattered and weak, those defending the status quo—the unions, the politicians, the bureaucrats, and the vendors—are well organized and well financed. Having spent eight years trying to ignite a revolution in New York City’s schools under Bloomberg’s leadership, I am convinced that without a major realignment of political forces, we won’t get the dramatic improvements our children need.

TO COMPREHEND THE depth of the problem, consider one episode that still shocks me. Starting in 2006, under federal law, the State of New York was required to test students in grades three through eight annually in math and English. The results of those tests would enable us, for the first time, to analyze year-to-year student progress and tie it to individual teacher performance—a metric known in the field as “teacher value-added.” In essence, you hold constant other factors—where the students start from the prior year, demographics, class size, teacher length of service, and so on—and, based on test results, seek to isolate the individual teacher’s contribution to a student’s progress. Some teachers, for example, move their class forward on average a quarter-year more than expected; others, a quarter-year less. Value-added isn’t a perfect metric, but it’s surely worth considering as part of an overall teacher evaluation.

After we developed data from this metric, we decided to factor them into the granting of tenure, an award that is made after three years and that provides virtual lifetime job security. Under state law at the time, we were free to use these data. But after the New York City teachers union, the United Federation of Teachers, objected, I proposed that the City use value-added numbers only for the top and bottom 20 percent of teachers: the top 20 percent would get positive credit; the bottom would lose credit. And even then, principals would take value-added data into account only as part of a much larger, comprehensive tenure review. Even with these limitations, the UFT said “No way,” and headed to Albany to set up a legislative roadblock.

Seemingly overnight, a budget amendment barring the use of test data in tenure decisions materialized in the heavily Democratic State Assembly. Joe Bruno, then the Republican majority leader in the State Senate, assured me that this amendment would not pass: he controlled the majority and would make sure that it remained united in opposition. Fast-forward a few weeks: the next call I got from Senator Bruno was to say, apologetically, that several of his Republican colleagues had caved to the teachers union, which had threatened reprisals in the next election if they didn’t get on board.

As a result, even when making a lifetime tenure commitment, under New York law you could not consider a teacher’s impact on student learning. That Kafkaesque outcome demonstrates precisely the way the system is run: for the adults. The school system doesn’t want to change, because it serves the needs of the adult stakeholders quite well, both politically and financially.

Let’s start with the politicians. From their point of view, the school system can be enormously helpful, providing patronage hires, school-placement opportunities for connected constituents, the means to get favored community and business programs adopted and funded, and politically advantageous ties to schools and parents in their communities.

During my maiden testimony before the State Assembly, I said that we would end patronage hires, which were notorious under the old system of 32 school districts, run by 32 school boards and 32 superintendents (a 2002 state bill granting Bloomberg mayoral control of the city’s schools abolished the 32 boards). At my mention of patronage, the legislators, like Captain Renault in Casablanca, purported to be “shocked.” Nevertheless, after the hearing, when I went to thank committee members, one took me aside and said: “Listen, they’re trying to get rid of a principal in my district who runs a Democratic club for us. If you protect him, you’ll never have a problem with me.” This kind of encounter was not rare.

Similarly, I faced repeated requests for “constituent services,” meaning good school placements for wired constituents. After we reorganized the system and minimized the power of the 32 local superintendents—the go-to people for politicians under the past regime—a local official called me and asked, “Whom do I call for constituent services after your reorg?” I replied, “What’s that?” Impatiently, he asked, “How do I get a kid into a school when I need to?” I jokingly answered, “Oh, we must have left out that office in the reorg” (actually thinking, silly me, that the school system should use equitable rules for admission). He said, “Go fuck yourself,” and hung up. Despite our constant efforts, or because of them, this kind of political pressure—and payback if we weren’t responsive—happened at every level. Even more important, politicians can reap enormous political support from the unions representing school employees. The two national unions—the American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association—together have some 4.7 million members, who pay hundreds of millions of dollars in national, state, and local dues, much of which is funneled to political causes. Teachers unions consistently rank among the top spenders on politics.

Moreover, millions of union members turn out when summoned, going door-to-door, staffing phone banks, attending rallies, and the like. Teachers are extremely effective messengers to parents, community groups, faith-based groups, and elected officials, and the unions know how to deploy them well. And just as happy unions can give a politician massive clout, unhappy unions—well, just ask Eva Moskowitz, a Democrat who headed the City Council Education Committee when I became chancellor in 2002. Brilliant, savvy, ambitious, often a pain in my neck, and atypically fearless for an elected official, she was widely expected to be elected Manhattan borough president in 2005. Until, that is, she held hearings on the New York City teachers-union contract—an extraordinary document, running on for hundreds of pages, governing who can teach what and when, who can be assigned to hall-monitor or lunchroom duty and who can’t, who has to be given time off to do union work during the school day, and so on. Truth is, the contract defied parody. So when Moskowitz exposed its ridiculousness, the UFT, then headed by Randi Weingarten, made sure that Moskowitz’s run for borough president came up short. After that, other elected officials would say to me, “I agree with you, but I ain’t gonna get Eva’d.”

In short, politicians—especially Democratic politicians—generally do what the unions want. And the unions, in turn, are very clear about what that is. They want, first, happy members, so that those who run the unions get reelected; and, second, more members, so their power, money, and influence grow. As Albert Shanker, the late, iconic head of the UFT, once pointedly put it, “When schoolchildren start paying union dues, that’s when I’ll start representing the interests of schoolchildren.” And what do the members want? Employees understandably want lifetime job security (tenure), better pay regardless of performance (seniority pay), less work (short days, long holidays, lots of sick days), and the opportunity to retire early (at, say, 55) with a good lifetime pension and full health benefits; for their part, the retirees want to make sure their benefits keep coming and grow through cost-of-living increases. The result: whether you work hard or don’t, get good results with kids or don’t, teach in a shortage area like math or special education or don’t, or in a hard-to-staff school in a poor community or not, you get paid the same, unless you’ve been around for another year, in which case you get more. Not bad for the adults.

But it’s just disastrous for the kids in our schools. While out-of-school environment certainly affects student achievement, President Obama was on to something in 2008 when he said: “The single most important factor in determining [student] achievement is not the color of [students’] skin or where they come from. It’s not who their parents are or how much money they have. It’s who their teacher is.” Yet, rather than create a system that attracts and rewards excellent teachers—and that imposes consequences for ineffective or lazy ones—we treat all teachers as if they were identical widgets and their performance didn’t matter.

In fact, notwithstanding union rhetoric that “tenure is merely due process,” firing a public-school teacher for non-performance is virtually impossible. In New York City, which has some 55,000 tenured teachers, we were able to fire only half a dozen or so for incompetence in a given year, even though we devoted significant resources to this effort.

The extent of this “no one gets fired” mentality is difficult to overstate—or even adequately describe. Steven Brill wrote an eye-opening piece in The New Yorker about the “rubber rooms” in New York City, where teachers were kept, while doing no work, pending resolution of the charges against them—mostly for malfeasance, like physical abuse or embezzlement, but also for incompetence. The teachers got paid regardless. (To add insult to injury, these cases ultimately were heard by an arbitrator whom the union had to first approve.) Before we stopped this charade—unfortunately by returning many of these teachers to the classroom, as the arbitrators likely would have required—it used to cost the City about $35 million a year.

In addition, more than 1,000 teachers get full pay while performing substitute-teacher and administrative duties because no principal wants to hire them full-time. This practice costs more than $100 million annually.

Perhaps the most shocking example of the City’s having to pay for teachers who don’t work involves several teachers accused of sexual misconduct—including at least one who was found guilty—whom the union-approved arbitrators refuse to terminate. Although the City is required to put them back in the classroom, it understandably refuses to do so. And the union has never sued the City to have these teachers reinstated, even though it knows it could readily win. It has also never helped figure out how to get these deadbeats off the payroll, where they may remain for decades at full pay, followed by a lifetime pension. No one—and the union means no one—gets fired.

Next, consider the consequences of the ubiquitous practice of paying the same for math and physical-education teachers. Given the other job opportunities for talented mathematicians—but not for phys-ed teachers—the same salary will attract many more of the latter than the former. It’s simple supply and demand. But when you’re short of qualified math teachers—as virtually every major urban school district is—poor kids with the greatest needs invariably get cheated, because most teachers prefer to teach highly motivated kids who live in safe communities, and whose parents will contribute private money to the school. The result: too few effective math and science teachers in high-poverty schools.

Finally, coming on top of these other senseless policies is the remarkable way that benefits and seniority drive overall teacher compensation. It’s possible for a teacher in New York City to retire at 55 and draw down an annual pension of more than $60,000, plus lifetime health benefits for herself and her family. The pension is not subject to New York State or local taxes and goes up with cost-of-living increases. The huge value of this lifetime stream of benefits is rarely mentioned when we talk about teachers’ compensation, but the teachers are well aware of it and act rationally in response to it. What we end up with is both a form of lock-in for employees and an enormous long-term financial exposure for the taxpayers.

The impact of the lock-in shapes the entire compensation system, because the “big” money comes only after a certain number of years—in New York City, for example, many teachers get their full pension after working 25 years, and a far smaller pension if they work for only 24 years. As a result of backloaded policies like this, after 10 years fewer than 1 percent of teachers leave the system, and after 15 years only about 0.1 percent leave. Many have candidly told me they are burned out, but they can’t afford to leave until their pension fully vests. So they go through the motions until they can retire with the total package.

Aggravating the perverse incentive of the benefit lock-in is the nature of almost all pay increases in public education, which are either automatic if you stay another year or so, or take 30 college credits; or across-the-board percentage raises—for example, 10 percent over three years, meaning that every veteran teacher making $80,000 gets an $8,000 increase, while every beginning teacher making $40,000 gets a $4,000 increase.

None of these pay increases makes sense. Why pay someone more for simply working another year or for taking a few courses? Starting last year, Mayor Bloomberg refused to give teachers in New York a raise, because he was facing budget cuts. But the overall pay for teachers still went up nearly 3.5 percent automatically, simply for longevity and college credits. (According to a Department of Education internal analysis, the average NYC teacher works fewer than seven hours a day for 185 days and costs the city $110,000—$71,000 in salary, $23,000 in pensions, and $16,000 in health and other benefits.) And why give all teachers making $80,000, or more, a 10 percent raise? They’re not going to leave, since they’re close to vesting their lifetime pensions. By contrast, increasing starting salaries by $8,000 (rather than $4,000) would help attract and retain better new teachers. But because of seniority, we can’t do it that way.

Now consider the financial burden that comes with providing lifetime benefits. Given the time between first putting aside the money to fund such a “long-tail exposure” and having to begin paying it, the amount “reserved” by the employer necessarily depends on a host of imprecise assumptions—about the rate of return that the money invested in the pension fund will earn, about how long employees will live, and even about how much overtime employees will work during their last few years, which is normally included in calculations of the amount of the pension. Each dollar set aside this year to cover the ultimate pension exposure must be taken from what would otherwise be current operating dollars.

Consequently, elected officials have had every incentive to make extraordinarily optimistic assumptions about the pension plan—or to simply underfund it—so they can put as little as possible into the reserve. Unfortunately, but predictably, that’s exactly what has happened: most states “assumed” they would get an average 8 percent return on their pension reserves, when in fact they were getting significantly less. Over the past 10 years, for example, New York City’s pension funds earned an average of just 2.5 percent. Now virtually every pension plan in America that covers teachers has huge unfunded liabilities. A recent study by the Manhattan Institute estimated the total current shortfall at close to $1 trillion. There’s only one way to pay for that: take the money from current and future operating budgets, robbing today’s children to pay tomorrow’s pensions. In NYC, for example, the portion of the overall budget set aside for education pensions went from $455 million in 2002 to $2.6 billion in 2011, most of it for teachers. Not surprisingly, retirees remain politically vigilant, and vote at much higher levels than active teachers in union elections (50 percent versus 24 percent in New York’s last UFT election).

DURING MY TENURE, I fought to break this institutional stranglehold of defenders of the status quo. I did so because I believed that our kids are not getting the education they deserve, that we have clear examples showing dramatically better results, and that we won’t achieve those results if we just keep tinkering. Since 2007, my colleague Michelle Rhee, in Washington, D.C., has been making the same noises. The response, often from friends as well as opponents, was that we were unrealistic: complex systems don’t change easily, impatience is immature, and directly challenging the educational establishment is not a winning strategy. “You need to be more collaborative and less controversial,” we were repeatedly admonished.

That’s bad advice. Collaboration is the elixir of the status-quo crowd. Consider one of the most cherished mantras in public education today—“We’ll never fix education until we fix poverty.” This lets the school system off the hook: “We can’t do too much with these poor kids, so don’t blame us (but give us more money).” Sure, money, a stable family, and strong values typically make educating a child easier. But we also now know that, keeping those things constant, we can get dramatically different outcomes with the same kid, based on his or her education. Texas and California, for example, have very similar demographics. Nevertheless, even though Texas spends slightly less per pupil than does California, it outperforms California on all four national tests, across demographic groups. The gap is around a year’s worth of learning. That’s big. And the gaps are even bigger when we compare similar demographic groups in large urban districts. Low-income black students in Boston or New York, for example, are several years ahead of those in Detroit or Los Angeles on the national exams.

At the individual school level, the differences can be breathtaking. One charter school in New York City, Harlem Success Academy 1, has students who are demographically almost identical to those attending nearby community and charter schools, yet it gets entirely different results. Harlem Success has 88 percent of its students proficient in reading and 95 percent in math; six other nearby schools have an average of 31 percent proficient in reading and 39 percent in math. And according to the most-recent scores on New York State fourth-grade science tests, Success had more than 90 percent of its students at the highest (advanced) level, while the city had only 43 percent at advanced, and Success’s black students outperformed white students at more than 700 schools across the state. In fact, Success now performs at the same level as the gifted-and-talented schools in New York City—all of which have demanding admissions requirements, while Success randomly selects its students, mostly poor and minority, by lottery.

These school-level differences ultimately reflect the effectiveness of a child’s particular teachers. Eric Hanushek, an economist at Stanford, has shown that, while some teachers get a year and a half’s worth of learning into a year, others get in only half a year’s worth of learning with essentially the same students. Imagine the cumulative impact of the best teachers over 13 years of elementary and secondary education. Indeed, even if California raised its performance to Texas’s level, Detroit to Boston’s, the neighborhood schools in Harlem to Harlem Success’s—that is to say, if our least effective teachers performed at the level of our most effective—the impact would be seismic.

Critics are strangely eager to discredit these differences. Writing last year in The New York Review of Books, the educational historian Diane Ravitch argued that schools like Harlem Success aren’t the answer, because, as a group, charter schools in the U.S. don’t outperform public schools. To make her case, Ravitch relied on a study by Margaret Raymond at Stanford; but curiously, Ravitch failed to mention that Raymond applied precisely the same analysis to New York City (where the school district was atypically supportive of charters), and found that charter schools there were getting significantly better reading and math results with their students than were comparable traditional public schools. And even Ravitch had to acknowledge that some charter schools are getting “amazing results.” If that’s the case, then instead of relying on the kind of group-think that pits charter schools against non-charter schools, shouldn’t we be asking why some schools get much better results, and focus on how we can replicate them?

SEVERAL RECENT DEVELOPMENTS offer some hope. In the past year, 42 states, as well as the District of Columbia and the U.S. Virgin Islands, have agreed to adopt a new set of highly demanding core standards in English and math to replace the current state-by-state standards. The Obama administration has also granted two consortia of states $330 million to design tests aligned with these new standards. As a result, we’ll have a more realistic sense of how our kids are performing, we’ll be able to compare kids in one jurisdiction with those in another, and, most important, we’ll know that kids who graduate from high school will actually be prepared for college.

But we still won’t get to where we need to go unless we’re prepared to do three difficult, but essential, things: rebuild our entire K–12 system on a platform of accountability; attract more top-flight recruits into teaching; and use technology very differently to improve instruction.

Surprisingly enough, the best case for greater accountability was made by Albert Shanker, four years before he died, in his capacity as the leader of the American Federation of Teachers. In a truly remarkable speech to the 1993 Pew Forum on Education Reform, which I’ve never seen quoted by any teachers-union official since, Shanker said:

 The key is that unless there is accountability, we will never get the right system. As long as there are no consequences if kids or adults don’t perform, as long as the discussion is not about education and student outcomes, then we’re playing a game as to who has the power.
Two points are critical here. First, Shanker makes clear that accountability needs to be measured by “student outcomes,” which he goes on to explain must be based on progress on standardized tests. And second, he calls out the fundamental truth about the system: because it’s not anchored to outcomes, it ends up being about “who has the power,” which can then be used to serve other agendas—such as better pay, political support, or vendor contracts.

Accountability, in most industries or professions, usually takes two forms. First and foremost, markets impose accountability: if people don’t choose the goods or services you’re offering, you go out of business. Second, high-performing companies develop internal accountability requirements keyed to market-based demands.

Public education lacks both kinds of accountability. It is essentially a government-run monopoly. Whether a school does well or poorly, it will get the students it needs to stay in business, because most kids have no other choice. And that, in turn, creates no incentive for better performance, greater efficiency, or more innovation—all things as necessary in public education as they are in any other field.

A full-scale transition from a government-run monopoly to a competitive marketplace won’t happen quickly. But that is no reason not to begin introducing more competition. Many middle-class families have plenty of choice (even beyond private schools): they can move to another neighborhood, or are well-connected enough to navigate the system. Those families who are least powerful, however, usually get one choice: their neighborhood school. That has to change.

In the lower grades, we should make sure that every student has at least one alternative—and preferably several—to her neighborhood school. We implemented this strategy by opening more than 100 charter schools in high-poverty communities. Tellingly, almost 40,000 families chose these new schools, and another 40,000 are on waiting lists. The traditional schools, as well as their employees and the unions, are screaming bloody murder, something vividly depicted in The Lottery, a recent documentary that shows community agitators brought in by the union to oppose giving public-school space to the Harlem Success network. But this kind of push-back is actually a good sign: it means that the monopolists are beginning to feel the effects of competition.

At the middle- and high-school levels, where students are more mobile, we can also create community-based choice systems, or even citywide choice systems. In New York City, for example, high-school students now have citywide choice (with some geographic priority), and schools know they have to recruit—and compete for—students.

To support effective choice, moreover, we need to provide real funding equity: the money must be for the child, not the school. So if Juan goes to PS 11, which gets $20,000 as a result, then that same $20,000 must go to a KIPP charter school if Juan decides to go there. Similarly, capital funds, or space within a school building, must also follow the child—either to PS 11 or to KIPP—on equitable terms.

Unfortunately, the likelihood of rapidly expanding choices remains small. Witness, for example, those 40,000 families wait-listed for charter schools in New York City. By the time the City opens another 100 schools to meet that demand, at least another 40,000 families will likely be waiting. And now that the union and its allies have seen the smashing impact of the first 100 charter schools, they won’t make it any easier to open the next 100.

That’s why internal accountability along the lines that Shanker discussed is critical. School districts need a system to fairly evaluate the effect of schools and teachers on kids, which is the best proxy we have for assessing “consumer preference” in a largely monopolistic system. Shanker also had the right idea about how to measure outcomes: by looking at student progress on apples-to-apples metrics, rather than at whether students do well or poorly against an absolute, static index. On a four-point scale, for example, a teacher deserves credit for moving a kid from a 1 to a 2 and should lose credit for letting another kid fall from a 4 to a 3, even though a 3 is better than a 2 in an absolute sense. Some kids come to school way ahead of others, and giving the school or teacher credit for that makes no sense. But if schools or teachers have essentially the same kids, with the same challenges, and the same starting performance levels, it’s pretty easy to measure which are helping the kids make progress and which aren’t.

Finally, as Shanker emphasized, meaningful teacher accountability means major consequences for student outcomes. Those teachers and principals whose students do well should get substantial merit pay; those who don’t should be fired. Similarly, schools that do poorly should be replaced. Without real consequences tied to performance, the results won’t significantly change. Again, resistance to this kind of accountability is always fierce. In New York, we closed many large, overwhelmingly minority high schools that were posting abysmal graduation rates—some even below 40 percent—and replaced them with new, small high schools. Although research showed that the new schools were getting significantly better results, I wasn’t surprised when the teachers union sued us to block future closures—they want to protect their members. But I was shocked when the NAACP joined the suit. How could it defend schools that were consistently graduating fewer than half their African American children?

Despite the setbacks, we are seeing progress. In response to President Obama’s $4.3 billion Race to the Top Fund, which requires states to compete for big federal grants, and rewards accountability systems that measure whether teachers add value, several states—including Colorado, Florida, Louisiana, New Mexico, and Ohio—have enacted legislation moving in this direction. Under Michelle Rhee’s leadership, Washington, D.C., adopted the best of these systems with the agreement of its local and national teachers unions, including the union headed by Randi Weingarten. The District was authorized to award substantial merit pay (resulting in salaries of up to $130,000) and to fire teachers who were not performing well. Rhee fired more than 200 of them.

But although Weingarten’s union had agreed to the contract, it reportedly spent $1 million and mobilized huge numbers of volunteers to defeat Washington’s mayor, Adrian Fenty, when he was up for reelection two months later. That intervention surely sent a message to other reformers throughout the country: we unions talk reform, but firing incompetent teachers will never be a real part of that.

The second big thing we need to change is the people we attract into teaching. When McKinsey and Company compared educational performance around the world, it came to the seemingly obvious, yet often disputed, conclusion that “the quality of an education system cannot exceed the quality of its teachers”:

 The top-performing school systems [internationally] attract more able people into the teaching profession, leading to better student outcomes … The top-performing systems we studied recruit their teachers from the top third of each cohort [that graduates] from their school system … Conversely, lower-performing school systems rarely attract the right people into teaching. The New Commission on the Skills of the American Workforce observes that, “We are now recruiting our teachers from the bottom third of high-school students going to college.”
By recruiting teachers mostly from the middle and bottom of their college classes, as America has done for decades now, not only did we not get the talent we needed, but we also fostered a culture where excellence and merit don’t matter.

A rational compensation scheme is critical to fixing this core human-capital weakness: rather than just pay for longevity and lifetime benefits, we must reward excellence and enable the system to meet its needs. If, going forward, we eliminated all the automatic raises and promises of huge lifetime benefits, we’d have an enormous amount of money to devote to merit pay, hardship-assignment incentives, and recruiting in subjects where we have shortages. If we could front-load compensation, new teachers could get as much as $80,000 by year three or four. This would make a huge difference. If you have any doubt, just ask the talented, ambitious young teachers who come through Teach for America or comparable programs. Many leave well before they peak, even though they like the work, because their pay remains quite low in the early years—up to about $55,000—and they are unwilling to commit to staying around for 25 years to cash in on the back-loaded pay structure.

I once proposed a portion of this—simply eliminating the lifetime, defined-benefit pension, monetizing the savings, and then paying it to teachers in their early years—in a conversation with union officials. I was prepared to give each new teacher a choice between the current pay scale (with the existing pension) and this new pay proposal. Although no teacher would have been compelled to switch, the UFT rejected the idea as “anti-union.” But we have evidence to show that these monetary incentives can work. In Washington, D.C., Michelle Rhee negotiated a merit-based compensation system—where teachers could get paid much more in the early years. As a result, it appears, significant numbers of teachers from D.C.’s charter schools apply to teach in its traditional public schools. Only money can explain that.

Of course, another way to attract and retain very effective teachers would be to create more schools that work. In my experience, many of the best public-school teachers apply to high-functioning charter schools, even though they usually give up job security, and lifetime health care and pensions, while generally getting a similar or slightly higher salary (although often augmented by modest merit pay). They go because they want to be part of a successful school, where teachers are treated like professionals and not subjected to endless administrative and union micromanagement.

Last, to shake up the system, we must change how we use technology to deliver instruction. (This is what I’m now seeking to do at News Corporation.) The present resistance to innovation is breathtaking. Consider this story: When we replaced many large, failing high schools with more, much smaller schools, many of the new schools had only a handful of kids who wanted to take rigorous Advanced Placement courses, which can earn students college credit. Several good online programs teach the necessary course content. But in New York state, you cannot get high-school credit unless you’re taught by a live teacher (a requirement referred to as “seat time”), and these small schools didn’t have enough students to bring in an AP teacher. I approached our State Education Department in Albany, which had the authority to waive the seat-time requirement: if a kid could get college credit for passing an online AP course, surely she should be able to get high-school credit as well.

As soon as the UFT heard that we had requested a waiver from the state, it faxed us a letter saying, “The elimination of seat-time requirements needs to be negotiated,” making clear that if we tried to proceed, this would be war. You see, if we opened the door to online AP courses, maybe we’d end up needing fewer teachers, and that wouldn’t be good for union membership, dues, or power. I got nowhere.

But one of the best things we could do is hire fewer teachers and pay more to the ones we hire. And, as in any other field, technology can help get us there. If you have 5,000 math teachers, many of whom are underperforming, significantly improving overall quality is nearly impossible. But if you get the best math professors in the world—who are great teachers and who deeply understand math—and match them with great software developers, they can create sophisticated interactive programs that engage kids and empower teachers. Why not start with such a program and then let teachers supplement it differently, depending on the progress of each student?

That’s a whole lot easier than trying to teach the same math lesson to 30 kids, some of whom are getting it quickly and some of whom aren’t getting it at all. We now have multiple ways to teach the same lessons. As a result, we can tailor both the means and the pacing to each student. We can use digital games where kids progress based on solving increasingly difficult math problems, virtual classes that kids can take online, and tutors whom kids can work with online, as well as, of course, teachers working with large or small groups in person. The possibilities are enormous. We should be trying them all and constantly improving how we do the work. That’s exactly what New York City is doing in a pilot program called the School of One, which was designed to move from the classroom as the locus of instruction to the individual student as the focus of instruction.

More broadly, we need to foster a fundamental shift from a top-down, one-size-fits-all culture—mandated class-size reduction, after-school programs, and the like—to a culture that supports innovation. In New York City, we set out to change these preexisting dynamics by allowing educators and community groups—rather than the central bureaucracy—to design and run new schools to replace the failing ones. The result was a lot of innovation. For example, New York City is now piloting something called the Generation School, which uses staff time very differently and thus extends the school day and year significantly. Last year, the City also opened something called the New American Academy, where four teachers are collectively responsible for educating 60 kids, and they stay with those children from kindergarten through the fifth grade. The teachers are categorized as Master, Partner, Associate, and Apprentice, and they are paid very differently and get promoted from one level to the next based on performance as well as peer and supervisory review.

Change is possible. In New York City, it took a mayor willing to assume control over the system and risk significant political capital. It required time—Mayor Bloomberg and I had more than eight years together, while most urban superintendents serve for about three and a half years. It required taking risks, knowing that not every change will work out and that your critics will focus mercilessly on those that don’t. But most of all, it required building community and political support. Toward the end of my tenure, we were engaged in an enormous fight to lift the state-imposed cap on our number of charter schools—an initiative the teachers unions strongly opposed precisely because our expansion of charter schools had been so successful. In fact, six months earlier, a similar effort had gone down to defeat at the unions’ hands. But this time, the families with kids in charter schools and our allies in the community were prepared to help us fight. Philanthropic and business interests raised millions to support the mobilization effort, run ads, and hire lobbyists. We prevailed, and the cap was raised substantially.

Sadly, that kind of success is still exceptional. In the three decades since A Nation at Risk came out, many have echoed its cries of alarm, but few have heeded its calls for bold change. Indeed, in his 1993 Pew Forum speech, Al Shanker spoke in shockingly candid terms:

 We are at the point that the auto industry was at a few years ago. They could see they were losing market share every year and still not believe that it really had anything to do with the quality of the product I think we will get—and deserve—the end of public education through some sort of privatization scheme if we don’t behave differently. Unfortunately, very few people really believe that yet. They talk about it, and they don’t like it, but they’re not ready to change and stop doing the things that brought us to this point.
Time is running out. Without political leadership willing to take risks and build support for “radical reform,” and without a citizenry willing to insist on those reforms, our schools will continue to decline. And just as it was with Detroit, the global marketplace will be very unforgiving to a populace that doesn’t have the skills it demands. McKinsey estimates that the benefits of bringing our educational levels up to those of the highest-performing countries would have raised our gross domestic product by about $2 trillion in 2008. By the same token, every year we fail to close that gap is like living with the equivalent of a permanent national recession. Shocking as that may sound, the costs in human terms, to our nation and to the kind of people we aspire to become, will be even greater.

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« Reply #21 on: July 12, 2011, 03:00:26 AM »

Earlier this month, the left-leaning California State Legislature overwhelmingly passed The FAIR Education Act (SB 48) and has sent the bill on Governor Jerry Brown for what will surely be a celebratory signing. The FAIR Education Act is the seventh sexual indoctrination law to teach the state’s children to regard homosexuality, transsexuality (sex-changes operations) and bisexuality as good and natural. This is another in an impressive string of legal victories by gay activists. On the other hand, it further fuels a growing national discontent with public education.

Among the bill’s provisions are that textbooks and instructional materials must positively promote “lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Americans” as role models and that children as young as 6 will be taught to admire homosexuality, same-sex “marriages,” bisexuality, and transsexuality.

Teachers, even those with religious objections to the gay life style, will be made to positively portray homosexuality, same-sex “marriages,” bisexuality, and transsexuality, because to be silent can bring the charge of “reflecting adversely”. School boards will be required to select textbooks and other instructional materials that positively portray sex-change operations, same-sex “marriages”, because to be silent on these subjects opens them up to charges of “reflecting adversely. Finally, parents will not be notified, nor will they be able to exempt their children, from this new core curriculum.

In a free society where parents were financially able to select and direct the education of their children, such a pro-gay curriculum would make a reasonable choice for that minute portion of parent population who believes it is healthy and useful to educate young children and teens into these complex and controversial issues of human sexuality. But such is not the case in the US today where only a small percentage of parents can afford to send their children to private or religious schools.

Given the brute fact that the state can and does put parents in the slammer for not delivering up their children for the state approved and directed schooling, this new legislation has about it a distinct Stalinist odor. The odor is particularly strong in the nostrils of those parents who believe such grave matters as how one lives out their sexuality is not the educational province of the state bureaucrats who create the lesson plans for teachers.

It is tempting to dismiss this soon-to-be statewide curriculum as just another in a long line of outrageous and kooky, La-La Land events seemingly designed to keep the rest of us chuckling and mildly finger-wagging. However, the Sunshine State is the 800-pound gorilla of the textbook world and teachers and parents in Montana, Iowa and Georgia will surely be seeing the “gay agenda” in their next textbook adoptions.

It is, of course, morally reprehensible to be against an effort to stamp out bullying, especially if it involves matters of sexual self-identification. One does so at the fear of destroying one’s professional reputation and endangering life and limb. (Thankfully, I have no reputation to endanger and I am writing from a secure location known only to the editors of MercatorNet and the United States Internal Revenue Service.) That said, targeted anti-bullying campaigns, such as this current California effort, have always struck me as ineffective and rather phony.

Few children grow to maturity without feeling envy, jealousy, extreme frustration and, sometimes, real rage. In the hot-house and regimented world of our crowded schools, these feelings have and always will find an outlet. It is a fact of life, just as water runs downhill, that the strong will attempt to prey on the weak.

What should be done about it? Religion has one powerful set of answers. It tells us that we have fallen human natures which each of us must work hard to overcome. And that that twit who is getting on our nerves is, in fact, a child of God and I must treat him as such. But, of course, bringing such a dangerous idea into the public school would lead to a full-employment act for tort lawyers.

Another idea would be to teach the nation’s core documents and the meaning of such phrases as “certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” But, really teach them. Explain them. Build them into the rituals and procedures of the school. Make the virtues of respect and fair play which undergird a good society a major focus of the curriculum. Recognize students who exemplify these habits of good character. Demand adherence to them or face distasteful consequences, such as separation into less commodious environments.

Another idea… and one which is receiving a great boost from legislation requiring a gay-friendly curriculum… is to eliminate state-run public schools. That is, make a transition to one of the many school choice options that put parents back in charge of their children’s education.

Increasingly, the very idea of the state answering the core educational question, “what is most worth a child knowing,” is being acknowledged as dangerous and a violation of parents’ right to control the education of their children. Currently in the US the parents of well over one million children are making huge personal and financial sacrifices to homeschool their children, and the movement is growing. While motivations vary, many of these parents have withdrawn their children from the public school because of the very over-sexualized environment this new California legislation will doubtlessly intensify.

It is tempting to take solace in the idea that this latest school victory by gay activists is a step too far and will spark a revolt. However, the public school teachers unions, local, state and national, are very strong and very politically protected. The opposition is underfunded, disorganized and tends to have a short attention span.

On the other hand, if attempts to alter our children’s understanding of their sexuality and what is the correct way for them to live out their sexuality cannot arouse parents to action, what, in God’s name and our nation’s future, will?

Kevin Ryan founded the Center for the Advancement of Ethics and Character at Boston University, where he is professor emeritus. He has written and edited 20 books. He has appeared on CBS's "This Morning", ABC's "Good Morning America", "The O’Reilly Factor", CNN and the Public Broadcasting System speaking on character education. He can be reached at
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« Reply #22 on: July 12, 2011, 09:28:09 AM »

"The FAIR Education Act is the seventh sexual indoctrination law to teach the state’s children to regard homosexuality, transsexuality (sex-changes operations) and bisexuality as good and natural. This is another in an impressive string of legal victories by gay activists."

The funniest line was this: "...the left-leaning California State Legislature..."  - Aren't they out on a limb there?

Can't we go around the activists and get a majority of gays to agree that sex change operations are unnatural and that those people are freaks?  Bisexuality OTOH opens up so many more possibilities... sad  How about infidelity, was that popular practice inadvertently left out of the program?

Does anyone out there ever ask how they are doing at math and science.  We should be able to fire the whole education curriculum/union crowd over those results which would remove the need to argue over this.

Opt-out sex-ed is a program that did not work for our family.  For one thing a divided family means a parent does not have control and for another they will be more than happy to single out your child and make a scene regarding  removal of a kid from the classroom at the parent's request.  The problem to me isn't what my kid is exposed to as much as it is what all the others are learning / not learning about morals and values.  Pulling your own kid out does not slow the degradation of the society that your kid(s) will grow up to live in.
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« Reply #23 on: July 13, 2011, 12:55:51 PM »

Essential Liberty

"The ignorance about our country is staggering. According to one survey, only 28% of
students could identify the Constitution as the supreme law of the land. Only 26% of
students knew that the first 10 amendments to the Constitution are called the Bill
of Rights. Fewer than one-quarter of students knew that George Washington was the
first president of the United States. ... Ignorance and possibly contempt for
American values, civics and history might help explain how someone like Barack Obama
could become president of the United States. At no other time in our history could a
person with longtime associations with people who hate our country become president.
... The fact that Obama became president and brought openly Marxist people into his
administration doesn't say so much about him as it says about the effects of decades
of brainwashing of the American people by the education establishment, media and the
intellectual elite." --economist Walter E. Williams
( )
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« Reply #24 on: July 15, 2011, 10:03:45 AM »

What?  This is a topic that must be taught in grade schools??  If this is ok than why are liberals so against Mormons and polygamy?

What the hell is wrong with polygamy between consenting adults?  It will not end till the foundations of this country are destroyed.
There is no compromise.  I am glad I am at the end of life.  I have had enough.  I don't care what gays or the rest of them do but we need to teach this in school as though it is just sort of variation of normal? 

****Sacramento --

Public schools in California will be required to teach students about the contributions of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans starting Jan. 1 after Gov. Jerry Brown on Thursday signed a controversial bill to add the topic to the social sciences curriculum.

Textbooks now must include information on the role of LGBT Americans, as well as Americans with disabilities, though California's budget crisis has delayed the purchasing of new books until at least 2015.

"History should be honest," Brown, a Democrat, said in a statement. "This bill revises existing laws that prohibit discrimination in education and ensures that the important contributions of Americans from all backgrounds and walks of life are included in our history books."

The governor called the legislation, SB48, introduced by Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, "historic."

The law - the first of its kind in the nation - adds the two groups to an existing list of minority and other groups that are required to be part of the social sciences curriculum.

Safer schools
Gay rights supporters heralded Brown's action as a major victory. They said the law will help make public schools a safer place for LGBT students as well as give those students, and their classmates, examples of accomplished and important LGBT people.

Throughout the debate on the measure, backers noted the recent spate of suicides among young LGBT people and said it would help to combat bullying that typically occurs beforehand.

Opponents, however, fiercely opposed the measure, citing religious objections to homosexuality and questioning whether such instruction is necessary. They expressed dismay with Brown's signing of the bill.

"If children in other countries are learning math and science, and American children are learning about the private lives of historical figures, how will our students compete for jobs in the global economy?" said Sen. Sharon Runner, R-Lancaster (Los Angeles County), the vice chairwoman of the Senate Committee on Education.

Beyond California
The provision on inclusion in textbooks could reach beyond California, too, as many book publishers tailor their texts to California's standards because of the state's large population. The bill does not prescribe how schools will teach the subject, and Leno said that decision will be made by local school officials and teachers.

"What the bill calls for is for the contributions of LGBT people to be included," Leno said, adding, "We wrote it broadly for a reason. We would be subject to more criticism than we've already been getting if we were more dictatorial."

Leno said the mandates apply broadly, though, telling reporters it would affect kindergarten through high school curriculum, "and, of course, in an age-appropriate way."

Gay rights advocates said they will be vigilant about making sure schools across California comply.

Carolyn Laub, the founder and executive director of the Gay-Straight Alliance Network, which works to establish gay-straight clubs in schools, said such clubs exist in 55 percent of California's high schools.

"We'll certainly be letting all of our constituents know about this bill, and when it goes into effect I can assure you there will be thousands of students" watching to see how it is implemented, she said.

Proponents have cited slain San Francisco Supervisor Harvey Milk as a person with historical significance, along with events such as the Stonewall Riots in New York City that helped launch the LGBT rights movement as examples of topics that could be taught.

Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson, a Democrat, praised Brown's move, saying, "Our history is more complete when we recognize the contributions of people from all backgrounds and walks of life."

Cutting into class time
Still, opponents questioned the effect the bill would have and the need for explicit instruction for all students about a relatively small group.

The bill "does absolutely nothing to reduce bullying, improve the poor state of our education system, ensure students graduate or prepare them for global competitiveness," said Paulo Sibaja, legislative director of the Capitol Resource Institute, a socially conservative organization in Sacramento. "Instead it diverts precious classroom time away from science, math, reading and writing, and focuses on the agenda of a small group of people."****

« Reply #25 on: August 04, 2011, 12:14:41 AM »

I hope they are able to implement that bill effectively. The kind of change they are looking for will probably take a long time. I guess you need parents that know a little about the contributions and lives of GLBT people to help raise kids that are a little more understanding. Might as well start teaching people now as best you can.
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« Reply #26 on: August 04, 2011, 06:11:01 AM »

I hope they are able to implement that bill effectively. The kind of change they are looking for will probably take a long time. I guess you need parents that know a little about the contributions and lives of GLBT people to help raise kids that are a little more understanding. Might as well start teaching people now as best you can.

Is that what the voices in your head told you? Is there a conspiracy involved in this too?
« Reply #27 on: August 04, 2011, 08:36:43 AM »

Gm, can you not post directly to me anymore unless you are going to make it a real post instead of just venting your weird cyber rage?  This forum doesn't have an ignore feature.
« Last Edit: August 04, 2011, 08:50:47 AM by Cranewings » Logged
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« Reply #28 on: August 04, 2011, 09:45:03 AM »

CW, GM has a rather indelicate way of saying you have posted a rather large number of unsubstantiated things in a short period of time without any attempt to answer requests to back them up.  That is not a discussion and it doesn't afford the reader any opportunity to learn from the point made.  You took a cheap shot at my profession that I let go by: "You know that the majority of land lords would turn their places into wrecks so that their tenants wouldn't have a better place to go." What a bunch of BS.  More than 30 years of personal experience and I have seen thousands and thousands of examples of damage to property and never have I seen rental property done intentionally by a landlord, yet you say it is a "majority" turning their place into a wreck.  Running out of water? Did you post ANYTHING that says we have one drop less water on earth today than one year ago or one thousand years ago? In the midwest we are swimming in too much water, highest on record in many places.  Can't send it any faster downstream because they are still flooded there.  People choosing to live away from water is not running out of water. The USA attacked itself on 9/11/01? Sure. The host/moderator tried to answer you politely and indirectly on that and you missed it.  You attack GM's profession, law enforcement, he asked you to back it up.  Here you support (If I read you correctly) teaching parenting arrangements other than a mom and a dad as equal or better than the way it was primarily done since creation without posting a smidgen of evidence to support your view.  The requests to back up what you post over time, when you ignore them, might start to look like ridicule.

I have posted unsupported arguments with glaring weaknesses on this board and had them quickly pointed out to me.  That is one thing I like about this format.
« Reply #29 on: August 04, 2011, 09:55:16 AM »

Doug, that's nice. Just imagine I'm talking to hear myself talk. If you think something I said is unsubstantiated, but you are worried about it and want to learn about it, you know where the google button is. For the record, I believe everything I've said on here. I'm sure you have read enough liberal drivel to know where I get my info from (; so it isn't like I'm educating you. I'm not going out of my way to copy articles for you.
« Last Edit: August 04, 2011, 10:04:57 AM by Cranewings » Logged
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« Reply #30 on: August 04, 2011, 10:11:50 AM »

Why not teach the history and contributions of all the forms of sexual deviance?
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« Reply #31 on: August 04, 2011, 10:44:54 AM »

I read as much 'liberal drivel' as I can stomach (opposition research) and I have not seen the specific BS points that I identified ever substantiated.

"I'm not going out of my way to copy articles for you."

Not exactly in the spirit of;
"If you are pasting something from elsewhere, please be sure to specifty the source (name, URL, that sort of thing).  If you do not have the source, please explain why."

It was not for me, BTW.  It is your lost credibility I was trying to help rescue.
« Reply #32 on: August 04, 2011, 11:15:18 AM »

Well, thanks for the help. I'm not interested, just so you know. If you don't think what I'm posting is credible, feel free to say so or say nothing.
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« Reply #33 on: August 04, 2011, 11:43:42 AM »

I just read and enjoyed an excellent, albeit controversial book on childrearing. 

"Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother"  by  Amy Chua
« Reply #34 on: August 04, 2011, 11:50:29 AM »

I just read and enjoyed an excellent, albeit controversial book on childrearing. 

"Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother"  by  Amy Chua

So how did you feel about her ideas by the end of it? I don't have any children, but me and my fiance have had a number of discussions about things like this. She had a very strict upbringing, and even though she would be less strict than her parents, she would certainly be more so than me with regards to accidemics and success. I was raised strictly in regards to moral behavior, but more calmly in other ways. I'd find it difficult and even hypocritical for me to raise a kid extremely strictly when it comes to accidemic success.
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Posts: 2004

« Reply #35 on: August 04, 2011, 12:18:27 PM »

She and her children also had good genes.

I think her points have merit.  While I enjoyed and played sports all through school including college, in today's world I think the emphasis should be
on academics, not sports, cheerleading, or social activities.  Nor do I think it hypocritical of you to agree, even though you may have been brought up
differently.  Times have changed.  It's no accident that a great number of Corporate leaders, Scientists, Leaders and Entrepreneurs went to great academic schools.

While I believe big time sports or group activities teach skills, the time and money spent (a nearby public High School has six football coaches on staff) is ridiculous.  Further, in my opinion, these other activities are extra circular activities, i.e. activities to be fit in after achieving excellence in academics.  I know of two boys rejecting Harvard and Yale because their basketball or football team wasn't very good, yet they had no chance of ever going pro, but they settled for a mediocre CA State School that had a better team.  Good grief, where are their priorities?  Get straight "A"s and then play a sport or join the band.  Sports, extra circular activities are fun, to be done after your work is finished.  They are a supplement to academics.

Within reason, I'm all for letting kids learn from their mistakes, but if it is a lifetime decision, an important decision, one that affects their future or health, I think it's the duty of the parent to step in and strongly influence that decision.  When the child is an adult they can make their own decisions.  I can't count the number to times I have heard, from adults, "I wish my parents had made me ........."   

Letting kids do what they want to do is way overrated. 

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Posts: 9479

« Reply #36 on: August 04, 2011, 01:08:16 PM »

JDN, FYI we also discussed that book/author here and here
« Reply #37 on: August 04, 2011, 03:26:02 PM »

She and her children also had good genes.

I think her points have merit.  While I enjoyed and played sports all through school including college, in today's world I think the emphasis should be
on academics, not sports, cheerleading, or social activities.  Nor do I think it hypocritical of you to agree, even though you may have been brought up
differently.  Times have changed.  It's no accident that a great number of Corporate leaders, Scientists, Leaders and Entrepreneurs went to great academic schools.

While I believe big time sports or group activities teach skills, the time and money spent (a nearby public High School has six football coaches on staff) is ridiculous.  Further, in my opinion, these other activities are extra circular activities, i.e. activities to be fit in after achieving excellence in academics.  I know of two boys rejecting Harvard and Yale because their basketball or football team wasn't very good, yet they had no chance of ever going pro, but they settled for a mediocre CA State School that had a better team.  Good grief, where are their priorities?  Get straight "A"s and then play a sport or join the band.  Sports, extra circular activities are fun, to be done after your work is finished.  They are a supplement to academics.

Within reason, I'm all for letting kids learn from their mistakes, but if it is a lifetime decision, an important decision, one that affects their future or health, I think it's the duty of the parent to step in and strongly influence that decision.  When the child is an adult they can make their own decisions.  I can't count the number to times I have heard, from adults, "I wish my parents had made me ........."  

Letting kids do what they want to do is way overrated.  

Thanks JDN. I guess my issue has more to do with the feeling that "following your heart" is more important than success. I can really understand the feelings of those guys that passed over Yale. Playing for a good team might have really meant a lot to them. In the end, happy memories are worth a lot more than money in terms of how they affect your happiness.
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« Reply #38 on: August 04, 2011, 05:50:07 PM »

CW:  If you want to get snarky with someone, please do it via PM.  Thank you.
« Reply #39 on: August 04, 2011, 10:40:39 PM »

CW:  If you want to get snarky with someone, please do it via PM.  Thank you.

My Apologies.
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« Reply #40 on: August 05, 2011, 04:33:12 AM »

Forward  smiley
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« Reply #41 on: August 07, 2011, 12:58:17 PM »

"It is the duty of parents to maintain their children decently, and according to their circumstances; to protect them according to the dictates of prudence; and to educate them according to the suggestions of a judicious and zealous regard for their usefulness, their respectability and happiness." --James Wilson, Lectures on Law, 1791
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« Reply #42 on: August 20, 2011, 10:05:29 AM »

Many governors face enormous fiscal shortfalls, forcing them to choose which public employees to anger. Tenured professors, I suspect, have a lot less political clout in most states than do policeman, nurses, prison guards and public school teachers. If online education keeps improving, then I predict that some governor is going to propose firing most of the tenured faculty at his public colleges and replacing the high-priced teachers with online courses. Since Republicans consider academia to be a creature of the far left, many Republican governors would undoubtedly take joy in decimating the traditional higher education market.

Students gamble on the future when they fund their education with debt. Our current economic difficulties, however, are making Americans pessimistic about the long-term fate of our economy, and it wouldn't surprise me if many parents are no longer willing to let their kids load up on debt. That is especially true if the parents have sent another child to college only to see him moving back home after graduation and taking a job that didn't require a college degree. Unfortunately for professors, every capable kid who doesn’t go to college reduces the stigma of not pursuing higher education.

If you have tenure and therefore think that your college would never get rid of you, consider what would happen if most of your school’s peer institutions replaced expensive tenured faculty with cheap online courses and used the savings to cut tuition by 50 percent. Even if your school has a healthy endowment, many members of your Board of Trustees or Regents probably have business backgrounds and would consider it financial malfeasance for the school to bear costs that the majority of its competitors had shed.

I'm far from certain that the higher education market will disintegrate. But the reasonable chance that it might should be enough to get young and middle-aged tenured professors to think about what we would do if forced out of academia. And bear in mind that if academia suddenly collapsed, the job market would be flooded with former professors, making it extraordinarily challenging for us to get jobs, such as editing and teaching high school, that are well-suited to many professors' skills

Networking is the key to career management. Professors do much networking, but mostly with other professors. I suggest that professors network outside of academia with a goal of having a set of contacts we could use to acquire a nonacademic position. The best way to do this is to use Facebook and Linkedin to keep in touch with some of our former students, especially those who would make good bosses.

James D. Miller is a tenured associate professor of economics at Smith College and is currently writing a book speculating on the future economic impact of enhanced human and artificial intelligences. He hopes the book will land him consulting work that he could use to provide for his family should Smith College terminate his employment.
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« Reply #43 on: October 17, 2011, 07:43:38 PM »

I think this does a really great job of  showing  what it like to attend SJC. How much fun it was and how frustrating  it was.
October 16, 2011
Seeing Value in Ignorance, College Expects Its Physicists to Teach Poetry
ANNAPOLIS, Md. — Sarah Benson last encountered college mathematics 20 years ago in an undergraduate algebra class. Her sole experience teaching math came in the second grade, when the first graders needed help with their minuses.

And yet Ms. Benson, with a Ph.D. in art history and a master’s degree in comparative literature, stood at the chalkboard drawing parallelograms, constructing angles and otherwise dismembering Euclid’s Proposition 32 the way a biology professor might treat a water frog. Her students cared little about her inexperience. As for her employers, they did not mind, either: they had asked her to teach formal geometry expressly because it was a subject about which she knew very little.

It was just another day here at St. John’s College, whose distinctiveness goes far beyond its curriculum of great works: Aeschylus and Aristotle, Bacon and Bach. As much of academia fractures into ever more specific disciplines, this tiny college still expects — in fact, requires — its professors to teach almost every subject, leveraging ignorance as much as expertise.

“There’s a little bit of impostor syndrome,” said Ms. Benson, who will teach Lavoisier’s “Elements of Chemistry” next semester. “But here, it’s O.K. that I don’t know something. I can figure it out, and my job is to help the students do the same thing. It’s very collaborative.”

Or as St. John’s president, Chris Nelson (class of 1970), put it with a smile only slightly sadistic: “Every member of the faculty who comes here gets thrown in the deep end. I think the faculty members, if they were cubbyholed into a specialization, they’d think that they know more than they do. That usually is an impediment to learning. Learning is born of ignorance.”

Students who attend St. John’s — it has a sister campus in Santa Fe, N.M., with the same curriculum and philosophies — know that their college experience will be like no other. There are no majors; every student takes the same 16 yearlong courses, which generally feature about 15 students discussing Sophocles or Homer, and the professor acting more as catalyst than connoisseur.

What they may not know is that their professor — or tutor in the St. John’s vernacular — might have no background in the subject. This is often the case for the courses that freshmen take. For example, Hannah Hintze, who has degrees in philosophy and woodwind performance, and whose dissertation concerned Plato’s “Republic,” is currently leading classes on observational biology and Greek.

“Some might not find that acceptable, but we explore things together,” said Ryan Fleming, a freshman in Ms. Benson’s Euclid class. “We don’t have someone saying, ‘I have all the answers.’ They’re open-minded and go along with us to see what answers there can be.”

Like all new tutors, Ms. Benson, 42, went through a one-week orientation in August to reacquaint herself with Euclid, and to learn the St. John’s way of teaching. She attends weekly conferences with more seasoned tutors.

Her plywood-floor classroom in McDowell Hall is as almost as dim and sparse as the ones Francis Scott Key (valedictorian of the class of 1796) studied in before the college’s original building burned down in 1909. Eight underpowered ceiling lights barely illuminated three walls of chalkboards. While even kindergarten classrooms now feature interactive white boards and Wi-Fi connected iPads, not one laptop or cellphone was visible; the only evidence of contemporary life was the occasional plastic foam coffee cup.

The discussion centered not on examples and exercises, but on the disciplined narrative of Euclid’s assertions, the aesthetic economy of mathematical argument. When talk turned to Proposition 34 of Book One, which states that a parallelogram’s diagonal divides it into equal areas, not one digit was used or even mentioned. Instead, the students debated whether Propositions 4 and 26 were necessary for Euclid’s proof.

When a student punctuated a blackboard analysis with, “The self-evident truth that these triangles will be equal,” the subliminal reference to the Declaration of Independence hinted at the eventual braiding of the disciplines by both students and tutors here. So, too, did a subsequent discussion of how “halves of equals are equals themselves,” evoking the United States Supreme Court’s logic in endorsing segregation 2,200 years after Euclid died.

Earlier in the day, in a junior-level class taught by a longtime tutor about a portion of Newton’s seminal physics text “Principia,” science and philosophy became as intertwined as a candy cane’s swirls. Students discussed Newton’s shrinking parabolic areas as if they were voting districts, and the limits of curves as social ideals.

One student remarked, “In Euclid before, he talked a lot about what is equal and what isn’t. It seems here that equality is more of a continuum — we can get as close as we want, but never actually get there.” A harmony of Tocqueville was being laid over Newton’s melody.

The tutor, Michael Dink, graduated from St. John’s in 1975 and earned his master’s degree and Ph.D. in philosophy from the Catholic University of America. Like most professors here, he long ago traded the traditional three-course academic career — writing journal articles, attending conferences and teaching a specific subject — for the intellectual buffet at St. John’s. His first year included teaching Ptolemy’s “Almagest,” a treatise on planetary movements, and atomic theory. He since has taught 15 of the school’s 16 courses, the exception being sophomore music.

“You have to not try to control things,” Mr. Dink said, “and not think that what’s learned has to come from you.”

This ancient teaching method could be making a comeback well beyond St. John’s two campuses. Some education reformers assert that teachers as early as elementary school should lecture less at the blackboard while students silently take notes — the sage-on-the-stage model, as some call it — and foster more discussion and collaboration among smaller groups. It is a strategy that is particularly popular among schools that use technology to allow students to learn at their own pace.

Still, not even the most rabid reformer has suggested that biology be taught by social theorists, or Marx by mathematicians. That philosophy will continue to belong to a school whose president has joyfully declared, “We don’t have departmental politics — we don’t have departments!”

Anthony T. Grafton, a professor of history at Princeton and president of the American Historical Association, said he appreciated the approach.

“There’s no question that people are becoming more specialized — it’s natural for scholars to cover a narrow field in great depth rather than many at the same time,” he said. “I admire how St. John’s does it. It sounds both fun and scary.”
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« Reply #44 on: October 19, 2011, 07:48:08 PM »

Despite the Legislature’s clear directive that child support agencies not pursue mistaken child support actions, the County is asking that we do so.  We will not sully our hands by participating in an unjust, and factually unfounded, result.  We say no to the County, and we reverse.”–County of Los Angeles v. Navarro, (2004)
In a stunning victory, duped dad Pedro Soto and his attorney Richard A. Lowe, Esq. have prevailed against the Orange County Department of Child Support Services in a paternity fraud case emblematic of the numerous outrageous injustices faced by men and fathers in family court. In this case, Soto has paid over $75,000 in child support for a child DNA tests have established is not his, and who has been living with both of his biological parents for many years.
Pedro Soto got into this painful situation simply because he did the right thing--in 1998, when his then-girlfriend Maricela Guerrero told Soto that he was the biological father of her infant son Aaron, Soto signed a paternity declaration and began paying child support. His reward for stepping up and doing what he thought was right has been 13 years of deception, pain, and financial exploitation, all of which have harmed him, his wife, and his children.
Action Alert--Your Participation Needed!

Fathers and Families condemns the despicable conduct of OCDCSS in fighting to preserve a paternity judgment it knows to be false. We want to add your name to our letter to OCDCSS (copied to California DCSS)–to read the letter and add your name, please click here.
Also, victories cost money. As you’ll read below, F & F’s efforts to preserve the crucial Navarro decision led directly to the Soto victory, and opened the door to many others. Please give to support our vital work by going to
The Soto Case: Background

Talented Los Angeles family law attorney Richard A. Lowe, Esq., who represented Soto, and Pepperdine law student Sarah dela Cruz McKendricks, who helped Lowe.
In 1998, Soto, deceived by his then-girlfriend Maricela Guerrero into believing that her newborn son Aaron was Soto’s, stepped up and did what he thought was right by signing a paternity declaration.
Talented Los Angeles family law attorney Richard A. Lowe, Esq., with the valuable assistance of Pepperdine law student Sarah dela Cruz McKendricks, represented Soto. He explains:
Petitioner made his child support payments and had regular visitations with Aaron without the slightest suspicion that he may not be Aaron’s biological father…Petitioner’s visitations with Aaron continued on a regular basis with Aaron spending alternate weekends with Petitioner and his family in their home…[in] 2008 Aaron [said]….he had a “real” dad, Francisco Serrano, and knew that Petitioner was only his “step” dad…[DNA labs] concluded that Pedro Soto is not the biological father of Aaron Soto…[and that] Francisco Serrano was Aaron’s father.
Since Aaron is living with and being supported by his biological father, Francisco Serrano, it is clear that Petitioner’s child support payments is really pocket money for Maricela Guerrero and not the “child support” that the courts have ordered…by lying about the real father of Aaron, Ms. Guerrero...can fleece her innocent former boyfriend and have the County aid her in enforcing this unfair scheme…
As Petitioner states in his Declaration, Aaron will always be welcomed in his home, however, he does not wish to continue the falsehood that he is Aaron’s biological father.  Clearly it is in the best interest of the child that his biological…father be established.
Soto’s Attempt to Get Equitable Relief
In Soto’s motion to set aside his paternity judgment, Lowe wrote:
Soto’s Attorney Richard A. Lowe Thanks Fathers and Families:
“You helped preserve the Navarro decision, and that was all we had to hang our hats on in this case.”
[T]he Department concedes that Francisco Serrano, not Petitioner [Pedro Soto], is the real father of Aaron Soto, but insists that due to the passage of time the injustice of Petitioner paying child support for a child that is living with, and being supported by his real father, should be extended at least another five years until Aaron reaches eighteen and finishes high school.  The sheer injustice of the situation does not seem to bother the Department one bit.
Lowe conceded that the law is against Soto but argued "[T]his court still possesses the authority to right this wrong under its equitable powers." Read the documents in the Soto case here.
The 2004 Navarro Case
Lowe cited County of Los Angeles v. Navarro (2004) as case law in urging the Court to exercise its equitable powers to right a clear injustice in a paternity case.  In Navarro, the trial court denied a motion to vacate a judgment entered against Manuel Navarro establishing him as the father of two boys and ordering him to pay child support for them. Navarro had been erroneously “defaulted into fatherhood” of children he did not know.
The County opposed the motion, arguing that relief should not be granted because the statute of limitation had run.
Support Fathers and Families’ Paternity Fraud Bills:
F & F’s SB 375 & SB 377 will end outrageous injustices such as those experienced by Soto and tens of thousands of others–to learn more, click here.
The trial court denied the motion. Navarro’s resolute and gifted attorney, Linda Ferrer, Esq., appealed, and the Court of Appeal reversed the denial and granted Navarro’s request that the judgment against him be set aside. The Navarro Court explained:
A profound mistake occurred here when appellant was charged with being the boys’ father…Instead of remedying its mistake, the County retreats behind the procedural redoubt offered by the passage of time since it took appellant’s default.

It is this State’s policy that when a mistake occurs in a child support action the County must correct it, not exploit it…Thousands of individuals each year are mistakenly identified as being liable for child support actions.  As a result of that action, the ability to earn a living is severely impaired, assets are seized, and family relationships are often destroyed.  It is the moral, legal, and ethical obligation of all enforcement agencies to take prompt action to recognize those cases…and correct any injustice to that person.

Despite the Legislature’s clear directive that child support agencies not pursue mistaken child support actions, the County is asking that we do so.  We will not sully our hands by participating in an unjust, and factually unfounded, result.  We say no to the County, and we reverse.

The Long, Hard Struggle to Defend Victims of Paternity Fraud
Senator Rod Wright (D-Los Angeles), a longtime family court reform advocate, was the sponsor of the Child Support Enforcement Fairness Act of 2000, and the Navarro court cited this law as the basis for its decision.
Fathers and Families’ legislative representative Michael Robinson has successfully worked for many years to bring equity and fairness to child support and paternity fraud cases, and many of Robinson’s actions directly impacted the Soto case.
After Navarro, the Los Angeles County Department of Child Support Services asked the California Supreme Court to depublish the case, which would prevent other paternity fraud victims from using Navarro to liberate themselves. Robinson sought and submitted amicus letters against depublication from numerous California legislators and prominent attorneys, including: former Assemblywoman Nicole M. Parra; former Assemblyman Raymond Haynes; former Senator Dick Ackerman; former Senator Roy Ashburn; Senator Rod Wright; prominent family law appellate specialist Jeff Doeringer; Roger Dale Juntunen, J.D., M.B.A.; and others, as well as the Los Angeles County Public Defenders Office and the Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles. To read their amicus letters, click here (large file: 37 MB).
Navarro’s attorney, Linda Ferrer, praised Robinson’s “extraordinary” work in this letter.
Continuing the Fight: F & F’s SB 375 & SB 377
Fathers and Families’ SB 375 & SB 377 will end outrageous injustices such as those experienced by Soto and tens of thousands of men who have been unable to get out of fraudulent paternity judgments. These bills will be heard in the Senate Judiciary Committee early next year. To learn more, click here. Also, see our column Bill would give ‘duped dads’ some fairness under the law (Los Angeles Daily News, 6/2/11).
If you are a victim of paternity fraud, whether in California or in another state, we want to know your story–please click here.
Power User
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« Reply #45 on: February 12, 2012, 02:28:29 PM »

 cheesy cheesy cheesy cheesy cheesy cheesy cheesy cheesy cheesy
Power User
Posts: 42512

« Reply #46 on: February 28, 2012, 08:54:02 AM »
Power User
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« Reply #47 on: October 24, 2012, 11:25:54 AM »

Groupthink in Academia: Majoritarian Departmental Politics and the Professional Pyramid

Comment, BD?
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« Reply #48 on: March 14, 2013, 12:03:06 PM »

WSJ columnist James Taranto on NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg's efforts to reduce illegitimate parenting

By JAMES TARANTO   WSJ opinion excerpt
At issue is a subway ad campaign by the New York City Department of Social Services. It features photos of grumpy-looking infants (carefully chosen for racial diversity), captioned by messages to their putative parents, written in a toddler-like scrawl. Examples: "Dad, you'll be paying to support me for the next 20 years." "Honestly Mom . . . chances are he won't stay with you. What happens to me?" "If you finish high school, get a job, and get married before having children, you have a 98% chance of not being in poverty." Viewers of the ad are invited to "text 'NOTNOW' to 877877 for the real cost of teen pregnancy."

"The campaign pulls no punches," writes Goff, though in fact it pulls a very large punch by defining the problem as "teen pregnancy" rather than illegitimate childbearing. If an 18-year-old woman marries and has a child, that's almost certainly better for society, and for the child, than if she waits until she's 20 and gives birth out of wedlock.

Goff describes the opposition to the Bloomberg ad campaign:

    Well, according to Planned Parenthood, "The latest NYC ad campaign creates stigma, hostility and negative public opinions about teen pregnancy and parenthood rather than offering alternative aspirations for young people." I'm not sure where to start with this lunacy. First off, I thought that as one of the nation's leading sexual-health organizations, Planned Parenthood would focus on decreasing the number of unplanned pregnancies, not celebrating and encouraging them. Did I miss something?

Did you ever! Planned Parenthood may describe itself as a "health organization," but in reality it is an ideological outfit. It is committed to the idea of "reproductive rights" that belong only to women. In the 1992 case of Planned Parenthood v. Casey, for instance, the group persuaded the Supreme Court that a married woman has a constitutional right to abort her husband's child without telling him.

If men have no reproductive rights, it follows logically that they have no reproductive responsibilities. That's an abstract formulation, and one with which the law is often inconsistent: Family courts frequently attempt to hold men responsible for their offspring (though that poster slogan "Dad, you'll be paying to support me for the next 20 years" almost surely makes a false promise to Mom).

But culturally this logic has proved irresistible. In a 1996 study published in the Quarterly Journal of Economics and excerpted by the Brookings Institution, George Akerloff and Janet Yellin found that the introduction of the pill, which gave women control over the reproductive process, freed men from the sense that they were responsible for it. The result was the breakdown of the tradition of the shotgun wedding. Before, it was understood that if a man impregnated a woman, he would marry her. Now, it's up to her to exercise her "reproductive rights" and get an abortion--or to keep the baby and assume primary responsibility for it. Even if a court docks the man for child support, the burden is much greater on the woman.

The contemporary problem of illegitimacy, then, is largely the consequence of Planned Parenthood's ideology of female "reproductive rights" and the technology that made it feasible. Planned Parenthood's hostility toward any effort to tackle, or even acknowledge, the problem is anything but coincidental.

The ad campaign's focus on "teen pregnancy" rather than illegitimacy illustrates a class bias. The two may seem more or less interchangeable inasmuch as the idea of marrying and starting a family at 18 is today virtually unthinkable within the educated class. Today's privileged woman is expected to follow a life script in which high school is followed by college and a career. In that script, a period of sexual and romantic experimentation begins in college or before (made possible thanks to contraception, with abortion available as a Plan C), and marriage and children are expected to wait until after she is established in her career.

The "98%" poster alludes to that life script and makes the dubious supposition that following it--at least if one leaves out college--is realistic for all women. But an important reason women bear children out of wedlock is because they don't expect to find husbands. That's true of some educated older women, who take the plunge into single motherhood as the biological clock approaches its final tick with no suitors in sight. But in society's lower strata, even young women have limited marital prospects.

The illegitimacy rate among black Americans began to reach troubling levels even before the pill and the sexual revolution. "Both white and Negro illegitimacy rates have been increasing, although from dramatically different bases," observed Daniel Patrick Moynihan in his famous 1965 report. "The white rate was 2 percent in 1940; it was 3.07 percent in 1963. In that period, the Negro rate went from 16.8 percent to 23.6 percent." The black illegitimacy rate now approaches 75%; the white rate is higher than the black rate was in the 1960s.

Why were blacks a leading indicator of this disturbing trend? The common explanations are racism, poverty and alleged shortcomings in "black culture." In their 1983 book, "Too Many Women? The Sex Ratio Question," Marcia Guttentag and Paul Secord largely reject those hypotheses: "So far as we have been able to ascertain, the social conditions that we report all follow from demographic features of the black population."

The central demographic feature was a low sex ratio--that is, a shortage of men--among urban blacks: "In 1930, four-fifths of all black families lived in the South, and most were rural." By 1960, less than 60% of black families were Southern and more than 75% of all blacks lived in cities. But more women than men moved to the cities. The low sex ratio was further lowered by black men's high propensity to join the military or end up in prison and by the high rates of infant mortality among blacks (boys are more apt than girls to die during childhood).

Guttentag and Secord explained:

    Predictions for the cluster of social, sexual, and cultural consequences of low sex ratio demography include the following: black men would be reluctant to make a long-term marital commitment to one woman throughout her childbearing years; black men would be reluctant to marry and to invest in parenthood; black men would have a number of women sequentially or simultaneously; sexual libertarianism would be the ethos, and illegitimate births would be common; brief sexual liaisons with black men would be frequent; black male attitudes would be misogynistic; women would not be highly valued or respected; sex roles would be less differentiated; and black women would seek and possibly achieve economic, social and sexual independence for themselves, rather than acquiring economic or social status through marriage. . . .

    To avoid any misunderstanding, let us . . . emphasize that none of these social consequences has anything to do with being black. . . . Our position is that the same social consequences would follow for a white population having similarly low sex ratios and similar accentuating conditions.

Sex ratios are not sufficient to explain the subsequent explosion of illegitimacy across the population, but sex-ratio theory helps explain how another social revolution of the 1960s--feminism, in this context meaning female careerism--contributed.

As this column has repeatedly noted, women are hypergamous, which means that their instinct is to be attracted to men of higher status than themselves. When the societywide status of women increases relative to men, the effect is to diminish the pool of suitable men for any given woman. If most women reject most men as not good enough for them, the effect is no different from that of a low sex ratio. High-status men, being in short supply, set the terms of relationships, resulting in libertine sexual mores and higher illegitimacy.

Suppose Bloomberg's ad campaign is successful at inducing a large number of lower-class teenage women to stay in school, pursue careers, and forgo childbearing until marriage. If they succeed in school and work, they will find their marital prospects further limited by competition from other successful women. The problem of illegitimacy isn't soluble through moral suasion. The sexual and feminist revolutions are so deeply embedded in American culture and law that it may not be tractable at all.
Power User
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« Reply #49 on: March 14, 2013, 08:22:01 PM »

Some interesting thoughts in there which are either new to me or freshly presented.
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