Saturday, February 21, 2009
From The Independent [Cambridge Primary Review / UK], Friday, February 20, 2009. See https://webmail.saclink.csus.edu/owa/redir.aspx?C=6b2ea7c9590e42de90f2e22a897ea768&URL=http%3a%2f%2fwww.independent.co.uk%2fnews%2feducation%2feducation-news%2fschoolchildrens-lives-are-being-impoverished-1627047.html .
Our thanks to Brian Greer for bringing this article to our attention.
Schoolchildren's lives 'are being Impoverished
Too much testing and too little learning in primary schools has let down a generation, says major inquiryBy Richard Garner, Education EditorA generation of schoolchildren have had their lives "impoverished" by rigid testing and an over-emphasis on the "three Rs", the most authoritative investigation into primary education for more than 40 years has concluded.
The Cambridge Primary Review warns today that Britain's schools are in "severely utilitarian and philistine times".
As a result, primary pupils are missing out on the kind of broad education promised when the national curriculum was first introduced 20 years ago - with potentially disastrous results and fewer opportunities later on in their lives.Instead, they face a rigid testing regime, with more than half of all class room time spent on the core subjects of maths and English, with virtually all other topics squeezed out."
The most conspicuous casualties are the arts, the humanities and those kinds of learning in all subjects which require time for talking, problem-solving and the extended exploration of ideas," the report concludes. "Memorisation and recall have come to be valued over understanding and enquiry - and transmission of information over the pursuit of knowledge in its fuller sense.
"The conclusions of the researchers, led by Professor Robin Alexander, are a damaging blow for the Government, which trumpeted its achievements in primary schools as one of the successes of Tony Blair's administration. The report warns: "The initial promise - and achievement - of entitlement to a broad, balanced and rich curriculum (through the national curriculum) has been sacrificed in pursuit of a narrowly conceived 'standards' agenda.
"Our argument is that [children's] education and their lives are impoverished if they have received an education that is so fundamentally deficient.
"In an attempt to drive up standards, creative lessons have been replaced by numeracy tuition and "literacy hours". These were expected to take up half of all classroom time but, because they ignore such crucial elements of English as speaking and listening, even more time has to be devoted to them outside literacy hour. Such strategies, argues Professor Alexander, must be brought back into the national curriculum to free up more time for other subjects.
He also criticises the Government's official review of primary education, due out next month, arguing that its author - the former head of Ofsted, Sir Jim Rose - had a remit that was too narrow, had avoided issuing a verdict on testing and had accepted that most of the Government's reforms were right.
The Cambridge team, who received submissions from 800 organisations during their two-year study, said primary education was not a simple choice between raising standards or a broad curriculum. Attainment could be improved only if pupils were given wide-ranging, stimulating and enjoyable lessons, they said.
Some children questioned by the panel accepted that they needed to learn reading, writing and arithmetic, but stressed that this was not enough. Professor Alexander added: "They said 'we get really excited by the arts and history and science, and by being encouraged to be creative'. Their parents agree with them. Science, art, geography and history - we are saying these things should be [in the curriculum]. To argue that they should be removed is pure folly. Standards, breadth and entitlement have to go hand in hand. It is not good enough to say that because the basics are important, that's all that matters.
"He cited two reports by Ofsted, the education standards watchdog, on high-achieving schools. "They appear to be saying you must concentrate on standards in the basics but, if you do so at the exclusion of other things, you actually shoot yourself in the foot.
"At present, Professor Alexander reports, the national curriculum is seen by teachers as "overcrowded, unmanageable and, in certain respects, inappropriately conceived".
A review of testing at the age of 11 is needed, he adds, because "breadth competes with the much narrower scope of what is to be tested" in the last year of primary school. He says: "In these severely utilitarian and philistine times, it has become necessary to argue the case for creativity and the imagination on the grounds of their contribution to the economy alone ... We assert the need to emphasise the intrinsic value of exciting children's imaginations.
"Professor Alexander recommends that only 70 per cent of lessons should be devoted solely to the core curriculum, with the remaining 30 per cent set aside for other topics such as local history.Teachers' leaders and Opposition MPs welcomed the findings. Michael Gove, the shadow Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families, said: "I share the review's concerns about a narrow curriculum damaging standards. One in five pupils failed to get even one GCSE last year because they never got a proper start in primary school."
John Bangs, of the National Union of Teachers, said underachievement in schools would not be tackled as long as teachers felt "inhibited" about being more creative with their lessons.A spokeswoman for the Government said Sir Jim would "no doubt" read the Cambridge Primary Review before making his own recommendations.
Must do betterKey areas of concern:
* Long-term educational goals have been replaced by short-term targets.
* Curriculum overload - many teachers believe far too much is prescribed for the time available.
* Loss of children's entitlement to a broad, balanced and rich curriculum - with arts, the humanities and science under threat.
* Tests have led to memorisation and recall replacing understanding and inquiry as the key goal in the classroom.
* "Politicisation" of the curriculum with accompanying rhetoric of "standards".
* Pressure at start of primary school to begin formal lessons too early with tests for four and five-year-olds.
* Excessive prescription has led to loss of flexibility and autonomy for schools.
* Historic split between the "basics" and the rest of the timetable has led to "unacceptable" difference in the quality of provision between the two.
* Mistaken assumption that high standards in "the basics" can be achieved only by marginalising the rest.What needs to be done:
* Scrap singling out time for literacy and numeracy strategies and reintegrate them into the national curriculum. At present they count for half of the timetable and elements of English (such as speaking and listening) have to be taught outside them.
* Restore aim of original national curriculum that children are entitled to a broad and balanced education (giving equal weight to core subjects and elements like the arts and humanities).
* Review assessment and testing arrangements - dubbed "the elephant in the room" - which overshadows the entire curriculum.
* Devote just 70 per cent of time to national curriculum - with 30 per cent to a locally agreed curriculum (such as learning about local history).
The crash of 2008 continues to reverberate loudly nationwide—destroying jobs, bankrupting businesses, and displacing homeowners. But already, it has damaged some places much more severely than others. On the other side of the crisis, America’s economic landscape will look very different than it does today. What fate will the coming years hold for New York, Charlotte, Detroit, Las Vegas? Will the suburbs be ineffably changed? Which cities and regions can come back strong? And which will never come back at all?
Full articel in March 2009 Atlantic Monthly
Friday, February 20, 2009
TO: SPEAKER NANCY PELOSI, U.S. HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
Dear Speaker Pelosi:
We the undersigned call on you and your colleagues to mark this 40th Anniversary of the Stonewall Riots and the start of the gay liberation movement by passing legislation to expand the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to declare it the public policy of the United States that discrimination based on LGBT status is prohibited.For forty years, the LGBT movement has asserted the simple idea that LGBT rights are civil rights. For forty years we have been told to wait our turn and not to rock the boat. But with the election of 2008, we sent a clear message to Washington. Now is our time. As Michelle Obama said on Gay Pride Day last year, "We are all only here because of those who marched and bled and died, from Selma to Stonewall, in the pursuit of a more perfect union." We stand united in that struggle and will not accept any effort to roll back the protections of the Civil Rights Act. But we must insist that they be expanded in order for the Act to truly live up to its name. Because you represent Harvey Milk's district, the Castro neighborhood of San Francisco, the nexus of the LGBT community on the West Coast, you have a special role to play in defending and protecting the civil rights of LGBT people everywhere.
We hope that you will fulfill that role by passing this legislation. And to those who say we can't have equal rights now, we say "Yes we can!"
Download a PDF version of this report here.
Right-wing political and legal organizations have unleashed a coordinated campaign of over-the-top attacks on the qualifications, records, and fitness of President Obama’s nominees for important positions in the U.S. Justice Department. Deputy Attorney General nominee David Ogden has been the prime target of the Right’s wrath, but Solicitor General nominee Elena Kagan, Associate Attorney General nominee Thomas Perrelli, and Office of Legal Counsel nominee Dawn Johnsen have also come in for their share of criticism.
California is in crisis - and conservatives are using it as an opportunity to advance their radical right-wing agenda.
The rule requiring a two-thirds vote of the legislature to pass a budget allowed a small cabal of extremists led by Senator Abel Maldonado to hold the state hostage to their demands. Their ransom? Severe budget cuts and strict prohibitions on taxes.
Every other state but two (Arkansas and Rhode Island) passes its budget with a simple majority. California needs to change the two-thirds vote rule for budgets so that anti-tax zealots can't override the will of the people year after year.
I just signed a pledge to fight to repeal the two-thirds budget rule -- I hope you will too.
Please have a look and take action.
Thursday, February 19, 2009
David Bacon Labor Needs a Radical Vision
David Bacon, Truthout: "During the Cold War, many people with a radical vision of the world were driven out of our labor movement. Today, as unions search for answers about how to begin growing again and regain the power workers need to defend themselves, the question of social vision has become very important. What is our vision in labor? What are the issues that we confront today that form a more radical vision for our era?"
Wednesday, February 18, 2009
Tuesday, February 17, 2009
Monday, February 16, 2009
Please help us spread the word about Ken Starr's shameful legal proceedings -- and the 18,000 couples facing forcible divorce -- by forwarding the email below to your friends and family.Please also consider making a contribution of whatever amount you can afford to help Courage Campaign Issues wage a people-powered campaign to repeal Prop 8:
Thank you for your time and your generosity. Rick JacobsChairCourage Campaign
Sunday, February 15, 2009
FOCUS Obama Scores Early Victory of Historic Proportions
Michael D. Shear and Alec MacGillis, The Washington Post: "Twenty-four days into his presidency, Barack Obama recorded last night a legislative achievement of the sort that few of his predecessors achieved at any point in their tenure."Video Part I and II: President Barack Obama Address on Lincoln's 200th Birthday Springfield, Illinois
On the occasion of Abraham Lincoln's 200th birthday, President Obama speaks in Springfield, Illinois, Thursday, February 12, 2009.
NEW YORK, 15 February (BWNS) - The Baha'i International Community has issued a statement of gratitude to the Iranian intellectuals, scholars, writers, journalists, activists, and artists throughout the world who signed an open letter apologizing for their silence during Iran's long-running persecution of the Baha'is.
The open letter from the Iranians - dated 3 February and signed so far by 243 men and women living in 19 countries - had asked Baha'is to forgive them "for the wrongs committed against the Baha'i community of Iran" over the last century and a half."
We will no longer be silent when injustice is visited upon you," the letter said after enumerating some of the ways Baha'is have been persecuted, from "barbaric murders" to depriving youth of higher education.In response, the Baha'i International Community told the signatories that the letter "brought a degree of solace and relief to the pain that your Baha'i fellow citizens endure."
"On their behalf and that of the Baha'is throughout the world we convey our profound gratitude and appreciation for a deed of such historical moment," the Baha'i message said, referring to the publication of the open letter.
The letter was particularly significant, said the Baha'i response, in that it rejected the milieu of intimidation created by Iranian authorities throughout the decades that served to silence "those fair-minded and informed individuals who had always wished to rise up" in support of the Baha'is.Indeed, in a press statement yesterday, the organizers behind the letter said that many more people would like to sign."
We are confident," their statement said, "that many more individuals, responsible and humane individuals, both inside and outside Iran, will add their seal of approval to it, as they become aware of such a letter, and we hope that the independent and committed Iranian media will join us in disseminating this message."
The open letter began with the heading "We are ashamed! A century and a half of oppression and silence is enough!"
"We are ashamed that during the last 30 years, the killing of Baha'is solely on the basis of their religious beliefs has gained legal status and over 200 Baha'is have been slain on this account," said one clause."
We are ashamed that a group of intellectuals have justified coercion against the Baha'i community if Iran," the letter continued.
The letter ended thus: "We stand by you in achieving all the rights enshrined in the Universal Declaration of the Human Rights. Let us join hands in replacing hatred and ignorance with love and tolerance."
The Baha'i response also ended with a statement of hope: "The ardent hope of Iranian Baha'is is to be able to labor, shoulder to shoulder, with their compatriots for the progress and exaltation of their country that it may assume its seat of honor and glory among the family of nations."
For a longer version of the article, and to read the Baha'i statement and the open letter, go to:http://news.bahai.org/story/697
For the Baha'i World News Service home page, go to:http://news.bahai.org