Pink witches, tan paper

o help preschoolers “unlearn” racism, toy witches should wear pink, while fairies should be clad in darker shades, advise British equality experts. White paper should be replaced with paper that matches darker skin tones, advises consultant Anne O’Connor.

Finally, staff should be prepared to be economical with the truth when asked by pupils what their favourite colour is and, in the interests of good race relations, answer “black” or “brown”.

The measures, outlined in a series of guides in Nursery World magazine, are aimed at avoiding racial bias in toddlers as young as two.

“People might criticise this as political correctness gone mad,” says O’Connor.  “But it is because of political correctness we have moved on enormously.”

Wizard of Oz film still: Dress witches in pink and avoid white paper to prevent racism in nuseries, expert says

Wizard of Oz, 1939 Photo: REX FEATURES

British want kids to read 50 books a year

British students should read 50 books a year, says Education Secretary Michael Gove, after touring a KIPP charter in Harlem with a book-a-week goal.

In talking to students preparing for school exams, “something like 80 or 90 per cent were just reading one or two novels and overwhelmingly it was the case that it included Of Mice and Men.”

“We should be saying that our children should be reading 50 books a year, not just one or two for GCSE.”

I wonder why Of Mice and Men is ubiquitous in Britain. Well, it’s short.

For adults, The Telegraph suggests 50 books you must not read before you die.

In sixth grade, we filled out an index card for every book we read independently.  The minimum was one book a month. I read 183 books during the school year.  The teacher saved my stack of index cards to terrify future students.

British teacher speaks out

A British teacher who criticized “dumbed-down” education standards at a Conservative Party conference is back in school this week. Katharine Birbalsingh, 37, was ordered to stay home on Thursday or Friday. A French teacher for 10 years in London schools, she started this term as deputy head of a South London school rated “inadequate.”

In her speech on Tuesday, Miss Birbalsingh told delegates of a “broken” system which “keeps poor children poor”.

I thought her views sounded familiar. Sure enough, Birbalsingh is Snuffy, who blogged as To Miss with Love. In the blog, she wrote about low expectations, disorder and teachers’ struggle with bureaucracy.

Miss Birbalsingh says she has watched in silent horror, over more than a decade in teaching, as good teachers were ordered to follow bad rules, schools colluded with the folly of inspectors to win coveted ratings and classrooms were allowed to deteriorate into war zones.

. . . “Teachers are too scared to speak out because they think they are going to lose their job. And indeed, I gave a five minute speech and said a few home truths, and that has resulted in me being sent home from work.

Birbalsingh, who is Indian-Guyanese on her father’s side and Jamaican on her mother’s side, charges that discipline is poor because teachers “fear being labelled racist if they attempt to tackle bad behaviour by black pupils.”

* Britain’s state education system is an “international disgrace” which is incapable of reaching the “absurdly low” target of pupils achieving five grade Cs at GCSE.

* Mixed ability teaching, where bright students are taught alongside the less able, is “insane” because it means no pupils can receive the teaching they require.

* Ofsted’s inspection criteria are so skewed and prescriptive, they can lead to great and inspirational teachers being labelled as underperforming.

* The fashion for “group teaching” in some schools prevents teachers setting out classroom desks in traditional rows, forcing them to be arranged in groups so pupils can work in pairs or teams.

Educators make excuses for children from low-income, single-paren or black families, she charges. “This idea that because you are poor you cannot achieve is ridiculous.”

Life’s a carnival

Bellringers is hosting the Education Buzz, which includes her own post on Picture Day, math humor and bad hares.

It’s a Total Eclipse of the SEN (Special Educational Needs) in Britain, writes Old Andrew. Till now, it’s been impossible to criticize the system.

. . .  if you do not support the most expensive, extravagant, inclusive and emotive ideas about SEN then you are clearly some kind of borderline Nazi who would have had Helen Keller strangled at birth. Competitive compassion is the name of the game and anybody who asks questions like “Is that really a disability?” or “Does that actually help anybody?” must be a sociopath who thinks “A Christmas Carol” should have ended with Scrooge going over to Bob Cratchit’s house and giving Tiny Tim a good kicking.

To his amazement, OFSTED, the education inspectorate, has issued a report on SEN’s flaws.

If you asked OFSTED to investigate the cause of the First World War, they’d blame poor teaching and a failure to monitor outcomes. What is a shock is that OFSTED has correctly identified what is wrong with the system.

OFSTED’s investigation found that half of SEN students aren’t disabled; interventions for students with genuine disabilities are often useless. Teachers fill out paperwork to prove services were provided, not whether the services were effective.

Sound familiar?

Submit here by Saturday, Oct. 9 at 5 pm Central to be part of the next carnival in two weeks.

Sprittibee is hosting the Carnival of Homeschooling.

Britain: 1 in 4 lap dancers has a degree

From Merry Old England: One in four lap dancers has a college degree, according to a University of Leeds study. The university graduates, who typically have arts degrees, say they couldn’t find other jobs. And the money’s good.

The preliminary findings of the year-long study, which will include interviews with 300 dancers, reveal that all the women interviewed had finished school and gained some qualifications. Most (87 per cent) had at least completed a further education course, while one in four had undergraduate degrees. Just over one in three dancers were in some form of education, with 13.9 per cent using dancing to help fund an undergraduate degree, 6.3 per cent to help fund a postgraduate degree, and 3.8 per cent using it to fund further education courses.

Via Hit & Run Blog’s Battle of the Sucky School Stats.

Tories offer charter status to all schools

Britain’s new Tory-Liberal Democrat government wants to liberate schools from the control of local councils. Independently run public schools known as “academies” will be “the norm” in Britain, says Michael Gove, the new Tory education minister. Under a proposed bill, all schools will be allowed to apply for academy status.

The Tories also plan to make school heads accountable for students’ achievement and for “closing the gap between rich and poor pupils,” reports the Daily Mail. The curriculum will be “slimmed down” and teachers and heads will get “more powers to tackle bullying and bad behaviour.”

Extra funding will follow low-income students to whatever school they choose to attend.

Under another bill, parents and nonprofit groups will be able to set up tax-funded “free schools.” However, religious fundamentalists and others with a “dark agenda” will be screened out, Gove says.

As Education Gadfly puts it, the academies are like conversion charters in the U.S. and the free schools resemble start-up charters.

Britain: Fine parents of disruptive kids

Parents of disruptive students should face fines, says Britain’s Schools Secretary Ed Balls.

In truancy cases the courts already have powers to issue parenting orders, stipulating a child’s bedtime and forcing parents to make sure their son or daughter arrives on time for school in the correct uniform.

But Ed Balls wants schools to use the orders against families of badly behaved pupils as well.

Parents face heavy fines for violating parenting orders, which may force them to attend school meetings and counseling sessions. (Here’s betting that few actually pay the fines.)

Under a proposed law, parents “will be required to sign a home-school agreement which states that they agree with the school’s policy on behaviour.” Those who refuse to sign will be subject to the rules anyhow — and Balls said “parents who did not sign should possibly be investigated by social services.”

Weaponizing Mozart

The British nanny state is Weaponizing Mozart to control children, writes Brendan O’Neill in Reason Magazine.  West Park School in the English midlands uses Bach to Basics to punish misbehaving students: Students “have to sit in silence for an hour listening to classical music on a Friday evening.”  O’Neill writes.

In “special detentions,” the children are forced to endure . . . classical music both as a relaxant (the headmaster claims it calms them down) and as a deterrent against future bad behavior (apparently the number of disruptive pupils has fallen by 60 per cent since the detentions were introduced.)

One news report says some of the children who have endured this Mozart authoritarianism now find classical music unbearable.

Across the UK, classical music is played in public places to get young people to move elsewhere, O’Neill writes. Tyne and Wear in the north of England was the first to use “blasts of Mozart and Vivaldi” to get rid of young people who were annoying other passengers. The “most successful deterrent music included the Pastoral Symphony by Beethoven, Symphony No. 2 by Rachmaninov, and Piano Concerto No. 2 by Shostakovich.”

In Clockwork Orange, Anthony Burgess imagined a therapy using drugs, gruesome films and classical music to make a young prisoner feel revolted by violence (and Beethoven).  It was supposed to be a dystopia, not a model, O’Neill writes.

Perpetuating a 'cult of failure'

Britain’s school inspectors, known as Ofsted, perpetuate a “hidden cult of failure,” writes Harriet Sergeant in The Times. A policy researcher, Sergeant wrote a book on why working-class white and black Caribbean boys are doing so poorly in school.

One day last summer I found myself sharing a table with three seven-year-olds in an inner-city primary school. It was chaos. The three children were giggling, kicking each other and chatting. . . . Somewhere on the periphery of our vision, the teacher walked about, struggling to keep order. Elsewhere, behind our heads, hung a whiteboard with work on it — gleefully ignored.

. . . When I helped Cedric, the boy next to me, with his comprehension, I got a shock. He could barely read, let alone write an answer to the question. He shrugged, threw a rubber at the girl with the bobbles and was sent out of the class.

It was the last straw. I liked Cedric, who was obviously bright. I forgot I was meant to be an observer and confronted the teacher. Instead of sending children out, I said, why not improve discipline and concentration? We could rearrange the tables to face her and she could stand in front of the board. She looked at me with horror. “The pupils are working together, directing their own learning,” she said, her voice almost drowned by noise. Had I not appreciated what was going on?

Inspected schools fill out a self-evaluation report, a former inspector, “Amy,” tells Sergeant.  Of 48,000 words, 12 deal with promoting, but not necessarily achieving, “basic skills” in literacy and numeracy.

Ofsted orders inspectors to concentrate on social welfare, behaviour and attendance. They have to check if children are “independent learners” in charge of their own education and if a child enjoys “ownership” of its work. Work should not be corrected in red ink by the teacher.

. . .  “I spend more time looking in children’s lunch boxes then testing their literacy,” (Amy says).  In the topsy-turvy world of state education a fizzy drink causes more horror than poor spelling.

Schools must show they’re promoting “community cohesion,” defined by religion, ethnicity, culture and economic class.

If most students are low-income or non-white — or if the school has too many boys — expectations are lowered by the “deprivation factor,” so the school can get a satisfactory rating despite low achievement.

In theory, school inspectors should be able to get beyond test scores to evaluate a school’s effectiveness and suggest ways to improve. But there’s not much point if the inspectors aren’t going to focus on how well children are learning reading, writing, math, history, geography, civics and science.

Via To Miss With Love.

British school bans Valentine's cards

Primary students aren’t prepared for the “emotional trauma” of Valentine’s Day cards, a British headmaster has decided. Children may not exchange cards at Ashcombe Primary School in Weston-super-Mare, reports BBC News.

Peter Turner told parents of the 430 pupils that cards would be confiscated.

. . . Mr Turner said in the newsletter that children get upset when they are “dumped” which interrupts their learning.

He said children should wait until they are mature enough emotionally and socially to understand the commitment in having a boyfriend or girlfriend.

Parents say the ban is “ridiculous.”

Via Jonathan Turley.

Famous Zeke, a teaching intern, shares a hand-made Valentine’s Day card from a student.

In my day, we were required to give a card to every classmate. Girls got “friend” cards for other girls and joke cards for boys. It was about candy, not love. I don’t think that’s changed.