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ALTERNATIVE EDUCATION NEWS IN THE WORLD TODAY

alternative education news Hunting the truth is an art. We blunder naturally into a thousand misleading generalizations and false processes. Yet there is hardly any intelligent mental training done in the schools of the world to-day. We have to learn this art, if we are to practise it at all. Our schoolteachers have had no proper training themselves, they miseducate by example and precept, and so it is that our press and current discussions are more like an impromptu riot of crippled and deaf and blind minds than an intelligent interchange of ideas. What bosh one reads! What rash and impudent assumptions! What imbecile inferences!

- H.G Wells, 'The Open Conspiracy'



ALTERNATIVE EDUCATION NEWS ANALYSIS

August 19th 2017

AN ABSOLUTELY APPALLING ARTICLE FROM THE INDEPENDENT

This is the worse thing I have seen on education in a mainstream newspaper for as long as I can remember:

http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/a-level-results-pass-rate-university-success-story-fail-teacher-they-define-you-a7897686.html

It's hard to know where to begin critising this article because almost every sentence crumbles with scrutiny.

What the author - Lucy Parsons - is saying is that exam results do define you. This is clearly nonsense. Here are my top three criticisms of this horrendous article:

1) The author, Lucy, is a product of the education system and has stayed within the education system and been successful within the education system. So what? Say I was raised on a farm and became a successful farmer, should I be then saying that everyone should be defined by how good they are at farming? Lucy sings her own praises in this article with her five A-Levels and her impressive sounding title of 'Study Coach'. Yeah right; and I'm an 'pedagogical epistemologist'.

2) Academic study and the assessment thereof is one part of education. Just one part. The assumption that parents or any people, who say that exams don't define you, are not caring about education is naive to put in mildly. Many parents who hold this view make great sacrifices to help their children develop in other areas such as bilingualism, the arts (for example, music or dance lessons), in sport, in spiritual development, experiences such as travel, or domestic skills such as cooking, gardening, caring for animals and mechanical maintenance. I will bet my farm that Lucy Parsons has never had a child as a mother who was struggling at school. In fact, I will bet the farm that she has never had a child.

3) Lucy, how can you say this: "If you can’t be defined by your actions and attitudes, and the ensuing results, what can you be defined by?" That is a terrible thing for an educator to say. What you saying is this: If you are not as good as me, as I am, at what I do, then you have no value. There are many different things that can define you and each person can be unique in this respect - assuming we need to be 'defined' in the first place. Martin Luther King dreamed of a world where men and women are defined by the content of their character. Just because a young person is not motivated to dedicate their life to academics at that moment in their life doesn't mean they are lazy, weak, disorganised or undisciplined. Also, a person can change as they mature and for many of these kids it is too much too soon. Moreover, more often than not that negative attitude towards academics was created by the school environment itself or by pushing a child too early.

Lucy Parsons seems to me to be a person with no real concept of the greater reality outside of her classroom and her exams. Lucy, you are doing a job and your job is to get students to pass exams, so fair enough, but keep it in perspective. As for The Independent, shame on them for publishing this.

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June 23rd 2017

IF YOU QUESTION EVOLUTION, DOES THAT MAKE YOU A RELIGIOUS NUTJOB?

The (presumably) eye-catching scoop of this story is that Turkey is becoming religiously extreme because schools are no longer teaching evolution. This is (presumably) shocking because if you don't accept the theory of evolution then you must be a religious nutjob. This must be the assumption because the article does not in any way discuss evolution. Otherwise, why is it newsworthy?

People need to be aware of the mind-control technique called 'dialectic'. This method gives you two choices, one of which will be completely out-of-the-question for you personally. For example, if you are religiously Muslim or Christain or Jewish, the theory of evolution is unpalatable because it precludes the existence of God. If you are not religious, then the idea of creationism is unpalatable because it seems irrrational, so you are naturally tended (read, herded) towards a belief in evolution.

The truth is, there are many non-religious, intellectual, highly-eduated people who can see serious problems with the theory of evolution, from its dubious eugenics origins, to the lack of fossil record, to its ever-changing dating. As recently as last month, findings in north Africa blew apart previous datings on human evolution.

No doubt, Turkey is becoming more religious and less secular. This worries the Guardian and other neo-liberal or 'progressive' mainstream outlets. But this itself is a dialectic: religious or secular; as if you are either religious or unreligious, secular or brain-washed.

For Turkey, as for all us, there is an infinity of possibility. We must be careful not to allow mainstream information outlets to create these kinds of dialectics which limit us to two narrow and equally erroneous positions.

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June 21st 2017

DOES POOR EDUCATION RESULT IN POVERTY OR DOES POVERTY RESULT IN POOR EDUCATION?

A UNESCO report according to this Guardian article makes this claim:

"Unesco’s figures, released this week, estimate that the global poverty rate could be more than halved if everyone completed secondary school. "

To me, this is like saying that homelessness would fall if more people had a house. It's a ridiculous rationalisation. It's like saying that Prince Harry is rich because he had a really expensive education.

There is also a very patronising assumption that those kids who are not in school are somehow not getting any education. They ARE. They are being educated to be able to survive in a world where 80% of the wealth is owned by 5% of people. Sitting them in a classroom six hours a day for twenty years is not what they need. What they need is a fairer world.

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November 25th 2016

BETSY DEVOS - TRUMP'S NEW EDUCATION SECRETARY

One of the things which appealed to me about Trump's election campaign message was his stance against Common Core and on many occasions he talked about giving education decisions back to local communities.

Donald Trump's first Education Secretary will be Betsy Devos. The mainstream media are accusing Trump of a U-turn because Ms. Devos is supposed to have been a supporter of Common Core. Actually, Betsy Devos is most well-known for her advocacy of school vouchers. This is actually a policy which does in theory give parents more choice because they can spend their voucher in any school they like, including private schools - which is the basis of the criticism of the voucher system: that it is elitist or damaging to the state education effort.

My view is that I would like to see state education completely removed. I am not against private education per se - indeed, I home-educate my own children and that could be described as private education. On the other extreme you can have a situation where both the government and it's opposition are controlled by a handful of toffs who went to the same elitist school.

It will be interesting to watch what happens to the American education system over the next four years and which direction it heads.

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November 5th 2016

SPANISH PARENTS PROTEST EN MASSE AGAINST HOMEWORK

The Guardian reports on mass protests by parents in Spain regarding excessive homework. They are accusing schools of getting parents to do their job for them:

“Schools are passing on tasks to families that they shouldn’t be. They’ve made us into second teachers and left children in the latter stages of secondary school with up to 60 hours of schoolwork a week.”
It is ironic that parents who have chosen to put their children into an ineffective education system which cannot function without their support are withdrawing their support in protest over the fact that the schools are ineffective!

Click here to read 'The Homework Conundrum!'

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October 28th 2016

SCHOOL SIZE IN THAILAND ON THE INCREASE

An article in today's Bangkok Post outlines a concern by Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn regarding the closing of small schools in Thailand.

http://www.bangkokpost.com/news/politics/1120809/princess-eyes-schools-plan

I commend her concern. This is part of a global trend for larger and more centralised schools. In the UK for example, there has been an increase in the number of children in schools just over the last year of 121,000, yet in the past year the number of schools in the UK has fallen.

Some will argue the economies of scale and governments will claim that larger schools can offer better quality education. However, one thing for sure is that larger schools and the elimination of smaller schools will lead to education becoming less and less localised and more and more centralised.

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October 21st 2016

UK CHILDREN IN LONDON SCHOOL AS YOUNG AS ONE
TO BE TAUGHT IN CHINESE

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/education/education-news/one-year-olds-taught-chinese-london-prep-school-kensington-wade-a7368391.html

Many have commented on the ever-younger ages that children are being placed into schools. Here is further evidence. This school is getting childen into school at the age of one and teaching them a bilingual curriculum:

"Kensington Wade promises an “immersive bilingual education”, offering children from ages 3-13 a curriculum influenced by successful Chinese and English educational practices. The school will also incorporate a nursery, accepting children aged 1-3, and is said to be priced in-line with neighbouring independent schools, which start at around £5,000 per year."

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September 13th 2016

HIGH-SCHOOL GIRL LEFT WITH DEFORMED FACE AFTER PUNISHMENT BY PE TEACHER AT SCHOOL

A story in today's Bangkok Post tells of a PE teacher who threw a ceramic cup at a student which left her with nerve damage in her face:

http://www.bangkokpost.com/news/general/1085013/teachers-thrown-cup-leaves-teen-deformed

The article states that: "Miss Naruedee said she did not tell her parents when she returned home that day, but that night when she was brushing her teeth, water poured out of her mouth, and she was unable to close it completely."

Think about that, that a child gets hit in the face by a cup thrown by a teacher and doesn't tell her parents! The level of control implicit in that statement, and the fact that the students feel that degree of intimidation and powerlessness, is staggering.

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September 7th 2016

ELEVEN-YEAR-OLD GIRL TURNED AWAY ON HER FIRST DAY AT SECONDARY SCHOOL FOR HAVING A GOLD BUCKLE ON HER SHOES

https://www.theguardian.com/education/2016/sep/06/police-called-school-pupils-sent-home-wrong-uniform-hartsdown-academy-margate

Brand new headteacher Matthew Tate defends this decision because his vision for the school included "excellent uniform...perfect uniform."

But at the risk of damaging the confidence of a little girl on her first day at a new school.

This is the calibre of educator that the UK has in charge of their schools.

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August 27th 2016

DEBORAH ORR, I LOVED YOUR ARTICLE BUT YOU ARE NOT OFFERING A REAL ALTERNATIVE

This is something I don't find myself saying very often. Here is a great piece from The Guardian:

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/aug/27/blight-childrens-lives-five-good-gcses-exam-success

This was a touching and sensible article from a mother who understands the pain that children are forced to go through at school, and she understands it from direct experience as a home-schooling parent.

But this article also leaves me feeling frustrated because it is missing the point that there are real alternatives - I mean, besides just doing the same thing that you would do at school except you are doing it at home. If you are signed up for a home-schooling course to get your kids through GCSEs, all you are really doing is giving your child an alternative route to conform to what those who control education are decreeing that education should be. What that child who hates school and sees school as an infringement on his human rights really needs is a completely new alternative, one unique to him.

I understand the dilemma and the pressure that society is placing on parents. But we, the parents, are the ones surely who are creating the society. We need to be courageous and say: "There must be an alternative."

Tweets from Jeremy Clarkson about how he failed his A-Levels are not helpful - even if he has good intentions. The Clarksons and Richard Bransons and so on have made their wealth and success thanks to all the other suckers in society who work their sorry asses off to slump into an armchair of an evening to watch the telly and scrape together enough for the occassional Virgin holiday flight. If we all said, 'screw this system' there wouldn't be any people like Jeremy Clarkson or Richard Branson because we would all be the unique, creative, free, spiritual beings that is our true nature.

Well done Ms. Orr for what you have said, it is a step in the right direction. But it doesn't go far enough.

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August 8th 2016

WATCH WHAT PRIME MINISTER THERESA MAY DOES, NOT WHAT SHE SAYS

A few weeks into her premiership and Theresa May and her Education Secretary Justine Greening (who apparently is 'open-minded' about an elitist education system) are opening the discussion regarding the creation of new grammar schools in the UK.

Compare this to May's opening statement as new prime minsiter when she said:

The Government I lead will be driven, not by the interests of the privileged few, but by yours. We will do everything we can to give you more control over your lives. When we take the big calls, we'll think not of the powerful, but you. When we pass new laws, we'll listen not to the mighty, but to you. When it comes to taxes we'll prioritise not the wealthy, but you. When it comes to opportunity, we won't entrench the advantages of the fortunate few, we will do everything we can to help anybody, whatever your background, to go as far as your talents will take you.

No wonder, then, that the mainstream news, especially television, give so much time to what politicians say and so little to what they actually do.

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July 24th 2016

ARE WHITE BOYS REALLY UNDER-PERFORMING BECAUSE THEY ARE WHITE BOYS? SURELY NOT

For many years it has been a well-known and accepted fact that in UK schools working class white boys are the worst performing ethnic-gender-class demographic group. In her opening speech as prime minister, Theresa May quoted the statistic.

But this is a pretty bizare statistic, if you think about it. The equivalent statistic in others places around the world would be for example that Han Chinese boys in China, or Hindu boys in India, or Igbo boys in Nigeria are under-performing everyone else academically. How can it possibly be that in a supposedly male-dominated white majority country such as the UK, white boys are the ones struggling?

White men don't seem to be unrepresented in the UK when it comes to success in top positions. Take a look at the make-up of parliament, the cabinet, mayors, top bankers, key media figures, newspaper editors and owners, the royal family, Premier League managers, judges, senior police figures, headteachers and so on. White men are not doing too badly - in fact, let's face it, are totally dominant.

And yet white boys are struggling in school. What is really going on here?

The key statistic of white boys failing in school is always enhanced by its juxtaposition with the statistic of the highest-performing group: middle-class Asian girls. This is hardly a fair comparison, comparing a son of an unemployed car worker to the princess daughter of a stinking rich Sikh businessman.

Working class black boys do pretty much as badly as the white boys.

There are undoubtedly other factors at play here. Subservience and acquiescence are essential to succeed in a controlled school environment so you would expect those who are most encouraged to be subservient by a variety of cultural factors - such as girls or the Chinese - to perform better. So poor performance at school is not necessarily a sign of weak intellect or a doomed future. It could just be that you see through the bullshit!

The figures are also distorted by the relative sizes of the different groups - there are a lot more working class white boys than middle class Asian girls in the UK.

But let's face it, there is only one factor that influences relative academic achievement between demographic groups and it has nothing to do with gender or skin colour. The whole white boy statistic is a big smoke-screen, in my opinion.

There is only one factor which really matters here: poverty. Working class white boys are failing at school because their communities are run-down and do not have the resources to support their young people. Social mobility, they rightly figure, is dead.

Boy or girl, black or white, working class or rich - end poverty in the UK and the academic divide will fall along with it. If that is really what you want.

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July 22nd 2016

SCHOOL IS A FAKE LEARNING ENVIRONMENT - HERE'S MORE PROOF

Schools are continuously coming up with fake new gimicks and catch-words to deal with the fundamental problem that school is a fake learning environment. Stars and certificates and house-points - there's nothing real about that. Techniques teachers learn in training, such as 'VAK' (visual, auditory, kinaesthetic) stem from this same root problem. When children are out in the world they are naturally seeing, hearing and doing. In schools, teachers must remember to cover VAK because essentially, in a school, there is not much that is interesting to see, hear or do.

This latest example from the BBC website is of a school in Sidney which has banned clapping. They have banned clapping because it is noisy and come up with a typically convoluted idea which they have named 'silent cheering'. Great idea to discourage the expression of joy and enthusiasm! They claim that this method of silent cheering is "a great way to expend children's energy and reduce fidgeting".

Sorry, but forcing children to sit still and be silent is definitely not a great way for them to expend energy. Why is energy a bad thing which needs to be got rid of anyway? Children do not naturally fidget. Most children can sit still for a long time if they are are watching something that is interesting or enjoyable to them. If a child is figeting then it is because they are bored and want to do something different. They are figeting because they are being forced into a controlled situation which they want to get out of. That's why adults fidget too.

If I was stuck in a situation as a teacher where I had to be in a room with a group of fidgety children then I might try the 'silent cheer' idea too - I'm not saying it doesn't work or that it is a bad idea per se. What I am saying is that teachers are forced to come up with these fake gimicks because the children are being forced into an artificial situation which they don't like and which is not condusive to life or learning.

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July 7th 2016

CREEPING ENCROACHMENT OF PARENT RIGHTS IN THE UK

The UK authorities are carrying out a systematic Orwellian policy whose overiding aim is to remove decision-making regarding the raising of children away from parents by handing increasing powers to authorities.

Two developments currently unfolding in the UK highlight this trend.

Firstly, there is the dramatic increase in punishments to parents for removing their children from school without permission. According to an article in today's Guardian, in the past year 90,000 parents were fined by local authorities for unauthorized absences. One man stood up to this and the fine was overturned by the courts, but this has not discouraged the government in their pursuit of this policy and the father who won the case is now facing a supreme court hearing funded by the Department for Education.

The second development is more disturbing. As of next month, August 2016, every child in Scotland will be designated a 'named person'. According to the Scottish sollicitors Hamilton Ross, this named person provision works like this:

The 'Named Person' provision, therefore, has been introduced to fulfil the state's obligation to maintain every child's legal right to welfare. The provision involves the local authority assigning a person, usually a head teacher or health visitor, to every child. This assigned person will then be the single point of contact for that child and their family or guardians. The intention is that the 'Named Person' will provide a more preventative approach to Child Protection; so that no child will fall beneath the radar of the relevant authorities. (my bold)

This seems very sinester and is yet another way of disguising creeping government control as caring for children. The website childreninscotland.org.uk makes this statement: "We will champion the cause of children and their families, demanding that decision-makers ensure that they are at the heart of policy making." How telling is this, that the 'decision-makers' about a child are not the parents?

Anyone who remembers Margaret Thatcher's poll tax will know that this would not be the first time a potentially unpopular policy is first trialed in Scotland before being brought to the rest of the UK.

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May 14th 2016

SHOULD WE BE TEACHING CHILDREN TO LOVE READING?

There has been a very welcome popular backlash in the UK recently against the regime of testing in primary schools. Teachers have protested and many parents have boycotted the tests. In today's Guardian, Chris Riddel the children's poet laureate has added his weight to the forces against testing. Chris Riddel has added his voice to perhaps the majority of primary teachers throughout the world who are trying to get children to love books.

But, I ask the question, should we really be trying to teach children to love reading? I realise that may sound like a strange question, but hear me out. I have three points.

Firstly, is getting children to love reading an unrealistic goal which will marginalise many children who don't? Ask yourself, of all the people you know, how many of them love reading. Some people do, but most people I know would rather socialise, or use social media, or watch a video or play a game for pleasure than read. These people may be highly intelligent people who read a great deal, but they read for information and for work rather than pleasure.

Secondly, reading is actually a bit of an anomaly in the respect that teachers think that everyone should love it. You don't hear people saying that everyone should love to dance, paint or run fast. No one is suggesting that everyone should love to write books. Even in a subject as fundamental as Mathematics, teachers generally accept that some love it and some don't. Yet with reading, progressive educationists envisage a utopia where every child loves to do it.

Thirdly, I am of the view that it is not the love of readng that is key but the love of learning. Personally, I love reading when I am learning something interesting. Reading something boring is a painful experience. It is learning which should be promoted. Reading is a key component of the learning process, but no more so than observation, logical thought, discussion and learning through action. I would suggest that when a poet such as Chris Riddel suggests that children should learn to 'read for pleasure', I suspect that there is a fiction-oriented bias to this. I bet that when he goes into schools to read to children that he reads fiction.

Trying to get children to love reading books is far better than drilling them for meaningless grammar tests, granted. But I suggest that few children or adults in practice actually do just love reading as a pleasure for its own sake. Those that do, I think that's great - but there is nothing wrong with children who don't. Love of learning, on the other hand, I believe is a natural and universal human characteristic and that is the one which should be nurtured and promoted. Educators should get children to see the value or usefulness of reading rather than trying to get them to do it for pleasure.

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May 1st 2016

DEAR BARBARA ELLEN (OF THE OBSERVER)...

This is a joke of an article, devoid of fact and insight:

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/may/01/time-children-learned-life-lesson-at-school

I would like to address the points that Ms. Ellen makes in this article - and bear in mind that this is coming from a very well-published journalist working for a 'progressive' newspaper.

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What does Let Our Kids Be Kids even mean in real terms?

Letting kids be kids means allowing children the freedom and opportunities to be the creative, imaginative, individual, natural learners that they are, also capable of taking great responsibilities.


And part of being a kid is that you go to school and sometimes you prepare for it and take tests. This isn't some inhumane modern calamity, it's how the educational system has always worked, one way or another.

Mass schooling is quite a modern phenomenon, so I think you are historically in error. The current way of teaching children in centralised schools and in homogenous-aged, desk-filled classrooms can be traced back to post-industrial revolution nineteenth century Prussia and then England - if you'd care to do a little research, Ms Ellen. Children are spending more hours in school and are starting school younger and younger with each passing generation. This is not the way it has always been, as you say, and even if it was it doesn't mean that there is no other way. An inhumane modern calamity is exactly what it IS - why would you claim otherwise?


...could you please give me directions to the wonderful, utopian parallel reality where the real world does not demand, compete and judge? Yes, sometimes these are very young children, but what's more shocking to them - regular testing or the big, nasty shock at the end ,when they find out the hard way that the big bad world doesn't give a stuff about how "fun and free" their schooling was? It wants to see qualifications.

Do you not realise that the education system, which is divisive and competitive, is playing a major part in creating this 'big, bad world'? You talk as if the world exists in its primordial state and that we have to educate our children to fit into it. Like the phrase "we must prepare children for the work place" - no, we must prepare the world for children.

In addition, often the values that businesses and employers really value can come from the fun and free education that you dimiss so derisively - qualities such as innovative thinking, creativity and flexibility. Take a look at the education that many successful business people had and you may be surprised how many did not follow the standard academic path: Donald Trump, Richard Branson, Bill Gates, the guys who made South-Park to name just a few off the top of my head.


Of course school should be a holistic, caring, supportive, enriching environment, but, even at primary level, it's also about education, not some abstract haven of potato-printing, tambourine-banging loveliness.

So, you mean that developing a child's social skills, learning about health, being artisitic and being supported and cared for in a stimulating environment - you mean that this is to be distinguished from 'education'? And what do you mean by 'even' at primary level? Dear, oh, dear I hope you have no children, lady, and if you don't I hope you never will.


The irony is that this protest is supposed to be in support of teachers and schools - who do people think are going to be the first in line for a public battering if standards slip?

This is a completely circular and meaningless point. 'Standards slipping', as you put it, in fact means lower scores in the standardised tests. Without testing, there would be no absolute judgement on the standards of schools and parents at least of primary schools would judge the school on how happy their child is, how much their child likes their teachers, how well their child gets along with friends and on how well the child is growing up and maturing.

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It really amazes me the lack of knowledge and insight coming from educational writers in major newspapers - almost all. May I just ask: Are you genuinely clueless or are you part of a global conspiracy?

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May 1st 2016

BANGKOK POST GETS IT RIGHT ON EDUCATION

I applaud the editorial article in today's online Bangkok Post regarding the best way forward for education. Not testing, not centralisiation, but communities and families leading the way:

"It is abundantly clear: Things improve when decisions are made by local communities and parents."

http://www.bangkokpost.com/opinion/opinion/953933/testing-times-for-students



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April 13th 2016

IS MASS-SCHOOLING A PRE-REQUISITE TO MASS LITERACY?

Some pottery, found in Tel Arad in modern day Israel, has provided evidence that around 600 BC there was widespread literacy in that part of the world at that time. The article concludes:
"To support this bureaucratic apparatus, an appropriate education system must have existed in Judah at the end of the first Temple period [before 586 BC]."

That is, to my knowledge, a pretty large assumptive jump. Evidence of schooling in America over the past 150 years, for example, strongly suggests that literacy rates have fallen as schooling has become more wide-spread. (For an undepth discussion on this topic I recommend reading Taylor-Gatto.) Any primary school teacher will tell you that the children who read best and earliest are the children who learn to read at home.

Although it may well be true, it is a pretty amateurish assumption made there by the Unversity of Tel Aviv that mass-schooling is a pre-requisite to mass literacy. That is pedagogically and historically untrue. But it does at least give us insight into how those in academia who have risen up through the system are incapable of seeing beyond the system which has created them.

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April 13th 2016

DISAFFECTED PARENTS? DISAFFECTED OR DISENFRANCHISED?

This was a very interesting - curious, actually - article in the Independent UK newspaper about why white children start off in primary school out-performing other ethnic groups but are overtaken by the time they are sixteen and sit GCSE exams. The blame or explanation for this is placed on the parents of white children because they become 'disaffected'.

If this is true, this is a very interesting and complicated phenomenon which is not considered properly in this article. 'Disaffected' is an interesting word. It implies strongly an element of rebellion against authority. The suggestion is that parents are not supporting their kids in their school career because they think it is, I don't know: pointless? brain-washing? unfair? undemocratic? The implication from this research is that white parents start off all gung-ho about school and then become disillusioned. Why is that? What is happening?

The UK Indians and Chinese parents, on the other hand, lap it all up and pressure their kids to work hard and load on to them lots of tutoring and extra study. And when it comes to the exams, sixteen year-old white kids are not able to regurgitate as well as the non-whites.

If this is true and the reason white kids are doing worse in exams at sixteen is because parents think the system is nonsense or unfair or rigged, could it be that the indigenous people of the UK are waking up to the reality of schooling. Could that be a good thing? Or are we to conclude that white children need to start studying all evening and every weekend like their Asian counterparts?

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April 3rd 2016

CHALK AT EMORY UNIVERSITY: FREE SPEECH MEANS FOR EVERYBODY, EVEN THOSE WHO ARE AGAINST FREE SPEECH

The smoke and mirrors are out and this time it is Emory University, Georgia.

The story is that student have been protesting about the appearance of 'Trump' and 'Trump 2016' writings in chalk around the campus. Any sane, adult person with a grain of belief in free speech will come to the conclusion that writing a name in chalk on a university campus is hardly a major issue and those who are upset about it need to mature and grow a thicker skin. But is the story that simple or is there more to it?

When Bill O'Reilly and others on Fox News are reporting in indignation about the erosion of free speech, and interviewing Republican Emory student John Goodman, then something begins to smell fishy. In these reports, Emory President Dr. Jim Wagner has been presented as appeasing the protestors, threating those who have been writing in chalk and he is even being accused of attacking the freedom of speech. None of this is true. All Dr. Wagner has done is listen and offer support to those offended by the chalk writing, and given a general warning that actually graffiti is technically illegal and could be prosecuted. Here is a video of Jim Wagner writing a free speech message in chalk next to a free speech petition on his campus.

So I believe this is being used (possibly even created) by Neo-conservatives to try to gain the high moral ground of First Ammendment rights, while at the same time promoting their own agenda - which has nothing to do with freedom. As usual the irony is lost; while Dr. Wagner is criticised for showing respect to both sides, those who belittle the protesters' over-sensitivity are at the same time denying them the right to protest and to be offended. They claim to be defending freedom of speech at the same time as criticising those who are practising it.

Freedom of speech is for everyone, even those who are against the freedom of speech. However, what very few commentators - and certainly not ones with the bias of Fox News - ever seem to be able to point out, is that freedom of speech doesn't mean speech without consequences. We should be free to say what we like, but most of us that are sensible and mature adults realise that what you say and how you say it is very important if we are to live successfully and harmoniously. For example, if I would like to have a picture of a swastika in my living room, that is my right; if I draw a chalk swatika on the pavement outside the house of a person whose father was gassed at Auschwitz, then I shouldn't be surprised if he gets upset and shouldn't start accusing him of not believing in First Ammendament rights - I shouldn't have done it in the first place, even if I have the right. If you write Donald Trump a hundred times outside a building where you know most people hate Donald Trump, do you then have the right to belittle their reaction? It's like the bully teasing the sensitive kid at school and then laughing at him when he gets upset. Which of them is more pathetic?

Personally, given the choices, I can see the advantages of having Donald Trump as president; but I am no more likely to go around writing 'Trump 2016' in chalk as I am to protest those who do, or for that matter to appear on Fox News unfairly criticising Dr. Jim Wagner who believes in free speech but also believes in trying to keep everybody happy.

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March 31st 2016

BLINKERED THINKING OR SELFISH CAREERISM?

When the media and education leaders discuss problems in schools, they never (ever) consider the possibility that the problem may be the concept of school itself. Whenever there is a discussion of problems in school such as behaviour, bullying, sexting or low standards, it is always assumed that the solution must lie within the school system.

This latest article in the Guardian derives its theme from statements made by Mary Bousted, general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL). The problem discussed is the bullying of girls making it harder for them to feel confident about academic success.

As always, it is never considered that perhaps - I'm just saying 'perhaps' - the root cause of the problem is in placing large numbers of young people all together causing an enormous imbalance of ages. But Mary Bousted does subliminally admit, in fact, that this is a wider societal problem which is accentuated by concentrating young people together. She says, "the fact is that schools are chock full of other young people," (well, yes, that's what schools are, lady) and also "schools can't tackle this on their own, it is one for society."

I agree, although I would replace the word 'society' with 'community'. And yet, why is no one suggesting - even just suggesting - that the solution might be to devolve education back to communities and families? To put it simply, how can society or communities solve the problem of, say for example, bullying when their children are being removed from their communities for eight hours every day to be confined in an artifical environment which, incidentally, is where the problem of bullying occurs?

Einstein pointed out that you can't solve problems with the same level of thinking which caused them. I would add to that, by saying that you can't solve problems in education when all of the people in a position to make game-changing proposals are either too blinkered or have too much of their life and career invested in the current system.

People like Mary Bousted will never come out and tell families and communities that the solution is to take the education of their children into their own hands; just as the turkey will never vote for Christmas. Either she is unaware of the educational alternatives to school (although she recognizes that it is a problem wider than the context of school) or she has too much to lose and she would rather just get paid to attend conferences where solutions are suggested which include more rules, more regulations, more laws and more teacher-training - all funded by tax-paying parents who could be doing the jobs themselves, in most cases much better, for free.

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March 30th 2016

TITLE IX

If there is global agenda to enslave humanity - as some suggest - and those holding the plans have foresight and patience - as some suggest - then Title IX would be an excellent example of what is going on.

Introduced in the early 1970s, superficially designed to promote sexual equality, Title IX today is costing the American tax-payer millions and is costing many academics - who thought they were in an America which promoted freedom of speech - their jobs.

Universites have Title IX officers, some universities have multiple Title IX officers, who may be paid up to $150,000 and whose sole purpose is to make sure there is zero discrimination.

In practice this means that students may be kicked out of university if they steal a kiss without presaging the moment with 'may I kiss you' and waiting for a 'yes'; with witnesses present, of course. Lecturers who publicly discuss differences between men and women have lost their jobs.

In this report, the American Association of Universty Professors (AAUP) protest against these abuses which are eroding freedom of speech and - quite frankly - taking the fun out of young love:

http://www.aaup.org/file/TitleIX-Report.pdf

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March 20th 2016

UNIVERSITY DEGREES TO GO THE WAY OF JOBS: LOTS OF THEM BUT NONE OF THEM WORTH HAVING

The UK government are hoping to press ahead with legislation which will make it easier for the private sector to create a new university. As the government are currently claiming that there are more people in work than ever before, they will also be claiming that there are more people at university and with university degrees than ever before.

Sounds good? Not really. Just as a higher percentage of jobs are low-wage or zero-hours contracts, a higher percentage of degrees will be worthless. Wealth and income are not becoming more evenly distributed and therefore how can it be good if a higher and higher percentage of people are getting themselves into debt and receiving degrees and a higher and higher percentage of people are getting employment, when a smaller and smaller percentage are owning all the wealth and real wages are falling.

It's a big con-trick, slight-of-hand. As Sir Humphey in Yes Prime Minister would say: "You asked us to reduce the figures so we reduced the figures." The figures looks good but the reality is a rapidly falling quality of education followed by a rapidly falling quality of employment. The only thing which is rising is average debt.

http://www.theguardian.com/education/2016/mar/20/tory-plan-worthless-degrees

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Thursday 17th March 2016

UK GOVERNMENT TO PRIVATISE ALL SCHOOLS IN ENGLAND BY 2020

Them UK government has annouced plans to turn all schools in England into academies:

http://www.theguardian.com/education/2016/mar/15/every-english-school-to-become-an-academy-ministers-to-announce

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Thursday 17th December 2015

CONSERVATIVE GOVERNMENT TRYING TO CHIP AWAY AT FREEDOM TO HOMESCHOOL IN THE UK

In the UK currently, parents are free to homeschool their own children. Unless their child is already registered in a school, the parents are not even obliged to inform the local education authority. The Conservative government would like to change that, in the name of protecting its cizizens from 'extremism', and Labour supports the plan:

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/education/education-news/nicky-morgan-orders-review-on-home-schooling-amid-fears-children-having-minds-poisoned-by-a6779886.html

People in the UK should not take for granted their rights to educate their children as they wish. Many countries already do not allow home-schooling (such as China and Germany) and many more uphold compulsory registration. First the government will have monitoring rights, then compulsory registration, then compulsory psychological testing as they have in the United States.

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Monday 12th October 2015

HOW THE RULING CLASSES CONTROL THE EDUCATION SYSTEM. AND IT'S VERY CLEVER

Put aside, for one moment, the notion that America's great educational benefactors - Ford, Carnegie, Rockefeller, Vanderbilt - desire to see a population which is creative, imaginative, individualistic and free. Let's assume - just for one crazy and insane wacky moment - that they wish to control the masses to keep them nescient so they will be happy slaves. Still with me? Please read on.

John Taylor Gatto explains the mechanism by which this is achieved. This includes controlling teacher pensions (a.k.a. 'philanthropy'), for example, but one of the components of this mechanism is that they control the educational narrative via the media. In particular, Gatto specifies that any educational article that appears in the New York Times is an expression of the Vanderbilt control. So I took a look, and the first article I came across was this one:

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/10/04/opinion/sunday/does-pre-k-make-any-difference.html?ref=education&_r=0

The article is bringing into question the effectiveness of pre-Kindergaten education.

That's weird, I thought. My impression was that the ruling classes want to get kids into school as early as possible to begin the indoctrination. This article cites research - by the Vanderbilt University I should add - that calls into question the effectiveness of the pre-K program in Tenessee. Why would they call into question the validity of pre-K education if they want to get kids in as early as possible.

The key is buried right in the middle of the article. It compares the Tennessee program, which has been 'unsuccessful' (and don't ask me how you can be an unsuccessful four-year-old), to a program in Boston which has been 'successful'. It states:

What's the difference between Boston and Tennessee? In a word, quality. "Tennessee doesn't have a coherent vision" Dale Farran, a Vanderbilt professor and the Tennessee study's co-author, told me. "Left to their own devices, each teacher is inventing pre-K on her own."

This is very clever. And we need to be on our toes to spot it. The article calls into question pre-K education, shows that Vanderbilt university is producing fair-minded and balanced research which at its heart really cares about the education of children. But what is it really saying, almost subliminally? It is saying that pre-Kindergarten education, in order to be successful, must be centralised and controlled. We can't have teachers just doing their own thing because THAT DOESN'T WORK.

Oh, and by the way, we already control Boston. Stick with us and you'll do just great, kid!

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Wednesday 9th September 2015

EDUCATION EDITOR IGNORES LOGIC IN ORDER TO SOUND PROGRESSIVE

Richard Adams, Education Editor of The Guardian, has published a news story about the 'summer baby' issue. Based on the evidence that autumn-born babies perform better than summer-born babies (because they start school slightly older) his argument is that choice should not be given to parents because this would favour those who are 'informed and determined' and would put poorer children at a disadvantage because their parents would be either unable or too ignorant to hold their child back an extra year before sending him or her to school.

Firstly, I find it hard to believe that pushy middle-class parents would generally prefer to keep their child back from school an extra year given the choice. Adams doesn't offer any evidence of this and it certainly has not been my experience as a teacher. Telling a parent that you think their child should stay back a year or repeat a year does not receive a joyous reaction in general and parents I have met whose child is in a year group higher than normal for his or her age is usually quite proud of the fact.

Secondly, while it may be true that a child who is 4 years and 1 month old may have more difficulty with certain functions compared to a child who is 4 years and 11 months, it is less obvious why a child who is 15 and 10 months would perform worse in an exam than a child who is 16 and 8 months old - especially since both children have just been through 12 years of formal schooling. The research to which Richard Adams refers states that the mechanism for this is unclear, and what the research does make clear is that the age of starting school is not a factor. Moreover, the difference in GCSE results according to the research - which ascribes the difference to age of testing not age of starting school - is only 5%. In other words, out of 100 children, 5 children would have got slightly improved GCSE results had they started school a year later. This is hardly a game-changer in class warfare.

It is surprising that someone who has become Education Editor of a major newspaper could have so little insight into education or the decision-making of parents. It is also to be recommended, Mr. Adams, that you read the research before you quote it. Your logic and background knowledge is poor. I applaud your desire to be progressive, but there is nothing progressive about being ignorant about education.

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Saturday 22nd August 2015

'SITTING AT THE TABLE DOESN'T MAKE YOU A DINER'

The title of this comment is a quote from Malcolm X. Malcolm X favoured segregation because he figured that as long as the black man lived in the white man's world he would always be inferior. He was critical of the 'integration-minded negroes' because they would always be second-class citizens, exploited by the elite, propping up their priviledged existences. The same argument is made by Noam Chomsky against the integration of Palestinians into a Greater Israel.

It was an article in the Guardian which led me to thinking of Malcolm X and Noam Chomsky. It's a good article and very well-intentioned by Gaby Hinsliff, so it is not my intention on this occassion to put the author down. However, the premise of the article is founded in the slave mentality described above.

The article is about going to university. In an age of extortionate fees, high unemployment, and half of graduates in non-graduate jobs, many working families - mine included - are coming to the conclusion that university isn't worth it. Gaby argues that this is just giving in to the elite and that working class people need to keep fighting for our right to have an equal education and not lie down and let higher education once again become the exclusive domain of society's priviledged. This is a compelling argument, but I think it is flawed for two reasons.

Firstly, the argument is firmly planted in this slave mentality - or job mentality as I prefer to call it. Of the fifteen pargaraphs in her article, thirteen contain references to work or jobs or salaries or employment. Granted, a good education gives you better hope of securing a decent income, but it doesn't in fact provide any social mobility. You might get to sit at a better table, but that don't make you a diner! You are still part of the labour force and the elite are still the elite. Remember: the elite don't become so through education. Prince William may have attended the best schools and colleges, but if he'd gone to a community college in Stevenage he would still be heir to the throne.

Secondly, Gaby Hinsliff - because she is so clearly an 'integration negro', no matter how finely tuned her social conscience and sincerity - is unable apparently to see alternatives. If we as working people are to genuinely take on the elite through education, then we need our own education which is segregated along the lines of Malcolm X's vision. If we are sending our children into a system to be educated which is a system designed by and in the interests of the elite, then there will never be any hope of changing the ways society's lines are drawn.

Not going to university, Gaby, doesn't mean not continuing one's education. We the masses need to take the education of our children into our own hands, away from the controlling elite, and teach our children how to love to learn, how learning is a beautiful and lifelong experience. While the elite with their posh educations grow old and fat counting their money and waving from their carriages, we continue to learn and think, decade after decade after decade throughout our lives.

Let's not play their game, let's play our own game, the long game. I don't think Harrow and Oxford and their fat-head alumni can compete with that.

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Monday 17th August 2015

TESTS ARE REALLY IMPORTANT. HONEST. WE JUST DON'T KNOW WHY.

There was an opinion piece in The New York Times three days ago regarding parents who have been opting their children out of standardized testing. This is described in the article as 'shocking', 'ill-conceived' and 'not the answer'. The Editorial Board conclude that political leaders need to "convince everyone...of the importance of testing."

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/08/15/opinion/

This is a facinating and revealing article, not because of what it says but it is revealing in what it doesn't say - perhaps in what it cannot say. The article does not explain why it is shocking or ill-conceived that parents should take a stand on their view that the standardised testing is detrimental to the education of the children. It does not explain why it is ill-conceived for parents to exercise their right to take control of the education of their own children. And the article does not answer its own implicit question of what the answer actually is if the answer is not for parents to refuse to allow their children to be subjected to these tests which the parents consider to be inappropriate and unfair. 20% of parents withdrew their children from the testing in New York State, so it's not just a few extremist hot-heads. It looks like word is finally getting around that testing is pedagogically unsound.

The weak conclusion in this article that everyone must be convinced of the importance of testing fails to explain why testing is important apart from the fact that schools may lose federal funding as a result.

This article could not be more wrong. In fact, the exact opposite conclusion is the correct one. It's not political leaders who need to convince everyone else of the importance of testing, it is everyone else who needs to convince the political leaders that testing is wrong.

For more on my view of assessment, please visit this blog:

http://dontbesheep.com/archive/002.html

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Friday 15th August 2015

'GOOD NEWS' ON UNIVERSITY ADMISSIONS, BUT GOOD NEWS FOR WHOM?

A-level results are in and a 'record number' of students - 409,000 - have been accepted onto university courses, according to the Guardian today.

Jo Johnson, the Minister for Universities has declared that this is a good thing:

"This is great news and shows that by lifting the cap on student numbers we are helping more people than ever benefit from higher education and gain the skills that businesses seek to boost productivity and support growth."

This statement requires some little analysis, but beforehand let's consider two related facts - which, incidentally, are not considered in the article:

1. This increase is a result of the government's lifting of the cap restricting university intake. In other words, this increase is not a result of an increase in academic resources or higher standard of education in schools. It appears to be simply a result of universities accepting more kids, therefore sharing existing academic resources slightly more thinly.

2. Between 2008 and 2013, the number of graduates working in jobs which do not require an undergraduate degree rose from 39% to 46%, according to government figures. In other words, four or five years from now, 188,140 of these kids who just got a place at university will be doing a job which they could get now. Only, four or five years from now they be older and most of them will have a whopping debt to pay off.

So, to go back to Jo Johnson's triumphant statement, let's ask the question: for whom is it great news?

Well, I would suggest that it is good news for universities. They will be making more money. It's also good news for businesses because there will be more people competing for the same job which drives down wages and gives them a greater choice of candidate. It's good news for the government if people believe that this really is a success and if people are gullible enough to think that, ceteris paribus more graduates is a good thing.

But is it good news for the students? I can't really see how this is good news for those students who would have gotten places without the removal of the cap; for them, it just means less space on the lecture bench and fewer parking spaces. For those who have the relaxation of governemnt policy to thank, I guess that depends on what happens in the future. For some, getting a degree will have its just rewards, for 46% at current figures it will have been a waste of time at least in terms of employment. Let's wait and see what the government employment figures tell us in three year's time. But my advice to those young people with three A* A-levels: don't get out the Champagne just yet.

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Wednesday 12th August 2015

READ THE AUTOMATED LINKS: PARENTS FINED FOR TERM-TIME HOLIDAYS

There was a story in The Guardian today about parents who have been prosecuted for taking their children out of school, mostly for term-time holidays. According to this article, "16,430 parents in England were prosecuted for failing to ensure their children went to school in 2014".

http://www.theguardian.com/education/2015/aug/12/increase-parents-england-prosecuted-taking-children-out-of-school

There is nothing in this article in defense of the parents' decision to take a holiday when others are at school - which actually makes a lot of sense to anyone with any sense. In this article, we hear from Head Teachers, the Ministry of Justice, a representative from NetMums and deputy general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL). None of these people put the case or mention the case for why it might be understandable that parents might want to take a term-time holiday, that it might not mean they are terrible parents, that it might not mean that their children are chronic truants, and it might not mean that they will fail their sacred exams.

Then, to my delight, at the foot of the article, one of the automated links to previous articles says: "Children 'learn more from holidays'", which leads to an article based on a statement from the secretary of the National Association of Schoolmasters/Union of Women Teachers Cymru who states:

"And I'm in favour of that. I believe children, especially young children, can learn a great deal from a holiday, be it in this country or abroad. Travel broadens the mind and captures the interest of pupils - it can help very much with their education. Primary school children in particular would learn more from two weeks in the sun than in school."

Brilliant! Your robot will give us a hint of the truth, Guardian editor, even if you don't!

http://www.theguardian.com/education/2005/feb/09/schools.uk1

That was in 2005, ten years ago, the same year that The Department for Education and Skills introduced the fines and claimed that "the new penalties are reducing truancy and term-time holidays." Since then, the number of parents fined for taking their children out of school has risen from 11,500 to 16,430, according to these Guardian articles.

I guess the measures are not working, then? I guess parents are smart enough to realise that, not only do children learn more outside school, but the savings they make from having off-peak holidays is worth the sixty quid fine for missing a couple of weeks of school.

Then the automated link from that article leads to a Guardian survey, where 64% of people voted that parents should not be fined:

http://www.theguardian.com/education/poll/2014/jan/16/parents-fined-school-holidays-absences

Yep, Education Department/Guardian Education Editor, y'all have really got your thumb on the pulse!

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Friday July 17th 2015

GOVE GOES FROM SCHOOL TO PRISON: ANY CONNECTION?

Michael Gove, the former and much-disliked UK Education Secretary has now, as Justice Minister, turned his attention to Britain's prisons. His idea is that inmates should be encouraged to work harder at their education while on the inside to pass exams and thus be rewarded with reduced prison sentences. He said:

"I am attracted to the idea of earned release for those offenders who make a commitment to serious educational activity, who show by their changed attitude that they wish to contribute to society and who work hard to acquire proper qualifications, which are externally validated and respected by employers."

This does not conflict - in fact, ties in nicely - with my view that schools are essentially prisons designed to prepare children to become lifetime slaves of the system. There are stark parallels between schools and prisons when you consider the uniforms, lack of freedom, security, perimeter boundaries, rules and sanctions. It has been said that the only difference between wage labour and child slavery is that child slavery is only temporary. Gove's idea that prisonners will be released if they can prove, through education, that they can be obedient slaves calls to mind the Auschwitz sign: Arbeit Macht Frei (Work will set you free).

There is no mention from Michael Gove about how education could give a person a sense of self-worth, expand the mind, encourage creativity and individuality and perhaps set the offender on a new path towards a meaningful and rewarding life. It's just preparation for the workplace, just as I am sure Gove viewed regular schools during his time as Education Secretary.

Moreover, it can be expected that those inmates who work hard in their prison schools and get early release will not find it easy to find work during this time of austerity imposed by the government of which Gove is a key member, and if he can it will be minimum wage labour at best. The inmate, if he has any sense, may wonder if this really is an improvement on his life compared to lying on a bunk watching daytime TV.

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Sunday July 5th 2015

JULIA GILLARD AND SCHOOLING THROUGHOUT THE WORLD

This news story in The Guardian is about the former Australian Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, talking about how she is worried because there are 121 million children in the world who don't go to school. Thanks to my homeschooling effort, I guess it's now 21 million and two.

She says that this is especially a problem for girls. She says that many children are dying young because their mothers are not educated and that educating girls will help to prevent deaths in childhood.

I don't think so. She gives herself away when she says: "We know that if women are educated children are more likely to survive childhood, more likely to be vaccinated, that economies grow because women have got the capability to work and direct that financing back to their families."

This is the key to understanding what is really going on here, I think. It is probably true that girls who are better educated have healthier children, but this is not because they are smarter and better able to take care of their babies. It is because the girls with education are able to get a job, get money, and afford health care for their babies and children.

Everyone should have equal rights and access to a good education. However, the solution to this problem of children dying is not to send girls to school, it is to provide health care for everyone, not just those who are at work and have money, but health care for all people in the society. What Julia Gillard is saying is that everyone needs to go to school so that they can get a job and then afford the health care necessary to keep their children alive. But I believe there will always be poor people, and the kind of world that has been created by politicians like Julia Gillard makes it impossible for everyone to get a good job and have enough money.

What we need is, not a society where everyone has to be a well-educated slave in order to get health care, but a society where health care is available for all children and that no children are dying because his or her mother doesn't have enough money to buy medicine.

That's the world I would like to see Julia Gillard fighting for, please.

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/jul/05/gillard-urges-action-on-lack-of-schooling-millions-of-children-worldwide

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Wednesday July 1st 2015

EXTREME SPEAKERS BANNED FROM UK UNIVERSITIES FROM OCTOBER 2015

I think it is an appropriate story to begin this news journal, that starting in the new academic year 2015 the Home Secretary, Theresa May, will have the right to ban any speaker from UK universities if she considers them 'extreme'. Apart from the obvious problems with that - such as who defines 'extreme' (Theresa May and her paymasters do), and that it is clearly an infringement of free speech - it also means that I will probably never be allowed to speak at a UK university. I am sure that my message on this website of encouraging children to see through the lies and realise that you are a slave to the system - surely that would be considered 'extreme' by the UK Home Office. Telling children to think for themselves and be creative, unique, free and loving human beings makes me an extremist, no doubt.

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Get oriented to an alternative educational view!

GET ORIENTATED...

My educational view is not mainstream and many people will find my views extreme, strange, dangerous or ridiculous. People who think that I am wrong also believe that sending children to schools and taking exams is normal and necessary.

These people are disoriented. Their own experiences of school and education, those of their parents, and the overwhelming media and political consensus about education have left them thinking that the status quo is normality and anything different such as education without schools would be impossible.

To understand my educational perspective, I have created seven coordinates of self-evident truths which I hope will change your mind.

Click here to get oriented to an alternative educational view!

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Free literacy resource based on Fantastic Mr. Fox!

Completely free - quick and easy to prepare literacy lessons.

This is an excellent resource for teaching intermediate literacy.
Fantastic Mr. Fox by Roald Dahl is broken down chapter by chapter- each of 18 chapters can be printed along with a list of spelling words and a page of images matching the new vocabulary.
Read the chapter to the kids, find the words in the text, match word with picture, practice the spellings, then have the kids read it to you!

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