Rude Protestors Ruin Commencement Ceremony

California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger returned to his alma mater last night to deliver a commencement speech. Schwarzenegger did not intend on turning the graduation into a political event, but a number of protestors did just that anyway, jeering almost continuously through his speech at Santa Monica College:

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s return to his alma mater turned into an exercise in perseverance when virtually his every word was accompanied by catcalls, howls and piercing whistles from the crowd.
Schwarzenegger’s face appeared to redden during his 15-minute commencement address Tuesday to 600 graduates at Santa Monica College, but he ignored the shouting as he recalled his days as a student and, later, his work as a bodybuilder and actor. … Inside the stadium, the drone from hundreds of rowdy protesters threatened to drown out the governor’s voice at times. Many in the crowd erupted in boos when a police officer pulled down a banner criticizing the estimated $45 million cost of the Nov. 8 special election that Schwarzenegger proposed Monday.
The governor is backing three ballot initiatives that call for imposing a cap on state spending, stripping lawmakers of the power to draw their own districts and increasing the time it takes teachers to gain tenure.

It seems rather churlish to stage a political protest at a non-political event like this college graduation. It hijacks an evening that should have focused on the graduates, instead of some selfish and self-serving political opponents of the Governator. But if they wanted to protest, they should have observed enough decorum to allow Arnold to at least be heard by the audience in attendance. Actions like this point out a political narcissism and absolutism that reveal nothing but the immaturity of Arnold’s opposition.
And what are they protesting? The fact that Arnold has called a special election for a direct democratic vote on issues that the legislature has refused to address, including the chronic reapportionment problem that has almost crippled California democracy for decades. While the costs of such an election should be considered and debated as to its necessity, calling for more democracy hardly qualifies as such a disaster that it excuses opponents from acting like idiots and ruining the evening for 600 college graduates.
The Left has no sense of proportion, especially in California, where they have behaved like the spoiled children most of them are for many years now. Last night’s spectacle of disruption and rude behavior is just the latest example of the thoughtlessness and reflexive self-indulgence that typifies Leftist activities in the Golden State and elsewhere.

Europe Collapsing

The one-two punch of rejections by the French and Dutch of the proposed EU constitution has apparently caused former EU stalwarts to rethink the entire project, even as an economic union. After an Italian minister from a fringe party suggested that the lira may replace the euro in Italy, a French colleague of Jacques Chirac predicted a return of the franc. And perhaps the Briton that has been the biggest booster of the EU, Tony Blair, has decided that a united Europe is no longer worth the fight:

Tony Blair has given up on Europe as an issue worth fighting for, senior allies of the Prime Minister have told The Sunday Telegraph.
A leading Blairite cabinet minister made the admission last night as the European Union descended into deeper turmoil, with doubts surfacing over the future of the single currency.
Mr Blair, who will seek to shift the focus of his administration on to poverty in the Third World this week during talks with President Bush, has told his closest allies: “Africa is worth fighting for. Europe, in its present form, is not.”
The signal is an astonishing U-turn for a leader who said three years ago that the euro was “our destiny” and who announced a British referendum by proclaiming: “Let the battle be joined.” But one of his closest allies said that Mr Blair no longer believed that putting Britain at the heart of Europe could be his legacy: “Europe is back to the drawing board. Africa will become more important.”

In our discussions of the EU crisis today on our radio show, SCSU Scholars’ King Banaian made the point that without a viable EU, the euro has become superfluous. Apparently that same argument has occurred to the EU elite, even those who previously championed complete European unity, like the French UMP party. It seems that the rats have begun lining up to abandon the ship even before it starts taking on water — demonstrating, perhaps, that the EU project had less enthusiasm even among the EU elite than previously thought.
Blair had long lectured on the importance of European consolidation. During most of his career, the EU was his signature project, and he has done more than any other British politician to bring the UK as close as it came to integrate itself within the union. For Blair to relegate it as a secondary issue, or less, means that he truly must have lost faith in the future of the EU. With over 81 percent of Britons demanding that any further moves towards consolidation be approved by referendum — and the sorry track records that such plebescites already have had in Europe — Blair has seen the writing on the wall.
Unless something dramatic and unexpected happens in the next few days, more nations will express a lack of confidence in the union and the euro and prepare returns to national currencies. Without a central government, a central currency makes no sense. (via Instapundit)

California Legislature Lightens Students’ Load

California has provided yet another Great Moment In Education with the Assembly mandating the length of textbooks for use in its public schools. According to the just-approved AB 756, no textbook used in California public schools can exceed 200 pages:

Lawmakers voted Thursday to ban school districts from purchasing textbooks longer than 200 pages.
The bill, believed to be the first of its kind nationwide, was hailed by supporters as a way to revolutionize education.
Critics lambasted Assembly Bill 756 as silly.
“This bill is really the epitome of micromanagement,” said Assemblyman Keith Richman, R-Northridge. “(It’s) absolutely ridiculous.” …
But Assemblywoman Jackie Goldberg, a Los Angeles Democrat who chairs the Assembly Education Committee, said critics are thinking too narrowly.

The Democrats in charge of the Assembly have decided that the value of a textbook lies in its bookshelf width, and they claim that the critics are thinking too narrowly? My native state has tried many silly ideas in education before, but cutting off textbooks by page count has to be one of the dumbest yet. Since when does a book’s value come in the number of pages it contains? What’s next — comic books instead of textbooks?
The result will either be that textbook publishers start producing their work in volumes for the California market, or they abridge the material enough to slide under the 200-page limit. The first option will result in higher costs, as the consumer will have to buy each volume separately and the unit cost will go up due to the extra covers, typesetting, editing, etc. The second option shortchanges education rather than pocketbooks. Neither of these reactions, nor AB 756, truly addresses the real issues behind California’s appalling educational performance: lack of competition and accountability in the government-mandated, union-run state educational monopoly.
Educated people already know that one cannot judge a book by its cover. We thought that the obvious corrolary of notjudging it by its page count would be understood implicitly. I’m sure we’re correct, for most places. The intellect-challenged state capitol in Sacramento appears to be an exception to that rule.

Educational Death Penalty For Supporting Corporal Punishment?

CQ reader Dave Mendoza points me to an article that appeared in last week’s Daily Orange, the campus newspaper of Syracuse University, regarding the expulsion of Scott McConnell from nearby LeMoyne College. McConnell, a graduate student in education, does not fit LeMoyne’s atmosphere of political correctness. He believes in corporal punishment and rejects the focus on multiculturalism in the classroom:

While students are guaranteed the freedom of speech, LeMoyne College’s recent actions against a student have raised questions of whether or not academic papers are the place to exercise this right.
LeMoyne College expelled Scott McConnell, a student from its Masters of Education program, for writing a paper in which he advocated the use of corporal punishment in schools, he said.
The paper, written for a class on classroom management, originally earned McConnell an A-. However, when he attempted to enroll in classes for the spring semester, he found he couldn’t.

It wasn’t just corporate punishment that got McConnell banished from LeMoyne, ironically a Catholic college that proclaims its commitment to “the Jesuit tradition” — one that most Catholic-school kids would remember as not particularly shy about the paddle across the rear or rulers across the knuckles. (I went to public school, but in an era where both remedies remained available to teachers and administrators.) The Syracuse Post-Standard reported in an earlier story that McConnell’s viewpoint on multiculturalism offended the enlightened souls at LeMoyne:

Dr. Cathy Leogrande, director of the Graduate Education Program, told McConnell in the letter that she had reviewed his grades and talked to his professors.
“I have grave concerns regarding the mismatch between your personal beliefs regarding teaching and learning and the Le Moyne College program goals,” leading to the decision not to admit him, Leogrande wrote. …
He said he’s also been trying to find out what Leogrande meant by “mismatch.” College administrators have told him, he said, that it stems from the four-page “Classroom Management Plan” he submitted Nov. 2 for his Planning, Assessing and Managing Inclusive Classrooms class.
In the opening paragraph of his essay, McConnell wrote: “I do not feel that multicultural education has a philosophical place or standing in an American classroom, especially one that I will teach. I also feel that corporal punishment has a place in the classroom and should be implemented when needed.” He got an A for the course.

I do not know Scott McConnell, so I cannot peer into his soul to see why he objects to multicultural education. Perhaps McConnell was expressing latent racism. A better explanation, however, is that he sees the American classroom as a place for classic learning instead of social engineering, and that multiculturalism amounts to little more than political indoctrination, no matter how benign one considers it. A belief in corporal punishment also hardly qualifies one for public shunning. The notion may not enjoy massive popularity, but it isn’t a fringe belief either.
Besides, the Jesuits have engaged in bitter irony in their treatment of McConnell. LeMoyne intends on protecting multiculturalism in the classroom — by ensuring that everyone who enrolls at their college thinks exactly like they do. The administration shows its opposition to corporal punishment by giving any student espousing it the academic death penalty. The intellectual posturing and moral hypocrisy in these actions and positions truly dizzies the bystander.
Some still scoff when conservatives refer to the overwhelming liberal and leftist bias at universities and colleges in the US. This shows that far from striving to provide students the ability to debate and discuss all points of view, colleges and their administrations have developed a thought police of almost Orwellian proportions to defend their last bastion of Utopian thought. Academia provides no freedom of speech or conscience, and LeMoyne and the Jesuits have clearly communicated that in order to stay enrolled, students must never speak their minds. What a sad and sorry state for LeMoyne, its students, its alumni — and for the students their graduates go on to teach in our classrooms.

More Great Moments In British Education

As any parent can tell you, getting their child to do their homework amounts to a low-level war with a new battle every day. We have to hear about how “stupid” they find homework, while we try to both help them complete it and instill a work ethic children need to achieve success later on. While we may sometimes lose a battle or two, most parents know that they still have to win the overall war in order to ensure that their children get educated and have an opportunity to move on to college.
Unfortunately, one British school has run the white flag up on maintaining standards in schooling:

All 12-year-olds at a comprehensive will be told today that homework is being scrapped because teachers have better things to do than mark it.
Dr Patrick Hazlewood, the head teacher of St John’s in Marlborough, Wilts, who has already scrapped subject teaching, will not put it quite like that, of course. He will tell them that, to make their schooling more “relevant to life in the 21st century”, they are to be given responsibility for “managing their own learning”.
Parents, who were told on Monday, are confused because, according to school policy, “regular homework is an essential element of learning and contributes to the development of sound study habits”. They are also asked to say if they think their child has been given too little.

St. John’s considers itself on the forefront of a revolutionary change in educational philosophy. Not only do they want to scrap homework, they want to eliminate work altogether in favor of a plan to encourage students to “love learning”, trusting 12-year-olds to then use that love to go out and learn on their own. This will require parents to closely supervise the learning process, while the schools focus on citizenship, interpersonal relations, and information management.
In fact, what St. John’s proposes is to switch places with the parents. St. John’s said that teaching the national curriculum “grinds teachers into the ground,” but what good are the schools if they don’t teach any specific subjects? They want to teach values and how to get along with others in the sandbox while parents have to force their children to follow a curriculum in the hope that they won’t give up like their teachers did.
I have a better idea for the parents of St. John’s pupils. Pull them out of the school entirely and home-school them. The administration of St. John’s proposes to transform itself into a day-care center for adolescents instead of an educational facility, a pointless exercise except for indoctrination. Parents will find it no more difficult to school their children directly and honestly, and this way they don’t have to expose their kids to St. John’s surrender ethics.

Grade Inflation, British Style

Grade inflation has caused concern in the United States, where the issue of giving marginal performances passing grades has had tremendous impact on higher education. However, the British appear to lead the world in grade inflation, with the London Telegraph reporting that scoring as low as 17% on math exams could net British students a B:

Pupils have been awarded a B grade in a maths GCSE exam despite scoring only 17 per cent, The Telegraph can reveal.
The pass marks for the new exam, which was taken last summer by 7,500 children from 65 schools and is due to be introduced nationwide next year, were an all-time low.
Pupils sitting GCSE maths last year had to achieve about 40 per cent to get a B grade. But with the new exam, designed by the Cambridge-based exam board OCR, those who got as little as 17 per cent were given a B, while those scoring 45 per cent were awarded an A.

The British government just announced what they claimed were “record” achievements in their educational testing, but examiners and teachers expressed outrage and disgust at the attempt to bolster educational policy through fudged results. Now, I’ve heard of lowered expectations in education, but granting an above-average mark for getting 83% of an exam wrong makes one wonder what British educational policymakers consider average.
Something tells me that British voters may decide to grade their performance, and I doubt that they’ll get a B for effort.