Wintery Knight

…integrating Christian faith and knowledge in the public square

Christina Hoff Sommers: school has become hostile to boys

Christina Hoff Sommers

Christina Hoff Sommers

In the leftist Time magazine, of all places.

Excerpt:

As school begins in the coming weeks, parents of boys should ask themselves a question: Is my son really welcome? A flurry of incidents last spring suggests that the answer is no. In May, Christopher Marshall, age 7, was suspended from his Virginia school for picking up a pencil and using it to “shoot” a “bad guy” — his friend, who was also suspended. A few months earlier, Josh Welch, also 7, was sent home from his Maryland school for nibbling off the corners of a strawberry Pop-Tart to shape it into a gun. At about the same time, Colorado’s Alex Evans, age 7, was suspended for throwing an imaginary hand grenade at “bad guys” in order to “save the world.”

In all these cases, school officials found the children to be in violation of the school’s zero-tolerance policies for firearms, which is clearly a ludicrous application of the rule. But common sense isn’t the only thing at stake here. In the name of zero tolerance, our schools are becoming hostile environments for young boys.

[...]Boys are nearly five times more likely to be expelled from preschool than girls. In grades K-12, boys account for nearly 70% of suspensions, often for minor acts of insubordination and defiance. In the cases of Christopher, Josh and Alex, there was no insubordination or defiance whatsoever. They were guilty of nothing more than being typical 7-year-old boys. But in today’s school environment, that can be a punishable offense.

[...][M]illions of boys are struggling academically. A large and growing male cohort is falling behind in grades and disengaged from school. College has never been more important to a young person’s life prospects, and today boys are far less likely than girls to pursue education beyond high school. As our schools become more risk averse, the gender gap favoring girls is threatening to become a chasm.

[...]Across the country, schools are policing and punishing the distinctive, assertive sociability of boys. Many much-loved games have vanished from school playgrounds. At some schools, tug of war has been replaced with “tug of peace.” Since the 1990s, elimination games like dodgeball, red rover and tag have been under a cloud — too damaging to self-esteem and too violent, say certain experts. Young boys, with few exceptions, love action narratives. These usually involve heroes, bad guys, rescues and shoot-ups. As boys’ play proceeds, plots become more elaborate and the boys more transfixed. When researchers ask boys why they do it, the standard reply is, “Because it’s fun.”

According to at least one study, such play rarely escalates into real aggression — only about 1% of the time. But when two researchers, Mary Ellin Logue and Hattie Harvey, surveyed classroom practices of 98 teachers of 4-year-olds, they found that this style of play was the least tolerated. Nearly half of teachers stopped or redirected boys’ dramatic play daily or several times a week — whereas less than a third reported stopping or redirecting girls’ dramatic play weekly.

Play is a critical basis for learning. And boys’ heroic play is no exception. Logue and Harvey found that “bad guy” play improved children’s conversation and imaginative writing. Such play, say the authors, also builds moral imagination, social competence and imparts critical lessons about personal limits and self-restraint. Logue and Harvey worry that the growing intolerance for boys’ action-narrative-play choices may be undermining their early language development and weakening their attachment to school. Imagine the harm done to boys like Christopher, Josh and Alex who are not merely discouraged from their choice of play, but are punished, publicly shamed and ostracized.

So what’s the problem? Well, here’s some data to help us fix the problem.

Excerpt:

A lack of male role models at home and school is turning boys off reading at a young age as they increasingly reject books as “feminine”, it is claimed.

Large numbers of boys are failing to develop a love of reading during primary education because of a shortage of male teachers combined with an anti-book culture among many fathers, an inquiry has found.

Gavin Barwell, chairman of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Literacy, said reading was not seen as a “masculine thing” by boys – leaving them lagging behind girls from the age of four onwards.

In many cases, schools failed to equip them with a selection of adventure and action novels by authors such as Enid Blyton, Roald Dahl and J.R.R Tolkien that are significantly more likely to appeal to boys at a young age, he suggested.

It is claimed that a failure to read properly as an infant has a serious impact on standards across the curriculum, with children struggling to grasp the basics in all other major academic subjects.

According to Government figures, boys are less likely to read basic words or recite the alphabet by the age of five and the gap widens throughout compulsory education.

By the age of 16, fewer than 59 per cent of boys gained a good GCSE in English last year compared with 72.5 per cent of girls.

[...]On Monday, the cross-party committee of MPs and peers – along with the National Literacy Trust – will publish the findings of a six-month inquiry into reading failure among boys.

It is expected to make a series of sweeping recommendations designed to get boys interested in books at home and school, including more gender-specific books and the introduction of reading mentors.

Speaking before the launch, Mr Barwell, the Conservative MP for Croydon Central, said boys were currently held back because of a “number of gender stereotypes which seem to kick in early”.

“Dads are much less likely to read with their sons and they are also much less likely than mum to be seen reading themselves, so from a very young age boys will clearly pick up in a home environment that reading is not a masculine thing,” he said.

He added: “The primary school workforce is also very feminised and it is now rare to have more than one male teacher.

“I have boys of my own and when I want to recommend books for them I think of what I read when I was their age; The Hobbit, The Famous Five books or something by Roald Dahl.

“It may well be that schools – with the workforce being all female – are going to struggle to pick up on the stuff that appeals to boys because they’ve not read it themselves.”

The report is likely to conclude that boys are struggling to read in the majority of schools and most have no plan in place to tackle the gender gap.

You can read about a couple more studies here that also argue that the problem is a lack of male teachers in the classroom. The Canadians are already looking into how to solve the problem. But that isn’t likely to happen here. I also wrote previously about a study showing that female teachers were grading boys more harshly than girls.

So boys aren’t reading as well as girls are. You can’t do well in school if you can’t read. But boys have no interest in reading girly nonsense books. Boys like war, monsters and adventures. But girly nonsense is what female teachers and female administrators and female education bureaucrats pick as classroom texts. So the boys are stuck reading boring books. The only way out of this mess for boys is homeschooling or private schools, which are hard to do since their parents are already paying for these useless, underperforming public schools. And the educational bureaucracy resist any attempts to give parents more choice. Their goal is to maintain their inflated salaries and job security, not to educate boys.

So we need more male teachers in the classroom – why don’t we have them? There are many reasons why men are discouraged from becoming teachers. Discrimination, unionization, political correctness, being forced to teach left-wing propaganda to children, etc. Don’t look for the performance of boys to improve any time soon unless we get serious at changing education policy to attract more men. Of course, the people in charge have a vested interest in preventing that. They’ll just keep blaming boys for underperforming and refuse to solve the real problem.

Filed under: Commentary, , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Amazing: California teachers challenge forced payment of union dues

Dad sent me this article from the Washington Free Beacon. It’s good news!

Excerpt:

A group of California teachers is preparing for a Supreme Court battle to overturn forced union dues in a groundbreaking lawsuits filed in June.

For nearly three decades, the Supreme Court has allowed closed-shop unionism, in which public employees must pay dues to labor groups handling collective bargaining negotiations.

The Supreme Court established Beck Rights in 1988 allowing workers to opt out of union dues for political activities, while continuing to pay for union negotiating expenses. The teachers are hoping to take that battle one step further by putting an end to all coercive union dues.

Ten California schoolteachers are challenging California’s policy of forcing all public employees to pay union dues for collective bargaining. The Center for Individual Rights (CIR) is aiding their suit. The CIR views the issue through the lens of the Constitution, rather than as a contest of labor policy.

“Our efforts are not anti-union; we are trying to solidify the First Amendment rights of public employees to freely assemble,” CIR president Terry Pell said.

The plaintiffs filed a preliminary injunction on Tuesday asking the court to waive the teachers’ union dues during the ongoing trial. Pell is certain the motion will fail, which is all the better for the plaintiffs because it will “fast-track” the litigation to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals and eventually the Supreme Court.

“This is a piece of strategic litigation—we’re trying to get the issue of compulsory union dues to the Supreme Court as quickly as possible,” he said. “We know that lower courts can’t overrule Supreme Court precedent, but this will expedite us through the system.”

The Roberts court opened the door to ending coercive unionism last year when it ruled 5-4 that Service Employees International Union improperly charged non-union members for political activities. Justice Samuel Alito, writing for the majority in Knox v. Service Employees International Union, said the forced dues on non-union members were “indefensible”

One of the biggest problems with California is the stranglehold that public sector unions have on the state. This would be a good first step to getting the state to turn around. Even liberals stop paying dues when it’s not mandatory, because they want to keep their own money just like anyone does.

Filed under: News, , , , , , , , ,

New study: private religious schools outperform public schools and public charter schools

Reported by The Public Discourse.

Excerpt:

I recently conducted a meta-analysis of more than ninety studies on education, and the results suggest that perhaps it is time for America’s leadership and the general public to take a second look at religious private schools. At the risk of immodesty, let me be frank. The study is hugely important because it is the first published meta-analysis to compare the three primary types of American schools: religious private schools, traditional public schools, and charter schools.

A meta-analysis statistically combines all the relevant existing studies on a given subject in order to determine the aggregated results of the research. This meta-analysis yielded results that surprised many by indicating that students from public charter schools did no better than their peers in traditional public schools. In contrast, youth from religious private schools performed better academically than their counterparts in both public charter schools and traditional public schools, even when the results were adjusted to account for socioeconomic status, selectivity, race, and various other factors.

[...]Examining results from all ninety studies, I found that the average academic outcome for religious school students was .28 of a standard deviation unit higher than for traditional public school (TPS) students, while the average for charter school students was only .01 of a standard deviation unit higher. If one converts these numbers to percentiles, the average academic outcome was 11 percentage points higher than that of TPS pupils, while charter school attendees scored about the same as their TPS counterparts.

Translated into more tangible numbers, students who attend private religious schools attain educational levels that average about twelve months ahead of those attending regular public schools. Even when the meta-analysis employed sophisticated controls, which included measures for socioeconomic status, selectivity, gender, and race, youth who attended faith-based schools achieved at levels seven months ahead of both TPS and public charter school students.

One of the most intriguing results of the study is that the racial and socioeconomic achievement gaps are roughly 25 percent narrower in religious private schools than in public schools. This finding is particularly interesting when one considers that over the years the government has spent hundreds of billions of dollars to bridge the gaps, with only limited success. Higher expectations for students, and school leaders’ insistence that pupils take demanding courses, could help to explain these circumstances in faith-based schools.

The meta-analysis focused primarily on scholastic performance, but it also examined student behavior. The results indicated that youth from faith-based schools maintained even a larger edge in behavior than they did in school academics. That is, pupils from religious private schools exhibited fewer behavioral problems, even when socioeconomic status, selectivity, race, and gender were also controlled for. This translates into fewer gangs, lower levels of drug abuse, and greater racial harmony than one typically finds in public schools.

Many people, even this researcher, expected public charter school students to perform somewhere in between the levels achieved by students attending faith-based schools and those attending traditional public schools, given that they were trying to mimic certain aspects of private religious schools.

To the extent that neither traditional public schools nor charter schools are succeeding on a broad scale, it appears that the best hope for American education is religious private schools. Not only are they considerably more economically efficient, but their students also achieve better academic and behavioral results.

I think that it is noteworthy that Democrats opposes allowing parents – especially poor parents – to have a choice of what school their children will attend. The Obama administration even de-funded a voucher program that served poor-minority students. Teacher unions are one of the strongest pro-Democrat special interests. If the Democrat Party has to choose between poor, minority students and their powerful allies in the teach unions, the choice is not a hard one. They choose the teacher unions.

Filed under: News, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Conservative leader Tim Hudak to push right to work and secret ballots

Political map of Canada

Political map of Canada

Wow, the Canadians are trying to imitate Scott Walker and John Kasich.

Excerpt:

In a move certain to upset the organized labour movement, Ontario workers would be able to opt out of collective agreements and union dues under dramatic changes to provincial workplace laws proposed by PC Leader Tim Hudak.

Employers would no longer be required to collect dues on behalf of unions and secret ballots would be restored in certification votes.

“The rules that are governing the workplace, they haven’t changed. And the way that many of our unions are run, particularly public sector unions, haven’t caught up with the times,” Hudak said. “No business would be caught today operating with a typewriter or a rotary phone, but our union laws and many union practices are still stuck in the 1940s.”

Hudak released a white paper Tuesday, entitled Paths to Prosperity: Flexible Labour Markets, which calls for significant rewrites to the labour laws in Ontario which he says would make the province’s business environment more competitive and create jobs.

[...]Hudak’s real goal is to strip unions of their funding, in particular the Working Families Coalition that actively campaigns against Conservatives, he said.

[...]The white paper says the provincial government should lead the way by ending automatic paycheque deductions for dues and give private sector employers the same option.

The monopoly that union shops enjoy in bidding for public contracts across Ontario’s municipal and broader public sectors would also likely end under the Tories.

Unions should be required to reveal how they spend the dues they collect, that workers have a right to know when their dues are spent on political causes, like anti-Israel campaigns and Quebec student protests, Hudak said.

While it’s true that many (or even most) of the people who are stuck in unions are good, patriotic, hard-working people, union leaders are generally secular socialists. They support all kinds of nasty leftist groups. The best way to defund them is to allow workers to not have to have union dues automatically deducted from their pay checks. I would expect that most union workers in Ontario would elect not to pay dues to their unions – at least if they are anything like the workers in Wisconsin.

Filed under: News, , , , , , , , , ,

How much influence do labor unions have in the Democrat party?

I found this amazing Milwaukee Journel-Sentinel article on Marathon Pundit’s blog. It explains where the political contributions of the biggest unions go. Let’s take a look at a few of the unions.

Excerpt:

• National Education Association. Membership: 3.2 million; assets: $216 million. The NEA, representing most of the nation’s teachers, has 31 headquarters officers and employees who earn more than $200,000 in pay and benefits. The president, Dennis Van Roekel, received $397,721 in salary and benefits. Of the $3.7 million NEA spent on political activities in the last election cycle, 98% went to Democratic candidates. The NEA has 98,000 members in Wisconsin.

• Service Employees International Union. Membership: 1.8 million; assets: $187 million. The SEIU, whose membership has increased in recent years, has been organizing hospital, home care and nursing home workers, along with local and state government employees, janitors and security officers. The union has nine headquarters officers and employees who earn more than $200,000. The former president, Andy Stern, was paid $306,388 in salary and benefits from the union in 2009. Stern resigned in 2010 and was replaced by Mary Kay Henry, formerly the executive vice president. Over the past two years, SEIU gave almost $2 million to Democratic candidates and $8,500 to Republicans. It has 18,000 members in Wisconsin.

• United Food & Commercial Workers. Membership: 1.3 million; assets: $157 million. The UFCW, whose members work in meatpacking, food processing and retail grocery stores, has 17 headquarters officers and employees who earn more than $200,000. The president, Joseph T. Hansen, received $360,737 in compensation in 2009. Of the $1.9 million the union donated to political candidates over the past two years, 99% of it went to Democrats.

• International Brotherhood of Teamsters: Membership: 1.3 million; assets: $175 million. The Teamsters, whose origins date to the horse- and mule-team drivers of the late 1800s, represent truck drivers and a wide array of blue-collar and government workers. Eight headquarters officers and employees received more than $200,000 in 2009. The president, James P. Hoffa, was compensated $364,869. Over the past two years, the Teamsters have donated $2.3 million to Democratic candidates and $46,500 to Republicans.

• American Federation of State, County & Municipal Employees. Membership: 1.5 million; assets: $78 million. AFSCME, one of the fastest growing unions in the United States, was founded in Wisconsin almost 80 years ago. At union headquarters in Washington, 10 officers and employees receive more than $200,000 a year. McEntee was paid $479,328 in salary and benefits in 2009. Over the past two years, AFSCME has donated $2.3 million to Democratic candidates and $78,500 to Republicans.

Emphasis is from Marathon Pundit. The Democrat party is basically owned lock, stock and barrel by the unions.

Filed under: Commentary, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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