Governor Rick Scott of Florida signed SB 736 into law in March.  The new law requires merit pay for teachers and it ends tenure for newly hired school teachers. The Florida Education Association has sued Florida alleging that the new law denies teachers their right to collective bargaining and is unconstitutional.

Cory Williams, one of the teachers who are included in the lawsuit, said: “The provisions of SB 736 radically transform the teaching profession — and not for the better. The expertise and knowledge of teachers have been ignored throughout this process and our constitutional rights have been trampled.”

Although other states have passed laws that weakened tenure and adopted new methods of evaluating teachers, no other state has made teacher merit for pay raises contingent upon how well students do on tests. Michelle Exstrom of the National Conference of State Legislatures observed: “Florida has always been ahead of the curve when it comes to the merit pay issue. They’ve just struggled to do it in a way that’s most effective for students and their teachers. You know what, it’s not clear cut how to make this work.”

The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled September 13th that a California teacher’s First Amendment guarantees were not violated when the principal at the school where he worked ordered him to remove classroom banners that connected America’s heritage of freedom to faith in God. The decision overturned a lower court’s ruling that the Poway Unified School District had violated the free speech rights of Bradley Johnson, a mathematics teacher in the district.

As reported by the Los Angeles Times, Johnson “had displayed banners in his classrooms for two decades that he saw as celebrating the religious heritage of America, including ‘In God We Trust,’ ‘God Bless America,’ and ‘God Shed His Grace on Thee.’ ”

But when Johnson transferred to a another school in the district in 2007, his new principal, Dawn Kastner, ordered him to remove the banners, some over seven feet wide, saying that their size made them “a promotion of a particular viewpoint,” as Kastner was quoted in the court’s 40-page opinion.

One of the purposes of No Child Left Behind, the education reform program promoted by President George W. Bush and Senator Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts, was to set high standards for American public schools so that American students would excel in their studies. Testing was to be used as the means to see if the schools were meeting those new standards.

The theory was that if you set higher academic standards, the schools would have to revise their curricula and teach subject matter and academic skills that would help the students achieve academic success. But how was this to be done since the curricula had been deliberately devised to dumb-down the students? Were the professors of education and curriculum developers willing to give up their progressive goals to turn the students into little academically challenged socialists?

If the schools could not show academic improvement, they would lose federal funds. So the schools did what they considered to be the only way to meet the federal standards: cheat. Phyllis Schlafly writes in her August 2011 report:

Too much of anything is just as much a misallocation of resources as it is too little, and that applies to higher education just as it applies to everything else.

A recent study from The Center for College Affordability and Productivity titled "From Wall Street to Wal-Mart," by Richard Vedder, Christopher Denhart, Matthew Denhart, Christopher Matgouranis and Jonathan Robe, explains that college education for many is a waste of time and money. More than one-third of currently working college graduates are in jobs that do not require a degree. An essay by Vedder that complements the CCAP study reports that there are "one-third of a million waiters and waitresses with college degrees." The study says Vedder — distinguished professor of economics at Ohio University, an adjunct scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and director of CCAP — "was startled a year ago when the person he hired to cut down a tree had a master's degree in history, the fellow who fixed his furnace was a mathematics graduate, and, more recently, a TSA airport inspector (whose job it was to ensure that we took our shoes off while going through security) was a recent college graduate."

According to a new behavioral study, Spongebob SquarePants may cause short-term attention and learning problems in 4-year olds. The study indicates that watching a mere nine minutes of the program can have such an effect.

Fox News reports:

The problems were seen in a study of 60 children randomly assigned to either watch SpongeBob, or the slower-paced PBS cartoon Caillou or assigned to draw pictures. Immediately after these nine-minute assignments, the kids took mental function tests; those who had watched SpongeBob did measurably worse than the others.

Those who watched SpongeBob SquarePants scored an average of 12 points lower than the other groups. The children who watched Calliou and drew pictures scored nearly the exact same. Another test administered to the three groups was how long the children were able to wait before eating snacks presented to them when the researcher left the room. Those who watched Calliou or drew illustrations waited approximately four minutes, as opposed to those children who watched Spongebob, who waited just two and a half minutes on average.

I received a very interesting comment on my recent article, "The Great Brain Robbery," in which I tried to convey the damage that is being done daily in our elementary schools by teachers who have been so badly miseducated that they have no idea that the teaching methods they are using can cause untold damage to a child’s ability to use his or her mind effectively for the rest of his or her life.

The reader wrote:

As an aspiring teacher with a year left in attaining my Master's of Education online at this site: http://www.cu-portland.edu/ I am extremely averse to the idea of favoring one teaching method over another. Why is phonics-based teaching any better or worse than visual-based learning? Every child is different, and that includes their learning style. You should be careful [not] to endorse a one-size fits all reading curriculum....

Obviously, this aspiring teacher has not yet taught anyone anything, but feels compelled to advise this veteran of the reading wars, that I should be careful not to endorse a “one-size fits all reading curriculum.”

Higher education is getting "Curioser and curioser!" as Alice said in Wonderland. Elmhurst College in Elmhurst, Illinois, is now asking prospective students about their sexual orientations and "gender identities," the Chicago Sun-Times reported recently. "Would you consider yourself to be a member of the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender) community?" is now among the questions asked students applying for admission to the college in the fall of 2012. No one is required to answer the question, the school says, though a "Yes" makes the applicant eligible for a scholarship worth a third of the cost of tuition. About 60 percent of the 3.300 students at the private liberal arts college are on scholarships of one sort or another, school officials said.

The school says the question and the scholarship advance the promotion of diversity at the college. "We took this step in an effort to better serve each of our students as a unique person," Elmhurst President S. Alan Ray said in a press release. "It also allows us to live out our commitments to cultural diversity, social justice, mutual respect among all persons, and the dignity of every individual. These are among the core values of this institution. They provide the foundation for all of our academic, student and community programs."

Video footage has surfaced revealing some of the lessons that the New Black Panthers are teaching their audience, which consists largely of children. In the video, party member King Samir Shabazz is shown teaching “black survival,” which includes how to hold weapons, and how to use them.

You may recall that Shabazz was one of the members of the New Black Panther Party who engaged in voter intimidation at a Philadelphia polling state in November 2008 by standing at the polls attired in military clothing and holding a billy club. Despite the overwhelming evidence of voter intimidation, Attorney General Eric Holder elected to drop the charges against the New Black Panthers, a decision that has provoked a great deal of controversy.

During the self-defense demonstration, Shabazz walks the audience through the proper use of three different kinds of weapons: a baseball bat, a machete, and a handgun.

Wisconsin public employees unions were not able to stop Governor Walker’s plan to remove benefits from the items subject to collective bargaining. The unions first persuaded Wisconsin state senators to flee to Illinois, so that a quorum could not be formed to conduct business on that issue in the Wisconsin legislature. Then these unions thronged Madison, trying to intimidate Republican state legislators; these legislators, however, refused to be intimidated. State Supreme Court elections, which once were pro forma referenda on the ethics and competence of justices, was transformed into an ideological policy issue in which Judge Prosser was targeted for elimination because it was felt that he would uphold the constitutionality of Walker’s reforms; that failed too. Finally, public employees unions tried to recall enough Republican state senators to tip control of the state senate back to Democrats; that failed too.

A teacher in Paterson, New Jersey, is in boiling water because she told her Facebook friends that some of her students were “future criminals.”  The pedagogue of Paterson has been suspended with pay, and might well be fired. The students were disrupting her class, but her critics claim her remarks were “racist.”  Paterson’s population is largely black and Hispanic.

What She Said:

Veteran teacher Jennifer O’Brien said she posted the comments to Facebook because of her frustration that the students in her first-grade class are out of control, and she can do little about it.

O’Brien came home from work, North Jersey.com reported, and expressed her genuine feelings after what must have been another tough day in the "blackboard jungle." Wrote O’Brien, “i’m not a teacher — i’m a warden for future criminals.”

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