Publication Archives: Blog

EducationWatch

Don’t Feel Sorry for Harvard

Instead of temporarily dipping into its nation-sized endowment, Harvard University has decided to lay off 275 workers, Reuters reports:

The Ivy League school took the action to meet budget constraints caused by an estimated 30 percent fall in its endowment for its 2009 fiscal year, ending June 30. [...]

Another 40 staff were offered reduced work hours.

While the layoffs affect a fraction of Harvard’s 16,000 staff and faculty, they illustrate the recession’s toll on America’s oldest institute of higher learning and other universities which depend on endowments and donations.

Harvard’s endowment, which stood at $37 billion on June, 30 last year, tumbled to $29 billion by December and is projected to end this month at about $25 billion, hit by volatility in financial markets and a drop in donations. The endowment funded about a third of Harvard’s operating budget in 2008. [...]

Boo hoo. Poor Harvard and its $25 billion. I feel for the workers at Harvard and for its students who pay exorbitant tuitions while receiving politically correct indoctrination.

Some of the wealthiest universities in America are the biggest tightwads, Lynne Munson argued in an April 2008 Foundation Watch.

Harvard is notoriously tight-fisted. While tuition continues to skyrocket, institutional spending from tax-free higher education endowments (including Harvard’s) remains meager. By sitting on donations –which are largely intended to benefit students– for generations, they violate donor intent.

Don’t feel sorry for Harvard.

Parasitic Universities Get Billions in Porkulus Package

Institutions of higher learning in the U.S., which already have more money than God, stand to rake in billions of dollars in grants from the porkulus spending bill, AP reports.

So more tax money goes to subsidize the propagation of socialism — and it’s going to schools that don’t need the money. You see the nation’s relentlessly greedy colleges and universities –strongholds of pseudointellectual socialists– are notorious hoarders, as the brilliant Lynne Munson wrote in “Scrooge U: The Illusion of Generosity,” Foundation Watch, April 2008.

By hoarding donations colleges and universities violate the intent of donors, who wanted their money used to help students. But the reprobates who run Harvard and Yale don’t care.

“Ayers Is No Education ‘Reformer’”

Sol Stern of the Manhattan Institute has an excellent piece in today’s Wall Street Journal, “Ayers Is No Education ‘Reformer’ The new media spin is worse than Obama’s original evasion.”

Excerpts:

One of the most misleading statements during the presidential debates was when Barack Obama claimed that William Ayers was just “a guy in the neighborhood.”

But that piece of spin is nothing compared to the false story now being peddled by Mr. Obama’s media supporters that Mr. Ayers — who worked with the Democratic nominee for years to disperse education grants through a group called the Chicago Annenberg Challenge — has redeemed his terrorist past. In the New York Times, for example, Frank Rich writes that “establishment Republicans and Democrats alike have collaborated with the present-day Ayers in educational reform.”

I’ve studied Mr. Ayers’s work for years and read most of his books. His hatred of America is as virulent as when he planted a bomb at the Pentagon. And this hatred informs his educational “reform” efforts. Of course, Mr. Obama isn’t going to appoint him to run the education department. But the media mainstreaming of a figure like Mr. Ayers could have terrible consequences for the country’s politics and public schools. [...]

Mr. Ayers was hired by the Chicago public schools to train teachers, and played a leading role in the $160 million Annenberg Challenge grant that distributed funds to a host of so-called school-reform projects, including some social-justice themed schools and schools organized by Acorn. Barack Obama became the first chairman of the board of the Chicago Annenberg Challenge organization in 1995. [...]

In fact, as one of the leaders of a movement for bringing radical social-justice teaching into our public school classrooms, Mr. Ayers is not a school reformer. He is a school destroyer.

He still hopes for a revolutionary upheaval that will finally bring down American capitalism and imperialism, but this time around Mr. Ayers sows the seeds of resistance and rebellion in America’s future teachers. Thus, education students signing up for a course Mr. Ayers teaches at UIC, “On Urban Education,” can read these exhortations from the course description: “Homelessness, crime, racism, oppression — we have the resources and knowledge to fight and overcome these things. We need to look beyond our isolated situations, to define our problems globally. We cannot be child advocates . . . in Chicago or New York and ignore the web that links us with the children of India or Palestine.”

The readings Mr. Ayers assigns to his university students are as intellectually diverse as a political commissar’s indoctrination session in one of his favorite communist tyrannies. [...]

Small Towns and Hard Working Nuns

Apparently our colleague EducationWatch director Phil Brand is quickly trucking his way across America’s heartland on his American Schools Tour. Check out the highlights from this post regarding his visit to Cleveland Central Catholic High School:

Enrollment at CCCS is up thanks to the Cleveland Scholarship and Tutoring Program (CSP).   Passed in 1996, the Cleveland program provides families of meager means with a government education voucher, which they can use to help cover tuition costs at area private schools, including religious schools.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled this school program constitutional in a path-breaking 2002 case, Zelman v. Simmons-Harris. The Court concluded that the Cleveland program offered “true private choice” and is “neutral in all respects toward religion.”

Only students in grades K-8 are eligible to apply for the CSP vouchers. However, once in the program, a student can continue to receive the voucher through high school. As a result, a sizable majority of Cleveland Central Catholic’s students are voucher students.

And of course, don’t miss the post regarding the accidental choice of a school to visit in a “small town” that any hardcore Celtics fan (Phil is a big one) should make a required pilgrimageto: the hometown of Larry Bird.

I wasn’t aware of this history when I pulled into the parking lot of Springs Valley High School, which serves both French Lick and West Baden Springs. I came for a different history: to see the high school where Larry Bird played basketball. The NBA star would lead the Boston Celtics to three championships during the 1980’s (see video above). As I snapped a picture of the school gymnasium, it was clear that the students eating lunch there didn’t share my sense of awe. Living in a place normalizes it, while idolatry is experienced at a distance.

I met the school’s athletic director, who was Bird’s middle school basketball coach 40 years ago. He told me that Bird was only a mediocre player in middle school. “Then he shot up six inches and played basketball nonstop.”   He smiled fondly and reminisced about the times when the gym used to fill up when Bird played.   “We had thousands of people in here for his games; we were way over fire code.” Visitors still regularly come to the school from around the country and across the world to see where Bird played ball. Today, the girls’ athletic teams are better across the board that the boys’, but neither basketball team has been a powerhouse for years.

High school sports can be fun, even if you’re not the next Larry Bird.   Most of my friends in high school were guys on my sports teams.   I know I am not alone in this; friendships are often easiest formed when people share a common experience, shoulder to shoulder.   I learned skills and values—hard work, discipline, teamwork, how to celebrate a win and accept a loss—that are helpful in academics and life.   Sports gave me an identity, and also a clear sense of limits.   I went to high school in New Hampshire, where basketball isn’t that big a deal, and when I was on it our basketball team was terrible. But it still drew most of the parents and many other community members together on Friday nights. Indiana is a huge basketball state, and high school basketball is a bigger deal for many communities. In the movie Hoosiers, inspired by the true story of Milan High School, a small Indiana high school that won the state basketball championship in 1954, the whole town is caught up in the team.

Sports can be overdone, to the point where they become the central purpose of school, with academics playing only a supporting role. Sports need to be kept in perspective, and like any activity, they aren’t for everyone. But for some students, they’re the only reason they come to school. And recently, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown recognized the positive role competitive sports play in schools, and called Britain’s goal of reducing the competitive element in school sports a “tragic mistake,” one which he planned to correct.

Around the World with the World Wildlife Fund

The World Wildlife Fund is offering a private jet expedition in an attempt to reach a new level of hypocrisy.  The journey is made up of a 24-day whirlwind world tour that will take guests to almost every corner of the globe.  Take a look at a brief description of the trip:

Join us on a remarkable 25-day journey by private jet. Touch down in some of the most astonishing places on the planet to see the top wildlife, including gorillas, orangutans, rhinos, lemurs and toucans. Explore natural and cultural treasures in remote areas of South America, the South Pacific, Southeast Asia and Africa.

To reach these remote corners, travel on a specially outfitted private jet that carries 88 passengers. World-class experts – including WWF’s director of species conservation – will provide a series of lectures en route, and a professional staff will be devoted to making your global adventure seamless and memorable.

Sound great?  You can book your spot for a pretty hefty price tag: $64,950!  But, of course, this is trip is meant to raise money for the WWF by entertaining some of its wealthier donors.

But, how does this square with the World Wildlife Fund’s mission?  Here is where it gets pretty murkey.  Steve Milloy, of Fox News, ran some of the numbers using a carbon footprint calculator and this is what he came up with (he claims he uses WWF’s own calculator, which I cannot find, but the calculators on the EPA website confirm these numbers):

Using the carbon footprint calculator on the WWF’s own web site, the 36,800-mile trip in a Boeing 757 jet will burn about 100,000 gallons of jet fuel to produce roughly 1,231 tons of CO2 in 25 days — that’s the equivalent of putting about 1,560 SUVs on the road during those three-plus weeks and that doesn’t even include emissions related to local air, ground and water transport and other amenities.

The WWF laments on its web site that the average American produces 19.6 tons of CO2 annually, which is nearly five times the world average of 3.9 tons per person. But during the WWF’s posh excursion, travelers will produce 14 tons of CO2 per person. That’s 71 percent of the average American carbon footprint and 360 percent of the average global footprint in a mere three-and-one-half weeks. But who’s counting — especially when you’re in “19 rows of spacious leather seats with full ergonomic support” enjoying “gourmet meals, chilled champagne [and] your own chef.”

So, WWF’s suggestion is for their guests to emit, in one month, almost the same amount of CO2 as the average American produces in a year.  Do you know who else likes to emit this much CO2 per month?  Al Gore.  The powerful players in the environmental movement seem to believe that cutting emissions is necessary and that everyone who can’t write a $65,000 check to the WWF needs to do everything they can to save the world.

The brazen “Do as I say, not as I do” attitude that “Big Enviros” display is getting ridiculous.  I hope that people will start to realize that environmentalists are only trying to taking advantage of people when they trumpet their alarmism through the media loudspeaker.  This hypocrisy will continue until people wise up to their slimy green tactics.

From CRC Archives: Our Profile of the Massive Waste of Money Known as the Annenberg Challenge

We were covering the massive waste of money known as the Annenberg Challenge long before anyone had heard of its Chicago chairman, Barack Obama, or its Chicago co-founder, real life terrorist-turned-educational terrorist William Ayers.

Our article, “Lining the Pockets of Bureaucrats: Annenberg’s Misguided Effort to Save America’s Schools,” by Patrick Reilly, appeared in the March 1998 issue of Foundation Watch. The plain text of the article, extracted from the cobweb-covered archives in the catacombs of the Capital Research Center, is available here.

Reilly concludes:

Further review of the Challenge’s major-city projects and available indicators of student performance clearly indicates that Walter Annenberg’s $500 million gift has failed to have any significant impact on the quality of public schools.

While philanthropists including Annenberg and Ted Turner sink their fortunes into failing government bureacracies, other donors and foundations should consider private and nonprofit alternatives that embrace the efficiency and effectiveness of the free market.

“The Bomber as School Reformer”

The Manhattan Institute’s City Journal has an excellent article on unrepentant terrorist William Ayers’s activities as a so-called education reformer.

“Calling Bill Ayers a school reformer is a bit like calling Joseph Stalin an agricultural reformer,” writes Sol Stern.

Good point. Pushing anti-American hatred shouldn’t qualify as education reform.

Stern continues:

Ayers’s school reform agenda focuses almost exclusively on the idea of teaching for “social justice” in the classroom. This has nothing to do with the social-justice ideals of the Sermon on the Mount or Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech. Rather, Ayers and his education school comrades are explicit about the need to indoctrinate public school children with the belief that America is a racist, militarist country and that the capitalist system is inherently unfair and oppressive. As a leader of this growing “reform” movement, Ayers was recently elected vice president for curriculum of the American Education Research Association, the nation’s largest organization of ed school professors and researchers.

We touched upon Ayers’s work in the June Foundation Watch.

Tales From Old Teachers

Capital Research Center’s Phil Brand has an interesting look at educationinamerica.org about what it was like to go back to the small town school he left as a young lad when his family left for greener pastures. Reading it gave me pause and made me ponder the unusual way that having “small town” in your personal history has a strange way of sticking with you in your psyche. He also raises the questions most people reflect on after they have left: What is it like to return, and what would my future have been like (for better or worse) had I stayed there? He also does a great job of raising the concepts of positive peering, and the manner in which it has a role in shaping educational outcomes and performance. Read an excerpt below:

I attended RCS in seventh and eighth grade before my family moved to New Hampshire.

I hadn’t been back to the school since, but as soon as I walked through the door my old science teacher, Fred Zimmerman, greeted me. When I was a student I thought he was an older teacher, but today he seemed younger than when I had last seen him a dozen years ago! We talked about the rockets and cars I had built in his class. On the wall he had a chart of all the members of the school science team going back twenty years. Sure enough, there was my name: bronze medal, regional egg-drop competition. It’s cliché to say, but in a small school everyone really does know your name.

And they remember you after you’ve left. When I walked passed the guidance office, the counselor beckoned me in. “I know you,” she said. “I was sad to see you leave. Yours was a rough class, and you could have been a good influence.” The smaller the school, the larger the influence a couple of people can have in it. When calculating test percentages, a few students can really swing the average.

Chicken Slaughter in Vermont

CRC Education Watch director Phil Brand has begun his American Schools Tour, 2008-2009.  He’s exploring the idea of school choice by visiting two schools in each of the 50 states. This week, his first, Phil was in Vermont.

His new blog, Education in America, reports on the two schools he visited there–the Mountain School and St. Johnsbury Academy. The Mountain School has a kind of learn-by-doing curriculum (although the kids only have to watch the chicken slaughter). St. Johnsbury, a private school for public school students, shows that the common school proposed by Horace Mann in the early 19th century and now almost universal, is not the only way to organize a school system.

Phil’s reports can also be accessed through CRC’s Education Watch website. They are not the usual policy wonkery common to school choice advocates. Take a look.

Next week Phil will be in New York where he will visit the New Heights Academy Charter School in Harlem.

Obama, Annenberg, Ayers-2

How well did Obama know Bill Ayers? Was he “some guy who lives in my neighborhood”? Here’s a well-informed and well-reasoned blog speculating about how Barack Obama became chairman of the Chicago Annenberg Challenge and why that position was so significant. University of Santa Clara law professor Steve Diamond considers how prominent Chicagoans, including the family of ex-Weatherman William Ayers, helped secure this important post for the 33-year-old Obama. 

Diamond notes that education reform in Chicago, as in many other cities, has consisted of a struggle between corporate and foundation elites, who think they can use outside money and expertise to reform the schools bureaucracy, and community activists, many of them academic radicals their heads full of Marxist theories, who think a grassroots schools takeover is but a stage in a greater political upheaval. In Chicago, Thomas Ayers, retired CEO of the utility Commonwealth Edison (now Exelon), and his son William, a University of Illinois education professor, represented the two sides of this often confused and rancorous debate. Diamond thinks Obama was skillful enough to take advantage of the debate and benefit from it politically.

Pending a review of the exhaustive archives of the Chicago Annenberg Challenge made public on Tuesday, Diamond recently looked into a smaller collection of Annenberg materials maintained at Brown University. In a follow-up blog he reports that he read Ayers’ grant proposal to the Annenberg Foundation requesting a $50 million grant and proposing a radical decentralization of Chicago schools with a transfer of hiring authority to “local schools councils.” Diamond finds Ayers’ proposal comparable to other leftist “anti-bureaucratic” reforms, noting that Ayers has since written articles applauding school reform in Venezuela under Hugo Chavez.

Ayers’ proposal called for three entities: 1) a high prestige Chicago Annenberg Challenge (CAC) oversight board of big name Chicagoans, which Obama chaired, 2) a “School Reform Collaborative” directed by Ayers to assess specific grant proposals and decide who got Annenberg money, and 3) a research arm to evaluate the effectiveness of the Annenberg program grants.

Diamond read the reports CAC submitted to the Annenberg Foundation during the years 1995-2000. Ayers was involved during the entire period; Obama resigned in 1999. He says they mainly concern how it spent $2 million on ”Leadership Development Initiatives” to recruit and train people to become members of the proposed local schools councils and how it raised $60 million in matching funds from corporations and other foundations to supplement the Annenberg grant.

What were the results of all this effort? At the same time that Obama and Ayers were developing the local schools council concept, Mayor Daley was pushing reform legislation through the Illinois state legislature giving himself authority over the city’s schools. CAC and Daley were moving in opposite directions.

A 2003 CAC final report on the effectiveness of the Annenberg grant compared test scores in so-called Annenberg schools, which had received the benefit of some $150 million in outside grant money, to test scores in comparable schools. It concluded:

“There were no statistically significant differences in student achievement between Annenberg schools and demographically similar non-Annenberg schools. This indicates that there was no Annenberg effect on achievement.”

Diamond’s blogs and many links contain a wealth of information about Chicago political and social connections, which Obama mastered, and Annenberg Foundation proposal-writing and grant-making, which accomplished nothing. Diamond can’t prove how close Obama was to an “unrepentant terrorist,” but he does show why it was useful for Obama to cultivate ties to Chicago’s 1997 “Citizen of the Year.”