Posts Tagged ‘Education’

A broad education is vital

October 15, 2013

I got this in an email  and I wish I knew the original source.

I do like crushed asians – preferably grilled.

(h/t Nessan)

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Israel Education Ministry bans sex education material in text books

September 3, 2013

One has to conclude that everything is circular. If you go far enough to the Right you approach the Extreme Left. If you go to the extremes of one religion you approach the extremists of another.

Ultra-orthodox Imams and Rabbis, invariably male, seem to share a similar view of women and sex and sex education.

The Orthodox religious right in Israel has just got its way in its effort to return to good old-fashioned prudery.

Haaretz reports that “Chapters on human reproduction don’t accord with state religious school system’s educational doctrine for junior high schools, says Education Ministry”.

The Education Ministry has asked textbook publishers to eliminate chapters on human reproduction, pregnancy prevention and sexually transmitted diseases from science textbooks used in state religious junior high schools as well as from their teacher manuals.

The Guardian writes:

State education in Israel is divided into religious and secular sectors for Jewish children, with separate schools for Arab children. Many ultra-Orthodox Jews send their children to segregated private schools, with strict controls on curricula, behaviour and dress. Around a quarter of Israeli children attend ultra-Orthodox schools, according to 2010 data – a figure that is steadily rising.

Anat Hoffman, executive director of the Israeli Religious Action Centre, which advocates progressive Judaism, described the education ministry’s move as a “slippery slope. When we start filtering science for modesty reasons, that in the end will hinder our ability to teach science to Israeli children,” she said. …. The move should be seen in the context of the growing influence of rightwing rabbis in Israel. “Modesty considerations are being used as a political tool to keep women ‘in their place’,” she said.

Some elements of the ultra-Orthodox community in Israel have campaigned in recent years to remove images of women from advertising hoardings, and impose gender segregation on buses and in other public spheres.

The education ministry said the changes did not cover pictures of women. “The image of women has a place and expression in school textbooks,” it said.

But what the ultra-Orthodox want in Israel is not so very different from what Hamas wants in Gaza.

Israel National News reported in June this year:

A new law passed by the Hamas government in Gaza banning co-ed schools has left many Christians fearful that their schools are in danger of closure, according to the Beirut-based Al-Akhbar daily.

The new law, which mandates gender segregation in all schools, also bans men from teaching at girls’ schools. The law will likely force Christian educational institutions to close their doors to Muslim and Christian students alike, reported the newspaper.

Mutassim Minawi, director of public relations at Gaza’s education ministry, …… argued that “the Gaza Strip’s culture is conservative and does not favor gender mixing. The majority of Palestinians in Gaza praised the law and only leftist parties criticized it.”

Several months ago, Gaza’s Hamas terrorist rulers took another step towards the implementation of strict Islamic sharia law in the region by introducing a strict dress code for female students at the Al-Aqsa University. A letter distributed to students in November stated that all students should wear “modest clothing” on campus.

Since violently taking over Gaza in 2007, Hamas has enforced a stringent interpretation of Islamic law in Gaza. The terror group has banned women and teenagers from smoking hookahs in public, ordered that women’s clothing stores are not allowed to have dressing rooms, men cannot have hairdressing salons for women and that mannequins shaped like women must be dressed in modest clothing.

The scale of the Universe: from yoctometres to Gigaparsecs

March 16, 2012

I like this flash animation from NASA which is a modern version of the classic video Powers of Ten and travels from billionths of a yoctometre (10 -24 metres) up to tens of Gigaparsecs (about 3.1 x 10 25 metres). A journey of 60 powers of 10 from the Planck length of 1.616199(97)×10 -35  metres to the size of the observable universe at 10 27 metres.

“From where neutrinos are like suns to where galaxies are like dust”

It takes a few seconds to load.

A hotbed of intrigue: Bahman Bakhtiari sues Peter Sluglett after being fired from Utah University’s ME Center

September 8, 2011

Two months ago Bahman Bakhtiari was fired from the University of Utah’s Middle East Center for a pattern of plagiarism. Now he has filed  a suit last Friday in 3rd District Court against Peter Sluglett, the center’s senior-most faculty member and a former Director of the Center himself.

Deseret News:  Bakhtiari alleges that two senior faculty leaders at the center conspired to eliminate him after personality conflicts. He also alleges in the lawsuit that a senior faculty member, who was a former center director, lied about having a Ph.D. from UCLA and that faculty conspired to cover it up.

Bakhtiari served as center director from July 2009 to June 2011. He was brought in from the outside by the Dean of the College of Humanities to replace an existing faculty member. The suit states that from the onset, Bakhtiari was disliked by senior center faculty and that the political science department, which oversees the center, refused to support his tenure. The suit states that the dean of humanities ended up granting him tenure through the department of languages and literature.

Last June, a U. faculty committee investigated complaints of alleged plagiarism against Bakhtiari. In a unanimous vote, the committee found that Bakhtiari committed “a pattern of plagiarism that is harmful to the university’s academic integrity.” …

Although the committee stopped short of termination and revocation of tenure, University of Utah Interim President A. Lorris Betz overrode the decision and terminated Bakhtiari on June 30. ….

Bakhtiari alleges in his suit that center faculty actively dug through his career history to find justification to get rid of him. According to U. documents, evidence of plagiarism was found in six scholarly publications, including Bakhtiari’s 1984 Ph.D. dissertation, an online newsletter and an op-ed piece published in The Salt Lake Tribune. The suit states Bakhtiari is seeking damages for interference with economic relations, invasion of privacy, breach of contract and defamation.

Both Peter Sluglett and the Middle East Center are no strangers to internecine dispute, intrigue and academic “dirty tricks”. Sluglett gets mixed reports as a teacher.

Sluglett is also apparently  a self-anointed expert in recent Iraq history:

February 03, 2006  

Sluglett gets SluggedI noted with some pleasure that Wafaa’ Al-Natheema knocked Peter Sluglett down a peg or two. She posts the full email exchange on her blog. Professor Peter Sluglett considers himself an expert on modern Iraqi history with good reason – he has studies the subject for 30 years. Along with his late wife, Marion Farouk Sluglett, they wrote one of the important books on modern Iraqi history called “Iraq since 1958”. However, he uses that position to stifle any debate on Iraqi history. He considers himself the expert and nobody has the right to contradict him. The problem is that in many cases he is wrong.

The Middle East Center itself is no stranger to controversy where Sluglett was Director before Ibrahim Karawan – who resigned and was then succeeded by Bahman Bakhtiari.

April 4, 2008 

Karawan Resigns over Middle East Center Dismissals  

Ibrahim Karawan, director of the Middle East Center, announced his resignation yesterday before a lecture at the Hinckley Institute of Politics. Karawan said he is resigning because two of his colleagues were forced out of the center by Dean Robert Newman of the College of Humanities. “They were basically moved out of the center, not according to what they wanted, and moved to other departments,” Karawan said.

He questioned whether the action was justified and what the impact will be on the governing structure of the center and its ability to receive funding from the U.S. Department of Education. … Peter Sluglett, a professor of Middle Eastern history, and Harris Lenowitz, a professor in Hebrew, both received letters from Newman informing them that they could continue teaching but would no longer be able to hold leadership positions in the center. Sluglett and Lenowitz both have joint appointments in the center and their departments — history and languages and literature, respectively — and both teach cross-listed courses. ….

On March 13, Lenowitz said he received a letter from Newman that read: “It has come to my attention that you have contributed consistently toward creating an atmosphere in the Middle East Center that lacks collegiality and can no longer be tolerated.” Sluglett said he also received this letter, but he doesn’t think other faculty members have any problems with his behavior…….

Leaving aside the legal positions and claims and counter-claims which will run their course, the Middle East Center and its faculty strike me as being a bunch of  rather petty, uncivilised, amoral and childish group of academics. Petty intrigue, academic dishonesty and scientific misconduct seems to come quite naturally to them.

Playing their games of intrigue appears far more important to them than academic rigour or integrity. Whether they should be getting any funding at all from the US Department of Education ought to be a question being asked.

“Top 11 examples” of US academic dishonesty

August 28, 2011

This an arbitrary listing / ranking of examples of academic dishonesty at US colleges and secondary schools put together by Online Colleges. I am sure there are many other candidates for the list but I have no doubt that it is only by exposing such cases that change can occur. The internet provides an unprecedented medium for the exposure of cases which would otherwise be swept under carpets and never get any attention. The cases of plagiarism being revealed in Germany is a case in point.

The downside of the internet is, of course, that mere allegations may be taken as being confirmed fact and that it also allows personal feuds and partisan opinions to be presented without much rigorous scrutiny.

11 Most Egregious Examples of Academic Dishonesty 

Academic dishonesty is a serious concern on college campuses and secondary schools around the U.S., as it seriously undermines the entire purpose of education. Not only does it reflect poorly on students, but the institutions to which they are enrolled as well. While cheating and lying in the classroom is nothing new, in recent years the lengths to which many college kids (and their teachers) are willing to go has shocked and surprised many. This often leads to a call for stricter penalties levied on those violating academic honor codes.

No matter where you stand on cheating or how you feel it should be combated in a school setting, there is no doubt that these cases we’ve collected here are some of the most outrageous examples in recent history. We’d like to hope these eventually mark a turning point in student behavior, but as education becomes even more competitive and expensive, cheating isn’t likely to stop anytime soon.

Vice Chancellor of Peshawar University found guilty of plagiarism but uses the courts and political pressure to remain in office

August 21, 2011

Dr. Azmat Hayat Khan : image US Embassy Pakistan

The Vice-Chancellor of the University of Peshawar,  Dr Azmat Hayat Khan has been found guilty of plagiarism by a three-member committee of the Higher Education Commission that was constituted to probe the matter. The Higher Education Commission has submitted its report to Governor Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa who is also the Chancellor of the university. The Vice Chancellor has gone to court to prevent any actions being taken against him.

Noor Aftab in  The News.

University of Peshawar Vice Chancellor Dr Azmat Hayat Khan has been found involved in plagiarism by the three-member committee of Higher Education Commission (HEC) that was constituted to probe into the matter. …  Dr Khan, a former director of the Area Study Centre has been accused by a university teacher Muhammad Zubair, of including in his book titled ‘The Durand Land: Its Geo Strategic Importance’, published in 2000 by Area Study Centre, University of Peshawar, and Hanns Seidel Foundation, some passages from the book ‘Pak-Afghan Relations’, written by Dr Kulwant Kaur of Jammu University, Jammu, and published by Deep and Deep publications in 1985.

As per plagiarism policy, vice chancellors are responsible to constitute the plagiarism standing committee and committee will report to him but in this case the complaint is against the VC himself. Finding itself toothless in the said situation, HEC asked the Governor KPK to intervene and conduct an independent, impartial and unbiased enquiry against the incumbent VC, being fully in charge of the university. However, the Governor wrote letter to HEC and authorised it to constitute a committee to probe into the matter. 

Challenging the jurisdiction and authority of Higher Education Commission (HEC) in dealing with the cases of plagiarism, University of Peshawar Vice Chancellor (VC), Dr Azmat Hayat Khan has filed a writ petition in Peshawar High Court in which he has asked the apex court to refrain the commission from taking any action on the grounds of alleged plagiarism against him. …..

The complainant Mohammad Zubair believes that some political leaders of ANP were trying to cover VC by stopping the Governor to take any action against him.

Back in March, the complainant Mohammad Zubair, an assistant professor at the UoP Law College was suspended:

Mr Zubair had been accused of ‘gross misconduct’ under the University of Peshawar Employees Efficiency and Discipline Statutes, 1977 and charged with violation of the university rules. The teacher has been charged with taking part in political activities and making objectionable speeches. He has also been charged for direct and frequent correspondence with the chancellor and the HEC and delivering misleading information.

There were also reports in June that Zubair had complained of his life being threatened.

Though Vice-Chancellors are generally former academics, the appointments as Vice Chancellor are entirely political. The Awami National Party (ANP) is a political party and is very strong in the Pashtun dominated areas of Khyber- Pakhtunkhwa, Balochistan and Sindh provinces. With party support and considering the balance of political forces in Pakistan it is highly unlikely that any serious action will be taken against the VC.

Kalasalingam University takes action against misconduct: head of department and 6 PhD students sacked

August 7, 2011

The Sangiliyandi Gurunathan and Kalasalingam University story was covered by earlier posts here and here.

I have today received replies from the University and from the Society of Scientific Values reporting on the actions already taken. The head of Department – Sangiliyandi Gurunathan – had been instructed to and has resigned. Four students registered for a PhD have had their registrations cancelled. Pending PhD registrations for two further students have also been cancelled.

This is a remarkable, speedy and very commendable response from the Vice Chancellor Dr. S Radhakrishnan. In the Indian context (and perhaps in the context of any University) the speed and decisiveness is unprecedented and it gives me hope for the future of ethical and academic standards at Indian Universities.

Press Release (pdf)  Kalasalingam release 

The replies from Dr. Radhakrishnan, Vice Chancellor and from Prof. Chopra of the Society of Scientific Values to the mail I had sent to Chopra (copied to Radhakrishnan) follow:

date Sun, Aug 7, 2011 at 8:13 AM
subject Re: Action taken by Kalasalingam University

Dear Sir, 
Please refer the attached pdf file  regarding the action taken against Dr. G. Sangliyandi and the research scholars who are found to be involved in scientific misconduct (Image manipulation and the potential of scientific fraud) 
Thanking you for bringing this issue to our notice immediately. 

With Regards 
Dr. S. Radhakrishnan
Kalasalingam University
Krishnankoil – 626 126
Tamilnadu INDIA 

From SSV copied to me

Dear Prof Radhakrishnan:

On behalf of the Society for Scientific Values (SSV), I wish to thank you and congratulate you  on taking a right and an exemplary decision on unethical  practices by your colleague and students. We will post this news on our website as also in our next News&Views.  Very rarely do VCs take such strong and correct action as you have done.
SSV will be very happy to join hands with your faculty colleagues to organise  one day  seminar on Ethical Values for S&T at your University at a mutually convenient date. Please do let me know.
Best wishes
Prof (Dr) K. L. Chopra (Padamshri)
FNA, FASc, FNASc, FNAE, D.Sc.(hc)
(Former Director, Indian Institute of Technology, Kharagpur)
President, Society for Scientific Values

date Wed, Jul 27, 2011 at 9:32 PM
subject Wholesale retractions of papers at Kalasalingam University

Dear Professor Chopra,

You will be aware of the wholesale findings of image manipulation in at least 8 papers from the Biotechnology Department of Kalasalingam University. Sangiliyandi Gurunathan is the primary investigator on these papers and the list of retracted papers which bear his name is now getting very long.

There seem to be two issues here: 
  1. the widespread manipulation of images and plagiarism by doctoral  students, and
  2. the lack of leadership and supervision which seems to encourage such   scientific misconduct. 
I draw your attention to:
Retraction Watch – Angiogenesis retracts two papers, cites image manipulation in eight, as PI blames unethical students
ktwop blog – At least 8 more papers from biotechnology department at Kalasalingam University manipulated as 2 are retracted.
I would hope that the Society for Scientific Values could conduct an investigation because something is seriously amiss at this university.
I have also copied this to Dr. S Radhakrisnan, Vice Chancellor since I have corresponded with him earlier (February 2011) about the earlier retraction of Sangiliyandi Gurunathan’s paper. 
best regards

Price of a PhD in Germany: €10,000 – €30,000

February 23, 2011

Between 500 and 700 PhD degrees awarded in Germany every year are illegitimate. The days when Ph.D. degrees were mainly awarded to scientists and scholars in Germany are long gone. The title is in high demand among managers, lawyers and politicians – many with little time for the required research writes Deutsche Welle.

The zu Googleberg affaire has focused the spotlight on Germany’s new PhD consultantcy industry. New cases of corrupt practices are being found regularly.

One former law professor from Hanover, for example, is currently serving three years in prison after he was found guilty of issuing doctoral titles in exchange for bribes and sexual favors in 2009. It seems the prestige and the higher salary an academic title confers is a temptation some career-minded Germans find difficult to pass up.

Guttenberg is hardly alone when it comes to ambitious people with high goals battling time restraints. In German corporate circles, where a Ph.D. means more status and a higher salary, busy managers have little time to study. While the defense minister stands accused of failing to provide the proper attribution for certain passages of his thesis, others have been known to turn to a relatively small industry of so-called “doctorate consultants.”

The consultants demand anywhere from 10,000 to 30,000 euros to help aspiring doctorate holders with all the formalities and contacts needed to be accepted into a Ph.D. program – and more. It’s the “more” that can cause problems, however. Doctorate consultants specialize in providing assistance in labor-intensive areas such as research and writing – tasks Ph.D. aspirants are normally expected to master on their own.

“We’re aware of the criticism of our line of business but we aren’t doing anything criminal,” said Thomas Nemet from ACAD Write, a company that employs around 250 staff and serves a customer base of 1,500.

“Our clients are mostly managers, lawyers and others in the medical profession, who have little time. We help them optimize their time to earn a Ph.D. But let me make one point very clear, we don’t sell doctorate degrees.” Some of his rivals in the doctorate consulting branch, like the “Institut für Wissenschaftsberatung” in Bergisch Gladbach, have been accused of doing exactly that, however, by paying large bribes to corrupt professors. …..

Manuel Rene Theisen, an economics professor at the Ludwig-Maximillian University in Munich, estimates that between two and three percent of the Ph.D. degrees awarded in Germany are illegitimate. So that’s between 500 and 700 degrees annually.

Time Magazine reported in 2009:

…. German prosecutors revealed that they are investigating around 100 academics at some of the country’s top universities on the suspicion that they granted doctorates to dozens of unqualified students after taking bribes from a consultancy firm. The investigation follows a raid on an academic consultancy called the Institute for Scientific Counselling in the western town of Bergisch Gladbach in March 2008. .. Prosecutors in the city of Cologne say the institute helped doctoral candidates find a supervisor and paid lecturers to take on Ph.D. students. “Some Ph.D. students paid up to $30,000 to get their doctor titles,” Günther Feld, a senior prosecutor in Cologne tells TIME. “Many people had received mediocre results in exams and they weren’t eligible to do a Ph.D. in the first place.”

Leibnitz Universität Hannover

…. One former director of the Bergisch Gladbach consultancy was convicted on bribery charges in July 2008 and sentenced to three and a half years in prison. He was found guilty of illegally helping more than 60 students get their doctor titles. A law professor at the University of Hanover who received money from the consultancy for accepting doctoral candidates was given a three-year jail sentence. ….. “We recently stripped nine Ph.D. holders of their titles,” Henning Radtke, Dean of the Law Faculty at the University of Hanover. Those students are now appealing the decision.
“The investigation in Cologne is just the tip of the iceberg,” says Manuel René Theisen, professor of business administration at the Ludwig-Maximilians University in Munich. “Around a dozen academic consultancies have been on the market for years offering Ph.D.s for money.” Theisen says he estimates that of the 25,000 doctorates awarded each year in Germany, up to 1,000 are obtained through illicit means. “The consultancies advertise in trade magazines and they pretend to offer coaching for would-be Ph.D. students, but it’s a fairy tale,” he says. “People know when they read the adverts they can get their Ph.D. for money and not for their [academic] work.”

The Googleberg affaire might accelerate the decline of the reputation of German PhD’s. On the other hand if it leads to more rigorous award processes it could help in restoring some of the shine that a German PhD once conferred — but that is by no means certain.

German Defence Minister accused of plagiarism in his PhD thesis

February 16, 2011
Picture of Karl-Theodor Freiherr von und zu Gu...

Image via Wikipedia

The Financial Times Deutschland carries this story today:

Defence Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg (CSU) has to defend himself against accusations that he had cheated on his doctoral thesis. According to the “Sueddeutsche Zeitung” (Wednesday) there are some passages in Guttenberg’s thesis which match literally formulations by other authors, and which have not been acknowledged.
The thesis is in several places “a brazen plagiarism” and “deception”, the paper quoted the Bremen law professor Andreas Fischer-Lescano, who had discovered the duplications during a routine examination. Fischer-Lescano teaches at the University of Bremen Public Law, European and international law.
Guttenberg submitted his doctoral work in 2006 at the Law Faculty in Bayreuth. In 2007, he was then awarded the highest degree – summa cum laude doctorate in law (PhD).

The thesis is now under investigation by the Ombudsman for scientific self-regulation of the University of Bayreuth.

But this is an investigation concerning a serving Minister. I can predict with the greatest of confidence that the establishment will close ranks and that the investigation will come to the conclusions that:

  • no scientific misconduct is involved,
  • the lack of references were merely an oversight and an honest mistake, and
  • the degree award is not tainted in any way and
  • no further action is required except the insertion of an addendum acknowledging the plagiarised authors


Guttenberg’s slick image slips away

German Defense Minister Agrees to Inquiry Into Military Incidents

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