Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Let's Repeal Reality

Katherine Timpf is young, beautiful and very sane. Oh, have I said something wrong? Good.

Writing for National Review, Timpf covers the complete flight from reality that characterizes today’s progressivism/feminism. A quick glance at her recent titles gives the flavor of the world they seek to create and impose. “Feminists: Remove World War II Sailor Statue Because It’s ‘Sexual Assault’” (that would be the iconic image from Times Square on VJ Day in 1945). “Feds Spending Money To Find Out Why Obese Girls Get Fewer Dates.” “Feminists: Slow Motion Is Sexist.” And today’s installment: “Schools Told to Call Kids ‘Purple Penguins’ Because ‘Boys and Girls’ Is Not Inclusive to Transgender.”

It’s not just one school. The guidelines were given to all teachers in the Lincoln, Neb., school district, and if you happen upon any college campus, you’ll quickly discover that our institutions of higher learning are in the business of denying basic biology: It’s now unacceptable to refer to just two genders. There’s “he,” “she” and “xe,” among others.

In Nebraska, Timpf writes, teachers are guided to avoid terms that are “exclusive.” “Don’t use phrases such as ‘boys and girls,’ ‘you guys,’ ‘ladies and gentlemen,’ and similarly gendered expressions to get kids' attention,” a training manual for middle school teachers advises. “Always ask yourself… Will this configuration create a gendered space?”

Middle school children in Lincoln will now be asked how they wish to be identified – as male, female or something else. And there’s this: “Point out and inquire when you hear others referencing gender in a binary manner. … Provide counter-narratives that challenge students to think more expansively about their notions of gender.”

Lincoln is providing another handout to its teachers from a group with the Orwellian title “Center for Gender Sanity.” Their propaganda tells teachers “Gender identity … can’t be observed or measured, only reported by the individual.” Really, and what if an individual reports that he is Kaiser Wilhelm?

People who imagine that there are more than two sexes (gender is a grammatical term) have quite lost touch with the basics of life and clearly have too much free time. Except in the extremely rare cases of hermaphroditism, every child is born male or female. Maleness or femaleness is imprinted on every cell, influences every muscle and fiber, affects every body system, and colors every thought. Maybe human life would have been better if we reproduced asexually like tapeworms or dandelions, but there it is. Poetry would have suffered, I’ll wager, even if family courts would have been rendered moot.

The obsession with sex and now the mainstreaming of truly bizarre ideas about human identity suggest that progressives cannot be trusted with responsibility and certainly shouldn’t be anywhere in the vicinity of children.

This kookiness about sexuality is brought to us by the people who style themselves the “pro-science party.” Imagine if they get their hands on chemistry next. A teacher handout might say, “Protons are positively charged, and electrons are negatively charged. But you can be a neutron if that’s how you feel deep inside.” Or maybe it’s oppressive to assume that protons are always positive. Maybe some days they have negative energy?

“Gender neutral” housing is now available at Northeastern, Cornell, Middlebury, the University of Maryland and many other schools. Look up non-binary, and you get this: “Non-binary is a term for people who are not men or women, or are both men and women, or who are something else entirely, or are some combination of these things, or some of these things some of the time.” Something else entirely?

The notion that “gender” is a matter of choice, that it can be assigned like positions on a softball team, that it’s a form of oppression to insist that people use the restrooms labeled “men” and “women,” is truly to be at war with nature.

There’s plenty to resent about nature. Why do only women get pregnant and give birth? Some men would like the chance, and some women would gladly change roles. Why are men bigger? Why are some people unattractive and others boring? That doesn’t seem fair. And why must we die? These mortality assignments are a terrible form of oppression. If we declared ourselves “death neutral,” would that make it so?


Woman who is a moral cripple teaching at prominent British private school

It is one of the country’s most exclusive public schools, where parents pay fees of up to £36,000 a year so that their sons can follow in the footsteps of old boys such as P. G. Wodehouse, Ernest Shackleton and Nigel Farage.

But pupils arriving at Dulwich College may be surprised to discover that a music teacher at this bastion of the Establishment is a card-carrying communist who hopes to teach her pupils the songs of North Korea’s brutal dictatorship.

Lesley Larkum, Head of Strings at the school founded in 1619, has visited North Korea – where millions have starved to death while the ruling dynasty lives in luxury and threatens the West with nuclear weapons – and has spoken at communist rallies in London.

The 49-year-old is a member of the Revolutionary Communist Party of Britain (Marxist-Leninist) as well as being a cheerleader for Kim Jong Un’s reviled regime.

Ms Larkum, who once led a women’s socialist choir called Velvet Fist, has even played the country’s national anthem, known as Aegukka or Patriotic Song, at events to celebrate the founding of North Korea by the ‘Great Leader’ Kim Il Sung in 1948.

Speaking for the first time about her remarkable double life, Ms Larkum told The Mail on Sunday that she hoped to educate her pupils about North Korea’s music – most of which champions communism and sings the praises of the country’s ruthless leaders.

Citizens risk imprisonment for tuning in to Western radio stations, and must instead listen to state- controlled numbers such as We Shall Hold Bayonets More Firmly, while marching songs on the country’s official website include Raise Your Weapons To Wave.

Ms Larkum said: ‘I have performed and taught Argentinian music here. I would love to expand that repertoire to include North Korean music. Some of it is political, some of it isn’t. I think my pupils would love it.

‘I don’t think the school would mind at all. I haven’t made a secret of my views – Dulwich College is all about broadening young minds and teaching them about other cultures, whatever their views.

'I don’t think my views are relevant to my day job. I’m Head of Strings, for goodness sake. But North Korean politics are fascinating.’

She says she has ‘sympathy’ with North Korea and disagrees with the West’s stance on the country, which was named as part of the Axis of Evil by former U S President George W. Bush.

Britain has an arms embargo against North Korea, as well as a ban on exporting luxury goods there, asset freezes on its financial institutions and travel bars on the regime’s key figures.

Ms Larkum said: ‘I certainly believe the West should leave North Korea alone. What have they ever done to us? I don’t think we should ever interfere with any other country.’

Ms Larkum, who lives in a £400,000 flat near the school in South-East London, is no typical communist.

Yesterday, as half-term began in the private sector, she flew out for a week’s holiday to enjoy a different sort of party – on the island of Ibiza.

Dulwich College did not respond to requests for comment.


See the Picture of a Skimpy School Lunch That One Parent Called ‘Ridiculous’

An Oklahoma student has sparked outrage about federal school lunch guidelines after taking a picture of her meager lunch.

Kaytlin Shelton’s lunch consisted of a few slices of lunch meat, a slice of cheese, two small packages of crackers and two pieces of cauliflower.

The lunch is particularly small for Shelton, 17, who is eight months pregnant.

Her family shared her picture with Oklahoma City’s KOKH-TV. According to local news channel, the meal is called a “munchable” and schools in Chickasha, Okla., “serve it every other week.”

Shelton’s father, Vince Holton, called the $3 meal “ridiculous” and insufficient for his pregnant daughter.

“I can go pay a dollar for a lunchable and get more food in it,” said Holton.

“It makes me want to take that and take it to the Superintendent and tell him to eat it for lunch,” said Shelton.

But David Cash, superintendent of Chickasha Public Schools, happens to agree with her:

“I know they are [too small]. There is no doubt about that. My own kid comes home and the first thing he does is raid the refrigerator. You’ve got, in some cases, little kids that their only two meals are breakfast and lunch at school and they’re getting … a grand total of 1,100 calories. That’s not enough.”

“Decisions should be made by communities, parents and students,” says @DarenBakst.

According to Fox News, the meal “complies with lunch regulations championed by first lady Michelle Obama and implemented by the USDA.”

No exceptions to the guidelines are made for pregnant students or athletes who need more calories.

Assistant State Superintendent for Child Nutrition Joanie Hildenbrand told KOKH-TV the district is “still struggling” with the federal regulations put in place two years ago.

According to Daren Bakst, a research fellow in agricultural policy at The Heritage Foundation, Shelton’s story is “yet another example of the problems with the meal standard.”

“The primary focus of the program should be that kids actually eat,” said Bakst.

He said school officials know there is a problem but their hands are tied.

“School officials want more flexibility,” said Bakst. “That needs to happen. The decisions should be made by communities, parents and students. And I stress students, because they are the ones who actually have to eat the food.”


Tuesday, October 21, 2014

UK: Christian school 'downgraded for failing to invite an imam to lead assembly'

A successful Christian school has been warned it is to be downgraded by inspectors and could even face closure after failing to invite a leader from another religion, such as an imam, to lead assemblies, it is claimed.

The small independent school in the Home Counties was told it is in breach of new rules intended to promote “British values” such as individual liberty and tolerance in the wake of the Trojan Horse scandal, involving infiltration by hard-line Muslim groups in Birmingham.

Details of the case are disclosed in a letter to the Education Secretary, Nicky Morgan, from the Christian Institute, which is providing legal support to the school.

The group warned that the new rules intended to combat extremism are already having “disturbing consequences” for religious schools and forcing Ofsted inspectors to act in a way which undermines their ethos.

It follows complaints from orthodox Jewish schools about recent inspections in which girls from strict traditional backgrounds were allegedly asked whether they were being taught enough about lesbianism, whether they had boyfriends and if they knew where babies came from.

In the latest case inspectors are understood to have warned the head that the school, which was previously rated as “good” that it would be downgraded to "adequate" for failing to meet standards requiring it to “actively promote” harmony between different faiths because it had failed to bring in representatives from other religions.

They warned that unless the school could demonstrate how it was going to meet the new requirements there would be a further full inspection which could ultimately lead to it being closed.

A Government consultation paper published in June, explaining the new rules, makes clear that even taking children on trips to different places of worship would not be enough to be judged compliant.

The Institute, which is already planning a legal challenge to the consultation, arguing that it was rushed through during the school holidays, fears that the new guidelines could be used to clamp down on the teaching of anything deemed politically incorrect on issues such as marriage.

“Worryingly, evidence is already emerging of how the new regulations are requiring Ofsted inspection teams to behave in ways which do not respect the religious ethos of faith schools,” Simon Calvert, deputy director of the Christian Institute, told Mrs Morgan.

“The new requirements are infringing the rights of children, parents, teachers and schools to hold and practise their religious beliefs.”

Listing recent cases involving criticism of Anglican, Roman Catholic and Jewish schools by Ofsted, he added: “The Christian Institute is currently working with an independent Christian School which has been marked down by Ofsted for not promoting other faiths.

“Astonishingly it was told it should invite representatives of other faith groups to lead assemblies and lessons, such as an Imam.

“The wording of the regulations inevitably results in these kind of outcomes. “While we obviously support attempts to address the problem of radicalisation, the current regulations fail to do this.”

A spokeswoman for Ofsted said: “Under Ofsted’s revised guidance for the inspection of schools, inspectors now pay greater attention to ensuring that schools provide a broad and balanced education for their pupils, so that young people are well prepared for the next stage in their education, or for employment and for life in modern Britain.

“Inspectors will consider the effectiveness of the school’s provision for pupils’ spiritual, moral, social and cultural development and how the school’s leadership and management ensure that the curriculum actively promotes British values.

“This includes, among other factors, pupils’ acceptance and engagement of different faiths and beliefs, and their understanding and appreciation of the range of different cultures within school and further afield.”


Sandy Hook Schools Parents on Education

The Sandy Hook school shooting was the stuff of nightmares. Now, almost two years after that horrific tragedy, state officials are blaming another culprit: homeschooling. After the December massacre that took 26 innocent lives, Connecticut’s leaders are still trying to make sense of the crime – and focus their efforts on preventing a similar one. In the aftermath, Governor Dannel Malloy (D) convened a special Sandy Hook Advisory Commission to study the shooting and offer recommendations for upgrading security and protocols. But so far, the Commission’s only contribution has been more controversy.

In a proposal just released by the 16-member panel, the Commission makes the outrageous suggestion that Connecticut needs to crackdown on homeschooling, especially in homes with emotionally or mentally challenged kids. In a nod to the killer, Adam Lanza, whose mom pulled him out of school briefly as a teenager, the Commission has somehow concluded that homeschooling was partly to blame for his violence. That shocked the homeschooling community, and rightfully so.

Obviously, this is just an excuse to discredit – or, worse – destroy the fundamental right of parents to educate their children. “We believe this is very germane,” said Harold Schuwatz, one of the panel’s members. “The facts leading up to this incident support the notion that there is a risk in not addressing the social and emotional learning needs of homeschooled children.”

To people familiar with the Lanzas, the idea that homeschooling played any role in the shooting is ridiculous. In fact, it was Adam’s own psychologist who recommended teaching him at home where his parents could keep closer tabs on him. Now, the state of Connecticut is suggesting that it’s the government who needs to keep closer tabs – on moms and dads who should be the ultimate authority on their children’s education.

Matthew Hennessey, who is helping to highlight the Commission’s ulterior motives, points out that that this goes much deeper than the Sandy Hook shooting into the foundational questions of who has the final say on how or where a child learns. “Of course, no one wants another Newtown… But Governor Malloy’s handpicked commissioners have indulged a dangerous impulse, common on the Left, to reorder society at the expense of the family. In the process, they have trampled on the rights of homeschoolers to raise their children as they see fit,” he writes.


Exposing the student-loan trap

Low-interest federal loans saddle students with overpriced sheepskins

There is an old adage that asserts “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know,” meaning that personal connections can often be more important than one’s actual skills and abilities. It’s a cynical maxim, albeit one with some truth to it. In today’s labor market, however, having the right skill set is more important than ever for anyone who wants to succeed.

We are constantly reminded of the importance of education, and of college degrees in particular, for young people. President Obama, earlier this year, came right out and said that “college has never been more important.” What students are not told, though, is that not all college degrees are created equal, and not all educations guarantee equality of opportunity upon entering the real world of work.

In many areas of the country, employers are confronting an increasingly severe skills gap. In my hometown of Cleveland, there were more than 3,000 job openings for engineers posted last year, but in 2013, fewer than 1,300 students there received engineering degrees. Students are not being told that basic training as a welder or a machinist increases their value to employers far more than a master’s degree in theater or cinema studies. As the proud owner of three master’s degrees, two of which have been completely useless in my career, this is a lesson I wish someone had taught me when I was younger. My own $70,000 of student debt reminds me every day that this is a problem that affects all of us.

Today’s millennials are being duped and exploited, not only by the propaganda praising liberal arts degrees as indispensable, but by the promise of easy credit from government-backed student loans. The amount of student debt in the United States is now more than $1 trillion, an economic burden that threatens an entire generation. Rather than address this problem, Congress is pushing for still lower interest rates, encouraging still more debt. Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s student-loan refinancing bill is a perfect example of politicians cynically preying on the hopes and dreams of average students.

The reason, they argue, is that college costs are too high for students to afford without help. Has anyone bothered to ask why costs are so high to begin with? Prices rise when too many dollars are chasing too few goods. Offering easy credit to students for college doesn’t solve the problem of high prices; it creates it.

If there is any doubt about this, stop by your local university and observe the lavish temples to knowledge that these dollars have built. Students are funding luxury Taj Mahals only to find that they still can’t get a job when they graduate. Universities are not charging so much because they need to, but because they know they can get away with it.

We too often forget that college is a business like any other, and its primary goal is to make money. Students don’t see the full cost of their education when they first apply, and are then kept on the hook as long as possible with the temptations of secondary majors, minors, advanced degrees, and anything else that can prolong their stay and run up their tab. With unlimited low-interest loans from the government, the incentives to spend responsibly just aren’t there for kids who don’t know better.

Part of the problem is that college is a terrible place to find yourself. When I did my study-abroad program in Oxford, it was common for British students to take a year off before attending a university to experience the real world and figure out what they wanted to do with their lives. This meant that they were better prepared to focus on a productive and goal-driven education that would serve them well in later life. Using a college campus as a playground for self-discovery is the most expensive indulgence most of us will ever purchase.

A quality education remains an important component of success, but in today’s information age, there are more ways to achieve it than ever before. Trade and vocational schools, technical institutes and online classes — for which there should be a bigger discount than there currently is — are all viable alternatives to traditional brick-and-mortar liberal arts schools. Rather than turning our noses up at educational options outside the Ivy League, we should embrace them and recognize their importance.

It’s time to stop lying to students by promising them a free ride on the back of government credit. Instead, we should encourage them to invest responsibly in an education that will actually offer positive returns. After all, it’s not who they know anymore. It’s what we know.


Australia: The value of economic education

I'm a firm believer in the value of economic education. An understanding of incentives, opportunity costs, supply and demand are as essential for making sense of the world as maps, history and periodic tables.

So I was alarmed when I read this week that economics education is not up to scratch. Griffith University's Professor Tony Makin and lecturer Alex Robson, reviewed the economics ­curriculum concluding the course needs to be re-written from scratch.

The author of the curriculum, Associate Professor Alex Millmow, of Federation University, responded that, "We didn't want to scare away primary school teachers. It's not an economics course".

The current course was introduced by former Minister for School Education Peter Garrett for years 5 to 8 or kids of around 10 to 14 years to: "equip the next generation of entrepreneurs, innovators and businesspeople to continue to grow the Australian economy as well as take advantage of the global business opportunities the Asian Century will bring."

Which means the author had to create a curriculum that could be taught by non-economists to children under 14 but nonetheless meet expectations that it be a serious preparation for becoming young entrepreneurs leading the country in a mighty trade incursion into Asia. No wonder the bloke who wrote it feels unfairly assessed. The job he was given amounted to spinning straw into gold.

CIS research fellow Dr Jennifer Buckingham has noted what is sometimes called the 'Peter effect' -coined for the plea of Saint Peter to the beggar that he could not give him money that he did not have. A teacher cannot teach what the teacher doesn't know.

The former government's enthusiasm to add yet another 'essential' component to the national curriculum has meant yet another case of the curriculum being reduced to the level at which teachers can teach it, rather than being elevated to the level at which students can profit from it.

Many children will benefit from an economic education. But if kids are going to become entrepreneurs and conquer the Asian Century, it needs to be the sort of economics Professor Makin would like to see taught. Rather than simplifying advanced subjects for small kids, we'd be better off teaching small kids to read and count properly so that in high school they are equipped to study any advanced course effectively.

Splitting their primary years between a growing number of poorly taught add-ons is putting at risk the literacy and numeracy education on which the rest of their lifelong learning depends.


Monday, October 20, 2014

UK: LSE Union: the tyranny of the minority

The banning of LSE rugby club was puritanical – and quite possibly illegal.

The furore over the London School of Economics men’s rugby club leaflets, which referred to the ‘beast-like’ nature of female rugby players and advised members to avoid women who are ‘mingers’, rumbles on.

It all started on 3 October, when the LSE Students’ Union seized the offending leaflets, which were being distributed at a freshers’ fair. From the reactions of students, it seems that some saw the rugby club’s leaflet as moronic, and subjected it to criticism and ridicule. Given that students were able to make up their own minds, it’s not clear why the union set out to elevate this into a major incident in which, it claimed, students ‘suffered’.

A few days after the seizure, the union’s new general secretary issued a press release stating that there would be a ‘thorough’ investigation. Having encouraged press attention, both the Daily Mail and the Guardian covered the story early last week.

Despite the club offering an immediate apology, and acknowledging that the leaflet was ‘inexcusably offensive’, the union disbanded the club on Tuesday 7 October. The union’s general secretary issued a lengthy statement primly denouncing the club: ‘The booklets distributed by the rugby club are clearly sexist, and demonstrate a culture within a club that is unable to challenge misogyny, sexism and homophobia. This culture, and how leaders within the club have allowed it to prevail, has brought shame on to the club itself, the athletics’ union and the wider student community.

‘We have been so proud to stand together as a Union’, she continued, ‘and be able to discuss these issues and openly condemn acts of misogyny, sexism, homophobia, and classism’. She then concluded somewhat illogically: ‘The hosting of women-only and LGBT-only spaces is indicative of a union of students that wants to work together to be an inclusive, positive community.’

A ban on men

So now, while the LSE’s athletics union offers rugby to female students, no rugby is available to male students, who are deprived of the opportunity to play competitively for the LSE in the British Universities and Colleges Sport (BUCS) Rugby League Programme. Not surprisingly, the club is appealing.

But it seems that neither the LSE Students’ Union, whose investigation was conducted with indecent haste, nor the university, whose president issued a statement approving the ban on 8 October, have addressed their minds to the law on equal treatment. The Equality Act 2010 expressly prohibits less favourable treatment on grounds of sex (see sections 11, 13).

Suppose that Muslim students of the Wahhabi school had taken over the union’s ruling body. Suppose they decided that women’s participation in sports was un-Islamic, and summarily dissolved all the women’s sporting societies, citing women’s ‘immodest’ dress and behaviour. Imagine the outcry.

Yet what happened last week is not so far removed from such a scenario. For a start, it does not appear to have occurred to anyone at the LSE that to ban male students from accessing a sport available to female students is itself a form of sex discrimination. Sorry men, you can’t play competitive rugby, because we don’t like your laddish (that is, male) behaviour off the pitch. This sounds pretty sex-specific. Ironically, it seems that those who run the union are so dominated by an ideology of oppression politics that they cannot recognise the possibility that they acted unfairly.

Resorting to the media to issue public admonishment to students is also excessive. Such public shaming could be seen, should you be so inclined, as a form of bullying. Again, this does not appear to have occurred to the union, which seemed more preoccupied with its own spin-doctoring.

Mischief, whoredom, and whatnot

Tactless though the club’s leaflet was, this was as nothing compared to the cardinal sin of failing to tame its inner party animal. This is what has appalled the modern-day Puritans, who run the LSESU. The club’s real crime was taking the piss out of a prevailing culture of political correctness at the LSE, whose union’s general secretary was one of two students calling for Robin Thicke’s ‘Blurred Lines’ to be banned last October, on the basis it promoted ‘rape culture’.

And what of the rugby club leaflet itself. It spoke of the Three Tuns Bar, which had some ‘tasty’ barmaids, and the Zoo Bar in Leicester Square where, provided members could cope with the ‘mingers’ (slang for ‘ugly people’), they could pull a ‘sloppy bird’. It called LSE women rugby players beasts – slang for ‘awesome’ (the motto of the women’s club being ‘play hard, party hard’). And it made some comments about not participating in ‘homosexual debauchery’.

This is mild, as some gibes between students of Sheffield Hallam University and the University of Sheffield suggest: ‘I’d rather be a poly than a cunt’; ‘I’d rather be a cunt than unemployed’.

The LSE Students’ Union later cited as further justification the fact that, over the years, the men’s rugby club had been guilty of hedonistic excess and bad-taste parties, running naked through the university, and having strippers at end-of–year events. It bemoaned the fact that it had tried to ‘rehabilitate’ the club, without success.

But an earlier incident in which the club had apparently caused substantial damage to university property sounds rather more serious than a silly leaflet. Why wasn’t a swift apology enough this time? And to what extent is it legitimate, or even lawful, for student unions to police male students’ social lives and speech?

The primary aim of any sporting society is success on the field. There is no suggestion that the club had treated opponents outrageously during matches. If the union really wanted to improve take-up of the sport among the student body, it could have required the club to work with the BUCS to ensure that its recruitment practices were sufficiently inclusive.  What the union really wanted to attack was the club’s après ski. In an unselfconscious throwback to seventeenth-century English Puritans, its real target was a form of student Saturnalia.

What is the union?

As with students’ unions up and down the United Kingdom, any student admitted to a university is automatically deemed to be a member of their local student union. The rule is ‘opt out’, not ‘opt in’. A student can terminate their membership by giving notice.

The result is that university union memberships consist of people who are co-opted automatically, without real consent. Unions are companies limited by guarantee, which operate a sophisticated set of constitutional rules, memoranda and articles of association, and by-laws. They can achieve registration as charities. But they can also become a vehicle for various forms of ‘issue advocacy’.

The underlying problem with these unions, then, is their undemocratic nature. The LSE is a good example: it has 9,500 full-time students, but on a union motion such as the ‘Blurred Lines’ ban last year, only 89 students voted: 40 against, 49 for. This is an infinitesimally small number, compared to the overall student body. In a very real sense, such actions by student unions represent the tyranny of an over-zealous minority over the majority.


For Second Time, High School Forced to Reverse Ban on Christian Student Group

High school students in Long Island, N.Y., were recently denied the right to establish a club for Christian students by their school administrators. This marks the second time they’ve run into trouble.

Last year, John Raney, a 17-year-old student at Ward Melville High School, created Students United in Faith as an extracurricular club where Christian and non-Christian students could come together to discuss faith and pursue hunger-relief charity projects.

“I wanted to start the club because I thought it would provide a safe space for Christians to meet and talk about their faith,” Raney told Fox News.

Administrators at Raney’s high school were at first unwilling to allow the Christian club because of its religious nature. Superintendent Cheryl Pedisich later lifted the ban, however, and apologized after the Liberty Institute, a Texas-based legal organization dedicated to defending religious liberty, threatened to intervene.

Just a few weeks into the new school year, Raney received news that he and other Christian students were prohibited from forming a club yet again.

Upon being contacted by Raney, the Liberty Institute sent a letter to the school district advising it to accommodate the Christian club under the Equal Access Law, a federal statute enacted in 1984 mandating federally funded educational institutions to allow such clubs.

“Simply put, public schools cannot discriminate against religious clubs and must treat them equally, and provide them equal access to school facilities, as non-religious clubs,” wrote Attorney Hiram Sasser in the letter.

“I feel like they have something against me and my faith. I feel marginalized,” Raney told Fox News.

According to a chart published by the Liberty Institute, Ward Melville High School has 33 recognized extracurricular clubs ranging from the Women’s Forum and Robotics club to the Gay Straight Alliance.

School administrators told the National Catholic Register that “financial limitations” and the club’s failure to have 20 members were the primary reasons behind the decision to ban the club.

“The Constitution doesn’t start at the number 20,” Liberty Institute’s senior counsel Jeremy Dys told the Register. “[H]ere they are using majority numbers to kick minority students off campus: It’s wrong, it’s unconstitutional, and it has to stop—and we’re happy to take them to court to make sure that does stop.”

John Sheahan, an attorney for the school’s board of education, responded to the Liberty Institute via email Thursday declaring the district as having decided to “alter its position on this issue.”

“[T]he district will grant [Students United in Faith] recognition as a student group for the 2014-15 school year and reverses any contrary decision,” wrote Sheahan.

Ward Melville High School did not respond to The Daily Signal’s inquiry on their decision to  reverse the ban for a second time.


The Costs of Common Core Testing

Endless testing doesn't make education better

Common Core educational standards, like all recent attempts to expand federal control of the education system, rely heavily on standardized testing in their efforts to improve the competitiveness of American students. It seems that bureaucrats on educational boards are capable of no more creative idea than that repeatedly drilling facts into children’s heads and then testing them to within an inch of their life is the only way to improve educational outcomes.

The theory itself is grossly flawed and ignores entirely the myriad ways in which children learn and succeed, but the federal fixation on testing persists, and now we’re all going to have to pay a price for it. I speak not only of the price to the students’ sanity, to the teachers’ flexibility, and to parents’ peace of mind, all of which have been written about extensively, but the purely fiscal cost to state governments as well.

In Montana, a new analysis reveals that Common Core tests are going to cost $27 per student, which adds up to $2 million for the state budget. In New York, the cost is $25 per test, totaling a $129 million bill for the state.

“But we’re investing in our children’s futures!” I can already hear you crying. “How can you put a price on that?” This point would have more weight if the money was actually going to teach children more, to reduce class size, to improve school choice, or to acquire better teachers. It’s not. This is money that is spent solely on testing.

Why are states willing to shoulder this financial burden in order to implement standards that are confusing, infuriating, and ineffective? Well, increasingly, they aren’t. More and more states are adopting legislation to withdraw from Common Core in favor of state based standards or a rethinking of the entire system. Louisiana, Missouri, Oklahoma, South Carolina, and Utah have withdrawn, with many other states considering legislation to follow.

But the states that remain committed to the standards do so because of federal threats to withdraw funding from Race to the Top grants to any state that doesn’t comply with Common Core. These grants can amount to hundreds of millions of dollars per state, outstripping the testing cost associated with adoption of the standards.

Testing is not the same thing as education, and extracting taxpayer money to implement more standardization and centralization without addressing the root problems with the school system is irresponsible and wrongheaded.

Of course, testing is not the only cost associated with Common Core. In total, the standards are expected to cost between $3 billion and $12.1 billion nationwide. It’s just another example of Washington throwing good money after bad, the latest in a series of failed education policies that stress the “common” in everything but sense.


CA: Marshall Tuck wants to disrupt bad public schools

At last month’s gubernatorial debate, Republican hopeful Neel Kashkari praised Gov. Jerry Brown and Attorney General Kamala Harris for using their discretion not to appeal a court ruling that overturned California’s same-sex marriage ban. Kashkari then chided both Democrats for failing to use that same discretion when they appealed the Vergara court decision. The suit is named after Beatriz Vergara, one of nine students who sued to eliminate the state’s teacher tenure system.

Superior Court Judge Rolf M. Treu found that the state’s tenure and seniority system protect grossly ineffective teachers to an extent that “shocks the conscience.” He ruled that the system is unconstitutional. Brown and Harris appealed. Kashkari said: “Nine kids sued, Gov. Brown, and said their civil rights are being violated by a failing school. You sided with the union bosses. You should be ashamed of yourself.”

That exchange put Marshall Tuck in a quandary.

A Democrat running for California superintendent of public instruction, Tuck voted for Brown in the primary, even though he agrees with Kashkari on tenure. From 2002 to 2006, Tuck was president of Green Dot charter schools. Then-Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa enlisted Tuck to head the nonprofit Partnership for Los Angeles Schools to improve 17 public schools. In that role, Tuck saw how last-in, first-out policies led to huge teacher layoffs in inner-city schools. These schools, like Markham Middle School in Watts, hire a disproportionate number of young, new teachers. Tuck supported a successful lawsuit to stop those layoffs. Now he supports the Vergara students. Tenure, Tuck argues, is bad for urban students and bad for good teachers.

The incumbent state schools chief, Tom Torlakson, like Brown and Harris, filed an appeal to the Vergara ruling. At a recent Santa Clara forum, Torlakson dismissed the lawsuit as “blaming the teachers.” Torlakson is the beneficiary of $3 million campaign donation by the California Teachers Association before the June primary. Torlakson often frames the state’s sorry academic showing as a function of poor funding. The way to improve our schools is to “invest” more, he argued on KQED’s “Forum” on Thursday.

Tuck says that money without reform won’t serve low-performing students. That doesn’t make him anti-teacher, or even anti-labor. Green Dot charter schools is the rare charter shop that employs union teachers.

I’ve put off writing on Vergara for a few reasons. I support the concept — that is, I agree with critics who argue it should not take years and as much as $450,000 to get rid of grossly ineffective teachers. As Tuck argues, it should take longer than two years for public schools to grant tenure. Yet well-intentioned court rulings have been known to produce complicated formulas that undermine local school autonomy and fail to produce the intended effect for children. The bench isn’t supposed to write laws — or negotiate with unions. Sacramento and local officials should reform the system, not a lone judge.

While a skeptic, I do appreciate that Tuck doesn’t think the state Department of Education should use precious resources to defend a retention system that shortchanges students in inner-city districts. It’s a system not worthy of defense. “Vergara should never have to happen,” Tuck told me. Elected officials should have stepped in and gotten rid of last-in, first-out rules and granting tenure after just two years. Community colleges grant tenure after four years. State universities wait six to 10 years. That’s why, Tuck said, “The state should absolutely not be appealing this case.”

As for Torlakson, he seems too busy defending public schools to think about fixing them. Torlakson actually has attacked Tuck for working on Wall Street during his first two years out of college. That’s the sort of nasty salvo that made it easy for every major newspaper in California, including The Chronicle, to endorse Tuck.

Californians have a choice: Tuck comes across as a nimble problem-solver with a clear-eyed understanding of the terrain; when Torlakson complains about blaming teachers, he sounds like a mediocre teacher.

Over the week, Americans have had an ugly look at the U.S. Secret Service, an institution so beholden to its workforce that its leadership lost sight of its mission. Watch Torlakson defend the tenure system and you feel as if you are watching former Secret Service director Julia Pierson tell Congress she was serious about whipping her inept bureaucracy into shape.


Sunday, October 19, 2014

Universities are an unwelcoming environment for normal males

Higher education’s crusade against so-called ‘lad culture’ stretches far beyond the puritanical killjoys at the National Union of Students (NUS).

On both sides of the Atlantic, some university managers and academics have a serious issue with male students, and are on a mission to expunge from campus any whiff of laddishness. In the US, debate ensues about the possibility, rather than the desirability, of banning fraternities. While the legalities are batted to and fro, some institutions have introduced mixed-sex and alcohol-free regimes, effectively ending the tradition of all-male college associations. Those behind the new schemes obviously assume the presence of women will civilise the fraternities, which stand accused of promoting sexism and alcohol-fuelled risk-taking.

Meanwhile, in the UK, panics over misogyny and ‘rape culture’ have led Scottish academics to campaign for ‘lads’ mags’ to be banned from university shops, while misbehaving rugby club members at Oxford are being sent for re-education at sexual consent and ‘good lad’ workshops. All too often, men at university are seen as a problem, and men in groups even more so.

Such concerns go beyond the antics of all-male sports’ teams on a beery night out and carry over into the classroom. Male students are indicted for messing about, not taking their studies seriously and generally being disruptive. One group of academics has received funding to investigate the behaviour of men at university. Their advocacy research poses loaded questions such as: ‘How may lecturers and universities begin to challenge and change problematic “laddish” attitudes and behaviours?’

Perhaps unsurprisingly, these surveys have found that men ‘just don’t seem to really care, they just think it’s cool to sit there and talk’. Even relatively mild-mannered male students are considered to dominate seminars in a way that silences female voices. For some lecturers, it seems, the presence of men in their classroom is a particular challenge to be managed, rather than simply being part and parcel of the often mundane experience of teaching.

Even the quietest and most placid male students are seen as a problem for universities. Research conducted for the UK-based Equality Challenge Unit (ECU) suggests men are less likely to participate in academic mentoring programmes, are unwilling to ask their tutor for advice if they get a bad mark for a piece of work, and are less likely to attend tutorials.

Outside of the classroom, even sympathetic academics bemoan the reluctance of male students to engage with the ever-increasing array of student-support and wellbeing services on offer. When male students experience difficulties at university, they are more likely to keep it to themselves or turn to friends, perhaps even discussing their troubles over a beer, rather than using the institution’s qualified counsellors and support officers. This refusal to seek help when things go wrong is cited as the number-one explanation for men being significantly more likely than women to drop out of university before they’ve completed their degrees.

For those men who stay the course and complete their studies, the chances are they’ll perform less well than their female counterparts. Whereas 79 per cent of women get at least a 2.1 degree classification, only 70 per cent of men score this highly.

Importantly, this attainment gap exists even when comparing the results of students who entered university with exactly the same levels of prior academic achievement. Perhaps it’s not surprising, then, that boys vote with their feet and don’t apply to university in such large numbers in the first place: in Britain, 57.5 per cent of students are female. This overall statistic hides the fact that at some universities women outnumber men two to one, and on some courses, such as veterinary science and subjects allied to medicine, over 75 per cent of students are now female.

Despite making up a greater proportion of the overall population aged 18 to 21, men are less likely to go to university, more likely to drop out if they do get there, and, if they stay, are less likely to come out with a good degree pass.

Yet instead of this being seen as a cause for concern, attention is still focused on the experience of women. The Equality Challenge Unit awards a ‘Gender Equality Charter Mark’ to institutions that can demonstrate they have addressed gender inequalities, ‘in particular the underrepresentation of women in senior roles’. In addition, universities pour considerable resources into securing one of the ECU’s Athena Swan awards, which recognise commitment to ‘advancing women’s careers in science, technology, engineering, maths and medicine’.

In contrast, schemes aimed at tackling the underrepresentation of boys in higher education tend to be piecemeal, condescending and underfunded. The University of Edinburgh, for example, has launched Educated Pass, an initiative which aims to get boys hooked on university through links with local football clubs. Never mind the assumption that all boys are interested in football - more worrying is the idea that people working for universities can’t dream up a way to tell boys that higher education is exciting in its own terms.

The recruitment-through-football initiative sums up the mixed impression boys, and working-class boys in particular, are given about higher education. They are flattered and patronised to get them through the door of a university, and then, once inside, they witness staff and fellow students throw their hands up in horror at their unreconstructed male-ness.

In the feminised environment of today’s university, group work is often valued above individual performance, participation and effort are recognised as equivalent to achievement, and the single-minded pursuit of knowledge has been replaced by rewarding students who are most able to decry the arrogance of truth claims.

When the promotion of sustainability, citizenship and inclusivity trump inculcation into a world of knowledge, the physical presence of men on campus embodies a particular challenge to the values of the university as an institution, and to some lecturers as individuals.

Higher education currently has no place for the qualities traditionally associated with masculinity, and this message is conveyed to male students in all aspects of university life. It should hardly be surprising that, when made to feel so unwelcome, young men either rebel or vote with their feet.


Michigan: Mother Outraged over school assignment requiring students to proselytize for Islam

Proselytizing for Islam has increasingly become part of the public school curriculum nationwide. Common Core is notorious for this.   This is dawah — a religious imperative in Islam to invite, preach Islam to the non-believer.The curriculum does not include the wholesale slaughter of hundreds of Muslims non-Muslims and heretics  in jihad wars, land appropriations, annihilations and enslavements.

Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism are not promoted and preached. But parents must demand equal proselytizing time. This is a violation of the establishment clause.

A mother in Michigan took to Facebook last week to express her outrage over a 10th-grade school assignment that she felt promoted Islam.  In an initial post, Jennette Hall complained about a Jenison High School assignment that asked students to make a pamphlet about Islam. The post, which had been shared over 5,400 times as of Tuesday morning, said students were told the pamphlet would be used to “introduce Islam to 3rd graders.”

Several days later, Hall clarified in another post that her daughter’s assignment asked her to create a pamphlet about Islam geared towards third-graders, but that students were not actually expected to hand the materials out to younger children.

“This assignment upset me because they are presenting Allah as the same God of the Christians and Jews. This paper, in my opinion, is promoting Islam by describing Allahs names as ‘beautiful’. To me this is not simply factual like it should be,”

The school’s principal, Brandon Graham, responded in his own Facebook post over the weekend, saying he wanted to correct “inaccurate information” about the assignment.“While our high schoolers do study religions, the content is NOT presented to elementary students or used to proselytize in any way,” Graham wrote. “Furthermore, we *do indeed* teach Christianity along with other world religions.”

Graham further explained the assignment in an interview with a local Fox News affiliate.“The assignment was to cover the five major world religions: The religions included Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Islam,” Graham said. “In our social studies classes, we certainly study all those religions to learn how a people, group and culture function. It helps us understand culture.”

But on Facebook, Hall noted that she still takes issue with the assignment, even though she has no problem with students studying the five major world religions.“I was SHOCKED when my daughter showed me the pamphlet that she was required to make promoting Islam in a way 3rd graders could comprehend,” wrote Hall in her latest post. “As a mother who teaches her children that the One True Creator God is the GOD of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, it made me sick to my stomach to see my daughter promoting another god (Allah) as the One True Creator on a pamphlet!"

UPDATE: 10/8 — While Hall initially posted photos of her daughter’s assignment, she wrote on Facebook on Tuesday that she took them down after meeting with the school’s principal.

“In the meeting, Dr. Brandon Graham and others in attendance carefully listened to my concerns and are considering making some changes,” Hall wrote. Dr. Brandon Graham has asked me to remove my initial Facebook post and I have honored his request by removing the post from my Facebook page.

My intention was not to cause negative publicity to the school district, but only to speak up, ask questions, and stand firm for what I believe.”


Public Outcry Delays Vote on Minnesota Transgender Athlete Policy

Public outcry forced a delay in implementing a new state policy allowing transgender high school students taking sex hormones in Minnesota to play sports, use locker rooms and share hotel rooms with students of their chosen “gender identity.”

The draft of the Minnesota State High School League’s (MSHSL) policy proposal states that male-to-female transgender students can play on girls’ teams if they are currently on testosterone suppressants.

Similarly, female-to-male transgendered students can play on boys’ teams if they are taking testosterone. Transgender students would also be allowed to use “locker, shower and toilet facilities” and be assigned hotel rooms in accordance with their chosen “gender identity.”

Transgender students who request extra privacy, such as a separate shower or changing facility, should be accommodated if possible, the draft also states, "but they should not be required to use separate facilities."

However, the Minnesota Child Protection League (MCPL) ran a full-page ad in Minnesota's largest newspaper warning that high school boys would be allowed to shower in the girls' locker room, and an email campaign led by the Minnesota Catholic Conference (MCC) and the .Minnesota Family Council (MFC) mobilized to inform the public about the changes.

On October 2, the 19-member board unanimously decided to postpone a vote on the transgender policy after a contentious two-hour public hearing.

“After receiving what the Minnesota State High School League (MSHSL) Board revealed to be over 10,000 emails and then listening to public testimony yesterday overwhelmingly opposed to their proposed transgender policy for student athletics, the Board voted today to table the policy for further consideration at their December 4 meeting,” the MFC said in a press release.

The MCC organized the emailing campaign to stop implementation of the policy, noting that it prioritizes the privacy of transgender students by providing them special accommodations while disregarding the privacy rights of those who may feel uncomfortable changing or showering with a student who is biologically the opposite sex.

The group also cited worries that allowing male-to-female students to play on a girls’ team would be an unfair advantage, and said that the new policy would ultimately be harmful to teens because it “relies upon a contested view of gender identity confusion that could do students struggling with their gender more harm than good.”

The policy also does not provide a religious exemption for individual students or parochial schools, which the MCC says is contrary to state law. In addition, they say that forcing schools to build gender-neutral bathrooms or hold sensitivity training is an unfunded mandate.

“We firmly believe that all students should be permitted to play high school athletics within the realm of the school’s eligibility requirements, and this means that student athletes play within the bounds of physical realities—not ‘internal senses’—for the sake of all students involved,” MFC CEO John Helmberger said.

But Denise Specht, president of Education Minnesota, a teachers' union, said that she supports the proposed transgener policy.

“A safe and welcoming environment for our students matters a lot, whether it's in schools or extracurriculars," said Specht, reports. "We represent a lot of coaches, and coaches are really looking for guidance.”

However, MFC spokeswoman Autumn Leva pointed out that the proposed transgender policy contains no “objective standard” for determining which students would qualify, adding that “what we’re hearing from athletic directors is, ‘I don’t want to be in the position to determine a student’s gender’.”


‘This is not an education problem. This is a government problem’

The world needs more teachers like Susan Bowles. The kindergarten teacher at Lawton Chiles Elementary School in Gainesville risked her job to stand up for what she believes in.

What she believes is that conducting standardized testing three times a year, some of it required to be computerized, is simply not in the best interests of the kindergarten students she teaches.

Despite the risk of losing her job after 26 years of teaching, Bowles felt compelled to speak out.

And something amazing happened. Instead of her being fired or reprimanded, the policy was changed. The community rallied around Bowles after she took a stand. Now, K–2 grade students will not be required to take the FAIR tests that Bowles refused to administer.

In the letter Bowles wrote to parents, she explained that even though she would be in breach of contract, she couldn’t in good conscience give the test to her students. The FAIR testing would have meant kindergarten students being tested on a computer using a mouse, Bowles said.

Although many of her students are well-versed in using tablets or smart phones, most had not used a desktop computer before. Once an answer is clicked, even if a mistake was made and a student accidentally clicked the wrong place, there is no way to go back to correct it. This means the data that would have been collected would not have been accurate.

“While we were told it takes about 35 minutes to administer, we are finding that in actuality it is taking between 35-60 minutes per child,” Bowles wrote. “This assessment is given one-on-one. It is recommended that both teacher and child wear headphones during the test. Someone has forgotten there are other five-year-olds in our care.”

The problem is not with the people she works for, Bowles said. “This is not an education problem. This is a government problem,” she wrote.

Bowles was not directly named in the letter to parents from officials changing the testing policy, but the letter does mention the recent attention surrounding the issue.

Bowles was brave in facing down the school administration, state and local officials, and teachers unions who continually protect the status quo and each other. She stood up by herself with no way of knowing what the consequences would be.

Bowles told me she feels lucky to have had the opportunity to speak her mind, because her husband was supportive and her children are grown. After hearing the policy had changed, Bowles said, she “hugged, laughed, cried, and did a happy dance” with other teachers who had been waiting outside her classroom because they had already heard the news.

“I was surprised and pleased that they actually backtracked on the FAIR, suspending it for one year,” said Bowles, noting tension over standardized testing has increased because of Common Core. “Of course, the fear is it will be back next year with a few tweaks.

“This fight should continue — not just regarding the excessive testing that takes away from our children’s learning, but also for the standards that have been adopted that are not developmentally sound, at least for elementary students,” said Bowles. “I can speak for the elementary grades that any developmental psychologist or early childhood educator would tell you that these standards are inappropriate.”

Two bills have been introduced recently to decrease the federal footprint on standardized testing. Education Secretary Arne Duncan has spoken about the possibility of over-testing.

The hope is that these changes aren’t just lip service. Parents, teachers, and legislators will have to continue to fight for students and against the education establishment. The contrasting approaches of the federal government and Susan Bowles regarding how children should be educated suggest we all should support more local control rather than failing federal mandates.


Friday, October 17, 2014

Federally mandated and intrusive "training" at a community college

If you have been thinking all this time that federal funding of higher education doesn’t have content-control purse strings attached to it, guess what? You’ve been deluding yourself. And it’s time to wake up and smell the student programming:

“A new training at Laramie County Community College has reportedly been asking students some personal questions. In an effort to follow new federal rules, the college recently started requiring that students complete a new training, college president Joe Schaffer said at a recent Board of Trustees meeting.”

And what, you might ask, does that “training” consist of? “Drug and alcohol awareness and abuse, harassment and sexual conduct and violence… The training gives information on how to handle different situations …” Schaffer said.

But the “training – a mandated two-hour course – has some students up in arms. “Some of the topics covered and the questions have made students uncomfortable,” Schaffer said. “Some of the questions … have been about past sexual behavior or experiences.”

And just what “federal rules,” you might ask, necessitate LCCC’s delving into its students’ “sexual experiences”? Those would be the Department of Education’s Title IX regulations concerning sexual violence, along with the 1990 Clery Act, passed after Lehigh University student Jeanne Clery was raped and murdered in her dorm room in 1986.

Well, who doesn’t want to prevent campus sexual violence? That’s a laudable goal. But it’s highly questionable whether the approach taken by the feds will ever achieve it. I doubt that the next campus molester will be paying any attention to the mandates of the course. Unless someone wants to claim that respect for rights and a “sensitivity” to the needs of others has ever been at the top of a criminal’s concerns?

No, the solution to such travesties would be better security forces and stiffer prosecutions, not intrusive questions about students’ alcohol consumption or past sexual conduct, all in the name of “campus safety.”

But never mind all of that, for Mr. Schaffer continues: “It’s helpful for us to know, is this a major issue on our campus or not?”

I don’t know, Mr. Schaffer: Has anyone been raped and murdered in your campus dorms lately? But Mr. Schaffer doesn’t just stop there: “We can argue are (students) answering truthfully or not, and there is going to be some of that. But those questions are intended to get us an understanding of what students are doing.”

And that is the point where Mr. Schaffer unwittingly lets the federally mandated cat out of the bag. He reveals the real reason for this disaster of a “training” course: Not “campus safety” but to gain “an understanding of what students are doing.”

What’s next, Mr. Schaffer? Questions about political orientation? Or the financial histories of your students’ families?

If so, this wouldn’t be the first time a government that funded the educational system took such a course of action, as the Communists in the post-revolutionary Soviet Union were famous for purging university students who weren’t members of the Party or who had “bourgeoisie” parents. (So much for the “right” to an education.)

Yes, I know, Mr. Schaffer. You are only following the orders of your federal educrat masters. But I would like you to honestly tell me, if you can, that you aren’t busily realizing the fundamental precept lying at the root of this catastrophe: They who control the educational purse strings control the educational content as well.

Once that precept is implemented, Mr. Schaffer, the rest is merely a matter of time. As the federal takeover of all levels of education proceeds amok, count on it: More and more stipulations, requirements, decrees, edicts, directives, commandments, “training” courses and mandates will be passed on down from on high. And you – as college president – will eventually have to choose whether you want to be a fellow slave driver or whether you’ll resign and find honest work somewhere else.

But to be fair to you, it should be noted that you have been working with the questionnaire vendor to have some of the more offensive questions removed: “There are some questions that are very, very personal,” Schaffer said, “and from an institutional perspective, we don’t see how we would use that information in any productive way.”

Well, that’s a plus at least, Mr. Schaffer, and you deserve credit for that. But if you really want to scrap that questionnaire completely, there’s only one way you’ll be able to do it: Quit accepting the federal loot. For those dollars are the golden handcuffs by which your institutional sovereignty has disappeared.


Teachers Sue Union for Censoring Charitable Donations

Two teachers have taken Pennsylvania’s largest teachers union to court over its attempt to decide which charities may be supported by teachers as an alternative when they decline to join the union on religious grounds.

The teachers, Chris Meier from Lancaster County and Jane Ladley from Chester County, are required—as a condition of employment—either to be a member of the Pennsylvania State Education Association or pay a nonmember “fair share” fee of $435.

Last spring, PSEA accepted Meier and Ladley’s status as religious objectors. In lieu of paying membership dues, state law instructed the teachers to pay a “fair share” fee to a charity of their choice.

Pennsylvania law stipulates that religious objectors must select a “non-religious charity” that is “agreed upon” by the union, but it does not specify a procedure or deadline for reaching that agreement.

Meier, an Advanced Placement economics and history teacher, chose the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, which provides free legal advice and representation to teachers like himself.

But because that foundation represented teachers in unrelated lawsuits against the PSEA, the union told Meier his charity was a “conflict of interest,” and he must choose a different organization.

Meier, a father of three who calls himself a “bona fide religious objector” to the PSEA, was not going to give up easily.

“I want the freedom of choice—to be able to donate to the charity I choose,” he said in a press release.

Ladley, who is retiring this year after teaching students with learning disabilities for 25 years, initially chose a scholarship fund for high school seniors interested in studying the Constitution. But the PSEA sent her a letter in March saying she must choose a “nonpolitical” charity instead.

“I shouldn’t have to agree with the PSEA; that’s the whole point of being a religious objector,” she told The Daily Signal in a phone interview.

Ladley next selected the Constitutional Organization of Liberty, a charity that provides educational materials on the Constitution and American history. The teachers union didn’t respond to this second choice.

The two public school teachers, who are represented by lawyer Nathan R. Bohlander of the The Fairness Center, filed a lawsuit Sept. 18. They  argue:

The PSEA cannot maintain a unilateral ‘policy’ of withholding funds and restricting religious objectors’ choice of a substitute charity simply because the charity is, in the union’s view, ‘political,’ or otherwise takes positions with which the PSEA does not agree.

In blocking the teachers’ donations to certain organizations, Bohlander told The Daily Signal, the PSEA not only was enforcing “restrictive” policies but also being hypocritical.

“When the PSEA first told Ladley she could not give to political organizations, they gave her an approved list of 12 alternative organizations they supported,” the lawyer said.

After looking into those organizations, Bohlander found that “over half spend hundreds of thousands—or millions—of dollars on direct political lobbying,” while the organization Ladley chose is “dwarfed” in comparison.

PSEA spokesman David Broderic told The Patriot-News that the union only just learned of the lawsuit and is in the process of reviewing it. Broderic emphasized that  state law lays the foundation for the union policy.

We are charged with following the law. We make every effort to accommodate charitable requests. And we’ll continue to do that.

However, Bohlander said that promoting groups that the union fundamentally agrees with while inhibiting organizations with which it disagrees is “hypocritical.”

Now, Meier and Ladley’s donations are being held indefinitely in an interest-bearing escrow account —another issue their lawsuit seeks to address.

“There’s no mechanism for resolving this—it’s taken out automatically, and it can go out indefinitely without any resolution,” Bohlander said.

The money is not being used by the teachers, it’s not being used by the union, and it’s not being used by the charity. The relative size of a small charity like the one Ladley chose would be greatly benefited by $400.

The PSEA faced an Oct. 9 deadline to respond to the complaint by Ladley and Meier.

“They are telling me which groups I have to choose,” Ladley said of the union. “It’s a wrong that needs to be righted.”

Broderic, the union’s lawyer, also told The Patriot-News that Ladley and Meier were among only eight educators with religious objections to the “fair share” fee whose designated charities were under union review.

Of the union’s 180,000 members, he said, 200 have religious objections to paying the fee and their charitable choices were approved.


UK: National Union of Students refuses to condemn ISIS due to fears it would be 'Islamophobic'

The National Union of Students has come under fire after it refused to condemn ISIS - because of fears it was 'Islamophobic'.

Students put forward a motion at the body's National Executive Council meeting calling for the condemnation of terrorist atrocities and support for the Iraqi people.

But the call was defeated after a rebellion led by Black Students Officer Malia Bouattia, who said the motion was merely a 'justification for war'.

It comes a day after military chiefs from around the globe met to discuss the battle against ISIS and despite a number of Muslim leaders in Britain having condemned the extremist group.

One student, who wished to remain anonymous, said: 'Islamophobia is a meaningless term used by irrational people when unable to rebut a rational criticism.

'Malia Bouattia should realise how lucky she is to be able to stand up and express her opinions with freedom and security. 'She would not enjoy the same freedom if she were to visit the ISIS/ISIL that she refuses to condemn, and protested her opinions.'

Another added: 'I personally would find something rather Islamophobic in Ms Bouattia's idea that condemning ISIS is also to condemn the other, approximately two billion Muslims on the planet - who don't rape minorities or murder journalists.

'They don't want ISIS to carry out such attacks in the name of their religion, and who in the West have repeatedly begged not to be associated with the activities of "Islamic" State.

'If the vast majority of Muslim students in the UK are in fact repeatedly standing up and telling you that they don't like ISIS, that these terrorists don't represent their faith, that they don't want to be associated with them in any way - then how exactly is not condemning ISIS helping to fight Islamophobia?'

The motion, proposed by Daniel Cooper, was raised at the National Union of Students' NEC meeting at Derbyshire House in London in September.

It put forward seven suggestions as to how the body could support the ongoing battle with the Islamic State.

The motion stated: 'To work with the International Students’ Campaign to support Iraqi, Syrian and other international students in the UK affected by this situation.

'To campaign in solidarity with the Iraqi people and in particular support the hard-pressed student, workers' and women's organisations against all the competing nationalist and religious-right forces.

'To support Iraqis trying to bridge the Sunni-Shia divide to fight for equality and democracy, including defence of the rights of the Christian and Yazidi-Kurd minorities.

'To condemn the IS and support the Kurdish forces fighting against it, while expressing no confidence or trust in the US military intervention.

'Encourage students to boycott anyone found to be funding the IS or supplying them with goods, training, travel or soldiers.

'To make contact with Iraqi and Kurdish organisations, in Iraq and in the UK, in order to build solidarity and to support refugees. and To issue a statement on the above basis.'

But Birmingham student Malia Bouattia led a team who either abstained or voted against the proposal, leading to the motion's defeat.  She said: 'We recognise that condemnation of ISIS appears to have become a justification for war and blatant Islamaphobia.  'This rhetoric exacerbates the issue at hand and in essence is a further attack on those we aim to defend.

'The NUS Black Students' Campaign stands in support of Black communities across the globe and uncompromisingly against imperialism and Western interference which history shows all too often leads to the suffering of Black people.

'We stand in complete solidarity with the Kurdish people against the recent attacks by ISIS and join many others in condemnation of their brutal actions.

'The NUS Black Students' Campaign will be working with Kurdish students and the International Students Campaign to raise this issue within the NUS.'  She added that she will now begin work on a revised motion which will not be 'Islamophobic'.

But Daniel Cooper, who proposed the motion, said he could not see any signs of Islamophobia.

He said: 'I have looked again and again at the contents of the motion, yet I cannot track any Islamophobia or racism.

'There is a stranglehold of "identity politics" on the student movement.

'This is an issue which needs to be discussed in more depth, but essentially the idea is widespread that if a Liberation Officer opposes something, it must be bad.'

Earlier this year Muslim leaders in Britain condemned ISIS expressing their 'grave concern' at continued violence in its name.

Representatives from both the Sunni and Shia groups in the UK relayed their message that the militant group does not represent the majority of Muslims.

Shuja Shafi, of the Muslim Council of Great Britain, said at the time: 'Violence has no place in religion, violence has no religion.'

As international condemnation of the extremists continued to grow this week, US President Barack Obama met with representatives from a global coalition of 22 countries to discuss the battle against ISIS.

Representatives from Australia, Canada, Egypt, France, Iraq and Jordan were among those who attended the meeting.

In a statement, the NUS said: 'At our most recent NEC meeting, a motion on this issue was presented and voted on by all members.

'Some committee members felt that the wording of the motion being presented would unfairly demonise all Muslims rather than solely the group of people it set out to rightfully condemn.

'NUS does not support ISIS and a new motion will be taken to the next NUS National Executive Committee meeting, which will specifically condemn the politics and methods of ISIS and offer solidarity for the Kurdish people.'


Kafka Was the Rage:  At a Catholic school, a professor fighting the academic boycott of Israel is investigated on secret charges

By Doron Ben-Atar

The email arrived on the last Friday afternoon of the spring term shortly before 5:00 p.m. Anastasia Coleman, Fordham’s Director of Institutional Equity and Compliance, and its Title IX Coordinator, wanted to meet with me. “It has been alleged,” she wrote, “that you may have acted in an inappropriate way and possibly discriminated against another person at the University.”

I was stunned. My wife, kids and friends have been warning me for years that, in these prudish times, my outrageous sense of humor and intellectual irreverence (my last book is about bestiality) could get me in trouble. I imagined myself brought before an academic disciplinary tribunal from Francine Prose’s Blue Angel, where all my past transgressions would be marshaled to prove that I don’t belong in the classroom. My mind raced, recalling the many slips of the tongue I had in three decades of teaching. I perspired profusely and felt the onset of a stomach bug. What would I tell my mother?

“Did it have anything to do with a student?” I shot back anxiously, hoping to get a sense of my predicament before the director left for the weekend. I was lucky. Coleman responded immediately. “This does not involve students and is about your behavior regarding American Studies.”

What a relief. But it was also very odd. The decision of the American Studies Association to boycott Israeli universities in December 2013 had upset me. I wrote emails, circulated articles, and was pleased that my university president quickly declared his opposition to the measure. I joined a national steering committee that set out to fight the boycott and participated in the drafting of a few statements. As an American historian who delivered in 1987 his first paper at the annual meeting of the American Studies Association and served on the executive committee of Fordham’s American Studies program, I wanted Fordham’s program to sever official ties with the national organization until it rescinded the measure. Other programs have taken this courageous symbolic step, and I thought it proper for the Jesuit university of New York to take the moral stand against what most scholars of anti-Semitism consider anti-Semitic bigotry.

It was this stand that led Fordham’s Title IX officer to launch the proceedings. During an emotional meeting convened to discuss the appropriate response to the measure, I stated that should Fordham’s program fail to distance itself from the boycott, I will resign from the program and fight against it until it took a firm stand against bigotry. The program’s director, Michelle McGee, in turn filed a complaint against me with the Title IX office, charging that I threatened to destroy the program. (As if I could? And what does this have to do with Title IX?) This spurious complaint (the meeting’s minutes demonstrated that I did not make such a threat) ushered me into a bruising summer that taught me much about my colleagues, the university, and the price I must be willing to pay for taking on the rising tide of anti-Zionism on American campuses.

The following Monday, Coleman appeared in my office to conduct her investigation. Alas, she refused to explain what I was accused of specifically or how what I supposedly did amounted to a Title IX violation. Remaining vague, she hinted that others, including perhaps Fordham College’s dean, who chaired the fateful meeting, supported the complaint. Who are the others, I asked? Is there anything beyond that supposed one sentence? She would not disclose. I told Coleman that I took the complaint very seriously, but at the advice of my attorney I needed to think things through. Coleman told me she’d be in touch with my attorney, and we parted ways.

Over the next few weeks, Fordham’s general counsel, Tom DeJulio, and my attorney engaged in a few friendly conversations, in which we were led to believe that Fordham agreed I was perfectly within my First Amendment rights to oppose the boycott. We informed DeJulio that I’d be happy to meet with Coleman, even though we were still not informed what the specific charge was. I resigned from Fordham’s American Studies program because it refused to distance itself from anti-Semitic bigotry. Five other Jewish members of the program did the same. Not a single non-Jewish member resigned in solidarity.

Coleman never asked to meet me, and I assumed that the attempt to muzzle my opposition to the boycott died down. In late July, however, I received Coleman’s report in which she cleared me of the charge of religious discrimination. It was the first time that I learned what I was actually accused of doing, so I’m still not sure how opposing anti-Semitism amounts to religious discrimination. But Coleman was not satisfied to leave things at that. She went on to write that I refused to cooperate in the investigation (even though my attorney informed DeJulio weeks earlier of my willingness to meet her), and concluded that my decision to use an attorney was an indication of guilt. Coleman determined that in declaring I would quit the American Studies program should it not distance itself from anti-Semitism, I violated the university’s code of civility.

It was a sobering summer. I have had to defend my reputation against baseless, ever-evolving charges, ranging from sex discrimination to religious discrimination. I went through a Kafkaesque process in which I was never told exactly what I supposedly did wrong, nor was I ever shown anything in writing. Eventually I learned that the charge was religious discrimination born of my opposition to anti-Semitism. The implication is that anti-Semitism needs to be tolerated at Fordham, and that those who dare to fight it run afoul of university rules.

Administrators and colleagues failed to protect my First Amendment rights, and fed the assault on my character. A person utterly unqualified to understand anti-Semitism sat in judgment of a scholar who publishes on and teaches the subject. A report has been issued without letting me even defend myself. My choice to have legal representation has been cited as proof of my guilt. Most painful was realizing that my commitment to fighting anti-Semitism, so central to who I am, has been used against me in a most unethical manner not only by the member of the faculty who filed the baseless charge, but also by the office of the University Counsel.

Fordham remains my intellectual home. Some colleagues, appalled by the charge and proceedings, turned out to be actual loyal friends who supported me through the ordeal. But I also learned about another part of the university where colleagues resort to legal bullying to settle political scores; where heartfelt utterings at faculty brainstorming become evidence for politically motivated character assassinations; where those charged with protecting women against real abuses engage in a politically motivated witch-hunt; where fighting against the oldest hatred—anti-Semitism—makes one a pariah. The Jesuit University of New York should do better.


Thursday, October 16, 2014

Teacher Indoctrination

Students at several Jefferson County, Colorado, high schools walked out to protest the school board's recently proposed curriculum review committee that seeks to promote patriotism, respect for authority, free enterprise, plus the positive aspects of U.S. history.

The teachers union, whose members forced two high schools to close by calling in sick, is against the implementation of performance-based pay. The union has encouraged and applauded student protests against what it's calling academic censorship.

The average parent and taxpayer has little idea of what is being taught to our youngsters. In February 2006, I wrote a column titled "Indoctrination of Our Youth," followed in March with "Youth Indoctrination Update." Both columns focused on rants that a student secretly had recorded of a geography teacher at another Colorado school — Overland High School in Aurora. The teacher was Jay Bennish. He told his students that President George W. Bush's State of the Union address sounded "a lot like the things that Adolf Hitler used to say."

He continued, "Bush is threatening the whole planet." He then asked his students, "Who is probably the single most violent nation on planet Earth?" He shouted the answer, "The United States!" During this class session, Bennish peppered his 10th-grade class with other ridiculous statements, saying the U.S. has engaged in "7,000 terrorist attacks against Cuba" and telling his students capitalism "is at odds with humanity, at odds with caring and compassion ... (and) at odds with human rights."

Bennish reasoned with his class, "If we have the right to fly to Bolivia or Peru and drop chemical weapons (pesticides) on top of farmers' fields because we're afraid they might be growing coca and that could be turned into cocaine and sold to us, well, then don't the Peruvians and the Iranians and the Chinese have the right to invade America and drop chemical weapons over North Carolina to destroy the tobacco plants that are killing millions and millions of people in their countries every year and causing them billions of dollars in health care costs?" This kind of anti-American teaching might help explain why some Americans have joined the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.

Relevant to our struggle with ISIL is this observation by Bennish, reported by columnist Todd Manzi ( "You have to understand something. When al-Qaida attacked America on Sept. 11, in their view, they're not attacking innocent people. OK? The CIA has an office in the World Trade Center. The Pentagon is a military target. The White House was a military target. Congress is a military target. ... So in the minds of al-Qaida, they are not attacking innocent people; they are attacking legitimate targets."

This kind of teacher indoctrination is by no means restricted to Colorado. Many teachers, at all grades, use their classroom for environmental, anti-war, anti-capitalist and anti-parent propaganda. Some require their students to write letters to political figures to condemn public policy the teachers don't like. Dr. Thomas Sowell's "Inside American Education" (2003) documents numerous ways teachers attack parental authority. Teachers have asked third-graders, "How many of you ever wanted to beat up your parents?" In a high-school health class, students were asked, "How many of you hate your parents?"

We can't tell whether Jefferson County teachers are giving their students the same kind of anti-American indoctrination, because if there is not recorded evidence, they will deny brainwashing. If they are brainwashing students, then it's understandable why they are against the school board's curriculum review demanding that they promote patriotism, respect for authority, free enterprise and the positive aspects of U.S. history.

Parents should become more involved with their children's education. They should look at the textbooks used and examine their children's homework. Parents should show up en masse at PTA and board of education meetings to ensure that teachers confine their lessons to reading, writing and arithmetic and leave indoctrination to parents.

The most promising tool in the fight against teacher indoctrination and classroom misconduct is the microtechnology that enables students to secretly record and expose academic misconduct by teachers.



Where’s the Beef? You Won’t Find Any on ‘Meatless Mondays’ in This School District

TALLAHASSEE, Fla.—Students attending Sarasota County public schools might be wondering, “Where’s the beef?” The answer won’t be found between two buns, at least not on Mondays.

Sarasota County Schools kicked off a Meatless Monday campaign last week, nixing traditional protein-packed food items for vegetarian substitutes.

The program is part of “a popular international movement … to promote abstaining from meat one day a week for personal health and for the health of the planet,” reads a statement from a school district spokesman.

The program will continue every Monday for the rest of the school year, and vegetarian dishes will be offered alongside meats on other school days.

“In Sarasota County, we strive to provide a variety of food choices and saw this as an opportunity to showcase meals with legumes and other meat-free protein sources with which they may be unfamiliar,” said Karla Dumas, the district’s food and nutrition manager.

Meatless Monday is a project of the nonprofit Monday Campaigns, an initiative associated with Johns Hopkins, Columbia and Syracuse universities. It’s taken root in other parts of the country—mostly New York City and California—and has high-profile endorsements ranging from Michelle Obama to the U.S. Humane Society to vegetarian celebrities. Even Paul McCartney has advocated meat-free Mondays to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Sarasota is the first school district in Florida to partially ban meats from school menus, according to the Meatless Monday website.

On Mondays, as many as 42,000 students eating in the county’s 52 school cafeterias will choose between hummus, vegetable subs, veggie pasta bakes, spaghetti marinara and fiesta taco salads, along with other approved items.

The initiative was brought to Sarasota County Schools by Kristie Middleton, according to Middleton is a San Francisco-based manager of corporate policy and supply chain strategy at the Humane Society of the United States, according to her LinkedIn page.

“Participating in Meatless Monday, now a popular international movement, is a simple and effective way to help animals, go green, and become healthier,” says the U.S. Humane Society, a Washington D.C.-based advocacy group.

In Texas, Agricultural Commissioner Todd Staples called the program an “activist movement” and said in an editorial last month, “restricting children’s meal choice to not include meat is irresponsible.”


London School of Economics caught in sexism row after freshers' week leaflets brand women slags, trollops and mingers and ban 'homosexual debauchery'

London School of Economics, one of the world's top universities, is investigating its men's rugby club after members branded women slags, trollops and mingers and joked about banning 'homosexual debauchery' from their initiation.

The club's leaflets prompted a storm when they were dished out at the freshers' fair for the historically liberal university, where past students included John F Kennedy and David Attenborough.

LSE's leaders and the students' union are both investigating and may take disciplinary action against the team, whose seven-page leaflet was boasting about rugby players' social lives.

Today the rugby club apologised and revealed all members will attend a diversity 'workshop'.

It comes just weeks after a survey claimed a third of female students have suffered at the hands of 'lad culture', as the National Union of Students accused universities of not doing enough to stop it.

Scattered throughout the printed leaflets were demeaning references to 'Poly' students, from supposedly inferior former Polytechnics which have since become other universities.

They also described women as 'tasty', 'beast-like' and 'mingers', suggesting they only wanted to play sport so they could go drinking with men.

Initiations, the booklets suggested, would not tolerate 'Poly activities that involve faeces, genitalia, and outright homosexual debauchery'.

Another section suggested a committee member embodied everything the club holds dear - 'debauchery, hedonism and misogyny'.

Members of the club were encouraged to bring two bottles of wine each to a Friday night social, or three if they are 'Russian'.

The leaflet also boasted about the club's 'disgraceful' boozy Christmas Club dinner as 'similar to Oxford's infamous Bullingdon Club, but we don't pay for the damage afterwards!'.

And it mentioned a drunken 2005 incident which caused £30,000 damage to King's College London as a 'shameful orgy of destruction (or a blaze of glory depending on which way you look at it)'.

The leaflets were confiscated after a backlash on Twitter, where many of those who read them were 18-year-old students in their first week away from home.

They spread the leaflet using hashtags such as #homophobia and #everydaysexism and one postgraduate student, Michelle Warbis, called for 'immediate and drastic action to set precedent and underline that this behaviour is absolutely intolerable'.

One international relations student wrote: 'Disgusted with leaflets that LSE rugby club were handing out at freshers fair. Can't believe I study with such sexist, homophobic, snobs.'

History and philosophy student Nicola Sugden added: 'It seems LSE Men's Rugby couldn't even get beyond fresher's week without being sexist, homophobic, moronic and offensive. Way to go, guys.'

LSE's officer for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students Alex Leung added: 'Some people might see it as a joke but I think the leaflet has crossed the line.  'I am disappointed with Men's Rugby team. Everyone can play sports including rugby no matter what your sexual orientation.'

The captain of LSE's women's rugby club Julia Ryland said the team was 'outraged' by the leaflet.

She said: 'The Women’s Rugby team is one of the most successful teams in the LSE Athletic’s Union both due to its achievements in the university leagues, and in encouraging what is a minority sport to flourish.  'This is evident in its increasing numbers, from 20 members in 2012, to 70 in 2014.'

She added: 'We feel massively disappointed that this incident has occurred but also feel frustrated that the LSE rugby club has been portrayed in such a light when the Women’s team has worked so hard to combat this image.'

A spokesman for the LSE students' union said it 'immediately confiscated all materials and launched an investigation'.
The leaflet is the most overt, outrageous example of rape culture, and hopefully it'll help us rectify the problem

'This investigation will be thorough,' the spokesman added. 'It will hear from both individuals that complained and the Club itself. This will allow us to determine any appropriate action.

'We are also working with the School as they have received a wide number of complaints.

'We are committed to our equal opportunities policy and safeguarding our members.'

A university spokesman added: 'LSE has received complaints that a group of students has been distributing offensive leaflets which include unacceptable misogynistic and homophobic slurs. This incident is being investigated as a matter of priority.

'The School values its culture of diversity and tolerance; and seeks to uphold the highest possible standards of openness and respect.

'Should the behaviour of any individuals or groups be found to have fallen short of those standards, disciplinary action will be taken.'

The incident has sparked the latest in a string of concerns about the pressures of 'lad culture' at British universities.

Last month a survey claimed a third of women had suffered inappropriate behaviour.

The study was commissioned by the National Union of Students, which accused university authorities of not doing enough to tackle the issue.

The Universities of Oxford and Cambridge have even introduced a lecture for first-year students explaining the difference between consensual and non-consensual sex.

Cambridge was set to include the 30-minute workshops in its freshers' week itinerary in a bid to get newcomers talking about how to prevent rape and sexual assault.

Oxford is also holding classes in 20 of its colleges - and at the end of the sessions, an official will read out a statement which describes consent as 'active and willing'.


UK: Damning report into schools at centre of Trojan Horse plot finds boys and girls are still segregated, RE pupils have to teach themselves topics other than Islam and others went on secret trip to Saudi Arabia

Five Birmingham schools declared failing by inspectors in the wake of the alleged 'Trojan Horse' takeover plot by hardline Muslims have still not improved, Ofsted has warned.

In the first update following inspections earlier this year, the watchdog's chief Sir Michael Wilshaw said that 'too much poor practice remained unchallenged during the summer term'.

Ofsted also found it has taken too much time to appoint new governors and senior leaders at these schools, meaning that 'very little action' has been taken to address the serious concerns raised.

Ofsted said that the segregation of boys and girls at Park View Academy has not been tackled.  In one case, at Park View Academy, 'little had been done' to tackle segregation between the sexes, and encourage boys and girls to sit together in lessons and share ideas, inspectors warned.

At another school, Golden Hillock, teenagers studying for a GCSE in RE 'have to teach themselves for options other than Islam', Ofsted said, leaving students at a 'significant disadvantage'.

And at another school, Oldknow Academy in Small Heath, trustees were kept in the dark about a controversial trip to Saudi Arabia involving pupils.

Ofsted said: 'Worryingly, trustees were not aware that a visit to Saudi Arabia had taken place this year for pupils and staff, despite a similar trip last year receiving criticism from inspectors at the previous inspection due to failures in safeguarding.  'Indeed, they had been told by senior leaders that the visit had been cancelled.'

Oldknow came under fire in June after banning 'un-Islamic' tombolas and raffles at a fete and has now seen parents withdrawing their children from acts of collective worship, the new report found.

Responding to the latest report, shadow education secretary Tristram Hunt said: 'It is utterly incomprehensible that, six months after these serious concerns became public, David Cameron's Government has still not taken action, putting children at risk from radical, hardline agendas and damaging school standards. 'It is gross negligence from the Prime Minister and his Tory-led Government and they must urgently explain their inaction.'

In June, Ofsted issued a damning verdict on the running of a number of Birmingham's schools and declared five failing, placing them into special measures.

These schools were Golden Hillock School, Nansen Primary School and Park View Academy - all run by the Park View Educational Trust (PVET), as well as Oldknow Academy and Saltley School.

Four separate probes were conducted into the allegations in Birmingham, which were originally sparked by the 'Trojan Horse' letter - now widely believed to be a hoax - that referred to an alleged plot by hardline Muslims to seize control of a number of school governing boards in the city.

Following the publication of the investigations into the Trojan Horse scandal, ministers announced that in future, all schools will be required to 'actively promote' British values such as democracy, tolerance, mutual respect, the rule of law and individual liberty.

While plans have been drawn up to revamp the curriculum at each of the five schools inspected, these often lack the detail needed to ensure that action will be taken to actively promote these values and tolerance of different faiths, Ofsted said.

Inspectors conducted unannounced follow-up visits to the five schools, four of which are academies and the fifth run by the local council, during a week last month.

The findings also showed that staff at the schools had 'some optimism' that there would be changes, but they also raised concerns about equality and fairness.

Some staff said some people at their school hold jobs that they do not have the experience or qualifications for, the advice note said.

It also criticised Birmingham Council for failing to show Ofsted the plan it has drawn up in response to the findings of the investigations into the alleged Trojan Horse plot.

Sir Michael called on the Department for Education (DfE) to look at how it can take more rapid action to change the trustees and governors of an academy school when there are serious concerns about how it is being run.

In a statement issued to pupils' parents, the trustees and executive principal of the Park View Educational Trust said it had already addressed many of the issues raised by Ofsted.

'In the period of a month since the monitoring visits, the Trust's new transition plan has led to significant progress and this was highlighted by the Department for Education during their recent visits to our academies at the beginning of October,' the statement said.

'We remain realistic about the challenges ahead but are focused and determined to maintain rapid and sustained progress ahead of the next monitoring visits, which will provide a more authentic insight into the new leadership and governance arrangements.

'Students at our academies no longer face segregation in classes and several new opportunities are being welcomed.'