Wednesday, January 19, 2005


In spite of the "school wars," parents have felt safe taking their children to Sunday School to help build a solid moral foundation. But, have you looked at your church's Sunday School curriculum lately? You may be shocked to find tree-hugging, earth-worshipping paganism intermixed in the Christian lessons. Many churches are now using a Sunday School curriculum created by an organization in Colorado called "Group." There is nothing in Group's publications that tells who they are, what they believe in, or anything about the backgrounds of the creators of the materials. But Group curriculum is now sold in most Christian bookstores. The Group material offers "Hands-on Bible curriculum" and advocates a "new approach to learning."

A close inspection of Group's materials and teaching methods, however, shows it bears a close resemblance to the behavior-modification techniques of OBE. For example, under the sub-head "Successful Teaching: You can do it!" the teacher's manual asks the question - "What does active learning mean to you as a teacher? It takes a lot of pressure off because the spotlight shifts from you to the students. Instead of being the principle player, you become a guide and FACILITATOR." This is basic OBE classroom organization where students are not taught by a teacher, but are guided to learn on their own, as the class FACILITATOR simply suggests and gently directs toward a pre-programmed, psychology-driven lesson plan.....

And how about that pagan earth-worshipping? In a Group lesson entitled "hug a tree" students are led outside to an area with trees. A child is blindfolded and led to a tree where he/she is to hug it, and then feel the tree very carefully. "Try to learn everything about the tree that you can without looking at it." The student is led back to the group, spun around three times and the blindfold is removed.

The Group tree-hugging lesson goes on to instruct the facilitator "after everyone has hugged a tree, been spun around and sat down, remove the blindfolds and find out how many kids can identify the trees they hugged. If it's a nice day, sit down on the grass and discuss the experience." Questions for the "facilitator" to ask:

* How did it feel to hug a tree?
* How did you feel when you recognized the tree you hugged?
* What do you like about trees?

Here's another part of the lesson called "Life Applications." Children are to be taken on a walk around the outdoor area of the church. Once back inside "ask about the natural surroundings and human-made sounds. Talk about natural beauty and human-made pollution. If you want, have the kids go back outside and pick up any trash they saw on the walk." Question to ask: "How do you think God feels when he sees how people have messed up the beautiful world he created?" Children are then given a game to play to simulate pollution.

In a Group Workbook entitled: "Sunday School Specials" a chapter tells students that "real conservation means remembering to turn off lights, hiking or biking instead of hitching a car ride, and cooling off in the shade instead of in the air conditioning. Kids are often tempted to do things the easy way instead of the 'green' way. They need lots of encouragement and affirmation to develop and stick to an environment-conscious lifestyle..." That one line demonstrates an important key to the purpose of Group's Sunday School curriculum-to promote a political agenda based on pagan earth worship rather than Christian values.

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Throughout 2003 and into 2004, a surge of protests roiled American campuses. You probably think the kids were agitating against war in Iraq, right? Well, no. Students at UCLA, Michigan and many other schools were sponsoring bake sales to protest . . . affirmative action. For white students and faculty, a cookie cost (depending on the school) $1; blacks and Hispanics could buy one for a lot less.

The principle, the protesters observed, was just that governing university admission practices: rewarding people differently based on race. Indignant school officials charged the bake-sale organizers with "creating a hostile climate" for minority students, oblivious to the incoherence of their position. On what grounds could they favor race preferences in one area (admissions) and condemn them in the other (selling cookies) as racist? Several schools banned the sales, on flimsy pretexts, such as the organizers' lack of school food permits.

The protests shocked the mainstream press, but to close observers of America's college scene lately they came as no surprise. For decades, conservative critics have bemoaned academe's monolithically liberal culture. Parents, critics note, spend fortunes to send their kids to top colleges, and then watch helplessly as the schools cram them with a diet of politically correct leftism often wholly opposed to mom and dad's own values.

But the left's long dominion over the university--the last place on earth that lefty power would break up, conservatives believed--is showing its first signs of weakening. The change isn't coming from the schools' faculty lounges and administrative offices, of course. It's coming from self-organizing right-of-center students and several innovative outside groups working to bypass the academy's elite gatekeepers.

Today's right-leaning kids sure don't look much like the Bill Buckley-style young Republicans of yesteryear. "Conservative students today will be wearing the same T-shirts, sneakers and jeans that you find on most 19-year-old college kids," says Sarah Longwell of the Delaware-based Intercollegiate Studies Institute, which promotes the Western intellectual tradition on campuses. Jordana Starr, a right-of-center political science and philosophy major at Tufts, tartly adds that you can spot a student leftist pretty fast: "They're the ones who appear not to have seen a shower in some time, nor a laundromat."

The new-millennium campus conservative is comfortably at home in popular culture, as I've found interviewing 50 or so from across the country. A favorite TV show, for instance, is Comedy Central's breathtakingly vulgar cartoon "South Park." "Not only is it hilariously uncouth, but it also criticizes the hypocrisy of liberals," explains Washington University economics major Matt Arnold. "The funniest part is that most liberals watch the show but are so stupid that they're unaware they're being made fun of," he adds, uncharitably. The young conservatives, again like typical college kids, also play their iPods night and day, listening less to Bach and Beethoven than to alt-rock, country-and-western and hip-hop.

Yet the opinions of these kids are about as far from the New York Times as one gets. Affirmative action particularly exasperates them. Chris Pizzo, a political science major who edits Boston College's conservative paper, the Observer, points to wealthy Cuban-American friends from his native Florida, "raised with at least the same advantages and in the same environment that I was," yet far likelier to get into the top schools. Where's the justice in that?"

Worse still, many students argue, preferences carry the racist implication that blacks and Hispanics can't compete on pure merit--an implication that holds minorities back. "Affirmative action has a detrimental effect on the black community, whether or not we're willing to admit it," says Jana Hardy, a biracial recent Claremont McKenna grad now working in urban planning.

The war on terror, including in Iraq, drew strong support from most of the students. Typical was Cornell classics major Sharon Ruth Stewart, mildly libertarian--except when it comes to fighting terror. "We have to use any and all means to defend ourselves from the terrorists, who hate the American way of life even more than the French and Germans do," she says. "That means bunker-busters, covert ops--whatever ensures America is safe." University of Maryland junior Nathan Kennedy is just as tough-minded. "I am full-fledged on board with the Iraq war," he says. "We've brought the fight to the terrorists' door, dealing with the radical fundamentalist Arabs who want us all dead."

What accounts for the growing conservatism of college students? After 9/11, many collegians came to distrust the U.N.-loving left to defend the nation with vigor. As of late 2003, college students backed the war more strongly than the overall American population. Notes Edward Morrissey, "Captain Ed" of the popular conservative blog Captain's Quarters, these kids "grew up on . . . moral relativism and internationalism, constantly fed the line that there was no such thing as evil in the world, only misunderstandings." Suddenly, on 9/11, this generation discovered that "there are enemies and they wanted to kill Americans in large numbers, and that a good portion of what they'd been taught was drizzly pap."

Yet a deeper reason for the rightward shift, which began well before 9/11, is the left's broader intellectual and political failure. American college kids grew up in an era that witnessed both communism's fall and the unchained U.S. economy's breathtaking productivity surge. They've seen that anyone willing to work hard--regardless of race or sex--can thrive in such an opportunity-rich system. "I'm only 20, so I don't remember segregation or the oppression of women--in fact, my mother had a very successful career since I was a kid," one student observed in an online discussion. "I look around and don't see any discrimination against minorities or women." Left-wing charges of U.S. economic injustice sound like so much BS to many kids today.

The destructive effects of "just do it" values on the family are equally evident to many undergrads, who have painfully felt those effects themselves or watched them rip up the homes of their friends. They turn to family values with the enthusiasm of converts. Even their support of homosexual civil unions may spring from their rejection of the world of casual hookups, broken marriages and wounded children that liberalism has produced. "Heterosexuals have already done a decent job of cheapening marriage on their own," observes Vanderbilt's Miss Malinee.

The leftism that so angers these students includes the hey-ho-Western-civ-has-got-to-go theories that inform college courses from coast to coast. "In too many classrooms," says former education secretary William Bennett, "radical professors teach their students that Western thought is suspect, that Enlightenment ideals are inherently oppressive and that the basic principles of the American founding are not 'relevant' to our time."....

Conservatives still have a long, long way to go before they can proclaim the left's control over the campus broken. The professorate remains a solidly left-wing body, more likely to assign Barbara Ehrenreich than Milton Friedman, Michel Foucault than Michael Oakeshott, and nothing, not even David Horowitz's indefatigable activism, is going to change that soon.

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More so than in most professions, teachers don't particularly like teaching. Consider this: an astonishing 20 per cent of Australian teachers leave teaching within their first three to five years. In some parts of Australia, 50 per cent leave. The University of Sydney's Dr Jacqueline Manuel describes teaching as "the profession that eats its young".

Some of those who leave come back later. In fact, leaving, trying something else, and then returning is common in teaching. Some leave to start families, some leave to broaden their experience, and others treat teaching as a job of last resort.... If only there was a way to make teachers more serious about staying teachers. The Teachers Federation suggests higher salaries. Surprisingly, it's a proposition not strongly supported by evidence.

Melbourne University's Dr Michael Shields has examined the movement of teachers in Britain. He finds that most teachers who leave go to jobs that pay less than they got teaching, typically 22 per cent less expressed as an hourly wage. The new jobs have longer hours as well. Teachers are prepared to give up money and work longer hours in order to get out. Shields has modelled the effect of a boost in teacher salaries of 10 per cent. He finds it would cut resignations by less than 1 per cent.

That isn't to say that higher salaries might not be important as part of a broader package of measures designed to get teachers to feel better about teaching. The 2001 Vinson report into public education described higher pay as a "gesture" and said that morale among teachers was so low that no other gesture could substitute for improved salaries.

But by itself higher pay would be wasted. There is something fundamental about the job or the way we ask people to do the job that makes teaching unsustainable for so many of our teachers. For some it's a love-hate thing. Teachers report both greater levels of job satisfaction than other people and higher levels of stress. My father told me that teaching was the only job he knew in which every day he faced people trying to stop him achieving what he was employed to achieve. They were called students.

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For greatest efficiency, lowest cost and maximum choice, ALL schools should be privately owned and run -- with government-paid vouchers for the poor and minimal regulation.

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