Saturday, April 02, 2005


They value education too much to put up with such nonsense

Chinese American families upset over their children's assignments to San Francisco public schools are again holding contentious meetings with school board members, staging protests and considering keeping their kids out of classes when the new school year begins in August. It's a swelling of anger not seen since two years ago, when some families stormed Superintendent Arlene Ackerman's office and police were called. About 25 families kept their children out of school for six weeks in protest then. At issue is the school district's court-ordered desegregation system, scheduled to expire in December, which is intended to give all students a shot at the best schools, regardless of where they live. The process of matching students to schools takes into account a student's top seven choices and the student's socio-economic status. The way it works out is that some students are sent away from their neighborhoods. A third of the district's 57,000 students are Chinese American. Many of them live on the city's west side, home to several of the highest- performing schools, and expect that their addresses will make them a shoo-in to attend those schools.

On Wednesday afternoon, a few dozen parents and children staged a demonstration in front of the school district headquarters on Franklin Street. One of the protesters, Patrick Yu, 48 -- who lives with his wife and 10- year-old son, Hiram, and another family in a home in the Outer Sunset -- wanted his son to attend middle school at A.P. Giannini, Hoover or Presidio. But Hiram was assigned to Aptos near St. Francis Wood -- which would require his taking two Muni buses, Yu said. The families are calling for more seats to be made available at certain schools and a review of the student-placement program to see if it unfairly impacts them.

The day before Wednesday's demonstration, there was a contentious, four- hour meeting between 200 angry parents and Board of Education president Eric Mar. The group is considering a one-week walkout when school starts. The complaints have been heard before, but this year is the perfect time to fight for change, said David Lee, executive director of the Chinese American Voters Committee. The desegregation system expires and the school board will determine what sort of assignment process it will adopt for the 2006-07 school year. In addition, the school board is now led by President Mar and Vice President Norman Yee, both Chinese Americans. "This year is key year -- a pivotal year -- for the Chinese community, particularly Chinese activists who are interested in this issue, to mobilize, " Lee said.

More here


College-age Republicans told lawmakers Wednesday that Maine needs a law to make sure divergent political viewpoints are welcome on the campuses of the state's colleges and universities. Supporters of the bill - An Act to Create an Academic Bill of Rights - said such a document would free students and faculty at state-funded schools to express their political or philosophical views without fear of retaliation. The legislation, which is being considered by the Legislature's Education and Cultural Affairs Committee, reflects a belief among political and social conservatives around the country that their views are neglected in classroom and campus discussions. Similar legislation has been proposed in other states in recent years. "I am here today with my fellow College Republicans because I feel you must be made aware of a scary trend occurring on all Maine campuses," said Mia Dow, a member of the College Republicans at the University of Maine, Orono. "I have been taunted, sworn at and humiliated beyond the realm of imagination, and I am sick of this treatment," she said. Testimony continued late into the evening as legislators, professors and other young Republicans from campuses around the state spoke in favor of the bill. The committee is expected to discuss the bill in a workshop before voting on it.

Opponents said such a bill could stifle discussion on controversial topics. Allen Berger, provost and vice president for Academic Affairs at the University of Maine at Farmington, said requiring faculty to abide by "definitions imposed by outsiders and possibly measured by political standards that diverge from academic criteria would be to severely constrain their academic freedom."

But Jon Reisman, professor at the University of Maine at Machias, supported the bill. Colleges around the state have made strides in the last decade to combat discrimination in areas of gender and ethnicity, he said, but intellectual diversity is now at risk. "We don't have intellectual pluralism on our campuses today and the research shows it," he said. Students feel they face the possibility of bad grades if their political or religious views differ with that of a teacher, said Melissa Simones, a junior at Bates College in Lewiston.

The bill's sponsor, Rep. Stephen Bowen, R-Rockport, said the goal of any university is to expose students to a variety of experiences and ideas. The bill of rights would require universities to establish procedures for hearing complaints of discrimination based on a person's political and social beliefs. It also would prohibit colleges from considering such beliefs in hiring or firing of faculty. One committee member, Rep. Connie Goldman, D-Cape Elizabeth, said hiring and firing decisions are not always that clear-cut. "How much of this is plain out bad teaching and how much is a personal bias," she said.

More here


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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