Saturday, April 15, 2006


The lesson of Gideon is obviously lost on them. But they would probably think that Gideon is the guy who puts Bibles in hotel rooms

At Notre Dame, the Lenten liturgical calendar is still observed. On Ash Wednesday, many foreheads are gray with ashes, no meat is served on Fridays in the dining halls and now, during Holy Week, hundreds of students drag an enormous cross around campus while observing the Stations of the Cross.

Yet Notre Dame's Lenten season has taken on a different character during the past several years, since "The Vagina Monologues" and the Queer Film Festival have been added to the extracurricular calendar. Not surprisingly, many find these performances inappropriate at Notre Dame, given their explicit attacks on central Catholic teachings.

The previous president of Notre Dame, the Rev. Edward "Monk" Malloy, refused to interfere in these events. But Notre Dame's new president, the Rev. John Jenkins, expressed uneasiness with them after he took office last year. He did not ban them outright, though, saying that he would render his final decision after sufficient discussion had taken place. He convened campuswide meetings for that purpose.

Most campus observers assumed that, given his stated concerns, Father Jenkins would place some restrictions on the play and the film festival. Both Providence College and the Catholic University of America had earlier this year banned "The Vagina Monologues." Father Jenkins's superior in the Holy Cross religious order, to which he belongs, had banned performances of the play at the University of Portland. Bishop John D'Arcy, much respected in the South Bend, Ind., community and much loved by Notre Dame students, had also spoken out against both the play and the festival.

Thus there was a great deal of surprise when, in the days before Holy Week, Father Jenkins announced: "I see no reason to prohibit performances of 'The Vagina Monologues' on campus, and do not intend to do so." As for the film festival, that too will be allowed to continue. Those faculty members who, the week before, had been plotting Father Jenkins's removal from office for even discussing possible restrictions now congratulated him, and his former student critics praised him as a champion of personal freedom.

Although Father Jenkins called his announcement the "Closing Statement," the debate is unlikely to go away. More is at stake than the fairly standard, indeed humdrum, questions about "censorship" and "free speech" on campus. To some of us--and I speak as a Notre Dame professor--Father Jenkins's decision is one more step in a long process of secularization: It has already radically changed the major Protestant universities in this country; it is now proceeding apace at the Catholic ones.

At Notre Dame, this secularization is most evident in the composition of the faculty. While roughly 85% of Notre Dame students are Catholic, the percentage of Catholic faculty has dropped precipitously in the past few decades, reaching its current number of barely 50%, and there is no sign that this trend will be reversed. More important, the debate initiated by Father Jenkins exposed a great deal of hostility among faculty members toward traditional Catholic teachings as well as a confusion about the nature of Catholic higher education itself.

The Rev. Bill Miscamble, a distinguished historian and former rector of the campus seminary, expressed the disappointment that many of us feel at Father Jenkins's decision. He suggested that it had "brought most joy to those who care least about Notre Dame's Catholic mission." He criticized Father Jenkins in an open letter to him: "You were called to be courageous and you settled for being popular."

Such commotion comes 15 years after the promulgation of Ex Corde Ecclesiae, Pope John Paul II's encyclical aimed at ensuring the orthodoxy of Catholic theology departments. It is not evident that the encyclical has been properly followed. Very few administrators at Catholic colleges and universities are willing publicly to discuss their conformity with its requirements.

Father Jenkins's retreat on "The Vagina Monologues" and the Queer Film Festival raises questions about whether Notre Dame has the will to retain its Catholic distinctiveness in the face of a hostile culture and whether it can do so with a faculty that seems largely out of sympathy with Catholic tradition. It is a good time to contemplate such questions, the holiest week of the calendar, when Christians celebrate ultimate victory emerging from apparent defeat.



When Ali Hellberg, 19, was in prep school, she said several of her classmates obtained notes from psychologists diagnosing them with learning disabilities, even though they didn't have any learning problems. They faked learning disabilities to get extra time to take the Scholastic Aptitude Test, or SAT, in the hopes of getting a higher score, she said. "I had a friend who is a good math student but is no math brain, and she got extended time and got a perfect score on her math SAT," Hellberg said. That friend now attends an Ivy League school.

Some call this scheme the rich-kids loophole. With intense competition to get into Ivy League and other elite colleges, students say they need nearly perfect SAT scores, as well as great grades and impressive extra-curricular activities. A rising chorus of critics say high school students from wealthy ZIP codes and elite schools obtain questionable diagnoses of learning disabilities to secure extra time to take the SATs and beef up their scores.

Hellberg believes that to get into Harvard or Princeton, she'd need to score at least a 1500. The highest SAT score is 1600. "I got below 1400 and I knew I didn't have a shot getting into an Ivy despite my grades and extra-curriculars," she said.

Approximately 300,000 students will take the three-hour-and-forty-five-minute SAT this Saturday; about 30,000 taking the test this year will be given special accommodations, including extra time. For decades, the College Board, which administers the SAT, has allowed up to twice as much time to accommodate students who have legitimate learning disabilities, such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. But with college admissions more competitive than ever, guidance counselors and other educators say privileged kids have gamed the system.

At the elite Wayland High school outside Boston, the number of students receiving special accommodations is more than 12 percent, more than six times the estimated national average of high school students with learning disabilities.



Boring classes help children to grow up and prepare for life in a world that is not always "a Disney ride", teachers said yesterday. Learning multiplication tables or long division might seem tedious, they said, but were vital for developing a child's knowledge. Speaking at the annual conference of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers in Gateshead, Michael Boakes, an English teacher, said that children had to accept that boredom was a fact of life. "It's a necessary part of development to realise that life's not going to be a Disney ride 100 per cent of the time. We're not going to be all-singing, all-dancing all of the time and you'll find that's real life," he said. He called for the review of school inspectors' assessment criteria. Teachers were failed if some children became bored in a class, he said, which was "grossly unfair".

Barry Williams, a teacher at Hertford Regional College, said that he produced lessons to prepare children for life, including watching party political broadcasts, but that some inspectors did not always recognise this. He said: "My lessons are not boring. They are sometimes not wonderful for everybody, sometimes for me. But they are not boring. I am, in fact, producing adults who will be able to watch party political broadcasts."

Zoe Fail, a maths teacher from Kent, added: "Being bored encourages thinking skills and imaginative play. I remember being bored, but I'm not bored now because I know how to deal with it."



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.

The NEA and similar unions worldwide believe that children should be thoroughly indoctrinated with Green/Left, feminist/homosexual ideology but the "3 R's" are something that kids should just be allowed to "discover"

Comments? Email me here. For times when is playing up, there is a mirror of this site (viewable even in China!) here. My home page is here


No comments: