Thursday, August 31, 2006


SF caters to the odd kids of its odd citizens

Park Day School is throwing out gender boundaries. Teachers at the private Oakland elementary school have stopped asking the children to line up according to sex when walking to and from class. They now let boys play girls and girls play boys in skits. And there's a unisex bathroom. Admissions director Flo Hodes is even a little apologetic that she still balances classes by gender.

Park Day's gender-neutral metamorphosis happened over the past few years, as applications trickled in for kindergartners who didn't fit on either side of the gender line. One girl enrolled as a boy, and there were other children who didn't dress or act in gender-typical ways. Last year the school hired a consultant to help the staff accommodate these new students. "We had to ask ourselves, what is gender for young children?" Hodes said. "It's coming up more and more."

Park Day's staff members are among a growing number of educators and parents who are acknowledging gender variance in very young children. Aurora School, another private elementary school in Oakland, also is seeing children who are "gender fluid" and hired a clinical psychologist to conduct staff training. Children with gender variant behaviors feel intensely that they want to look and act like the other sex. They prefer toys and activities typical of the opposite gender. Signs usually start appearing between the ages of 2 and 4.

For some children, it's a passing phase. Some grow up to be heterosexual, some gay. Some children insist they are the opposite sex although they might have a hard time explaining it. One nurse therapist said a boy once told her, "I think I swallowed a girl." "The point is we don't know the outcome and don't need to know," said Catherine Tuerk, who runs the gender variance outreach program at Children's National Medical Center in Washington, D.C., considered a leader in the field. "What we need is a place where children can express what they want to," said Tuerk, who has been working on gender variance for three decades.

Kids have always explored gender roles, but precisely how many exhibit gender variance has not been estimated, said Dr. Edgardo Menvielle, associate professor of psychiatry with the Children's National Medical Center in Washington, D.C. "What is new is how parents and educators are addressing it and being open to it at earlier ages," said Taneika Taylor of the Gender Public Advocacy Coalition, an organization in Washington, D.C., that is trying to end discrimination and violence caused by gender stereotypes. This increased awareness, Taylor said, is fueled partly by the availability of information on the Internet and television. As the school year begins, new Web sites, e-mail support groups, educational materials and conferences offer support and education for parents and teachers of kids who defy gender stereotypes.

Their common message is not to try to change who these kids are, though mainstream mental health professionals are not unified. Some believe such feelings can and should be extinguished through therapy; others believe that can destroy children's self-esteem. "If you are forced to be something you don't want to be as a kid, you are miserable," said Carla Odiaga of Boston, the consultant hired at Park Day. Odiaga speaks from a decade of experience counseling lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender teens who she says are scarred by early memories -- a daughter forced to dress like a girl or a son whose dad hit him when he refused to play sports.

In the worst cases, children pushed by parents and picked on by peers grow depressed, suicidal or physically ill, said Caitlin Ryan, a clinical social worker at San Francisco State University who is conducting a long-term survey of gay youths and their families. She said many adolescents she talked to were picked on from kindergarten age -- long before they knew their sexual identity -- for looking or acting "too feminine" or "too butch."

Gender variance is an especially touchy topic when young children are the subjects. The Traditional Values Coalition calls efforts to accommodate these kids "normalizing the abnormal." The group's executive director, Andrea Lafferty, said gender variance is a Bay Area phenomenon. "If you talk to your typical person across America, they would be appalled," she said. "God made us male and female, and God makes no mistakes. To teach a child at an early age self-hatred, and that's what this gender variance is, is very sad."

Warren Throckmorton, an associate professor of psychology at Grove City College in Pennsylvania known for his work in the so-called ex-gay movement, agrees that some gender-variant children could be redirected to their birth sex. "I've treated kids who were quite sure they were the opposite gender and are now are quite consistent in their behavior and their feelings with their biological sex," said Throckmorton. But he warned against dogma on either side of the debate. "It's so individual. I don't want to say there's one answer."

Dr. Herb Schreier, a psychiatrist with Children's Hospital & Research Center Oakland who leads a gender variance support group, said studies show children's feelings about their gender are "hardwired" at birth. "It's really important that the public be aware this is not something parents can turn their kids into. The data is very clear on this," Schreier said.

More here

Educational racism in California?

State legislators want to put ESL kids in a corner with different textbooks, and are willing to punish Board of Education members who don't want to revisit the bad old days

California was suposed to have learned a sad but important lesson from its years of experimenting with bilingual education: When you isolate a group of largely poor, minority students and give them different instruction from what other students receive, they tend to get a dumbed-down, second-rate education. Unfortunately, that lesson hasn't fully sunk in. Nor has the idea that playground politics and retribution are not in the best interests of schoolchildren.

This spring, the Assn. of California School Administrators and more than 30 school districts presented to the state Board of Education a flawed proposal to offer English-language learners a simpler language-arts curriculum, with separate textbooks. The plan, called Option VI, would require those students to devote 2 1/2 hours a day learning from texts with shorter words and bigger pictures. Either teachers would have to somehow teach two curriculums at the same time ­ one for English speakers, one for the rest ­ or the English learners would have to be separated out. Either way, students lose.

The board, which is responsible for setting standards and choosing curriculum and textbooks, rightly rejected Option VI as a regressive return to the days of lower expectations for children of color. That's when Sacramento got silly. In a fit of pique, the Legislature stripped all funding for board members' support staff. That triggered the resignation of board President Glee Johnson, and other members considered following her lead. Sen. Martha Escutia (D-Whittier) introduced a measure to restore the money but still override the board's decision. This is a juvenile way to deal with an adult problem.

California has embarked on a steep and difficult climb ­ one that is far from complete ­ to set higher standards, adopt strong curriculum and apply those standards and curriculum evenly so that inner-city students get the same education as their more affluent peers. It is true that the state's core English curriculum is, in many ways, a tough fit for the 1.6 million children in California who can't yet speak the language. Teachers have been scrambling to bridge the gaps, and they are pleading for help. The Board of Education did approve an extra hour of English instruction for those students, but that's not enough to make up for the 2 1/2 hours each day in which children feel lost amid material they don't comprehend.

Extra help is a valuable thing, but a wholly different curriculum for English learners reopens the door to the days of lower standards for the nation's immigrant children. Escutia's bill should be dumped, the Legislature should stop playing petty politics with the budget, and both sides should work out a solution that gives teachers the tools to help all students learn the same rigorous curriculum.


Australia now educating lots of Brits

That their own government cannot afford to educate

For most British youngsters, Australia and New Zealand are unbeatable places to while away a gap year. But now increasing numbers are being lured Down Under to further their education. Since 2002 the number of British students seeking to study at under and postgraduate level there has risen by more than a third, with more than 6,250 studying there last year alone. This year, as 53,000 students look unlikely to gain places at British universities, five leading antipodean institutions are offering scholarships to encourage them to look farther afield.

Sports sciences, health sciences and Asian studies have attracted British students in the past, but now people who want to study medicine or veterinary science but have failed to gain a place at a university in Britain are considering the move, says Kathleen Devereux, from the Australian Trade Commission. "You'd think of the UK market as being a fairly mature market, but we have had 12 per cent year-on-year growth from 2002 to 2005, which is extraordinary," she said.

With Australian fees averaging between 4,800 and 10,000 pounds a year, payable each term, the courses are more expensive than those in England, which has 3,000 pound fees payable on graduation. Fees for degrees in medicine, dentistry and veterinary sciences are higher still. But with lower living costs, a strong pound, and thirteen Australian and three New Zealand universities in the world top 200 universities, according to the Times Higher Education Supplement, they are a big draw. "Tuition fees bring into parity the cost of going to a British or Australian university at undergraduate level. The fees in Australia are higher, but the living expenses are much less, so it's an attractive alternative," Ms Devereux said.

Of the 3,888 British students in Australia last year, more than half were undergraduates. By June this year 3,328 students had registered.



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"

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