Wednesday, November 01, 2006


The University of California and an association of fundamentalist Christian schools are heading for a showdown over their competing views of academic freedom. The conflict erupted over a decision by UC admissions officers a couple of years ago to reject future proposals for high school curricula based on certain Christian textbooks published by Bob Jones University Press of South Carolina and A Beka Books of Florida. Approval was not withdrawn from courses that already received an OK.

The Christian schools sued UC, asserting a right to teach the viewpoints they choose. A federal judge in Los Angeles has refused to throw out the suit, ruling in August that the schools should have a chance to prove that religious discrimination was behind UC's decision. A two- or three-week trial is expected in 2007.

Among the books are a physics text that treats the Bible as infallible truth and a biology text that calls evolution "a retreat from science." American history, government and literature texts also are at issue.

The 4,000-member Association of Christian Schools International has been joined in the suit by current and former high school students in Riverside County and their alma mater, Calvary Chapel Christian School of Murrieta, which says its mission is to teach students "to understand, analyze and interpret every subject from a biblical perspective." "At the same time," the mission statement continues, "we will be familiarizing our students with the so-called 'facts' of the subjects."

In its response to the suit, UC has said it's not stopping the Christian schools from teaching or studying anything, but that the schools "have no right to freedom from academic evaluation." UC lawyer Christopher Patti said in an interview that the challenged texts fail to meet the university's academic standards. They're too narrow in outlook, he said, with "huge gaps ... about the experience of ... any nonwhite movements in the United States," or they rely too much on faith and supernatural explanations instead of objective evidence and reasoning.

Despite long-established legal precedents recognizing a university's right to control its admission standards as an aspect of academic freedom, U.S. District Judge S. James Otero said in his opinion in August that "if in fact" UC has been discriminating against religious viewpoints, "such action would run afoul of the limits of (its) freedom to determine its admissions policies."

Among many issues to be sorted out at the trial is whether UC's admissions criteria, which permit students to qualify via routes other than approved course work, such as standardized testing, leave Christian school students at a disadvantage. "We're clearly not trying to keep these kids out," Patti said. He said graduates of the school in Murrieta have had a particularly high admission rate in recent years. He also said UC's approval rate for courses taught at Christian schools is identical to the rate for schools overall.

But Robert Tyler, who represents the Christian schools, said the UC has been turning down Christian school courses at the same time it has accepted secular school courses based on viewpoints such as feminism or Buddhism or "the influence of nearly every imaginable group on history" except Christians. The Christian schools assert they want to use the disapproved texts only as supplementary materials, to deepen the education their students get from standard texts. For example, Tyler said, to explain the concept of separation of church and state, a standard U.S. government text might discuss the Supreme Court's 1952 pro-church decision in Zorach v. Clauson.

A Christian text might go back to the origin of the phrase in Thomas Jefferson's 1802 letter to the Danbury (Conn.) Baptist Association, which was concerned that a larger denomination might establish a national church. The class then might consider how a national church would work, "to give students a better understanding and, frankly, a more diverse understanding," Tyler said.

Patti countered that far from being merely supplementary, the Christian texts contradict the standard curriculum with a single point of view that fails to promote critical thinking. While "the university has no opposition to questioning current scientific points of view," he said, certain ways of questioning aren't legitimately academic because they aren't subject to scientific testing. The Bob Jones physics text, for example, teaches that "the only sure truths are found in God's Word, which is settled forever in heaven. ... The Bible, written by an omniscient God, can never be proved wrong."

The higher education establishment seems to be firmly in UC's corner. Barmak Nassirian, spokesman for the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers, said universities must defer to academics to define the essence of their disciplines, not only in biology, chemistry and physics but also in the humanities and social sciences. "You simply can't bring a bundle of your particular views" to the university and demand that it "manufacture a degree," he said. "We wouldn't do this in engineering" if someone refused to concede, for example, the theory of gravity.

Christian high schools in the Sacramento area and elsewhere refused to comment on the issues. But one prominent school official who's familiar with the case said UC shouldn't be examining Christian high school curricula at all. The university should admit students solely on the basis of their ability to succeed, said Assemblywoman Sharon Runner, R-Lancaster, a co-founder and board member of Desert Christian Schools. In their suit, the Christian schools say their students score better on standardized tests than students overall. They say that should be enough to satisfy UC admissions officers, who should not be "parsing through the viewpoints and content of Christian school instruction and texts to ferret out disapproved religious views."



Three quarters of parents think standards of discipline in schools are worsening despite repeated Government crackdowns, research shows. The Government's own polling revealed a widespread belief that pupils are becoming harder to control. In a blow to Labour almost a decade after taking office, it also showed declining public confidence in educational standards. The damning verdict came in a survey of 4,000 adults commissioned by the Department for Education and Skills.

School discipline was rated as by far the most important issue facing education - ahead of other matters like levels of funding. Just over three quarters of respondents believed that standards of behaviour in schools were getting worse. The scale of concern will embarrass ministers who have spent billions on a raft of policies aimed at restoring "respect" to classrooms ranging from parenting classes to school behaviour consultants.

The Daily Mail revealed on Saturday that more than 400 schools now have police officers stationed on site to help curb truancy and playground hooliganism.

Declining pupil behaviour is repeatedly cited by teachers choosing to leave the profession. "Over three-quarters felt that the general standards of behaviour in schools were getting worse" the report for the DfES concluded. "Around half felt that behaviour in their local schools was getting worse."

Both parents and childless respondents believed pupils' behaviour was deteriorating. A majority also thought the Government was not giving teachers enough support to tackle unruly behaviour. Even during the past year, public confidence in the education system has ebbed away, according to research by EdComs and ICM on behalf of ministers. More than half of respondents questioned in September last year thought exam results were the "best ever" but only 36 per cent agreed by June 2006. Meanwhile only 22 per cent agreed that there were "fewer poorly performing schools" by June, down from 30 per cent in September 2005. And just 25 per cent thought the quality of teaching had "never been better" by June, down from 31 per cent.

Declining numbers believe school adequately prepares children for the world of work. Only 32 per cent thought youngsters left school with a proper grip of the three Rs.

In a further blow to Tony Blair, the research found limited support for his flagship "trust schools" aimed at changing the face of the education system. Planned legislation will give businesses, faith groups, universities and other outside organisations a say in running schools but only 15 per cent of respondents declared themselves strongly in favour.

There was clear backing for the Prime Minister's drive to give parents more choice over where to send their children, "they were least in favour of involving outside organisations in the running of schools".

DfES officials acknowledged that parents were worried about standards of discipline. They said that new measures contained in proposed legislation would strengthen teachers' powers in law to assert their authority over troublesome pupils. Laws on physically restraining violent pupils will also be clarified. A spokesman said: "While Ofsted tell us that behaviour is good in most schools most of the time, this survey shows that parents are concerned about behaviour. "This is precisely why our Education Bill confirms the right to discipline so no pupil will be able to question a teacher's authority and gives teachers the legal right to restrain a pupil where they are a risk to themselves or others."



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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