Friday, September 14, 2007

U Michigan Resumes Distribution of Anti-Israel Book

Any negative Leftist utterance about groups is "free speech". Any negative conservative utterance about groups is "hate speech"

The University of Michigan announced late Tuesday that the University of Michigan Press would resume distribution of Overcoming Zionism, a book that calls the creation of Israel a mistake and that prompted several pro-Israel groups to complain to the university about its role in making the available a book they characterized as "hate speech." The University of Michigan Press stopped distribution last month, following those complaints, and setting off complaints of censorship by others. Michigan was not the publisher, but distributed the book for Pluto Press, a British publisher specializing in leftist social science for an academic audience. The author of the book is Joel Kovel, distinguished professor of social studies at Bard College.

In a statement released by the university, the press Executive Board (a faculty body) said that while it "has deep reservations about Overcoming Zionism, it would be a blow against free speech to remove the book from distribution on that basis. We conclude that we should not fail to honor our distribution agreement based on our reservations about the content of a single book." The statement continued: "Such a course raises both First Amendment issues and concerns about the appearance of censorship. As members of the university community dedicated to academic freedom and open debate among differing views, the Executive Board stands firmly for freedom of expression, and against even the appearance of censorship. In this instance, both legal and value considerations lead us to the decision to resume distribution of the book."

At the same time, the board tried to distance itself from the book and its publisher. "Had the manuscript gone through the standard review process used by the University of Michigan Press, the board would not have recommended publication. But the arrangement with Pluto Press is for distribution only; the UM Press never intended to review individually every title published by Pluto (or any other press for which it holds distribution rights). By resuming distribution, the board in no way endorses the content of the book." In addition, the board announced that Pluto's decision to publish Overcoming Zionism "brings into question the viability of UM Press's distribution agreement with Pluto Press. The board intends to look into these matters and decide, later this fall, whether the distribution contract with Pluto Press should be continued."

Jonathan Schwartz, a Michigan alumnus who has been blogging critically about the Kovel book at Anti-Racist Blog: Exposing Anti-Semitism and Anti-Zionism on American College Campuses, said he was disappointed in the university's decision to resume distribution of the book. The university press board "dodged the issue of the racist content of Mr. Kovel's book, and his incredibly offensive messages," Schwartz said. "The University of Michigan made a conscious decision to serve as the distributor of Mr. Kovel's anti-Zionist propaganda. It is shameful that Overcoming Zionism is being distributed with U. of M.'s imprimatur and complicity." Kovel could not be reached Tuesday night.

Roger van Zwanenberg, chairman and commissioning editor at Pluto, said he found the decision about distribution of Overcoming Zionism to be "reassuring," but that he found the statements about the "deep reservations" on the book and the questions about his press to be "less reassuring." And he questioned whether these statements are consistent with academic freedom. "These so called `deep reservations', stem from what is acceptable scholarship and what is unacceptable," he said. Tenure and academic freedom should protect the tradition of "critical scholarship" and assure that "unpopular scholarship can thrive," van Zwanenberg said. Pluto has always worked within the "critical scholarship" framework, he said, publishing Marxist and anarchist theorists, among others, and such well known figures in American academe as Noam Chomsky. "The University of Michigan Press always knew Pluto published scholars under this frame," he said. (Even a brief look at the Pluto Web site shows that the press makes no attempt to hide its views or the political nature of its authors.)

From Michigan's statement, van Zwanenberg said, it appears that "Pluto may be accused that a single volume does not come up to the standards of more traditional scholarship. It would be shameful if this were to occur, as to be accused of something we never set out to achieve by a scholarly community serves no one." Pluto books, he said, "add to the richness of publishing within any university arena."


Major US Catholic University Caught Deceiving Diocese: Diocese Losing Patience

Vice-chancellor of archdiocese states, "there's a Catholic ethos in this town that rightly smells a rat"

Just a few weeks ago, LifeSiteNews and several online blogs reported on Creighton University's shameful invitation, and then hasty 'disinvitation' of ardently pro-abortion and pro-euthanasia speaker, Ann Lamott. According to several recent news reports, the hasty 'statement' published on the University website to announce the cancellation has not appeased the powers that be at the Catholic Archdiocese of Omaha.

The official Creighton statement announcing the lecture cancellation on the University's website is quoted in part saying, "After careful review of Ms. Lamott's most recent writings (which postdated her contract agreement), we have concluded that key points are in opposition to Catholic teaching which, in our judgment, makes her an inappropriate choice for the Women and Health Lecture Series."

Reverend Joseph Taphorn, chancellor for the Omaha archdiocese, took issue with such an assertion. "Everybody knew what they were getting so it is hard to understand a last minute disinvitation. All you have to do is put the name in Google and you see what she believes."

Creighton's President and Jesuit priest, John P. Schlegel, S.J. penned a memo last week to his colleagues, supposedly justifying the cancellation. Schlegel,s memo reiterates that the decision was made after seeing only the newest material produced by Ann Lamott. "The decision to cancel the lecture was not the result of outside pressure from any group. I made this decision last Friday, August 24, after prayerful reflection upon reading from her latest book, the publication of which post-dated the invitation and in discussion with Amy Haddad, director of the Center for Health Policy and Ethics.

Rev. Schlegel goes on to disparagingly dismiss the 'bloggers' influence on his decision saying "To put it more frankly: my reflection on this question started well before the bloggers latched upon the invitation," while applauding Ms. Lamott for her outspokenness on issues. "I certainly respect [Lamott's] right to express those views, and admire her frankness in doing so[.]"

He referred to her belief in assisted suicide as "troubling" but insists that his misgivings only stemmed from her most recent work. As reported in, Lamott had openly admitted and documented her direct participation in helping a terminally ill friend kill himself as early as June 2006.

According to the local Lincoln Journal Star, Lamott's own booking agent, Steven Barclay, stands by a different story that that issued from the desk of President Schlegel. Barclay claims that university officials originally confirmed Lamott's lecture but requested that she not speak about assisted suicide and abortion. Barclay unapologetically stated, "It's very evident what her work stands for."

This is not the first time that Creighton and the archdiocese have come head to head on ethical issues. Earlier this year, the archdiocese severed its relationship with the Creighton's Center for Marriage and Family for its proposal in support of premarital cohabitation.

Vice-chancellor of the archdiocese, Reverend Ryan Lewis, commented on Creighton's deception saying, "If you are seeing a pattern, you are seeing correctly." He expressed appreciation that "there's a Catholic ethos in this town that rightly smells a rat."

While Reverend Taphorn would not comment on whether the archdiocese would consider removing the status of "Catholic University" from Creighton, Rev. Lewis acknowledged that "Catholic Omaha is starting to lose patience with some of this stuff."

Schlegel concluded his colleague memorandum encouraging all faculty to "pursue truth as he or she conceives of it." He also concluded with an assurance for the Creighton community: "I know that many of you will be concerned that the logical end of this position is that we will never have a sponsored speaker other than ones by those who agree in every respect with Church teaching. I understand and respect that concern and can assure that it is manifestly not my intent to impose uniformity of this sort. Questions of these kinds are difficult and laden with context."

Over the past years, Schlegel's philosophy seems to have been employed in deciding on past lecturers at the University. In 1995, The Women & Health Lecture Series featured feminist and ardent abortion supporter, Susan Sherwin, PhD as she presented her lecture entitled "Exploring the Ethical Dimensions of Women's Role in Medical Research."

The lecture series also gave platform to former Nebraska Senator Debra Suttle who was well-known for her work in trying to pass legislation that would have mandated insurance companies pay for artificial contraception. Her efforts were widely opposed by pro-life forces in the area and were ultimately defeated.


Indianapolis: Out of school, out of touch

The high rate of school suspensions and expulsions highlights the need for more discipline options. If there is little that a white female teacher can do to discipline a big and disruptive black student, all the school can do is suspend the offender -- which does very little good for anyone. Heavy use of corporal punishment by an appropriately delegated person would almost certainly improve discipline marvellously

Students at Lynhurst 7th and 8th Grade Center were suspended at a rate of 79 per 100 students during the 2005-06 school year, further burnishing the Wayne Township middle school's notoriety for being among the highest-suspending schools in the state. Most of those suspensions, however, weren't meted out to dangerous troublemakers. Nineteen percent of suspensions were for such obviously dangerous activities as brandishing guns, possessing drugs or injuring teachers and fellow students. Half of all suspensions, on the other hand, were for subjective charges such as "defiance," the catch-all category of "other" -- which can include nonviolent offenses such as chronic truancy -- and one-time schoolyard brawls.

Lynhurst exemplifies the reality that, far too often, schools overuse out-of-school suspensions and expulsions for behaviors that can be better handled through other means. The overuse, in turn, contributes to the state's dropout crisis. Sixth-graders who were suspended at least once had just a one-in-six chance of graduating, according to a study of Philadelphia students led by Johns Hopkins researcher Robert Balfanz. The overuse of suspension and expulsion, along with the presence of zero-tolerance policies, is a national problem. Most cases aren't like high-profile examples such as the three Knightstown High students who were expelled from (and later readmitted to) school for producing a film in which a teddy bear threatened the life of a teacher.

But Indiana's schools have had a particularly nasty reputation for suspending and expelling more students than those in other states: Most suspensions are for matters other than drugs, weapons possession and violent behavior: Forty-seven percent of out-of-school suspensions at Lawrence North High School during the 2005-06 school year were for "other" unlisted reasons. Just 9 percent of suspensions were for drugs and weapons possession. Statewide, less than 3 percent of in-school and out-of-school suspensions were for possession of weapons, drugs, alcohol and tobacco. While schools are categorizing fewer suspensions under the subjective category "disruptive behavior", they are categorizing those punishments under "defiance," a category created as a result of a round of anti-dropout legislation that can be just as subjective as the former.

Schools are suspending more students: Some 819 out-of school suspensions were meted out each day of the 2005-06 school year, a 15 percent increase over the suspensions handed down seven years ago. Meanwhile, the state retains its reputation for expelling more students than any other in the nation. Expulsions have increased by 11 percent between 2003-04 and 2005-06 school years after a four-year decline.

Marion County middle schools suspend more students than high schools: On average, middle schools have a suspension rate of 58 per 100 students, four times the statewide average. The rate for high schools is just 29 per 100. Shortridge Middle School, now being converted by Indianapolis Public Schools into a magnet program, has an astonishing rate of 91 per 100 students.

Black students are suspended more often than their white peers: Revelations by The Star's Andy Gammill and Mark Nichols that black students are suspended three times more often than white students confirm conclusions reached 12 years ago by the Indianapolis Commission on African-American Males. This is a national problem: Blacks accounted for 33 percent of suspensions despite accounting for 17 percent of public school enrollment.

Fears over school safety, arising from real day-to-day concerns and high-profile incidents, is partly to blame for rising suspension numbers. The methods teachers and administrators use to deal with school behavior are also a culprit. The lack of training on how to handle students in real-world classroom settings -- an issue that former Teachers College President Arthur Levine and teaching guru Martin Haberman argue has fostered problems in other aspects of education -- is also a factor in discipline. Frustrated teachers opt to toss students out of classrooms -- and hand them over to academic deans and principals -- before availing themselves of other options.

This lack of training also exacerbates cultural differences between minority students and teachers, most of who remain white and female. The problem grows in middle schools, no matter the race of the teacher, as children develop into teenagers who, despite their emotional development, begin to take on the physical characteristics of adults.

Flexibility in state law governing school discipline, which grants principals the chief decision-making role, contributes to the disparities in discipline. Depending on the district or even the school, a student can be suspended for using a cell phone on school grounds. While the need to maintain safe, orderly schools is important, the overuse of out-of-school suspensions and expulsions does little to address bad behavior and its underlying causes. Suspended students simply end up at home without parental supervision -- and falling behind in school.

Solving those underlying issues and stemming the use of harsh school discipline is one of the many keys to improving the odds of students graduating from school and being prepared for college and the working world. The initiatives taken up by IPS over the past three years, including the creation this year of alternative programs for wayward students, can help, but only if properly implemented. Such programs have a history of being little more than dumping grounds for students that schools have given up on teaching.

More importantly, teachers, principals and even parents will have to take different approaches to discipline. Engaging students, especially those at risk of academic failure [Like how? The success of such approaches is very marginal], is key to keeping students out of trouble and on track towards graduation. Mentoring arrangements, along with music and art programs, can help in this regard. Applying alternative programs such as those used by the Knowledge Is Power Program of charter schools, in which a student can lose his seat and desk for misbehavior and rewards positive behavior, can also help. A student who isn't in school will not learn. Figuring out alternatives to suspensions and expulsions is key to keeping students on the path to finishing school.


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