Saturday, June 09, 2007

NCLB not totally hopeless

The nation's students have performed significantly better on state reading and math tests since President Bush signed his landmark education initiative into law five years ago, according to a major independent study released yesterday. The study's authors warned that it is difficult to say whether or how much the No Child Left Behind law is driving the achievement gains. But Republican and Democratic supporters of the law said the findings indicate that it has been a success. Some said the findings bolster the odds that Congress will renew the controversial law this year. "This study confirms that No Child Left Behind has struck a chord of success with our nation's schools and students," U.S. Education Secretary Margaret Spellings said in a statement. "We know the law is working, so now is the time to reauthorize."

The report, which experts called the most comprehensive analysis of test data from all 50 states since 2002, concluded that the achievement gap between black and white students is shrinking in many states and that the pace of student gains increased after the law was enacted. The findings were particularly significant because of their source: the nonpartisan Center on Education Policy, which in recent years has issued several reports that have found fault with aspects of the law's implementation.

Jack Jennings, president of the District-based center and a former Democratic congressional aide, said a decade of school improvement efforts at local, state and national levels has contributed to achievement gains. "No Child Left Behind, though, is clearly part of the mix of reforms whose fruit we are now seeing," he said.

Some skeptics said the study overstated the extent of academic gains. Others said the law should not be credited for the positive results. "There are a lot of problems with No Child Left Behind that we need to fix because they work against some of the progress that is being noted in this study," said Edward J. McElroy, president of the American Federation of Teachers, a 1.3 million-member union.

The law requires all public school students to be tested in reading and math every year from grades 3 through 8 and once in high school, and it prescribes a series of sanctions on schools that do not make adequate progress. States and the District are allowed to design their own tests and set their own standards.

President Bush and senior Democratic lawmakers are seeking to renew No Child Left Behind this year, despite mounting attacks on the law from the political left and right. Some conservative Republicans call the law an unnecessary expansion of federal government, and some liberal Democrats complain it has placed too much emphasis on high-stakes tests and discouraged creativity.

Key lawmakers worry that if the law is not reauthorized by year's end, it will become next to impossible to do so until a new president takes office in 2009. One crucial sign of progress or stalemate is whether the congressional education committees approve a bill before the August recess. Rep. Dale E. Kildee (D-Mich.), chairman of the House subcommittee that oversees elementary and secondary education, plans to review the center's study with Jennings in a hearing tomorrow.


Australia: Parents told to make up for school failures

PARENTS have been urged to "do the times table" with their children after almost one in four Queensland Year 7 students failed to meet the national benchmark for numeracy. Education Minister Rod Welford conceded yesterday that numeracy standards in Queensland schools weren't good enough and parents could help to address the problem. "Parents can help by doing tables with their children at home. Nine-year-olds should be learning their tables," he said.

Figures released in this week's State Budget showed just 76.2 per cent of students met the benchmark last year, down from 80.3 per cent the previous year and well short of the 82 per cent target forecast in last year's Budget. The tests, each August, also measure literacy. More than 95 per cent of Year 7 students met the national writing benchmark and 83 per cent met the reading benchmark.

The Australian Council for Educational Research's Ken Rowe said the benchmarks were minimum standards. "You can't get much lower than those benchmarks and in reality, somewhere between 40 and 60 per cent of students entering high school from government, Catholic and independent schools lack sufficient skills to engage with the secondary curriculum," Dr Rowe said. "Our priority must be teaching the teachers to teach."

Mr Welford said the "results clearly are not good enough". He said students who failed to master basic numeracy at primary school were more likely to have problems in secondary maths and he wanted the annual tests moved forwards to May to give teachers more time to help children rectify problems. "These tests should also be passed on to the students' secondary schools so that process continues," he said.

This week's Budget included a new $1.5 million numeracy initiative aimed at boosting the results. Mr Welford said the initiative aimed to "help build teacher capacity through professional development programs and the development of teacher resources and training packages".

Opposition Education spokesman Stuart Copeland said the school curriculum was "too overcrowded" for many children who needed more time on the basics. "I am also concerned that we are starting to see the effects of falling OP scores for entry to the teaching profession," Mr Copeland said. "If teachers are not being well-prepared to teach literacy and numeracy this is a damning indictment of the universities."



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"

For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For times when is playing up, there are mirrors of this site here and here.


Friday, June 08, 2007

British Catholic Schools Targeted For Refusing to Implement School "anti-homophobic" Bullying Policies

Catholic schools in Britain are under attack by the government at the urging of homosexual lobbyists for refusing to bow to pressure to implement "anti-homophobic" bullying policies in schools. A report by a Commons Select Committee to the Department for Education and Skills singles out Catholic schools for refusing to implement regulations.

Education Secretary Alan Johnson told gay activists that the government is preparing guidelines for schools to address what was identified in the report as "faith-based" homophobic bullying. At a meeting with Stonewall, the gay lobby group that brought about the notorious Sexual Orientation Regulations passed earlier this year, Johnson told activists that he hopes to make a presentation at the group's upcoming conference in July.

The report, published March 27, recommends that the Department "introduces a requirement for schools to record all incidents of bullying along with information about the type of bullying incident."

The British government is explicitly collaborating with the homosexual movement in aiming at the Catholic Church's stand against sexual immorality. In preparation for the report that will inform the guidelines, the Department of Skills and Education commissioned research from Stonewall into "faith-based" bullying in schools.

In a committee hearing, Jim Knight, Minister of State for Schools accused the Catholic Church of "faith-based bullying". "Whatever the setting," Knight said, "whatever the ethos, whoever the external partner to a school might be, school might be, if they have got one, be it the Catholic Church or anybody else. We should not tolerate bullying in any from, we should not tolerate people not respecting the difference that people have and I think that applies to homophobic bullying."

The bullying issue is being used openly as a wedge issue to attack Catholic and other faith-based institutions. Gay and Lesbian Humanist Association (GALHA) says, "Such is the level of homophobia in the Catholic Church that its schools should be taken from it and returned to the community sector."

GALHA's secretary George Broadhead said, "We've seen homophobia in Catholic circles rising at a terrifying rate over the past few months. The Pope is almost hysterical on the topic and the British Catholic hierarchy is constantly agitating to retard gay rights. What chance have gay pupils got in schools which are run by an organisation that hates them?"

"For the sake of these children and for the community at large which should be protected from the promotion of bigotry in schools, the Catholic Church should be stripped of its educational establishments."

Stonewall is the UK's most successful homosexual lobby group, having hosted Prime Minister Tony Blair at its victory banquet after the passage of the SOR's.


UK: Alarm at sudden rise in schools failing inspections

The number of schools failing their inspections has shot up five per cent in the past term. Ofsted, the education standards watchdog, revealed that the number of schools "in special measures" - which means they face closure or replacement by a city academy - had risen from 243 to 256.

The findings immediately provoked a political row, with Sarah Teather, the Liberal Democrats' education spokeswoman, warning that Labour was "running out of excuses for its inability to sort out failing schools". "Children are being denied a fair start in life," she added. David Willetts, the shadow Education Secretary, said the figures were "yet more evidence of the pressing need to focus on raising standards in our state schools".

However, the figures also show that those served with a notice to improve within a year - or face failure - had gone down from 366 to 352. In addition, the number with serious weaknesses - one stop short of failing their inspections - had also fallen from 82 to 47.

Schools minister Jim Knight said that - overall - the figures showed fewer schools were in categories of concern compared with the previous term. "This is a promising trend despite the fact we raised the bar on inspection in autumn 2005," he added. "The new tougher inspection framework means there is no room for 'coasting schools'."

Meanwhile, the Government announced plans to tackle the number of "invisible children" who fall behind in maths and English between the ages of seven and 11. Ministers are urging teachers not to ask children to put their hands up to answer questions because it means shy pupils are never called upon in class.

A study published by the Department for Education and Skills, published yesterday, suggested instead that teachers should choose who answers the questions. A second theory put forward in the study of 240 children as to why they fall behind is that their homework starts to become too difficult for their parents to help at that age.


Australia: Professor slams leftist curriculum "plan"

A Rudd Labor government risks creating a "noodle federation" as states sign up to different pieces of its education policy rather than developing a cohesive national framework. University of Queensland professor Kenneth Wiltshire described Kevin Rudd's self-described education revolution as "about six dot points in search of a rationale", containing little detail of how the measures would be implemented.

Speaking after giving evidence to the Senate inquiry on the academic standards of school education, Professor Wiltshire said the ALP policy lacked coherence and the only plan for implementation was an assertion that the states would co-operate "by some magical mechanism". "There's no guarantee whatsoever just because the state governments are the same political party Mr Rudd is going to get their co-operation," Professor Wiltshire said. "Public policy by definition should have content, its rationale, the tool of implementation. "But the 'education revolution' has no costing, no delivery mechanism; it needs to be spelt out in far more detail. "I fear Mr Rudd's creating a noodle federation, with some states referring powers to the commonwealth and some states not."

Professor Wiltshire, the JD Story professor of public administration at the university, chaired the review of the Queensland school curriculum under the Goss Labor government. He served as a special adviser to the Australian National Training Authority and was Australia's representative on the executive board of UNESCO, the UN education body, until 2005.

In evidence to the inquiry, Professor Wiltshire described the Queensland education system as the worst in the country. He said the school system forced subject specialisation on students at too young an age, requiring them to choose between being literate or numerate - between the humanities and the sciences - at 12 or 13, and to decide on an academic or vocational pathway at 14 or 15. "We're forcing these choices on kids at far too young an age," he said. "We should be keeping options open and giving them a generalist education for as long as possible."

In his evidence, Professor Wiltshire also highlighted the lack of careers guidance in schools and called for "root and branch" reform of the TAFE system, arguing for the introduction of a HECS-style scheme. Professor Wiltshire said the only improvements in educational standards over the past decade had occurred as a result of intervention by the federal Government. He said reforms over the past 10 years - including better reporting on students, greater choice for parents, and moves to a national curriculum - would not have occurred if the federal Government had not taken a stronger role in education. 'State governments obviously haven't been able to properly deliver what people want," he said.

Professor Wiltshire called on the inquiry to recommend a federal-led approach to curriculum, a strong national board for curriculum reintroducing syllabus specifying content, and strong national performance standards and assessment.



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"

For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For times when is playing up, there are mirrors of this site here and here.


Thursday, June 07, 2007

The Failure of British schools is a failure to concentrate on the basics

If there is any political party out there flailing around in search of a mission statement to back up its leader's personal charm and cycle clips, here is a free suggestion. Confront the people (grinning, if you insist) and just say this: "We promise to protect your safety and your rights, and provide efficient and fair public services. Until we have achieved these core duties, we will not mess around with any frills, go-faster stripes or luxury fandangles. If this renders us boring, we're sorry. But it is pointless to tackle a pile of shit by spraying gold paint on it, or getting consultants and spin-doctors to dance around it waving dodgy statistics. We will get a shovel and mop, and tackle the basics. Even if it means we don't keep up Mr Blair's record of seven new laws a day for ten years."

This return to my hairy old theme of The Boring Party was sparked off by news that the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) is drawing up plans to measure whether primary schools are improving children's psychological "wellbeing". They want the poor brats to fill out questionnaires and tick boxes ("I've been feeling good about myself all the time/often/some of the time/rarely/never" etc).

Now, the duty of primary schools to keep an eye on children's happiness is obvious. Some schools' innovations - familiar counsellors, chill-out rooms, and so forth - are useful and kindly extensions of the traditional pastoral role; they are probably needed more than ever today because of the commercial and social stresses on families. More traditional ways of advancing emotional literacy also flourish whenever staff can find a crack in the dry concrete of the curriculum: poetry, stories, music, exercise, outings and school visits got most of us through our schoolday puzzlements and griefs.

But a questionnaire? A self-conscious demand that a child of 6 should look inward rather than outward, and score on a scale of one to five how much it "feels loved"? Nah. For one thing, it is unscientific: small children are volatile and you can't have four quizzes per day. And how insulting is the implication that primary schools must be judged on a wellbeing scale dreamt up by distant academics? The general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, Mick Brookes, points out that any decent teacher knows how a child is feeling without a tickbox checklist; and there is no hard evidence whatsoever that encumbering little children with formal self-awareness makes them happier. Teenagers, just possibly. Eight-year-olds, no.

And - to return to the manifesto of the Boring But Efficient Party (BBEP) - let me point out that many of these children will not, under present conditions, even have an NHS dentist. Many will be in oversized classes. Some will have parents who speak little English, and whose entitlement to free lessons has just ended. Some of the children filling in the forms will, thanks to poor social services communication, be struggling carers for their parents, as exposed recently by the Princess Royal Trust. Many have no safe outdoor space to play in because the streets and parks are dangerous and there is no community policeman. And if they do suffer from serious mental illness later, their parents will have to struggle for proper psychiatric support.

And if, heaven forfend, they get into trouble, they may well end up like poor little Adam Rickwood, aged 14, who was shunted off to a child prison 150 miles from home, and taken off suicide-watch despite a three-year record of mental disturbance. Adam wrote a last despairingly affectionate letter to his mother and hanged himself with his shoelaces. The youth justice system remains a callous, inefficient mess. Many other systems - which should be at the core of governmental duty - are equally moribund.

Yes, it is hard to get everything right. My complaint is not that governments are imperfect, but that in every area of public endeavour there is an unstoppable centrifugal force, pushing effort out to the margins. We need relaxed, well-run schools with trusted teachers - we are given ditzy questionnaires. We need the best cancer treatments and proper care for the elderly, and instead we get a promise of IVF for all - which, to be brutal, frequently fails - and an assurance that smokers will get a cessation drug gratis on the taxpayer (never mind all the money they'll save on not buying fags; or the simple psychological fact that if it's free they won't value it or let it work).

In other realms the same thing happens, sparks flying outward from an ever-less-efficient engine. We need control of house prices, and instead we get misconceived Hips. We need good social services, unhampered by political correctness, and instead we get patronising leaflets telling fathers how to cuddle the baby. We need all children to have their intelligence recognised and fed in orderly schools, and instead we put pressure on universities to take children from bad schools, merely because it isn't fair that they're so bad and because government needs to disguise the fact in its statistics.

Suppose you hired an assistant and he failed to open the post, tidy the office, lock up at night or answer the phone. You'd remonstrate. Even if he brought in orchids, did a daily tap-dance on the desk, juggled bananas and arrived dressed in a different historical costume every morning. But government and - under its influence - public bodies behave like this the whole time. And we go on hiring them.


Surprise! British professors protect Muslim radicals

A union of British academics voted unanimously to reject a government plan to tackle Islamic extremism in universities, likening the initiative to "witch hunts" that would single out Muslim students. The University and College Union, which represents more than 120,000 British academics, agreed to the motion Wednesday at its inaugural conference in Bournemouth in southern England. The motion calls for members to "resist attempts by government to engage colleges and universities in activities which amount to increased surveillance of Muslim or other minority students and to the use of members of staff for such witch hunts."

The Department for Education set guidelines last year urging university staff to contact police to identify and isolate Muslim students suspected of being radicalized. The report included real-life cases, including students watching online bomb-making videos in college libraries and using prayer rooms for radical meetings.

Critics said the plan unfairly singled out Muslims for surveillance and threatened free speech and academic freedom. "Lecturers want to teach students," said Sally Hunt, general secretary of the union. "If they wanted to police them, they would have joined the force."

Bill Rammell, higher education minister, said there is serious but not widespread Islamist extremist activities within universities. "The guidance is not about targeting one particular community," he said. "It is about promoting safety... It is also about protecting vulnerable students from bullying and harassment and other recruiting tactics of violent extremist groups."

But universities trying to implement the guidelines would have trouble forcing professors and staff to comply after the vote, said Dan Ashley, a spokesman for the union. If the university tries to enforce it on the staff, they won't do it, they won't spy on their students," he said. "You want them to be radical. That's the whole point: universities are where you encourage people to think outside the box."


Australia: Teachers quitting over sex inquiries

Given the way they are treated, men who take on a teaching career are a courageous lot

TEACHERS are quitting their jobs. rather than fighting to clear their name of alleged sex offences, because investigations are taking too long. The Queensland Teachers' Union said some investigations were taking several years and teachers refused to stay in the job with suspicion hanging over their head. "The nature of the job is stressful enough without having that on top of it," said union president Steve Ryan. "There have been a number of teachers who have just resigned because they don't want to go through the trauma."

Education Queensland said that most investigations were concluded in case the teacher sought to be re-employed at a later date. An exclusive report in The Sunday Mail last week revealed 82 state school employees, mostly teachers, were being investigated for alleged sex offences involving students. The allegations ranged from serious sexual assaults to showing sexually explicit material to making sexual comments to children in conversations, phone text messages and on the internet.

Education Queensland said there were 414 outstanding cases involving allegations of official misconduct against staff. As of May 1, there were 12 teachers under suspension, eight with pay and four without. The four without had appeared in court on criminal charges and been committed for trial.

One male teacher who contacted the Sunday Mail said he had fought for two years to clear his name after students accused him of indecent behaviour. The teacher, who cannot be identified for legal reasons, said charges were thrown out of court because of lack of evidence. But Education Queensland had stalled on giving his job back and allowing him to return to the classroom. "Teachers are easy targets for a lot of cheap shots. A small percentage of the community think male teachers are motivated by a desire to be close to children," he said. I have dedicated my whole life to this career ... hopefully I will get my iob back one day."

Mr Ryan said many of the 82 cases against the teachers would eventually be dropped, and it was unfair that parents and students might assume a teacher was guilty if he or she left the profession because the investigation had been prolonged.

The above story by DARRELL GILES appeared in the Brisbane "Sunday Mail" on May 3, 2007


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"

For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For times when is playing up, there are mirrors of this site here and here.


Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Another triumph for homeschooling

Just moments after winning the 80th annual Scripps Spelling bee, eighth grader Evan O'Dorney of Danville found himself on live TV explaining to ESPN anchor Stuart Scott why he actually much prefers doing math and playing piano concertos to spelling. "Spelling is just a bunch of memorization," the 13-year-old boy said.

But it's something the lanky, bespectacled teenager with a big gap-toothed grin has clearly mastered. He beat 285 of the best young spellers in the country by spelling such difficult words as Zoilus, laquear and schuhplattler. The homeschooled spelling phenomenon received a golden loving cup trophy and $20,000 -- money the young college-bound scholar says "I'll probably give to my parents."

He narrowly beat out the Canadian favorite, Nate Gartke, an eighth grader from Edmonton, who misspelled the coryza, a word for the common cold. "I knew it, I'd studied it, I just momentarily forgot it," he said after the competition.

O'Dorney won despite missing what had become his pre-spelling bee ritual: Eating fish. In particular, a tuna fish sandwich from Subway. "Fish is good for the brain," he said. He had to skip his fish protein meal to attend a luncheon in honor of the spelling bee competitors. He's become a seasoned pro at the bee. He first competed in 2005 when he was 11 years old and made a strong showing for a first-timer, reaching the finals before being bounced out in the eighth round. He was disappointed but boasted that he would be back and do even better. "I was born with the gift of spelling," he told the Chronicle at the time. He finished 14th in last year's bee. This year he seemed to almost skate through the competition.

He breezed through a multiple choice test with tough words such as malocclusion, syssarcosis, takt and Bewusstseinslage. In the second round, he lucked out with an easy word: boundary. But the words got tougher in later rounds -- compunctious in round three, corrigenda in round four, affiche in round five and corrine in round six. In round seven, before a live national TV audience, he didn't flinch as he was handed a Spanish word for scorpion fish: rascacio. He drew gasps when he correctly spelled schuhplattler, a Bavarian courtship dance, and then laquear, a Latin word for the recessed panels in a vaulted ceiling.

He only seemed flustered once - when a TV make-up artist dusted his cheeks and forehead with a tan blush. The kids have become so sophisticated - cynics would say obsessive - in their word studying tactics that the judges can no longer throw run-of-the-mill SAT words at them. "We try to make it as difficult as possible while still trying to be fair to everybody at the same time," said Carolyn Andrews, whose son Ned Andrews won the competition in 1994 and who now manages the bee's word list.

O'Dorney finally won with a series of relatively simple words - at least for him: pappardelle, an Italian pasta; yosenabe, a Japanese soup; and his winning word - serrefine, small forceps for clamping a blood vessel. An unusual practice technique may also have paid off for O'Dorney: His mom, Jennifer O'Dorney, quizzes him daily on words out of Merriam-Webster's dictionary as he juggles as many as four balls while walking around his home. He said he sees mathematical patterns while he's juggling and spelling words aloud.

His dad, Michael O'Dorney, a BART train operator, said his son's secret is a combination of mental abilities: "He's got a great memory and he's got a great understanding of how to analyze the structure of words and find root words."

Jennifer O'Dorney homeschools him, and said they generally spent only about an hour or two a day on spelling. She said she had increased the workload in recent weeks. Last week, they spent eight hours locked in a room going over words from the Merriam-Webster's dictionary. "The thing he wanted most was for people to hear his piano concerto on ABC," his mom said. A previously taped recording of O'Dorney at the piano was broadcast by the network during the competition.

O'Dorney's parents are proud that he remains a well-rounded kid. He has a first-degree black belt in Tae Kwon Do, takes piano lessons at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music and plays piano to accompany his church's choir. Despite his talent for spelling, his favorite subject is math. He placed 5th in a recent Northern California Mathcounts competition. He earned a perfect score in American Mathematics Competition in a test made for 10th graders. He hopes someday to be a math teacher or a composer.


Muslim students seeking jihad fatwas

AUSTRALIAN Muslim university students eager to become jihadis are regularly seeking advice from Islamic spiritual leaders in the hope of winning religious approval to travel overseas and fight. Leaders have warned that the obsession among some young Muslims to become holy warriors was also driving them to "shop around" for fatwas - religious rulings - should their initial request be turned down.

Moderate Sydney-based Islamic cleric Khalil Shami said young Muslims, "predominantly university students", frequently asked his advice on travelling to war-torn countries to fight in the name of Islam. This comes two years after hardline Islamic university students were involved in the London bombings that killed 52 people and injured 700 others. It also follows The Australian's revelations in January that a 25-year-old Somali Australian, Ahmed Ali, died fighting alongside Islamists in his country of birth in December last year.

Sheik Shami said he always warned aspiring Islamists against fighting because he believed Muslim countries were being run by corrupt leaders who were more interested in making money and advancing their political profiles than liberating their people. "There are some people who would like to go and perform jihad," he told The Australian in an Arabic and English interview. "I say don't go. Because those fighting aren't truly fighting in the path of God. I've been asked numerous times and I've advised against going," added Sheik Shami, an imam at Penshurst Mosque in Sydney's southwest. He said young Muslims interested in jihad either called him anonymously to ask his advice or approached him at the mosque.

Sheik Shami, who is also an Australian Federal Police chaplain, said he had not notified authorities about Muslims interested in jihad because he did not want to betray the trust of people making the inquiries. "If you come to me and tell me about something, it's not nice for me to go and tell the authorities about you because you trust me and I have to just keep your secret," he said. "I know I have enough faith in myself. I'm not going to hurt the person or hurt the authorities."

The federal Attorney-General's department last night said clerics were not obligated under common law to pass on national security information. "A Muslim cleric would have the same obligations as any other member of the community," a department spokesman said. "The Government would expect that any person in receipt of such information, whatever their religious beliefs, would have a duty to prevent terrorist activity and pass the information on."

Sheik Shami's comments follow revelations in The Australian last week that Muslims were refusing to give national security authorities counter-terrorism tip-offs, fearing they might implicate themselves or be labelled traitors by fellow community members. Sheik Shami said young men often became more enthused about seeking advice on jihad after seeing horrific images of fellow Muslims caught up in conflict.

Islamic Friendship Association of Australia president Keysar Trad admitted hearing young Muslims asking their cleric for advice on going to fight jihad overseas. He said some even went to more than one imam in the hope of getting a green light for joining the battle. "Some people will shop around, what you might term as fatwa shopping, and I am yet to meet an imam who would say yes, go," Mr Trad said. "My personal assessment of these kind of people is they want the imam to reassure them that staying here in luxury and comfort is OK, that's all they're doing. But then they go (and say), 'I would've gone only if the imam let me'."

Melbourne cleric Isse Musse said aspiring jihadis do not usually ask for fatwas from their imams to approve their departure for battle. And while the Somalian imam had never been approached by young Muslims wanting to join overseas terror outfits, he said in most cases people would only seek advice about such issues from their clerics.


Radical move in Australia: Catholic schools to teach Catholicism!

The Catholic archdiocese of Sydney wants its 167 school principals, its deputy principals and religious education co-ordinators to publicly commit to a "vow of fidelity" by adhering to church teaching on homosexuality, birth control and women's ordination. In a first for the Australian church, the Archbishop of Sydney, Cardinal George Pell, is set to extend the oath of fidelity and profession of faith, a requirement of church law for bishops, priests and heads of seminaries, to all senior educational leaders. The oath demands "religious submission of intellect and will" on questions of faith and morals - even if these are inferred but not defined by the pope and his bishops - and an acceptance that everything solemnly taught by church tradition is divinely inspired. It suggests they would be bound not only to impart these teachings but to live by them.

The controversial requirement is contained in a draft pastoral plan circulated to all parishes of the Sydney archdiocese for comment. The plan, at least two years in the drafting, gives a series of priorities, goals and strategies for the archdiocese from 2008 to 2011. Among its other new measures are marriage preparation classes for senior secondary school students, twice-yearly reviews of its educational bodies, and forums so Catholic politicians can be updated on church teachings. There will also be renewed efforts to teach youth about "sexuality and life issues" through formal courses and seminars, and measures to bring in to the fold young people inspired by next year's World Youth Day.

Cardinal Pell has taken an intense interest in Catholic education, ordering the rewriting of the religious education curriculum, and aiming to turn around Catholic thinking that faith is caught, not taught. The oath has symbolic value as a public commitment to the moral teachings and identity of the church and is not an attempt at control, the archdiocese says.

But a recent Vatican push to institute an oath for theologians in the US was greeted as an attack on academic independence and an attempt to impose tighter doctrinal controls over education institutions connected to the church.

One critic of the archdiocese's plan says it contains "shades of the Opus Dei", the Spanish-founded conservative Christian movement that achieved notoriety as the villain of the fictional bestseller The Da Vinci Code.Writing for the online magazine Catholica, a Sydney priest, Father Dan Donovan, said the plan needed a serious rewrite and failed to take note of the "infiltration" of Opus Dei and the Neocatechumenal Way, a lay movement that heads the turbulent Redfern parish. In addition, the plan lacked a suitable process for "critiquing structures and providing just outcomes, and was directed to the needs of clergy and not churchgoers", he said. "There must be developed a listening hierarchy who are able to connect with the broad masses of the faithful and their issues rather than endorsing the agenda of the various movements."

The Sydney Auxiliary Bishop Julian Porteous said the oath would act as a reminder to educational leaders of their role in promoting church teachings. "It's not about control," he said. "The oath gives greater clarity to the importance of the role of principals in schools, that their first responsibility is that the Catholic faith is taught and lived authentically within the school. "Anybody who speaks in a Catholic education institution is meant to be presenting the Catholic faith in its integrity. There can be a place for theologians to make explorations of criticism, but in teaching positions the role is to very much be faithful to the teaching of the church."



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"

For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For times when is playing up, there are mirrors of this site here and here.


Tuesday, June 05, 2007

The Muddled Mess of Middle East Studies in American universities

What's ailing contemporary Middle East studies? A symposium earlier this month at Stanford University provided a clue. A paranoid fixation on imagined American and Israeli "empire"; the refusal to accept legitimate criticism; an insulated, elitist worldview; an inability to employ clear, jargon-free English; and a self-defeating hostility towards the West: these vices and more were made clear at "The State of Middle East Studies: Knowledge Production in an Age of Empire."

Professor of Iranian studies and comparative literature at Columbia University Hamid Dabashi captured the symposium's theme by asserting that the "Middle East is under U.S./Israeli imperial domination" and that America is an "empire without hegemony," engaged in a "monopolar imperial project." Yet no one defined this "empire" or "imperialism." Nor did attendees learn what events in the Muslim world precipitated a more expansive U.S. foreign policy in the region after Sept. 11, 2001, or why Israel might have legitimate concerns about its bellicose neighbors.

Only Nur Yalman, professor of social anthropology and Middle Eastern studies at Harvard University, made reference to Islamic terrorism. He also reported on the atmosphere of political unease in both Egypt and Turkey from whence he had just returned.

Also popular was equating criticism of Middle East studies with a U.S./Israeli/Jewish plot. Dabashi condemned Middle East scholar and critic Martin Kramer, calling his book, Ivory Towers on Sand: The Failure of Middle Eastern Studies in America, an agent of "U.S. and Israeli intelligence." Yalman bemoaned a speech Kramer gave last year on the relatively stable geopolitical situation of Jews today, implying that such a condition represented a threat to Muslims. Dabashi denounced David Horowitz, Stanley Kurtz, Daniel Pipes, and Campus Watch for, as he put it, "helping Bush in his crusading war against Islamic terrorism."

Dabashi also singled out Stanford's Hoover Institution, the American Enterprise Institute, and the Heritage Foundation, accusing them of acting, horror of horrors, in "the service of national security." He was particularly aggrieved that with the ascendance of these think tanks, Middle East studies were no longer under the strict purview of the "academies." He didn't mention that higher education's failure to adequately address the subject has been the cause of this evolution.

The late Columbia University English and comparative literature professor Edward Said was the undisputed godfather of the day, with countless references to his theories on post-colonialism and Orientalism. Like Said, several speakers rejected what they saw as Western condescension and hostility towards the Muslim world. Yet it was they who seemed mired in antagonism.

Discussion about the plight of women in the Muslim world was marred by anti-Western sentiment. Professor of gender and women's studies at the University of California, Berkeley, Minoo Moallem, dismissed such concerns as being part of an "imperialist narrative."

University of Washington anthropology and law professor Arzoo Osanloo picked up on this theme by decrying "Western, paternalistic attitudes towards Muslim women." Osanloo was concerned that "Islamic liberalism" would be "obscured by Western involvement," particularly in Iran.

Osanloo tried to focus on "Islamic feminism," but her insistence that women had made great strides in post-Islamic revolution Iran through the use of Sharia law was a stretch. It didn't help that she omitted any reference to the Iranian regimes' current crackdown, including brutal beatings, on unveiled women and their arrest and detention of Haleh Esfandiari, the Iranian-American director of the Middle East program at the Woodrow Wilson Center for Scholars in Washington, D.C. Osanloo's stated desire to "move beyond the binarism of East vs. West" was belied by an attitude of stubborn opposition to everything Western. There was no acknowledgement by any of the women present that Western culture has given them lives that would be the envy of their counterparts in the Middle East.

Similarly, the willful blindness of a group of scholars and students denouncing the West from their positions of power and privilege in the favored surroundings of Stanford University came across as utterly hypocritical.

Hamid Dabashi and Minoo Moallem's reliance on academic jargon added to the esoteric nature of the proceedings. Schooled on a philosophical foundation of Jacques Derrida, Michel Foucault, and the obsession with semantics over objective reality found therein, both speakers were largely incomprehensible.

Expressions such as "diasphoric cultural mediators," "amphibian intellectuals," "contextualization," "performance of the self as its own other," the "inability to handle the otherness of the other," "Eurocentric partriarchy," "imperialist masculinist," "gendered Orientalism," and the obscure statement, "regions are not facts but artifacts," provide just a sampling. It was excruciatingly boring at times, and the fact that they read straight from their own work only made it worse. The young man nodding off in his chair during Moallem's talk was an indication that the audience may not have been entirely engaged.

Thankfully, the other speakers spoke in plain English and Yalman even stated at one point that he was "uneasy with the abstract nature of the conversation." Indeed, those concerned with the negative influence such academics may be having on future generations should be comforted by the very real possibility that their students rarely understand a word they're saying.


British Muslim school teaches antisemitic curriculum

The principal of an Islamic school has admitted that it uses textbooks which describe Jews as "apes" and Christians as "pigs" and has refused to withdraw them. Dr Sumaya Alyusuf confirmed that the offending books exist after former teacher Colin Cook, 57, alleged that children as young as five are taught from racist materials at the King Fahd Academy in Acton.

In an interview on BBC2's Newsnight, Dr Alyusuf was asked by Jeremy Paxman whether she recognised the books. She said: "Yes, I do recognise these books, of course. We have these books in our school. These books have good chapters that can be used by the teachers. It depends on the objectives the teacher wants to achieve." In another exchange, Dr Alyusuf insisted the books should not be scrapped, saying that allegedly racist sections had been "misinterpreted".

The school is owned, funded and run by the government of Saudi Arabia. Mr Paxman asked: "Will you now remove this nonsense from the Saudi Ministry of Education from your school?" Dr Alyusuf replied: "Just to reiterate what I said earlier, there are chapters from these books that are used and that will serve our objectives. But we don't teach hatred towards Judaism or Christianity - on the contrary."

During the programme Louise Ellman, MP for Liverpool Riverside and chairman of the Jewish Labour Movement, accused the school of inciting racial hatred and hit out at Ofsted inspectors for failing to discover the textbooks. She said: "This whole situation is unacceptable. It is incitement. It is part of a deliberate Saudi initiative to install Wahabbism extremism among Muslims and in the rest of society. If Ofsted has not drawn attention to this, that is a failing of Ofsted. "It is unacceptable and we should look to see if this is happening in other schools as well. This is about teaching children. I think the school should take immediate action and so should the regulatory authorities."

In his employment tribunal claim Mr Cook, who taught English at the school for 19 years, has accused it of poisoning pupils' minds with a curriculum of hate. Arabic translators have found that the books also describe Jews as "repugnant".

Dr Alyusuf initially claimed that the books were "not taught currently", saying: "We teach a different curriculum. We teach an international curriculum." Asked by Mr Paxman, "Would you discipline any teacher who has used these teaching materials?", she replied: "Of course I would." The principal, who has been in the post just under six months, also claimed: "I monitor what is taught in the classrooms. I have developed the curriculum myself."

Asked by Mr Paxman whether she agreed with the suggestion in teaching materials that non-believers in Islam are condemned to "hellfire", she said: "We don't teach that. We teach Islam and it is important for our students to assert their identity."

Mr Cook, of Feltham, was earning 35,000 pounds a year and is seeking 100,000 in compensation. In legal papers submitted to a Watford employment tribunal, he alleged that pupils as young as five are taught that religions including Christianity and Judaism are "worthless". He also alleges that when he questioned whether the curriculum complied with British laws, he was told: "This is not England. It is Saudi Arabia".

Pupils have allegedly been heard saying they want to "kill Americans", praising 9/11 and idolising Osama bin Laden as their "hero". Mr Cook claims he was dismissed last December after blowing the whistle on the school for covering up cheating by children in GCSE exams. He is bringing a tribunal claim for unfair dismissal, race discrimination and victimisation. The school is vigorously defending his claims.



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"

For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For times when is playing up, there are mirrors of this site here and here.


Monday, June 04, 2007

Outlaw Promotion of Natural Marriage in Schools -- Urges UK Teachers and Profs Union

Britain's heavily left-leaning University and College Union (UCU) that represents teachers and professors at the post-secondary level, says the recently passed Sexual Orientation Regulations (SOR's) do not go far enough. The union is calling for British law to be rewritten to prohibit teachers or schools from expressing any moral opposition to homosexuality or from promoting natural marriage in the classroom.

At their annual conference in Bournemouth, members voted unanimously on a motion demanding that laws be changed to prohibit teachers from voicing opposition to homosexuality or the "gay" lifestyle. Members argued that the passage of the Sexual Orientation Regulations meant that "faith schools" ought to be forced to entirely cease teaching religious doctrines on sexual morality.

Alan Whitaker, a gay activist and the UCU's representative of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender members told the delegates, "The regulations actually say that there is nothing to stop teachers proclaiming the superiority of heterosexual marriage." "The regulations say it's unlawful to characterise same-sex relationships as inferior. But to my mind it's rather difficult to see how you can do the one without implying you are doing the other."

Whitaker is a campaigner against "organized religion" that he wrote is "inherently homophobic". As a member of UCU Left, the activist branch of the UCU that openly advocates for socialist and leftist causes, he penned an article in February arguing that Canterbury Christ Church University was a bastion of homophobia because the Anglican college refused to allow civil partnership ceremonies on campus.

Stephen Desmond, a professor in media at Thames Valley University told union members, "We must never allow freedom of religion to be hijacked and used as a pretext to discriminate against gay and lesbian teenagers in schools." Desmond, who serves as the Deputy Director/Director of Communications at the Centre for Conflict Resolution (CCRJ), criticised the SOR's, saying, "If a faith school (or indeed any school) teaches that the Christian and Muslim faiths decree that same- sex sexual activity is a sin, then the school will not be acting unlawfully".

The union called for an end to "bigoted" attitudes among teachers, insisting that they be prohibited from promoting natural marriage as a positive social value. Homosexuality, they said, must be given equal status as natural sexuality.

Current rules on education say that children must be taught "the importance of marriage for family life." Under these government guidelines, that predate the passage of the SOR's, teachers are still allowed to express their personal opposition to homosexual lifestyles.

In March, reported that the passage of the SOR's could spell the end of Christian religious education in Britain. A report on implementation by the Joint Committee on Human Rights said that faith schools would be required to modify their religious instruction. The report said the law will not "prevent pupils from being taught as part of their religious education the fact that certain religions view homosexuality as sinful," but schools may not teach "a particular religion's doctrinal beliefs as if they were objectively true".

The UCU is Britain's largest trade union and professional association for academics, representing 120,000 lecturers, trainers, researchers and academic-related staff.


British academics express outrage at Israeli boycott

Academics and students today hit back at the decision by university lecturers to support calls for a boycott of Israeli institutions. Yesterday the University and College Union decided by 158 votes to 99 to circulate a motion to all its branches to discuss calls from Palestinian trade unions for a "comprehensive and consistent international boycott of all Israeli academic institutions". The motion is going to branches for "their information and discussion".

But the decision taken at the inaugural UCU national conference in Bournemouth was condemned by the Russell group of research-led universities, the National Union of Students and organisations with an interest in Israel and academic free speech. In a hard-hitting statement, the Russell group "rejected outright" the boycott call. Its chairman, Prof Malcolm Grant, who is also president and provost of University College London, said: "It is a contradiction in terms and in direct conflict with the mission of a university. "It betrays a misunderstanding of the academic mission, which is founded squarely on freedom of inquiry and freedom of speech. "Any institution worthy of the title of university has the responsibility to protect these values, and it is particularly disturbing to find an academic union attacking academic freedom in this way." Prof Grant promised that its universities "will uphold academic freedom by standing firm against any boycott that threatens it".

Meanwhile, the executive director of the International Advisory Board for Academic Freedom (IAB), Ofir Frankel, accused the union of allowing itself "to act as a one-sided player in Middle Eastern politics". He said: "The IAB is amazed that the extremists that led their union to such an initiative decided not to discuss the option to pass this initiative to a vote of all 120,000 members, a decision that could have allowed the majority to rescue their union from this discriminatory action by reharnessing the values of academic freedom, discourse and debate, as their own general secretary suggested."

The chief executive of the Jewish Leadership Council, Jeremy Newmark, described the union's decision as "an assault on academic freedom" that "damages the credibility of British academia as a whole". He called for the union to organise a full membership ballot before introducing any boycott. The decision by the UCU was also condemned by the Academic Friends of Israel, which accused the union of having "failed to support the wishes of its membership".

Criticism of the UCU decision also came from student organisations. The president of the National Union of Students, Gemma Tumelty, said it did not support the principles behind an academic boycott of Israel because it "undermines the Israeli academics who support Palestinian rights". It also "hinders the building of bridges between Israelis and Palestinians". She added: "Retaining dialogue on all sides will be crucial in obtaining a lasting peace in the Middle East. International academics have a lot to offer higher education students in the UK and a boycott of this specific country is extremely worrying. "We will express our concerns to UCU and we are awaiting clarification from them on the exact nature of this policy and its potential impact on students and the academic community."

There were also reservations about the UCU decision from the World Union of Jewish Students. Its chairwoman, Tamar Shchory, a student at Ben Gurion University in south Israel, said: "In campuses abroad the climate of hostility towards the state of Israel and Jewish students is getting stronger. "It seems like the UCU has chosen a one-sided, not constructive, position in a very complex and sensitive matter instead of promoting the basic value of academic freedom and constructive initiatives."



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"

For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For times when is playing up, there are mirrors of this site here and here.


Sunday, June 03, 2007

Attack on free speech at Tufts U

I mentioned this matter on "Tongue Tied" on 13th May

In another instance of what has become a predictable and frequent assault on conservative campus publications, The Committee on Student Life at Tufts has censured the The Primary Source, a student magazine, for running satirical pieces that offended, in two separate instances, some black and Muslim students. Instead of actually functioning as marketplaces of ideas-"a place where controversial expression is embraced," and "an open campus committed to the free exchange of ideas," as described in Tufts' own student handbook-universities continue to punish what they categorize as offensive speech that does not conform to the acceptable, liberal views of politics, race, or sexuality.

While Tufts' official policy extols the merits of unfettered speech, suggesting that students "should cherish the opportunity to be learning in a place where controversial expression is embraced," it turns out that in reality that embrace is a somewhat deadly one for anyone whose controversial comments are aimed at groups perceived to be too vulnerable and sensitive to confront offensive speech with expression of their own views. The offending Primary Source piece, "Islam-Arabic Translation: Submission," which satirized Tufts' "Islamic Awareness Week" with a series of factual points about some of Islam's violent characteristics, "made the Muslim students on campus feel very uncomfortable and unwelcome," according to some of the complainants, and "was uncalled for and demean[ed] all of the work we put into our Islamic Awareness Week." The publication's punishment includes the prospect of being de-funded and the requirement of now having all stories and editorials signed by authors (a requirement that no other Tufts publication has), presumably so victims can henceforth know exactly who to drag before the Committee for any future offenses.

There are troubling issues here, putting aside the basic question of fairness of punishing a student publication with repressive speech control because it exhibited loutish behavior. The publication was sanctioned, not because it displayed actual illegal harassing or intimidating behavior, but because some individuals were `offended' or `intimidated' by speech that they were perfectly free never to read. Students have a right to be offended by the speech-even hate speech-of their fellow students and speak back to that speech with speech of their own, but their fellow students also have a Constitutionally-protected right to be offensive, provided their conduct is within the bounds of the law.

When political correctness first began to engulf our campuses, of course, racist or "hateful" speech was attacked as just that: speech which was unacceptable to those "victim" groups who were perceived as needing protection from freely-spoken opinions-generally members of racial, ethnic or sexual minorities. As a result, speech codes were frequently called for to insulate such individuals from speech that was deemed "hate" speech.

The courts, however, have consistently struck down attempts by public universities to install speech codes, precisely because they deprive students of First Amendment rights they would enjoy without restriction off campus. Universities have therefore had to take a new approach in their attempts to suppress speech whose content they do not approve of: as they did in the current Tufts case, they now deem offensive behavior and speech to be `harassing' and `intimidating,' not merely expressive. But the courts have seen through this strategic misrepresentation. In fact, says attorney Harvey Silverglate, co-author of The Shadow University: The Betrayal of Liberty on America's Campuses,

"Codes banning pure speech are unconstitutional, and, to the extent that speech-by virtue of the time, place and manner of delivery, or by virtue of its physically threatening nature-is harassing, the society's laws are more than adequate to redress violations. Universities . . . do not have the obligation, nor indeed the power, to ban pure speech, no matter how offensive, on the basis of content or point-of-view."

Moreover, Silvergate notes,

"Speech codes, prohibiting speech that `offends,' protect ideologically or politically favored groups, and, what is more important, insulate these groups' self-appointed spokesmen and spokeswomen from criticism and even from the need to participate in debate."

So it was revealing that at the one-sided hearing of The Committee on Student Life, while Muslim students were allowed ample opportunity to described how they felt "intimidated" and `harassed" by the content of the Primary Source's satire, there was never a discussion of whether the satire was valid, or, if there were inaccuracies or libelous statements, what those were. Instead, the Committee unilaterally determined that this particular and specific speech was unacceptable-and would always be so at Tufts.

For Tara Sweeney, senior program officer at the Foundation For Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), a Pennsylvania-based advocacy group that defends campus speech controversies and has contacted the Tufts administration on behalf of the Primary Source, "Printing a parody, no matter how objectionable to some, is in no way tantamount to `harassment.'"

In ruling campus speech codes to be unconstitutional, courts have therefore understood the real intent of cases such as the current one at Tufts: not to suppress all speech and attitudes, but merely those ideas with which the moral gatekeepers disagree, those ideas, views, and political beliefs that are unfashionable. Even when speech is seemingly blasphemous, irreverent, or anti-social, the Supreme Court in the 1989 Texas v. Johnson case stressed that the "First Amendment does not recognize exceptions for bigotry, racism, and religious intolerance or matters some deem trivial, vulgar, or profane."

In fact, other groups and individuals at Tufts regularly engage in expression that might cause some people to feel intimidated, harassed, or insulted. One example is the annual "Gaypril" celebration sponsored by the school's Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Center, replete with such events as "Queer Sex Now," involving "erotic trends, including the explosion of queer porn, the development of public sex spaces, and the growing exploration of alternatives to monogamy," and other sex-obsessed narcissism that may well intimidate or cause harassment to students on campus who do not embrace or have religious or philosophical issues with this lifestyle or level of effusive sexuality. Of course, no one could ever speak in opposition to a month of homosexual festivities on campus, nor obviously could their complaints about how it harassed or intimidated them ever cause the Committee on Student Life to end funding for the event or cancel future celebrations.

Nor were Tufts faculty members and students ever silenced in 2002 when many of them signed a divestment petition to urge economic sanctions on Israel, an effort to destroy the viability of the State because they had decided that it was an apartheid, colonial settler nation that tramples the rights of victimized, long-suffering Palestinians. Could these very public denunciations of the Middle East's single democracy-political speech by Tufts faculty and students-have possibly been intimidating to Jewish students on campus, Israel's supporters, and others who have a different, more positive view of Israel and its role in the world? Yes, of course, they could have had that effect, but no one at Tufts attempted to suppress what David Frum has referred to as the "genocidal liberalism" ingrained in these political statements.

Administrators and some students at Tufts seemingly hold the notion that free speech is only good when it articulates politically correct, seemingly hate-free, views of protected victim or minority groups. But great legal minds, including such jurists as Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., have always fought for the protection of unfettered speech, where the best ideas become clear through the utterance of weaker ones. For Holmes, the protection of free speech was of particular importance, not only to allow discourse of popular topics, but, even more importantly, in instances where unpopular or hateful speech is deemed offensive and unworthy of being heard. He observed:

"If there is any principal of the Constitution that more imperatively calls for attachment than any other, it is the principal of free thought-not free thought for those who agree with us but freedom for the thought that we hate."


Wonderful educational standards in Texas

After Failing Test 38 Times, Dumb Principal Finally Loses Job. Why was she given even a third chance?

A San Antonio school principal tried again to pass the test required for her job. She recently took that test for the 38th time. The results were not good and now she is out of that job.

A spokesperson for the San Antonio Independent School District says Elizabeth Rojas is no longer the principal at Smith Elementary.

She took the state exam required for her job again just a few weeks ago. It was her second attempt since we revealed in February that she'd already failed it 36 times before, more than any other educator in the state. Rojas failed again for the 38th time.

The district has now removed her from that job and given her the position of administrative assistant at Smith. She now makes just slightly less than her nearly $78,000 a year principal's salary.

When we called the school and asked for Rojas Thursday, we were told she was still the principal and in a meeting with teachers. The district says the interim principal is Billy Terrell who retired from the district last year. He told us by phone today, that he is now running the school - not Rojas.

The district declined to comment on camera about Rojas' reassignment but parents at Smith had plenty to say. "If you can't past the test, you don't need to be in that position." "Well, I think she should be removed because she does need that certification to be a principal." "She's a very good principal here at Smith. I'm sorry she's going to leave."

The district says the school will have a new permanent principal next year. Rojas will be moved to some other job inside the district she is certified to do.


Top Australian universities to tackle languages dieback

Hmmm... I am a bit dubious about this. Although I am myself a great dabbler in languages, it is undisputable that acquiring a native command of a foreign language is a rare feat that is usually accomplished only under conditions of total immersion in that language -- and even immersion is often not sufficient. So most students of a foreign language are wasting their time if they expect a useful outcome from it. It is however a good cultural experience. For me, being able to understand Schubert Lieder in the original is sufficient recompense for my studies of German. So I think availablity of foreign language study should be there but I would oppose any compulsion or mandatory requirements

Leading universities are demanding radical action to tackle a crisis in the number of Year 12 students graduating with a foreign language, which has dropped from 40per cent to six per cent over the past four decades. The Group of Eight universities want a second language to be compulsory for all students from primary school to Year 10, more incentives to study languages at university and an advertising campaign promoting the benefits of learning a foreign tongue.

The Group of Eight, consisting of research-intensive institutions such as Melbourne, Sydney and Queensland universities, say the number of foreign languages taught at the tertiary level has almost halved, from 66 to 29, in the past 10 years. "Crisis is not too strong a word to describe the decline in foreign language education in our schools and universities," Group of Eight executive director Michael Gallagher said. "Despite many positive efforts from committed teachers and language experts, the percentage of Year12 students graduating with a second language has fallen from 40per cent in the 1960s to as low as 6per cent in some states in Australia today."

He called for a national approach involving schools, universities and state and federal governments. "Our national deficit in foreign-language capability is something we can no longer afford to ignore," he said. "It is Australia's great unrecognised skills shortage, and the one most directly relevant to our competitiveness and security in an increasingly global environment."

A planning paper released yesterday by the Group of Eight found that most schools, public and private, do not require students to take a second language. It says this lack of emphasis on foreign languages at school put pressure on university language departments. "The number of languages taught at our universities continues to fall," it says. "Of the 29 languages still on offer at tertiary level, nine are offered at only one Australian university and only seven are well represented across the sector."

The Group of Eight found only five universities offered courses in Arabic and fewer than 3per cent of university students studied an Asian language despite Asia representing 70per cent of Australia's largest export markets. The Group of Eight proposals include more funding to strengthen language education, especially at universities. Targeted funding to boost the morale, skills and number of language teachers was also recommended, along with the expansion of bonuses for students who took languages in Year 12.



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"

For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For times when is playing up, there are mirrors of this site here and here.