Thursday, July 03, 2008

State frees teachers to criticize evolution

Global warming, origins of life, cloning also may be scrutinized. Genesis was written around 3,000 years ago. If the theory of evolution cannot withstand a challenge from a 3,000 year old book it is not much of a theory

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal this week signed into law the Louisiana Science Education Act, which allows school districts to permit teachers to present evidence, analysis and critique of evolution and other prevalent scientific theories in public school classrooms. The law came to the governor's desk after overwhelming support in the legislature, including a unanimous vote in the state's Senate and a 93-4 vote in the House.

The act has been criticized by some as an attempt to insert religion into science education and hailed by others as a blow for academic freedom in the face of pressure to ignore flaws in politically correct scientific theories.

Robert Crowther, director of communications for The Discovery Institute, a Seattle-based think tank on science and culture, called the act necessary. In an article posted on The Discovery Institute's evolution news website, Crowther wrote, "The law is needed for two reasons. First, around the country, science teachers are being harassed, intimidated, and sometimes fired for trying to present scientific evidence critical of Darwinian theory along with the evidence that supports it. Second, many school administrators and teachers are fearful or confused about what is legally allowed when teaching about controversial scientific issues like evolution. The Louisiana Science Education Act clarifies what teachers may be allowed to do."

Specifically, the act allows teachers in the state's public schools to present evidence both for and against Darwinian theories of evolution and allows local school boards to approve supplemental materials that may open critical discussions of evolution, the origins of life, global warming, human cloning and other scientific theories.

Teachers are still required by the act to follow the standardized science curriculum, and school districts are required to authorize both the teachers' classes and additional materials. The state's Board of Elementary and Secondary Education will have the power to prohibit materials it deems inappropriate, and the act prohibits religious instruction. Section 1D of the act states that the law "shall not be construed to promote any religious doctrine, promote discrimination for or against a particular set of religious beliefs, or promote discrimination for or against religion or nonreligion."

Despite section 1D, many national voices, including the Americans United for Separation of Church and State, a New York Times editorial, and the American Civil Liberties Union opposed the measure. Marjorie Esman, state director of Lousiana's ACLU told the New Orleans Times-Picayune, "To the extent that this might invite religion in the public school classroom, we will do everything we can do to keep religion out."

John West, a senior fellow of the Discovery Institute, however, said opponents of the bill are misunderstanding it. Rather than being about infusing intelligent design or creationism into the classroom, he contends, the bill is about giving teachers the freedom to talk about the debates that already exist in science, even among evolutionists themselves. "This bill is not a license to propagandize against something they don't like in science," West told the Times-Picayune. "Someone who uses materials to inject religion into the classroom is not only violating the Constitution, they are violating the bill."

Gov. Jindal released a statement at the time of the signing that read, in part: "I will continue to consistently support the ability of school boards and (the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education) to make the best decisions to ensure a quality education for our children."


British faith schools undermined by 'Government witch hunt'

Faith schools are being undermined by a Government-backed "witch hunt", according to a new report

Ministers have exaggerated claims that Christian, Jewish and Muslim schools cherry-pick the best pupils to justify a series of "plots and threats" against the religious sector, it is claimed. Key changes to school admissions rules - including a ban on interviewing families - have been introduced despite a lack of real evidence that faith schools discriminate against poor pupils, the Centre for Policy Studies think-tank said.

Earlier this year, the Government caused controversy by claiming a "significant minority" of faith schools were breaking new laws designed to make the admissions system fairer. Jim Knight, the schools minister, said it was "shocking" that schools were using banned policies to weed out children from poor homes, including charging parents up-front fees for free education and failing to give priority to children in care.

But it provoked a furious response from faith schools who accused the Government of basing its claims on flawed evidence. "The witch hunt is on," said the latest study. "A Government obsessed with phoney egalitarianism and control freakery is aligning itself with the strident secularist lobby to threaten the future of faith schools in Britain. "Faith schools know that they are at the mercy of the current administration. They were in with Tony Blair - but they are out with Gordon Brown."

Some 7,000 primaries and secondaries in England - around one-in-three - are faith schools, with many performing above the national average. Two-thirds of the top-rated primaries in recent league tables were Anglican, Roman Catholic and Jewish schools.

The latest report, by the writer and broadcaster Cristina Odone, said parental fears over education standards coupled with concerns over discipline meant they were "sending their children to faith schools in increasing numbers". She also said faith schools are good for Muslim girls as they give their parents the confidence to keep them in school for longer and sharply raise the chances of going on to higher education.

But the report claimed the growing popularity of faith schools had created "suspicion" in Whitehall, inspiring a series of anti-faith school measures. Under a new admissions code, children in the care of social services are given priority places, schools are banned from asking for evidence of parents' employment, marital status or education - and rules prohibit schools asking for voluntary contributions from parents until their child has been accepted.

Richard Gold, of Stone King Solicitors, a firm specialising in education and charities, told researchers: "Over the past four or five years the admissions team of the [Department for Children, Schools and Families] have been steadily whittling back the freedom of faith schools... It is in my mind an attempt to shoe-horn the faith schools into a one size fits-all admissions policy."

The report said that rules banning interviews and application forms had removed the "checks that a faith school relies on to ensure that applicants subscribe to its distinctive ethos". It also said a clampdown on voluntary contributions risked hitting Jewish schools, which saw it as the "only way" to pay for Jewish studies, which are not on the National Curriculum, and additional security.

The study - based on interviews with headteachers and surveys of local councils - also claimed the Government's case against faith schools was flawed. Figures from 80 local authorities showed 1,517 children in social services care made the transition from primary to secondary school last year, but only 15 were turned away by faith schools. It also said rejected claims that faith schools take fewer children eligible for free meals - seen as evidence that they skim off middle-class pupils. The study said that "in tight-knit faith communities parents often turn to extended families or neighbours rather than the state and see free school meals as a loss of face".

But Mr Knight insisted: "The Government agrees that faith schools are inclusive, offer a good education and are popular with parents. "Faith based schools are assured a secure future in the state system under this government, with parents from all backgrounds being offered an equal chance to get their children in to these popular schools. To suggest otherwise is nonsense and a distortion of the truth."


Australia has the latest school tyranny: Obsessive Principal tries to impose his odor hangups on little kids

Little children do have a faint but distinctive smell. You can smell it if you walk into any primary school. This principal obviously doesn't like it. The school's website makes a point of not giving the Principal's name but the Qld. Education Dept. advises that it is Mr Keith Graham. He should get a job where he does not come in contact with those pesky kids. Kids are harassed enough already with "obesity" campaigns etc without adding this latest hatred of normality to their burdens

Children as young as five have been told to wear deodorant to school -- and re-apply once a day. The edict was in Chatswood Hills State School's June 13 newsletter under the title "personal hygiene".

"Please remind your children that, although it is winter. it is still necessary to apply deodorant in the morning and reapply once during the school-day," the newsletter read. "Aerosols are not permitted but rollon brands are encouraged."

The Albert & Logan News spoke to parents, who found the request "odd" and 'weird", while Queensland University of Technology child psychology lecturer Dr Marilyn Campbell said it was "laughable". Dr Campbell, a teacher for 20 years, was shocked. "I haven't heard of such rubbish in my life," she said. "You have to be joking, asking them to reapply during the day. "I don't need to do that and I doubt children would."

Dr Campbell said she had concerns about anxieties such a request could bring. "Will this lead to pretend shaving for the boys, or make-up for the girls?" she said. "I don't think it is right; totally unnecessary. "It's making (pupils) super clean, restricting them from their normal experience."

An Education Queensland spokeswoman said in a statement that the health and wellbeing of staff and students at all Queensland state schools was the department's priority at all times. "Students wearing deodorant is a parental decision and Education Queensland has no policy enforcing its use," she said. "Schools may become involved if there is an issue related to student hygiene or if the issue is impacting on students' social and emotional development, but this is done at a local level, as the need arises." She said schools may also offer reminders to deal with the issue "holistically and sensitively", so individuals were not singled out.

What did Chatswood Hills State School parents think of the statement requesting them to make sure their children wore deodorant? The Albert & Logan News asked 20 parents if they were "comfortable" or "uncomfortable" with the edict. Fourteen said they were uncomfortable, while six said they were comfortable. Only a few of the parents polled were willing to comment publicly. Mother Ali Richards said she agreed with the advice in the newsletter, but thought the school could have worded it better. "It makes it sound like every kid is smelly -- it is generalising every kid," Ms Richards said. "It is up to the parents to teach kids that stuff, not the school." She said she would not instruct her child to reapply during the day, leaving the decision up to the child.

Parent Mitko Kostovski said he thought the school's request was a "bit weird" "If they (children) do wear it, they won't reapply -- they are too busy playing," Mr Kostovski said. One mother, Jaimie Byrne, said she supported the idea and had no problems with the Chatswood Hills school's request. "It is a good thing I think," Ms Byrne said. "I think it could help the kids to stop some getting bullied if they do have body odour." Ms Byrne said her child, who was in Year 5, was given a hygiene talk, which she understood was more for the comfort of the class.

The article above by DANIEL TANG appeared in the "Albert & Logan News" of Friday, June 27, 2008

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