Sunday, September 28, 2008

Bigoted university chaplain revealed -- who then spins like a top under the glare of publicity

University of Massachusetts officials on Monday quashed efforts by an Amherst campus chaplain to offer two college credits to any student willing to campaign in New Hampshire this fall for Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama. Chaplain Kent Higgins told students in a Sept. 18 e-mail, "If you're scared about the prospects for this election, you're not alone. The most important way to make a difference in the outcome is to activate yourself. It would be just fine with (Republican candidate John) McCain if Obama supporters just think about helping, then sleep in and stay home between now and Election Day."

Higgins added that an unnamed "sponsor" in the university's history department would offer a two-credit independent study for students willing to canvass-identify supporters-or volunteer on behalf of the Democratic nominee.

University officials disavowed the effort after inquiries Monday by The Associated Press. They said it could run afoul of state ethics laws banning on-the-job political activity, as well as university policy. "We do not engage in or sponsor partisan political activity," said Audrey Alstadt, chairwoman of the history department. "We certainly do not give academic credit for participation in partisan politics."

UMass-Amherst spokesman Ed Blaguszewski said Higgins had previously arranged history department credit for students working on disaster relief efforts or other humanitarian ventures, and had raised the idea of similarly rewarding students who got involved in the political process during the 2008 election. Blaguszewski said university officials had envisioned that the efforts would involve nonpartisan work such as get-out-the vote campaigns, but changed their minds about the proposal when they saw a portion of Higgins' e-mail.

"The history department chair feels that what they were told was misleading, and then when the details of this emerged through the correspondence, they said, `Hey, this is not appropriate and it's not going to happen,'" Blaguszewski said.

A spokesman for the Massachusetts Republican Party criticized the effort. "We're disappointed, but frankly not surprised, that the liberal academic elite have once again decided to promote one candidate over another," said GOP spokesman Barney Keller. "Our tax dollars pay their salaries so they can teach our children how to make up their own minds, not to advance a partisan political agenda."

Higgins said he never intended for the program to be limited to supporters of Obama. Regardless of the opinions expressed in his e-mail, he said he would also have been open to those students who wanted to canvass for McCain. "The idea was there just to see if we could help with folks who want to be active with any of the campaigns in New Hampshire," he said during an interview with the AP. "We have to be bipartisan, multilateral."

Higgins refused to identify the history department sponsor and referred all further questions to university officials. Blaguszewski said Higgins is one of about a dozen chaplains from different faiths working in Amherst, the flagship campus among the university's five schools.


Co-ed dorms for gender-confused males?

The University of Pittsburgh is changing its anti-discrimination policy to include gender identity. The new policy means that a man who feels like he is a woman can be housed in the women's dormitory and vice versa. And that involves "showering and using the restroom and the whole shebang," explains Diane Gramley, president of American Family Association of Pennsylvania (AFA of PA).

Gramley mentally puts herself in the position of being in a women's dorm restroom, when a man walks in to use the facilities. "I think that she would be shocked and dismayed -- and I would think she would also be concerned about her safety," she contends.

The family advocate says it is conceivable that a man could convince university officials of his gender confusion and gain access to the women's dorm to search for prey. Gramley also notes the university should be concerned about potential lawsuits from "concerned parents and students."

Gramley believes school officials are pandering to a small group and ignoring the best interests of the majority. "They're bowing down. They're doing the politically correct thing and putting their entire student body at risk by doing this," she adds. "They're bowing down to the pressure from a very small group of students, and they're just not considering the full impact of the policy change. Why can't the institutions of higher education stay within their academic goals and not seek to be agents of political correctness?" she wonders.

Gramley has lodged a protest with University of Pittsburgh officials and believes parents who are paying the high tuition for their youngsters ought to do the same.


Britain's anti-citizenship education

According to a study by the National Foundation for Educational Research, children who have citizenship lessons at school - introduced in 2002 to boost pupils' civic pride and sense of social responsibility -- display less trust in authority figures and institutions and end up with a more negative attitude towards society.

Why is anyone surprised at this? I could have told them this would be the outcome. Indeed, I did tell them this would be the outcome. Repeatedly. I wrote column after column warning that the model of citizenship being adopted, drawn up by the retired politics Professor Bernard Crick, was actually a model of anti-citizenship. In 2004, for example, I wrote in the Mail that
the citizenship teaching inspired by Sir Bernard amounted to politically correct indoctrination in which multiculturalism, `globalisation' and `a shrinking planet' were all buzz phrases; and in which, far from being taught about their obligations to Britain, pupils were encouraged to develop `their own ground rules'.

The doctrinaire thinking behind this hollowing out of citizenship was clear enough in the late nineties, when Sir Bernard first produced his advice on citizenship for Mr Blunkett who was then Education Secretary. Beneath its pious invocations of `responsibility' and `community involvement', it was all about enabling young people to get more out of society. Even more strikingly, it wanted teachers to promote `active citizenship', by equipping pupils with the political skills to change the laws. Duty to obey the law - the first obligation of citizenship - wasn't even mentioned.

Now we read in the Telegraph:
The study said that pupils in their final year of school only expressed `moderate levels of agreement with laws'.

Well, there's a surprise. Let's raise our glasses once again to Antonio Gramsci, whose posthumous triumph in turning Britain's values inside out has surely been more spectacular than he could ever have dreamed.


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