...but we'll make room for Al Franken and transgender speakers
Liberal administrators at the University of St. Thomas, a Catholic university and private college in Minnesota, censored the appearance of prominent pro-life and black speaker Star Parker. On April 21, 2008, Star-the best-selling author of numerous books-was slated to speak on campus about the devastating impact abortion has on minority communities. UST Vice President of Student Affairs Jane Canney nixed the idea entirely, citing "concerns" that the lecture was being underwritten by Young America's Foundation.
Katie Kieffer, a 2005 alumna of St. Thomas and founder of the independent conservative newspaper on campus, the St. Thomas Standard, as well as the non-profit Conservative Student News Inc., was an organizer of the Star Parker lecture. She confronted Canney on her refusal to allow Star on campus. "Our Catholic university has hosted two decidedly liberal speakers in the past year, Al Franken and Debra Davis, an outspoken transgender woman," Kieffer wrote in the St. Thomas Standard. Why, then, won't St. Thomas welcome Star Parker-a pro-life, Christian speaker?
Jane Canney told Katie and her sister, Amie Kieffer, a senior at St. Thomas and editor of the St. Thomas Standard, "As long as I am a vice president at St. Thomas, the Young America's Foundation will not be allowed on campus." Canney didn't return the Foundation's phone calls seeking comment. The Student Life Committee, on which Jane Canney resides, denied the Students for Human Life and the St. Thomas Standard a room on campus for Star Parker's lecture. The young conservatives only needed a room and advertising space to host Parker, as Young America's Foundation and Conservative Student News Inc. were covering all other costs.
Canney's hostility toward Young America's Foundation originated when the Foundation sponsored Ann Coulter at St. Thomas two years ago-an event attracting more than 750 students. Canney claimed she felt "uncomfortable" and "disturbed" while listening to Coulter, adding that she will never allow another Foundation-sponsored speaker on campus again. Campus liberals are unaccustomed to hearing conservative ideas in their echo chambers, so it's not uncommon for them to become discomforted when hearing alternative opinions.
"Canney should not deprive students the right to hear Star Parker's ideas," said Jason Mattera, the spokesman for Young America's Foundation. "Such guilt-by-association is unbecoming of a college administrator." "Just because some students and some administrators claimed to have been offended by what one conservative speaker says doesn't mean you cut off the entire campus population from hearing conservatives viewpoints," Mattera continued. "It's startling that a school named after one of the greatest thinkers in civilization is displaying such anti-intellectualism. Let's treat college students like the adults they are-allow them to hear a variety of speakers and form their own conclusions."
Young America's Foundation sponsors more than 500 lectures annually featuring a wide array of the very best in the Conservative Movement, including John Ashcroft, Michelle Malkin, Dinesh D'Souza, Sean Hannity, Bay Buchanan, Ann Coulter, and many others.
Liberals speakers at St. Thomas receive full support from the school's administration. Just this past year Canney's Student Life Committee approved the appearances of Al Franken, the bombastic liberal commentator, and Debra Davis, a transgendered activist.
Katie Kieffer called Canney out on her duplicity: "As an alumna of St. Thomas, I am embarrassed that the vice president of Student Affairs, Jane Canney, makes key decisions based on impulse and feelings. I am embarrassed that a vice president at this Catholic institution is making it virtually impossible for conservatives to bring conservative speakers to campus. For a person in charge of Campus Life on a Catholic campus, she is closed to our efforts to present conservative and Catholic pro-life values."
Jane Canney is violating the school's speaker policy to boot. The policy states that decisions to invite speakers are governed by "fairness and equity toward various conflicting views and interests, being mindful of the needs for wider information on the part of students and the larger community.Another factor governing speakers on campus is our concern that a wide variety of issues and viewpoints be given expression." She's also violating her school's expressed convictions, including "intellectual inquiry," "faith and reason," "the pursuit of truth," "diversity," and "meaningful dialogue."
"Star Parker is enthusiastic about educating young people about abortion's demoralizing effects, ideas which are in complete alignment with St. Thomas' stated positions and Catholic teachings. Based on her behavior, Jane Canney seems unduly hostile toward conservative values," says Kieffer. "St. Thomas' commitment to diversity and intellectual inquiry appears to be threadbare at best."
It's not the first time St. Thomas featured an unhinged administrator. On April 18, 2005, the university's president, Father Dennis Dease, accused Ann Coulter of "vulgarizing" his campus even though Father Dease wasn't present for the lecture and failed to enumerate any of Coulter's "offensive" remarks. Father Dease's ire should've been directed at the leftist hecklers who interrupted Coulter's speech by yelling expletives at her.
The Ultimate Reason Why Government Education Fails
Do you want to know the ultimate reason why government education fails? I will tell you. It is because the government runs it! I read a column the other day by Debra Rae on News with Views entitled "Worldviews on Trial." While she makes many excellent points, the following two paragraphs caused me to drop what I was doing and fire off this screed.
The Christian worldview places God and His Word at the center of learning. After all, God is the source of all true knowledge, His Word is truth, and in Jesus are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. For these reasons, our founding fathers recognized the necessity of weaving biblical principles into every aspect of life -- not least of which, public education.
This may come as a surprise to many, but the 1948 Supreme Court established that traditional public education in the Western world is rightfully church-based, Bible-believing and piety-instilling (McCollum v. Board of Education).
Concerning the first paragraph, while not all our Founders may have been Christians, their worldview was far more Christian than that of about 98 percent of today's Christians. Neither the Bible nor any of America's Founding documents says word one about state education. Indeed, the Bible places the duty for education squarely on parents, not the state. (Proverbs 22:6, Ephesians 6:4)
Education is not one of the constitutionally enumerated powers of the federal government. (See Article 1, Section 8) The Tenth Amendment forbids Uncle Sam from engaging in any activity not expressly authorized by the Constitution. Moreover, the Ninth Amendment forbids federal compulsory attendance laws. To the extent that there were any government schools at the time of America's Founding, they were locally controlled and locally funded.
On the other hand, we do find government control of education as one of the 10 policy planks of the Communist Manifesto. From Plato to the French Revolution to the Communist Manifesto to the polite tyranny we now experience in the United States to the much harsher tyrannies of Nazism and Communism, government education is a centerpiece.
Contrary to McCollum, public education is not and cannot be "church-based, Bible-believing and piety-instilling." To begin with, Christianity cannot be forced. (Revelation 3:20) You cannot "make Christian" what was never Christian to begin with. Moreover, the ultimate aim of government education is to instill loyalty to the state. BYU is run by the Mormon Church and, hence, exists to instill Mormonism; Notre Dame, Boston College and Georgetown are run by the Catholic Church and, hence, exist to instill Catholicism; state education is run by the state and - surprise! - exists to instill statism.
I just finished reading an absolutely fascinating book by John Taylor Gatto titled "The Underground History of American Education." Taylor taught school in New York City for 30 years and three times was voted Teacher of the Year. He walked away from the classroom after he could no longer keep up the pretense he was living as a public school teacher. He calls school "a liar's world."
While the Founders forbade a federal role in education, this republic was very young when enthusiasm for government schooling took hold. Traditional "public education in the western world" has its roots in Prussia in the early 1800s after its defeat by Napoleon. The first compulsory attendance laws were in 1852 in - surprise! - Massachusetts. The first national compulsory attendance laws were enacted in 1918.
State education was never intended to be Christian. From the outset, it was there to demand conformity, dumb us down and pickle the brains of the young so they would subserviently and unquestioningly follow their government, corporate and media masters. (Insofar as state education has accomplished these things, it can be seen as a resounding success.) It was Darwinist by its very nature. I grotesquely oversimplify. To get the whole story, READ GATTO'S BOOK!
Henry David Thoreau once stated that "There are a thousand hacking at the branches of evil to one who is striking the root." All this incessant blathering about political correctness, prayer, declining academic standards, evolution, creation, condoms, sex education, gay curricula, race relations, affirmative action, busing, standardized testing, bullying, guns, drugs, discipline, dress codes, Christmas celebrations and so forth merely hacks at the branches. The root of the problem is that we let the government run the schools and that we never question our presuppositions about government education.
And if you are of the Religious Right, it is not enough to elect Christians to the school board. Any reforms they may implement will last only until the next election cycle, when those evil, wicked, mean, nasty, condom-distributing, evolutionist, secular, humanist, America-hating, God-hating liberals win the election. We need to separate school and state. The problem isn't that "we kicked God out of the schools" but that we merged school and state.
I talked recently with a friend who said she would not home school her children. I told her the bottom line was this: they are her children and nobody else's. Hence, it is her decision how she should educate them and nobody else's.
In a free society, which we are not, parents could home school their kids without having to answer to Washington -- or, for that matter, Sacramento or Denver or Little Rock or Trenton. Catholics could send their kids to St. Mary's School; Baptists could send their kids to the Obadiah Baptist School; Jews could send their kids to the B'Nai Brith School; Mormons could send their children to the Joseph Smith School; Muslims could send their kids to the Allah Akbar School; and Hindus could send their kids to the Vishnu School; believers in Mungabunga could send their kids to Mungabunga School.
Non-religious folks could likewise educate their children as they saw fit. They could send their kids to the Whitney Houston School '"Where the children are the future''or to the Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young School '"Where we teach your children well'' or whatever.
Personally, I probably would not want my kids in a school named after David Crosby, but, again, the bottom line is that your kids are not my kids. They are not the government's kids either. THEY ARE YOUR KIDS, SO IT IS YOUR RIGHT TO DECIDE HOW TO EDUCATE THEM. PERIOD. As Archie Bunker would say, case closed.
Nothing that happens in government schools should surprise anyone anymore. It was set up to be this way a long time ago. Government education is a failure not by accident, but because it was designed to be. And until we return to the separation of school and state, we will keep having the same old problems. Will we ever learn?
Selective schools have their place
Comment from Australia
On her first day at a selective school, Georgia Blain no longer had to pretend not to know her multiplication tables to avoid being teased. In her recent memoir Births Deaths Marriages, the Australian novelist recalls that at her old school she had few friends, as being smart made her "odd". But in her opportunity class she discovered "my abilities were no longer something to be ashamed about". It's an experience shared by many children who go from a comprehensive school to a selective school, yet it is rarely considered in debates about schools.
Whenever there is public discussion about why local schools are suffering from falling enrolments, selective schools are often first to cop the blame. It's a fair call. Selective schools draw high-achieving students away from underfunded local schools, leaving them to cope with the more educationally demanding students. Naturally, these schools rank lower on HSC lists, further decreasing their attractiveness to some parents.
But calls to curb selective schools frequently come from parents and politicians, not students. If we are going to have an honest public debate on this issue, we need to acknowledge the experiences of students who went to selective schools to understand their value and their shortcomings. Like Blain, I began my schooling at a local primary school, in the multicultural inner west of Sydney. I have fond memories of the school, but I also remember feeling lost. Teachers often had their hands full dealing with kids who were struggling with reading or behavioural problems, and there was often not the time or the resources to make the classes relevant for all.
Going to a selective high school was, for me, a bit like stepping into the nerd dungeon Bart discovers in one episode of The Simpsons; a secret room where the school brainiacs are studying, talking and playing chess. Selective schools are places where nerds are free to be nerds. Knowledge of novels, poetry and politics suddenly became social cachet. Classes often moved at a cracking pace, satisfying my desire for more to read and learn. Girls were never made to feel embarrassed for being smart and opinionated.
Of course, selective schools are not always an intellectually stimulating bed of roses. Blain writes that while she no longer had to be anxious about her intelligence at a selective school, knowing she was not the brightest in the class now made her anxious about a lack of ability. Mind-numbing conformity and ultra-competitiveness are the scourge of most selective schools. And undoubtedly my high school lacked the social diversity of my primary school, at times feeding snobbish, narrow-minded attitudes in the playground.
For many students, these problems are reason enough to avoid selective schools. A friend, Jesse Cox, is glad his parents sent him to a comprehensive high school. Cox attends the University of Sydney after gaining a stellar result in his HSC, and excels in art and history. "I think it's a bit of a myth that kids will be isolated in a comprehensive school; it was not my experience at all," he says. "The classes were really mixed, and kids still pushed each other in a friendly way, not in the competitive way I would associate with a selective school." It is clear from the experiences of Cox and others that selective schools do not have a monopoly on nurturing intelligent, creative minds. It is also questionable whether they quantitatively improve the academic performance of the students who attend them.
Standing up for selective schools is a difficult point to argue. Gifted children will probably achieve great things, no matter what school they go to, and it's imperative that students who are struggling to keep their heads above water are given the most attention in public debate. But for an honest and vigorous discussion about the best ways to improve public education, the experiences of students and former students must be considered. It would be dangerous to leave the debate to ideological arguments alone.