Saturday, January 03, 2009

Academia's Top 10 Abuses of 2008

Banned conservative speakers, stolen votes, assaults on religious liberty, gay English classes, and forbidden Thanksgiving & Christmas celebrations

Political correctness ran amuck in our nation's school system this past year, and Young America's Foundation has once again compiled our "best of the worst" academic abuses for 2008. From "free speech zones" to transgendered speakers at military academies, the following list may make you both laugh and cry in the same breath. That probably isn't too surprising, however, since we are talking about academia after all.

1. The free speech "zone." A student at Yuba College in California was sent an ultimatum by the school's president: discontinue handing out gospel booklets or face disciplinary action and possibly expulsion. That's right-gospel booklets. Ryan Dozier, the 20-year-old student, had the audacity to distribute Christian literature without a school permit, which restricts free speech to an hour each Tuesday and Thursday. Yuba College even directs students to where on campus they are allowed to exhibit free speech. In this case, it's the school theater. Campus police threatened to arrest Ryan if he didn't comply with the "free speech zone," oblivious to the fact that students don't need permission to exercise the First Amendment's free speech and religious clauses.

2. Transgendered activists in, pro-life speakers out. Liberal administrators at the University of St. Thomas, a Catholic institution in Minnesota, censored the appearance of prominent pro-life speaker Star Parker because campus officials felt "uncomfortable" and "disturbed" by previous conservative speakers at the school. The University's mission statement claims it values "the pursuit of truth," "diversity," and "meaningful dialogue." Except, not really-or better yet, as long as the said "pursuit" doesn't offend leftist predilections. Meanwhile, within the past year, the same school hosted Al Franken, the bombastic liberal comedian, and Debra Davis, a transgendered activist who believes God is a black lesbian. Realizing they had a public relations disaster on their hands, the head honchos at St. Thomas eventually reversed the ban on Star Parker.

3. A new meaning of Duty, Honor, Country. Cadets at West Point, the nation's foremost military academy, must maintain disciplined, selfless behavior-a precursor to the standards graduates are expected to uphold and reinforce once commissioned as military officers. So how does leftist instructor Judy Rosenstein of the Department of Behavioral Sciences and Leadership encourage cadets to appreciate the military's code of conduct? By hosting a transgendered speaker in class, of course! "Allyson" Robinson, a West Point grad him-, er, herself, switched genders after leaving the Army. Upon returning to West Point as a guest speaker, "Mrs." Robinson found it "worrisome" that the student composition seemed more socially conservative than when "she" was a student. Perhaps West Point's leadership should confine speaker invitations to those whose behavior, if emulated, would not get cadets booted from the academy, much less the Army.

4. 2008's stolen election? Columbia University recently polled students on whether or not they would support the return of the Navy's Reserve Officers' Training Corps (ROTC) to campus after a 40-year absence. Columbia claimed the referendum lost by 39 votes. However, the University inexplicably closed the online poll at different times for different students and discarded more than 1,900 votes out of the 4,905 cast. To boot, the university showcased its "anti-fraud" measures, revealing they caught one person who purportedly voted 276 times! So much for secure, front-end identification control. In the end, 1,502 "valid" NAYs trumped the 1,463 AYEs. Does anyone else smell some anti-military electioneering rats?

5. When English class turns gay. Heads turned when Deerfield High School in Deerfield, Illinois required this book as part of an Advanced Placement English literature course: Angels in America: A Gay Fantasia on National Themes. The book is laced with graphic sexual content, much of it too inflammatory to print here-although there are "milder" exchanges fit to report, such as one character pleading with his sexual partner to "infect" and "make [him] bleed." Supporters of Angels in America say the book is useful because it depicts "forgiveness, kindness, and compassion," as if HIV-positive sodomy is the best way to promote empathy to minors.

6. You can't pray here! The First Amendment, is it a bestowed right given from above and protected by our government or a meaningless, antiquated concept to be disposed of? If you're the folks at the College of Alameda in California, you'd pick the latter. How else do you explain their threatening to expel a student who prayed on campus? It all started when a student, Kandy Kyriacou, visited her professor to give her a Christmas gift. But when Kandy saw that her teacher was ill, she offered to pray for her. The professor agreed. That's when Derek Piazza, another professor, walked in and freaked out that a prayer-gasp, a prayer-was occurring on college premises. "You can't be doing that in here," Piazza purportedly barked. Kandy received a retroactive "intent to suspend" letter from the administration, claiming that she was guilty of "disruptive or insulting behavior" and "persistent abuse of" college employees. Further infractions would result in expulsion, the letter read.

7. Hey, that feather cap is racist. For decades, kindergarten classes in the Claremont district of California have celebrated Thanksgiving by dressing up as Pilgrims and Indians and sharing a feast. Harmless, eh? Apparently not. In a letter to her daughter's elementary school teacher, Michelle Raheja, an English professor at University of California-Riverside, fumed that such activities are "dehumanizing" and serve as a "racist stereotype." In fact, Ms. Raheja whined that the Thanksgiving costume party is comparable to parading children around as "slaves" and "Jews." The school district capitulated, and now the toddlers are prohibited from wearing "their hand-made bonnets, headdresses and fringed vests."

8. Ho, ho, forgetaboutit! Who's offended by Christmas decorations? All the white liberals who celebrate Kwanza? Must be. Florida Gulf Coast University's president, Wilson Bradshaw, sent holiday festivities packing because he didn't know "how best to observe the season in ways that honor and respect all traditions." Holiday decor wasn't the only thing to go, under Mr. Bradshaw. The school's greeting card contest got tossed as well. Cheer up, says, the President-Christmas merriment was replaced with an "ugly sweater competition." Mr. Bradshaw ultimately had a change of heart, after his embarrassing attempt at censorship became public.

9. Leftist factions compete on who is more multicultural. When eco-fanatics at UC-Berkeley illegally saddled themselves in trees on campus and hurled urine and feces to block the construction of a multi-million dollar athletic facility, probably the last thing they expected was to be called racists. Yet the school's chancellor, Robert Birgeneau, labeled them just that, saying the environmental radicals were impeding the completion of a new athletic facility designed to attract "minority student athletes." Puzzled that the chancellor played the race card on them, the tree dwellers argued that "three of the final four" protestors were "Latinos" and the very first hijacker was a "Native American." One of the Berkeley zealots, who goes by the name "Running Wolf," said that Mr. Birgenaeau attempted "to pit colored against colored."

10. Who knew? Universal health care is actually a non partisan issue. Administrators at the College of St. Catherine in St. Paul, Minnesota-the nation's largest Catholic women's college-unexpectedly blocked young conservatives on campus from hosting Bay Buchanan, a popular conservative commentator and U.S. Treasurer under President Reagan. College officials deemed Ms. Buchanan's remarks on "Feminism and the 2008 Election" too politically charged, citing concerns about the school's tax status. Those same "concerns," mind you, didn't prohibit the school from sponsoring programs that push for universal healthcare and minimum wage increases or hosting Frank Kroncke, an anti-war radical who is reliving the Vietnam days. But Bay Buchanan? Well, she's partisan, according to St. Catherine's administration.

Source (See the original for links)

UK: Big Brother spying on 4-year-old pupils

Schools have installed CCTV cameras and microphones in classrooms to watch and listen to pupils as young as four. The Big Brother-style surveillance is being marketed as a way to identify pupils disrupting lessons when teachers' backs are turned. Classwatch, the firm behind the system, says its devices can be set up to record everything that goes on in a classroom 24 hours a day and used to compile `evidence' of wrongdoing. The equipment is sold with Crown Prosecution Service-approved evidence bags to store material to be used in court cases. The microphones and cameras can be used during lessons and when a classroom is unattended, such as during lunch breaks.

But data protection watchdog the Information Commissioner has warned the surveillance may be illegal and demanded to know why primary and secondary schools are using this kind of sophisticated equipment to watch children. Officials said they would be contacting schools to seek `proper justification' for the equipment's use. Classwatch is set to face further scrutiny over the role of Shadow Children's Minister Tim Loughton, the firm's 30,000 pounds-a-year chairman.

The equipment, which includes ceiling-mounted microphones and cameras and a hard drive recorder housed in a secure cabinet, is operating in around 85 primary and secondary schools and colleges. The systems cost around 3,000 to install in each classroom or can be leased for about 50 pounds per classroom per month. The firm says the devices act as `impartial witnesses' which can provide evidence in disputes and curb bullying and unruly behaviour and protect teachers against false allegations of abuse - plus provide evidence acceptable in court.

The firm also promotes its equipment as an educational tool, allowing `key lessons and class discussions to be recorded for revision, or for pupils who have missed important material or who may need extra help'. Schools are required to inform all parents that microphones and cameras are monitoring their children.

But last night an Information Commissioner's Office spokesman said the system raised `privacy concerns for teachers, students and their parents'. He said the ICO would contact Classwatch and schools using the devices. He added: `The use of microphones to record conversations is deeply intrusive and we will be seeking further clarification on their use in schools and, if necessary, we will issue further guidance to headteachers.'

Martin Johnson, deputy general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, added: `We strongly object to schools or colleges having free rein to use CCTV and microphones, especially in sensitive areas such as classrooms, changing rooms and toilets. `We expect CCTV be used appropriately and not to spy on staff or pupils.'

Classwatch director Andrew Jenkins, who set up the firm with his wife, said he welcomed further discussions with the Information Commissioner. He said Classwatch had tried to guard against accusations of bringing Big Brother into schools. `The system can be turned on and turned off as they wish,' he said. `It is a bit like a video at home. This is not Big Brother. The system is under the control of the teacher.'

Asked whether the company had taken account of the Commissioner's strict rules on workplace monitoring, he said: `Compliance with the Data Protection Act has always been a priority. `Schools are required to ensure they follow protocols which recognise the privacy of pupils and staff. The overwhelming experience has been that pupils feel safer and that teachers feel more in control of their classrooms.'

Last night, Tory frontbencher Mr Loughton insisted there was no conflict between his political role and part-time job. He said: `I am not the Shadow Minister for Schools, I am the Shadow Minister for Children. I don't speak on school security.' He declares his involvement with the firm on the MPs' register of interests and added: `I have never sought to advocate this. I went through this very carefully before I got involved in it and it doesn't conflict with anything I do.'

Labour MP Barry Sheerman, the chairman of the Commons Education Committee, said: `If the Information Commissioner is concerned, we all should be concerned and I think that my committee should look at it when Parliament returns.' A Schools Department spokesman said: `We do not prescribe what schools must do to tackle security.'


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