Sunday, September 06, 2009

UK foundation to distribute textbook that lauds Muslim world's scientific and cultural heritage

This is tired old garbage. The one thing they get right is that the Dark Ages were not uniformly dark. The Christian Greek half of the Roman empire -- Byzantium -- continued on alongside the Islamic imperium for fully half a millennium. They were militarily powerful and the Muslims could not conquer them. It was actually the Venetians who ended up destroying Byzantium. Classical scholarship was at no time lost in the Christian world, though it was largely lost in Western Europe. The Muslims simply borrowed books from the Greek Christians of Byzantium next door. They also took over the learning of the Persian empire when they conquered it. And the scholarship in Spain was mainly the work of Jews. And many so-called Muslim books were in fact the work of Assyrian Christians. There is very little in so-called Muslim civilization that is actually Muslim. It was little more than a patchwork of borrowings from other cultures

An educational foundation in the UK has announced plans to distribute to high schools a free book that highlights the scientific and cultural legacies of Muslim civilization. "1001 Inventions: Muslim Heritage in Our World" is the creation of the Foundation for Science Technology and Civilization (FSTC), a Manchester-based organization set up to raise awareness of the contributions of the Muslim world to modern civilization.

FSTC said the contribution that Muslim and other civilizations have made to the modern world has been widely overlooked and that its team of academics has focused on debunking the myth of the so-called "Dark Ages of Civilization." "The period between the 7th and 17th centuries - which has been erroneously labeled 'the Dark Ages' - was in fact a time of exceptional scientific and cultural advancement in China, India and the Arab world," Prof. Salim Al-Hassani, chief editor of the book, said. "This is the period in history that gave us the first manned flight, huge advances in engineering, the development of robotics and the foundations of modern mathematics, chemistry and physics."

The foundation said it hoped to distribute 3,000 copies of the book to UK schools by October and is seeking public support for the campaign through a sponsorship scheme.

Last month, British evolutionary biologist, popular science author and outspoken atheist Richard Dawkins announced plans to distribute free DVDs to high schools across the UK. "While the Dawkins campaign, supported by the British Humanist Association, positions science and religion as opposing forces, the 1001 Inventions project reminds us that for 1,000 years the religious and the scientific were comfortable bedfellows and led to unprecedented openness to new ideas and social change," the FSTC said.

The foundation said it was not challenging Dawkins with the free book but only wanted to "encourage debate about the relationship between science, faith and culture." It said FSTC has campaigned for school curriculums to acknowledge the scientific achievements of Muslim civilization for more than a decade. "Whilst the Dawkins DVD teaches young people about the experimental scientific method, it fails to point out that it was pioneered by a religious physicist called Ibn-Al Haytham, who saw no conflict in being both a Muslim and a scientist," Prof. Al-Hassani said. The book comes with a DVD, a poster set for classrooms, a free Teachers Pack and lesson plans.

Responding to the initiative Jon Benjamin, chief executive of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, the representative organization of Anglo-Jewry, said: "Foundations can distribute materials to schools, but that does not mean that schools will or should use them. We would expect the DCSF [Department for Children, Schools and Families] to monitor carefully what is made available to children for appropriateness and balance."

The project has been accused of being Islamic propaganda by a London-based think tank. "This organization calling itself the FSTC is not an educational project. It is a dawah project. That is, it is Islamic propaganda," said Douglas Murray, director of the Center for Social Cohesion, a non-partisan organization that focuses on issues related to community cohesion in the UK.

"There is significant ignorance these days, in the Britain, and the West in general, about our own scientific and cultural heritage. Organizations like the FSTC aim to step into the gap created by that ignorance and claim that the roots of our culture do not lie in our Greek and Judeao-Christian heritage, but in Islamic history."

Murray accused the FSTC of mixing propaganda with scientific history. "There are those who would claim that no good whatsoever has come from the Islamic world, such claims are demonstrably ignorant. But it is also ignorant and indeed ridiculous to mix propaganda with scientific history as the people behind this project seem to be doing."

A spokesperson from the Department for Children, Schools and Families said schools could use the material at their discretion.


An open letter to Notre Dame's president to release abortion protestors

Dear Father Jenkins:

I’m writing you, as president of Notre Dame, my alma mater, with an urgent plea that you drop the criminal trespass charges that have been pending against the many defendants – most of whom are faithful, fervent pro-life Catholics – who “dared” to venture onto Notre Dame’s campus last Spring, 2009, to bear peaceful, prayerful witness to the sanctity of all human life, from conception to natural death.

Among them were at least one priest and several nuns, Norma McCorvey, the “Jane Roe” of Roe v. Wade, former presidential candidate Alan Keyes, two ladies – Jane Brennan, author of Motherhood Interrupted (2008), and Laura Rohling – who preach about healing and hope after abortion in the Archdiocese of Denver, Colorado, and many other non-violent participants in America’s pro-life movement.

Many were praying the rosary or singing religious hymns. The priest – Fr. Norman Weslin, who regularly prays and counsels abortion-bound women about live-saving alternatives outside the Omaha, Nebraska abortion facility of late-term abortionist, Dr. Leroy Carhart – carried a heavy wooden cross and a rosary.

Others carried signs proclaiming that life is sacred, that abortion kills children, and other pro-life messages. All were arrested, handcuffed, and hauled off to jail where they spent the night and sometimes longer in custody. Surely that protracted detention and the humbling impact of a public arrest on trying to enter the campus of America’s premier Catholic university was enough of a penalty to offset whatever “injury” or “insult” these good people inflicted on Notre Dame’s property rights.

So, it was shocking to hear that the charges were not quickly dropped, and an even worse surprise to hear that these good Catholics had to return to South Bend to enter their pleas of “not guilty” and then again to demand jury trials.

When the St. Joseph County prosecutor backed off the latter demand, we were yet more deeply aggrieved on hearing, Fr. Jenkins, that you had responded to a request that the charges be dropped by claiming that “it is out of [your] hands.” With respect, Father, the future of these cases – if they must go on – is squarely in your hands. Notre Dame is the complainant. Its security personnel directed and/or conducted the arrests, pointing out those who would be arrested (pro-lifers) and those who would not (those carrying pro-Obama signs and/or taunting the pro-lifers).

Participation of Notre Dame witnesses will be essential if these 88 cases – all of which are to be scheduled for jury trials – actually go forward. Some defenses that already have been raised by initial trial counsel – e.g., Catholics’ access to the Sacred Heart Basilica on campus – also would require Notre Dame witnesses’ involvement in the trials.

I’m not only a Notre Dame alumnus but also president and chief counsel of a public interest law firm, based in Chicago, the Thomas More Society. We founded the Society over 10 years ago to carry on the defense of a nationwide federal class action lawsuit against pro-life protesters, NOW v. Scheidler. The Scheidler case involved charges that what Dr. M.L. King called “peaceable, non-violent direct action” (Letter from Birmingham Jail (April, 1963)) constituted the federal felony crimes of extortion and racketeering. We won Scheidler only after two decades of litigation and three U.S. Supreme Court appeals. We finally prevailed, with two successive Supreme Court wins, both by decisive, bipartisan margins: by 8-1 (2003) and then by 8-0 (2006).

Notre Dame helped us when we defended NOW v. Scheidler. Fr. Hesburgh wrote letters and agreed to testify as a character witness at the trial. Fr. Joyce sent us many generous donations. Notre Dame law professor Bob Blakey argued our first Supreme Court appeal.

But now the “Notre Dame 88" have asked us to take the lead in their defense. Not to spite Notre Dame but because we love it, we have agreed. America’s civil rights movement is ongoing, and the pro-life movement is its next phase. Notre Dame should not only support this new civil rights movement but lead it. It should honor all who dare to speak out for the dignity of all human beings – born or unborn, wanted or unwanted, humble or exalted – not prosecute them!

SOURCE [I doubt that the make-believe Catholics of Notre Dame will take much notice of this. They are not even religious enough to be called today's Pharisees]

British independent schools score far more A and A* grades at GCSE than do State schools

About two thirds of GCSE exams taken at independent schools this year gained at least an A grade, compared with only one in five in the state sector. The increase in the proportion of top marks at private schools comes as a growing number of independent head teachers abandon GCSEs in favour of more rigorous exams, casting doubt on their usefulness.

Westminster School, London, which leads this year’s independent schools table with 98.1 per cent of all grades at either A or A*, will offer ten subjects as International GCSEs (IGCSE) in the next academic year. “Pupils taking more rigorous IGCSE exams have found them more intellectually stimulating and enjoyable, so they do even better in them [than in GCSEs]” said Stephen Spurr, the headmaster of Westminster.

The IGCSE contains no coursework element and is similar to a traditional O level. It is favoured by all of this year’s Top Ten independent schools but is still not recognised by the Government. Dr Spurr said the GCSE syllabus for some subjects, particularly science, is not challenging enough for pupils at the £19,000-a-year school. “We want them to have reached a level of scientific understanding which is going to help them make informed scientific decisions in the future, even if they are not taking it at A level,” he said. “The GCSE doesn’t allow for that — for the academic level of pupils at Westminster it is too low.”

At St Paul’s Girls’ School, also in London, which heads the independent girls table with 97.3 per cent at A or A*, only maths is offered as an IGCSE. But Clarissa Farr, the school’s High Mistress, said that the school was planning a review of education for 14 to 16-year-olds this year. “We want to be sure that the curriculum provides sufficient challenge for our students,” she said. The school is considering expanding the number of IGCSEs it offers and could also adopt the middle years baccalaureate in place of GCSEs.

Magdalen College School, Oxford, came top of the all-boys table with 97.9 per cent A and A* grades. Tim Hands, the headmaster, said he still believes in the capacity of the GCSE syllabus to test even the cleverest. “They offer a broad base, discriminate between schools effectively and are challenging,” Dr Hands said. “If we have too much change, then young people are deprived of stability.”

Almost 60 per cent of GCSEs and IGCSEs taken by independent pupils were awarded A or A* this year compared with 21.6 per cent of those taken in state schools. Admissions tutors at top universities, including Oxford and Cambridge, have indicated that they value the IGCSE most highly. State schools cannot take IGCSEs and are allowing their brightest pupils to leap-frog GCSEs and take AS levels instead.

One in seven independent schools has boycotted the league tables published by the Independent Schools Council. Among them is St Paul’s School for Boys in London, whose High Master, Martin Stephen, denounced league tables as a “lie”. He said: “The problem with league tables is they compare apples and pears. It’s absolutely idiotic to have a highly selective day school compared on the same basis as a comprehensive entry rural school.”


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