Saturday, November 28, 2009

British schools boss comes out fighting - for 'racist' Islamic schools

A trustee of one of the schools which Ed Balls is defending has written in a Hizb ut Tahrir journal condemning the "corrupt western concepts of materialism and freedom," observes Andrew Gilligan

We connoisseurs of Ed Balls, a small but happy band, know from experience that the moment he gets that complacent little smile playing round his lips is the time to set the video; the moment when Her Majesty's Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families is once more about to walk, unknowingly, into an open manhole.

Mr Balls has been having good sport with the Tories this week. On Newsnight on Wednesday, the little smile was in full operation as he expressed mock sympathy with their communities spokesman, Paul Goodman, for having to defend the "factual errors" and "irresponsible politics" of his leader, David Cameron, in the row over Islamic schools. The Tories should have "checked their facts", he chided. Ofsted, he told Radio 4, "have satisfied themselves that there were not problems in these schools". The whole episode "casts real doubt on David Cameron's judgment", he said, sorrowfully.

Cameron had said that two schools run by members or activists of a thoroughly nasty extremist organisation, Hizb ut Tahrir, had been paid £113,000 of public money. The allegation came from a story of mine in the Telegraph four weeks ago. The central charge is perfectly true, thoroughly documented – and a scandal. But Cameron made some mistakes in the detail, sending the Westminster media chasing down one of their classic "process issue" cul-de-sacs (whether the schools were registered, and which particular part of the Whitehall cake this slice of cash had come from) and allowing Balls to launch his attack on Cameron. He clearly thought he'd scored a bullseye: one-nil to the forces of Gordon.

But it turns out to be Ed Balls, just as much as Cameron, who's been playing politics and failing to check the facts. The issue is not the situation with the schools now. It's the situation at the time the public money was paid. It turns out that the schools' chief Hizb ut Tahrir trustee, Yusra Hamilton, only resigned last month, in response to my story, long after the Government grant came in. The headteacher of one of the schools, Farah Ahmed, who remains a trustee to this day, refuses to deny that she was a Hizb member and has written in a Hizb journal condemning the "corrupt western concepts of materialism and freedom."

And Ofsted – far from "satisfying themselves that there were no problems" – actually condemned one of the two schools as "inadequate," questioned the suitability of the staff, and said that it could do more "to promote cultural tolerance and harmony." That was in November 2007.

By May 2008, according to a follow-up report, the school had been magically transformed, and was now "good". That second report, however, was written by an inspector with, at the very least, personal connections to Islamic groups.

I fear Mr Balls's heavy reliance on these Ofsted reports to defend the schools is about to make him look pretty silly. Ofsted is also, of course, the body that rated children's services in Haringey "good" – in the same year that the borough was comprehensively failing Baby P.

But there's a broader point. If taxpayer-funded schools were run by supporters of the BNP, there would be an outcry. Hizb ut Tahrir is an Islamic version of the BNP: not actually violent, but openly anti-Semitic, racist, and an enemy of liberal society. Do Ed Balls and New Labour really want to be the friends and defenders of such people? Does Balls really think it's good politics to be the Minister for Hizb ut Tahrir?

Not for the first time, the minister has allowed his thirst for a quick hit on the Tories to overcome his common sense. And not for the first time, he has scored a tactical victory, but dropped a massive strategic clanger.


Florida: Pupils suspended for 'Kick a Jew Day'

Ten students at North Naples Middle School were sent home for a day after a girl told the head teacher that she believed she had been kicked for being Jewish, prompting further instances to come to light. Florida passed strict anti-bullying laws last year and schools that do not do enough to stop it risk losing their state funding.

Margaret Jackson, the school's head teacher, has responded to the kicking incident by setting aside the first 20 minutes of each day to teaching students – aged 12 to 15 – about kindness, respect and ways of preventing bullying.

David Barkey of the Florida Anti-Defamation League said the organisation had been consulted over the incident. "You are talking about an incident that has anti-Jewish bias if not anti-semitism. You have Jewish students being singled out, harassed and assaulted," he said.

Last year, four pupils were suspended from a middle school in St Louis over a "Hit a Jew Day" in which one Jewish student was slapped in the face. The "day" had been the culmination of a "Spirit Week" organised by pupils which included "Hug a Friend Day" and "Hit a Tall Person Day".

Some believe the idea for such behaviour originally came from the satirical cartoon show South Park which featured a "Kick a Ginger Day" in an episode.


Hearing for homeschooler forced into gov't system

The New Hampshire Supreme Court has agreed to hear the case of a 10-year-old homeschool girl who has been ordered into a government-run school because she was too "vigorous" in defense of her Christian faith. As WND reported, a girl identified in court documents as "Amanda" had been described as "well liked, social and interactive with her peers, academically promising and intellectually at or superior to grade level."

Nevertheless, a New Hampshire court official determined that she would be better off in public school rather than continuing her homeschool education. The August decision from Marital Master Michael Garner reasoned that Amanda's "vigorous defense of her religious beliefs to [her] counselor suggests strongly that she has not had the opportunity to seriously consider any other point of view." The recommendation was approved by Judge Lucinda V. Sadler, but it is being challenged by attorneys with the Alliance Defense Fund, who said it was "a step too far" for any court.

The ADF filed motions with the court on Aug. 24 seeking reconsideration of the order and a stay of the decision sending the 10-year-old student in government-run schools in Meredith, N.H. On Sept. 17, a lower-court judge refused to reconsider or stay the order.

The denial of the motions, signed by Judge Sadler of the Family Division of the Judicial Court for Belknap County in Laconia, states, "Amanda is at an age when it can be expected that she would benefit from the social interaction and problem solving she will find in public school, and granting a stay would result in a lost opportunity for her."

The dispute arose as part of a modification of a parenting plan for the girl. The parents divorced in 1999 when she was a newborn, and the mother has homeschooled her daughter since first grade with texts that meet all state standards. In addition to homeschooling, the girl attends supplemental public-school classes and has also been involved in a variety of extracurricular sports activities, the ADF reported.

But during the process of negotiating the terms of the plan, a guardian ad litem appointed to participate concluded the girl "appeared to reflect her mother's rigidity on questions of faith" and that the girl's interests "would be best served by exposure to a public-school setting" and "different points of view at a time when she must begin to critically evaluate multiple systems of belief ... in order to select, as a young adult, which of those systems will best suit her own needs." According to court documents, the guardian ad litem earlier had told the mother, "If I want her in public school, she'll be in public school." The guardian ad litem had an anti-Christian bias, the documents said, telling the mother at one point she wouldn't even look at homeschool curriculum. "I don't want to hear it. It's all Christian-based," she said.

The marital master who heard the case proposed the Christian girl be ordered into public school after considering "the impact of [her religious] beliefs on her interaction with others."

"Courts can settle disputes, but they cannot legitimately order a child into a government-run school on the basis that her religious views need to be mixed with other views. That's precisely what the lower court admitted it is doing in this case, and that's where our concern lies," ADF-allied attorney John Anthony Simmons said in a statement. Simmons said the court wrongly interfered with Amanda's education plan after admitting the child was sociable and "academically promising and intellectually at or superior to grade level." "[B]ut then it ordered her out of the homeschooling she loves so that her religious views will be challenged at a government school," Simmons explained. "That's where the court went too far."

Now the New Hampshire Supreme Court will hear the case. ADF Senior Legal Counsel Mike Johnson said the lower court is setting a dangerous standard.

"We are concerned anytime a court oversteps its bounds to tread on the right of a parent to make sound educational choices, or to discredit the inherent value of the homeschooling option," Johnson sad. "The lower court effectively determined that it would be a 'lost opportunity' if a child's Christian views are not sifted and challenged in a public-school setting. We regard that as a dangerous precedent."


1 comment:

Unknown said...

Re post below, I agree, the linkage bewteen high school and further study should be broken.