Thursday, December 10, 2009

Court to Decide If Christian College Group Must Allow homosexuals

The Supreme Court said Monday it will decide whether a California law school must force a Christian group to admit gays, lesbians and nonbelievers to gain stature as an official campus organization.

The high court agreed to hear an appeal from a chapter of the Christian Legal Society at the University of California's Hastings College of the Law. A federal judge had turned aside the group's attempt to force the school to give it campus funding and other benefits without opening its membership to gays, lesbians and nonbelievers -- a requirement of the San Francisco school.

The 30-member Hastings group was told in 2004 that it was being denied recognition, including university funding and benefits, because of its policy of exclusion. Federal courts have rejected the group's assertions that the law school's policy violated its freedoms of speech, religion and association.

"The court below got it wrong and we're trusting that the Supreme Court will correct this," said Kim Colby, senior counsel with the Christian Legal Society's Center for Law and Religious Freedom.

According to a society news release, it invites all students to its meetings. "However, CLS voting members and officers must affirm its Statement of Faith," the statement said. "CLS interprets the Statement of Faith to include the belief that Christians should not engage in sexual conduct outside of a marriage between a man and a woman."

Colby said that simply means that the group simply "requires that their leaders share their religious beliefs." The Christian Legal Society has chapters at universities nationwide. The group has sued other universities on the same grounds. It won at Southern Illinois University, whether the university settled with the group in 2007 and recognized its membership and leadership policies.


Charter Colleges Could Provide Real Alternatives to a Corrupt System

Confirmation of biblical wisdom came earlier this fall from an unlikely source: an Ivy Mikhail Gorbachev came to power in 1985 and saw the Soviet Union falling apart. He first announced a vague reform plan that proposed increased productivity, technological modernization, and some reform of the Soviet bureaucracy. That achieved little, so in 1986 he moved on to perestroika, designed to encourage initiative and reduce inefficiency. That didn't do much so in 1988 he introduced glasnost, which brought in some freedom of speech and a new law that encouraged private ownership of businesses. That good idea came too late to keep the Soviet evil empire from disintegrating in 1989 and collapsing in 1991.

The editors of The Chronicle of Higher Education—academe's trade journal—recently gave the well-read back cover of an issue to Hamid Shirvani, president of California State University-Stanislaus. Under a provocative headline—"Will a Culture of Entitlement Bankrupt Higher Education?"—Shirvani compared colleges and universities to the auto industry and noted that "resistance to change in academe has helped create inflexible, unsustainable organizations" like General Motors. He then, like Gorby in 1985, recommended a vague reform plan—"review redundancies, rethink staffing models, and streamline business practices"—along with several specific suggestions, such as larger classes and larger course loads for faculty.

One problem with such economically necessary reforms is that they will reduce traditional education's ability to compete with online offerings: If students don't get personal attention from classroom professors, they're often better off taking online courses (see "Class without rooms", Oct. 10). A second shortcoming is that Shirvani's reforms do not deal with the problem of left-wing-only campuses. American universities are not yet as disliked as Soviet institutions in 1989—football teams still spark loyalty—but as more donors and legislators rebel against campus intellectual repression, higher education's support base will shrink even as costs rise beyond the ability of financially beleaguered parents to keep up.

My own choice in this situation has been to leave the socialist sector of higher education and attempt to make a competitive private college work. That's hard going in today's economy, and for those who still hope to work within government-funded institutions a new alternative has emerged. Rob Koons, the University of Texas professor removed last fall as head of a UT Western Civilization program (see "Losing a beachhead", Sept. 12), is proposing that Texas legislators back the creation of charter colleges, as they now support the creation of charter schools.

Charter colleges could offer specific majors or they could be "core curriculum charters" that would offer "at least eighteen semester hours in ethics and the classics of Western civilization and of American thought." Core curriculum charter colleges could offer great books seminars including courses on the Bible, ancient Greece and Rome, Renaissance and Reformation, and the American tradition: Students in that last course could study works including the Federalist and Anti-Federalist Papers, the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, Jefferson's Notes on the State of Virginia, Tocqueville's Democracy in America, Thoreau's Walden, and Booker T. Washington's Up from Slavery.

Charter colleges would receive per-student funding as charter K-12 schools now do. They could rent space in university buildings. Their liberty would be limited: They would have to be nonpartisan and nonsectarian in terms of control by religious institutions. They would have to offer a viable business plan, a governance structure satisfying the principles of professional responsibility and academic freedom, and a set of procedures and standards for hiring and retaining instructors. Whenever the government cat stalks the premises, intellectual mice cannot play as freely as they otherwise might.

Nevertheless, the development of a charter college system would end the hegemony of the bureaucratic, central-planning model of higher education that has grown up during the last 60 years. Competition would improve the quality of education at state universities by ending unchecked and innovation-stifling educational control by faculty majorities. Competition would push academic specialists to consider the interests and goals of students instead of offering fragmented and hyper-specialized courses that merely fulfill their own research objectives. We need campus glasnost: more intellectual diversity and free speech. We won't achieve it without a thorough perestroika that allows room for moderates and conservatives as well as liberals and radicals.


British primary schools bad for boys

Being taught by women indoctrinated into feminism must be very alienating

Boys are slipping further behind girls after just two years of schooling, official figures have revealed. They are behind girls in English, maths and science by the age of seven and the gender gap is widening, it emerged. The figures, from the Department for Children, Schools and Families, sparked renewed concerns about the prospects for a generation of boys.

Millions have been spent on initiatives aimed at reducing the educational gulf between the sexes but ministers insisted yesterday there were no quick solutions. Research has shown that youngsters who perform poorly at primary school are less likely to do well in their GCSEs and progress on to university. A report last month warned that the failure to teach the three Rs properly in primary schools drove 'angry and resentful boys out of school and into trouble'.

The report, published by the Centre for Policy Studies, claimed left-wing 'ideological fads' had wreaked most damage on working-class boys.

Yesterday's statistics reveal how the gender gap at seven is widest in writing, with 86.7 per cent of girls reaching 'level two' - the standard expected for their age - compared to 75.3 per cent of boys. This gives a gap of 11.4 per cent - an increase on 11 per cent in 2006. Girls also pulled further ahead in maths and science, while the gap in reading remained similar.

A lack of male teachers and growing exposure to computer games and TV have also been blamed for the under-performance of boys, who are also considered late starters.

Dr Richard House, senior lecturer in psychotherapy at Roehampton University, said: 'There is a grave danger that boys will simply become disaffected and 'turn off' from learning if they experience comparative failure at too young an age.'

Schools Minister Diana Johnson said there were no quick fixes. 'It takes time and energy from both parents and teachers to make changes,' she said. 'You need focused, long-term support to get sustained improvement over time.'


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