Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Not Your Parents' PTA

We've written a number of times about Minnesota's Tarek ibn Ziyad Academy (TiZA), a charter school that appears to be Muslim in all but name, and is closely affiliated with, if not an alter ego of, the radical Muslim American Society. The American Civil Liberties Union is engaged in litigation against TIZA, in which the ACLU alleges that the school unconstitutionally promotes religion at taxpayer expense. That litigation has gotten quite bitter.

Our friend Kathy Kersten has done more than anyone else to shed light on TIZA and its relationship with the Muslim American Society through her columns in the Minneapolis Star Tribune. Now, relying on court records, she details allegations of threats made against those who have provided information about the school's operations:
In January, the ACLU sought a protective order, telling the court that intimidation by TiZA was discouraging potential witnesses from appearing. ...

Elmasry is one witness who sought such protection. In January, he testified about TiZA's financial entanglement with the Muslim American Society of Minnesota at a Minnesota Senate subcommittee hearing on charter school lease aid. Shortly thereafter, Elmasry says in an affidavit, he was informed by a friend and TIZA parent that TiZA authorities had called a parent meeting, where they showed a video of Elmasry's testimony. Then, according to the parent's account, Asad Zaman, the school's director and an imam -- or Muslim religious leader -- accused Elmasry of talking to the Minnesota Department of Education and "selling" his "Iman," meaning his Islamic faith, according to Elmasry's affidavit.

Elmasry was frightened, he says. "It is well-known in Islam that a Muslim who rejects his or her faith is committing an act punishable by death," according to his affidavit. "There are many accounts of Muslims taking matters into their own hands and killing people they believe have sold or rejected their Islamic faith or Iman." ...

TiZA denies that a threat was intended, according to documents filed with the court. "Even if the Court accepts the comment alleged by Elmasry," the school maintains, "such remarks have significance only when issued by a proper Islamic judge, of which Elmasry and Zaman are not."

Well, that's reassuring.
Elmasry is not the only fearful witness. Edwards, who left her job at TiZA in 2009, also hesitates to testify about what she saw and heard during her years there.

During her tenure, she says in an affidavit, she saw "no real distinction" between the operations of TiZA and the Muslim American Society, with which the school shares a building. For years, "I watched [school officials] lash out in order to control those around them, and to retaliate against anyone who spoke poorly of the school, or otherwise challenged their authority." According to her affidavit, Zaman suggested that "we could just kill you" after becoming upset when she "challeng[ed] his authority."

Kathy's conclusion is apt: "we have to pinch ourselves to remember that we're talking here about a Minnesota public school -- financed with our tax dollars."


Swedish State takes custody of 7-year-old over homeschooling

Now human rights organizations reviewing 'state-napping'

Social workers have been visiting a Swedish couple whose son was "abducted" by government agents last year because he was being homeschooled, but that's not necessarily a good sign, and now two major rights organizations are exploring options to reunite the family.

The Home School Legal Defense Association and members of the Alliance Defense Fund have been advising Christer and Annie Johansson on the "state-napping" of their son, Dominic, 7, from an airliner as the family was preparing to move to India last year. "HSLDA and the Alliance Defense Fund are jointly advising the family and exploring all available avenues to help reunite Dominic with his family," the HSLDA said in a published statement.

"Swedish social workers have recently visited Christer and Annie and inquired about their current ability to take care of Dominic. According to a Swedish lawyer who spoke with HSLDA anonymously, these visits do not necessarily indicate the possible return of Dominic to his parents. Rather, this attorney said, Swedish social services intends to force the parents into 'complete subjugation and compliance with the system.'"

WND reported late last year when the Administrative Court of Stockholm affirmed the state custody of Dominic, who was taken from the airliner by uniformed police officers on the orders of social workers even though there was no allegation of any crime on the part of the family nor was there any warrant. At the time, Michael Donnelly, director of international affairs for the HSLDA, called the court decision "deeply disturbing." "The hostility against homeschooling and for parent's rights is contrary to everything expected from a Western nation," he said.

The HSLDA confirms the family's options are being reviewed. The parents are allowed to see their son for 60 minutes every fifth week. "At times referred to as a 'social utopia,' Sweden is completely antagonistic toward homeschoolers and, in reality, anyone who deviates from what the Swedish government defines as 'normal.' The government's quest for conformity produces troubling side effects: the criminalization of actions – such as a parent's decision regarding the best form of education for his child – that ought to be the hallmarks of a free, democratic society," the HSLDA said.

"Taking children from their parents over minor differences in approaches to medical care (e.g. choosing not to vaccinate or delaying minor dental treatments) and for homeschooling is completely at odds with the basic human rights which all Western democracies should reflect," the HSLDA said.

The organization is offering a webpage of information on how to support the family and linking to a petition advocating the return of Dominic to his parents. On the petition's forum page, a Canadian wrote, "I am appalled that this happened in a country as open, modern and inclusive as Sweden! I cannot understand it." An Australian called it "an abuse of power at the expense of a child." From Florida came the comment, "This is frightening!!!! … Please reverse this tragedy."

The attack on homeschoolers appears to be part of a trend in some Western nations, including Germany. WND reported only a few weeks ago when a German family was granted asylum in the United States because of the persecution members would face if returned to their home country.

The case in Sweden developed when the boy, from Gotland, was forcibly taken into custody minutes before he and his parents were due to take off to start a new life in India, Annie's home country.

In an online statement at the time, Johannson said, "While we may do things differently than most Swedes, we have not broken any laws and we have not harmed our son. We decided as a family that we wanted to move to India where we could be near my wife's family. But the government has taken over my family, and now we are living in a nightmare. I fear for the life of my wife under this torture and for the well-being of my son who has only been allowed to see his parents for a few hours since he was taken. The government is alienating my son from me, and I am powerless to do anything."

"What you have here is a socialist country trying to create a cookie cutter kid," said Roger Kiska, an Alliance Defense Fund attorney based in Europe. "This kind of thing happens too often where social workers take a child and then just keep him."



Four current stories below

Brainwashing of children by Chairman Rudd and his helpers

White guilt and climate hoax to be taught as fact in all Australian schools

SCHOOL children will learn about climate change and Sorry Day under the Federal Government's draft national curriculum. The new document, launched by Prime Minsiter Kevin Rudd and Education Minister Julia Gillard at the Amaroo School in Canberra, outlines the education plans for kindergarten to Year 10 English, maths, science and history students to replace state and territory standards next year.

Mr Rudd described it as a back-to-basics approach to teaching and learning, with grammar and arithmetic a focus. "What we are on about is making sure the absolute basics of knowledge, the absolute basics of education are taught right across the country," he said.

However, the draft also suggests five-year-olds discuss community commemorations such as Sorry Day and 15-year-olds explore the link between carbon dioxide and global warming.

Opposition education spokesman Christopher Pyne has slammed the 242-page document as a disaster waiting to happen. "We have a seemingly over-emphasis on indigenous culture and history and almost an entire blotting out of our British traditions and ... heritage," he told said. "I am deeply concerned that Australian students will be taught a particular black armband view of our history without any counterbalancing."

Professor Stuart MacIntyre, who oversaw the history stream of the draft curriculum, dismissed Mr Pyne's complaint. "I think anybody who looks at the curriculum online will have great difficulty in finding any armbands," he said. "One of the ways we (avoid this), of course, is to set the peopling of Australia, both by the original inhabitants and then by European settlers, in a comparative perspective."

Head science adviser to the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority, Dennis Goodrum, said one theory that wouldn't feature in the document was creationism. "The evolution theory is a cornerstone of science based on evidence and observation," he said. "Intelligent design is not ... in this particular curriculum because it is not science." But Professor Goodrum said global warming would be raised and investigated.

Ms Gillard acknowledged some teachers would need retraining to deliver the new curriculum successfully. "All schools ... invest in professional development to teach teachers about the curriculum," she said. "Obviously, that effort will be moved from teaching about state-based curriculums to teaching about the Australian curriculum."

Australian Education Union federal president Angelo Gavrielatos criticised Labor for rushing the process and not announcing how much the rollout would cost. "With implementation of the national curriculum due to commence next year, we are most concerned that there is still not any plan with an associated budget," he said.

Australian Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young called on the government to reveal how much money would be allocated to the curriculum in May's federal budget.

Family First senator Steve Fielding said it must not cost taxpayers an exorbitant amount to administer.

The draft national curriculum, available online for public consultation until May 23, will also be trialled by 150 schools during the same period.


Give Britain its due or we'll can it: opposition

THE federal Coalition has threatened to scrap the new national curriculum, saying it places too much emphasis on indigenous and Asian perspectives at the expense of British and European culture. Its education spokesman, Christopher Pyne, said the curriculum was "unbalanced".

"While there are 118 references in the document to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island people and culture, there is one reference to Parliament, none to 'Westminster' and none to the Magna Carta," he said. "Grade nines will consider the personal stories of Aboriginal people and examine massacres and 'indigenous displacement', without any reference to the benefit to our country of our European heritage and the sacrifice of our forebears to build a nation. The early signs are that the black armband view of history is back."

Mr Pyne said a Coalition government would review the curriculum. "If we find the review confirms our very serious doubts then we'll scrap the national curriculum and we'll start again because it would be better for students to have the curriculum that they have now under the states than for them to have an unbalanced curriculum that will do them more harm than good," he said.

In an interview with the Herald, the federal Education Minister, Julia Gillard, said she was worried by the threat. "When you've seen the opposition fight up hill and down dale to wreck [the] national curriculum and to wreck MySchool, then it does send a shiver up your spine about what they may do in the future." ....

Helen Walton, of the Federation of Parents and Citizens' Associations of NSW, said her organisation was happy with the increased focus on family, community and Aboriginal history.


Political correctness invades the science curriculum

As The Australian reported on Saturday, it’s not until Year 10 that science students will have any exposure to the periodic table of elements – potassium, hydrogen, all that stuff you used to learn rote-form back in the good old days. But there’s some waffly nonsense about non-western views of science, including Chinese medicine, and Aboriginal ideas of farming and land management.

Worst of all is the proposal to teach Aboriginal Dreamtime stories as part of the science stream. With due deference to the Rainbow Serpent, this is spiritualism not science, and every bit as wrong as the calls from Christian hardliners for the utter rubbish that is “creation science” and “intelligent design” to be taught alongside evolution and natural selection.

The greatest test of the curriculum will be the extent to which it can restore some basic old-fashioned principles of literacy, grammar, spelling – all the stuff that went out of fashion in the 1970s when everyone was simply encouraged to set their minds free and use their imagination, even if you could barely understand a word they had written.

The approach being taken with everyone’s favourite dysfunctional state government here in NSW stands as a warning against the mediocrity which has infected teaching in recent times.

While not everyone can, or should, attend university, there’s something desperately unambitious about the NSW Board of Studies decision to modify the second-tier NSW English Studies course to remove Shakespeare, but allow the “study” of rubbish movies such as The Matrix and the irritatingly twee television show Seachange.

If we are going to dumb down what is already a basic English course then maybe we should introduce a new subject called an Introduction to Remedial English – like a Dummy’s Guide to Dummy’s Guides.

At least we are not seeing this approach from Julia Gillard, who will have won plaudits from many parents yesterday – and probably upset the teachers unions – by arguing yesterday that too many Australian kids no longer have a basic grasp of reading and writing.

To judge the draft curriculum for yourself, go to the ACARA website - www.acara.edu.au – and follow the links.


Hatred, violence in Australian schools' classrooms

STUDENTS injured almost 3000 public school teachers in the past two years, an Education Department report obtained by The Advertiser shows. The Occupational Health and Safety Incident/Accident Report shows students were "deliberately" responsible for 98 per cent of the 2957 injuries reported by teachers from January 1, 2008, to December 31, 2009. Bruising and superficial injuries made up more than half the reported incidents with 3 per cent of incidents resulting in workers' compensation claims.

The figures raise further concerns for the safety of teachers, following a violent attack this week on a teacher at a northern suburbs primary school. According to police, the teacher was on yard duty at Swallowcliffe Primary School at Davoren Park, when a brick was thrown at her, hitting her in the back of the head. As she lay on the ground suffering from shock, the attackers then stole her office keys and, later, some cash.

Concerned parents said the school went into "lockdown" over the incident, with students finally allowed to go outside during recess and lunch yesterday. Students were also offered counselling after the attack.

South Australian Education Union president Correna Haythorpe said the "startling" report showed that teachers were increasingly being put in dangerous situations. "The figures paint a picture of rising levels of violent incidents that teachers are facing," she said. "Teachers expect to go to work to teach, not to be assaulted or injured."

The attack is the latest in a spate of violent incidents in schools this month. Last week, an Underdale High School pupil was punched in class by two youths posing as students.

In Brisbane earlier this month, Elliot Fletcher, 12, was fatally stabbed in the chest by a fellow student in the school toilets of St Patrick's College. But the Education Department played down any suggestions of a rise in violence in schools, describing this week's attack as very serious but a "one-off incident".

Education Department deputy chief executive Jan Andrews said police investigations were continuing and she expected the attackers, when found, to be charged. She added that they were currently checking the "accuracy" of the leaked report and that the majority of incidents were "minor". "We encourage teachers to report all incidents," she said. "The incident reporting rate has increased and that is something we are happy about," she said.

Swallowcliffe Primary School principal Assunta Alfano was yesterday unavailable for comment. But a parent of a Year 5 student, who wished to remain anonymous, said the school had been plagued by safety concerns.


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