Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Teachers lose out in latest Obama funding bill

The House is sending to President Barack Obama a bill to fund the troop surge in Afghanistan after accepting the reality that adding money for domestic programs was unfeasible.

House Democrats reluctantly voted for the $59 billion measure Tuesday that will pay for Obama's 30,000-troop surge and other programs such as replenishing disaster funds. But the bill was stripped of money to keep teachers on the job or boost student aid. The vote comes a week after the Senate soundly rejected the larger House-favored bill.

The bill contains $33 billion to pay for the new troops in Afghanistan and other Pentagon programs.

Obama requested the war money in February, but the bill became a staging ground for a battle over adding money for domestic needs.

Mr. Obama said today there's not much new in the tens of thousands of leaked Afghanistan war documents. He made clear he's still full a committed to his troop surge strategy, reports CBS News correspondent Chip Reid.

In the House Tuesday, the Mr. Obama's own party was split down the middle on a crucial war funding vote. Liberal war critics used the leaked documents as a weapon. Mr. Obama found himself in the unusual position of relying on Republicans to pass his bill, reports Reid.


The Eunuch Horn

By Mike Adams (I don't know how Mike has the stomach to read all the trash he dissects below but I guess somebody has got to do it)

In recent years, the rise of postmodernism in our culture and in our system of education has been undeniable. That it has been accompanied by an increase in the desire of some discontented souls to “redefine” themselves along the lines of certain variables has been equally undeniable. The most prominent of these variables is gender.

When your son or daughter takes “Sociology of Gender” classes it is likely that he or (more likely) she will encounter the works of Kate Bornstein, a transgender performance artist and writer. She (?) proclaims that she (?) doesn’t “personally identify as a man or a woman” although she (?) concedes that she (?) passes for a woman in the eyes of most.

But things are more complicated than that for Kate. She (?) says that when she (?) was growing up she (?) was a boy. If you’re wondering how a person can be two different genders in a lifetime – even without the surgery – here’s a revealing quote: “I would even go so far as to say Jewish men are a different gender than Christian men, and that’s the way I see it, but it’s not a bad thing! It’s just a fact.”

It’s hard to know where to begin to dissect this kind of stupidity, which passes for scholarship in sociology classes. I’m tempted to begin with her idea that there is a multiplicity of genders, which vary by race. But there is a much more basic flaw in evidence. Notice that Bornstein believes (or pretends to believe) that something can be “the way she sees it” and “just a fact” simultaneously.

Regrettably, this is not the only time Bornstein attempts (simultaneously) to be both a postmodernist and a proponent of absolute truth. She attempts to do no less than to discard the law of non-contradiction, which says that something cannot be both “A” and “not A” simultaneously. This is all just laying the groundwork for saying that one can be both man and woman simultaneously.

Of course, according to Bornstein, one can find some comfortable middle ground along an endlessly nuanced gender continuum: “What I’m thinking is that different kinds of men might as well be tagged as different genders, different ways of expressing oneself within some sort of male middle range, none of which measures up to the cultural ideal.”

What bothers Bornstein is that gender is “a hierarchical dynamic masquerading behind and playing itself out through each of only two socially privileged mono-gendered identities.” She goes on to say that “the power of this kind of gender perfection would be in direct proportion to the power of those who can stake legitimate claims to those identities.”

It is not at all surprising that Bornstein employs Marxist terminology in her (?) “scholarly” analysis of gender. Her (?) assertion that there is a gender pyramid, the height of which “measures the amount of power a person wields in the world,” is old hat. Nor is there anything novel in her enumeration of the factors that help one climb to the top of the hierarchy. Among those factors are:

Being white, being a citizen of the USA, being a Protestant-defined Christian, being heterosexual, being monogamous, being politically conservative, being a capitalist, being physically healthy with access to health care, possessing all rights available under the law, being logical, possessing a well-formed, above-average-length penis, a pair of reasonably-matched testicles, and at least an average sperm count …

Bornstein concludes that all of these factors, which make for a “perfect identity,” are an oppressive force against which there must be some sort of rebellion. Feminists must rebel against “man” as a perfect classification. African-Americans must rebel against “white” as a perfect classification. Jews must rebel against “gentile” as a perfect classification. Bisexuals, lesbians, and gays must rebel against “straight” as a perfect classification.

Finally, transgendered folks must rebel against “gendered” as a perfect classification. In a world without classifications, there can be no contradictions.

Sociology students who read Kate Bornstein are urged to resist moving selfishly upward in the so-called gender pyramid. Instead, they are asked to simply dismantle the pyramid altogether. But before they are asked to rebel against the gender pyramid, Bornstein asks students this pointed question: “What does simply being the gender you were assigned at birth give you?”

It’s not at all surprising that Bornstein’s readers are asked to contemplate what their God-given gender assignment does for them. In higher education, the focus is always on them. It is certainly never on God.

In the past, I have offended some transgendered persons by asking these two questions: 1) Does the act of removing a man’s penis make him into a woman? 2) If your answer to #1 is “yes,” does re-attaching it to his forehead make him a unicorn?

Those two questions are my little way of asking the transgendered community whether there is any limit to their delusional belief that they can simply be whatever they perceive themselves to be. Their “reassignment” of mental illness – saying that others who oppose them suffer from “trans-phobia” – supplies the answer.

Clearly, today’s “intellectual” is unwilling to admit that a man who thinks he is a woman is mentally ill. But what about the man who thinks he is God?

Before long, “intellectuals” will side-step the issue. There will be no contradiction between being human and not-human. We will have rebelled against “God” as a perfect classification.


"Special needs" is a fad that harms British children

Pupils are being subjected to all manner of crank treatments in the name of helping them, says Francis Gilbert

Twenty years ago, when I started teaching in a tough, inner-city comprehensive, only three of my pupils were labelled as having "special educational needs". All three were extreme cases: one girl liked to throw chairs at her teachers, another had severe hearing problems, and another didn't have a working stomach.

Today, things have swung to the other extreme: classrooms are swamped by pupils classified as "SEN", or having learning difficulties. All told, one in three of those aged between six and 16, or more than two million children, are identified as having some sort of learning difficulty. And it's getting worse: in the past two years, the number of under-fives with learning difficulties has risen by almost 20 per cent, and the number of teenagers being diagnosed has also increased exponentially.

Why is this? Is it that our children have got a lot thicker? Are teachers getting better at identifying problems? Or is some kind of chronic "SEN" inflation going on?

Partly, the explanation is medical. A recent survey by Glasgow University showed that babies born even a week early have a greater propensity to develop special needs. Overall, eight out of 10 severely premature babies go on to have learning difficulties, with two out of 10 having a severe disability. Even a decade ago, many such children would have died; with today's improved survival rates, they will grow up to enter the education system.

At the same time, teachers are undoubtedly getting better at spotting SEN. There are, of course, huge variations from school to school, with some, particularly in more deprived areas, identifying as many as 70 per cent of their pupils as such. To my mind, they are justified in doing so, because there is a clear link between social deprivation and what we call SEN: poverty breeds students who really struggle to read and write. In that inner-city classroom I mentioned, alongside the three children labelled as having special needs there were many others who struggled to read even simple picture books. Nowadays, most would be diagnosed as having SEN. And with good reason – they needed a lot of extra help.

It's a moot point, however, as to whether they have genuine difficulties, or are just the victims of parents who don't value education. These parents usually hate their child being labelled in this way, and cause more problems by making their children feel ashamed of their diagnosis. At the other end of the social scale, I've found that many middle-class parents are chomping at the bit to have their child dubbed SEN. In fact, increasing numbers of pupils don't seem to have any learning difficulties whatsoever. What they do have are pushy parents who know that a SEN diagnosis means that their kids will get preferential treatment: extra time in exams, more attention from teachers, and even special equipment like laptops and MP3 players.

That said, many teachers, myself included, like to "work the system", too. We realise that having a child diagnosed as SEN is greatly to our benefit because it means that we get extra resources – and it also lets us off the hook if they fail their exams.

In other words, pupils categorised as having special needs have been wrongly labelled: a government survey of teenagers classed as having SEN in 2009 showed that almost half had no such diagnosis six years earlier. A particularly worrying trend is the increasing numbers of children who are being identified as having attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), a phrase which in the teaching profession is a politically correct euphemism for "being completely out of control".

According to data released under Freedom of Information legislation, there has been a 65 per cent increase in spending on drugs to treat ADHD over the last four years. Such treatments now cost the taxpayer more than £31 million a year. In the US, the use of prescription drugs to "cure" learning difficulties has become a billion-dollar industry.

This "medicalisation" of SEN is deeply worrying; it promotes the lie that a child's learning difficulties can be solved by drugs rather than good teaching. It's meant that all sorts of self-help quacks are grabbing money from schools and gullible parents by promising to "cure" children with herbal remedies, head massages, visualisation techniques, brainwave measurement, or the chanting of mantras.

All of which makes me think that perhaps it's time to junk the term "Special Educational Needs" altogether, along with much of the jargon that goes with it. Sadly, these terms have become excuses to hide behind rather than steps towards solutions. Instead bandying around vague pseudo-scientific terms like "dyslexia" and "ADHD", we need to demand that learning difficulties are identified simply and specifically. If a pupil has a problem with reading books aimed at their age range, let's call it precisely that, rather than saying he's "dyslexic" – a notorious word that seems to mean something different every time it's used.

It's time we all realised no amount of jargon, drugs or massages can solve our children's problems. The only real solution, as it always has been, is hard graft.


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