Sunday, January 09, 2011

Arizona Bans extremist Latino Studies Program in Tucson school

A new immigration debate is burning in Arizona this week after the state's attorney general declared a Tucson school district's Mexican-American program illegal -- while similar class programs for blacks, Asians and American Indians were left standing.

"It's propagandizing and brainwashing that's going on there," Tom Horne, the new attorney general said earlier this week referring to the Latino program. He ruled it violated a new state law that went into effect on Jan. 1, the New York Times reported Saturday.

When he was the state's superintendent of public instruction, Horne wrote the bill challenging the program. The legislature passed it last spring, and Gov. Jan Brewer signed it into law in May at a time when Arizona was mired in protests against its new anti-illegal immigration law.

Now, adding to an already combustible racial and ethnic climate in the heavily Hispanic state, 11 teachers have filed suit in federal courts challenging the new ethnic-studies law, the one that is backed by Horne.

In the Tucson school case, the state claims that the Latino program is more about creating future activists and less about education.

Horne's fight with Tucson goes back to 2007, the Times reported, when Dolores Huerta, co-founder with Cesar Chavez of the United Farm Workers, told high school students in a speech that Republicans hated Latinos. And Horne is a Republican.

Arizona school districts may lose 10 percent of their state funds if their ethnic studies programs fail to meet new state standards. Programs that support the overthrow of the United States government are banned. Also prohibited are classes that encourage hatred or resentment toward a race, or that focus on one race, or that support ethnic solidarity instead of individuality.

Horne said that Tucson's Latino program violated all those provisions. The district has 60 days to comply with the new law, although Horne indicated that the program would be ended anyway. He said that other districts ethnic-studies programs could continue, absent any complaints.

At Tucson High Magnet School where nearly all the students enrolled in Curtis Acosta's Latino literature class were Mexican-American, students expressed anger, asking how they could protest Horne's decision. "They wrote a state law to snuff this program out, just us little Chicanitos," Acosta told the New York Times. "The idea of losing this is emotional."

On the other side, Horne was asked if he felt he was being compared to Bull Connor, the Alabama police commissioner whose violence against blacks and other freedom fighters became the image of bigotry in the 1960s. Horne said he had joined the March on Washington in 1963, and lashed out at his critics, saying, "They are the 'Bull Connors.' They are the ones re-segregating."


Teachers MUST be free to touch children, says British education boss as he vows to restore common sense in schools

Michael Gove has said music teachers must be free to touch children to show them techniques, after a performers' group said all physical contact should be avoided.

The Musicians' Union sparked outrage when they released a video, supported by the NSPCC, telling teachers not to get too close to youngsters - amid fears they could be branded paedophiles. They insisted the policy was necessary to protect tutors who are suspended instantly when an accusation of inappropriate touching is made.

Education secretary Mr Gove said the video was pandering to peoples' fears and teachers have branded the tape a 'hysterical over reaction'.

The film - entitled 'Keeping Children Safe In Music' - shows a sinister looking music teacher helping a boy to play the violin. As the teacher intervenes to correct his play by putting a hand on his shoulder and his fingers in the correct place on the strings, the youngster looks concerned.

In a letter to the Musicians' Union general secretary John Smith, Mr Gove wrote: 'By telling your music teachers that they should avoid any physical contact with children, it sends out completely the wrong message. 'It plays to a culture of fear among both adults and children, reinforcing the message that any adult who touches a child is somehow guilty of inappropriate contact.'

The Department for Education 'is taking steps to restore common sense to this whole area' he said.

Mr Gove confirmed in October last year that he intends to scrap so-called 'no touch' rules which discourage teachers from restraining and comforting children.

In his letter, Mr Gove added: 'It is entirely proper and necessary for adults to touch children when they demonstrate how to play a musical instrument, when they show how to play certain sports, when they are leading a child away from trouble, when they are comforting distressed or disconsolate children and when they are intervening to prevent disorder and harm.'

He added that it is 'particularly important' that music teachers are confident in demonstrating techniques.

In the video, a voiceover message says: 'When you're teaching instruments, there are times when you need to demonstrate particular techniques. 'In the past, this has often been done by touching students, but this can make students feel uncomfortable, and can leave teachers open to accusations of inappropriate behaviour. 'It isn't necessary to touch children in order to demonstrate: there's always a better way.'

Diane Widdison, the national organiser at the Musicians' Union said the video was made to protect teachers. 'When allegations are made against music teachers they are suspended immediately while an investigation is carried out and their careers are damaged or ruined even if they are declared innocent,' she said.

'In one recent case the parents of a child learning the guitar complained that the teacher had touched their child's finger to pluck a guitar string. 'In many cases having to be more creative and find alternatives to touching reinforces the learning process because it ensures that children are thinking for themselves.'


Only one British child in six gets five good High School grades as pupils switch from academic subjects to 'soft' courses

Only 15 per cent of children get five good grades in traditional subjects at GCSE. The shocking figures – to be released next week – highlight the consequences of a shift toward ‘soft’ courses.

A Labour shake-up in 2004 gave pupils more scope to study non-academic GCSE equivalents – and these options have surged in popularity by 3,800 per cent. They include certificates in personal effectiveness, salon services and preparation for working life.

Education Secretary Michael Gove wants schools to switch to a so-called ‘English baccalaureate’ comprising English, maths, a science, history or geography and a language.

Currently five in six pupils fail to get A* to C grades in five of those disciplines. And that figure is inflated by the superior performance of children at independent schools.

Mr Gove has also altered the threshold at which schools are officially deemed to be underperforming. Labour put them in that category if fewer than 30 per cent of their children got five A* to C grade GCSEs, including English and maths.

That threshold has been raised to 35 per cent, meaning many more schools will be branded as failing. In nearly every other developed country in the world, children are assessed in a range of core academic subjects at 15 or 16 – even if they are on a vocational route.

In France, for example, all children take the ‘brevet des colleges’, which assesses French, maths, a modern foreign language and one from history, geography and civics.

But Labour gave non-academic qualifications – including computer skills and sports leadership – parity with traditional subjects in league tables in 2004. The move helped fuel a damaging collapse in the number of children taking academic courses as schools pushed weaker pupils into other areas to improve their standing in league tables.

Mr Gove told the Daily Mail: ‘We are publishing more information which shines a light on the last Government’s failure to give millions of children access to core academic knowledge in other subjects. Universities, colleges and employers value rigorous learning in subjects such as French and German, history and geography, but under the last government access to this core was limited.

‘And the very poorest lost out most. That is why we are supporting schools and teachers in their effort to give every child access to the best that’s been thought and written.’

In 2004, around 15,000 non-academic qualifications were taken in schools. By 2010 this had risen to around 575,000 - mostly at age 16 – a 3,800 per cent increase. Since 1997, there has been a 31 per cent decline in the number of children studying a modern foreign language. The number of children taking any GCSE science – single, double or additional sciences – fell by 60,000 between 2007 and 2010.


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