Saturday, January 08, 2011

Mother's Homeschooling Views Work for Her Child but not for NH Judge

A home school case being argued in the New Hampshire Supreme Court Jan. 6 is a window into the kind of subtle bias against Christianity that permeates our modern institutions. Only, in this case it’s not even subtle. The reasoning of a lower court is a jolting revelation of how Biblical Christian values may be publicly marginalized.

People believe in and express strong opinions on all kinds of subjects. When the subject violates the politically correct orthodoxy, however, the rules of engagement change because “we don’t want to encourage that kind of thinking any longer.” It’s something like the grown-up version of shunning the kid in the schoolyard who doesn’t dress or speak the “right way.” Suddenly, certain subjects, i.e. Christian views, must be corrected at all costs; even at the expense of parental rights.

The controversy in NH started in a common enough way – with a divorce, and a young daughter, Amanda, born during the marriage. For four years the matter of schooling was more or less agreeably compromised with the mother home schooling Amanda, while providing occasional classes at the local public school. The plan was successful by anyone’s measure of progress; Amanda excelled academically, and all agreed she was well-socialized and happy.

At some point, however, the father decided he would rather see their daughter in public school, and applied pressure for the mother to end the home school arrangement. The mother, on the other hand, wanted to continue the personal attention and emphasis on religious values inculcated through the existing arrangement – an arrangement that by all accounts was highly successful.

Of course, when divorced parents don’t agree, courts inevitably get involved. But, judges must take great care not to take sides in religious disputes. The big surprise came when a judge ordered Amanda to attend government-run school, not on the basis of educational progress, but to counter what the court believed was a narrow religious world view, and to “expose” the girl to a “variety of points of view.”

As the judge saw it, “ (i)t would be remarkable if a ten year old child who spends her school time with her mother and the vast majority of her other time with her mother would seriously consider adopting any other religious point of view. Amanda’s vigorous defense of her religious beliefs to the counselor suggests strongly that she has not had the opportunity to seriously consider any other point of view.” Come again? Doesn’t every parent rightfully have this kind of influence over their children?

Now imagine mom was a vegetarian, or an ardent anti-war pacifist. Would a court muse that a ten year old child has been wrongly denied the carnivorous point of view, or should be exposed to military and pro-war types to broaden her thinking? Or perhaps that the narrow views of a Democrat Party official needed to balanced with exposure to Tea Party philosophy. After all, the child is only ten years old; how can she know what she really thinks about health care until she hears other views? More to the point imagine a Muslim parent being told this veil thing is too restrictive; how will young Fatima know if she really wants to follow Islam or wear a burka until she hears Lady Gaga on some other kid’s iPod?

The rules change, though, if the context is some type of Christian orthodoxy that actually believes in something like (gasp) a traditional religious view of right and wrong, or even sin. Overall, a court has no place in evaluating the merits of religious upbringing – unless, of course, it violates the new orthodoxy of relativism. After all, we can’t have kids thinking that sort of stuff any longer, can we?


Nearly half of British women wouldn't bother with university if they had the chance again

Young women are losing faith in the university system with nearly half believing it is not worth getting a degree. Tuition fees and little chance of landing a good job make higher education an unattractive prospect for them, a study suggests. It found that nearly half of female graduates would not go to university if they had the chance again.

The research will cause concern because it was carried out before the Government announced that fees will almost treble to £9,000 in 2012.

The findings have prompted warnings that a generation of ambitious young women will miss out on a high-flying career and the opportunity to continue their education. Louise Court, editor of Cosmopolitan magazine, which conducted the survey, said young women seem to think university ‘a waste of time’. ‘It’s never been harder to be a young woman with ambition,’ she said. ‘Understandably, women are angry and frustrated about their future and this is having a damaging affect on their self-esteem. ‘We’re urging women across the country to never give up, recognise that now can be a time for real opportunity and to always follow their dreams.’

The survey of 1,353 women also looked at the career prospects and financial outlook for women in 2011. Two thirds of those questioned said they thought it would be ‘almost impossible’ to get their dream job and a quarter were unable to follow their preferred career. Only 14 per cent said they felt safe from the sack.

And the financial situation for graduates was especially bad, with half saying they had so much student debt they could not save. The same proportion believed they faced worse financial hardship than their parents. One in seven women said they had been forced to postpone getting married because a wedding would be too expensive. And more than one in six admitted that financial constraints had made them postpone trying to start a family.

Vicky Tuck, a campaigner for women’s education and former head of Cheltenham Ladies College, said: ‘The rise in fees is going to make a lot of people reflect on why they are going to university. ‘Before the introduction of fees it was not an automatic assumption that a degree would lead to a good job. It is only recently that we have seen that relationship. ‘It is a very difficult time in terms of the job market and it will continue to be so for some time. ‘I believe that women should only go to university if they have a genuine interest in learning, a precious opportunity. If they go purely to get a job, many will be disappointed.’


British military school becomes academy (Charter) to take civilians

Standing proud and correct in his spotless ceremonial blues, this is the first civilian pupil admitted to a military school. The Duke of York Royal Military School was allowed to relax its strict admission rules after it was granted academy status by the Government.

Yesterday 13-year-old David Free became the first pupil from a non-military family to attend the £9,750-a-year school in its 200-year history.

But while the mixed boarding school has relaxed its admissions policy its tradition of strict discipline remains. Teaching is punctuated by military drills, a Regimental Sergeant Major leads marches on the parade ground and all students are in the cadet force.

Pupils stand up when teachers enter a classroom and attend chapel daily. Table manners are enforced in the Harry Potter-style dining hall. The results speak for themselves – 100 per cent of pupils got five A*-C GCSEs last year.

Graham and Jaki Free, David’s parents from North Wales, chose the school, in Dover, Kent, because they believed their son would ‘thrive in a disciplined environment’.

The teenager had to smarten up in readiness for the school. His long, floppy fringe was shorn into a short-back-and-sides and his low slung baggy jeans had to be left at home.

His parents both run their own IT businesses. Mother-of-three Mrs Free, said: ‘David’s academic performance has been tailing off so we’ve been searching for the perfect mix for a teenage lad. ‘He’s an energetic teen who needs lots of sports, structure and academic challenges.’

The Duke of York Royal Military School, for pupils aged 11-18, was founded for children orphaned during the Napoleonic Wars. It previously received all of its funding from the Ministry of Defence and was run like an Army base.

As an academy it will receive the same per pupil funding as a state school from the Department for Education plus an annual £1.5million from the MoD for ceremonial events. However, the new status gives the school management more freedom to run the school as it sees fit and open up admissions.

While the state pays for the teaching element, parents pay the boarding fees. Military families receive a Continuity of Education Allowance from the MoD which covers 90 per cent of the fee.

Headmaster Charles Johnson, said: ‘Considering that at any one time the fathers of around 50 of our pupils are fighting in a war, the behaviour of our youngsters is outstanding. ‘Discipline is strong but structured and given in caring environment. ‘Students leave with high academic achievements but also with a strong sense of self-reliance, confidence, leadership skills and a sense of responsibility.

‘Now that we’ve freedom to run the school as we like we’re hoping to get more youngsters from non-military backgrounds but we will not relax our standards. ‘Welcoming David our first civvie is a proud moment.’

The school is one of 407 to be granted academy status. This week the Department for Education said the number of academies had reached a ‘tipping point’ which would provide the momentum for all state schools to be granted academy status.

A spokesman for the Department for Education said: ‘The academies programme gives parents real choice over the kind of education they want for their children. ‘Given that choice, many parents are drawn towards schools with more traditional values, like good discipline, a strong ethos, school uniforms, and a house system.’


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