Saturday, February 12, 2011

Menacing Tennessee teacher gets off free

Would you like your kids to have a rifle pointed at them by a teacher? Particularly when kids are penalized for having such minor things as a butter-knife. The case was clearly not pursued with proper gravity

A Hamilton County grand jury chose not to indict a 46-year-old school teacher arrested last year on 18 charges related to his holding a group of teens at gunpoint as they tried to leave a cemetery late at night.

Stacy Swallows, 46, will not face a criminal trial after the grand jury declined to indict him on any of the nine counts of aggravated assault and nine counts of false imprisonment.

The weekly grand jury report released Wednesday.

The Sequoyah High School teacher blocked the path of nine teens with his car while holding a rifle, late on the night of Sept. 4. as the group was leaving the Shipley Road Cemetery, near Swallows home.

Friends of Swallows testified on his behalf in a November General Sessions Court hearing. Tommy Iles told the court that the cemetery had been “trashed so many times by a bunch of punks,” according to newspaper archives.

Iles and others said Swallows was only trying to protect the private graveyard.

Judge Bob Moon said at the time that the group of teens ghost hunting in the cemetery weren’t doing anything illegal or trespassing. Moon said Swallows simply overreacted.


Ed problems reside at core

President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address illustrated just how much political duplicity has entered the debate about national education standards. While crowing about the success of his Race to the Top in purchasing states’ buy-in to the so-called Common Core math and English standards — and asking Congress for even more bribe money — the president then stood truth on its head by depicting the incipient national curriculum developed by Washington insiders as a grass-roots effort.

Education progressives who delight in this disingenuous exercise of power to push national standards (and soon, federally subsidized tests as well) upon all U.S. public schools ought to take warning from England, a country where statist curricular guidelines are firmly entrenched.

The whimsical words of Roger Miller’s old country tune come to mind: “England swings like a pendulum do.” When a nation with monolithic standards for its schools experiences a shift in political control, the pendulum almost certainly will lurch right or left for education ideology as well.

Witness the changes under way in England led by the Conservative coalition’s minister of education, Michael Gove. The Daily Mail of London reports Gove has severely criticized the previous Labor government for having stripped basic knowledge out of the English, geography, history, and music curricula.

When the leftist Laborites had their turn at mandating what all British children should know and be able to do, they eliminated important leaders such as Sir Winston Churchill from teachers’ suggested lesson plans. The supposed purpose was to give teachers more “flexibility.”

Teachers got loads of leeway, in fact, because “at present, the only historical figures in the entire secondary history curriculum are William Wilberforce, the architect of the abolition of the slave trade, and Olaudah, a freed slave whose autobiography helped persuade MPs (Members of Parliament) to ban slavery,” the Daily Mail reported.

Similarly, “the secondary geography curriculum does not mention a single country apart from the UK or any continents, rivers, oceans, mountains, or cities. It does, however, mention the European Union and global warming.”

In addition, “the secondary music curriculum fails to mention a single composer, musician, or piece of music.”

Gove observes left-wing ideologues believe schools “shouldn’t be doing anything so old-fashioned as passing on knowledge, requiring children to work hard, or immersing them in anything like dates in history or times tables in mathematics.”

Leading the charge for the Tories, the education minister plans to fill in the knowledge gaps. For instance, he will reinstall such authors as John Keats, Jane Austen, Charles Dickens, and Thomas Hardy in the English standards. An overhaul of the history curriculum is supposed to ensure that all children thoroughly learn Britain’s “island story” before graduating.

Proponents of knowledge-based learning on both sides of the Atlantic will applaud Gove’s intentions. But what will happen to England’s national education standards when the political pendulum swings back and the Laborites return to power? Out will go the basics and in will come the multiculturalism and political correctness once again. None of this reflects the preferences of parents.

The United States is not yet at the point of no return regarding national standards. There are standards only for English and mathematics, but proponents are talking about adding history and science and maybe more. Forty-four states have voted to accept the national standards, many of them doing so (as the president himself indicated) in a bid to gain favor with the Obama administration in its distribution of Race to the Top cash. However, with only a dozen states winning grants and the Republican-led House unlikely to approve more such loot, some states’ political leaders are talking about revoking their adoption of the Common Core standards.

Now is the time for the nation to decide whether we really want to commit to education standards forever subject to political manipulation by Washington and crazy swings in the national political pendulum. Would we prefer to have a national minister of education decide what our children will study, or be able to choose for ourselves from among schools offering diverse curricula and methods?

Within a marketplace will probably be an approach just right for each child. Parents can’t be sure of that when Washington’s politicians and special interests are writing a common playbook.


Australia: Law lets NSW private schools expel homosexual students

A SENIOR Anglican bishop calls it "appalling" and a gay and lesbian rights group condemns it as "deeply offensive", but the Attorney-General, John Hatzistergos, backs a NSW law that allows private schools to expel gay students simply for being gay.

Through a spokesman, Mr Hatzistergos, described the 30-year-old law as necessary "to maintain a sometimes delicate balance between protecting individuals from unlawful discrimination while allowing people to practise their own beliefs".

A relic of the Wran era when homosexuality was still a crime, the law exempts private schools from any obligation to enrol or deal fairly with students who are homosexual. An expulsion requires neither disruption, harassment nor even the flaunting of sexuality. Being homosexual is enough.

Introducing the little-known law in the early 1980s, the then attorney-general Paul Landa told Parliament: "The facts of political life require acceptance of the claim of churches to conduct autonomous educational institutions with a special character and faith commitment."

But the churches are now divided. The Anglican bishop of South Sydney, Robert Forsyth, told the Herald: "I don't think our schools would want to use it."

The Catholic Archdiocese of Sydney declined to distance itself from the legislation. A spokeswoman said: "The focus for our schools has always been on supporting our students regardless of the circumstances."

Political support may also be fracturing. "It is an unusual provision in this day and age," the shadow attorney-general, Greg Smith, told the Herald.

He cannot speak for his party, only himself. "I personally think it is something that should be reviewed, looked at with a view to perhaps changing it. Times have changed."

The chief executive of ACON, Nicolas Parkhill, condemned the law as "deeply offensive, patently unethical and damaging to our society on multiple levels. Recent research shows that young same-sex-attracted people are up to 14 times more likely to attempt suicide than their heterosexual peers and that 80 per cent of the verbal or physical abuse they experience occurs in schools.

"Allowing religious schools to reinforce this negative experience by giving them the right to expel the victims of homophobic attitudes is incomprehensible."

Although "not untroubled" by the legislation himself, the chief executive of Christian Schools Australia, Stephen O'Doherty, told the Herald the 130-plus low-fee schools in his association saw no reason to ditch the law. Many of the schools regard unrepentant gay students as "disruptive to the religious teaching of the school", he explained. "What we seek to do is to be able to take appropriate action which may include expulsion."

Brigadier Jim Wallace of the Australian Christian Lobby has no qualms about the law. The head of the influential Christian pressure group said a church school should have the right to expel any openly gay child.

"But I would expect any church that found itself in that situation to do that in the most loving way that it could for the child and to reduce absolutely any negative affects.

"I think that you explain: this is a Christian school, that unless the child is prepared to accept that it is chaste, that it is searching for alternatives as well, that the school may decide that it might be better for the child as well that he goes somewhere else. I think it's a loving response."


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