Sunday, April 17, 2011

CA Senate Passes Bill Mandating Homosexual History in Public Schools‏

The state Senate has approved legislation that would require California’s public schools to include gay history in social studies lessons.

Supporters say the move is needed to counter anti-gay stereotypes and beliefs that make gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender children vulnerable to bullying and suicide.

Opponents said it would burden an already crowded curriculum and expose students to a subject that some parents find objectionable.

The bill, sponsored by Democratic Sen. Mark Leno of San Francisco, passed Thursday on a 23-14 vote. The measure now goes to the Assembly.

It leaves it up to local school districts to decide what to include in the lessons and at what grade students would receive them.


Progress at last in Indiana

Indiana is on the verge of taking its most important strides forward on education in decades.

The final, and most important, piece fell into place Friday when Gov. Mitch Daniels announced that he would ask the General Assembly to expand full-day kindergarten to every school district in the state. That unexpected announcement, which dropped late in the legislative process, was made possible by a much better than expected revenue forecast.

Mitch Daniels made all-day kindergarten a key piece of his first campaign for governor in 2004. And he was able to greatly expand the option early in his tenure as governor; about 75 percent of districts in Indiana now offer all-day kindergarten. Friday's announcement, if approved by the General Assembly, would finally complete the task.

Beyond that critical milestone, the General Assembly also is poised to significantly expand the number of charter schools, increase pay for high-performing teachers, create a sensible voucher program that would improve educational options for low- and middle-income families, strengthen the accountability system for schools, and revamp work rules that hinder the state's best teachers while protecting those who underperform.

The drive to adopt such reforms hasn't been easy. Defenders of the status quo have made wild assertions that Daniels and his supporters are trying to "destroy'' public schools and "punish'' teachers. While the proposed reforms certainly deserve thoughtful critique, the over-the-top rhetoric coming from opponents, including some in the General Assembly, has been counterproductive.

The true goal of each of the reforms isn't a mystery. It's to significantly improve student achievement in a state that has an undereducated workforce, a reality that hinders economic growth in an increasingly competitive global economy.

Will all-day kindergarten eventually help make Indiana more competitive? Research indicates that it should.

So too should giving families more choices in educating their children. Recent studies have shown, for instance, that students in Indianapolis charter schools fare better than peers in their old schools. Early results from a University of Chicago study have uncovered similar results from Florida's voucher program.

None of these reforms, including all-day kindergarten, is a panacea. But taken in total they provide Indiana with a momentum on education that it has not had for many years.

A legislative session all but derailed by an ill-conceived and lengthy walkout is on the verge of ending on a very high note. But it won't be the lawmakers who are the true victors. It will be the children of Indiana.


UK student union elects radical Islamists

The student union at Westminster University in central London has elected to its top leadership posts two people linked to a radical Islamist group with an anti-Semitic history.

The two have ties to Hizb ut- Tahrir, a group calling for an Islamic state or caliphate. The group has been barred from organizing and speaking on campuses under the National Union of Students (NUS) policy of “no platform” for racist or fascist views.

“Our rules state individuals or members of organizations or groups identified as holding racist or fascist views are not allowed to stand for election or go to, speak at or take part in conferences, meetings or any other events,” said NUS president Aaron Porter.

Tarik Mahri, 23, was elected president of the Westminster student union in polling on April 1. He is a member of the “Global Ideas” society, which was banned last year by the university after inviting senior Hizb ut- Tahrir member Jamal Harwood to address students.

In his election manifesto, Mahri called for the creation of “segregated sports activities” for women, and his Twitter feed and Facebook profile are littered with calls for Shari'a law and the establishment of an Islamic caliphate.

Jamal Achchi, 26, was elected vice-president. He has been accused of circulating Hizb ut- Tahrir documents that call on Muslims to overthrow democratic regimes and establish the Khilafah, a worldwide Islamic theocracy run by mullahs.

Hizb ut-Tahrir was once led by Omar Bakri Mohammed, who was expelled from the UK in 2006. Residing today in Lebanon, the radical cleric has recently been charged with fundraising for al-Qaida.

Since the 7/7 terrorist attack on London in 2005, the government keeps Hizb ut-Tahrir “under continuous review,” but has not yet banned the group despite regular calls by the Conservative party to do so.

The group, which has been outlawed in a number of countries, including Germany and Egypt, calls for “the dismantling” of the “illegal entity” of Israel. In 2001, part of a statement removed from its Web site said: “In origin, no one likes the Jews except the Jews. Even they themselves rarely like each other.”

Islamist radicalization on campuses is a huge concern in the UK. A review of extremism by Universities UK, the organization of vice-chancellors in Britain, was launched last year after it was discovered that the failed 2009 Detroit airline bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab was a former president of the Islamic Society at University College London.

“Hizb ut-Tahrir despises democracy and believes Shari'a law must be imposed over the whole world, by force if necessary,” said Shiraz Maher, a former member of the group and now a senior research fellow at the International Center for the Study of Radicalism at King’s College London. “I think unless we challenge this we are sleepwalking into a very dangerous future.”

Raheem Kassam, director of Student Rights, an organization that tackles radicalism on campus, and himself a former Westminster student, said there has been a “grassroots Islamist movement” there for many years and that he had “experienced” it himself.

“What’s disgraceful is that the Student Union refuses to subscribe to the NUS’s no-platform policy for extremists and that the university allows this to continue,” Kassam said.


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