Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Another hate-filled American school administration

They just don't like kids: Girl who reported bus-trip sex punished

A woman said Monday that an Ohio charter school is punishing her daughter for not immediately reporting that she saw two classmates having sex on a school bus and for changing her seat during the bus trip.

Saundra Roundtree told The Associated Press that her 14-year-old daughter told her she changed seats with a boy who wanted to sit beside another girl on a Dayton View Academy school trip last month and then saw the two having sex.

The 14-year-old told her mother the day the bus returned April 22 about what happened on the trip to tour out-of-state colleges, but said she was afraid to report it to school officials. "She wasn't sure what the boy might do in response," Roundtree said. "He might have retaliated against her."

Roundtree told school officials what her daughter said she witnessed, and they said they would investigate, Roundtree, 48, of Dayton said.

School officials told Roundtree on Friday that her daughter would not be allowed to attend the eighth-grade prom or the class picnic next month, but could graduate with her class, Roundtree said.

School officials did not immediately return calls Monday.

"They punished my daughter — who did the right thing by telling what she saw — but did nothing to the eight chaperones who were sitting in the front of the bus at the time and should have been monitoring the kids," Roundtree said. "If they are not doing anything to the chaperones, how can they punish my daughter?"

Roundtree said the actions against her daughter send the wrong message. "It sends the message that she shouldn't have said anything," Roundtree said.

Roundtree said she had to tell her daughter about the punishment when she got home from school Friday. "She was very upset," Roundtree said. "She had been looking forward to the prom all year."

The students seen having sex on the bus were suspended, WHIO-TV in Dayton reported, but Roundtree said school officials would not tell her what — if any — discipline they might face.

Roundtree kept her daughter home Monday and was trying to see if she could arrange home schooling for the remaining few weeks of class. "Other students know, and we are afraid of possible retaliation," said Roundtree, who didn't release her daughter's name.

She said she has contacted a lawyer and would ask the school to revoke her daughter's punishment.


Value of degree questioned as research shows two-in-three British graduates fail to find suitable work

The value of higher education has been cast into doubt after it emerged nearly two thirds of recent graduates have failed to find a graduate job.

New research shows recent university-leavers are questioning the value of their hard-earned degrees, and many are considering moving overseas to find suitable work.

'The UK is failing its graduates. School leavers are faced with difficult decisions. Not only has the cost of going to university risen, but UK employment options are bleak,' said Sean Howard, vice-president of talent management company SHL, which commissioned the poll.

Researchers questioned 1,000 students who had graduated in the past three years, and found that 60 per cent do not have a graduate job. If these figures were replicated across the population, it would mean around 611,000 graduates have not found a degree-level job.

Disillusioned graduates still loooking for that first step on the career ladder have begun to question whether going to university was worth the trouble.

Given the choice again, 28 per cent - more than one in four - said they would go straight into work, and 8 per cent said they would take up an apprenticeship. Two fifths said they would not have gone to university at all if they had to pay the new £9,000 maximum tuition fees.

The findings suggest around 407,000 recent graduates would not have gone to university under the new fee levels.

While the nearly half of respondents (42.9 per cent) had applied for between one and 10 jobs, one in eight (12 per cent) tried their luck with more than 50. Fourty-seven per cent looked, or have been looking, for work for up to six months, and a third have been job-hunting for up to a year.

In an economy still straining to emerge from recession, graduates are increasingly looking overseas for opportunities, raising the prospect that the UK could suffer from a 'brain drain'.

More than a third (36 per cent) of those questioned said they would move abroad for a better salary, 34 per cent said they would move away for better opportunities, and 32 per cent said they would live overseas because of a lack of jobs in the UK. Europe was the most popular destination (chosen by 38 per cent), followed by North America (23 per cent) and Australia (21 per cent).

One in four said they would be willing to work unpaid for more than three months to gain experience in their chosen field.

Mr Howard said: 'Graduates are also under pressure to undertake unpaid internships in order to gain a foothold on the career ladder. It's not just university that carries a high price, but gaining work experience too. 'This could mean a future where the best jobs are reserved for those that can afford to attend university and clock up the most unpaid experience.

'Understandably our graduates are open to the idea of seeking their career abroad, and the UK industry is faced with a potential brain drain. 'If the Government won't reconsider the tuition fees, our recruiters need to reconsider their hiring criteria.'


Australian students caught in the culture war crossfire

Public schools are again the battleground of a culture war. Make no mistake, the debate about the chaplaincy program and religious teacing really is a conflict about culture rather than God's place in a classroom.

The government announced in last week's federal budget an extra $222 million for the National School Chaplaincy program and providing religion classes in public schools. Yet revelations that Access Ministries chief executive Evonne Paddison had spoken in a 2008 conference about the "need to go and make disciples" through a "God-given open door to children and young people" will no doubt further rattle those who resist such moves. The Victorian teachers union called at the weekend for an end to religious teaching in schools.

The battle is an extension of the skirmishes during the Howard years around what constitutes Australian identity and history. Many supporters of Christianity-oriented Special Religious Instruction (SRI) would argue, for instance, that Australia has after all been peopled and shaped by Christians of various denominations.

They have a point. In 1947, 88 per cent of Australians identified with one of these denominations. Even the most recent ABS census reveals that Christianity remains demographically prominent, with 64 per cent claiming at least nominal adherence. Inevitably, in some circles, being Australian is conflated with being Christian.

However, the reasoning that this aspect of Australian national identity needs to be preserved – some would say expanded – is faulty in the same way that an exclusively "white" or Anglo conception of it is false and potentially dangerous. Our social reality is no longer the monoculture it once was and it will never be that way again. Much as Christians would see opposition to SRI as an attack on their values and God himself, the glaring truth is that Australians embrace a range of belief systems that are also life-giving. Religious plurality is simply not the same as moral relativity.

What is thus insidious about volunteer-run religion classes is not that they might result in young people taking up a creed, but that in Victoria in particular, it is being run by a patently Christian organisation whose executive has reportedly said, "without Jesus, our students are lost". For we can all soberly agree that young people need a safe, structured forum for exploring what is right and wrong, but we cannot honestly teach them that Christianity has a monopoly on moral values. We insult their intellect when we do so. We also legitimise prejudice against other faiths.

This culture war, however, is not just about Christianity versus other faiths, but faith versus secularism. It is interesting to see secularists argue with slightly more vehemence than Christians what the character of Australian society really is. They see it progressing inexorably away from religious traditions and structures. The separation of church and state is often invoked, though the constitution merely prohibits imposition of a state religion and a religious test for public office.

They may not realise that many church organisations in fact do a lot of work for the state, especially in social welfare. Why is it that no one seems to be concerned, for example, by the prospect of a homeless man turning to God because of his encounters with the Salvation Army, which receives government grants?

More to the point, when secularists (humanists and atheists by another name) argue that religion has no place in schools, they make exactly the same mistake that Christian proselytisers do: they insult young people's intelligence by doing their thinking for them.

This, in the end, is what evangelists and atheists have in common, the fear that young people will be lost if the other got hold. It is what underpins all culture wars – fear for the future.

Christians, however, should not use government schools as a platform for a new-found crusade against secularism. They will lose. They will lose once young people figure out that being secular is not the same as being amoral. Neither should secularists dismiss religion wholesale, as if it does not offer young people a view that is as humane and ethical is theirs. If they genuinely wish for students to be able to freely choose, then that choice must be made authentic by having all options on the table.

From shared fear, perhaps both camps can thus share a common hope: that young people who wish to live authentically and decently as human beings will find what they are looking for.


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