Saturday, May 28, 2011

Calif. School Tells Elementary Students There Are More Than 2 Gender ‘Options’

Who says elementary school is too early to start discussing gender issues?

This week, educators at Redwood Heights Elementary School in Oakland, California, are teaching young children all about the complicated world of “gender diversity.” The school has designed curriculum for every grade level. Amid the resulting controversy, Principal Sara Stone is defending the initiative, claiming that it is in line with what parents want:

“If we don’t have a safe, nurturing class environment, it’s going to be hard to learn. Really, the message behind this curriculum is there are different ways to be boys. There are different ways to be girls.”

A gender expert and trainer was brought in to speak to the children:

“[There's] a lot of variation in nature. Evolution comes up with some pretty funny ways for animals to reproduce. It turns out that there are not just two options.”

The trainer also told the children that this diversity applies to human beings as well. It is this rationale — that gender is pliable and that there are “more than two options” — that has some people frustrated. The San Francisco Chronicle has more on the curriculum:

A one-hour elementary school lesson on gender diversity featuring all-girl geckos and transgender clownfish…fourth- and fifth-grade students learned about the crazy world of gender within the animal kingdom with lessons about single-sex Hawaiian geckos, fish that switch genders and boy snakes that act “girly.”

Naturally, this has created an outrage. The idea that the school district would cover such complex issues with young children has led the conservative Pacific Justice Institute, among other groups, to get involved. According to The Washington Post:

“Conservative legal defense organizations are providing counsel to parents who oppose the teaching at Redwood Heights by a gender spectrum trainer.”


CT: Group would end seniority-based teacher layoffs

Leaders and supporters of a Connecticut group seeking education law changes are pushing lawmakers to stop school districts from using seniority to determine which teachers could face budget-related layoffs.

Leaders and supporters of Connecticut Coalition for Achievement Now, including the superintendent of Hartford’s schools, have criticized “last in, first out’’ seniority-based layoff policies for years and reiterated their opposition yesterday in a gathering at the state Capitol.

They say this year’s state and local budget constraints make layoffs a real threat to talented new teachers, who are first in line for cuts in many districts while seniority shields other teachers even with well-documented ineptitude.

“We’ve got to find a way to factor in teacher performance to the layoff process, and that’s what we’re here today calling on the General Assembly to do,’’ School Superintendent Steve Tracy of Derby said Tuesday.

Derby’s Teacher of the Year is among those facing possible layoffs because, despite her skills, she has only three years of seniority, the superintendent said.

However, representatives of the state’s largest teachers union say four-fifths of the districts where they represent educators already have factors beyond seniority to determine layoff decisions.

Those procedures are best set at the local level in collective bargaining rather than by legislative mandate, they said.

“In districts that have negotiated this, it works,’’ said Mary Loftus Levine, policy director for the Connecticut Education Association union. “We think we need a reality check here. What we need are solutions, not scapegoats.’’

Any legislative changes to prohibit seniority-based layoffs in Connecticut would have to be approved by June 8, when the General Assembly adjourns.

A bill died in the Legislature’s Education Committee this spring, so the item could be revived only if the coalition persuades lawmakers to tack on the measure to another active bill.

Coalition chief executive officer Alex Johnston would not say whether specific legislators have promised to push the measure, but said Tuesday that they “wouldn’t be here today if we didn’t think there was a real chance of passing this.’’

State law requires school districts to notify nontenured teachers by April 1 if there is a possibility they could be laid off, but in stable budget years, those notices are later rescinded as budgets are settled.

This year, education officials say job cuts are inevitable in some districts because Connecticut’s state aid to districts is not increasing and one-time federal stimulus grants for education are running out in many communities.


The Drug of Choice for Public Schools

Dependency on government

Dependency on government is as detrimental to a society as drug addiction is to an individual. A situation in Pennsylvania — likely similar to situations in other states — reflects a continued unhealthy dependence on the federal government.

Briefly, Gov. Tom Corbett’s proposed 2011–2012 budget had $1.1 billon less for education. That’s the same amount of money the state didn’t get from the federal government for education. The Parent Teacher Organization moms want the governor’s political head.

During a multi-district meeting, the parents from 12 different school districts gave an earful to legislators from eight different senatorial and legislative districts in parts of Chester, Delaware, and Lancaster counties. It’s an area of the state where the elephant rules, and has ruled for generations. To say the region is predominantly Republican is an understatement. So naturally, these parents, most of whom are registered Republicans, want more taxes on Marcellus shale, corporations, cigarettes, and gasoline, more taxes all around for public education.

True, some of them might be RINOs and a few others are Democrats, but most talk a straight Republican line. Yet, they want largess from government, state and federal. They’ve grown so dependent on largesse from the state and the feds that they give up on their own traditional values.

Some of the state budget cuts are steep, but steeper on some districts than others. The Coatesville School District will lose $8.5 million in one year while the Unionville-Chadds Ford School District — in a more affluent area — loses $1.1 million. All the districts are laying people off and cutting programs.

PTO moms and dads, and school board members as well, can only see one thing: Get more money from Harrisburg and Washington so the districts don’t have to pare back anything and the board members won’t have to make those types of tough decisions. Indeed, they want more money so they can build new and larger schools and have sports fields that are as immaculate as those in the professional ranks.

Few of them think outside the box, of sending their kids to a private or parochial school or homeschooling or, heaven forbid, even contemplating the idea of completely ending all government involvement in education and letting the free market provide educational services. Some do pursue other alternatives, of course. One artistic 7-year-old home-schooled girl taught herself Abobe PhotoShop and Illustrator simply by watching videos on YouTube.

Another family transferred their daughter from the Chadds Ford Elementary School to a private school in Delaware after comparing a third-grade English class. The public school kids were writing book reports based on cereal boxes — with the ingredients as characters — while the same age group in the private school was reading Supreme Court decisions. Using Cap’n Crunch as a school teacher may be a novel way to approach reading and writing, but which group of kids stand a better chanced of understanding the world around them, the first group or the second?

What government-hungry folks fail to look at are historical facts. The United States became the leading industrial nation on the planet and raised the standard of living for more people than any other country long before the federal government ever got involved in education. The Department of Education didn’t come into existence until 1980 under the Jimmy Carter administration.

And long before that, the United States came into existence because of such men as George Washington and Benjamin Franklin who were never forced into a mandatory 13-year, K-12 sentence of government-controlled and government-programmed education. They had a few years of formal education, learning to read, write and do math, but beyond that they were mostly self taught or worked with tutors or family members. They read history and philosophy, much of that on their own. They weren’t strapped to a school desk for six hours a day.

A government-provided education is not necessarily an education at all. It works well for some, but in all too many cases it’s just a way to socialize kids, teaching little more than obedience to authority or simply acting as a babysitter who is boring kids half to death.

What has happened during the past decades of government intrusion into education is that people know more about reality TV shows than they do about the Constitution. Worse yet, they care more about those TV shows than they do about the Constitution or their own liberty.


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