Sunday, June 19, 2011

Indoctrination Fridays: California Federation of Teachers Works Unionizing Propaganda into Curriculum

The California Federation of Teachers thinks it’s important for kids to learn how to run a business. I come from a small business family, so I’m cool with that. The curriculum immediately starts off on the wrong foot, though, because it’s not from the perspective of an entrepreneur, but rather a disgruntled employee.

A “Labor Studies Curriculum for Elementary Schools,” entitled “The Yummy Pizza Company,” takes up to 20 classroom hours over a two-week period. Important concepts in the 10 lessons, such as the value of work and money management, are critical components, but are quickly overshadowed by the fact that 40% of the curriculum is about forming Pizza Makers Union Local 18. That’s right – the program is focused on teaching kids to unionize.

I don’t suppose this creative curriculum has anything do to with current issues, like collective bargaining privileges for public employees. Teachers wouldn’t be so blatant as to involve young children in their political issues, would they?

Art lessons are incorporated into the curriculum. Students are assigned the task of designing a union logo and membership cards. Math is also a focus. Part of the lesson involves calculating “union dues as a percentage of wages.”

But the lesson doesn’t end with forming the union. What’s next? Contract negotiations, of course! Yes, elementary kids are then taught the finer points of collective bargaining. Members of the Pizza Makers Union may “vote to accept offer, negotiate further or strike.”

The next lesson covers “Unions in the real world,” where “Students will learn about a real union and how it helped its members,” as well as “some labor history and a few prominent labor leaders.”

Kids are then encouraged to interview their parents about whether or not they belong to a labor union. Additionally, students will “act out the life of a labor leader.” One wonders how students will manage to depict the thuggery that union bosses have become famous for.

At the end of the curriculum, San Francisco teacher Bill Morgan gave a first-hand account of his use of these lessons.

“Like many teachers involved in the labor movement, I have tried to bring labor and workplace issues into my classroom. The best I could manage was some isolated history lessons about this or that strike, or some organizer who showed exemplary courage or dedication.”

But Morgan felt he needed a stronger lesson to drive his point home.

“At this point, I decided, as the Curriculum stipulates, to explore the down side of management – labor relations.” So he decided to cut students’ pay in the classroom Yummy Pizza shop.

“This is where the lesson became reality. A storm of protest arose, and many of the students decided to follow the example of Cesar Chavez (who we were studying) and go on strike. Twenty-one of the twenty-seven students present that day voted to strike, and strike they did. With my few faithful scabs, I tried to make pizza that next day. Strikers kept coming over to them, trying to convince them to walk out. Three did, and I was left with only three helpers. When we went downstairs to the yard to see our pizza cookies, things got uglier. Picketers walked back and forth in front of our stand, strikers came up and sneezed on the cookies, and told the other kids not to buy them and a scuffle broke out over a sign.”

Are you freaking kidding me?

Morgan says he successfully propagandized his students.

“Just say we were able to confront in an organic, not imposed way, some of the central economic and social issues of our society. I would encourage anyone who is interested in labor and workplace issues to use the ‘Yummy Pizza’ curriculum,” he ended.

These 20 hours of educational time are little more than a back door way for labor unions and their most strident activists to foist their propaganda on unwitting elementary students. Morgan acknowledges the subtle manner he used to deliver his ultimate message. It is critical parents are aware of it, be on the lookout for it, and if they choose, try to root it out of their schools.

Morgan isn’t the only union activist pushing this stuff in his classroom. In nearby Berkeley, 2nd grade teacher Margot Pepper explained in a 2007 edition of Race, Poverty & the Environment, “For over a decade I’ve been teaching my six-, seven-, and eight-year-old students to strike against me.” Like Morgan, Pepper acts like the mean boss and invites confrontation and leads students to specific conclusions.

“…I give workers hints, like reading Si Se Puede by Diana Cohn, about the Los Angeles Janitor’s strike, or encouraging them to engage in a tug of war with me over a jump rope in which they all have to join together to bring me down. One year, students snuck into the classroom and made picket signs out of construction paper, masking tape, and poles made of linked markers or meter sticks. I’ve found it’s best to demote supervisors to a non-managerial position just as we go to lunch, so they will feel a sense of solidarity with workers, instead of terrorizing them into complacency, as nearly happened this year.

“Once workers realize I’m powerless before their united action, they immediately overthrow all class rules. They scream until I surrender. After the class quiets down, I quickly explain that some rules exist to benefit the boss, the others, for the good of all. They ratify each rule anew, and have consistently thrown out the new contract as benefiting only their employer.”

Socialists realize they don’t need to win political offices to change America. They can do it through education, the arts and the media. Changing culture in general, they know, will be far more damaging to the American experiment and harder to undo than an election. That’s precisely what they’re doing.


School sports under threat in Britain

This is the time of year when schoolchildren learn that there’s more to life than lessons, and the nation’s playing fields, heavy with the whiff of freshly mown grass, resound to cries of “Come on, Phoebe! Break her legs!” School sports day is a quintessential part of British life, but its future is threatened by regulation, greed and paranoia – and the game is ours to lose.

Last week, Jeremy Hunt, the Secretary of State for Culture – a brief that apparently encompasses the promotion of competitive bean-bag passing – launched the latest in a long line of mostly inglorious government initiatives intended to revive sport in schools. Based around a series of regional “Games Festivals”, the programme will culminate in a national schools’ event in September.

Not that the minister over-played his suitability for the task. “I went to a sport-mad school,” he said. “Sport was compulsory. And I was completely useless at it.” Ah-hah, but this sorry admission was simply to tease out the bigger point: that competition offers benefits even for those children who fail to win the prizes.

It was hard to argue. Any look at the national kidscape reveals the scale of an unfolding disaster. No previous generation has been so unfit, overfed and – bizarrely in an era of sporting celebrity worship – so ill-disposed to exercise. The consequences are all too obvious. Computer games, TV and junk food are becoming the recreational norm for our children. If they get any fatter, we’ll have to start taking school photos from the air.

Yet there are those who do argue. Most come from within the state school sector, and their thinking goes that children could be traumatised by losing, so it’s better that no one should win. One upshot has been that the once-happy and wholesome ritual of the school sports day has become a battleground of ideas. In some places – particularly the big cities – the competitive element has been virtually stripped out in favour of “fun ’n’  fitness” days where everyone has a teamly romp, but no one is allowed to win anything. While in the better-off shires and boroughs, the redoubts of aspiration, a crazed culture of death-or-glory has taken hold. And that’s just among the parents.

Last year in the Telegraph, the comedienne Kathy Lette chronicled the ordeal that middle-class mothers must now endure with the approach of sports day. “Once upon a time,” she wrote, “the mothers’ race involved nothing more than a few fun, gentle heats, mums running in their stockinged feet, perhaps balancing an egg on a spoon. But ever since the advent of the alpha-mum – that breed of woman who has given up her high-powered job to be a high-powered mummy – the mothers’ race has become gladiatorial. My local park, Hampstead Heath, is chock-a-block with deranged, determined mothers, panting along with their personal trainers, trying to achieve Olympian stamina for the big day.”

Exaggerated? Not by much. “It’s the scariest day of the year in Notting Hill,” says Rachel Johnson, editor of The Lady. “Most of the mummies spend a whole year cross-training.” But as the competitive stakes have risen, the school playing field has become a treacherous place for today’s win-at-all-costs parents. According to Bupa, half of Britain’s physiotherapists have treated an adult with a sports day injury. Sprinting caused the most problems (33 per cent of injuries) followed by the three-legged race (17 per cent) and the sack race (15 per cent).

“School sports days can be surprisingly competitive,” said Dr Peter Mace, assistant director of Bupa, which commissioned the survey. “Men and women should warm up beforehand and not over-exert themselves.”

Palpitating with pushiness, and consumed by the desire to see all opposition crushed, the parents then get behind their children. Once, a schoolboy’s idea of embarrassment was that his mother might come to sports day in the wrong hat. Now, it’s that his dad will pick an argument with the headmaster. Schools routinely witness abuse and barracking of judges, and fights among spectators.

Not that parental enthusiasm is necessarily a bad thing. Dan Travis, a Sussex-based tennis coach, who campaigns across the country for traditional sports days, says: “In many cases, the parents are the last line of defence. They are the ones who stand up for sports day. They don’t accept this idea that losing will cause upset and disappointment to their children. They understand that that’s how life is, and they want competition.”

Yet the problems with sports day go well beyond trendy educational thinking. During the New Labour years, more than 2,000 playing fields were sold off, and although the rate has slowed, they are still vanishing. Today’s teachers – burdened with paperwork and target-setting – claim they no longer have time to run sports days. The insistence on criminal record checks has deterred many who would have volunteered to help in their place.

The health and safety contagion has delivered further blows. Schools routinely cancel sports days if it’s too wet, too hot, too cold or the field is bumpy. Recently, in the West Midlands, parents were contacted by lawyers offering to seek compensation payments for sports day injuries or sunburn. The result, says Josie Appleton, head of Manifesto, a civil liberties group that fights excessive regulation, “is that children are leading ever more sanitised, dull, unadventurous lives. They need the reality check of competition.”

It wasn’t always like this. The sports day tradition grew out of a stern Victorian belief that the best should always be encouraged, and the rest helped by their example. From it developed the notion of “muscular Christianity”, a particular speciality of public schools. With the 1902 Balfour Education Act, organised sport spread rapidly to the state sector, although the big day’s Spartan packaging was gradually softened with the encouragement of families to attend and the introduction of “fun” events such as the egg-and-spoon race.

Today the challenge is to save it. And not pull a hamstring in the process.


Lazy parenting blamed for kids being behind at school

Hang on! Most things that kids used to do as play have been banned as unsafe. No wonder they just watch TV

LAZY parenting is resulting in children starting school developmentally disadvantaged because they watch too much TV instead of playing and being read to.

A neuro-psychologist in the UK, Sally Goddard Blythe, researched the link between children who missed out on simple childhood activities and those who started school with learning problems.

She found many toddlers were watching 4.5 hours of TV a day instead of playing, and went on to start school with poor emotional development and motor skills.

Dr Marc de Rosnay, an early childhood development expert from the University of Sydney's school of psychology, said children were put in front of a television screen too often.

"We are living in a world where there are lots of opportunities for a child to be engaged with no one for an extended time," he said. "There is some decent research that shows that motor skills develop when kids are out and about and experiencing the physical world ... as a nation (we now have) more children growing up with low levels of activity. "There are government recommendations about how much TV kids should be watching, and it's not much."

While he stopped short of saying that parents who did not read to their children or interact with them were "neglectful", Dr de Rosnay said there were developmental consequences for children who missed out on that nurturing. "It's fair to say that children who miss out on interacting with their parents, peers and siblings will find themselves at a disadvantage compared with children who have had that interaction," he said.

But he added that using play to develop a bond and trust between parents and child was more important than teaching a child to read at a young age.

"We live in a world now where children are meant to be numerate and have the first steps of letter recognition before they start kindergarten," he said. "We used to live in a world where kindergarten was the place that was done."

Dr de Rosnay said there was no evidence that if a child started school unable to read and write it would affect their long-term learning.

Ms Goddard Blythe found that almost half of all UK five-year-olds who started school only had the motor skills of a baby, including the inability to hold a pencil. The cause, she said, was because parents had not spent enough time playing with their children or letting them play with others.

Ms Goddard-Blythe also argued that when children missed out on being read fairy tales, it impacted on their ability to understand "moral behaviour" and how to deal with emotions.


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