Monday, September 19, 2011

Dinner with Ahmadinejad

Why is a man who represents all that liberals hate being welcomed onto campus?

The Columbia Spectator is the student newspaper at Columbia University, the school I was once proud to call my alma mater. A report in that newspaper raises the following question: Are leading American universities producing moral illiterates?

According to the Spectator, a group of students who are members of a group called CIRCA, the Columbia International Relations Council and Association, has been invited to attend a private dinner with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad when he travels to New York for the United Nations General Assembly meeting next week. A student spokesman for the group, asked if the invitation provoked controversy within CIRCA, seemed surprised by the question. “Everyone was really enthusiastic,” said Tim Chan. “They’re thrilled to have this opportunity.”

Ahmadinejad represents everything that campus liberals profess to hate. In order of importance, those things would be: (1) persecuting homosexuals; (2) cruel and abusive treatment of women; (3) brutal treatment of minorities; (4) shooting opponents of the regime in the streets; (5) restricting free speech; (6) building nuclear weapons; and (7) sponsoring terror worldwide. Tehran provides material and moral support for Bashar Assad’s murderous regime in Syria, which has mowed down protesters by the thousands in the past few months. The Iranian regime is also guilty of fetid anti-Semitism, and has the blood of many American soldiers who served in Iraq on its hands — though it isn’t clear that the latter two offenses rate very highly with Columbia students.

Even as members of CIRCA were eagerly anticipating dining with one of the world’s true fiends, the Iranian government was refusing to release American hikers Shane Bauer and Joshua Fattal, who were recently convicted of espionage after a secret trial and sentenced to eight years in prison. Both Bauer and Fattal are graduates of Berkeley, and believers — if you can extrapolate from their backgrounds in “sustainable development” and freelance photography for leftist outlets like Democracy Now! — in liberal causes. Even if members of CIRCA feel no particular solidarity with the hikers as fellow Americans, they might at least feel something for fellow members of the liberal clerisy. But apparently not.

College students are old enough to be responsible for their own moral decision-making, but the faculty and administration of Columbia University certainly provided an appalling example in 2007 when they invited Ahmadinejad to speak. Oh, university president Lee Bollinger tried to quash some of the controversy the invitation sparked by calling Ahmadinejad a “cruel dictator” to his face. But those insults only made Bollinger seem an ungracious host, and did little to mitigate the damage that issuing the invitation in the first place had done to Columbia’s reputation. The invitation, Bollinger insisted, arose out of Columbia’s “almost single-minded commitment to pursue the truth.” Simple-minded might be closer to the mark. As for truth, how exactly does offering the prestigious forum of a famed university to a Holocaust denier advance the search for truth?

There is a world of difference between tolerating and respecting differences of opinion within a university (notably absent when it comes to conservative ideas by the way), and tolerating actual despots with the blood of innocents on their hands. Ahmadinejad’s regime has presided over executions of young homosexuals. Two were hanged in a public square just 24 months before Ahmadinejad stepped to a podium at Columbia. Here is how Human Rights Watch describes the current situation:

Since Iran’s crackdown against anti-government protests following the 2009 presidential election, the human rights crisis in the country has only deepened. Human Rights Watch is particularly concerned about the broad-based targeting of civil society activists, including lawyers, students, women’s rights activists, and journalists, and a sharp increase in the use of the death penalty. Yet the government’s record of cooperation with international institutions, particularly with UN mechanisms, remains extremely poor.

Something is inoculating Ahmadinejad from the total contempt members of the university community would ordinarily feel toward someone with his views and his behavior. It is impossible, for example, to imagine the university inviting fellow Holocaust denier and racist David Duke to speak to the students and faculty. And it’s equally impossible to imagine that students would be “thrilled” by a dinner invitation from Rev. Fred Phelps of the Westboro Baptist Church.

My suspicion is that the harshly adversarial pose of the university toward American society and culture leads to a misplaced benefit of the doubt toward enemies of this country. It is Ahmadinejad’s very hatred of the U.S. that makes him intriguing to Columbia.


School says American flag is dangerous

And harass an autistic kid. No flexibility or sensitivity in evidence at all

A Dover woman said she's upset that an American flag her son took to school was taken away by school staff. Theresa Stevens said the flag, which is attached to a roughly 24-inch wooden stick with a standard gold spear tip, was given to her seventh-grade son, Shawn, by a family friend, the mother of U.S. Marine Cpl. Gary Fielding, who is about to deploy to Afghanistan. "When he saw how upset the mother of this boy is that's going to Afghanistan, he wanted to do everything in his power to show support for her son," said Stevens.

Stevens said Shawn took the flag to Dover Middle School to be patriotic and to tell his friends about Fielding's service. "He wants to bring patriotism back one person at a time, starting with his peer group and adults that have lost their way," Stevens said.

Stevens said her son, who is autistic, is very patriotic and has a deep interest in U.S. history. "He's amazing," she said. "He's the most unique individual I have ever met. He knows everything about American history. He knows every war we've ever fought. He knows dates, times and places of when bombs were dropped, and why we got involved in wars."

But Wednesday morning, Stevens said she got a call from the school. "I got the phone call at 8:30 yesterday morning," she said. "'This flag needs to be immediately removed from school because it can be considered a weapon.' I don't understand how an American flag can be considered a weapon."

Co-Principal Kimberly Lyndes said the spear point of the flag's stick was the problem. "A student came to school yesterday with a flag that was rather large and didn't fit inside the backpack," she said. "A staff member felt that it could potentially be dangerous because of the pointy end and took the item and let the student know and the parent know that they took the item and could pick it up. "It had nothing to do with patriotism or it being a flag. It was about potential danger and school safety."

Stevens accused the school of being inconsistent. "So can pencils, so can protractors, so can any of the school supplies that they give to these children, and their stance is, 'Well, we don't let them wave them around in class, and your son has autism,'" Stevens said. "Really? That's your stance?"

Lyndes said the boy wasn't disciplined over bringing the flag to school. "This was not a disciplinary issue at all," she said. "The student was spoken to. The situation was explained. I spoke to the parent at length about the situation to make sure that everyone understood that this was a safety concern."

Stevens said she isn't letting Shawn take the flag to school, but she plans to discuss the matter with school officials next week when she meets with them for an individualized education plan meeting about her son. "When somebody shows up with an American flag on American soil at an American school, that's his First Amendment right to do so," Stevens said. "Just because he's 12 doesn't mean he doesn't have constitutional rights." Stevens said she hopes the school will reconsider.

Lyndes said that the issue wasn't one of patriotism or expression, but rather safety. "We have American flags in every classroom," she said. "We do the Pledge of Allegiance every day. Patriotism is definitely embraced at Dover Middle School. This incident had nothing to do with the fact that it was a flag. It was the pointed stick that the flag was on."

SOURCE. Video here.

One in five pupils learns nothing after the age of 11, says former British private school head

One in five British pupils 'learns nothing' at secondary school, according to head of the country's leading private schools' group. He says children in this country are falling behind the rest of the world, with those of all abilities failing to reach their potential.

The chairman of the Independent Schools Council said that the underachievement of the bottom 20 per cent - especially boys - was more exaggerated than in countries such as China, Finland and Japan.

Barnaby Lenon, a former headmaster at Harrow School, also said in a Daily Telegraph interview that the most gifted children were not reaching their full potential. 'The biggest problem that this country faces is the underachievement of the bottom 20 per cent of pupils, particularly boys, who appear to learn nothing at school after the age of 11,' he said.

'That's the biggest challenge. But the research is also pointing to the fact that those at the top end - the top 50 per cent academically - are not reaching the level that the top 50 per cent are reaching in Hong Kong, Shanghai and Finland.'

Mr Lenon waded into the debate after recent revelations that one in five children leaves primary school without having reached the standard reading level for an 11-year-old. 'The contrast in achievement between the best and the worst is greater than in many other countries,' he added.

He said that private schools could help address these problems by holding 'masterclasses' and by sponsoring state academies - but he denied that they were responsible for the problems. The chairman of the ISC, which represents 1,234 schools, said it was 'silly' to blame the private sector when it only accounted for 8 per cent of British schools.

He called for wider reform of the curriculum and exam system in order for the country to raise its standards to a competitive international level. He said: 'When I was headmaster at Harrow, I recruited 15 to 20 boys a year from Hong Kong. In every case, they were two years ahead of English boys at maths. 'You do not get that same sort of tail of underachievement in countries like China, Japan and Finland.'


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