Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Fla. School Districts Refuse to Distribute Constitution Booklets Donated by 9/12 Project

Two Florida school districts won’t be handing out pocket-sized Constitutions to their eighth graders because they were donated by the local 9/12 Project, prompting concerns from school officials about the “opinions and viewpoints” the booklets contain.

According to the St. Petersburg Times, the Nature Coast 9/12 Project gave thousands of copies of the Constitution to the Hernando and Citrus school districts in central Florida in August. But because of certain handouts and forewords that accompanied some of the booklets, along with the organization’s name and website, officials decided not to pass them out.

“It doesn’t matter what group it is,” Hernando superintendent Bryan Blavatt said. “The question is, are we giving out resources that are primary sources … or is it subject to opinions and viewpoints and selective choice of materials?”

The St. Petersburg Times reported:
Some booklets donated to Hernando were published by the Scottish Rite of Freemasonry, whose website describes its mission as serving communities through “fellowship, compassion, and dedication to God, family and country.”

These booklets contained other primary texts such as the Declaration of Independence, Abraham Lincoln‘s Gettysburg Address and Patrick Henry’s Call to Arms. A foreword to the booklet reads: “Unless Americans remember and preserve our rich heritage of liberty, a new Dark Age of tyranny could lock the majority of mankind into the harsh chains of totalitarian slavery.”

Some booklets donated to Hernando were accompanied by a one-page sheet from the Cato Institute, a conservative think tank, with the heading “Constitutional Authority.” The sheet asserts that the Constitution has been misinterpreted, leading to “a government that’s effectively unlimited … and increasingly unaffordable.”

Booklets donated to the Citrus district refers the reader to books published by the National Center for Constitutional Studies, a conservative, religious-themed organization formed by Mormon political writer Cleon Skousen, who argued that the founding of the United States was a divine miracle. One of Skousen’s books referenced in the booklet, The 5,000 Year Leap, is often cited by political commentator and 912 Project founder Glenn Beck, who wrote a foreword for a later edition.

Citrus officials plan to return the booklets because the school board said the additional material conflicts with the district’s policy of not passing out political material; in Hernando, principals were told to give them out to any student who wanted one, but not to pass them out to every student.

“When you add all of those things together, it’s not just a simple Constitution,” said Mike Mullen, assistant superintendent for Citrus schools. “You‘ve got to be real careful when you’re passing out information to the kids.”

Nature Coast 9/12 Project organizer Maureen Arrigale said her group reached out to school officials last year about donating booklets and submitted samples for review, which were approved.

“The booklets they have are the same booklets we sent them,” she told the Times. “We’re not promoting any kind of agenda or politics whatsoever. Our name just happens to be on the book.”

Mullen acknowledged staff members reviewed the booklets, but said they didn’t research the National Center for Constitutional Studies or the 9/12 Project itself at the time. He also said the sample booklets received did not contain the 9/12 Project name and website.

“I know they claim they’re not a political group, but they have direct links from their website that do take you to partisan political websites,” Mullen said.

But the Nature Coast 9/12 Project donated money to a local Tea Party group to purchase Constitution booklets for schools in another Florida district this year without any problem, Arrigale said. Those booklets were stamped with the Tea Party’s name, which a district spokeswoman told the Times was fine — “[a]s long as it’s not included with any sort of political message.”

For the 9/12 Project, the controversy is just the latest setback in an attempt to get schools to teach U.S. history taught in a complete, unbiased way.

“What we’re out to do is educate people that things in the Bill of Rights are being taken away from us and are being misconstrued,” Nature Coast 9/12 member Annette Weeks said.


British children should be able to leave school at 14 so they can learn a trade, says ex-Ofsted head

The school leaving age should be cut to 14 so that less academic teenagers can learn a trade, according to the former head of Ofsted. Sir Chris Woodhead said he believes that once a child has got the grasp of basic literacy and numeracy they should be given the chance to look at alternative career paths.

He added that it was a 'recipe for disaster' to make young people study English and maths up to the age of 18, and said it was a mistake to make vocational education 'quasi-academic'.

'If a child at 14 has mastered basic literacy and numeracy, I would be very happy for that child to leave school and to go into a combination of apprenticeship and further education training and a practical, hands-on, craft-based training that takes them through into a job,' he told the Times.

Speaking about the riots across England he said: 'Does anybody seriously think these kids who are truanting at 13, 14 are going to stay in school in a purposeful, meaningful way through to 18? 'It just seems to me the triumph of ideological hope over reality.'

He backed Government plans to use synthetic phonics to boost reading in primary schools, saying 95 per cent of children should reach the literacy target at 11.

But Sir Chris, who is now chairman of not-for-profit schools company Cognita, criticised David Cameron's call for independent schools to sponsor academies, calling it 'morally wrong'. 'The more that the science facilities or the playing fields are used by non fee-paying children, the less they are available for the parents of children who do pay the fees,' he said.

Sir Chris was chief inspector of Ofsted from 1994 to 2000.

The need to engage youngsters with work that inspires them at an earlier age appears to be underlined by the experiences some bosses have of school leavers.

Last month, garden centre owner Richard Haddock, 54, said he despaired of the school leavers that he was sent. As a result he is now concentrating on recruiting older people and workers from abroad. He said: 'I have had youngsters sent here from the Jobcentre and most aren’t interested in working at all. They just want their form signed to show they came for the interview.

'When we have employed school leavers they have generally been unsuited for the world of work. They turn up late, half asleep or with hangovers and spend half their time checking their mobile phones.

'They know they should not wear nail varnish because they are handling food but they turn up wearing it anyway. If you try to discipline them or help them, they throw it back in your face.'


British School bans children from putting up their hands in class - and tells pupils to do a 'Fonz' thumbs up instead

Schoolchildren have been banned from putting their hands up in class - and told to do a 'Fonz' thumbs up instead.

Parents blasted the rule as 'daft' and said the pupils at Burlington Junior School in East Yorkshire would look as though they were imitating Happy Days character The Fonz.

Helpful posters at the school show a raised arm with a thick red cross next to it and a picture of a child doing a thumbs up.

Father-of-three Dave Campleman, 44, who has two children at the Bridlington school, said: 'I thought it was a joke at first. It's daft. I can't see the logic in it. 'Fair enough if it was across the board, but I've not heard of any other schools doing it.'

The driving instructor added: 'I think it's a bit pointless, it's not benefiting their education - they could focus on other things. 'Kids are used to putting their hands up, it is natural for them. Being told to do something different just confuses them. 'I am just bemused by it. I think they should go back to the old way of putting your hand up in class.'

Headteacher Cheryle Adams insisted that the more positive hand signal had a 'calming' effect on the eight- and nine-year-old children.

But another parent, who has a son in the class but did not want to be named, said: 'It is going to make the class look like they are all imitating the Fonz from Happy Days. 'On a serious note, when these kids go up to secondary school next year they could be a laughing stock because all the other children will be putting up their hands.

'I think there should have been more consultation from the school with the parents over this and perhaps a trial first before an outright ban. 'I can't really see it making the classroom more relaxed - they are young, excitable kids and putting up your thumb instead of your arm isn't going to change that.'

The school has previously tried out other 'progressive' teaching methods, including a lucky-dip lollipop-stick system to choose pupils to answer questions. It now plans to roll out the changes into its infant school - for children aged four and five.

Ms Adams said that the non-traditional teaching approach has worked since it was introduced at the start of this term at the 360-pupil school. She said: 'It seems to be something all the children have accepted. It is to stop the pupils waving arms about, which can be distracting. It has calmed the pupils down.

'Staff have noticed a positive difference in the amount of people answering questions.

'I don't think this approach to answering questions is a big deal. There is also no issue of children at the back of the classroom being missed or ignored.'

She added: 'At a training day we discussed all sorts of ideas as we have found some children put their hands up, while others won't, even if they know the answers.

'We have looked at different options. This included a lollipop stick method in which children write their names on the sticks. We pick one out and the pupil whose stick is chosen answers the question. 'With this technique we found everybody would listen in case their name was called out.

'All these ideas help make the classroom environment calmer as well as encouraging the quieter pupils to share their ideas.'


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