Thursday, December 08, 2011

If there's no Santa in your kid's school don't just whine

Neal Boortz

We have some government school bureaucrats in Texas who have decided that there will be no Santa Clause in the classrooms this year. Their first excuse was that Santa was representative of a particular religion. Then, when the inevitable stink arose, they switched their stance and said it was all because Santa Clause would be a distraction. Yeah right. The reason that they didn’t want Santa in the classroom was because he is competition, not a distraction. Remember, this is government; and government doesn’t like competition. What’s more, unlike the private sector, government can step up and end competition by edict and force when it cares to.

Before I go any further here, a word to the parents of the little government indoctrination subjects in this Texas school who are voicing whining about the school dissin” Santa. It’s this simple: If you can easily afford to have your precious little mini-me in a private school somewhere, yet you turned your child over to the government to be educated; or if you have the means and the temperament to home school your child; or (your last available excuse) you are NOT actively working with your legislators, both local and federal, to promote the cause of school choice, then would you do us all a favor and just keep your opinions about Santa in the classroom to yourself? When it comes to preparing your child for life, just sitting around and complaining doesn’t cut it. Either do something, support those who are trying to do something, or put a sock in it.

Now think about this. When you child was about six years old you made the decision to turn him or her over to the government to be educated. Just how much thought did you actually put into this decision? My guess is that you asked the government which school your child was supposed to attend, bought the government school suggested list of school supplies, and packed the little tricycle motor off on day one with nary an additional thought. But after all, that’s what everyone else does, right? You’re no better than they are, and if government schools are good enough for their kids, well you certainly don’t want to be a show off or something, do you?

Tell me: Did you really look into private schools? My guess is that you could have found a private school somewhere near you that wouldn’t have cost you all that much more than a good day care school did before your child became school age. You didn’t search around? No surprise. The government was there for you, so why explore other options?

Maybe home schooling? Did you look into that? No, you don’t have to spend six hours a day hammering the three Rs into your kid. There are Internet assets and plenty of organizations out there to help. College professors will tell you that they can recognize the home schooled child on the first day of class due to their poise, intelligence and maturity. But no, you didn’t look into that, did you? After all, you paid your property taxes and this is all the government’s job, right?

Well, let me ask you this. How much time did you spend looking into the history, purpose and quality of the government school that swallowed up your child? Did you realize that the very people who designed our system of government schools around 100 years ago made a conscious decision to establish a system that would educate your child to the point that he would make a good employee or government subject, but not to the point that he might present a threat to his employer or those who hold power in government? Guess not.

So now there you are, telling everyone how troubled you are that Santa has been sent to detention; but isn’t that pretty much what you did to your child? My guess is that you put far more thought into the purchase of your last car than you did into the education of your child, and that car will be in a junkyard in about 15 years…pretty much the same thing that is going to happen to You, Jr.

Now what was that reason I gave for some government schools to send Santa back to the sleigh? Oh yeah, competition. You chose the type of school: Hebrew Academy, Baptist private school, Catholic parochial school or Muslim madrasah. Every single one of these schools, while teaching educational basics such as reading, science and math, will also try to inculcate the students with a sense of allegiance to the entity running the school; whether Jewish, Christian, Catholic or Muslim. Now just why would you think that a government school would be any different?

In American government schools our children are relentlessly indoctrinated with the idea that the government is there for them when any need arises. In the Christian school it may be “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.” In government schools it’s “The government is my keeper, I need not rely on myself.” This is how power is built and maintained, beginning the indoctrination process with the impressionable minds of youth.

I still remember that visit Michelle Obama made to a government classroom here in Atlanta. A picture of her in the classroom interacting with the kids appeared in the Atlanta Journal Constitution. On the classroom wall behind Michelle were the typical alphabet signs; one sign for each letter strung along the wall. Under each of the letters was a word beginning with that letter. Under “M” we had the word “monkey.” Under “N” we had not one, but two words. Those words? “National Government.” They chose not to use “notebook,” something in virtually ever classroom. Maybe the teacher could have used “necklace” or “necktie.” But no. It just had to be “National government.” Never miss an opportunity to keep the federal government foremost in the minds of your children. You certainly don’t think a Muslim madrasah would miss the chance to extol the virtues of Allah, do you?

And Santa? Well the problem is twofold. First of all, Santa is a symbol of a Christian holiday. You don’t want to remind the children that some people worship God, rather than government. Secondly … When it comes to people asking for someone to bring them a present – to give them something for nothing – well, that’s the government’s job. Santa is, as I said, competition and cannot be allowed to survive.

If just half the parents who gnash their teeth and wring their hands over political correctness in our government schools would dedicate a few hours a week to promoting school choice we would take giant steps toward preserving liberty and saving our republic.


The Greatest English Teacher

The Rev. John Becker, S.J., sat at the front of the classroom, paperback in hand, glasses pushed to the end of his nose. As he spoke, he looked intently from one student to another.

“This semester, I am going to teach you how to read 'King Lear,'” he said. “It may be Shakespeare’s most difficult play. But it has a powerful message to tell.”

When we were done reading “Lear,” the priest promised, we would not only understand it, but we would have learned the secret of understanding any thing written in English -- anything, that is, with a meaning to discern.

And we would love Shakespeare.

At the time, I don’t think any of us understood what Father Becker meant. But the things he started teaching us that day made him the greatest English teacher I ever had.

That was in 1974 at Saint Ignatius, the all-boys Jesuit high school in San Francisco.

For several weeks, Father Becker sat patiently with our class as we read “King Lear,” line by line -- out loud. Whenever we came to a word or phrase he suspected we did not understand, he would look with mock ferocity at one student and jovially ask another on the other side of the room to explain what it meant.

When it was clear no one knew, we would look it up in the glossary. Father would then pick someone to read the definition out loud. Then we would read -- again -- the line where the troublesome word had been found.

Reading “King Lear” like this was tedious -- at first.

But as we read deeper into the play -- then moved on to “Hamlet” and “Macbeth” -- we needed to stop and start and visit the glossary less frequently. But we appreciated the need for doing so more. We discovered Father Becker was right. The more we understood Shakespeare’s plays, the more we loved them. Our hard work and attention to detail was rewarded with the ability to detect, understand and appreciate even the subtle nuances of the greatest works of literature ever written.

Then there was the memorization and recitation. At first this, too, we faced with dread.

Father gave us a quota of lines from each play. Each student could choose which ones to memorize and when to recite them. But by the end of the semester, each was responsible for completing his share.

By the time everyone had recited their quota, it was possible Father Becker’s students were as familiar with the most popular lines from that semester’s Shakespeare play as from the latest Grateful Dead or Eagles album.

Then there was the continuous writing and rewriting. Father made us write one essay per week. He gave us some freedom in choosing a topic, but no freedom from the rules of grammar.

He often returned a graded paper with a neat “A/F” inscribed at the top. The “A” was for the merits he thought he detected in your creativity or thought. The “F” was for mangling English.

Father Becker did not give these “Fs” arbitrarily. Using a red pen, he meticulously marked every mistake with a code -- “A61,” D128,” “H53.” Each referred to a specific rule in the Writing Handbook -- a clear, systematic and exhaustive 592-page text published in 1953 by two Jesuits. A student with an “A/F” needed to look up each rule he had broken and rewrite the paper to correct the errors. Father Becker would then change his grade to an “A/A.”

This, too, I found incredibly tedious. But then I went to college.

Father Becker was one of the teachers who recommended me to Princeton. I was accepted. I read more Shakespeare -- and Chaucer and Pope. I earned a degree in English literature. I became a professional writer and editor. Along the way, I had the opportunity to learn from many great English teachers. Yet, as time passed, I more deeply appreciated the teaching of Father Becker.

At St. Ignatius -- in Father Becker’s class and all others -- we wrote the letters AMDG at the top of our papers. They stand for “Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam” -- To the Greater Glory of God. These are the strategic watchwords of the Jesuit order: Everything ultimately must serve this purpose.

Father Becker taught us that Shakespeare was great not only because of the power and wit and poetry in his language but because his plays truly served the greater glory of God. They helped readers see good and evil and the consequences of choosing one over the other.

Father Becker also taught by example. He had the skills to succeed in many lucrative professions. But he took a vow of poverty and spent five decades as a good and faithful priest teaching boys to become strong and confident Christian men in an increasingly secular world.


The leather lady loses: Controversial rules over free places for the poor in private schools to be torn up

Rules requiring private schools to give free places to poor pupils are to be torn up, after a crunch court ruling. In a victory for independent schools, the Charity Commission was ordered to scrap its controversial guidance, which orders schools to offer bursaries or risk losing charitable status.

Judges on the Upper Tribunal – a body which rules on contentious areas of law – gave the Commission three weeks to withdraw its most sweeping guidelines or have them quashed completely.

The ruling comes after a fierce political row over demands that fee-paying schools must provide wider ‘public benefit’ in order to keep millions in tax breaks. The ‘public benefit’ rules were widely seen by independent schools as a crusade by Dame Suzi Leather, the Labour-appointed quangocrat who heads the Charity Commission.

That has pressed private schools to open up their playing fields and sports facilities to local state schools and offer tuition to some local pupils. But they balked at being forced to hand out free places in order to remain in business after the Charity Commission said providing bursaries was the most straightforward way of satisfying the rules.

School heads claimed that would drive up fees for existing parents and price some families out of independent education altogether.

In October, the Upper Tribunal ruled parts of the Commission’s guidance were ‘erroneous’.

The Independent Schools Council had brought a case against the Commission arguing its guidance must be quashed because it was too vague and claimed the commission was guilty of ‘micro-managing’ individual charities. The commission argued its guidelines were clear and it had only provided ‘supportive assistance’ to help schools keep charitable status.

Yesterday the Commission was told to withdraw parts of its guidance, specifically that relating to public benefit and fee-charging charities, which includes independent schools.

Crucially, the judges also decided each case depended on its own facts and it was a matter for the trustees of a charitable independent school – rather than the Charity Commission or the tribunal – to decide how trustees’ obligations to provide public benefit should be achieved.

ISC general secretary Matthew Burgess said: ‘We were vindicated last month when the Tribunal agreed the Commission’s approach to the public benefit of independent schools was wrong. ‘We trust this ruling will now persuade the Commission to discharge its duty to hundreds of thousands of charity trustees to produce clear and accurate guidance.’

A Charity Commission spokesman said: ‘We have received the Upper Tribunal’s decision and, in accordance with this, will be voluntarily agreeing to withdraw the limited parts of our guidance found by the Tribunal not to be correct. ‘We will do this as part of our review of the guidance, which we said we would carry out regardless of the outcome and is already in hand.

‘It remains that in accordance with the judgement, fee-charging schools cannot be charitable if they exclude the poor from benefit and, if established as charities, they have to make provision for those who cannot afford the fees which is more than minimal or tokenistic.’


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