Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Save the World on Your Own Dime

The taxpayers are being beaten to death by liberalism. Meanwhile academic liberals are complaining that they are taking a beating with recent budget cuts, which they claim are unjust. For the first time in a long time, I agree with the liberals. The budget cuts are unjust. In my view, they aren’t deep enough. If you disagree, consider this: One public university in North Carolina has just found money to start (in the midst of a budget crisis) a new scholarship to reward feminists for engaging in feminist political activism on the job.

Here in the Tar Heel state, this year’s budget cut in higher education is nearly 16%. But there was still enough money in the pot to create a new Janet Mason Ellerby Women and Gender Studies Scholarly Award. The award was created to recognize Ellerby’s “significant contributions to feminist scholarship and activism.”

What are those contributions? Let’s start with activism.

Some years ago, Janet Ellerby learned that the Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders were slated to make an appearance at UNC-Wilmington. Ellerby joined an effort to keep the Cowgirls from coming to our campus. Why? Well, you know the reason. They wear too little clothing and help promote unhealthy (read: sexist) images of what a woman should look like. The Cowgirls were young, thin, and happy. UNCW feminists, on the other hand, place a premium on being old, plump, and angry. The Cowgirls had to go!

Of course, anyone who has ever been to UNCW recognizes the futility of banning scantily-clad women from campus. Our co-eds generally make the Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders look like nuns. That’s why UNCW is sometimes referred to as UNC-Whorehouse. Personally, I’m offended by those who refer to our young women as “whores.” That’s why I was disappointed when UNCW hired a rapper to come to campus to call women “bitches” and “whores” back in 2003. (Note: He made $130,000 in the process!). But the rapper, unlike the cheerleaders, was not banned from UNCW by the feminists. Some UNCW feminists consider promiscuity to be empowering. So I suppose “whore” is just a term of endearment.

Speaking of whores, another example of Janet Ellerby’s activism would be the fight for free health care for prostitutes. While under the direction of Janet Mason Ellerby, the WRC placed a large display in the lobby of the UNCW library. The display made an argument for free health care for prostitutes with no moral condemnation of prostitution whatsoever. In fact, the display declined to refer to the women as prostitutes. It called them “sex workers.” If you haven’t seen the connection between these first two examples of feminist activism, I’ll just spell it out below (in bold letters):


None of this should come as a surprise to my readers. Janet Mason Ellerby was the “activist” who placed pictures of naked children in the lobby of the UNCW library as a part of Women’s History Month. Oops! That’s Womyn’s Herstory Month. She did so in connection with her official capacities as director of the Women’s Center. The provost tried to move the naked pictures to another location because pedophiles had previously been caught downloading child pornography right there in the UNCW library. Ellerby had a conniption. And she enlisted the help of the Faculty Senate in the name of academic freedom.

As a result of Janet Mason Ellerby’s activism, faculty members now face no time, place, and manner restrictions on their desire to display pictures of nude post-pubescent minors on public property. But UNCW still refrains from using the term “Christmas Tree” lest they offend the irreligious. Now it’s a holiday tree, wait, no! That’s too holy, now it’s just a tree! And the Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders are still banned from the UNCW campus. Man, these bitches and hos are relentless!

Have you have ever wondered why I refer to “feminist scholarship” as an oxymoron on a par with “jumbo shrimp?” Just read Intimate Reading, the personal memoir of Janet Mason Ellerby. It will help you better understand her desire to post pictures of naked children in public libraries. In a soft pornographic romance novel sort of way, Ellerby gives a graphic account of losing her virginity at age 16. She talks in great detail about the experience – including her effort to clean the blood off the couch where she had that first sexual experience. From there, she proceeds to write about blood running from her vagina in the shower afterwards. And, regrettably, the graphic account is required reading for many students in Women’s Studies classes.

The Ellerby sex scene might not be true scholarship. But it does have some symbolic value. Whenever feminist scholarship is taken seriously, we all lose a measure of our innocence. And someone is stuck cleaning up a big mess in the aftermath.


British charter schools obliged to promote marriage

The importance of marriage is to be taught to every pupil at the Government's flagship free schools and academies.

The schools will be made to sign up to strict new rules introduced by Michael Gove, the Education Secretary, setting out what pupils must learn about sex and relationships. Headteachers will be told that children must be "protected from inappropriate teaching materials and learn the nature of marriage and its importance for family life and for bringing up children".

But the decision to spell out an explicit endorsement of marriage in the curriculum for tens of thousands of children is highly politically significant, and likely to be welcomed by Conservative traditionalists who have been concerned at a perceived failure by David Cameron's Government to deliver on pledges to support married life.

Mr Gove has introduced the "model funding agreement" as a template for how every new free school and academy is run. Ministers want a dramatic increase in the numbers of both types of schools.

The new rules on marriage are set out in clause 28 of the funding agreement – an echo of the controversy under Margaret Thatcher's government when Clause 28 of the 1988 Local Government Bill banned schools from promoting homosexuality.

The agreement is a distinct change from current guidelines which state that children should learn the nature and importance of marriage and of stable relationships for family life and bringing up children. The reference to "stable relationships", which alludes to couples living together outside marriage and homosexual partners, has not been included in the model funding agreement documents.

The wording of the section suggests a strengthening of traditional values in schools, but will also provoke opposition from those who believe marriage should not be given a privileged status in the curriculum.

Including the teaching of marriage in funding agreements puts a legal compulsion on headteachers to comply. English, maths, science and RE are the only other curriculum subjects guaranteed in the model document.

If the terms of the agreement are broken, funding for the school can be withdrawn by ministers. It may also be possible for parents to legally challenge schools that are not abiding by the letter of their funding agreements.

The funding agreement clause also bans the use of "inappropriate materials" in schools. It is likely to be seized on by campaigners who last week attacked the use of "explicit" sex education material in primary schools and called for a ban on Channel 4's "Living and Growing" DVD used in thousands of primary schools which shows cartoon characters having sex in a variety of different positions.

Lessons in personal, social and health education (PHSE), which include sex and relationship education, are currently under review as part of the Government's general overhaul of the national curriculum, which applies in schools which are not either academies or free schools.

Tens of thousands of children are now taught in academies across the country. The number of "independent" state schools, which receive funding directly from Government and have freedom over finances, curriculum and teachers pay, has mushroomed under the Coalition.

All schools, whether primary or secondary, rated "outstanding" by inspectors can now become academies without going through a lengthy application process, which has triggered a rise in numbers from just over 200 in 2010 to 1,300 now.

The funding agreement marriage clause also applies to the 24 free schools, set up by parents, teachers, faith groups and charities. Sixty more are in the pipeline and Mr Gove has made their expansion his flagship policy.

Nick Seaton, chairman of the Campaign for Real Education, said: "Given the benefits that derive from marriage for young people, a short statement requiring that pupils learn its importance is entirely sensible."

But Terry Sanderson, president of the National Secular Society, said: "For children brought up by unmarried parents or single parents being told that marriage is the only valid family arrangement will be totally contradictory to everything they know about the world. It opens the door for religious schools to teach a really narrow version of what constitutes an acceptable relationship. "It is telling our children that their own family structure is somehow inferior. A lot of church schools would love to do that and this gives them license to do it."

Putting marriage at the heart of the curriculum will make Mr Gove popular among many Conservatives, but inflame tensions with the Liberal Democrats.

David Cameron, the Prime Minister, promised to recognise marriage in the tax system in this Parliament. But the plan went on the back burner in coalition talks with the Liberal Democrats, who fiercely oppose special recognition for marriage.

Mr Cameron has said that he intends to honour the pledge before 2015, but George Osborne, the Chancellor, suggested last month there would be no room for tax cuts before the election. In the same month, in a keynote speech to the Conservative Party Conference, Mr Cameron urged party members to back gay marriage.

New Office for National Statistics figures show that marriage is steadily declining, with married couples now making up less than half the population.

However research by the Centre for Social Justice, set up by Iain Duncan Smith, the secretary for work and pensions and the main proponent of tax breaks for married couples, found that children have better outcomes if their parents are married.

However, the issue of marriage is steeped in controversy. But critics said that at a time when the number of cohabiting couples was at record levels, focusing on marriage in lessons would confuse and alienate children.

A spokesman for the Department for Education said: "Academies and free schools have to teach a broad and balanced curriculum. They are required to have regard to the statutory guidance covering sex and relationships education."


Oxford's feared admission interviews

This year’s Oxbridge interviews begin tomorrow. I only know this because a friend asked me if I would give her niece a mock one, as she is at a state school where they don’t coach pupils in interview technique, not with quite the same ruthless efficiency as they do at public schools, anyway.

She is hoping to read PPE [Philosophy, Politics and Economics] at Oxford and as I read one of those Ps as a postgraduate - philosophy, at Durham - my friend thought I could perhaps come up with some questions that would test her. She also thought that because I interview celebrities for a newspaper I must know how to throw a curve ball. I tried to explain to her that the average celebrity has a much meaner intelligence than the average Oxbridge candidate, but she wasn’t having it.

We met on Wednesday, then - convenient for the niece because her school was on strike. I don’t know about her, but I learnt a lot. The first thing is that, if she is representative of 17-year-olds, our state education system is far from dumbed-down. Yes, she is expected to get the usual three As, but she was also articulate, composed and thoughtful. And not once in 40 minutes did she say “like”. She even made good eye contact, which I certainly couldn’t at her age.

When I asked her loaded questions - such as “Is a good person more likely to be a good president?” or “Can it ever be moral to cut benefits from the poor?” or “If you have never been to Canada, how do you know it exists?” - she gathered her thoughts for a moment and then gave considered answers.

Before the interview, I’d asked some colleagues who had been to Oxford what kind of questions I should ask. One said that if the niece is asked to throw a brick through the window, she should open it first. Lateral thinking, see. Another said there are no right or wrong answers to the sometimes strange-sounding questions: they are merely opportunities to demonstrate your originality, logic and ability to argue.

This was borne out by Professor Mary Beard on Radio 4. She said that, contrary to the myth that she and her fellow dons are eccentric sadists who enjoy humiliating very bright and very nervous teenagers, all their questions are intended to help rather than hinder the interviewee. “We want them to talk themselves into a place, not out of one.”

Above all, it seems, candidates are judged on their merits, regardless of background. That seems to be confirmed by the news that even Tony Blair couldn’t persuade Oxford to offer a place to Gaddafi’s son in 2002. Saif al-Islam had to make do with a place at LSE (also known as the Libyan School of Economics). I wonder how Saif would have answered one of the questions I put to the niece: Is dictatorship sometimes a better option than democracy?

I’ll leave you with a story a colleague told me. He turned up 24 hours early for his Oxford interview, due to a date mix-up. He sat outside the tutor’s office for an hour before realising, then had to spend the night in college without a change of clothes. The stuff of anxiety dreams, indeed. When it came to the interview he landed a PPE scholarship, but two weeks into his first term he gave up and switched to history, because he found he hated economics.

The politics don was not pleased - but blamed the economics don for not asking him any questions at interview, because he was too keen to disappear for his pre-lunch sherry.


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