Monday, February 06, 2012

High School Student Needed Rabbi’s Note to Wear Yarmulke in School

Would a Muslim need a note in order to wear Muslim garb? But it looks like it was a pretty odd yarmulke. Still, confirming the matter with the parents should have sufficed

A Maryland high school student and his parents are seeking an apology after the teen’s principal said he needed a note from his rabbi in order to wear his yarmulke in school, the Washington Post reported.

Caleb Tanenbaum said he was told last month to remove his head covering in the school’s cafeteria, but declined to do so on religious grounds.

Yarmulkes are traditionally worn by Jewish men when they pray, though some opt to wear them all day. Most are small, though Caleb’s was “a large, black hat that had been knitted by his mother and which covered his dreadlocks,” the newspaper described.

Caleb, a junior, said he told school officials to call his parents to confirm he was wearing the covering for religious purposes, which they did. Still, the principal asked for a letter from the family’s rabbi to confirm it.

Northwood High School Principal Henry Johnson Jr. told the Post the school doesn‘t usually question students’ religious wear, but with “all these different religions and cultures, we have to validate sometimes.”

“This wasn’t what we traditionally see as a yarmulke or a kippah,” Johnson said. “It looked like the head covering we see some Rastafarians wear.”

The family procured the note from their rabbi, but Caleb’s father is still upset. Steven Tanenbaum said he thought the principal overstepped, and that once he and his wife confirmed what their son said, “that should have been enough.”

“Instead of saying that’s fine, the principal wanted a letter from a rabbi,” Tanenbaum told the Wheaton Patch. “Our word was not good enough? We’re his parents!”

Rabbi Shlomo Buxbaum, who wrote the note, told the news site he’s never seen a student have to justify their religious wear before. He wrote in the letter, “I ask you, in the spirit of religious acceptance, to allow him to wear his Kippah in the school.”

Caleb, who was born in Jerusalem, said he’s been trying lately to re-embrace his Judaism. According to the Post, religious head coverings for Jews and Muslims are common at the school, which does not have any guidelines prohibiting students from wearing hats.

“He wanted me to prove my religion,” Caleb said.


Britain's professor of crap

David Cameron and Michael Gove were yesterday said to be against the idea of Lib Dem-backed Professor Les Ebdon becoming university access supremo. Looking at some of the Mickey Mouse courses offered by his college, it is not hard to see why.

Chum Ebdon is vice-chancellor of the University of Bedfordshire (formerly Luton College of Higher Education). Some of its degrees are less than scholastic in flavour.

Take its two-year course in carnival arts, offering undergraduates the chance to ‘learn how to design and make carnival costumes and decorations’. Is this higher education or an extension of Blue Peter? By carnival, the university means Notting Hill rather than the Carnevale di Venezia.

If steel drumming and feather-bikini stitching (and, presumably, riot control) are not to your taste, Prof Ebdon offers degrees in beauty spa management. Work experience ‘is gained from working in the college’s own salon’. It brings new resonance to the term ‘foundation’ course.

There is a course in ‘breastfeeding counselling’, a degree in football studies and a post-grad course in sport tourism management. That one promises ‘academic theory in tourism, leisure and events’. Ah, events, dear boy, events. But they probably mean it in the egg-and-spoon-race sense.

The University of Ebdon also offers a course in travel agency. It encourages people already working in the travel business to come along for a couple of years to ‘fine-tune those personal qualities that will make you an excellent candidate for travel management positions’. Is it really the duty of public money to get travel agents promoted?

Prof Ebdon, a leading critic of university fees, thinks so. Those of you whose taxes help fund the University of Bedfordshire and his salary (some £246,000 at last count) may disagree. His proposed berth at the Office for Fair Access pays £45,000 for just two days a week.

How can Lib Dems even think of allowing such a goon to dictate principles to our best universities?


Numeracy Campaign: British teenagers among worst for dropping maths

British schoolchildren are less likely to study maths to a high standard than in most other developed countries because of failings in the way the subject is delivered, a leading academic has warned.

Prof Stephen Sparks said that few pupils took maths beyond the age of 16 after being “put off” by test-driven lessons in primary and secondary school.

He said classes often focused on the dry “procedures” behind sums to make sure children pass exams instead of passing on a well-rounded understanding of the subject.

Only one in eight teenagers studies maths in the sixth-form, leaving Britain trailing behind many other developed nations. Between 50 and 100 per cent of teenagers in other countries, including the Czech Republic, Estonia, Fin-

land, Japan and Korea, study maths to a decent level, the figures show. Prof Sparks, chairman of the Advisory Committee on Mathematics Education (ACME), which represents academics and teachers, said the number of pupils failing to take A-level maths “puts us at a real anomaly internationally and likely affects our economic competitiveness”.

The comments came as The Daily Telegraph started a campaign, Make Britain Count, to highlight the scale of the mathematical crisis and provide parents with tools to boost their children’s numeracy.

The Nuffield Foundation compared the number of pupils studying advanced maths in 24 industrialised countries. Around 13 per cent of students took

A-levels in the subject in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. In Scotland, numbers reached around a quarter. In almost every other nation, more than half of pupils took advanced maths courses, while in eight countries, including South Korea, Russia, Sweden and Taiwan, maths was compulsory until the age of 18.

Prof Sparks called for the majority of pupils to study maths up to the age of 18, and said that some teenagers should take tailored courses “between a GCSE and A-level”. “The reason some people are being put off maths is related to that issue of teaching to the test,” he said. “Schools are given a big incentive to make sure pupils pass tests, which doesn’t necessarily mean that they get the well-rounded understanding that a good education requires.”


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