Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Wisconsin Activist Teacher's Paul Ryan Snub Explained

When I watched the video of the Wisconsin teacher snubbing Congressman Paul Ryan, I knew instantly he was little more than an activist teacher seizing his moment. Respect-be-damned, it was his moment to stick it to an ideological foe. He became an instant folk hero for leftists.

But the silliness was nothing new for Racine teacher Al Levie. He has a history of using students in his personal political agenda.

Case in point is an article Levie penned for the National Education Association magazine, NEA Today, titled, “Don’t Scold, Organize!” He concluded it by writing:

“By engaging students in real-life issues and encouraging them to act on a political level, we will transform schools into places where authentic learning takes place.

“At the same time, we will help our students become engines of positive change in our society.”

Levie wants his students to be fellow rabble rousers, and what better way than to stick to a political foe right in front of them?

The incident with Ryan, however, is only the most recent example he has set for his students.

In June, 2011, Levie was kicked out of a Wisconsin Senate Finance Committee hearing for standing in the front and reading a statement. He was literally carried out by police.

In 2009, Levie participated in (organized?) a protest outside Ryan’s office. The Racine Post explained it this way:

“Horlick teacher Al Levie, known for organizing high school students in political movements, was part of the crowd.”

Levie’s 2004 vote project was canceled when it was discovered the event – oops! – was just for one political party. The Journal Times reported:

“The get out the vote project planned by Horlick High School students has been canceled.

“Racine Unified School District Superintendent Thomas Hicks said what started out to be a class-related activity last week turned out to be a partisan event. The decision to cancel the event was made Monday morning after he learned the facts had changed and it was no longer a bipartisan endeavor.”

Levie’s response?

“We're not teaching kids good values when a learning experience can be canceled by partisan politics,” Levie said.

On a school day in 2009, the high school teacher bussed students to the state capitol for a protest against out-of-state tuition being charged to illegal immigrants. The Racine Post reported:

“Their demands: Remove unfair restrictions on tuition and drivers licenses that discriminate against undocumented workers in Wisconsin. Most of the students were members of Students United for Immigrant Rights, a group founded at Horlick High School in 2005.”

This appears to get to the nub of Levie’s personal view. Consider his quote from NEA Today. Levie believes that the purpose of schools is to turn students into change agents, and he sets the example with his childish antics aimed at Congressman Paul Ryan.

So while only 57% of Racine Unified high school students are proficient in social studies, I’m willing to bet 100% of them could find Congressman Ryan’s office to protest.

That sad reality will leave students with a one-sided perspective on American policy, and likely little insight into Ryan’s conservative thought.

But that’s “real world” teaching according to Al Levie.


School suspends cancer survivor teen over hair he plans to donate

A Michigan teen who survived a bout with leukemia has been suspended from school over the length of his long hair, which he is planning to donate.

The Detroit News reports that 17-year-old J.T. Gaskins has been growing out his hair since last summer in order to donate it to the Locks of Love charity. Gaskins said he was inspired to make the donation after learning that the sister of a family friend was diagnosed with cancer.

Gaskins was diagnosed with leukemia when he was just a year old and has been in remission since he was seven. "I fought cancer my entire life. I'm going to keep fighting this," Gaskins told the Detroit News. "I'm not going to not give back just because my school says no."

The Madison Academy in Burton says Gaskins' suspension has more to do with the unkempt style of his hair, rather than its length. The school's student handbook requires that boys' hair be, "clean, neat, free of unnatural or distracting colors, off the collar, off the ears and out of the eyes."

Gaskins says Locks of Love requires a 10 inch ponytail for a donation and that his hair is currently only 2 ½ inches long.

Locks of Love Communications Director Lauren Kukkamaa says that while they respect Gaskins' effort, they'd like to see him back in school.

"There are so many ways to support Locks of Love, and we are truly grateful for all of those efforts and this young man and his desire to give back," Kukkamaa said. "But certainly, we understand the school has its reasons for having certain policies in place."

Gaskins is also being encouraged by his mother Christa Plante, who says she supports her son's efforts "100 percent." Plante launched an online petition at for her son, which has received about 4,700 signatures so far.

"He's seen how it works and how it helped people, how it helped us," she said. "This is for him. He wants to do it now. This feels right," she said.

The petition asks the school to change their policy, allowing students to grow their hair for the Locks of Love charity. The new policy would require a student to sign a promissory note, research the respective cause they wish to support and to keep their hair "well-maintained" until the donation is made.

"I'm fighting for them to make it an option for kids to grow out their hair for Locks of Love, to make it a part of the school and raise awareness for all cancer charities out there that can help patients," Gaskins said. "It wouldn't be a change to where people find a loophole just to grow out their hair."

"I'm fine with all of their rules," Gaskins said. "I just think that with this, they could try to make a compromise."


Middle class Brits priced out of university by soaring tuition fees as applications fall by nearly 10%

Thousands of middle-class youngsters have been priced out of university by the trebling of tuition fees to £9,000-a-year, figures revealed yesterday.

Sixth-formers from families with pre-tax incomes between £40,000 and £80,000 have been hardest hit by fee hikes which threaten to leave graduates with debts of £50,000.

Several thousand youngsters from middle and higher-income homes have been put off applying by the prospect of paying up to £9,000-a-year in tuition charges on top of living costs. They fail to qualify for grants and other scholarships designed to lessen the impact of the new charging regime on the poorest.

Families earning less than £25,000 are eligible for maintenance grants to help meet living expenses, with universities also offering means-tested bursaries. Pupils with household incomes up to £42,600 qualify for partial grants.

The number of university applicants across England has fallen by nearly 10 per cent following news that most universities will impose higher charges this autumn. Older students have deserted higher education in greatest numbers, with lesser falls among 18-year-old school leavers.

But official figures yesterday showed a sharper fall among better-off sixth-formers than ‘disadvantaged’ candidates. According to the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service, the proportion of youngsters applying from the wealthiest fifth of the country dropped 2.5 percentage points – a fall of 3,000. These families live in postcodes that are most likely to send children to university. Their likely average gross household income is around £80,000.

The proportion of applicants from middle-earning families dropped by about one percentage point. In contrast, the percentage of pupils applying from the poorest fifth of England dipped just 0.2 points – around 280 students. These families live in postcodes least likely to send children to university, with a likely average income of £11,800-a-year.

On average, one in 20 18-year-olds who would have been expected to apply to university this year has failed to do so, UCAS said.

The figures suggest that wealthier youngsters are deciding in greater numbers to look for jobs instead of study for three years or more and build up mortgage-style debts in the process. The trend will be seen as mounting evidence of pressure on the so-called ‘squeezed middle’ – the group bearing the brunt of economic policies aimed at easing Britain’s financial woes.

Mary Curnock Cook, UCAS chief executive, said: ‘Our analysis shows that decreases in demand are slightly larger in more advantaged groups than in disadvantaged groups. Widely expressed concerns about recent changes in higher education funding arrangements having a disproportionate effect on more disadvantaged groups are not borne out by this data.’

Ministers insisted the number of 18-year-olds applying to university had largely held up despite the controversial fees policy, one of the Coalition’s most bitterly-contested reforms. Sources pointed out the number of school-leavers from affluent backgrounds applying for university was still significantly higher than from lower-income groups.

But Shabana Mahmood, Labour’s higher education spokesman, said: ‘The decision of the Tory-led Government to treble tuition fees to £9,000 is hitting young people and their aspirations. It is clear the drastic increase in fees and the increased debt burden is putting people of all ages off going to university and investing in their future. Most students will be paying off their debts most of their working lives.’

The figures show how total applications for degree courses starting in the autumn were down 7.4 per cent – almost 44,000. Of these, 25,789 were aged 19 to 21. Many applied last year, causing a spike in recruitment.

The overall drop in applications was softened by a rise in the numbers from outside Europe.

Among UK students, applications were down 8.7 per cent – and 9.9 per cent among those living in England. In contrast, the number of applications from Scottish students – who will not pay tuition fees next year – dropped just 1.5 per cent.

Under the reforms, graduates only start repaying their loans when their income reaches £21,000. Outstanding repayments are written off after 30 years. Graduates on lower incomes are charged less interest than those who land top jobs.

Sally Hunt, general secretary of the University and College Union, said: ‘We cannot afford a system that puts people off university if we are to compete in the modern world.’


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