Monday, June 11, 2012

'Schindler's List' Producer Claims Graduation Speech Censorship by bigoted school principal

Who has now "moved on"

Gerald Molen won a best picture Oscar for co-producing Schindler’s List with Steven Spielberg and has produced such Hollywood blockbusters as the first two Jurassic Park films and Twister. He’s a former U.S. Marine and is a sought-after motivational speaker.  So he’s not accustomed to being shunned.

Such was the case, though, when he was invited to speak to the graduating class at a Montana high school. But upon arriving, was told by the principal he would not be allowed to deliver the speech he had prepared.  The reason, he believes, is politics.

Molen is one of those rare conservatives in Hollywood (he’s even making a documentary called 2016, based on the Dinesh D’Souza book The Roots of Obama’s Rage) and because of that, he says, Ronan High School principal Tom Stack decided to disinvite him -- and he didn’t tell him so until after Molen made the 90-minute drive from his home in Bigfork, Mont.

Unlike Hollywood, Ronan isn’t exactly a hotbed of liberalism (its state representative is a Republican), still, Molen says that Stack told him straight up that he wouldn’t be allowed to address the students because he was “a right-wing conservative.”  “He said some callers didn’t want the kids exposed to that, despite not knowing what my message would be,” Molen told The Hollywood Reporter.

Stack did not return several calls seeking comment, nor did representatives from the Ronan School District.

Molen has spoken at dozens of schools and never accepts a fee. When one is offered, he asks that it be donated to the Shoah Foundation, the nonprofit organization founded by Spielberg and dedicated to the remembrance of the Holocaust.

When speaking to students, Molen’s presentations usually invoke Oskar Schindler, who is credited with saving 1,100 Jews during the Holocaust and is the subject of the Oscar-winning 1993 film that Molen co-produced with Spielberg and Branko Lustig.

For the Ronan students, Molen planned to use Schindler as an example of what courageous individuals could accomplish, and he also planned to ask them to “imagine your future is a movie. Forty years from now, you’re writing a script about your accomplishments. What would that script look like?”  "It was a totally apolitical speech," Molen said.

Molen wrote about being disinvited, and his story was published in the Montana newspaper, The Daily Inter Lake. Now, several Ronan citizens are demanding details.  “It’s shocking,” said Colleen Adler, a resident with three children in the school district who has been trying, unsuccessfully so far, to get an official explanation for the cancellation. “It’s very frustrating.”

“I’m pissed off,” said Chuck Lewis, an occasional volunteer at the school. “Why would a school dishonor a man who served his country?”

Lewis, also a former Marine, posted Molen’s story on his two Facebook pages and asked his 3,000 “friends” to contact the school board to demand it apologize to Molen and invite him to speak to next year’s Ronan High School graduating class.  “They should have never censored him like that,” said Lewis.

It’s unknown how many phone calls have been placed, but one e-mail to the school board that was made public read: “I would like to know the process and people who canceled Gerald R. Molen’s talk to the Ronan Senior Class. I would like to also have a list of other speakers who have addressed the high school in the past five years.”

UPDATE: The incident as described by Molen "did, in fact, occur," superintendent of schools for the Ronan district Andy Holmlund told The Hollywood Reporter on Friday.

"It is my understanding that the high-school principal made the decision based on his point of view. It is not the view of the district. That's not the expectations that the district maintains. That principal will not be serving in this school district for the upcoming school year."

Holmlund said Stack has accepted a position with a school in Clinton, Mont., though he refused to say when or why that decision had been made. Residents say it was likely unrelated to Stack's decision to disinvite Molen.  Asked why Stack had not responded to several phone calls, Holmlund said: "I can't speak to the fact that Mr. Stack isn't talking."

Asked about the public's response to the sudden, nationwide pubicity to the controversy, Holmlund said: "Oh, it's on fire, sir. Justifiably so. We don't expect people to be treated poorly."


British employers forced to take the role of schoolteacher

More than four in 10 employers are being forced to provide remedial training in English, maths and IT because school-leavers and college students lack basic skills when they start earning a living, it is shown in research published today.

Companies say they have little option but to set up classrooms to teach core subjects and equip young people with the basic knowledge to help them function in the workplace.

Almost two-thirds of the 542 companies surveyed by the CBI and Pearson Education complained that too many school-leavers were failing to develop vital skills such as self-management and timekeeping at school.

They struggled to write to the necessary standard, employ basic numeracy or use a computer properly.

The shortcomings identified in the report will add to growing concerns that the education system is failing to equip children for the demands of university and the work place. The findings show that the level of dissatisfaction among employers remains at around a third, the same level as a decade ago.

More employers are now trying to adopt a hands-on approach by forging closer links with schools to help students and teachers understand what skills are needed for working life. Almost 60pc now have ties with secondary schools and further education colleges.

Employers are also anticipating a drop in the intake of graduates because of the increase in tuition fees. More than a third expect to expand their recruitment of school-leavers with A-levels to provide an alternative to graduate-level training.

John Cridland, CBI director-general, said: “The UK’s growth will depend on developing a wider and deeper pool of skills so that our economy can prosper in the face of fierce international competition for business.”

The report suggests the current discontent among employers is likely to increase as companies look to increase workforce skills. In the next three to five years, employers expect they will need more people with leadership and management skills and fewer lower skilled.

Many employers believe primary schools should focus on the basics – reading, writing and maths – while secondary schools should prioritise developing the skills pupils will need for the world of work, as well as advanced literacy, numeracy and technology.

They also feel the none of the current education qualifications addresses the combination of literacy, numeracy and employability effectively and they want to see more emphasis on vocational subjects because of their importance in the workplace.

The CBI also wants a higher priority given to teaching foreign languages, one of the issues being addressed by Michael Gove, Education Secretary, in planned changes to the school curriculum. The UK is bottom of the foreign language proficiency league in Europe.


Australia: Student teachers fail primary school-level tests

Another indication of how low educational standards have sunk

ALMOST half of aspiring primary school teachers failed parts of a landmark test featuring literacy and numeracy questions that Year 7 students should be able to answer.

The results have reignited concerns about the quality of teaching graduates entering Queensland classrooms.

The Courier-Mail last week revealed that about 12 per cent - almost one in eight - high-school leavers who began a teaching course this year had an Overall Position of 17 or worse.

Figures released by the Queensland College of Teachers reveal about 40 per cent of third or fourth-year teaching students who sat the trial Pre-Registration for Aspiring Primary Teachers Test failed the literacy, numeracy or science component.

Educators defended the results saying the test was aimed at graduates and some students may not yet have been exposed to some of the test material.

However, The Courier-Mail understands there were high failure rates on some basic content questions.

The test was introduced by the former Bligh government after principals raised concerns that some graduate teachers lacked basic literacy and numeracy skills.

It contained questions on teaching strategies and basic primary school level content which they will have to teach.

Professor Geoff Masters, who recommended the teacher test, said the results gave weight to principals' concerns.  "Some of the questions are fairly straightforward tests of literacy and numeracy," Prof Masters said.  "It does raise a question about whether some students who are getting through their initial teacher education programs have the levels of personal literacy and numeracy and the knowledge of how to teach literacy and numeracy that we require in our schools."

The test, which has cost more than $2 million to develop, has been shelved under cost-savings measures.

The Queensland College of Teachers, which conducted field trials in Brisbane, the Gold Coast, Toowoomba and Cairns in March last year, said 483 students took part.

"The outcomes of the trials indicated 72 per cent of the participants would have met the benchmarks set for the literacy instrument, 82 per cent for numeracy and 81 per cent for science respectively," a QCT statement said.

"If the test proceeds, candidates will be required to meet the benchmarks set in all three areas. Approximately 40 per cent would have been required to re-take at least one of the instruments. The results of the trial should be considered as indicative."

Education Minister John-Paul Langbroek said the results were concerning.  "The trial test was conducted on less than 10 per cent of the entire cohort of third and fourth-year teaching students to assess the validity of the possible test questions and the logistics of implementing the test itself, rather than the quality of teaching graduates," Mr Langbroek said.  "However, the results are still concerning which is why I plan to work with universities to ensure that they are producing quality graduates to teach Queensland children."

Queensland Deans of Education Forum chair Professor Wendy Patton agreed that the results were cause for concern.

But she said variables had to be taken into account, including the fact that third-year students had been given "graduate" tests, and it was still unknown what the trial test questions were.

She said individual students were not provided with their marks, with an assurance those wouldn't be published.  "We have to acknowledge that these were not students at the end of their program," she said, adding that she hoped they would be able to answer the questions by the end of their course.

Under QCT guidelines, higher-education institutions are required to provide extra tuition to any student who needs support in literacy or numeracy. Prof Patton said that was being done.


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