Friday, October 26, 2012

University Says “Republican War on Women” Forum is Not Partisan‏

The University of Michigan is defending their promotion of a feminist forum that state Republicans believe was an out-right partisan event that violated the university’s tax exempt status.

“The Republican War on Women” forum was held earlier this week and was moderated by a university employee who made political contributions to the Democratic National committee and the Obama campaign.

The event infuriated Rachel Jankowski, the president of the University of Michigan’s College Republicans.  “For a university that totes diversity and acceptance, it shows those feel good words only apply to people who espouse its shared liberal viewpoints,” she wrote. “Such hostile events have no place at a public university. Any use of taxpayer dollars to sponsor this event could be seen as participating in campaigns, which would be a violation of federal law.”

Jankowski said the university broke the law by promoting such a partisan event. she noted that all the panelists were liberals and one wrote an article declaring she was “ashamed” by any woman who would vote for Mitt Romney.

“As a woman, I’m also extremely offended by such events,” she wrote. “The Left claims that the GOP is undermining women, when really, it is the Left and events like this that pin women against women, gender against gender. “

Jankowski shared her story with Celia Bigelow, the campus director for American Majority Action — and the founder of Students Against Barack Obama.

Bigelow noted that after concerns were raised about the title of the forum, it was changed to include a question mark.  “The change in the title doesn’t change the fact that it is an anti-Republican event based on the people involved,” Bigelow wrote. “For it to be a 501(c)3-acceptable event, it must have both sides represented equally.”

But Kelly Cunningham, the director of the university’s office of public affairs, disputed that assertion.  “The event description was not ideally worded and did not capture accurately the content of the program; however, the event itself does comply with the Michigan Campaign Finance Act and with IRS regulations,” she told Fox News.

“To be clear, a ‘Republican war on women’ is not being assumed, nor was the purpose of the forum an examination of whether there is a ‘Republican war on women,’” she added.

Cunningham stressed that the feminist forum was not partisan “nor was there any suggestion of how anyone should vote in the upcoming elections.”

But the participants seemed to be partisan. The website Michigan Capitol Confidential reported that Professor Susan Douglas, the moderator, wrote an article about the election titled, “It’s the Stupid Republicans, Stupid.” They also reported that she gave to both the Obama campaign and the DNC.

“It’s a campaign event and should not be done at a taxpayer-funded college,” Tina Dupont, a member of the Tea Party of West Michigan told the website. “That’s certainly a misuse of our dollars. Without having both sides represented, to me it comes across as a campaign event. I don’t appreciate my money being used like that. I don’t think there is a war on women in the Republican Party.”


The agony of knowing your son's being bullied - and the school is too politically correct to punish his tormentors

Foolish woman failed to check the school first before moving.  Most middle-class British parents know to do that

Each day at 3.15pm, the school gates open and hordes of boisterous children spill happily out on to the Tarmac. My son, however, is not one of them.   He makes his way across the playground, shoulders hunched, head down, dragging his bag. He exudes a weariness that singles him out from his peers.

I can see, from ten yards away, how bad his day has been. I take in the frown, the nervous gesture he makes with his hand across his brow and the way he glances warily about him. I know — my heart lurching — that he is summoning all his energy not to cry.

‘You OK?’ I ask, as casually as I dare. He nods, desperate to hold it together until we get to the car. But I know, and he knows, that all is not ok. We’re into the fourth week at a new school and — I’m going to use a word now that I have discovered is a little like throwing a bomb into a room — he is being bullied.

That’s right. Bullied. Not picked on, teased, or made the butt of some playground pranking. But bullied. I know it’s an emotive word — a word that is often over-used and bandied about unnecessarily (I know this because the school in question keeps telling me this repeatedly).

But when you have a ten-year-old who was previously confident but now shakes on the school run; who loved school but now spends the majority of his evening begging to be allowed to stay at home the next day — then, excuse me, I’ll use any word I damn well please.

Trust me, I’m not a precious mother. Nor am I one of those who feels the need to endlessly enter the school to put my maternal oar in. My approach — until now — has always been one of: ‘Get out of the car — see you in six hours.’

When we decided to move Monty to a new school at the beginning of Year 5, just shy of his tenth birthday, I wasn’t unduly worried.

He had been happily attending the same small, idyllic village primary since 2007. But two years ago we moved to a house ten miles away, out of the area, and since then I’ve been spending an hour in the car each day doing a 40-mile round trip to get him there and back. 

I decided to send him to the local primary at the end of our road. It’s much bigger, with a more mixed social intake. I reasoned that this was surely a good thing. I want my children to learn with children from a variety of backgrounds. It opens their eyes to the wider context that it takes all sorts to make the world go round.

Well, that’s how I felt before. Now I snort at my naivety. Because, from bitter experience, I know that this ideal only works if those other children have a similar code of behaviour and manners — one that is reinforced by school and parents alike.

And before you accuse me of being a judgemental snob let me put this to you. Is it acceptable to kick another child relentlessly in the small of their back during a lesson?

Or to tip them out of their chair? Or to erase the work they have spent the last 30 minutes doing from the whiteboard? And that’s the stuff that went on when there was a teacher in the room.

Bear in mind we are talking here about a village school in the leafy Home Counties — not an inner-city primary on special measures. So when Monty initially admitted to me, in floods of tears, what was going on, I had every faith the problem would be nipped in the bud, swiftly and effectively.

How wrong I was. To begin with, the head teacher acknowledged there was an issue with two of the boys in that year group who were feeling ‘a little insecure’ about Monty’s arrival. I ventured that Monty was feeling a little insecure about being chased up a tree and having his trainers ripped off his feet and thrown over the hedge.

But, hey ho, it was early days and I still felt confident that things would be dealt with.

Monty’s first week was dreadful. I watched as he put a brave face on the business of being the new boy, while sinking further into dismay because these bullies didn’t ‘like’ him.

I could see part of the problem was  that — with three sisters — Monty is probably a bit more in touch with his feminine side than his peers.  By nature, he is  communicative, a little quirky, and more likely to break into song in the playground than kick a football.

He does ballet, musical theatre and talks about his emotions, which, admittedly, might make another type of boy conclude that he’s a weirdo, or a geek — two of the names he was repeatedly called during his first week.

All this is, of course, par for the course. My husband Keith and I explained to him that there will always be people who don’t like you and one of life’s lessons is to toughen up and deal with it.

Then we went to the school to ask what the hell was going on. The head teacher reiterated that the situation was ‘being handled’. These two boys had behavioural issues that they were working on.

Things got worse. In his second week, Monty was repeatedly followed into the toilets (where I suspect he was going to have a quick cry) and relentlessly pursued at every turn.

Any mother will identify with the angst of seeing your child unhappy but having no power to deal with it. I was sorely tempted to speak to the boys’ parents but the look of horror on the head’s face when I suggested it stopped me in my tracks.

Another of my bright ideas was to invite the bullies to tea — but this time it was the look on Monty’s face that made me realise I was clutching at straws.

By now, we were speaking to the school every day. Or rather, they were repeating the same thing to us over and over again: ‘We have a zero-tolerance approach to bullying.’

This was beginning to sound like point number one on some Department of Education guideline sheet for schools: ‘Buy time by telling the parents what they want to hear. Eventually they’ll believe you.’

But I didn’t. I was fast losing faith. The school might, indeed, have zero tolerance. I have zero tolerance about crisp packets being shoved down the back of the sofa but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen.

The tricky bit is implementing a consequence. So, I put it to the head teacher: what punishment are you giving these boys for making my son’s life  a misery?  ‘Oh, none,’ she replied. ‘We’re going to set up a drama group to help the three of them (including Monty) deal with their social responses.’

Social responses? What on earth was she talking about? I felt like she had swallowed a whole political correctness dictionary!

I rushed from the room, went straight home and told Monty that if either of those boys came anywhere near him again he had my permission to punch them — a social response I felt was quite appropriate under the circumstances.

But I knew he wouldn’t. He’s no angel, but punching is not his style. Then the school suddenly changed tack. ‘This isn’t actually a bullying matter,’ the head teacher informed me at the beginning of week three.

‘Bullying is the relentless targeting of one individual, and these two boys behave like this towards every child in the class.’ She then suggested — with Monty present — that it might be best to just ‘put up with it, and stop taking their behaviour so personally’.

I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. By shifting the focus from ‘bullying’ to ‘general bad behaviour’ it seemed as though she had cleverly placed the onus of the problem on Monty — deflecting it away from a word she appeared desperate not to have the school associated with.

According to ChildLine, there has been a rise in bullying in schools and there is much evidence to show there is often a discrepancy between what teachers consider to be bullying behaviour and what their pupils report is actually happening.

Indeed, bullying remains the second most common reason for children to contact ChildLine, with 31,599 counselling sessions being carried out last year — approximately 87 per day.

To this end, the charity are launching a ChildLine schools service next month — run by trained volunteers — who will go into schools across the UK and hold workshops for children, in particular those aged nine to 11 years old, about bullying and how they can be supported.

Of course, it will be too late for Monty. But that’s OK because I have taken matters into my own hands in the best way I know how. I have moved him somewhere else.

Call it running away if you like, but when you have lost all trust in your child’s school to nurture and protect them with common sense and no other agenda, then what other option do you honestly have?

I know my decision was a good one because now, at the end of the day, Monty has a bounce in his step and is bursting with enthusiasm.  He’s still dragging his bag along the ground, mind you. But perhaps you’ll understand when I say I honestly couldn’t care less...


Ill-educated youth in Australia

Knowing the times tables obviously so yesterday

I GO to a gym for my daily constitutional. I love it – lots of mature women like me, trying to compensate for years of now-abandoned bad habits taken up when young and seemingly invincible. And no one laughs at us as we run, crunch, lunge and cycle furiously, sweat pouring down our faces into nooks and crannies that younger women have yet to develop.

The lockers at my gym are tiered vertically in threes: small, small and large, with large at the bottom. Recently I asked the receptionist (a nice young woman and long-term employee who is usually a personal trainer) for a key for a large locker because I was carrying a number of packages, as well as my gym bag. "Oh," she said, "the keys aren't labelled that way. I don't know which keys are for large lockers."

I suggested that given they were in vertical rows of three, with large lockers at the bottom, any locker number that was a multiple of three would be a large locker. She looked at me as though I had asked her to explain Pythagoras' Theorem. Then she offered me a key for locker No. 20. I said no, that would not be a large locker. Next, she offered me the key for No. 26, assuring me that one would be a biggie. Wincing slightly but still smiling, I decided to humour her, and took the key to the locker room where I noted, not unexpectedly, that No. 26 was a middle row, small locker.

Still smiling (almost giggling, in fact) I broke the bad news and suggested she give me the key for No. 27. Alas, that one was already taken. For a moment, I waited for her to come up with 24 or even 30, but nope, she was now leaving it it to me to choose a number, which I did – 18 – an effortless multiple of three that my kelpie, Bluey, could have calculated easily.

This was a pleasant enough, easygoing encounter, but I must say I was astounded that this young woman seemed not to know simple multiplication. Are times-tables not taught in schools these days? No one could accuse me of being a mathematical genius, but really, this is kid stuff. I did wonder how she would cope with counting exercise repetitions when on PT duty, but perhaps there's a phone app that does the job.

When I was a gel back in the day, we had to learn multiplication tables parrot-fashion. It was tedious at the time but people never forgot them. A minor skill, but one that has come in very handy in the intervening (ahem) decades. I can recommend it.


1 comment:

Jonny said...

This level of math illiteracy is not confined to Australia. I had a similar experience in an American movie theater recently, when the cashier accidentally gave me back too much change. I gave her a 10 bill to pay for my soft drink. But she supplied me with change for a 20 bill.

When I pointed this out to her, in an attempt to return the money, she seemed irritated for some inexplicable reason. Almost as if she thought I was asking her for more money. When I explained that I owed HER money back, she shrugged and acted completely helpless and lost. She mumbled, "Just keep it then"...

I gave the money to a manager later. But that was a weird reminder of just how messed up this new world we're living in is.