Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Massachusetts forces schools to let 'transgender' boys use girls' restrooms, lockers

Massachusetts Commissioner of Education Mitchell Chester has issued orders to the state’s K-12 public schools requiring them to permit “transgender” boys and girls to use the opposite sex’s locker rooms, bathrooms, and changing facilities as long as they claim to identify with that gender.

Many elementary schools in smaller Massachusetts towns include children from kindergarten through eighth grade, making it possible for boys as old as 14 to share toilet facilities with girls as young as five.

Under Chester's leadership, the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) released an 11-page document on Friday outlining this and other new guidelines giving “transgender” students special status and privileges in Massachusetts schools. Some family advocates are calling the document, which was prepared with assistance from homosexual and transgender advocacy groups, “the most thorough, invasive, and radical transgender initiative ever seen on a statewide level.”

The policy does not require a doctor’s note or even parental permission for a child to switch sexes in the eyes of Massachusetts schools. Only the student’s word is needed: If a boy says he’s a girl, as far as the schools are concerned, he’s a girl.

“The responsibility for determining a student’s gender identity rests with the student,” the statement says. “A school should accept a student’s assertion of his or her gender identity when there is … ‘evidence that the gender-related identity is sincerely held as part of a person’s core identity.’” That evidence, according to the document, can be as simple as a statement given by a friend.

That means, according to the newly issued school policies, that boys who say they identify as girls must be addressed by the feminine pronoun and be listed as girls on official transcripts.

They must also be allowed access to girls’ facilities and be allowed to play on girls’ athletic and club teams. The same is true for girls who say they are boys.

The document was issued to clarify the schools’ obligations in light of “An Act Relative to Gender Identity,” a law that went into effect last July. That bill amended Massachusetts law “to establish that no person shall be excluded from or discriminated against in admission to a public school of any town, or in obtaining the advantages, privileges and courses of study of such public school on account of gender identity.”

However, Brian Camenker, spokesman for government watchdog group MassResistance, told LifeSiteNews the DESE’s new directives go far beyond what the law requires.

Camenker pointed out that the only requirement the Gender Identity bill imposed on schools was to add “gender identity” to their non-discrimination policies, alongside other protected groups such as religious or ethnic minorities. Under the DESE’s policy, however, self-identified transgendered students will have more rights than other students, including the right to access bathroom and changing facilities of the opposite sex and play on the opposite sex’s sports teams.

Not only that, but students who object may be subject to punishment under the state’s new “anti-bullying” law, which, like the new school policy, was written with the help of homosexual and transgender activist groups.

Under that law, any outwardly negative reaction against transgenderism can now be considered bullying, and subject to discipline and punishment, according to Camenker.

“The directive is clear that there is to be no tolerance for students who become uncomfortable or upset at these situations being pushed on them,” Camenker wrote. “The school's approach is to be unyielding to any such discomfort, and to re-educate those students to have more ‘acceptable’ reactions and values.”

“[It] is completely natural for a child to feel very uncomfortable using a female name for an individual they know to be male, seeing a boy in girl’s clothing, or feeling it’s unfair that a boy is competing athletically as a girl,” Camenker added. “These feelings are now considered by the school to be backwards and disruptive.”

Andrew Beckwith, attorney for Massachusetts Family Institute, called the document’s definition of transgender “extremely broad.”

“If a male student tells his teacher he feels like a girl on the inside, the school has to treat him in every way as if he actually is a girl,” Beckwith said. “School personnel may be forbidden from informing the parents of their child’s gender decisions, and students can even decide to be one gender at home and another at school.”

Kris Mineau, president of the Massachusetts Family Institute, worries that the new policy could put girls at particular risk for violations ranging from privacy invasions to sexual assault.

“The School Commissioner’s first duty is to protect all students, from kindergarten to grade 12, not endanger them,” Mineau said in a statement. “The overriding issue with this new policy is that opening girls’ bathrooms to boys is an invasion of privacy and a threat to all students’ safety.”

The DESE expressed awareness that parents and students would likely have concerns, but they dismissed such feelings as invalid.

“Some students may feel uncomfortable with a transgender student using the same sex-segregated restroom, locker room or changing facility,” the document concedes, but then admonishes administrators, “this discomfort is not a reason to deny access to the transgender student.”

The Massachusetts Family Institute reminded the public that during debate, the gender identity law that led to this new policy had been called the “Stealth Bathroom Bill” by critics. At the time, the part of the law explicitly opening all public bathrooms to self-identified transgender people was removed in response to concerns about safety and privacy.

In schools, however, the bathroom provisions will now effectively be put back in.

Democratic State Rep. Colleen Garry has introduced amending legislation to the current law intended to force people to use restrooms and locker room facilities consistent with their anatomical sex.

“Like many of my colleagues, I am very concerned about Commissioner Chester’s directive to open public school bathrooms to all genders,” said Garry. “This was not the intent of the Legislature, and we need to pass legislation that clearly defines the use of such facilities.”


Higher Education, R.I.P.

 Paul Greenberg
What ever happened to the medium once known as Little Magazines? This country once had a select group of literary and political journals that represented the vanguard of American thought and art. Some were both literary and political. High Culture, it was called when there was still such a thing.

For example, the old and much-missed Partisan Review. Its first issue as an independent journal in 1937 included Delmore Schwartz's short story, "In Dreams Begin Responsibilities," a poem by Wallace Stevens, and pieces by Lionel Trilling, Sidney Hook and Edmund Wilson -- once names to conjure with.

A little magazine does remain here and there. On the right, William F. Buckley's National Review still stands athwart History yelling "Stop!" and, on the left, the New Republic is still worth reading even if its gaudy new typography and lay-out make it look like a society matron got up as a streetwalker.

But my favorite little magazine still standing, an almost lone voice of sanity and connection to past standards -- that is, high culture -- has to be the New Criterion, est. 1982 by Hilton Kramer, the late art critic and refugee from the ever-more-with-it, and ever more tedious, New York Times.

An item in the January issue of the magazine caught my sorrowful eye, for I'm of an age at which the obituaries are the first thing I check out in the morning paper. Just to know who's gone today. The dear departed in this case: Higher Ed.

The cause of death was the usual in modern, bureaucratized, obese and increasingly ossified academia: administrative bloat aggravated by diluted standards and the erosion of the core curriculum, the basis of liberal education.

Tenured faculty now teach less and less as the "drudge work" of dealing with undergraduates is shifted to a corps of slave laborers styled adjunct professors or TAs, teaching assistants. In both ill-paid categories, I learned mainly how little I knew. I had to conquer my embarrassment at that continuing revelation every time I stepped into a classroom in place of the real teacher who should have been there.

Now, one by one, the disciplines that were once the basis of a liberal education are eliminated as not worth the trouble. Literature, foreign languages, real history as opposed to current ideology, and the arts and sciences in general give way to simulacra with the telling label Studies after their name. As in Queer Studies or African Studies. (The other day I ran across a twofer: Queer African Studies.)

Consider the sad example offered by the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, where German is out and Movies are still in. Excuse me, Film Studies.

In this ever-encroaching bog called Higher Education, which keeps getting lower, administrators prosper while scholars grow scarcer. Matthew Arnold, who defined liberal education as the study of "the best that has been thought and said," is dismissed as another dead white male -- if he is remembered at all.

Deconstructionism, post-structuralism, or whatever ism may be in vogue today, is all the rage, sometimes literally.

Cardinal Newman's serene guide to the perplexed, "The Idea of a University," is as forgotten as Ortega y Gasset. Who now cares what such have to say? They're old -- that damning pejorative -- much as Greek and Latin and the King James Bible and Shakespeare are old. It's new that counts, just as tinkling brass and clashing cymbals impress every new generation of suckers under the impression they're music.

While the cost of a university education grows ever higher, higher education grows ever lower, forever ceding ground to popular fashion. All that tuition and all those contributions by well-meaning donors tend to be eaten up by all those overpaid administrators.

An eye-opening survey of college administrative costs in the Wall Street Journal not long ago noted that, when "Eric Kaler became president of the University of Minnesota last year, he pledged to curb soaring tuition by cutting administrative overhead. But he hit a snag: No one could tell him exactly what it cost to manage the school.

Like so many institutions of "higher" education, only its tuition grew higher as the University of Minnesota went on a spending spree over the past decade, paid for by a steady stream of state money and rising tuition. Officials didn't keep close tabs on their payroll as it swelled beyond 19,000 employees, nearly one for every 3 1D2 students.

That ratio is all too typical of the Higher Learning in America, which hasn't changed all that much since the acerbic Thorstein Veblen wrote his scathing study of it by that name in 1918 -- except to grow a lot more expensive and a lot less substantial.

According to the U.S. Department of Education, the number of administrators, managers, "directors," clerks and factotums high and low at American colleges and universities has increased 50 percent during the past decade -- easily outpacing the number of actual teachers on the payroll. It's part of the reason that college tuition in this country, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, has risen even faster than health-care costs.

Case in point: the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville, whose fund-raising arm (excuse me, Advancement Division) employed 139 at last count in November and had an annual budget of $10 million last year -- and still managed to overspend it by some $3.3 million. And it's not an outlier in the academic herd, but part of a whole swarm of colleges and universities moving ever deeper into the ever broader expanses of ever higher-priced mediocrity.

Soon education itself is reduced to an appendage of administration. Its purpose becomes to support the economy by supplying the requisite number of graduates to fill the slots that need filling. This is called economic growth. No one ever seems to ask what the purpose of economic growth is. That's the kind of question the humanities used to address, but they seem to have disappeared from college curricula, or at least been "downsized" -- out of economic necessity, we're told.

Some days I think the only hope lies in those small liberal arts colleges scattered here and there, like Hendrix and Lyon here in Arkansas, but they're becoming as rare in higher education as the New Criterion in the shrunken world of little magazines.


Minimum Grade

In a bold effort to improve the educational fortunes of students who perform at academic levels significantly below the average of their peers, Congress has mandated a minimum grade to be assigned to each student in each course taught at any school in the country.  Starting in September, it shall be unlawful for any teacher, professor, or instructor charged with assigning course grades to assign to any student a grade lower than C-.

Sponsors of the Fair Academic Standards Act decry the injustice that occurs each time a student earns a low grade, such as a D or an F.  ”It’s impossible for students with ‘D’s and ‘F’s on their transcripts to succeed as they deserve in life,” remarked Sen. Bernie Franken, an Independent from Elitia.  ”This law ensures that no American will ever again suffer that hardship.”

Opponents of the Act worry that the requirement of a minimum grade will prompt schools to refuse to enroll students whose academic preparation or skills aren’t yet sufficient to enable them actually to earn good grades.

Sen. Paul Rand, an outspoken opponent of the bill, admits that ‘D’s and ‘F’s are poor grades that are not likely to win good jobs for students that have many such grades on their transcripts.  Sen. Rand argues, however, that the Act will steer schools away from enrolling less-prepared students and, as a consequence, deny these very students the opportunity to acquire the education that will enable them in the future to perform better in the classroom.  ”It’s an unintended bad consequence of Sen. Franken’s good intentions,” suggests Sen. Rand.

Sen. Franken and other supporters of the Act disagree.  ”I can show you several studies, by prominent professors of education at Ivy League universities, that make clear that this Act will in no way diminish schools’ willingness to enroll all the students who seek enrollment,” said Sen. Franken.  ”Opponents of this Act, frankly, are simply indifferent to the plight of academically challenged students and wish to deny to these students the benefits that are enjoyed by their more-talented classmates.  My colleagues and I merely wish to ensure that these benefits are spread more equitably.  It’s the fair thing to do.”

Sen. Rand responds by insisting that grades should accurately reflect each student’s actual performance in class.  He says that the minimum-grade requirement, to the extent that it doesn’t simply cause academically challenged students to be kept from enrolling in school, will result in report cards and school transcripts that are full of “lies” – grades that do not reflect each student’s actual performance.  Sen. Rand worries that graduate schools and employers will be obliged to find other ways, beside grades, to assess the qualifications of students who apply for admission or for jobs.  He worries that these other ways will be less accurate and more arbitrary than are course grades as these are currently assigned.

“That accusation is typical of Sen. Rand and his ilk,” alleges Paula Krueger, the influential columnist.  ”Sen. Rand is bought and paid for by rich and privileged elites who know that a more fair distribution of school grades will threaten their and their friends’ hold on this country’s levers of power.”  Ms. Krueger shakes her head in astonishment.  ”I’m sure that some small subset of people actually believe the tales told by opponents of this Act, but they are clearly blinded by ideology.  They’re enemies not only of less-fortunate Americans, but of science itself.”

Not that Ms. Krueger thinks the Act is ideal.  ”It’s not perfect.  In my view the minimum grade should be much higher.  I think A-.  And I’d also like to see the minimum grade indexed to grade inflation.  That way all students in America, now and in the future, would be exceptionally high-achievers and very well educated.  But the Act as it stands is at least a start.  It’s progress.”

The President is expected to sign the bill at a Rose Garden ceremony on Tuesday.

SOURCE (Satire  -- so far)

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