Tuesday, February 19, 2013

MO: No university exams on Wiccan, Pagan holidays

Students at University of Missouri don't need to cram for exams that fall on Wiccan and Pagan holidays, now that the school has put them on par with Christmas, Thanksgiving and Hanukah.

The university’s latest “Guide to Religions: Major Holidays and Suggested Accommodations” — designed to help faculty know when and when not to schedule exams and other student activities — lists eight Wiccan and Pagan holidays and events right alongside more mainstream occasions. It's all part of the school's effort to include everyone's beliefs, although some critics say listing every holiday associated with fringe belief systems is a bit much.

“The holidays and accommodations section of this guide is provided to faculty, staff and student leaders as an educational resource for the myriad of religious holy days celebrated at Mizzou,” the guide reads. “Not only does this section offer crucial information about dates and practices, we also hope that the information about recommended academic and food accommodations will be valuable to those planning classroom activities and other academic and co-curricular events.”

The first holiday on the list is the Hindu two-day festival celebrating the birth of Krishna, a god considered to be a “warrior, hero, teacher and philosopher.” During the observance, which occurs on Aug. 28 this year, Hindus are likely to forgo sleep in order to, among other things, sing traditional songs.

“Avoid scheduling major academic deadlines on this day, since it is likely that students will be operating on very little sleep,” the guide continues.

Other holidays like Ramadan, Rosh Hashanah and Easter are included in the guide of 43 holidays with varying degrees of suggested accommodations to be granted to students at the 34,000-student public university in Columbia.

For Samhain, listed as a Pagan and Wiccan celebration considered by some to be the Wiccan New Year, general practices include “paying respect to ancestors, family members, elders of the faith, friends, pets and other loved ones” who have died. The holiday coincides with Halloween.

In recognition of Hanukah, the eight-day Jewish festival of lights, “academics and work” are permitted according to the guide, which suggests that food accommodations be considered as requested and in accordance to Kosher restrictions.

The Chinese New Year, meanwhile, is billed as the “most important” of traditional Chinese holidays with Confucian, Taoist and Buddhist religions and corresponds to the new moon in Aquarius, which can occur between late January through mid-February. This year’s celebration fell on Sunday, while in 2014 it will be celebrated on Jan. 31.

“Avoid scheduling important academic deadlines, events and activities on this date,” the guide reads. “Many Chinese employees will probably request this day off.”

University officials said no complaints had been received in connection to the guide, which many have found "useful and informational," according to a statement to FoxNews.com.

"The information about the Wiccan and Pagan holidays has been in the guide since last fall," the statement read. "Please keep in mind that this is not intended just for faculty. This is an informational guide for anyone across campus (and beyond)."

Of Mizzou’s 34,748 students enrolled in fall 2012, more than 14 percent were listed as minorities and 6.1 percent were international students, with China, Korea and India accounting for the most pupils from overseas.

Tammy Bruce, radio host of the nationally syndicated “Tammy Bruce Show” and Fox News contributor, said she found the guide to be indicative of an unbecoming societal shift.

“It almost seems as though we’re looking for excuses for people to not have to take their commitments seriously,” Bruce told FoxNews.com. “It’s beyond political correctness; it’s almost like an excuse to do nothing. It’s like societal nihilism, where nothing matters.”


British Liberal leader accused of 'double standards' over independent schools

Nick Clegg has been accused of “double standards” by a leading headmaster for considering independent education for his son while “trying to limit” the number of university places open to private school pupils.

Tim Hands, the in-coming chairman of the Headmasters and Headmistresses Conference of leading public schools, criticised the Deputy Prime Minister for his assertion that the “great rift” between the best private schools and the schools “ordinary families” send their children to was “corrosive”.

In an interview with The Sunday Telegraph, Mr Hands, the master of Magdalen College School, a day school in Oxford, said Mr Clegg’s actions and language “smacked of double standards”.

Mr Clegg is considering privately educating his eldest son, who is 11, having said that he did not want the issue to be a “political football”.

However Mr Clegg has also backed giving university places to students from poor backgrounds even if their grades were slightly lower, to heal what he described as the “corrosive” division between “the best schools, most of which are private, and the schools ordinary families use”.

Heads of private schools are increasingly concerned that Mr Clegg’s assertion that the coalition Government was “encouraging universities to recruit on the basis of objective potential, on the basis of an ability to excel, not purely on previous attainment” creates discrimination against their pupils.

Mr Hands said: “On the one hand there’s personal support for the independent sector by sending one’s own child into it.

"On the other there is a political interference in higher education by trying to limit the number of independent school pupils going to top universities.”

In the speech last May Mr Clegg said that while the privately-educated dominate the upper reaches of society, only 7 per cent of children attend independent schools.

However Mr Hands pointed out that at sixth form level, double that number - 14 per cent - go to private schools, suggesting Mr Clegg’s reasoning was based on flawed figures.

“Worse, this interference is based on inaccurate statistics and questionable research,” he said.

“So it is rather a case of the left hand claiming not to realise what the right hand is doing – Nick Clegg’s actions and his language smack of double standards.

“If you want to find something corrosive, then you only need to look as far as political interference in the academic integrity of university admissions.”

Mr Hands also said that research from Bristol University, quoted by Mr Clegg, showing that students with top A-levels from state schools were more likely to get firsts than their private school counterparts had yet to be replicated elsewhere.

The Liberal Democrat leader’s son is due to start secondary school this summer, after being educated at his local Catholic state primary school in Putney, south-west London.

Mr Clegg and his wife Miriam González Durántez, have looked round his old school, Westminster, where fees are £23,000 a year, but have not toured the local state comprehensive in Putney.

The Deputy Prime Minister said he would send his son to a private school if he failed to find a place in a good comprehensive, saying he would use the state system 'if it works out’, but that there is 'huge competition’ for places in London.

Mr Clegg would not be the only Cabinet minister to use private education for his children, although he would be the most high-profile.

Others with children in the independent sector include George Osborne, the Chancellor.

In contrast David Cameron has spoken of his desire for his children - who are currently at state primary schools - to go to state secondaries.


Australia: "Truancy" revival highlights lost ground on child welfare

Compulsory school attendance was introduced in Australia during the Victorian era in the later-nineteenth century. The Victorians were the first to recognise that the state had a role to play in promoting child welfare by requiring parents to ensure that their children received a minimum level of schooling. This was part of a broader movement to encourage respectable standards of behaviour by people of all classes.

The effort to bring about social improvement had largely succeeded by the early-twentieth century. Working class communities had embraced ‘middle class’ notions of respectability (work, marriage, sobriety, and thrift) that had proven conducive to the formation of functional families. A marker of respectability was the ability of parents to send clean, well-fed, and properly dressed children to school each day. A marker of un-respectability was enduring the shame and stigma of having one’s children rounded up by the truancy officer.

For a hundred years, society traded on the legacy of the Victorians, but things began to change in the aftermath of the social revolution of the 1960s.

The Sixties ethos of personal liberation undercut the Victorian behavioural code, which was fashionably dismissed as so much ‘bourgeois’ uptightness. Complacency also set in. Official enforcement of respectable behaviour seemed unnecessary. Rarely-needed truancy laws appeared ‘harsh’ and anachronistic.

In the modern era of free-flowing welfare, however, these attitudes have become socially disastrous.

Social norms have collapsed in a significant underclass of welfare-dependent and dysfunctional families, and the failure to regularly send children to school symbolises the breakdown of behavioural standards.

The response to rising levels of chronic truancy has been feeble. Woolly-minded sociologists have offered lame excuses about ‘poverty’, and the self-serving welfare industry has demanded higher government funding for ‘more support services’ to help ‘struggling’ parents. Meanwhile, educational faddists have prattled on about making school ‘fun’ so kids are ‘engaged.’ Too little attention has been paid to the best interests of children denied an education due to parental neglect.

Our thinking about child welfare now appears to be slowly coming full circle.

The Victorian Government has just announced plans to make it easier to fine parents whose children miss more than five school days a year without a valid excuse. This follows embarrassing revelations earlier this year that not one fine had been issued for truancy under new laws introduced in 2006.

The renewed, if much belated, attempt to revive the specter of the truancy officer and crack down on absenteeism is welcome. However, the need to punish parents who don't send children to school highlights the truly appalling amount of ground we have lost over the last 40 years.


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