Monday, March 04, 2013

FL: Christian student organization, Rollins College embroiled in dispute

The Knowles Memorial Chapel is an interdenominational chapel on the picturesque campus of Rollins College in Winter Park.  It's one of the places college leaders used to allow members of a Christian student organization to meet.

Last Friday, the college said it would no longer designate a meeting place for the InterVarsity Christian Fellowship chapter and its 15 or so members, because the college no longer recognizes the group as an official campus organization.  The board of trustees cited that the group was in violation of the school's non-discrimination policy.

Intervarsity has been on the campus, in some form, for nearly four decades, according to group leaders.  Last November, the college put the group on notice that it was in violation of the school policy, because of the group's requirement that its leaders be Christians.

The group recently asked the college for an exemption to the policy as a religious organization, but it was denied.

"When you create a non-discrimination policy that effectively excludes students from campus -- marginalizes the Christian students -- the policy is failing to accomplish what Rollins itself wants to do," Intervarsity Christian Fellowship National Field Director Greg Jao told FOX 35.  "We hope that will become clear to the administration and they'll reconsider."

But the college's board of trustees says not so.  "Such exceptions would be inconsistent with the process of learning and growth that the college seeks to foster," read an excerpt from a decision statement released by the board last week.

Director of Public Affairs for Rollins College Lauren Bradley said that, as an unofficial organization, the school will not provide meeting space for Intervarsity members and will not provide any funding, though this group has never received any money, group leaders tells us.

But the group can still meet on its own and will continue to do just that.

"The group exists to promote a religious viewpoint.  To say, 'Well, any student, in theory, should be eligible to lead that religious group,' makes no sense whatsoever," said Jao.

InterVarsity national leaders say they will continue to try to work with the college's administration.


College Shuts Down Student Bible Study

Officials at a Florida college ordered a group of students to shut down a Bible study they were holding in the privacy of a dorm room – because it violated the rules.

The incident occurred at Rollins College in the midst of a campus battle over whether religious groups that require their leaders to follow specific religious beliefs are violating the school’s non-discrimination policies.

Four students affiliated with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship were holding an informal Bible study in the common area of a dorm suite. Midway through the study, a resident hall assistant entered the room and asked the student leading the study to step outside.

“He was told they were no longer allowed inside the dorm – even with the express consent of the students to do Bible studies,” said Greg Jao, InterVarsity’s national field director. “They said it was because InterVarsity was no longer a registered student group on campus.”

The well-known Christian ministry was de-recognized as an official campus organization after they refused to comply with the college’s non-discrimination policy.

The Christian group has a policy that mandates their leaders be followers of Christ. The college believes that policy violates their non-discrimination policy.

The strong-arm tactics of the college frightened several members of the Bible study group. But several agreed to tell their story – so long as they remained anonymous. The young collegians were fearful of backlash from college officials.

“I’m so disappointed in the decision that was made to do that,” one student told me “We do love this campus. That’s why we are involved in student ministry here. There’s a great feeling of disappointment because we do feel like this decision is not in the spirit of open dialogue and diversity that we know Rollins upholds as a core belief.”

Jao tells me that the students took their concerns to Student Affairs. He said they compared it to kicking a fraternity off campus but still being allowed to sponsor parties.

“We pointed out that Christian students holding a Bible study is a little bit different than a fraternity sponsoring a kegger in a dorm,” Jao said. “If students want to have a Bible study they should be free to do so.”

A Rollins spokesperson told Fox News that the rule was simply a miscommunication.

“No group is allowed to hold meetings in the common space of residence halls,” the spokesperson said. “A fraternity was recently in violation of this as well, and they were asked to meet elsewhere – so it was not just InterVarsity.”

But Jao said the college is sending a message to Christian students – they are not welcomed. “The challenge is that InterVarsity students are feeling somewhat targeted in ways that no other religious group would be,” he said. “You don’t get much more quiet than four students meeting together to study the Bible.”

And in the aftermath of last week’s decision by the college to not exempt religious groups from their nondiscrimination policy – other Christian organizations are getting nervous.

“Christian students certainly feel marginalized and unwelcome,” Jao told Fox News. “Whether it’s intended or not – that’s the message the students have received.

He said at least one other Christian group has been de-recognized. The college’s Catholic student group is also worried about the ruling.

“They want to know how it will affect Catholic students,” Jao said – fearing de-recognition. “I think they see it’s in the cards.”

“This kind of policy leaves open the door for lots of further consequences as far as expulsion and demands on ministries,” the student told Fox News.

“By and large they are saying this group of students isn’t wanted in the greater conversation on campus,” another student added.

Rollins College doesn’t want a dialogue. They don’t want to have a conversation. They want Christian groups to change their religious beliefs – or face expulsion.

This is the same type of anti-Christian intolerance we’ve seen at the University of Michigan and Vanderbilt University.

Clearly, the actions of the Rollins College diversity police were not only out of line – but they were unconstitutional. And I suspect it’s only the beginning of greater injustices.

I’m surprised they don’t make the Christian students drink from separate water fountains


Indoctrination? Houston Public School Assembly Slams Bush and Heaps Praise on Obama

The Katherine Smith Elementary School in Houston held an assembly on Tuesday. The program — which was forwarded to Houston radio host Joe Pags — was innocently titled, “A Dream Come True – Living in the present by remembering the past and looking forward to the future.”

According to the program, the show featured three cast members — one student acting as a speaker and two as Michelle and Barack Obama, and students singing seven songs. As you might expect from the title of the show, and the image below (also from the cover page), most of the songs are a salute to civil rights heroes like Rosa Parks and Dr. Matin Luther King, Jr. But there is also considerable adoration heaped upon President Obama.
Houston School Assembly Sounds Like Obama Indoctrination

While the majority of the program might be considered to be an over-the-top tribute to President Obama, the very first song, “Feels Like Change” actually takes a shot at President Bush.

The rest of the songs, as they were performed:

I Have A Dream – Dr. King is the complete focus of this song.

It’s A New Day – This song sounds more like something that was sung the morning after Obama’s first win in 2008.

I Believe – Another song with lyrics that seem to come from 2008 and the days leading up to and just after the election.

This One’s For You – This song is a complete tribute or salute to President Obama.

Following that Obama tribute was another song that tied the president to Rosa Parks and Dr. King.

“Rosa Sat” is quoted on the front page of the program and includes an oft-repeated refrain:

    Rosa sat so Martin could walk

    Martin walked so Barack could Run

    Barack ran, he ran and he won

    So that all our children could fly

Those words are repeated six times during the song. But there are some other verses that have raised eyebrows from parents:

    Thousands of people that November night.

    All of us here were for the long fight.

    Now we’re as one,

    Creating a new nation.

    Join together in celebration

By having students sing “all of us here were for the long fight” assumes that 100% of the children were supporters of the president. Were they? Additionally, some parents have asked about the line saying, “Now we’re as one, creating a new nation.”

TheBlaze has contacted the Katherine Smith Elementary School several times, requesting an interview with Principal Salazar.  As of this writing, Ms. Salazar has not responded to this request. We have also asked Terry Greer, the Superintendent of the Houston Independent School District to comment on the topic.

As this story was going to press, we received the following response from Superintendent Greer’s spokesperson.

    "The song lyrics you received were used as part of an after-school PTO program celebrating Black History Month at the school.  Students who participated had signed permission slips from their parents to participate in this after-school event.  They danced to the music, but did not sing or otherwise recite the lyrics.

 Copies of the lyrics were given to the parents, but not the students.   This program was organized by three first-year teachers, who mistakenly failed to get the principal’s approval to distribute the song lyrics.  After reviewing the lyrics, the principal agrees that some of the songs were overly political and should not have been included in the program. 

The teachers who coordinated the program have been reminded that materials such as this must receive prior approval by the principal in the future.  The principal apologizes to those who may have been offended by some of the lyrics that were included in the PTO program.


Ignorance about British literature among British literature students

Largely due to hostility to "dead white males" among their teachers

Top A-level English students are turning up at university believing that Charles Dickens is ‘just as old’ as William Shakespeare, an academic has warned.

They can’t place major works of literature in their historical context and fear being stretched, preferring to stick to easier texts they’ve already read during their sixth form studies.

This is despite the fact they’ve gained three As at A-level, including English, according to Professor Helen Fulton, head of York University’s English and Related Literature department.

The professor of medieval literature highlighted a ‘retreat from difficulty’ among some students who prefer to read short or computer based texts rather than traditional narratives with a beginning, middle and end.

Professor Fulton spoke out at a Westminster Education Forum seminar, where critics described the Coalition’s new English national curriculum as ‘impoverished’ and based on the works of ‘dead white males’.

The Government has scrapped a list of suggested authors At Key Stage Three (ages 11 to 14) and Key Stage Four (14-16).

At Key Stage Four, pupils must study two plays by Shakespeare; representative Romantic poetry; a 19th century novel; First World War poetry; British fiction, poetry or drama since WW1 and world literature written in English.

The Government also lists how they should be taught to ‘read for understanding’ such as by ‘distinguishing between main and subsidiary themes and summarising texts’.

Professor Fulton criticised the Key Stage Four curriculum, saying it ‘seems to emphasise skills rather than knowledge’.

She said: ‘I would have thought it should be the other way round at Key Stage Four.

‘By then, you would expect the skills to be there and you actually want to start broadening the knowledge of the students in terms of the range of texts and the historical development of language in literature as well so there’s some clear sense of chronology.

‘Many students come (here) thinking Dickens is just as old as Shakespeare because they’re all in the past and getting that sense of chronology and literary history is something that we have to work at.’

Professor Fulton said she presided over a ‘very high performing’ English department, which has eight applicants for every place.

It relies on good A-level preparation’ and has to ‘take for granted’ that students ‘come with particular skills and knowledge that we can then build on’.

Professor Fulton said that ‘by and large, we’re not disappointed’ but some students are ‘reluctant’ to stray out of their comfort zone and prefer to take easier options.

This is despite the fact that the department introduces them to different material such as medieval literature and ‘unusual texts from different periods’.

She said: ‘We do have some worries about the tendency towards a retreat from difficulty, for example students feeling slightly reluctant to be stretched, slightly reluctant to go outside their comfort zone because they’re afraid they won’t be able to write on something they’re not familiar with.’

Some students believe it will take too long to learn something new and it’s ‘much easier to dash something off on a Shakespeare play that they’ve already studied for A-level’.

She said: ‘So that retreat from difficulty is something that we’re trying to come to terms with and trying to nurture the confidence of students in working with material they’re not familiar with.

‘We’re also very aware of the impending death of narrative.

‘It does seem to be a tendency that students are consuming texts that are not basically narratives in the classic realist sense of having a beginning, a middle and end and a bit of plot development and character development.

'Again that’s something that we’re trying to manage and deal with. I’m sure it’s the same in A-level classes as well.’

Professor Fulton added that A-level students should be aware of contemporary literature and know, for example, the Booker prize winners.

Meanwhile, Dr Simon Gibbons, chair of the National Association for the Teaching of English (NATE) told the seminar that the government’s plans for English in secondary schools is too narrow and old fashioned.

He said the new curriculum was a ‘pretty impoverished version of what English is’, with a narrow range of reading containing a canon of ‘dead white males’.


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