Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Antisemitism at UCSC

The Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law (LDB) and Scholars for Peace in the Middle East today issued a Joint Statement in defense of University of California at Santa Cruz lecturer Tammi Rossman-Benjamin. Rossman-Benjamin, an activist known for her opposition to campus anti-Semitism, has recently been the target of a public campaign of character assassination because of her advocacy for the civil rights of Jewish college students.  LDB and SPME joined together today to defend Rossman-Benjamin against these smears and to denounce efforts to suppress advocacy for the civil rights of university students.

Rossman-Benjamin is a co-founder of the AMCHA Initiative, an organization that combats anti-Semitism on American college and university campuses.  She is also a member of the Brandeis Center's Academic Advisory Board and a former member of SPME's Board of Directors.  Rossman-Benjamin has famously accused her university, UC Santa Cruz, of harboring a hostile environment for Jewish students.  The U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights has opened an investigation into Rossman-Benjamin's complaint, which is now pending.

On June 20, 2012, Ms. Rossman-Benjamin delivered a speech at the Ahavath Torah Congregation in Stoughton, Massachusetts.  During the course of that speech, Ms. Rossman-Benjamin described anti-Semitic incidents at the University of California. Ms. Rossman-Benjamin attributed some responsibility for contemporary campus anti-Semitism to two organizations, Students for Justice in Palestine and the Muslim Students Association. Rossman-Benjamin also stated that some members of these organizations have had connections with terrorist organizations.  In response to that synagogue presentation, student activists at the University of California have launched a campaign to condemn Rossman-Benjamin.  As a result of this campaign, in March 2013, Associated Students at the University of California (ASUC) at Berkeley adopted a resolution that called on outgoing UC President Mark Yudof to condemn Rossman-Benjamin's remarks.

LDB and SPME jointly announced:  "We find the accusations against Rossman-Benjamin to be false, scurrilous, and unjustifiable. Over the years, Rossman-Benjamin has tirelessly campaigned against anti-Semitic and anti-Israeli harassment. Perversely, Rossman-Benjamin is now being branded a purveyor of hate speech and Islamophobia precisely because she attempted to expose hate speech which her accusers would prefer to shield from scrutiny."

LDB President Kenneth L. Marcus commented, "I have worked with Tammi Rossman-Benjamin over the years, and I consider her to be a bold and courageous fighter for the civil rights of Jewish college students.  It is reprehensible that some people are targeting her for abuse because of her fight against campus anti-Semitism."

SPME President Richard Cravatts added, "We are issuing this statement to set the record straight. We have carefully reviewed the allegations against Tammi Rossman-Benjamin, and we consider them to be completely disingenuous and false. Rossman-Benjamin should be commended for her campaign against campus anti-Semitism, rather than subjected to this sort of intimidation and abuse."

Professor Alvin H. Rosenfeld, Director of The Institute for the Study of Contemporary Antisemitism at Indiana University, personally joined the Joint LDB-SPME Statement. "I know Tammi Rossman-Benjamin well," Rosenfeld commented, "and have the highest respect for her work.  The allegations against her are patently false. Rossman-Benjamin is a tenacious advocate for students' rights as well as free speech. Hers is a vital, much-needed academic voice, and efforts to silence or intimidate her for her dedicated opposition to campus anti-Semitism need to be strongly resisted."


British grade-school pupil, 10, who spots 'grammar mistakes' in her English exam writes a letter of complaint to Education Secretary Michael Gove

A schoolgirl who spotted grammatical 'mistakes' in her English exam has written a letter of complaint - to Education Secretary Michael Gove.

Eagle-eyed Rebecca Lee, 10, a pupil at Christ Church Primary School in Clifton, Bristol, noticed commas 'missing' from two questions in her SATs last Tuesday.

The Year Six pupil says she was so 'annoyed' by the basic punctuation errors that she wanted to take her complaint to the top.

So she wrote to Mr Gove saying: 'I understand that you are very keen for us to all learn our complex sentences and use of accurate punctuation.  'I believe that your department should also use the correct punctuation in all SATs tasks.'

The schoolgirl said she hoped to hear back from Mr Gove.

Rebecca, from Clifton, said: 'The exam wording should be setting an example and I was annoyed. I had to write.

'I've not heard back yet and am still waiting - Mr Gove's busy but I do hope to get a response back.'

The 'mistakes' were in a section of the exam on complex sentences - and had commas 'missing' from two sentences.

One sentence read: 'If there is not enough rainfall this month there will be a drought' and 'As he was the chief of the tribe the final decision was his.'

This afternoon a spokesman for the Department for Education defended the lack of commas in the exam paper.

He said: 'The commas here are a matter of choice. They can be used to mark out clauses that appear at the beginning or the end of a sentence, but they are not necessary.

'We decided to use commas sometimes and not at others to make the tests more like real life where people will have their own styles.

'The only clauses that must be surrounded by commas are those in the middle of a sentence.'

The same sentences - featuring commas in the correct places - had appeared in an earlier part of the exam on grammar.

The Government's Standards and Testing Agency is meant to check if exams are up to scratch before pupils take them, but a spokesman insisted that using commas in complex sentences was 'a matter of choice'.

Rebecca's teacher Barney Braithwaite said many of his pupils noticed the mistake when they undertook the new spelling, punctuation and grammar test.

He said: 'I laughed my head off when I had heard that Rebecca had sent the letter. She obviously felt moved enough by the mistakes.'


Why schools are failing our boys

Comment from Australia

Boys will be boys, they tell us, but how many of us actually take this adage to heart and embrace it?

I am the mother of four boys, now all adults. If I think back to their childhoods and adolescence, it’s a whirlwind of movement and physicality, adventure and injury, rough and tumble play, of fart jokes and stinky sports shoes, short and to-the-point communication, and lots and lots of food and Milo. (Actually, it’s not so different when we all get together now.)

This description of life with boys won’t surprise most people – and yet why is it that the one place where children spend most of their time, school, is so stacked against meeting boys’ needs?

A recent survey in WA found that girls are starting to outperform boys in maths and science, which hasn’t been the case previously. Fantastic news for our girls – these fields badly need some gender balance, but it’s a shame if it’s at boys’ expense. We are also seeing disturbing numbers of boys in remedial classes and in behaviour management units in our schools across the country.

Boys are also more likely statistically (75% more likely than girls in fact) to die or be injured in an accident, to commit a crime, to be injured playing sport, to get cancer, to die at work, to go to prison, to be admitted to hospital and to fail school … well, boys will be boys right? But what does that mean for parents and teachers?

It’s long been acknowledged that the low number of male primary teachers is an issue and unless your son’s female teacher has brothers, how can we expect her to understand the boys in the class unless we actually talk about the differences between boys and girls, politically incorrect as that might be?

Neil Farmer in his book, Getting it Right for Boys, explains some key differences in how most boys’ and girls’ brains function and some of these are that girls have better ability for “cross talk” between their right and left hemispheres, better memory storage and are more verbal and better listeners.

These differences explain a lot of the angst that happens in our homes and schools where boys are mainly misunderstood by the opposite gender.

One of the most noticeable major differences (and yes there are always exceptions) between girls and boys in the classroom is that boys are more likely to learn through movement. Passivity numbs them to a degree.

Boys have been shown to develop their right brain before their left brain, whereas girls develop both at the same time and this partially explains why boys are often up to 18 months behind girls when they start school and why girls are more emotionally and verbally savvy.

The right brain is more about ‘doing’, creativity and intuitive processing (rather than logical) and spatial growth and awareness. This may be why most boys prefer the sandpit to drawing and painting. It may also explain why men are better at reverse parking, but hey you didn’t hear it from me.

Classrooms, especially those trying to get everyone up to scratch for the NAPLAN, aren’t really conducive to this.

The second major difference is that the amygdala is actually bigger in boys than girls so they are biologically driven to want to be warriors and superheroes and to take risks – often perceived as naughtiness.

The brain difference also explains why boys get confused around emotions. Many boys will take any emotional state – even sadness, confusion, frustration and hurt – and turn it into an anger response. So much aggression is often masking other emotional vulnerabilities.

Combine this with their extra testosterone and we have a situation where if we don’t provide our boys with plenty of opportunity to diffuse pent-up energy, it will manifest itself in disruptive, aggressive and even bullying behaviours.

It worries me that Australia’s “education revolution” is eroding critical playtime and the opportunity for physicality in our schools and the cost is high for all children but even more so for our boys – and perhaps their teachers who end up devoting more and more time to behaviour management. Boys have shorter attention spans and often need more stimulation to become engaged in activities that they perceive as ‘boring’ with little fun and lightness.

Most girls do not have the same huge need to discharge energy and can sit at desks much longer than boys without becoming restless and disruptive.

Another challenge is that boys only hear 70-75% of what girls do and that’s with eye contact. If a boy is absorbed in a play activity, or is facing away from his parent or teacher, he will generally not hear a thing being said. He also struggles with information overload – so making too many requests in one communication can create a glazed look as he fails to understand what is required of him.

We need to factor in these gender differences when we’re communicating with boys. They need all the help they can get to ensure they can thrive in our schools and in life, and reverse those scary statistics. They need boy champions to do this.


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