Friday, July 05, 2013

DOJ Says Tolerance Trumps Right to Homeschool

The Justice Department said German laws outlawing homeschooling do not constitute persecution and they want a German homeschooling family kicked out of the United States, according to a briefing filed in a high profile asylum case.

“The goal in Germany is for an open, pluralistic society,” the Justice Department brief states in their battle against the Romeike family. “Teaching tolerance to children of all backgrounds helps to develop the ability to interact as a fully functioning citizen in Germany.”

Germany has a national law requiring children to either attend public school or a government-approved private school.

The Romeikes had already been fined and German police once forcibly escorted their five children to school. They were notified that they could ultimately lose custody if they continued to home school.

The Home School Legal Defense Association is representing the family in their battle to start a new life in the United States – even as the Obama administration seeks to have the evangelical Christian family deported.

The family was initially granted asylum, but the Department of Justice objected and demanded the Christian family be deported.

“Attorney General Holder is trying to seek dismissal of this case because he believes that targeting specific groups in the name of tolerance is within the normal legitimate functions of government,” said Michael Farris, chairman of the Home School Legal Defense Association. “This cannot be the ultimate position of the United States without denying the essence of our commitment to liberty.”

In their latest court briefing, the Justice Department referenced international court rulings that held “parents could not refuse the right to education of a child on the basis of the parents’ convictions, because the child has an independent right to education.”

They also referenced a German court ruling that states “the general public has a justified interest in counteracting the development of religiously or philosophically motivated ‘parallel societies’ and in integrating minorities in this area.”

Farris said he can’t understand why the Department of Justice would think it’s appropriate to punish families who home school.

“We’re trying to provide a home for this family who would otherwise go back to facing fines, jail time and forcible removal of their children because of their religious convictions about how their children should be educated,” Farris said.

Their fate is now in the hands of the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals. A decision could come at any time.


Boston schools fail to ensure factual Middle East educational materials

Controversy continues to simmer in the upscale Boston suburb of Newton over the use of biased and substandard instructional materials to teach students about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Recently, the town spared no expense renovating one of its high schools at a cost of $200 million. But Newton’s commitment to its schools has not translated into ensuring that factually accurate material is used to teach students about the Middle East.

The controversy began two years ago when a parent, looking over his daughter’s reading assignment, discovered a handout that accused Israeli soldiers of abusing and murdering imprisoned Palestinian women. The selection came from a textbook called The Arab World Studies Notebook. This textbook had already been exposed for its advocacy of Islam and for making ludicrous claims—for example, that Muslim explorers discovered America and that Iroquois Indians had Muslim names. The outcry that followed prompted the school administration to remove it.

But that turned out to be just the tip of the iceberg. A more widespread problem was revealed when it was learned that a leader in the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against Israel had given a seminar to history teachers on teaching about the Middle East. Soon, more evidence of inaccurate and anti-Israel materials used in the schools came to light.

Last November, in an attempt to head off the controversy, the vice chairman of the Newton School Committee published an op-ed in local papers offering reassurance that anti-Israel materials were not systematically used in Newton schools. He denounced town residents who had raised the issue for engaging in “McCarthyesque” tactics, and added, “Does it really sound plausible that for years virtually everyone has unknowingly been the victim of the teaching of such horrible material?”

Sadly, the most recent batch of handouts used in the 10th-grade honors class offers new evidence of a continuing problem. It contains a timeline titled “POV: History of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict” that purports to cover both “An Israeli Perspective” and “A Palestinian Perspective.” It was compiled in 2001 by a young intern with no apparent expertise on the subject.

The author thanked Professor Mark LeVine of University of California, Irvine for reviewing the document. LeVine is an agitator against Israel who publishes on the English website of Al Jazeera. In a guest column in The Huffington Post on Jan. 13, 2009, he likened Hamas’s fight against Israel in Gaza to “the Jewish uprising in the Warsaw Ghetto.” LeVine contended that Israelis have an “addiction” to violence and suffer from “collective mental illness.”

The timeline ignores the religious and ideological component of Arab rejection of the Jewish state. For example, the only reason given for the Arab rejection of the United Nations partition resolution in November 1947 is that the Arabs “considered the proposal unrepresentative of the demographic distribution of Jews and Arabs living in Palestine.” There is no discussion of the religion-sanctioned rejection of the Jewish state, or of Palestinian leader Haj Amin Al Husseini’s use of religious and racial bigotry to inflame Arab sentiment against the Jews.

An accompanying class discussion guide called “Class notes for Israel Palistine (sic) (Student & Teacher Discussion)” also dismisses the religious component, stating, “This is a conflict over land.” What lies behind the downplaying of the religious component is an attempt to cast Israel as a neo-colonial state usurping the land of the indigenous population. This narrative, fashionable among anti-Israel academics, designates the Arabs as indigenous people while denying that status to the Jews whose continuous history on the land goes much further back.

The class guide asserts, “Jewish nationalism (Zionism) and Palestinian nationalism seek essentially the same goal: a state that can provide security, economic opportunity, and a connection to a land.” This feigned evenhanded approach promotes a falsehood, for both the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and Hamas charters call for the dismantling of the Jewish state. An accurate recounting of Palestinian nationalism shows that opposition to the Jewish state came first, while the demand for a Palestinian Arab state emerged only later.

Newton students should read the works of distinguished scholars. Instead, students are exposed to the dogma peddled by anti-Israel activists at teacher workshops, to fringe academics or to error-prone pages pulled from the Internet. One such handout from a website called “Flashpoints” identified Jerusalem as the capital of Palestine (a non-existent state) and incorrectly labeled Tel Aviv as the capital of Israel (it’s actually Jerusalem).

The POV timeline typifies this agenda-driven approach. Students are told that in 1948, “Fighting breaks out between the newly declared State of Israel and its Arab neighbors,” and not that the surrounding Arab states attacked the Jewish state on the day after it was formally recognized by a resolution of the United Nations.

The careful wording of United Nations Security Council Resolution 242 to not require Israel to withdraw from all of the territories captured in the 1967 Six-Day War is described as only the English-language version. The handout contends that altered versions in other languages are equally valid.

Students are told that “rightwing Israelis” call the West Bank “Judea and Samaria”— without being informed that the label “West Bank” originated with the Jordanian occupation from 1949 to 1967.

Palestinian terrorism is downplayed, while rare instances of Israeli violence are highlighted. The first terrorist act inside Israel and the West Bank specifically mentioned is the 1994 attack on Palestinian worshipers by Baruch Goldstein. The murders of 37 Israelis in the coastal road massacre in March 1978 and of 26 Israeli schoolchildren and teachers in Ma’alot in May 1974 are not mentioned. Students are not told that while Goldstein is reviled in Israel, Palestinian perpetrators of terror attacks, like terrorist Dalal Mughrabi, are held up as role models to be emulated by Palestinian children.

Students are told that the Oslo Accords meant that the two sides “were no longer claiming that the other did not have the right to exist as a state of peoples on that land.” Students are not informed that at the Fatah Party Congress in 2009 participants cheered as Palestinian Authority officials vowed never to recognize the Jewish State and reaffirmed their commitment to armed struggle.

A complete and accurate account of the conflict should not be sacrificed on the altar of evenhandedness and the refusal to take sides. With all the upheaval in the Middle East and its impact on America, parents unfortunately cannot count on schools and town officials to ensure that accurate and quality instruction occurs. Parents need to make their voices heard so that their children aren’t fed Pollyannaish revisions of reality.


Math lessons 'failing to prepare British pupils for world of work'

All pupils should be required to study maths up to the age of 18 amid fears GCSEs in the subject are failing to prepare children for the workplace, according to a major report.

Schools and colleges should provide an extra two years worth of teaching because too many teenagers struggle to use mental arithmetic, reasoning, spreadsheets and graphs in their everyday life, it was claimed.

The report – published by the Sutton Trust charity – said that a basic grounding in maths was a prerequisite for most careers, particularly finance, nursing, engineering, construction, transportation and retail.

But it warned that the modern application of the subject in the workplace was “not generally reflected in school mathematics”.

The study, which was carried out by academics from King’s College London, also revealed that children in England were significantly less likely to study maths up to the age of 18 than in many other countries.

Currently, a quarter of pupils study the subject in some form between 16 and 18 compared with 95 per cent in Hong Kong, 90 per cent in Germany and 66 per cent in Singapore.

The disclosure follows the publication of international league tables showing that England is now ranked 26th out of 34 in terms of the proportion of pupils reaching high standards in the subject.

Sir Peter Lampl, Sutton Trust chairman, said: “Few would proudly proclaim their illiteracy. Yet many happily say they are no good at maths.

“The education system reinforces this attitude. For the vast majority of young people, mathematics finishes with GCSEs.

“Maths matters too much to discontinue studying it at 16. Young people’s ability to benefit fully from higher education and play a productive role in the workplace depends increasingly on their mathematical competence.”

The Government has already said that teenagers who fail to gain a C grade GCSE in maths will be required to study the subject up to the age of 18. This coincides with a decision to increase the education leaving age to 17 from September this year and 18 in 2015.

But the Sutton Trust called on ministers to go further by making maths a compulsory requirement of education for all 16- to 18-year-olds, reflecting a move recently outlined by Labour.

Today’s report found that a modern workforce needed skills in mental arithmetic, estimation and approximation, reasoning, using calculators or spreadsheets and interpreting tables, graphs and diagrams.

It found that GCSE maths often taught these skills but not their practical application in everyday life. It cited the example of nurses who needed to administer the correct doses of medicine and mortgage advisors who needed to be able to explain savings to customers.

Researchers said the curriculum should provide students with more problem-solving situations involving “messy contexts that do not have straightforward solutions” to develop children’s skills.

Pupils should also have more opportunity to “interpret and communicate the mathematics that they are involved in”.


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