Tuesday, October 08, 2013

Baltimore Superintendent Acknowledges Common Core is a Catastrophe

Robert Small is a prophet. The Baltimore parent, who was arrested when he questioned his district and state school leaders in violation of meeting rules two weeks ago, tried to warn us that Common Core would be a disaster in Baltimore County.

Baltimore Superintendent Dallas Dance wouldn’t admit it at the time, but he obviously understood the same fact.  So maybe that’s why Small was arrested?

The Baltimore Sun reports that Dance sent a letter this week to teachers, acknowledging the “glitches” in the rollout of Common Core academic standards this fall, saying they would be worked out and that everyone will adjust.

In the letter, he also acknowledged that the development and implementation of the program has been rushed and out of sync.  “We are building the plane as we fly it,” he said, adding, “but let's be clear our passengers are safe.”

That’s the same analogy Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis used for Common Core, and she’s not a big fan of the program.

No one would fly in a plane that isn’t fully constructed or tested before taking off, but that’s exactly what the Gates Foundation, the federal government, Jeb Bush and schools across the country are expecting our students and teachers to do.

Meanwhile, the Sun reports Baltimore County teachers received their Common Core-aligned curriculum just days before the new school year, they’ve had problems accessing necessary materials online and school officials “are still writing” some lessons.

Parent Carmita Vogel said the school district’s “approach to this is shoddy at best.”

“I can feel the high levels of anxiety throughout our organization,” Dance says in the letter, according to Fox 45. “Please know that I understand what is occurring throughout education is indeed challenging...I wanted to make sure that I work with teachers in bringing down that anxiety level around all the initiatives that are in fact taking place.”

Buckle up. If the plane even makes it off the ground, it promises to be a bumpy ride. And rest assured the school employees will put their oxygen masks on first before assisting others.


No place for Jesus in England's Religious Education, but there’s always Gandhi

By Cristina Odone

Aged eight, my daughter knew that she must take her shoes off when entering a mosque. But ask her to recite the Ten Commandments, and she couldn’t. This, despite being at a Catholic state primary. I wasn’t too surprised, therefore, to learn that religious education in state schools is inadequate – so much so that Ofsted claims most pupils don’t know who Jesus was.

This is not a metropolitan, or even a British, phenomenon. One irate mother tweeted last night that in her child’s primary school in Ireland, RE consisted of watching videos of Gandhi. (In his Ben Kingsley reincarnation, I am willing to bet.)

I have nothing against the Mahatma, who probably does come as close to holiness as human beings can get. But if Gandhi deserves a role in RE, Jesus should star. This is a Christian country, not a Hindu one.

Yet Jesus is being sidelined, and His teachings with Him. If we treat the nation’s religion so casually, as if we valued it no more and no  less than an inspiring human rights campaigner, it stands to reason that we should erase it from serious places such as the courtroom.

It becomes perfectly legitimate for judges to propose to remove the Bible from the court – which is what they plan to do next month. Henceforth, they suggest, when witnesses have to swear to tell the truth, they’ll just hold up their hand and… and what? Cross their hearts and hope to die? Mouth the Scouts’ pledge, now that God’s been banned from that, too?

Christianity was once the lingua franca in the West. Today, it is as exotic as Shiva, Ganesha and Kali, of Gandhi’s Hindu faith.

Sadly, ignorance often feeds hostility. Grown-ups unschooled in the basics of their religion – the catechism, say, or the parables of the New Testament – are suspicious of its influence. Their discomfort grows with talk, now unfamiliar, of sin and Judgment Day. Jesus may be hailed as meek and mild, but his message sounds scary to an audience used to the comforting tut-tuts of their shrink, or the happy pill sold by their GP.

Far easier to quash such disturbing talk and banish the trouble-makers. Or, at least, warn them not to pipe up in public with their puritanical notions.

I wrote about this recently in my ebook No God Zone. In the course of my research, I interviewed men and women who had learnt that religion had become a secret pastime to practise behind closed doors. Each one had to choose between their work and their faith – or between the boss and God. They included a nurse, a couples’ counsellor and a pharmacist.

They had hoped that the state, which pays lip service to freedom of conscience, would exempt them from doing what they held to be wrong. The pharmacist who didn’t believe in abortion, for instance, wanted to be exempt from selling the morning-after pill; the couples’ counsellor who didn’t believe in gay marriage wanted to be exempt from advising a homosexual couple. They were disabused of this blind hope when they were sacked, suspended from their job, or humiliated in public. In effect, a number of professions now are closed to believers.

But, as the judges’ proposal proves, ignorance of religion affects lives beyond the workplace. People’s identity, not just their job, is at stake. Who are we, and what do we believe in?

When Christianity was at the centre of British life, that answer was clear – from classroom to courtroom. Not everyone practised, or believed, in the nation’s Church. But they knew what it stood for. Today, few can distinguish between Jesus and Gandhi, or Shiva and Yahweh. That’s not multiculturalism, but the hollowing out of culture. We are the poorer for it.


Paxman: teaching history through Blackadder is 'stupid'

The "astonishing" trend of teaching history through episodes of Blackadder has shrouded modern understanding of the First World War, Jeremy Paxman has said, as he condemns prevailing theories about "bone-headed generals" as "plain stupid".

Speaking at the Cheltenham Literature Festival, he said the war was now understood through a "prism" created by poetry and television, with generally-accepted theories about hopeless military generals just wrong.

He has now written a book entitled Great Britain's Great War: A Sympathetic History of Our Gravest Folly.

"I wanted in this book to go back and to try understand some of the thoughts and motivations of the people who were there at the time," said Paxman.  "I'm trying to get beyond that great prism that has shrouded our view of the world. I think that there were noble things that happened during that war as the there were ignoble things, of course.

"But to see it simply as a case of bone-headed generals condemning millions of men to their death because they wanted somehow to lose the battle strikes me as just plain stupid.

"So what I wanted to do it to set out to reexamine what people thought they were doing in the First World War."

He added: "“The assumption seems to be that somehow the war was lost, that it was all pointless sacrifice; that somehow that all of these lives were lost for no purpose.

“It was a terrible thing and there was a terrible loss of life.  “I think we owe these people a duty of respect. We should acknowledge that they did something that they thought was right at the time and that for which they did not think there was an alternative.

“We should pull back the filter through which we see these events and try to see it as these people saw it at the time.”

When asked why the "Blackadder" approach had been so widely accepted by a younger generation, Paxman suggested the arts had helped people understand the war more easily than bare historical facts.

"I think it's much easier to imagine the a First World War with the help of other people's imagination," he said. "I think we have become accustomed to seeing the First World War as poetry rather than history.

"It's actually quite difficult to comprehend from our perspective why so many people could have kept faith with this enterprise."


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