Tuesday, October 01, 2013

School official tells students Trayvon Martin case proved it is 'legal to hunt' children

An email sent to students by a University of Maryland official that cites the Trayvon Martin shooting as evidence "it is legal to hunt down and kill American children in Florida" is being blasted as the latest evidence of a left-wing bias on campus.

The email, from William Dorland, director of the school's Honors College, starts by welcoming students back to campus, but then quickly veers into politics.

"This year, we learned that it is legal to hunt down and kill American children in Florida," it reads, in a reference to the trial of George Zimmerman, who was cleared of all charges in the fatal shooting of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin. The email went out to all students in the Honors College.

The political language continued:  "This year, the most activist Supreme Court in the history of the United States and radical factions of gun owners, gun manufacturers, and marijuana users are challenging the very fabric of the nation..."

Dorland then invites students to attend a lecture by former NAACP chairman Julian Bond.

The email comes on the heels of a host of allegations of bias on college campuses around the country this fall -- from a case at UNC Chapel Hill in which funding was cut for two conservative speakers to appear on campus, to an incident at the University of Kansas, where a professor said he hoped the next shooting victims would be children of NRA members.

In the Maryland case, Jim Purtilo, a University of Maryland computer science professor, said the comments struck him as inappropriate.  "It's over the top. But very much business as usual on this campus," he said.

Dorland, reached by phone, told FoxNews.com that his goal was merely to stir student interest in the Julian Bond speaking event.

"I didn't regard it as a political statement, I regarded it as trying to stir some student interest in an activity going on on campus," Dorland told FoxNews.com.

He said that he did receive complaints.  "There were three students and a faculty member who asked me not to use such violent or inappropriate language in the future, and I apologized to them because I didn't want to offend anybody. But I did want to stir things up," he said.

But Purtilo said that he complained to Dorland by email and that Dorland never apologized to him. Instead, said Purtilo, Dorland responded by defending the accuracy of his line about the Trayvon Martin shooting.

Some students reached by FoxNews.com were supportive of Dorland.

"[Dorland] is a great academic and has done great things for our university," said Ben Kramer, president of the College Democrats at the University of Maryland.

"While I do not agree with his choice of words [in the Trayvon Martin reference], I respect and agree with his efforts to foster a dialogue about contentious issues."

Others took more offense.

"Sending politically charged emails like this not only alienates students, but also adds to our toxic political discourse," Ross Marchand, president of the campus Students for Liberty, said.

Caroline Carlson, chairwoman of the UMD College Republicans, agreed.  "Claiming that it is 'legal to hunt down and kill American children in Florida' is stretching the truth, and frankly, we believe Professor Dorland should be above making those types of false statements in what is presumed to be a factual Honors College email."

Dorland defended his use of that line.  "I think it's stirring the pot," Dorland said about his email. "I think, factually, the sentence -- it may be strained and polemic or something -- but it is roughly at least what many people would say was the outcome of the verdict [of the Trayvon Martin case]. I'm not going to avow or disavow the position because it doesn't really matter what I think."

Purtilo, however, says that the incident is indicative of liberal bias he sees on the campus every day. He related one story that he had seen.

"I was on a committee for a very prestigious award on campus, which basically gives a free ride to the selected student, and I remember our committee once interviewing a young woman from one of the more rural counties of the state. And she was poised and articulate and tremendously well prepared, top scores and maxed out SAT and everything... but she made no secret about her religious views, and she asked about things like whether we had a drug- and alcohol-free dorm hall," Purtilo said.

"The committee's conclusion was, 'oh, she has very strict views, very rigid views -- she would not be comfortable here'... you often hear code words like those, which really mean that the person is right-of-center politically."

Dorland dismissed the idea that his emailed quote was indicative of general political bias on campus.  "I don't really want to suggest to you that I'm backing down, but I will tell you that we've had speakers here from AEI, from the CATO Institute -- and [Arizona Sen. John] McCain was invited to be here."

"In my job here I'm pretty apolitical," he added. "You can ask the students. I will take the side of Pope Benedict on an argument, and the next day take the side of a new Pope. You know, the intellectual position in the world is to engage people and get them to talk about what they believe in," he said.


Kansas school board brings back student-led prayer

A rural Kansas School Board courageously defied 50 years of U.S.  Supreme Court rulings by allowing student-led prayer at all school activities, even broadcasting them on the school’s public address system.

What began as an unscheduled, impromptu suggestion at a Monday ISD No. 480 School Board meeting ended up as a motion that was immediately seconded, discussed and unanimously approved, according to the Leader and Times.

“I think that’s one of the greatest things we’ve ever done,” said Board Member Tammy Sutherland-Abbott, who seconded Board Member Nick Hatcher’s motion.

Hatcher had spontaneously introduced the idea.  “I would like to see us bring prayer back to the games,” he told his fellow board members. “I have struggled with that — not having prayer at our activities — because it’s ‘not the thing to do,’ but if the board thought it was important enough that they would support it, and defend it if the time came, I’d like to ask that we do that at our next meeting.”

The schools superintendent questioned why the board should wait until the next meeting.  “We do live in a democratic society, and I personally feel like our community would support that decision, regardless of the rest of the world,” Hatcher said.

The Leader and Times reported:

Several years ago, LHS discontinued prayer at events like football games. Administration voiced concern that, by making the P.A. system available for prayers led by students or community members, the district could be perceived as sanctioning or even promoting traditional Christian prayer in violation of federal law. Student-led prayers then moved to the football field itself, prior to the game. However, no microphone or speaker system allowed spectators to hear such prayers. Monday night’s vote will permit students to utilize the P.A. system for prayer before football games and all other special activities in the district.

The Warren Supreme Court declared school-sanctioned prayer unconstitutional in the 1962 case of Engel v. Vitale. In that case, the New York officials were challenged for encouraging public schools to recite prayers written by them.

The 2000 case of Santa Fe Independent School Dist. v. Doe, however, is more directly on point. In that case, the court ruled 6-3 that student-composed and -led prayer prior to football games is unconstitutional as a violation of the First Amendment’s establishment clause.

Kansas is a part of a Middle America region unflatteringly known as “flyover country,” where residents pay their taxes without squabble, send their sons and daughters off to fight our wars and whose word is unhesitatingly their bond.

Note that it wasn’t small-ttown bankers that had to be bailed out in the waning days of 2007. They wouldn’t dream of making an investment that could jeopardize the hard-earned life savings of their depositors and shareholders — not when they have to face those same people at the local supermarket, pharmacy or in chuech on Sunday.

More than anything, the people inhabiting flyover country are expected to do all they can for their country and countrymen and keep their mouths shut while the geniuses in Washington, New York and Los Angeles make the really important decisions.

It’s both encouraging and heartwarming to see the people in this area of Kansas rise up and revolt, Spartacus-like, as they tell Washington, D.C.: “We tried your way, thank you. We’ll go back to doing it our way.”


Australia: Literacy failings 'due to ideology'

A "SHOCKING" proportion of Australian schoolchildren are failing to meet basic literacy standards, with a new study blaming a tendency by teachers and government to impose "ideological" theories rather than evidence-based teaching programs.

Writing in the spring edition of the Centre for Independent Studies' Policy magazine, Jennifer Buckingham, Kevin Wheldall and Robyn Wheldall argue policymakers and teachers need to use "scientifically valid" reading methods, not ideological theories, to reduce illiteracy.

In the 2013 NAPLAN results, 11.5 per cent of year three students were at, or below, the minimum standard for reading, despite about 1200 hours of reading instruction.

In an article entitled "Why Jaydon can't read: the triumph of ideology over evidence in teaching reading", the authors say those results do not necessarily reflect student ability.  Rather, they were the product of teacher training and badly advised government strategies.

"National and international tests show that average (reading) achievement is static, with no reduction in the proportion of Australian students at the lowest performance levels," the authors say.

"Poorly conceived government policies and university education faculties wedded to outdated and unproven teaching methods have each contributed to the situation."

Australia ranked second last among English-speaking countries in the 2011 Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS). The work drew on studies in Britain, the US and Australia that found a large proportion of training and classroom teachers had insufficient knowledge of meta-linguistics.

A 2008 Victorian study found that only 38 per cent of pre-service teachers and 52 per cent of in-service teachers knew the correct definition of a syllable.

The authors argued a comprehensive reading program incorporating five essential elements - phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary and comprehension - was needed in Australian schools.

"The importance of phonemic awareness and phonics in teaching reading seems to be widely acknowledged among teachers, but many have neither the personal literacy skills nor the requisite professional and practical knowledge to teach them well," the article says.

"Governments must cease wasting money on ineffective 'add-on' programs that add to the burden of schools. If more money is to be spent on schools, it should be spent on up-skilling classroom and learning support teachers."

Ms Buckingham, a CIS research fellow specialising in school education, said a number of successful phonics programs had been refined over the years and had proved to be engaging.

"You need to have great literature in the classroom, shared reading, that love of literature encouraged, but at the same time there needs to be a really strong phonics program," she said.

"Almost 100 per cent of schools would say 'we do phonics' but their idea is not necessarily the most effective or proven way."


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