Monday, December 09, 2013

Canadian Public school classroom bans meat, eggs and fish for “religious reasons”

If you’re a student at Stoney Creek Public School in London, Ontario, your school lunches may be restricted to romaine lettuce and tofu after a letter addressing disallowed foods was distributed to students in a grade two classroom.

To address the influx of students with anaphylaxis allergies, the school’s principal, Steve McCombe, signed a fill-in-the-blank letter addressing the school’s policy on food allergens, and teachers filled in the classroom-specific allergy portion before distributing the letter to students.

For one classroom, this letter instructed “no meat, eggs, fish (religious reasons)”, before saying “We ask that you be aware of the allergies within your child’s classroom, and refrain from sending the items that are listed above with your child.“

The letter was first published by London radio station AM980, where I host The Andrew Lawton Show weekdays from 1pm-3pm.

The school has since backtracked on this, issuing the following statement:

"A letter distributed yesterday to parents of your child’s class – intended only to increase awareness of food allergies among our students – incorrectly listed a student’s food preference based on religious reasons.

That information should not have been listed on the letter and does not reflect TVDSB practices or policies.

We respect individual families’ food choices based on personal or religious preferences, but the letter was intended to raise awareness of food allergies only as they impact others in the classroom.

We apologize for this error.

We thank parents for your cooperation in restricting foods that have been associated with identified allergies among students in our classrooms."

The real question, however, is why this happened in the first place.

Political correctness has taken a stranglehold of public schools in more ways than are countable–from the curriculum to student lunchboxes. And now, it’s not enough for a student with religious dietary restrictions to simply not pack an egg-, meat- and fish-free lunch–everyone else in the class has to as well.

It’s unclear what religion–if any–actually led to the brief introduction of this rule, but it’s safe to say that a Christian wouldn’t experience the same accommodation if he or she tried to ban the entry of meat into the classroom on Fridays, for example.


British Primary school removes Enid Blyton Famous Five children's classics so it could win a race equality award

A primary school has banned Enid Blyton children's stories so it could win a race equality award.

The Famous Five classics were dumped because they had 'inappropriate ethnic stereotypes' with references to gypsies, golliwogs and a dog with a name starting with 'N'.

The clear-out was needed to get a Race Equality mark from the council ahead of the opening of a new school library, it was reported.

Sean Crosier, headmaster of the 196-pupil Huncoat Primary School near Accrington, Lancashire, told the Sun: 'We checked all our books. Some contained references that reflected outdated attitudes.'

Two of the offending stories were Blyton's Five Go To Mystery Moor and The Children of Kidillin. The much-loved author wrote more than 600 books before her death in 1968.

In the 1990s some of her stories were edited to remove parts that were considered racist, sexist or anti-Semitic.

Deputy head Phil Clarke said many of the culled books had been replaced with edited versions.  He told the Sun: 'It's about making sure children have a fair representation of different ethnic groups.'

Lancashire County Council's race award is given to schools which 'eliminate discrimination, promote equal opportunity and good relations between persons of different racial groups.'


Australia:  Does PISA mean we should give a Gonski?

The two big education stories this week have been about school funding and student performance.

On Monday, federal Education Minister Christopher Pyne announced he would honour his pre-election commitment to deliver the first four years of a six-year funding deal offered by the previous Labor government. This package of funding and reforms was based on the recommendations of the Gonski review of school resourcing and governance.

Pyne's version is different to Labor's - he has pledged to give all states and territories the extra funding they are entitled to under the new funding model, whether they have signed an agreement with the Commonwealth or not, and he will remove many of the accountability requirements and regulations.

On Tuesday, the results of the latest Program of International Student Assessment (PISA) were released. PISA has been conducted every three years since 2000, and assesses the reading, maths and science literacy skills of thousands of 15 year old students around the world.

The PISA 2012 report showed that Australia's international ranking had dropped, as it has in every testing cycle since 2000. This was widely interpreted as a sign of a dire decline in Australia's performance, yet there are other factors to consider.

The number of countries participating in PISA has doubled from 32 in 2000 to 65 in 2012, creating substantial changes in the rankings. Many of the countries that have displaced previously high-ranked countries are not countries at all. The 'partner economies' that dominate the top ranks are East Asian cities or city-states, and Liechtenstein, a country with just 36,000 people. No useful policy conclusions can be drawn by making simple comparisons between these disparate countries and cities.

It is more appropriate to look at Australia's progress over time, which does show a statistically significant decrease in reading and maths mean scores over the PISA testing period, and a non-significant decrease in science. The drop in the mean scores is due to an either stable or growing proportion of students in the lowest performance bands and a shrinking proportion of students in the upper performance bands. We should be concerned about these numbers, but the performance of students in Shanghai and Liechtenstein is of limited value for policy solutions.

Inevitably, connections have been drawn between the issues of funding and performance. The Sydney Morning Herald and the author of the Australian PISA report have claimed that the PISA results demonstrate the need for increased funding for disadvantaged schools, and for the 'Gonski' model in particular.

Increased resources to schools can make a difference, but only if spent prudently. This has not been characteristic of funding increases in Australia in the past; hopefully it will be in the future.


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