Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Professor suspended for Game Of Thrones shirt that threatened community college kingdom

Confirming yet again that the halls of academia are no place for interpreting things, a New Jersey professor was suspended over a Game Of Thrones T-shirt whose tagline—the Daenerys Targaryen quote, “I Will Take What Is Mine With Fire & Blood”—was interpreted by his colleague as a threat. The incident came about after Francis Schmidt, who teaches art and animation at Bergen Community College, posted a photo of his daughter doing a yoga pose in the shirt to his Google+ account, where it was seen by the people who actually use Google+, such as easily riled deans. Said dean reportedly called for an emergency meeting, concerned that this small, unsettlingly agile girl in a T-shirt was Schmidt’s way of announcing his intention to claim all the spoils a New Jersey community college has to offer, by force if necessary.

In an action reminiscent of the swift, decisive measures that saved so many Wisconsin students from being killed by a Firefly poster, Schmidt was immediately placed on leave without pay—thus giving him plenty of time to marshal an army and violently take his rightful place as the King of Bergen Community College. But, ever crafty in his machinations for power, Schmidt instead tried explaining that the “fire and blood” tagline is a popular one, demonstrating that it had more than 4 million hits online. He also demanded to know what, exactly, was threatening about it, only to be told that “fire” could be interpreted as an allusion to “AK-47s.” “But fire refers to dragons!” Schmidt wisely did not protest, valuing the element of surprise.

Schmidt was then told, before he could return, he would have to be cleared in a psychiatric exam, as has prevented so many a bloody coup. In the meantime, the college released a statement defending its actions by citing the number of school shootings that have happened in 2014 already, and reminding that it must investigate “all situations where a member of its community… expresses a safety or security concern.”

As of press time, Bergen Community College remains vulnerable to dragons… and Francis Schmidt waits.


British schools 'use open days to try and put off undesirables' from applying for a place

State schools are using open mornings to vet children and their parents in an attempt to discourage applications from potential troublemakers [blacks, mainly], according to a teaching union.

Senior staff are said to be judging families and deterring those they do not like the look of from putting their child’s name down for a place.

It is claimed they are applying subtle pressure to parents and suggesting ‘this might not be the school for you’.

Chris Keates, general secretary of the NASUWT, said schools are increasingly using ‘backdoor selection’ techniques to try to improve classroom behaviour.

Some heads are weeding out potential undesirables – perhaps those who do not appear middle-class – before they apply, while others are persuading parents to withdraw unruly pupils instead of resorting to expulsions.

Speaking ahead of the union’s annual conference in Birmingham, Miss Keates described what she called ‘gaming in the system’.

She said some schools are deliberately identifying people ‘who are potentially going to be troublesome’ on open mornings.

‘We’ve come across practices at some schools when they’re vetting the new intake, as it were,’ she said. ‘They’re having events on two or three Saturday mornings and saying in order to get a place you’ll have to attend these. For some parents, for a start, that’s not possible to do.

‘When the parents are coming, we’ve had reports of schools identifying parents and families and then conversations being had by senior managers saying ‘‘this might not be the school for you’’.

‘They’re judging the family when they see them. They’re talking about ‘‘this is what the school will do, what are your expectations of the school? This is what we expect. We expect you to buy this, to be providing this for your child and to sign this (home/school) contract’’.

‘You’re getting some parents who just feel they can’t meet what they’re being expected to do.’

Miss Keates said complaints about the open day tactic had been growing. Referring to the conversations senior staff have with parents, she added: ‘The anecdotes we’ve got are that they’re along the lines of ‘‘you’re not from the right background for the school’’. That’s come from teachers who have been uncomfortable about the process.’

Miss Keates said heads are also carrying out ‘hidden exclusions’.

She added: ‘This is a sort of covert approach, where parents are called in and told ‘‘I don’t think this is really the school for your child, think about a move, your child’s going to have no success at this school because of their behaviour ... They’re put under pressure.

‘The accountability system means you have to say how many children you’ve excluded. If you’ve got high levels, that leads to a look at the whole of your behaviour management. What you’re getting is gaming in the system – not to meet the needs of pupils but to meet the needs of the accountability system.’


Santorum on Common Core

Rick Santorum

From its beginning, the Common Core State Standards initiative has flown under the radar. Its funding, its implementation, and the substance of the standards it proposes have received little public attention, but all of them are questionable.

What troubles me the most is how fast these standards were adopted and how little transparency there was in the process. Not one state legislature voted on the Common Core standards. In the forty-five states where they have been adopted, it was by an act of the governor, the state secretary of education, or the state board of education. The people most affected by this enormous policy change—parents and teachers—never had a chance to weigh in.

We have seen the failures of No Child Left Behind. Why would we hastily embrace a new set of national standards that further complicate education with little promise of improving our children’s chances at success?

The Home School Legal Defense Association points out that the U.S. Department of Education enticed states to jump on the Common Core train quickly by offering early adopters federal funds from the Obama administration’s Race to the Top program.

Diane Ravitch of NYU, a historian of education who has served as a policy analyst in both Republican and Democratic administrations, is a stern critic of Common Core. In a speech last January she voiced her concerns, which include the following:

- “From the outset, the Common Core standards were marked by the absence of public participation, transparency, or educator participation. In a democracy, transparency is crucial, because transparency and openness build trust. Those crucial ingredients were lacking.”

- “Some states—like Kentucky–adopted the Common Core standards sight unseen. Some—like Texas—refused to adopt them sight unseen. Some—like Massachusetts—adopted them even though their own standards were demonstrably better and had been proven over time.”

- “Early childhood educators are nearly unanimous in saying that no one who wrote the standards had any expertise in the education of very young children. More than 500 early childhood educators signed a joint statement complaining that the standards were developmentally inappropriate for children in the early grades. The standards, they said, emphasize academic skills and leave inadequate time for imaginative play.”

- “There is something about the Common Core standards and testing, about their demand for uniformity and standardization, that reeks of early twentieth century factory-line thinking. There is something about them that feels obsolete.”

While some states are beginning to retreat on implementation of these standards, many are not, and many more Americans don’t even know what the Common Core standards are since there was so little public debate in their adoption. I want to lend my voice to slowing this process down and stopping any more top-down, nationalized education standards.

If you want to stop Common Core, here’s what you can do right now:

- Read up on Common Core. Visit the Heritage Foundation and HSLDA websites, which offer lots of valuable information about Common Core.

- If you are a parent, call your school district administration and ask them if they are implementing Common Core standards. Ask for a copy of their Common Core standards policy.

- Attend a school board meeting in your community and ask about Common Core.

- Write to your state and federal legislators and tell them you oppose funding Common Core.

If you think Common Core is too big to stop, consider the story of two moms in Indiana—Heather Crossin and Erin Tuttle—who noticed a change in the difficulty of their children’s homework. They started paying more attention and took action—action that ultimately led to Indiana’s retreat from Common Core. Check out Hoosiers Against Common Core to learn more about their efforts.

We all know that our country’s public education system isn’t working, and we all want to improve opportunities for our children, but more government intervention is not the answer. Instead, parents, teachers, school districts, and local communities should be making the important decisions about education.

Our children need to finish school with the values and the knowledge to work hard, serve their communities, and prosper. Those values and that knowledge won’t be instilled by the federal government, Common Core, or No Child Left Behind. They won’t be instilled even by standards set at the state level. They come from parents, who should have control over the education of their children.

Let’s start a broad movement to put parents back in charge of the educational system. Fighting Common Core and other top-down education reforms is a good start.


No comments: