Monday, August 11, 2014

UK: Toddlers at risk of extremism, warns Education Secretary

Nurseries are at risk of being taken over by religious extremists, the Education Secretary will warn as she announces that toddlers are to be taught “fundamental British values”.

In her first major policy announcement, Nicky Morgan will say that local authorities will be obliged to use new powers to strip nurseries of their funding if they are found to “promote extremist views”.

She will also say that toddlers should be taught “fundamental British values in an age-appropriate way” as part of a drive to protect children from religious radicals.

Nurseries that teach creationism as scientific fact will be ineligible for taxpayer funding, under the new rules.

Mrs Morgan’s announcement comes in the wake of the “Trojan Horse” plot by Islamist radicals to take over state schools in Birmingham.

The scandal involved primary and secondary schools, but this is the first time the Government has warned that children as young as two could require protection from extremists.

Mrs Morgan is understood to be concerned about the risks posed to children by nurseries linked to radical mosques or run by Islamic hardliners.

There are also concerns within the Government that councils need greater powers to react when allegations of extremist values are raised. At present, local authorities provide funding to nurseries that meet basic Ofsted requirements, but there is no explicit statement that they must not support providers — such as churches, mosques or charities — with extremist views.

There are fears that loopholes leave councils feeling powerless to cut off financing for organisations which they have concerns about. “After Birmingham, we feel it is important to be proactive,” a government source said.

However, sources added that there is no concrete intelligence about individual nurseries that demands immediate action.

Ministers were prompted to act after a consultation into early education funding received 450 responses from individuals and organisations expressing concerns about funding going to organisations that promote extremist views.

A report by Peter Clarke, a former counter-terrorism chief at the Metropolitan Police, into the Birmingham schools scandal highlighted that the education system needed to be able to respond swiftly if concerns are raised.

Mrs Morgan, who replaced Michael Gove as Education Secretary in last month’s Cabinet reshuffle, strongly believes that any institution that fails to prepare children for life in modern  Britain cannot be sustained with public funding.

Proposals by Mr Gove to oblige schools to promote “fundamental British values” will be extended to children as young as two, Mrs Morgan will say. For toddlers, the teaching of such values is likely to include learning right from wrong, learning to take turns and share, and “challenging negative attitudes and stereotypes”, it is understood.

The rules on creationism will bring nurseries into line with state-funded schools. A government source said: “We are absolutely not saying, 'You can’t teach Bible stories’.”

Ofsted, the education watchdog, will use the new guidelines in its inspections of nurseries. A consultation will take place in September and Mrs Morgan hopes the rules will come into force in the New Year.

In July, Mr Clarke concluded there was a “co-ordinated” campaign by Islamist hardliners to oust state school head teachers and impose an “aggressive Islamic ethos” on pupils in Birmingham.

Council officials were aware of the plot for two years but “failed to intervene appropriately” as they feared offending Muslims. Mr Clarke said teachers used a secret instant messaging group on which they called for the “eradication” of homosexuality and claimed the murder of Drummer Lee Rigby was “staged”.

Dozens of children were said to have been tasked to act as “religious police” to report on staff and pupils who spoke “out of turn” or wore “inappropriate dress”.

Mrs Morgan described the findings as “disturbing” and said in future teachers would be sacked without appeal if they exposed children to extremism.


Academics against knowledge

"The Imperial University, Academic Repression and Scholarly Dissent", Piya Chatterjee and Sunaina Maira (eds), is published by University of Minnesota Press. Review below  by Joanna Wiliams

Two words recur throughout The Imperial University, with the regularity of a verbal tic: neoliberal (shorthand for all that’s bad) and Palestine (representing the good, the oppressed, and all that’s worthy of solidarity). The starting point of every contribution to this edited volume is that ‘higher education is firmly embedded in global structures of repression, militarism and neoliberalism’, and as such, ‘the US academy is an “imperial university”’. So convinced are the authors that ‘police in riot gear do not signal something exceptional; rather, their presence unmasks the codes of “the normal” in academic discourse and practice’ that readers may be forgiven for thinking universities have been turned into prisons, and scholars have become tragic victims. Each chapter recounts the restrictions placed upon those who teach about global injustices based upon gender, race, class and sexuality, or engage in scholarship that is critical of ‘the geopolitics of US imperialism across historical time and space’.

It is undoubtedly true that many US universities (just as in the UK) were founded upon the profits of empire. And post-9/11 there have been increased checks upon academic freedom. However, the authors of this volume do themselves no favours in making these arguments. They persistently over-dramatise the problems: we’re told, for example, that students who challenge neoliberalism ‘can quickly be removed from their positions of privilege and rendered part of the “criminal class”’ (‘rendered’ having particular connotations in the context of the ‘war on terror’). They elide different issues. ‘The rise in tuition and indebtedness within the context of the academic crisis simply is the militarisation of campus; they are one and the same’ (emphasis in original). Worst of all, the solutions they propose would denigrate academic freedom, knowledge and the very idea of a university.

Against knowledge

For the academics contributing to this book, knowledge, it seems, is hugely problematic. Its production is ‘central to the imperial project’ and as such, ‘no piece of scholarship has ever been non-aligned’. Attempts at objectivity are derided as mere ‘methodological foolishness’. They argue that in disciplines such as anthropology, knowledge is used to ‘other’ ‘indigenous and minoritised communities’, providing ‘both information and “intelligence” for the subjugation and administration’ of such groups. In science disciplines, knowledge is considered tainted by the development of the atom bomb and it is said still to serve the interests of America as a global and military power. In all areas of the university, knowledge is seen as simply ‘a valuable commodity’, ‘marketed through books, articles and conferences as well as patents and governmental contracts’ in the neoliberal economy.

There’s an important point in here: scholars and universities should not align themselves with either state projects or commercial interests. To do so jeopardises both objectivity and the exercise of academic freedom. Unfortunately, this is again lost in the hyperbole of the arguments and the proposed solutions. Instead of making the case for more objective, or better, knowledge, the authors argue: ‘We ultimately fail to dismantle the academic-military-prison-industrial complex if we address it only through the production of more knowledge. Since knowledge is a commodity… the production of “better”, more progressive or counter-carceral knowledge can also be co-opted and put to work by the academic-MPIC.’

When research is seen as simply contributing to the neoliberal state, and teaching is considered one of the primary ‘colonising tactics of indoctrinating Western “civility”’, readers are left asking why the contributors to this volume carry on working in the academy they loathe so much. Some seek to carve out ‘alternative’ space in the interdisciplinary terrain of area studies, ethnic studies and women’s studies. Others reject individual scholarship and engage in a ‘collective process of knowledge production’. But most often, what’s argued for is a rejection of academic work in favour of political campaigning; the authors ‘embrace the idea of teacher-scholar activism’.

One author describes how, having attended a conference about Palestine, ‘I felt it would be a disservice to my political awakening not to figure out ways to integrate these debates into my classroom’. The inherent narcissism in such a statement underscores a bigger problem: the rejection of disciplinary knowledge leaves the academics-turned-campaigners without any basis to challenge the ideas they deride. Without knowledge, the racism and sexism the writers identify is met by assertion and emotion. Their students are denied the knowledge that may help them not only to make sense of the world, but perhaps also to transform it.

Redefining academic freedom

A further problem with giving up on objective knowledge as the goal of higher education is that the exercise of academic freedom becomes meaningless. New ideas are merely a different perspective rather than a fundamental challenge to what has gone before. Indeed, many of the authors of The Imperial University are scathing of ‘“academic freedom”’ (their scare quotes) and reject it outright as ‘one of the pillars upon which academic liberalism builds its edifice’. They mock Cary Nelson’s statement that ‘academic freedom thus embodies Enlightenment commitments to the pursuit of knowledge’ for its elitism and naivety. ‘Academic freedom’, it is argued, emerged as a way to deal with dissenters within the academy, containing and tolerating knowledge that might threaten the status quo on the basis that people have the right to free expression while at the same time preventing such knowledge from being acted upon. By the same token, they argue that John Stuart Mill’s view that academic freedom allows for the checking of truths in a marketplace of ideas means that the ‘campus radical’ is tolerated as ‘a foil for the correctness of liberal precepts and as long as he or she does not indulge in any attempt to move a transformative political agenda [into] the campus culture’.

Having rejected the liberal concept of academic freedom, then, contributors to The Imperial University posit a redefinition – one that is based upon a broader concept of equity and social justice. They argue that building a ‘progressive ethos’ into the concept of academic freedom necessitates thinking about freedom in a ‘deeper way’ that encompasses ‘the question of affordability of higher education’ and ‘genuine campus democracy’, as well as commitment to affirmative action and a ‘social force that would allow our ideas to have cultural valence’. Readers can only surmise what is meant by ‘genuine’ democracy and to whom the ‘our’ refers – presumably it refers to the authors, their like-minded colleagues, and the society they would like to live in. Academics are unelected and they do not have a special right to determine the values that have weight in society, however much they may believe they have justice on their side. Ironically, exposing ideas to critical scrutiny – exactly the liberal project academic freedom supports and which these writers seek to do away with – does allow for some ideas to be discredited and better ideas to win out. Circumventing this intellectual process prevents both freedom and justice.

The authors of this volume deride as ‘sanctimonious liberals’ those who ‘invoke high-minded principles such as “academic freedom” when it suits them’. They argue that the university has been ‘tainted by Enlightenment-based projects of knowledge production and structuration that perform heteropatriracialities’, and that it must instead be ‘imagined as a site of solidarity with those engaged in struggles against neoliberal capitalism’. Call me a sanctimonious liberal, but this sounds to me like sour grapes from those unable to make a convincing case based on the intellectual merit of their arguments.


Outrageous history curriculum in Common core

We have all heard the horrors associated with the common core agenda; how these teaching methods take math problems and make them harder to understand for no reason at all. Science classes are pushing global warming theories and we have heard rumors of a complete overhaul of the history and civics programs.

Well, I am here to tell you that it is far worse than we ever expected… The rumors were true.

The College Board – the organization that runs High School Advanced Placement (AP) tests and controls course lesson plans – has announced dramatic changes to its U.S. history curriculum.

It is important to note that College Board is not run by a government entity, however it has tremendous power over school curriculum because students want to take as many Advanced Placement tests as possible in order to gain college credit. The non-profit organization is also run by David Coleman, one of the architects behind the common core movement.

The brightest students High School take these AP tests. An estimated 450,000 students will take the AP U.S. History exam this coming year and I was SHOCKED to learn about the changes made to High School history curriculum this year!

The entire U.S. History curriculum has taken a dramatic leftist turn.

James Madison (the author of the Constitution), Thomas Jefferson (the author of the Declaration of Independence), Benjamin Franklin, Alexis de Tocqueville, Abraham Lincoln and countless other founders and historical figures have been removed from the curriculum.

Instead of teaching students about these forward-thinking individuals, the curriculum will instead focus on America’s shortcomings. These are the men who gave the world modern representative government, and instead of showing how influential they were, the new curriculum will only focus on their shortcomings!

Instead of focusing on how Thomas Jefferson authored the Declaration of Independence, you can expect High School students to focus on how Jefferson allegedly fathered children with his slaves!

Instead of focusing on the early Americans’ accomplishments, the new framework teaches that the colonists brought “widespread deadly epidemics,” a “caste system,” and slavery. The Europeans’ “belief in white superiority” was used, the curriculum declares, “to justify

Students will no longer be taught that America was created as a shining “city on a hill.” Instead, the framework will focus on the fact that British colonists created a racial hierarchy.

There is a concerted effort within government and the textbook publishers to change the way high school students are taught about America. Our kids are being taught that America is evil when they should be taught that we are exceptional!

The kids are the future and instead of being taught America’s greatness, they are being taught just the opposite.

The College Board contends that teachers aren’t required to stick to their curriculum… they are free to teach their own material as well. However, only the approved material will be on the final exams!

Larry Krieger, a teacher who has taught U.S. history for 35 years and written many widely used AP exam prep books, said that when he first saw the new material, he was shocked and dismayed.  “It’s relentless left-wing indoctrination,” he said, calling it “antithetical to everything that I believe about teaching and our country’s history.”

The response from history teachers has been huge. However, they have been threatened with losing their AP teaching license if they leak any of the teaching guides.

That, however, hasn’t stopped a number of teachers from commenting on the changes.

We are witnessing a coordinated, two-pronged effort to federalize our school curriculum and shift it dramatically to the left. Common core was introduced and implemented before many American parents knew what was going on. The fight against common core is just starting to break, but there is still a long battle ahead because the curriculum has already been implemented.

Our kids should be taught of America’s greatness and the fact that we live in a country built around protected human rights.

Instead, teachers will now be forced to teach that America is one of the most genocidal regimes ever to exist!

Our children should be taught that the United States is unique because it facilitates individual achievement and allows citizens to meet their potential.

Instead, teachers will focus on inequality and push a social justice agenda on our kids!

The solution is simple: this new curriculum is nothing short of liberal brainwashing. It is nothing but an attempt to spread propaganda and create a new generation of American liberals.

The Left expects you to just take this sitting down. Liberals expect for you to just pay no attention to what children are being taught today in our schools.

Just as common core was established before most American parents, lawmakers, and school districts even knew it existed, the new AP U.S. History Exam solidify a contentious and politicized national school curriculum without proper notice or debate.  George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Alexis de Tocqueville, and a full understanding of our founding principles are being removed from the curriculum. Ethnicity, race, and gender are on the way in! This is a clear violation of the Constitution’s guarantee that education remains in control of the states!


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