Thursday, September 04, 2014

Pupils at 'Trojan Horse' school were shown jihadist video

Pupils from a Birmingham school at the centre of the so-called “Trojan Horse” investigation were shown a jihadist promotional video in the classroom, it has been revealed.

Ian Kershaw, who conducted an inquiry on behalf of Birmingham City Council, said the film portrayed images of “violent extremism” had been played to children despite concerns it was “completely unacceptable”.

Giving evidence to MPs on Tuesday, he insisted senior staff at the school – which was not named – failed to discipline the teacher involved after the incident came to light.

Peter Clarke, the former Scotland Yard anti-terror chief, told how a similar film may have been “shown or copied” by a technician within one of Birmingham’s schools.

He also said it was likely that issues had spread beyond schools in the city and called on the Department for Education to “take a very careful look at whether the sorts of things that we found in Birmingham are indeed happening elsewhere”.

The disclosures – in evidence to the Commons Education Select Committee – will reignite concerns over alleged attempts to impose strict Islamic practices in the classroom.

Ofsted has already placed six Birmingham schools in “special measures” and said another 11 “require improvement” amid claims of a Muslim takeover of schools.

MPs are also carrying out their own overarching investigation.

Mr Clarke, who was commissioned by the DfE to investigate Birmingham schools, reported in July that evidence of an “aggressive Islamist agenda” had been found in some schools. This included a social media group called the Park View Brotherhood used by male staff to spread homophobic and anti-western messages.

Appearing before MPs on Tuesday, he said there was no direct radicalisation of pupils but insisted he found a “general air of intolerance towards other beliefs or ways of life” and evidence that people were “sympathetic to or do not challenge extremist views”.

This included “anti-Christian chanting being led by one teacher during an assembly” and children being “strongly encouraged” to join in prayers against their wishes.

Mr Kershaw, who carried out a separate inquiry for Birmingham Council, said there was no evidence of attempts to “coerce young people into extremist, violent, jihadist activity”.

But he admitted there were examples of “very bad behaviour by some individuals in schools that needed to be corrected and addressed”.

“I came across a couple of examples where that did not happen,” he said. “An example would be the showing of a film which is completely unacceptable to young people, that was known by a senior member of staff that it happened and that member of staff in a senior position did not address that as a disciplinary matter.”

He said the video covered “violent extremism” but failed to name the teacher or the school.

Asked by a senior MP if it was a “jihadist, violent extremist promotional video”, he said “yes” before adding: “Shown in one classroom at one moment and that should have been stopped and should not have happened.”

Mr Clarke told MPs: “There were some suggestions that that sort of film had been shown or copied by a technician within one of the schools, but I did not come across direct evidence of the promotion of violent extremism.”

MPs also asked whether the issues found in Birmingham had spread elsewhere.

Mr Clarke said he was “not a great believer in coincidence and I would find it very surprising if this was only happening in the few schools that we had the time and the opportunity to look at in East Birmingham”.

He added: “Some of the people who were involved in promulgating these techniques of gaining control and influence in schools have had national roles in various educational bodies and I know have lectured and taken part in conferences in other cities, so I think it is incumbent on the Department for Education and others to take a very careful look at whether the sorts of things that we found in Birmingham are indeed happening elsewhere.

“I don’t know, I haven’t looked, but I would I suppose in a way be surprised if there weren’t at least some symptoms elsewhere.”

In further comments, Mr Clarke said he was “surprised and shocked” at how frightened people had been to give evidence to his inquiry, adding: “I was finding people who were exhibiting signs of evident distress, anxiety and nervousness and what I could only interpret as genuine fear of the consequences should it become known that they had given evidence.”

He also appeared to criticise teaching unions, saying “two of the main unions have been pretty hostile throughout” his investigation, including arranging demonstrations.


The Encouraging Rise in School Choice

Children’s education shouldn’t be a take-it-or-leave-it commodity

America is built on the philosophy of bootstrapping, or pulling yourself up through your own talents and abilities. No tool is better suited for doing that than a good education.

For years, however, a good primary and secondary education has been increasingly difficult to find. But I’m happy to report, at the start of another school year, that an encouraging trend is underway: School choice is helping more and more children get the best education possible – and putting the teachers' unions on notice that the failed status quo is no longer acceptable.

Take the dramatic rise in students participating in school-choice programs. The number taking advantage of options such as vouchers, tuition tax credit programs and education savings accounts has gone from fewer than 50,000 in 2000 to more than 300,000 today.

As education expert Virginia Walden Ford notes in the “2014 Index of Culture and Opportunity,” when we consider all school choice options – deductions for homeschooling expenses, for example – more than 1 million children are benefiting from choice in education. That’s quite a jump to occur in just over a decade.

Charter school enrollment is climbing as well. In 1999, fewer than 500,000 students were in such schools, but now the number is closer to 2 million. From 2001 to 2011, charter-school enrollment increased by about 1.22 million students.

This shouldn’t surprise us one bit. It’s only natural that parents would take advantage of the rise in school choice options to ensure that their kids were in the best schools possible.

The idea that you have no choice but to attend the school closest to where you live, or the school that the “authorities” assign to you, is absurd. It’s blatantly anti-American, quite frankly. When someone receives a Pell Grant to help finance higher education, the government doesn’t assign him to a college. Why should it be any different for the education that precedes college?

Of course not. Yet something far more important to us – not only as parents who care about our children but as citizens who care about our country – is treated as a non-negotiable, take-it-or-leave-it commodity.

That’s why the rise in school choice is such a promising trend. It means that the stranglehold that teachers' unions still exert on American education is weakening. It means that parents who want the best education possible for their children can pick the best one available, not settle for whatever they’re given, no matter how poor it is.

It’s hard to imagine a more hopeful trend for our nation. As Ms. Ford notes, this means children who at one time would have had a very slim chance at succeeding are doing just that. She cites the example of Jordan White, who, after enrolling in a Washington, D.C., private school, went on to graduate from Oberlin College.

“Jordan is now working in Japan as a translator for a large Japanese company,” she writes. “Without the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship she received to attend the school of her choice, Jordan believes that she would not have been so successful.”

There are many more Jordans out there. Ones who are on the path to success because of school choice options, along with many others who will likely fail because they were denied the ability to get the best education possible.

School choice helps everyone. The children who go to a school of their family’s choosing will obviously benefit, but so will the children who remain in these schools, which must then start competing for students. In short, they’ve got to get better – or go out of business. Unions who want to keep checking boxes may not like this, but it’s good news for everyone else.

We shouldn’t rest until every family is able to pick the best school for their children. We owe it to the Jordans out there. We owe it to their parents. And we owe it to our nation.


One Parent's Concerns with biased tests

As parents desiring to find a proper high school education for our 13 year old son, we have been researching a prep school in Indiana that shares our values of faith, founders and traditional academics. This school, as does the majority of all prep schools, employs the services of the SSAT (Secondary School Admissions Test) exam. It’s this that I want to discuss.

To help my son, I voluntarily took the first practice exam, which we purchased directly from Shock was soon displaced by dismay as I labored through the reading comprehension. Within the nine essays presented were subjects on racism, an anti-Christian, sarcastic dig, environmentalism, class warfare, history revision, and collectivism. Any follower of current affairs recognizes these to be the influential tools of manipulation used by those of the progressive ideology. The shortest example follows:

“Approximately 28 percent of all energy used in the United States is devoted to transportation and of that fraction, 40 percent, is supplied in the form of gasoline to fuel the nation’s nearly 255 million registered passenger vehicles. Americans use more energy to fuel their cars than they do for any other single purpose.The fuel used by American automobiles and personal trucks would just about fill all the energy needs of Japan, a nation of over 127 million, and the world’s largest consumer of energy - after the United States and China. In an urgent effort to reduce consumption of an increasingly costly fuel, whose chief reserves lie overseas, the government has RIGHTLY (emphasis added) identified the American automobile and current habits of its utilization as prime targets for change.”

My first thoughts were, “Do any of the teachers and administration of these schools ever read these tests? Isn’t it presumptuous on the part of the creators to include politically charged, behaviorally persuasive essays for children in 8th grade?” This started me on a journey and here is what I found.

The SSAT board consists of 19 participants who mostly come from private schools across the country. I found that the board chair, Kilian Forgus, is a spokesperson for one of their 2014 annual meeting sponsors, inResonance. On the face of it, I see a financial conflict of interest. More concerning to me, though, is their keynote speaker, Charles Fadel, Founder and Chairman of CENTER FOR CURRICULUM REDESIGN.

On his website at [http://www.](www., he is presented as a global education thought leader and expert who was the liaison with UNESCO, the World Bank and Change the Equation (STEM) while the Global Education Lead at Cisco Systems. Of the other six speakers, five had backgrounds in global aspects of culture, trade, demographics, marketing and business. Progressive ideology uses the word “global” freely as a euphemism for ”make everyone the same”. One of the speakers, Amy Wilkinson, recently spoke at a National Governor’s Association meeting, the birthplace of the national institution of Common Core.

Can anyone say CONNECTIONS? Are these the types of philosophies that influence the design of that test? After three hours of research, I stopped for the night, but I can tell you that I’m not done.

Ezra Taft Benson, Secretary of Agriculture for President Dwight D. Eisenhower, speaking at a conference on February 28, 1966 in St. Louis, Missouri had this to say,

“To take over our schools, the educational system will first have to be federalized and then prostituted entirely to serving the propaganda needs of the state planners, with absolutely no regard for truth or scholarship or tradition.”

Is this happening today? Is the SSAT just one of many means of prostitution and propaganda? Are the SAT and ACT similar? Who is guarding the minds and hearts of our children?

I ask myself whether it’s worth fighting. The machine is so big. I’m just one mom. But I’ve decided to adopt this statement from Secretary Benson’s same speech. “We must be neither fatalists nor pessimists. We must be realists, of high character and deep spirituality”. If enough of us can see this, we can stop it.


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