Thursday, October 23, 2014

UK: Ban on Black Country slang has improved reading and writing claims controversial primary school which sparked anger by pulling up pupils on local dialect

A primary school which banned pupils from using Black Country slang to halt a ‘decline in standards’ has revealed the controversial policy seems to have improved children's reading and writing.

Parents were furious when school chiefs ordered children to stop speaking the dialect, saying it should be preserved to protect the local identity.

Staff at Colley Lane Primary School, Halesowen, West Midlands, drew up a list of ten outlawed phrases such as 'I cor do that' instead of 'I can't do that,' and 'It wor me'.

It has emerged that the ban has been a success in the classroom, with pupils achieving higher grades in reading and writing.

The number of children gaining Key Stage 2 reading had improved by seven per cent with 79 per cent of pupils gaining level four.

Children achieving the higher level five grade in reading has also gone up nine per cent to 41 per cent.

Headteacher John White said: 'Our intention was not to remove any local culture or identity but to give our children the spoken language skills to compete against the best.

'It would be great to see a more positive view on what we are trying to achieve here.'

Last year Mr White enraged parents when he told them about the Black Country ban.  In a letter to parents, he said: 'Recently we asked each class teacher to write a list of the top ten most damaging phrases used by children in the classroom.  'We are introducing a 'zero tolerance' in the classroom to get children out of the habit of using the phrases on the list.

'We want the children in our school to have the best start possible: Understanding when it is and is not acceptable to use slang and colloquial language.  'We value the local dialect but are encouraging children to learn the skill of turning it on and off in different situations.'

The Black Country includes Dudley, Sandwell, Walsall, and southern parts of Wolverhampton.

Other words and phrases on the prohibited list include 'ay', meaning 'pardon', and 'I day', meaning 'I didn't'.

Alana Willetts, 30, whose nine-year-old son George goes to the school, said staff should be teaching pupils about the Black Country and its dialect.  'Some of my friends have gone on to be doctors and lawyers and I'm an engineer – [the accent] doesn't affect you as a person,' she said.  'I think it is patronising and insulting to say that people with a Black Country accent are disadvantaged. All the parents are outraged.' 

But Zheyan Kareem, 31, who moved to the UK eight years ago and whose seven-year-old son is a pupil, supported the ban, saying: ‘English is my second language. So for me … it is good if my child speaks English in the house and not slang picked up at school.’

The primary school, which has 592 children aged four to 11 and was judged ‘good’ at its last Ofsted inspection.



School board caves to atheists over statue. When will someone stand with resolve?

I have always maintained that one of the most important elected positions in America is on the school board - and a recent decision validates that assertion.

Previously we reported on the Madison County High School football team's monument, donated by a private citizen, that drew the ire of the Wisconsin-based atheist group, Freedom From Religion Foundation. The monument featured two Biblical verses, Romans 8:31 and Philippians 4:13. This atheist organization of offended individuals demanded the monument be removed, covered, or altered. The decision was to be taken up by the county school board, and yesterday they ruled - the wrong way.

As reported by the Washington Times, "A controversial monument at the entrance of a Georgia high school football stadium will be altered to remove its biblical scripture after atheists complained it was offensive. The Madison County school board voted unanimously Tuesday night to have the monument altered, following a nearly two-hour closed session to discuss the issue, Madison Journal Review reported. The monument gained national attention when it was erected in August. Two different groups sent letters to the school system arguing that it violates the separation of church and state and demanding it be removed. Board member Robert Hooper made the motion to have the Bible verses removed or covered up, saying he did so "with great consideration and concern for all students", Madison Journal Review reported."

I just have to ask, why was the school board meeting held in closed session? This was a community issue and why were these elected officials not willing to deliberate and make their decision before the community - the people who elected them to represent their interests on local educational governance?

And I will be completely forthright and ask, when will we have any group that will stand up to these secular humanist atheist groups and tell them to "pound sand" and go away? If they bring forth a lawsuit do not comply. There has to be a point when these destructive but vocal minority groups are met with resolve.

What would have been the problem with bringing the decision before the Madison County High School student body? Who gave the FFRF, a private advocacy group from Wisconsin, any dominion over what is happening in Georgia?

Was there a student or group of students who filed a complaint to FFRF asking their interests be defended? If this religious monument which currently reads, "If God be for us, who can be against us?" from Romans 8:31, and, "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me," from Philippians 4:13 was offensive - can someone state why?

I don't think the folks in Wisconsin are coming down to Madison County High for some "Friday night lights." And nowhere is this monument promoting an establishment of religion or forcing anyone to adhere to the verses displayed. If you don't like the monument, well, don't look at it.

According to the Times, "the local newspaper said that as soon as the announcement was made, there was a mass exodus of about 150 people who had showed up, most in favor of the monument. "We are not here as haters, we are here to love all," said Theresa Gordon, who was invited to speak during the closed session, Madison Journal Review reported. "It seems as if these [atheist] groups are here as haters, willing to spend millions to remove God from [our society], which means they are antichrists by definition - they must have hatred in their hearts to fight so hard to remove him from this small object that was placed for others to enjoy."

I agree wholeheartedly with Ms. Gordon. The definition of tolerance for the progressive socialist Left - to whom secular humanists are allies - is that they only tolerate that which they define as tolerable.

Imagine if Christians attempted to force their beliefs upon the Left - heck, there are some secular humanists like Mikey Weinstein who believe Christians in the military who profess, witness, or display their faith are guilty of sedition and should be court-martialed.

What hatred does this Wisconsin-based group possess in order to target a religious monument in sleepy Madison County, Georgia? What is becoming of our First Amendment right of "freedom of religion and the free exercise thereof?" Oh, I guess the secular humanist leftists will define and declare what freedom of [from] religion is and where there can be a free exercise.

Even more disgusting to me is the lack of moral courage to look these atheists in the eye and simply state - how can something you don't believe exists be offensive?

I'm deeply disappointed in this school board and its decision because what these folks just did was reinforce and reward the abhorrent behavior, actions and tactics of the Freedom From Religion Foundation who are laughing at them and seeking out the next Christian target to devour - no different than the lions of the Roman coliseum.

If the Freedom From Religion Foundation challenged the Obama administration giving $9 million to a Catholic organization to defend illegal aliens - a violation of church and state, using American taxpayer dollars to conduct "political activity" - maybe I wouldn't be so critical.

FFRF is an atheist bully organization that relies on Christians just taking it and turning the other cheek. Sometimes the only way to deal with a bully is to fight back - something the school board of Madison County, Georgia pathetically failed to do.


Australia:  Journalism schools need practical focus

THERE can’t be many professional or vocational fields of study where teachers spend a disproportionate time bucketing the occupation for which they are supposedly preparing students.

Yet media-bashing is the norm in Australian media and journalism courses.

The sustained and highly critical emphasis on the news media’s failings in performance, ethics, ownership structure and prospects seems the key message of much education in mass communication.

Students have complained to me of never hearing a positive thing said about journalism from their teachers, who are often embittered from their own limited experience in newsrooms.

The Murdoch press is chief villain in the scenario constructed within the broader media academic community, supposedly responsible for forming public opinion and deciding who will govern the country.

The manifest achievements of journalism — constant monitoring of political, social and economic events and exposures of corruption and incompetence — seem little mentioned, or not to the extent that students receive professional formation and walk proud from journalism schools as they do from other professional schools.

The values shared by an earlier generation of journalism educators and brought with them from the industry — old chestnuts such as freedom of the press and the right to know — often seem to have been ditched in favour of an activist, opinionated form of journalism, more often than not dovetailing with a left-liberal view of the world.

Many journalism and media educators share a cluster of left-leaning values — boatpeople are all honest refugees deserving welcome and shelter, doubts may never be expressed about human-made global warming or the weakness of government action, the Abbott government can do nothing right — and are happy to express these on public forums and in classrooms.

In earlier generations of journalism education the teaching staff seemed more representative of the wider community in their values and far less inclined to express their political views, a convention they shared with working journalists.

Social media has changed all that, amplifying educators’ personal views to a wide audience, putting them on the public record and leaving students in no doubt as to their teachers’ ideologies. Journalists, too, are far more ready to tell the world their views.

Among those who’ve enrolled in our small independent journalism college, Jschool, in Brisbane, are disenchanted university students and graduates looking for an education in the basics, free from bias or incomprehensible theory.

From such refugees and from many dozens of students around the country I have heard constant grumbles about the arcane theoretical focus of their courses, the negativity towards the media and the political biases of some lecturers.

One thing I’ve never heard is a complaint about conservative bias in a journalism or media studies course.

Part of the problem is the confusion surrounding the academic location of journalism departments — generally a small section of a communications or media studies school. This contrasts with the US tradition of stand-alone journalism schools or departments where journalism is the dominant partner. In Australia, teachers with significant journalism experience tend to be at the bottom of the hierarchy, senior positions taken by researchers and theoreticians who often lack empathy for or understanding of journalism.

The workplace structure for academics rewards research, no matter how mindless, and research designed to expose weaknesses in media performance is encouraged. While in other voc­ational disciplines much of the research effort goes into improving professional practice, there is little of this in current journalism research.

Journalism at universities has suffered from a lack of confidence in the importance and vital role of journalism. Embedded among non-journalism academics whose traditional disdain for popular news media is a job requirement, journalism teachers have too readily rolled over and put their energies into surviving within academic hierarchies rather than being defenders of the press.

Universities were reluctant to enter journalism education and were certainly not prodded into doing so by the media industry. Ultimately, it was the marketability of media courses that brought most of the country’s institutions on board, despite the narrow career prospects for ­graduates.

But things have been better. In the “glory days” of journalism education at the University of Queensland in the 1990s there were more than a dozen full-time academic staff, all of them former journalists, including three editors, plus an army of part-time ­tutors drawn from the industry. They produced books, journals, a regular newspaper and electronic news service, and were part of the wider journalism community.

Their relations with the industry were often testy, especially when lecturers criticised media performance. But there was a two-way flow — editors and other senior journalists were members of advisory boards and gave talks to students and staff, while lecturers were invited to write columns on media performance, including election coverage, by the very media being criticised, such as The Courier-Mail and The Australian.

That successful and nationally respected department (disclaimer: I was its head!) was merged against student and industry protests into a vacuous communication school and the journalism degree faces extinction.

Earlier forms of journalism education were admittedly too “craft”-oriented. Students at tertiary level need, in parallel with skills development, understanding of the wider media environment, roles and structures, in addition to knowledge of law and politics.

Unfortunately, the small size of journalism staffs at universities around Australia make them prey to absorption into burgeoning media departments that propagate no end of theories rooted in the Marxist-oriented field of cultural studies.

Depending on the energy of their teachers, some students do get a good deal and have produced excellent stories, but far too many complain they do very little journalism in their programs.

I’ve been astonished to speak to students from eminent institutions who are lucky to write more than one or two news stories in a semester or who have never been to a court, council or parliament as part of their course requirements, training that was once considered basic.

At Jschool we’ve returned to these basics, delivered online, stressing constant news gathering and story writing by students all over Australia.

The industry shares the blame in not pushing for a central involvement in the development and monitoring of university journalism courses, which is the norm for all established professional ­disciplines.

There is plenty to be criticised in the practice of daily journalism, and educators have a role in this, but not at the expense of stressing the positives.

Educators often accuse journalists of being unable to take criticism, of being too defensive and unwilling to examine the basis of complaints. Perhaps educators themselves are as guilty of reacting defensively to criticism.

Missing in much contemporary teaching of journalism is extolling of the achievements and contribution of journalism.

In the past few months Brisbane’s The Courier-Mail has been running a fascinating series, “Journalism Matters”, highlighting the courage and achievements of news gatherers. These are inspiring stories, from former Time and CNN correspondent Michael Ware’s touching tribute to TV cameraman Harry Burton, ruthlessly murdered in Afghanistan, to the revelation by the ABC’s Sally Sara of the personal impact of war reporting; Greg Chamberlin’s recounting of Phil Dickie’s relentless gumshoe work in exposing organ­ised crime and corruption in Queensland, resulting in the jailing of ministers and the police commissioner; a brother’s heartfelt appreciation of the bravery of jailed correspondent Peter Greste; and Trent Dalton’s piece on the role of newspapers in letting sexual abuse victims get a measure of justice and closure.

Let there be no mistake. Democracy cannot function without journalism. It is a pity more journalism students and their teachers don’t know this


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