Thursday, March 12, 2015

How Lawmakers Are Trying to Control San Francisco’s Catholic Schools

San Franciscans are currently debating a simple question: Should the government respect the right of Catholic schools to be authentically Catholic?

San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone thinks so. But eight California senators and assemblymen sent the archbishop a letter last month, saying that his actions in issuing new faculty guidelines “foment a discriminatory environment in the communities we serve.” On Feb. 23, two of the signers even asked the California Assembly Labor and Employment Committee and the Assembly Judiciary Committee to investigate the archdiocese’s actions.

Here’s the back story. During contract renegotiations with nearly 500 staff members last month, the archdiocese issued an updated faculty guide for its Catholic high schools. The addendum introduced three new clauses—which staff members are required to “affirm and believe”—denouncing masturbation, pornography, same-sex marriage, contraception and other issues that, in line with Catholic teaching, are described as “gravely evil.”

These beliefs shouldn’t surprise anyone familiar with the Catholic Church—the 2,000-year-old institution has clearly defined its moral teachings throughout the years. Yet lawmakers objected, contending in a Feb. 17 letter to the archdiocese that the new guide is “divisive.” They asserted that by spelling out the teachings of the Catholic Church and requiring high-school staff to not publicly undermine those teachings, teachers could be dismissed for private decisions not in accord with Catholic teaching.

The archbishop responded, calling the idea that the clauses could apply to an employee’s private life a “falsehood” in a Feb. 19 letter. Then he put a question to the lawmakers: “Would you hire a campaign manager who advocates policies contrary to those that you stand for, and who shows disrespect toward you and the Democratic Party in general?” Of course they wouldn’t, and Archbishop Cordileone summed up the problem: “I respect your right to employ or not employ whomever you wish to advance your mission. I simply ask the same respect from you.”

Archbishop Cordileone also explained that the mission of Catholic education is to ensure that students receive a complete education: intellectually, spiritually and morally. If teachers are to fulfill this goal, they must be consistent in what they teach in the classroom and in what they advocate in the public square.

American business and civic institutions frequently make choices to remain true to principles even when it is unfashionable or may hurt their bottom line—for example, CVS last year pulled cigarettes from shelves, calling the sale of tobacco “inconsistent with our purpose—helping people on their path to better health.” This choice is even more essential for religious schools, which must be able to have teachers who support—or at least don’t publicly attack—the school’s beliefs. Lawmakers shouldn’t be using threats of governmental investigation to control those decisions.

Yet similar coercion is taking place throughout the country. Last year, the New England Association of Schools and Colleges opened an investigation into Gordon College—a Christian school. The association gave the college a year to review its conduct standards, which ask all members of the Gordon community to live by the Christian virtue of chastity—with the implication that Gordon could be at risk of losing accreditation. Gordon is currently undergoing that internal review and says it plans to submit a report later this year.

Elsewhere, the Department of Health and Human Services’ contraception mandate has created a comparable threat for Notre Dame and Wheaton College—both of which are plaintiffs in ongoing lawsuits. That mandate forces religious schools to provide and pay for coverage of abortion-inducing drugs, contraception and sterilization regardless of a school’s religious objection. The law would compel these colleges either to stop offering health insurance altogether—and incur steep fines—or to violate their deeply held beliefs.

In January, Washington, D.C., Mayor Muriel Bowser signed the euphemistically titled “Human Rights Amendment Act.” The bill would compel Washington’s private religious schools to violate their beliefs about human sexuality by recognizing LGBT student groups or hosting a “gay pride” day on campus. The bill is currently under congressional review.

Provided private schools meet basic standards of safety and education, the government shouldn’t be in the business of coercing them to conform to someone else’s moral beliefs. After all, many families send their children to private schools precisely to escape government moral indoctrination. It is because of these schools’ distinctive creeds that families sacrifice to afford sending their children to private religious schools. Government officials should respect the ability of such schools to witness to their faith.

This is why public policy should protect Archbishop Cordileone’s decision to ensure that Catholic high schools retain an authentic Catholic identity. The revisions to the school handbook foster an equilibrium between institutional integrity and personal liberties. This freedom is exactly what allows all Americans—in whichever school they choose to attend—to live in a diverse and civil public sphere.


British pupils as young as 11 to be taught about rape, alcohol and dressing provocatively in new classes

Schools are to teach pupils as young as 11 about rape and consensual sex, Education Secretary Nicky Morgan announced yesterday.

Children will be encouraged to discuss what they have learnt about sex from pornography, and if it is possible to agree to sex when drunk.

The lessons, which also challenge children to talk about gay rape, are being added to the education syllabus for secondary schools and could come in as soon as the summer term.

The formal guidance commissioned by the Government tells teachers that courses should begin 'before young people are sexually active, otherwise it is too late'.

But parent groups last night raised concerns that the changes to sex education would lead to the 'erosion of childhood' and could put children under more pressure to have sex.

The classes will be based on resources being developed by the PSHE Association – a government-funded organisation created in 2006 to advise on personal and social education.

Teachers will be encouraged to discuss 'rape myths' such as the notion that a woman consents to sex by 'teasing' a man or dressing provocatively.

They will also be told to inform children that most rapes are committed by people known to the victim, while pupils will be encouraged to imagine scenarios such as the morning after having sex while drunk.

Suggested questions for teachers to ask include: 'What misconceptions about consent would an alien get if their only evidence was from pornography?'

Pupils will also be told analyse statements such as: 'If a woman is raped while drunk she is at least somewhat responsible'.

Drop boxes will also be placed in classrooms so pupils can post questions anonymously.

Mrs Morgan, who has a seven-year-old son, stressed that the recommended materials will be age appropriate and are aimed at giving teachers more confidence to teach difficult subjects.

She said the recommended list of resources will be issued to schools to ensure information is not 'at odds with fundamental British values'.

Announcing the plans in an article for the Sunday Times, Mrs Morgan wrote: 'We have to face the fact that many pressures girls face today were unimaginable to my generation and it's our duty to ensure that our daughters leave school able to navigate the challenges they'll face in adulthood.'

But last night Margaret Morrissey from campaign group Parents Outloud accused Mrs Morgan of risking 'real damage to our children'. She said: 'Most children do not need to be made aware of these things at such a young age and could be left frightened by these lessons.  'We are bringing on a generation of children who are having their childhood constantly eroded.'

Sarah Carter, of the Family Education Trust, said: 'I work with vulnerable teenagers who have been groomed and this is not going to protect them. This creates the idea that you will find yourself in this situation so make sure you give express consent.'

However the move was praised by Sarah Green, of the End Violence Against Women Coalition, who said: 'We welcome Nicky Morgan's recognition of the importance and urgency of ensuring young people learn in school about what seeking and giving consent means.'

A spokesman for the Department for Education said the aim was to prepare young people 'for life in modern Britain'.

He added: 'We are ensuring teachers have high-quality resources and appropriate support and guidance so they can tackle the issues facing young people today.'

The PSHE Association is now calling for Mrs Morgan to make sex education compulsory in all of England's state primary and secondary schools, as recommended by the Education Select Committee last month.


UK: Star science and maths pupils get £15,000 bribe to be teachers

Former staff will also be offered incentives to encourage them to return to the classroom

Top maths and science A-level students are to be offered £15,000 to help with university costs in return for a commitment to teach for three years after graduating, David Cameron will say today.

Former teachers who have left the profession will also be offered incentives to return to classrooms as part of a Government drive to recruit thousands of new specialists in key subjects.

Skilled professionals in sectors such as engineering or medicine will be encouraged to retrain as teachers.

New part-time courses designed to allow people to train while continuing to work or look after a family will also be offered, and three new schools specialising in technology and science will be opened.

New physics degrees will be piloted in ten top universities which will allow students to get a teaching qualification alongside their three-year degree course.

And paid internships are to be made available to maths and physics undergraduates from next summer to give them the opportunity to experience teaching before they commit to it as a career.

In all, Mr Cameron will pledge that 17,500 new and existing teachers will be trained in maths and science.

In a speech in the Midlands, the Prime Minister will say: 'Delivering the best start in life for every child is a key part of our long-term economic plan. I come at this as a parent, not just a politician.

'A great education system won't just help our country succeed in the future; it will give families peace of mind that their kids can realise their full potential.

'That doesn't just mean building more good school places; it means teaching children what they need to know to make something of themselves.

'That's why I want to make Britain the best place in the world to learn maths and science – and because of our growing economy, we have a clear plan to deliver the best teachers to make this happen.'

Education Secretary Nicky Morgan will say: 'As part of our plan for education we need excellent teachers in every classroom to prepare children for life in modern Britain.

'We want to attract more high quality candidates to teach maths and physics and further raise the status of teaching as a rewarding career.

'By offering more flexible routes, we will open up the teaching profession to talented career changers who can bring a wealth of experience and transferrable skills to the classroom.

'The plans announced today will raise standards in maths and physics further to ensure more children leave school with these valuable skills and can go on to compete for the top jobs and succeed in life.'

But Dr Mary Bousted, general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, said: 'What we need is a properly thought out strategy for teacher training, not a knee-jerk reaction to shortages. This means Government knowing where the gaps are and planning ahead.

'The push for high-quality teachers needs to include primary teachers too; primary schools need maths and science specialists, particularly given that the curriculum in these subjects has become much more demanding.

'Good salaries and working conditions are essential if graduates are to be attracted to the teaching profession.'


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