Monday, May 11, 2015

UK: Pretty Tristy playing games with parental authority

Tristram Hunt.  Isn't he gorgeous?

At the annual conference of the UK’s National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) last week, Tristram Hunt, Labour’s shadow education secretary, criticised parents who do not spend enough time playing with their children.

According to Hunt, his conversations with headteachers have taught him that children who are neglected by their parents arrive at school with underdeveloped speaking, listening and motor skills. This form of neglect, he said, has been on the rise over the past decade and is beginning to put considerable strain on teachers. Hunt blamed new technology – be it TV or iPads – as well as parents’ general ignorance of their ‘responsibility’, as he put it, to play and talk to their children.

This was, by all accounts, a bizarre and unfounded attack on parents across the UK. Indeed, all of the evidence runs counter to Hunt’s assertion. Parents today spend significantly more time with their children than they did in the past. This has ushered in what academics are calling an age of ‘intensive parenting’, in which parents are put under increasing social pressure to structure their lives around their children’s development and to occupy all of their children’s time with clubs, playgroups and other activities – which leaves less time for children to explore the world on their own.

The crux of Hunt’s criticism, however, is that funding cuts to Sure Start, New Labour’s flagship initiative for young children, are at the root of the problem. Sure Start centres, he said, are valuable places in which parenting skills are shared and learned within communities. But to anyone who has observed the British state’s increasing intrusion into family life over the past few decades, Hunt’s simplistic assessment rings hollow. Sure Start centres have, indeed, become ‘valuable places’ – but they are valuable to the state, not parents. Since its inception, the Sure Start initiative has been a means through which the government has pushed its own parenting agenda. Sure Start centres are places in which the state educates the poor in how to parent ‘correctly’ and keeps tabs on ‘problem’ families.

Hunt’s brazen anti-parent comments demonstrate just how ingrained these interventionist policies have become. He thought nothing of passing judgement on ‘irresponsible parenting’, while effectively calling for further government intervention into family life. It was, in short, an attack on the right of adults to bring up their children in the way they see fit. Sadly, this paternalism is precisely what we’ve come to expect from politicians.


Not allowed to teach monogamy in some Australian schools

ANGLICAN church leaders have slammed an “unprecedented” interference by the Department of Education after it banned three books used by the church’s scripture teachers on the basis they promoted only monogamous heterosexual relationships.

Scripture teachers were told this week they were not allowed to use books called Teen Sex By The Book by Patricia Weerakoon, You: An Introduction by Michael Jensen, and A Sneaking Suspicion by John Dickson because the texts violated departmental policy.

The texts were used in Special Religious Education (SRE) classes at state schools — classes parents choose to send their children to.

Castle Hill Liberal MP Ray Williams, whose electorate covers much of Sydney’s “bible belt”, said he was requesting an urgent explanation on the book ban from Education Minister Adrian Piccoli.

“Several Anglican leaders in my community have contacted me today saying they are completely shocked at the heavy-handed, reactionary response of the department by demanding these books be removed,” he said.

“I believe the principle of a ‘one partner’ relationship is a fundamental value upheld by society, regardless of whether people are religious or not.”

Mr Piccoli said he had asked the department to review the decision to ban the books: “Department officials will meet with SRE providers to discuss the issue.’’

A Department of Education spokesman denied the decision to ban the books was because of a pro-monogamy message but because they potentially breached the Children and Young Persons (Care and Protection) Act 1998 and other legislation.

Parent lobby group Fairness in Religion in Schools has campaigned against Ms Weerakoon’s book, saying it contained dangerous anti-gay and anti-divorce messages.

“I think its disgraceful that books that teach traditional Christian teachings in scripture classes have been banned.”
But Sydney Anglican SRE director Jon Thorpe said the church community was outraged it was being banned from teaching Christian values in scripture class.

“The legislation allows SRE providers to educate students in the chosen faith of the family,” Mr Thorpe said.

“The Sydney Anglican SRE curriculum focuses on teaching students a Christian world view from the Bible. We are seeking urgent clarification.”

Powerful Christian Democrats crossbencher Fred Nile said he wanted Mr Piccoli to immediately reverse the “disgraceful” ban on the books.

“I think its disgraceful that books that teach traditional Christian teachings in scripture classes have been banned,” Reverend Nile said.

“The material [scripture teachers] are using obviously would not be atheistic.”


Populist Force Of Parents Against Common Core Grows Strong

Hillary Clinton liked it when support for Common Core was “bipartisan … or, actually, nonpartisan,” but finds it painful now that the nationalized education standards supposedly have been politicized.  That’s what the would-be Democratic presidential nominee said on her recent campaign stop in Iowa.

But what did she mean?

Her remarks came as hundreds of thousands of parents coast-to-coast were pulling their children out of Common Core-linked standardized testing, an opt-out protest of unprecedented magnitude and one that is likely to grow as parents discover they have reached a critical mass for protecting their children from reprisals.

Could this have been the politicization of which Clinton complains, perhaps the latest manifestation of the “vast right-wing conspiracy” she railed against years ago?


Two of the states with the heaviest parental opting-out are deep-blue New York and Oregon. Anti-Common-Core activists range from progressive to conservative to libertarian to many parents who aren’t particularly into political ideology and just care about their stressed-out children.

Clinton’s assertion did put her on record as an advocate of Common Core, which really comes as no surprise, given her failed effort during husband Bill’s administration to install an earlier version of managed-workforce-oriented national standards under the banner of Goals 2000/School-to-Work.

It is helpful for candidates to take a position on controversial issues. Politically, what this means is if the 2016 presidential race comes down to Hillary Clinton against Republican Jeb Bush, as some pundits forecast, the two major parties will present two gung-ho backers of Common Core. For millions of Americans who are working in every state to topple the Core, that will be a big problem.

Could this single issue concern them enough to go third-party? Or go fishing? Possibly.

If Hillary Clinton truly likes nonpartisanship, she should love this grass-roots movement she is going to encounter wherever her Scooby-Doo campaign van takes her.

However, it is clear her idea of nonpartisanship (and Bush’s as well) involves a consensus of powerful moneyed interests, such as those in philanthropic foundations, government, big business and big education who put together Common Core and rolled it out in 2009 without public debate or buy-in.

In essence, Clinton-versus-Bush II would be Chamber of Commerce Democrat versus Chamber of Commerce Republican as far as Common Core is concerned.

To gauge the populist force that is gathering, consider that in 2014 about 60,000 New York students sat out the Common Core tests, while more than 190,000 had boycotted 2015 English tests, with three-fourths of districts accounted for as of late April, and math testing now underway. In Portland, Ore., opt-out rates are uneven, but at several schools they are upwards of 25%.


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