Monday, June 15, 2015

UC Faculty Training: Saying ‘America Is the Land of Opportunity’ Is a Microaggression

by Katherine Timpf

The phrase is just one of many that faculty were advised not to use. A University of California faculty leader-training handout instructed professors not to say that “America is the land of opportunity” because that’s a racist, sexist microaggression.

 According to the handout, called “Tool: Recognizing Microaggressions and the Messages they Send,” the statement “assert[s] that race and gender [do] not play a role in life successes” — despite the fact that saying opportunities exist and saying that opportunities are more easily attainable for some people than others are not mutually exclusive assertions.

Other microaggressions listed on the document include asking, “Where are you from or where were you born?” (because it suggests that the person you’re asking is “not a true American”); asking a post-doctoral minority student whether he or she is lost in the halls of a chemistry building (because it makes ”the assumption that the person is trying to break into one of the labs”); and having students fill out forms on which they have to check a box indicating whether they’re male or female.

Another handout, called “Tool for Identifying Implicit Bias: Awareness of Common Shortcuts,” listed some no-nos for conducting a job search, including “expecting candidates to resemble someone whom the search committee is replacing” — despite the fact that looking to replace an employee with a similar employee seems pretty logical given the fact that the replacement by definition would be doing the same kind of work.

According to the university’s webpage, the seminars were initiated by UC president and former Department of Homeland Security head Janet Napolitano. Napolitano’s invitation touted them as a place to talk about the “best way to build and nurture a productive academic climate” and help attendees meet their “responsibility” to do so.

Napolitano’s invitation, dated last January, announced that the seminars would be offered at all ten UC system schools, but an article posted Wednesday on the College Fix states that they were held at only nine of the ten campuses throughout the 2014–15 school year.


UK: Primary schools ban Muslim pupils from fasting during Ramadan with one saying it is a health risk for young children

A primary school trust has banned Muslim pupils from fasting during Ramadan, claiming the tradition can be harmful to the health of young children.

Barclay Primary School in Leyton, east London, issued a letter to parents informing them that it would not allow children attending school to fast in order to 'safeguard the health and education of the child'.

The move has been slammed by members of the Muslim community who said schools should seek to support parents instead of 'blanket enforce' their own rules when it comes to religion.

In the letter issued yesterday, the school claimed to have 'sought guidance' before implementing the ban.

'We are reliably informed that in Islamic Law, children are not required to fast during Ramadan, only being required to do so when they become adults,' it said. 

It continued to describe how children 'fainted' and 'became ill' during last year's festival after going without food or water for '18 hours, a significant amount of time for a child.'

Alongside Barclay Primary School the ban will be implemented across three other schools which belong to the trust. They are Sybourn Primary School and Thomas Gamuel Primary School in Waltham Forest and Brook House Primary School in Haringey.

The letter, posted on 5pillars, a British Muslim publication, was today criticised by members of the Muslim community which said deciding whether a child should fast or not is the prerogative of their parent.

The Muslim Association of Britain said there were enough rules in place to protect the vulnerable from fasting without school's interference.

'We believe that there are sufficient and stringent rules within Islam which allow those who are unable to fast, to break fast,' a spokesman told Mail Online.

'These rules include those who are medically ill or compromised; or too young or too old to fast.

'However, we believe that this determination should be decided by parents with their children; who can together reach a collective decision whether or not the child can fast.

'MAB ascertains that the final choice of whether or not to fast should be the right of the parents, who should in turn encourage their children to fast without forcing them to do so.'

Dr Omer El-Hamdoon, the President of MAB added parents ought to have the ultimate say in whether their child participates in the fast.

'Schools should play a supporting role to parents; and issues like this should be discussed, not blanket enforced,' he said.

Neither Barclay Primary School nor the Lion Academy Trust responded to Mail Online's requests for comment this afternoon.


Chris Christie: ‘There Are Solutions’ to Education Reform

If America wants to remain a force in education, Christie told a crowd of about 200 people, policy should be centered on three things.  Christie said:  “We need accountability. We need competition. And we need choice.”

Christie, who is considering a run for president in 2016, stressed parents—not union leaders or the education establishment—choose best in making decisions for the education of their children.

“I believe that America needs a president that will fight for parents and children,” Christie said.

Under Christie’s leadership in New Jersey, the governor said, his state was able to make gains in teacher tenure reform and public school choice.

In talking about the importance of hiring high-quality teachers, Christie, with students flanked behind him, used an example of how his fifth grade teacher made an impact in his life.

Christie mentioned that big achievements in America’s history began with education and teachers—including at Iowa State University, home to the invention of the first electronic digital computer.

“There might not be any simple solutions to education reform, but there are solutions,” Christie said. “[America] guarantees a chance at greatness.”

Christie, who is putting two of his children through college right now, shared insight from a parent perspective on higher education.

In the past 10 years, Christie said, pell grants have grown by 118 percent, while subsidized student loans have grown by 12 percent. Unsubsidized loans have grown by more than 150 percent, Christie claimed.

He discussed making higher education affordable (not free) and more transparent.

“People should be able to know in advance how colleges are spending our money, where their resources are going, and how they expect prices to change in the future,” Christie said.

Christie proposed that higher education become more imaginative and offer more educational options for students. This could include holding more evening and weekend classes to cater to more students.


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