Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Australia: Christian lobby groups claim ‘radical sexual experimentation’ is being promoted in schools

IT WAS devised to stop bullying and create wider acceptance of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) students but Christian lobby groups claim all it does is promote “radical sexual experimentation”.

Since Safe Schools Coalition Australia (SSCA) was launched, more than 360 Australian schools have signed up to the program, which provides training and resources for teachers and staff to build a more inclusive and safe environment within their schools.

Some of those resources are available to students, such as the “OMG I’m Queer” information pack, which lobby groups claim is not only inappropriate but corrupts young minds.

Under the section “Doing It”, activist Alice Chesworth talks about sex and includes this description.

“It may come as a surprise, but there is no strict definition for virginity, especially if you’re queer,” she writes. “Penis-in-vagina sex is not the only sex, and certainly not the ultimate sex. If you ask me, virginity is whatever you think it is.”

In another section, Scott, 17, who is bisexual, writes about the first time he realised he was attracted to men and how his dad reacted when he was caught cuddling his friend in his room: “Scott, you like boys and girls, I like Asian women. Neither of us can help that, it’s just who we are.”

Australian Christian Lobby (ACL) spokeswoman Wendy Francis said while she agreed that bullying of children who were struggling with their sexual identity was wrong, she did not think teaching children about “queer sex” and “cross-dressing” was right.

“Our society is already over-sexualised without extreme sexual material and gender theory being promoted in schools,” she said. “Children have the right to their innocence. The political ideology carried by this program denies children this right.”

She claims schools that have signed up to this program teach students that it is OK to “change gender, for boys to wear girls’ school uniforms and that they should be allowed into girls’ toilets”.

“Girls’ toilets should always be a safe place for them and should be off limits to a boy who might be transitioning into a girl,” Ms Francis said. “No one should be bullied at school, including children grappling with same-sex attraction or gender confusion. But promoting radical sexual and gender theories to children without parental consent is not the role of the federal or state governments.”

ACL and Family Voice Australia have called for Federal Education Minister Christopher Pyne to withdraw $8 million in funding that was allocated to SSCA to administer the program throughout Australia.

The groups claim that instead of stopping homophobia, the SSCA program teaches students that heterosexuality is not the norm, and encouraged them to explore sexual and gender diversity.

They also say the program material includes graphic descriptions and tips for gay and lesbian sex.

The recent push comes after former National Party senator Bill O’Chee penned an opinion piece for Fairfax Media this week claiming children were at risk from online predators as a result of the SSCA program.

In his column, he says young people are encouraged to sign up to Minus 18, a website for young LGBTI Australians.

The site provides information on support networks, activities and interests for the LGBTI youth. It also acts as a social networking and dating site, which Mr O’Chee claims exposes them to sexual predators.

He claims that, despite Minus 18 having a rule that users over the age of 25 are not permitted to use forums “without direct permission from Minus 18”, when he inspected the site he found a number of users who were older.

“Minus 18 does not enforce its own rules,” he wrote. “When this was put to Tim Christadoulou, the relationships manager at Minus 18, he stated that ‘rather than actively refuse registrations for certain age groups, we respond to individual profiles and users on a case-by-case basis’.

“Minus 18 management was unable to answer how many users were refused registration in the past 12 months. That is particularly disturbing given some of the profiles from men aged 30 and over who seem to have an interest in underage users.”

A SSCA spokeswoman said research shows that 75 per cent of LGBTI youth experienced homophobic or transphobic abuse and discrimination and that 80 per cent of that abuse will happen in school.

“Safe Schools Coalition Australia uses a whole-of-school approach to support schools across the country to challenge bullying and discrimination,” she said. “Our approach draws on research and evidence on how we can best promote a focus on safety and the protection of young people in schools while at the same time promoting inclusion and acceptance.

“Research shows that students at safe and supportive schools have better educational outcomes and are less likely to have poor mental health.”

Since the program was launched last year, the organisation has trained more than 7500 school staff members and next week it is set to host the National Safe Schools Symposium, which will discuss the outcome of the program so far.


Huge Win For School Vouchers In North Carolina

Backers of private school vouchers won a huge victory Thursday as the North Carolina Supreme Court narrowly endorsed a program that allows public school money to be spent providing vouchers to attend private schools.

North Carolina’s Opportunity Scholarship program, created in 2013, allows for up to $4,200 per family to help pay for private school tuition. The scholarships are only available to low-income families, with the threshold pegged to 133 percent of the income required to qualify for free and reduced-price school lunches.

Demand for the program has been high, as only 2,400 scholarships are available and more than twice that number have applied, necessitating the use of a lottery system.

Shortly after the program’s creation, a coalition of public school teachers, parents, and school administrators sued, claiming the voucher law unconstitutionally supported religious schools and failed to spend public money on an exclusively public purpose, as required by the Constitution.

Writing for a 4-3 majority, Chief Justice Mark Martin said otherwise, overruling a lower court that had struck down the program.

“Our review is limited to a determination of whether plaintiffs have demonstrated that the program legislation plainly and clearly violates our constitution,” Martin wrote. “Plaintiffs have made no such showing in this case.”

The decision means that students will be able to receive vouchers in the upcoming school year.

National advocates for school choice have been quick to praise the ruling.

“With more than double the applications for scholarships in the first year of the program – approximately 5,500 applications for 2,400 scholarships – parents are making it abundantly clear that they want and demand more power over their children’s education,” said Kara Kerwin, president of the pro-voucher Center for Education Reform, in a statement sent to The Daily Caller News Foundation. “This is a giant step in the right direction for parent empowerment in North Carolina.”

The ruling is a big win for voucher supporters, especially as it helps make up for a ruling in Colorado in June which struck down a major voucher program in that state.


UK: New 'tougher' high-school history exam is a joke

Exam boards came under fire last night for making GCSE history questions too easy – after it emerged students are being asked ‘spot the difference’ questions.

One sample question allows pupils to get marks for history without having any historical knowledge.

Schools minister Nick Gibb said sample papers submitted by the exam boards were ‘far below’ the standard he expects. He attacked the boards for failing to raise standards and making questions too easy.

And he warned that ministers are drawing up plans for ‘long-term and fundamental reform’ of the exam boards. A sample history question published by the Mail today shows how easy they have become.

The question, part of a paper published by the AQA exam board, shows two pictures of Parliament, one from the 18th Century and one from last year.

The first is Karl Anton Hickel’s painting of William Pitt the Younger addressing the House of Commons on the outbreak of war with France in 1793.

The second is a photograph of the government benches in the House of Commons featuring David Cameron, Nick Clegg and Theresa May.

The marking scheme shows how little historical knowledge is required to achieve full marks.  The paper asks 15 and 16-year-olds for the differences between the two pictures, and in particular the membership of Parliament.

The marking scheme shows that for 1-2 points students can say ‘the people all look the same’ in the older picture, but different in the modern era.

For 3-4 points the student can say that in the painting the people are all upper class men whereas in the contemporary picture there are ‘women and ordinary people and racial minorities’, and that ‘more people’ feature in the recent photograph.

Only in the second part of the question are pupils actually required to use any historical knowledge, of the suffragette movement and the extension of the franchise.

Mr Gibb said: ‘The sample history GCSE exam papers published by the exam boards that I have seen are so far below the standard that both this Government and the last administration had asked for that I am now more convinced than ever that we need long-term and fundamental reform of the exam boards.

‘With the expertise and help of the exams regulator, Ofqual, I am confident we will deliver a very high quality History GCSE ready for first teaching in 2016.  ‘My frustration is the poor quality of the sample exam papers that the exam boards thought they could get away.’

Education experts warn that the system of multiple exam boards creates a ‘race to the bottom’. Boards are accused of making questions easier, so more pupils pass – making them more appealing to schools.

Education Secretary Nicky Morgan is determined to reverse years of grade inflation under the last Labour government and ensure GCSE papers are of sufficient rigour.

Since the Coalition came to power in 2010, the proportion of pupils studying core academic subjects at GCSE has gone up by 60 per cent.

In January it emerged twice as many state secondary schools are considered to be underperforming because of a crackdown on the exams system.

League tables showed 330 schools fell below the Government’s ‘floor target’ for GCSE results in 2014, up from 154 in 2013.  In those schools, fewer than 40 per cent of pupils achieved at least five C grades at GCSE, including English and maths. Pupils were also judged to have made poor progress in these two subjects.

Schools below the standard could face action, including being closed down and turned into an academy, or being taken over by a new sponsor.

Mrs Morgan is also determined to challenge ‘coasting’ schools in middle class areas which are not doing enough to challenge their pupils to achieve high standards.

Launching the plans last month she warned hundreds of coasting schools could be turned into academies if they fail to raise achievement.

Strict new rules are designed to ‘shine a spotlight on complacency’ at under-performing schools which focus on getting pupils a C pass but don’t push more able pupils.

Mrs Morgan said such schools may be failing to ‘stretch every pupil’ and have so far fallen under the radar.


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