Monday, September 21, 2015

A Socialist gets a hearing at Liberty University

It was a unique moment. In an era in which politicians don’t interact with people who disagree with them, Democrat presidential candidate Bernie Sanders visited Liberty University Monday to speak to an audience that is highly unlikely to give him votes.

The open socialist took the podium before a crowd of, in the words of Liberty, “North America’s largest weekly gathering of Christian students,” at an institution that is a bastion of the evangelical Right.

In March, Ted Cruz stood up before this same crowd — convocation at Liberty is mandatory — and announced his bid for presidency. It’s not exactly Bernie’s target audience.

Sanders tried to bridge the chasm by appealing to the values and morals held by Christian conservatives. “There is no justice,” Sanders told the students. But when it comes to family values and social justice, Sanders points to the lack of federally mandated paid maternity leave as “appalling.” A typical student at Liberty might say abortion or the defense of traditional marriage are more pressing issues.

“I understand that issues such as abortion and gay marriage are very important to you, and that we disagree on those issues,” Sanders' prepared remarks said. “I get that. But let me respectfully suggest that there are other issues out there that are of enormous consequence to our country and the world and that maybe, just maybe, we don’t disagree on them. And maybe, just maybe, we can work together in trying to resolve them.”

For the Socialist Democrat (but we repeat ourselves), the question of justice boiled down to economic disparity. There are billions upon billions of dollars in the U.S. possessed by the richest of the rich, he told the students. Meanwhile, children go to bed hungry. To the Left, it’s up to the government to “rectify” this.

And in support for his populist ideas, Sanders cited the Golden Rule found in Matthew 7:12 as evidence for massive redistribution of wealth. Of course, Jesus wasn’t preaching to the Romans, but rather to his own disciples — individuals, not government.

“Bernie is right about a lot,” first-year Liberty law student Eli McGowan wrote on Facebook. “He addresses a lot of the fatal flaws in the GOP and in our corporatistic nation. Unfortunately, his answers aren’t the ones we need. But beware GOP, because he’s touching a nerve you can’t, because you’ve lost your heart.”

In laying out his vision for a just, moral and good society, Sanders showed why he is dangerous for the country. While the Leftmedia have danced around the issue, Red State’s Dan Spencer notes, “Sanders is, you know, an unabashed and self-admitted Socialist.” His redistributionist policy proposals will cost the nation a staggering $18 trillion over the next 10 years, The Wall Street Journal estimates.

Sanders called the estimate “significantly exaggerated,” primarily because the Journal used another politicians' single-payer health care bill as a substitute. But the price tag has to be in the ballpark of what it would take to institute his policies.

And where do you think that $18 trillion will come from? Sanders' biggest campaign promise is to rob the rich to pay the poor. He’s just following the template laid out by noted socialist George Bernard Shaw: “A government that robs Peter to pay Paul can always depend on the support of Paul.”

While the candidate has progressive plans for the country, Sanders believes the country’s foundation is rotten. He told Liberty that our economy was “designed by the wealthiest people in this country to benefit the wealthiest people in this country at the expense of everyone else.” And during a Q&A session after his speech, Sanders declared America was built on “racist principles.” We trust Liberty students are able to see that for the barnyard excrement that it is.

Meanwhile, when does the next conservative politician make an argument for the value of Liberty before an audience hostile to his or her policy stances? Oh, that’s right — leftists who run colleges and universities often won’t let conservatives address their students. And when they do, the speaker is drowned out by obnoxious protesters. That’s because the Left despises the kind of free speech on display this week at Liberty.

Sanders demonstrated a kind of ethos in a politician that’s rare in this season’s political lineup — the willingness to approach the other side. Likewise, Liberty University deserves congratulations for offering the podium to the opposition. Conservatives should seek more opportunities to advocate for values held by people across the partisan divide, universal values of justice, peace and Liberty.


Former Govs. Schwarzenegger, Wilson Call for Change to Teacher Tenure Laws

Former California Govs. Pete Wilson and Arnold Schwarzenegger and constitutional scholar Laurence Tribe have submitted a court filing arguing that California’s teacher tenure laws enable incompetent teachers to keep their jobs, hurting some of the state’s neediest students.

In a filing to the Second District Court of Appeal in Los Angeles on Wednesday, Tribe and lawyers for Wilson and Schwarzenegger argue that it is “nearly impossible to remove ineffective teachers from classrooms” because of California state laws.

California’s tenure laws allow a school to fire a teacher for any reason during the first two years of employment. After that it is required to show of “good cause” before an independent panel for dismissals. Schools must also dismiss the least-experienced teachers first during layoffs, but make exceptions for newer teachers whose specialized training and experience meet their district’s needs. A 2005 California ballot initiative that would increase the time a teacher could be fired from two years to five was voted down by 55 pervent.

The appeals court is reviewing a June 2014 ruling by Rolf Treu, a Superior Court judge in Los Angeles, declaring the tenure and seniority laws unconstitutional. Treu found the laws violate the right of students to educational equality and “impose a disproportionate burden on poor and minority students,” who are more likely to be taught by inexperienced and unqualified teachers. It was the first such ruling by any state in the nation.

Attorney General Kamala Harris and teachers’ unions appealed the ruling, arguing that the tenure laws protect teachers against arbitrary firings and that neither the judge nor the nine student plaintiffs in the suit had presented evidence that the laws harm students or shield incompetent teachers. The court has not yet scheduled a hearing in the case.

Wednesday's legal brief argues that education is a fundamental right, one that is endangered when bad teachers are given tenure: “The statues at issue impair this fundamental and foundational right by blindly prioritizing the job security of teachers, regardless of their competence, over the educational needs, interests, and rights of California school children – rights that belong to every child in the State, but that matter to none quite so much as they matter to those for whom a quality public education is the exclusive path to the American Dream.”

The brief concluded that the current tenure review period is too short for principals to make “informed tenure decisions” and “inevitably results in grossly ineffective teachers receiving tenure.


Australia: Phonics, faith and coding for primary school kids

Australia's "Christian heritage" will be taught in schools in a slimmed-down national curriculum that focuses on phonics to -improve children's reading.

History and geography have been scrapped as stand-alone subjects, in a back-to-basics return to traditional teaching.

But 21st-century computer coding will be taught in primary school, starting in Year 5, in the new curriculum endorsed by Australia's education ministers yesterday.

Indigenous issues have been cut from parts of the curriculum, and students will no longer be taught about Harmony Week, -National Reconciliation Week, or NAIDOC (National Aborigines and Islanders Day Observance Committee) week.

Students will continue to learn about Australia Day, Anzac Day and National Sorry Day. The Year 6 study of the contribution of "individua-ls and groups" to Australian society will no longer -include a reference to indigenous people or migrants, and will be confined to the post-Federation period.

The existing requirement to study Australia's connection to Asia has been deleted from the new curriculum.

Australia's "Christian heritage" will be taught for the first time, in lessons on "how Australia is a secular nation and a multi-faith society". Teachers will instruct students that Australia's democratic system of government is based on the Westminster system, although specific references to the monarchy, parliaments and courts have been removed from the curriculum.

For the first time, children in Years 1 and 2 will be taught to "practise strategies they can use when they feel uncomfortable or unsafe".

Students in Years 7 and 8 will be taught to "communicate their own and others' health concerns".

But education ministers agreed yesterday to change the curriculum again, to introduce teaching of "respectful relationships".

Teachers will also be given training to identify students who might be victims of family violence.

Queensland Education Minister Kate Jones, who proposed the domestic violence strategy, said a recent spate of violence against women showed that children needed to be taught about respectful relationships at school.

"We believe there's a real oppor-tunity in the health and physical education curriculum in regards to teaching about respectful relationships, to reduce domestic violence and give young people a greater understanding of gender equality," she told The Weekend Australian after the phone hook-up yesterday.

"We also want to provide teachers with additional support in recognising signs of family violence."

Federal Education Minister Christopher Pyne said the changes would resolve "overcrowding" in the primary school curriculum, boost the teaching of phonics and strengthen references to Western influences in Australia's history.

He said state and territory ministers would develop a national strategy to get more students studying STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) subjects at school.

Ministers yesterday endorsed a digital technologies curriculum, that will start teaching students about computer coding in Year 5, and have them programming by Year 7.

But Ms Jones said the states and territories had not agreed to make STEM subjects compulsory in high school. "Even if we wanted to, we don't have the teachers to do that in Queensland right now," Ms Jones said.

A national curriculum for languages - Arabic, Chinese, French, German, Indonesian, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Modern Greek, Spanish and Vietnamese - was signed off by ministers yesterday.

They also endorsed historic reforms to teacher education, prepared by the Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership.

From next year, new teaching graduates will not be allowed into classrooms until they pass a test ranking them in the top 30 per cent of the population for literacy and numeracy.

Universities will also be forced to publish the academic and other "backdoor" requirements for entry to teaching degrees, to raise standards in the teaching profession.

AITSL chairman John Hattie - who took part in the ministerial meeting - said the changes would bring teaching closer in line with professions such as engineering and medicine.

"We have to make it very clear to people considering a teaching career that if you're dumb you can't be a teacher," he told The Weekend Australian.

"We need to worry considerably about the students in the classroom and the quality of the person standing up in front of them."

Mr Pyne said he was "abso-lutely delighted" the states and territories had backed the reforms, which have been driven by the federal and NSW governments.

"The national literacy and numeracy test will provide greater employer and community confid-ence that beginning teachers enter-ing our schools have the literacy and numeracy skills necessary to carry out the intellectual demands of teaching," he said.

Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Author-ity chief executive Robert Randall said the new curriculum would give teachers more time to teach the basics of maths, literacy, science- and history in primary school.

"We've strengthened the focus on the basics and put in detail about phonics in the early years because of its importance to devel-oping young people's reading ability," he told The Weekend Australian.

Mr Randall said the existing curriculum had so much detail that "teachers were feeling they had to do everything".

"It's important to be able to focus on the content and teach it in depth - we don't want cramming," he said.

"This gives teachers the flexibility to identify what young people- need to know about, and what they're interested in."

Mr Randall said the new curriculum had a greater focus on Western civilisation.

"Historically, the influence of the Christian church has been important," he said.

Mr Randall said that refer-ences to indigenous culture, envir-onmental sustainability and Asia - which are included throughout the existing curriculum, including in maths - had been cut back to "where they naturally fit", with an emphasis on history, geography and art.


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