Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Islam in Tennessee Schools — Don’t Miss the Big Picture

Folks in Tennessee don’t just get vocal and energetic over football. The Volunteer State is now in the midst of a statewide review of its public school curricula after students of Maury County’s Spring Hill Middle School were taught the Five Pillars of Islam during a world religion study — with no balanced teaching about other faiths.

Fiery responses from parents focused on the mandatory assignment to write and memorize the declaration of faith of Islam. In requiring that sixth-, seventh- or eighth-graders write the First Pillar of Islam, or the shahada — “There is no other god other than Allah” and “Mohammed is his prophet” — teaching stretched well beyond the information generically provided in a history class.

Maury County Public Schools' middle school supervisor, Jan Hanvey, reported that Judaism and Christianity were topics of study at the end of the school calendar with the unit entitled, “Age of Exploration.”

Maury County Director of Schools Chris Marczak observed, “It is our job as a public school system to educate our students in order to compete in a global society, not to endorse one religion over another or indoctrinate.”

Let’s see. Students ranging from 11 to 15 years of age are instructed that they are “studying the history of world religions” with only one of the monotheistic faiths — Islam — discussed, even to the point of memorizing its profession of faith. The other two “world religions,” one of which in particular happened to have been observed and exercised by the explorers and Founders of America, are taught separately rather than in a side-by-side analysis.

If, indeed, a curriculum has as its stated goal to educate about the various world religions, the teaching structure would present data in a format demonstrating similarities, offering contrasts and broad application of those religions studied.

No one can say with any intellectual honesty that Islam was being taught in Maury County through a balanced curricula.

Has anyone heard from the Freedom From Religion Foundation on this situation in Spring Hill? Is there a budget-busting lawsuit in the wings against the county or state for teaching about Islam? Has the ACLU screeched its protests as vulnerable minds are reciting the profession/conversion statement to become Muslim?

No, and we won’t. It’s simple.

Tolerance, as defined and enforced by the “progressive” Left, including educrats driven by their labor unions, is only elastic enough to stretch to cover anything that is anti-Christian, anti-Semitic, anti-traditional family, anti-personal responsibility and accountability, anti-American exceptionalism — and the list continues.

The current occupant of the White House enjoys using his most effective and, candidly, his only successful tool — marginalizing the fears of most Americans through public ridicule. By evoking terms that imply bigotry, racism and nativism when faced with any argument, Barack Obama and the Left avoid the necessities of facts and objective evidence.

Recall Obama’s absolutely shameless and disgusting display of his pathological narcissism and default to Saul Alinsky tactics at this year’s National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, DC. Just days after the Islamic State burned alive the captured Jordanian pilot in its effort to establish a caliphate, Obama lectured Bible-believing Christians about the Crusades.

“Lest we get on our high horse and think this [barbarity] is unique to some other place,” bellowed the bloviator in chief, “remember that during the Crusades and the Inquisition people committed terrible deeds in the name of Christ.”

The previously insidious force of leftist indoctrination is thriving in every aspect of our civic life and culture and is now blatant, militant and malignant. Obama’s recent interview declaring those of a devout faith to be “suspicious of those not like them” is emblematic of his disdain for the average American, who is being told to comply with group-think or be silent.

And to those timid on the Right who refuse to address and defend against such tyranny, please ponder the quote of Winston Churchill: “Courage is rightly esteemed the first of human qualities … because it is the quality which guarantees all others.”

Our culture and America’s unique existence hangs in the balance in a battle of resolves. Will the Left be victorious in its ferocity, volume and intimidation? Or will America finally awaken to the internal threat that expands at the price of authentic Liberty and national greatness?


Illinois School: 9-11 Had Nothing to Do with Religion

Back when I was in school our English teacher would give us vocabulary words, things like "conundrum" or "extraordinary."

Well - the vocabulary list at High Mount School in Illinois is causing a bit of a controversy.  Their list included words like "jihad, Islam, Muhammad," and "Koran," according to the reporting of the Bellville News-Democrat.

One mom told the newspaper she flipped out, shocked that her 12-year-old daughter's public school history class was teaching Islam 101.  “She said, ‘What’s Koran mean?’ and I flipped out,” Rachel Seger said. “I said, ‘Excuse me?’ and I looked at them and I said oh my God.”

Superintendent Mark Halwachs said the lessons on Islamic vocabulary words was all about teaching tolerance. Get a load of what he told the newspaper about what happened on September 11th, 2001: "It wasn't a religion that did that. It was bad men that did that."

Well, I hate to break it to the superintendent, but the radical Islamic extremists were not hollering "Jesus Saves" when they flew the jetliners into those buildings.

The superintendent explained that it’s important to teach the difference between a “large group and a fanatical faction.”

“I think you have to take moments like that and use them as teachable moments,” he told the newspaper. “You have to look at the age group and your students, and to me you can talk about different things in the world and teach about tolerance.”

However, the school district’s definition of tolerance does not seem to include in-depth, theological discussions about Christianity.

“You can teach about religion, you just can’t…endorse or support a religion over another,” he told the newspaper. “You can’t say (Jesus) is the one and only, or he’s the best; you can explain about and teach about the religions of the world.”

Sounds to me like the folks at High Mount School need to add another word to their vocabulary list - indoctrination.


This woman is sending one of her sons to an ordinary English "comprehensive" school because the standards are LOW

An obsession with education defines the middle classes, often in a stupidly narrow way. I speak for myself in this regard, because I have found myself torn over my sons’ schooling.

My 13-year old son Oscar attends a grammar [selective school], while Conrad, his 11-year old brother, will soon start at our local comp.

The debate about the merits of selective state secondaries has been re-ignited following Education Secretary Nicky Morgan’s announcement last week that the first new grammar school in 50 years has been approved by the government.

How neat and easy and pleasing it would have been had my second son obediently followed his brother into a selective education. But for various reasons, it wasn’t to be.

Friends are fascinated by what they see as our “predicament”. Won’t our boys now have wildly different experiences and unequal life chances? Don’t I feel anguish about having “fixed” their futures at 11 with different kinds of schooling?

"There’s no point a child achieving ten A*s if they’re depressed. I don’t define that as success"

Well, of course I haven’t fixed their futures. That would be impossible. They alone are in charge of their futures, regardless of which school they attend. And undoubtedly they’ll have different life chances: they are discrete characters, with dissimilar interests and talents.

My eldest son is driven, yet happy-go-lucky: he exerts himself, works hard, but without huge anxiety. He’s in his element at a grammar school. He loves science, maths, enjoys rugby, and cricket. The expectations on pupils are unremittingly high.

Conrad is easily as intelligent, but a different creature. He’s creative, a talented artist and a keen batsman. He is ice-cool under pressure, but prone to be hard on himself. I had long accepted that he’d flourish in a less high-pressure environment.

There’s no point a child achieving ten A*s if they’re depressed. I don’t define that as success.

Our middle son had long known he was expected to try for the grammar that his big brother attends. It was also clear to him that we were proud of Oscar. Before he sat the 11-plus, Conrad gamely learned algebra with Dad and read wonderful books with Mum.

But it was then that I realised that he didn’t yearn to go to this school like his brother had; nor did he want to let us down. It was difficult for my husband and I to admit that, as much as we wanted him to get into the grammar, the most important issue was that we didn’t let him down.

"It’s the child himself, the parents, their values, the family work ethic, the love, the atmosphere that matters more"

It took us a week to convince him that we were proud of him for who he was, not where he went to school. So, freed from the crushing weight of our expectation, Conrad told us he’d prefer the school at the end of our road.

We insisted he didn’t have to take the grammar entrance exam if he didn’t want to – but he took it anyway and, ultimately, didn’t achieve the required grades. When, grinning, we said, “You’re going to the comp with your mates!”, he bobbled off happy.

In my heart, I know that our local comp – where they seem to just let the kids drop litter (it’s not, as one staff member told me, “the foxes”) – would best suit my middle son’s temperament. As a society, we put too much on “the school” and what it will give our kids – or take away from them.

Yet it’s the child himself, the parents, their values, the family work ethic, the love, the atmosphere, the way children are spoken to, disciplined and encouraged that matters more.

This is not an easy conviction to stick to, because routes to traditional success are set in terms of educational achievements – the “fistful of A*s, PPE at Oxbridge, graduate post at JP Morgan” route.

We push our children to be impressive on paper, because we think that ultimately, this will make life easier – less chance of financial worries, more readily able to afford a flat and to support a family.

We fixate our kids on high achievement, when a fulfilling emotional life is, if you have enough money to get by, what sustains you. As a consequence, our eight-year-olds are fretting that if they “fail” to get into a “good school”, they’re going to end up flipping burgers, because we’ve put that thought in their heads – we’ve passed our churning anxiety and anger about the unfairness of society, onto them.

We forget that being personable, eloquent, empathic, kind, and amusing, also counts. I’d hate my sons to aspire to a career where these “soft skills” – because humanity is now reduced to a “skill”… – weren’t valued.

I worry, of course. You want your child to achieve their potential; a selective school is “safe” because it’s full of driven kids whose parents value education. I attended a grammar for girls where being a fat, square nerd with a crush on Hamlet was socially acceptable.

No one emptied my satchel down the toilet, or kicked my Hollie Hobbie lunch box. Although – note to self, and other ambitious-by-proxy parents – I did develop an eating disorder.

My husband, meanwhile, went to an east London comprehensive, a massive, American-style high school with thousands of kids, some from the roughest, under-parented homes, homes where parents were struggling, others the children of vicars and police officers.

Some alumni became terrorists and armed robbers, and others became nationally acclaimed actors and newspaper editors. It was a cross-section of society in one building – except for the rich.

He was bullied, describes it as “chaotic” – yet some teachers were brilliant. But, he says, ”with that mass of kids, it was easy to lose track of the smart ones. A friend placed in the bottom set for every subject later became a UN lawyer. I spent four years in the bottom maths group. I was told I had a problem with numbers. I’ve since re-taught myself maths beginning from primary level. It turns out that was just taught badly.”

The desire to send your child to a grammar is a response to the feeling that society is fixed, unless you are hugely wealthy, or connected. Inevitably, the affluent middle class ruthlessly play the system.

Yet a significant proportion of selective state pupils are from modest backgrounds, which is why they face such resentment from below and snobbery from above. We like people to know their place.

My son’s grammar is a meritocracy. Forty-six per cent of the children attending it do not have English as a first language. At the posh local comp (we’re outside the catchment, which adds 30 per cent to house prices), it’s 12 per cent.

Our fears about non-selective state school education are all-too often justified. In 2013, an Ofsted survey of non-selective secondary schools found that 40 per cent were failing to educate the brightest pupils. Sixty-five thousand children who achieved top grades in English and maths aged 11 failed to continue this success in their GCSEs with As or A*s.

Sir Michael Wilshaw, the Ofsted head, criticised non-selective schools for failing to imbue their students with confidence and high ambition – that is, the watermark of the private school system.

James Blunt has been criticised in the past as part of a public school educated elite "dominating" culture.

And yet, I’m not too concerned about Conrad. Some of our most successful, funniest, well-rounded, erudite friends (by which I mean successful as human beings, not just minted) attended bog-standard comps. One, the CEO of a vast company, is endlessly asked: “What school did you go to?” His stock response is: “I don’t have this conversation…”

Exactly. Your school does not define who you are. If it does, that’s a worry.

A friend’s daughter, shy and quiet, is at our local comp. I asked her how she was doing. “There’s not much homework,” she grumbled, “but her confidence has shot up. She’s like a different child.”

And there it is: there are some things that are more important than 10 A*s.


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