Thursday, December 17, 2015

School principal bans Santa, Thanksgiving and Pledge of Allegiance

Santa Claus is banned. The Pledge of Allegiance is no longer recited. “Harvest festival” has replaced Thanksgiving, and “winter celebrations” substitute for Christmas parties.

New principal Eujin Jaela Kim has given PS 169 in Sunset Park, Brooklyn, a politically correct scrub-down, to the dismay of teachers and parents.

“We definitely can’t say Christmas, nothing with Christmas on it, nothing with Santa,” PTA president Mimi Ferrer said administrators told her. “No angels. We can’t even have a star because it can represent a religious system, like the Star of David.”

Kim, 33, did not return a call or email seeking comment.

A memo last month from assistant principal Jose Chaparro suggested a “harvest festival instead of Thanksgiving or a winter celebration instead of a Christmas party.” He urged staff to “be sensitive of the diversity of our families. Not all children celebrate the same holidays.”

Ninety-five percent of the 1,600 kids at PS 169 are Asian or Hispanic.

In a recent directive to all schools, the city Department of Education said it permits holiday symbols including Christmas trees, kinaras (candleholders for Kwanzaa), dreidels, Hanukkah menorahs and the Islamic star-and-crescent. Displays that “depict images of deities, religious figures or religious texts” are prohibited.

In a memo to staff this month, PS 169 business manager Johanna Bjorken added: “In case you are wondering about grey areas: Santa Claus is considered an ‘other religious figure.’ ”

But a DOE spokesman told The Post that Santa is allowed as a secular figure.

Santa was a part of the holidays at PS 169 for years. Joseph Iorio, a longtime assistant principal and the acting principal who preceded Kim, recalled state Assemblyman Felix Ortiz visiting the school dressed as Santa “many times.”

Iorio also said he tapped student leaders to lead the Pledge of Allegiance every Monday morning. When Kim arrived, the school-wide pledge ended.

​A DOE spokesman said classrooms can recite the pledge “at the teacher’s discretion.” But PS 169 teachers said that Kim never told them they could do so.

Kim has other wacky priorities, school sources say. Soon after joining PS 169 in May 2014, her first time as a principal, she ordered the faculty to clear their classrooms of “clutter.” She moved hundreds of books and loads of supplies into the gym, where parents and other community members took what they wanted. The rest was tossed in the trash.

She also dumped boxes of newly purchased reading books in the basement because she preferred another curriculum, staffers said.

Kim bought seven 70- to 80-inch Sharp flat-screen smart TVs, which retail at about $3,000 each. After painting over and removing historic murals, she had the TVs mounted in the auditorium — three over the stage and two on each side.

“It was ridiculous,” Ferrer said. “They have never been used.”

Kim holds a lottery for students to get academic assistance after school or on Saturdays. She also started a “professional learning period” in which teachers observe each other in class, but it eliminates one period of core instruction a week for students, staffers said.​

​​Kim recently told staff that Chancellor Carmen Fariña ​praised PS 169 at a town hall meeting.


Common Core Creeping on Catholic Schools Creates Controversy

Common Core is crippling Roman Catholic schools in New York as they attempt to not only keep up with their own academic standards and spiritual development but also include the new controversial material of Common Core.

The Diocese of Albany recently stated that Catholic schools will attempt to "reduce the frequency of the Common Core-aligned tests while sticking with the standards." The statement issued wanted to make it clear that "although the standards of the Common Core itself are good, the collateral pieces have caused great strife for families and teachers," Albany Superintendent Michael Pizzingrillo said. According to an interview with ABC News:

    "Right now, Catholic schools are still trying to figure out how they respond to the Common Core and how deeply they embrace it," said Dan Guernsey, director of K-12 programming at the Cardinal Newman Society. The focus, he said, has to remain on the development of students' "mind, body and spirit."

Almost 1.9 million students around the U.S. are enrolled in 6,568 Catholic schools, most of them elementary schools, according to the National Catholic Education Association. It is incredibly alarming that now not even religious based schools are unable to escape the overreach of this intrusive core curricula adopted by individual states. This issue has sparked the anger from other religious Americans throughout the country as well - one mother in Pennsylvania, whose family were members of the Unitarian Church, wrote a lengthy letter to her children's school explaining why she was using her legal right as a parent to opt her kids out of the mandatory Common Core testing they were intended to take. In her letter, she noted explicitly at one point that:

    Imposing constant churn and disruption on our most vulnerable students in the pursuit of higher test scores is not education justice. Worse, the relentless high-stakes-testing has served to re-inscribe inequality.

According to Sister John Mary Fleming, executive director for education at the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, "many parents are listening to the news. They see the political charge...What this situation has done is created an opportunity for Catholic schools to review our mission: What is our mission and how does the curriculum support that mission?"

Currently, the conference wants to review the Common Core standards but notes that "rejecting them could put students at a disadvantage later in high school." This point, however, is a false flag, since we need to consider several major factors regarding what they consider a real "disadvantage":

    Yes, if lets say a family moves from one state to another, and the schools in which their children attended teach several different curricula, the child might have a difficult time, at first, adapting to the new methods, yet the opportunity to engage and adapt to a new style of learning is important and vital for critical thinking that will help them later in adulthood, since not everything will conform to them.

    Adopting Common Core doesn't guarantee all children learn the same or that they will be given a high standard to meet academically. If this Department of Education sponsored program were like a car, would one four-seat sedan adequately meet the needs of all people and accomplish what they need? No, this is why the American people have options when it comes to markets because everyone has a different interest and need they have to accomplish differently, which is why they have a marketplace of choices. Sadly, Common Core is forcing parents to have their kids conform to a standard they are having a hard time escaping, standards that have caused people of all political stripes to realize that their kids are force fed sometimes extremely hazardous material.

The Albany diocese's decision to re-evaluate their involvement with Common Core is going on at the same time as Gov. Andrew Cuomo's call for "a total reboot" of the curriculum, after New York joined with several other states with a populace highly rejecting the notion of an experimental and obviously progressive agenda . It was reported recently that a whopping 20% of New York public school students opted out of the mandatory math and English assessments last spring. This trend has been spreading like wildfire, though, and because of the hefty level of opt outs from students, more public schools are being threatened with severe budget cuts and other forms of punishment for a lack of test participation.

What this incursion has shown is that no matter where you have your child go to get an education, these harsh progressive initiatives aimed at indoctrinating kids into a neo-socialist, relativist mindset. This "Obamacare" of education has shown a positive trend in the increase in homeschooling though throughout the country, showing the government and corporations backing Common Core that in a last attempt to draw a line in the sand, parents are willing to pull their kids out of the system in order to guarantee them a better educational opportunity in the long run.

With Common Core creeping into the fabric of religiously based schools, how further will this intrusion go before these institutions finally say enough is enough?


Serpent in the Supreme Court: The Folly of “Strict Scrutiny,” from Japanese Internment to Affirmative Action

The U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments this week in The Fisher II case involving the use of race in admissions to the University of Texas at Austin. This case, like other college admission decisions dating to Bakke (1978), hinges on how the Supreme Court applies a “strict scrutiny” standard that originated with a decision upholding Japanese internment (Korematsu v. United States, 1944). Now heralded as an advanced yardstick in civil rights jurisprudence, this contrived standard did Japanese Americans little good: the Court deferred to the government’s wisdom in interning citizens based on their race or national origin. If internment can pass “strict scrutiny,” small wonder that the Court defers to the serpentine arguments of university officials who state that, by doling out race preferences, they are “really” searching for the educational benefits of “diversity”–another legal concept invented by the Supreme Court in the Bakke case (1978)! The Fisher II debate over diversity preferences is simply more of the same.

(Readers interested in the particulars of the affirmative action cases involving the University of Texas can read this analysis).

Here is how the process works: The Court arrogates to itself the right to decide what level of scrutiny to apply to our constitutional civil rights, then invents criteria to uphold state violations of those rights (to be fair, the Court sometimes strikes down violations it does not like). Strict scrutiny states that racial discrimination must be “narrowly tailored” to serve a “compelling governmental interest.” This level of judicial activism has not served the Court or the country well. What we need is simple adherence to the Equal Protection Clause of the Constitution and to the absolute nondiscrimination yardstick set forth in the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Necessity is the mother of invention, the saying goes. Thus, in 1944, a Supreme Court majority deemed it “necessary” to uphold internment while stating that racial discrimination in general was a really bad, “suspect” thing subject to strict scrutiny. Looking internment in the eye, the majority declared that it served an important government interest. Justice Frank Murphy vigorously dissented:

I dissent, therefore, from this legalization of racism. Racial discrimination in any form and in any degree has no justifiable part whatever in our democratic way of life. It is unattractive in any setting, but it is utterly revolting among a free people who have embraced the principles set forth in the Constitution of the United States. All residents of this nation are kin in some way by blood or culture to a foreign land. Yet they are primarily and necessarily a part of the new and distinct civilization of the United States. They must, accordingly, be treated at all times as the heirs of the American experiment, and as entitled to all the rights and freedoms guaranteed by the Constitution.

In some historic Court cases, a dissent goes on to serve as a beacon to civil rights advocates. (This is a point emphasized in my book Race and Liberty: The Essential Reader). When a Court majority upheld streetcar segregation in Plessy v. Ferguson (1896), Justice John Marshall Harlan’s dissent inspired the NAACP to fight on for colorblind law and equal protection, regardless of race. In that dissent, Harlan famously declared:

Our Constitution in color-blind and neither knows nor tolerates classes among citizens. In respect of civil rights, all citizens are equal before the law. The humblest is the peer of the most powerful. The law regards man as man and takes no account of his surroundings or of his color when his civil rights as guaranteed by the supreme law of the land are involved.

Sadly for us, Murphy’s dissent never swayed the court from its “strict scrutiny” standard. Doubly tragic, the Court abandoned Harlan’s color-blind view of the law (enshrined in the Civil Rights Act of 1964) when it invented “diversity” as a loophole for universities to circumvent the guarantee of equal protection (Bakke 1978). Ever since Bakke, the Court has applied Goldilocks reasoning to the various ways universities discriminate: this form is too rigid (no quotas), another is too vague, but some racial “diversity” preference is acceptable as long as you can tell us how it produces “educational benefits.” How far may universities run with racial diversity? Run a scheme by us, the Court responds, and we will know a benign racial scheme when we see one.

None of this provides rule of law or guidance to universities who are, at any rate, determined to discriminate, whatever the Court decides. Thus, those advocating for nondiscrimination sue the University of Texas again for treating the last Court decision as a paperweight. We arrive at Fisher II, which is almost certain to “kick the can” again. Universities do as much as the Court will allow–and that is a lot. Even when universities run afoul of the Court (as happened in a 2003 case), the justices act as if the universities are trying to do the right thing but simply failed in that one instance. In reality, universities will lawyer up “massive resistance” to nondiscrimination longer and harder than the southern segregationists ever could manage. Meanwhile, the Court’s deference to the specious arguments of university officials borders on submissiveness.

Can we return to the classic liberal vision of principled, predictable, and colorblind law? One way would be accept the plain meaning of the Civil Rights Act of 1964: forbid all discrimination in programs that receive federal aid. (That would include all public universities). That reading of civil rights was the position taken by four justices in the Bakke case. Justice Powell joined that plurality to make it a majority; but, in so doing, introduced the possibility of “diversity” as a legitimate use of race. Little did he know how mischievous that phrase would become. The Court struck down rigid racial quotas but left “diversity” to be debated ad nauseam, with strict scrutiny the standard.

On a positive note, voters in several states amended their state constitutions to effectively breathe the Civil Rights Act back into law, thus overturning judicial and court decisions to the contrary. Those states include: California, Michigan, Washington, Arizona, Nebraska and Oklahoma. For a discussion of that movement in California and the California Supreme Court’s decision to uphold the amendment, see the document “Turning Back the Clock to the Civil Rights Act of 1964,” by Janice Rogers Brown, in Race and Liberty: The Essential Reader).

The Civil Rights Act flatly prohibits discrimination based on race. Yet, no matter how plain the nondiscrimination language, at the national level there seems to be little legislative or executive will to enforce it as written. The 1964 Act was the crowning colorblind achievement of the civil rights movement. The sponsors of the Act did everything in their power to emphasize it meant nondiscrimination. Period. Yet, with decision after decision, the Court has undone that achievement.

It would do no good to pass another Civil Rights Act mandating nondiscrimination, since we already have one that the U.S. Supreme Court ignores. The result is a nation that can’t resolve divisive debates over race. Elections are battled as one party’s effort to (among other things) stack the courts to favor their side against the other party. Yet changing the court’s composition will do little good if the doctrine of strict scrutiny stands. The swing justice in the Fisher II case, Anthony Kennedy, came of age in the 1950s–the earliest years of the standard. Every justice on the Court has lived in the world of strict scrutiny.

To repeat: The root problem is the Court’s invention of “strict scrutiny” and application of other contrived criteria to civil rights cases (“diversity,” “critical mass of underrepresented minorities,” etc.). Such scrutiny is strict in theory, deferential in practice. Indeed, it must be deferential in some cases: the original point of strict scrutiny was to have a reason to uphold internment! If the Court did not have the power to uphold the “legalization of racism” (Murphy’s phrase), it would have to rule that internment (and race preferences today) are unconstitutional violations of the Constitution’s Equal Protection clause. But, the Court wishes to legally engineer outcomes that a majority believes are beneficial, even if they are unconstitutional or illegal by classic pre-strict scrutiny standards (Justice Murphy’s Law, as it were).

There is little cause for hope. Perhaps the Constitutional system of checks and balances has failed us. Congress could never force the Court to interpret the law as intended. Besides, the 1964 Congress no longer sits in office. It is highly doubtful you could get a majority of today’s Congress to enact the nondiscrimination law of 1964! There would be accusations of “colorblind racism” and other nonsense peddled by academic hustlers since the 1960s.

The executive branch has committed mischief of its own (various forms of racial discrimination are backed by Executive Orders and agency rulings). The Court thought it applied scrutiny more strictly in the area of government contracting. In practice, executive agencies have simply pushed junk social science to demonstrate the need for contracting set-asides for minorities and other favored groups. (Never mind that the contracts sometimes pass through to huge corporations).

There is no magic wand to right the world. All we can do is discuss and debate the merits of rule by judicial oligarchs (and others in power). I, for one, stand for the rule of law, not the rule of men (as the old saying went). One step in that direction is to challenge the notion of court-made law. Under the Constitution, properly understood, strict scrutiny does not exist. Its imposition is no more right than the imposition of any other unjust exercise of power.


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