Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Schools in Virginia are Indoctrinating Students in Sharia Law

If you hadn't heard, religious instruction is banned in public schools, unless that religion is Islam, then it's just fine:

    "A Virginia school district is defending a classroom assignment that required students to practice calligraphy by writing the Muslim statement of faith, “There is no god but Allah. Muhammad is the messenger of Allah.”

    Female students at Riverheads High School in Staunton, Virginia, were also invited to wear Muslim clothing -- a story first reported by The Schilling Show.

    The school district convened a meeting on Dec. 11th to discuss the assignment with outraged parents.

    The Muslim-friendly calligraphy assignment took place in a world geography class. The teacher had the kids copy the Muslim statement of faith, also known as the shahada.

    “Neither these lessons, nor any other lesson in the world geography course, are an attempt at indoctrination to Islam or any other religion, or a request for students to renounce their own faith or profess any belief,” the district said in a statement provided to Fox News."


Bernie Sanders on education

Mike Rowe

Bernie Sanders tweets, “At the end of the day, providing a path to go to college is a helluva lot cheaper than putting people on a path to jail.”

I wonder sometimes, if the best way to question the increasingly dangerous idea that a college education is the best path for the most people, is to stop fighting the sentiment directly, and simply shine a light on the knuckleheads who continue to perpetuate this nonsense. This latest tweet from Bernie Sanders is a prime example. In less than 140 characters, he’s managed to imply that a path to prison is the most likely alternative to a path to college. Pardon my acronym, but...WTF!?

Historically, universities have promoted themselves at the expense of many other forms of “alternative education.” The implicit suggestion, reinforced daily by a generation of well-intended guidance counselors and misguided parents, is always the same - get yourself a four-year degree, or accept one of the many “vocational consolation prizes” that result from all other forms of “lesser knowledge.”

It’s a cautionary tale as predictable as it is false. But now, as people are slowly starting to understand the obscenity of 1.3 trillion dollars in student loans, along with the abundance of opportunity for those with the proper training, it seems the proponents of “college for all” need something even more frightening than the prospect of a career in the trades to frighten the next class into signing on the dotted line. According to Senator Sanders, that “something,” is a path to jail.

I try not to be political on this page, because the truth is, arrogance and elitism are alive and well in every corner of every party - especially with respect to this topic. But I have to admit, this is the first time I’ve seen an elected official support the hyper-inflated cost of a diploma by juxtaposing it with the hyper-inflated cost of incarceration. Honestly, I’m not sure what to make of it.

Is it possible that Senator Sanders doesn’t realize the number of college graduates with criminal records? Is he unaware of the millions of successful tradespeople and entrepreneurs who didn’t pay for a sheepskin, but somehow managed to stay of the clink? Does he not recognize that comments like his will encourage more kids who are better suited for an alternative path to borrow vast sums of money they’ll never be able to pay back in order to pay for a degree that won’t get them a job?

Maybe not. Maybe the 140 character limit has doomed him to be misunderstood or taken out of context. Certainly, it’s happened to me. But regardless, the damage is in the headline, and Twitter is nothing but headlines. The truth, in my opinion, is this: There is no alternative for an education, and no hope for a person who doesn’t want to learn something useful and apply it. But there are many, many alternatives to college. And none of them come with a prison sentence.

Anyway, I’m in no position to judge. After all, I’m going LIVE on Facebook at 5pm PT to raise money for Work Ethic Scholarships by singing The Grinch and selling a collectible Bobblehead.

So really, what do I know?


Mass.: Milton Catholic school loses gay bias case

In a decision being called the first of its kind nationally, a state judge has ruled that an all-girls Catholic school in Milton discriminated against a gay man when it rescinded a job offer after learning he was in a same-sex marriage.

Matthew Barrett accepted a position as food services director at Fontbonne Academy in 2013, but the school withdrew the offer days later after Barrett listed his husband as an emergency contact on an employee form, according to a 21-page court ruling issued Wednesday.

Barrett’s lawyer, Ben Klein of Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders, said the decision marks the first time a judge has rejected a religious organization’s assertion that it had a constitutional right not to hire employees because they were spouses in same-sex marriages.

“Marriage equality has been the law of Massachusetts for over a decade and is now the law of the land,” Klein said. “But you can’t have equality if you can get married on Saturday and fired on Monday.”

Several legal experts contacted Thursday by the Globe said they believed the ruling was the first in a legal dispute involving a religious organization and an employee in a same-sex marriage.

“It is the first reported case with regards to a religious institution,” said Brian D. Spitz, an employment lawyer in Ohio whose firm represents clients from the LGBTQ community.

“Sexual orientation is a protected class deserving of the same level of protection as other protected classes,” Spitz said. “If the Fontbonne Academy argued that it was against their religious tenets to hire a woman or a black person, their arguments would be ridiculed as absurd at first look.”

The decision was blasted by the Catholic Action League of Massachusetts, which called it “a frontal assault on religious freedom” and “an appalling subordination of the First Amendment to the Massachusetts gay rights law.” The organization is an independent group directed by a lay person.

Barrett, 45, who lives in Dorchester, sued Fontbonne in Norfolk Superior Court last year, claiming that the school discriminated against him on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender.

Mary Ellen Barnes, then Fontbonne’s head of school and chief executive, told Barrett that he could not be hired because his marriage to another man was “inconsistent” with Catholic Church teachings, the order said.

“What they did was blatantly wrong, and they violated a Massachusetts law,” Barrett said Thursday in a telephone interview. “They felt that being a Catholic-affiliated school that they can do that legally, and they can’t.”

In his ruling, Judge Douglas H. Wilkins rejected the three defenses the school offered.

“Fontbonne’s discrimination ‘because of’ Barrett’s same-sex marriage is undisputed and, as shown above, amounts to discriminatory intent as a matter of law,” Wilkins wrote.

“It is clear that, because he is male, he suffered gender discrimination when he was denied employment for marrying a person whom a female could have married without suffering the same consequences.”

Fontbonne, a ministry sponsored by the Congregation of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Boston, had argued it is entitled to a religious exemption under the state antidiscrimination law.

It also claimed that hiring Barrett would infringe on its constitutional rights because it views his marriage as incompatible with its religious mission.

Wilkins rejected those arguments.

“As an educational institution, Fontbonne retains control over its mission and message,” he wrote. “It is not forced to allow Barrett to dilute that message, where he will not be a teacher, minister or spokesperson for Fontbonne and has not engaged in public advocacy of same-sex marriage.”

Wilkins said Fontbonne could claim a religious exemption to the state antidiscrimination law only if it limited “membership, enrollment, or participation” to members of one religion. The school, however, is open to students and employees of all faiths, except for members of its administration, theology faculty, and mission and ministry staff, he wrote.

In a statement, Fontbonne said Thursday that it is considering its options.

The school’s lawyers did not respond to messages.

Klein said that Barrett is entitled to lost wages and other damages. A hearing to determine damages has not been set, he said.

Barrett said he resigned from his position with Milton’s public schools after accepting Fontbonne’s offer.

“When they fired me, I went crawling back. I said, ‘This is what happened. I need a job,’ ” Barrett said. “They were thrilled to have me back. I love it.”

He is now head cook at the Collicot and Cunningham elementary schools in Milton. Barrett said Fontbonne’s decision cost him wages, but that is not why he sued.

“That’s not my priority,” he said. “It was just wrong.”

Francis DeBernardo, executive director of New Ways Ministry, a nonprofit organization in Maryland devoted to the concerns of gay and lesbian Catholics, tracks how many people have been fired or lost employment offers at religious institutions because of their sexual orientation.

He said the number of cases has multiplied as more states, and now the nation, have legalized same-sex marriage.

“It’s something the Catholic Church still hasn’t been able to deal with,” DeBernardo said.

Sarah Warbelow, the legal director at Human Rights Campaign, said the ruling makes it clear that religious institutions must follow the law when hiring people with no ministerial duties.

“They should have the ability to earn a living just like everyone else,” she said.


Reading Recovery program used in Australian public schools does not work

A key $55 million-a-year program to teach struggling NSW students to read does not work, with the state's first major review of Reading Recovery warning it is offered in too many schools and has few long-term benefits.

The report, by the NSW Department of Education's Centre for Education Statistics and Evaluation, found that Reading Recovery, which is used in about 960 NSW primary schools, should be restricted to the lowest performing students.

While it may have some impact on students who are really struggling with basic reading, the improvements are short-lived, the report found.

Reading Recovery has been in NSW public schools since 1984, and is also used in Catholic and independent schools. It was developed in New Zealand in the 1970s to help struggling readers in year 1 with daily individual, 30-minute lessons from a specially trained teacher.

In NSW, Reading Recovery is in 60 per cent of schools and at least 14 per cent of year 1 students take part in it.

The report found that the program is an "effective short-term intervention for remediating reading text skills among the lowest performing students" but is not an effective intervention for "students who begin year 1 with more proficient literacy skills".

"The duration of the program is only 12-20 weeks so it is equally possible that Reading Recovery students do not receive the level of support they need to sustain any short-term effects beyond year 1," the report says.

Despite its widespread use, the program – which is also in the US, Canada and Britain – has its vocal critics and earlier this year, influential US literacy academic Louisa Moats told education bureaucrats in Victoria that it was "indefensible" to spend money on the program.

"The whole approach is based on ideas that have not held up to scientific scrutiny," Dr Moats said in March.

The NSW Department of Education's general manager of strategic information and reporting, Jenny Donovan, said the report found that overall, the program was "not particularly effective".

"It shows there is a positive effect on some students in year 1, the very lowest level of ability students, but for all students by the time they reach year 3, any positive effect that may have been seen by Reading Recovery has been washed out," Dr Donovan said.

"What the report is suggesting is that Reading Recovery isn't the answer for students who have reading difficulties, and increasingly we see students whose levels of reading are not as bad maybe being subjected to a Reading Recovery treatment and it doing no good whatsoever for them."

Dr Donovan said the report found that the year 3 NAPLAN results of students with similar reading abilities were the same, regardless of whether students had completed the Reading Recovery program or not.

Leading literacy academic Robyn Cox, president of the Primary English Teaching Association of Australia, said Reading Recovery was effective for some students but it was not the only remediation program available to schools.

"One way of improving achievement in early literacy would be to enhance teachers' skills in identifying children with reading difficulties and fine-tuning their teaching strategies for this group," associate professor Cox said.

"Reading Recovery is successful for many kids but there will be some kids who have ongoing difficulties in processing print. I wouldn't want to say it is ineffective because for many kids it is just what they needed at the right time.''

A spokeswoman for the NSW Education Minister Adrian Piccoli said the report showed where the program was working and where other strategies to improve reading could be more appropriate.

"The minister has asked the Department of Education for advice on how the report's findings can be used to further refine the effective, targeted delivery of reading support to students needing it most," she said.


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