Thursday, December 10, 2015
UK: Christian religious assemblies for children should be scrapped along with segregation of pupils by faith says ex-High Court judge
Stupid old bag
Christian religious assemblies for schoolchildren should be scrapped along with the segregation of pupils by faith, according to an ex-High Court Judge.
The radical changes are proposed by the Commission on Religion and Belief in British Public Life, led by Baroness Elizabeth Butler-Sloss, and also include an overhaul of the teaching of faith to make it more reflective of multicultural Britain.
Currently all state schools are legally required to provide daily acts of Christian-themed worship, such as assemblies, although past studies have found many schools ignore the rule.
Other areas examined include the role of Christian faith in future coronations, the criminal justice system, politics and the media – with the commission expected to draw up proposals for possible changes that embrace people of all and no faiths.
It is made up of members of all the major religions across the UK and one of its patrons is former Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams.
According to The Observer, it proposes repealing the legal requirement over daily acts of Christian worship and permitting non-Christian schools to choose their own form of worship, because 'The arguments in favour of retaining compulsory Christian worship in UK schools are no longer… convincing'.
Instead there should be new guidelines for inclusive assemblies that are 'appropriate for pupils and staff of all religions and beliefs' that contribute to their overall development.
Calls for reforms have been growing for years, with ex-Education Secretary Charles Clarke stating earlier this year daily worship should be scrapped and such decisions left to school governors, while the Bishop of Oxford, John Pritchard, has said times of 'spiritual reflection' were the way forward.
Meanwhile a ComRes survey in 2011 revealed two-thirds of parents said their children did not attend religious worship at school, while six out of 10 people said the law should not be enforced.
The report also says segregation by faith brings 'negative practical consequences' such as creating tensions while undermining equality of opportunity for all pupils.
Admissions policies should be changed to reduce selection on grounds of religion and a giant recruitment and retraining programme is needed for those teaching religion and belief, according to the recommendations.
Around one third of schools in England are publically funded faith schools, most of which are Christian.
It also says current syllabuses tend to portray religions only in a positive light, and should be extended to show how it has played a part in creating prejudice and reinforcing gender, sexual and racial stereotypes.
A Department of Education spokesman said collective worship played an important role in school but parents had the right to remove their children from assemblies if they wish.
The spokesman said: 'Collective worship plays an important role in schools. It encourages children to reflect on belief, and helps shape fundamental British values of tolerance, respect and understanding for others.
'It is for schools to tailor their provision to suit the needs of their pupils, and parents can choose to withdraw their children from all or any part of collective worship.'
The commission was established by the Woolf Institute, which studies relations between Christianity, Islam and Judaism, and public consultations were held over the past two years to gather research.
As reported previously on Mail Online, last month the High Court ruled in favour of three families and the British Humanist Association after they challenged Education Secretary Nicky Morgan's decision to exclude the teaching of non-religious views in school curriculums.
New schools and homes in Britain must have windows that won't open because fresh air is so polluted
Fresh air in Britain is so polluted that new homes and even school in some areas are having to be built with windows that can’t open.
Once thought to be vital to a healthy lifestyle, fresh air is now thought to be full of toxins that a mechanically-filtered option is preferable.
Developers are now being told that they will only get permission to build on specific sites around the country if they work to stop polluted air getting into the building.
They must also include a mechanical ventilation system in the plans, to filter toxins out of the incoming air.
The new ‘hermetic homes’ policy has been thought up by the Department for Communities and Local Government and is now being forced on councils.
The hope is to transform Britain’s 1,400 square miles of air pollution zones back into land that is suitable for building.
Under the new policy, developers will still be able to build in the land that had previously been abandoned.
One of these sites is right next door to the four-lane A23 Purley Way in Croydon, south London, which is set to house a primary school in the new year.
Critics have slammed the project, claiming the polluted zone is no place for young children.
The same site was even abandoned as unsuitable for young children five years ago, when the previous schools there were closed and moved to a less polluted environment
But Harris Federation, sponsoring academy group, has already issued literature publicising its intention to open on the Purley Way site in September 2016.
The school insists it will be able to protect children with the locked windows and filtered air. The planning application insisted that play areas would be kept to the back of the building, further away from the busy road.
In York, a development of 300 student flats has also been allowed, which will also be sealed with non-opening windows.
York council’s environment spokesman, Andrew Waller, blamed the car industry for the city’s growing pollution problem.
‘This is not a position that we want to be in,’ he told The Sunday Times, insisting that the car industry had failed to cut emissions.
Meanwhile a similar application for student flats next door to the Blackwall Tunnel entrance in Greenwich, southeast London, was rejected as being potentially ‘psychologically damaging’.
But the non-opening windows are not only designed to keep out toxins, but also noise.
A 1,000-home development that has been proposed next to junction 15 of the M1, near Northampton, would be fitted with the windows in order to block out the deafening traffic noises.
Hugh Ellis, head of policy at the Town and Country Planning Association said that the scheme didn’t make sense financially, because it would make residents unhealthier in the long-run and put extra pressure on the NHS.
A spokeswoman for the Department of Communities and Local Government, said: ‘It is important we ensure that new homes reach the highest environmental standards.’
Is This the Only University Standing Up For Freedom?
The San Bernardino terrorist attack was a shock to a news cycle that was previously focused on the feelings of overprivileged, underinformed college students waging war on academic discourse. The threat that someone, somewhere might be offended by a Confederate flag all of a sudden seemed as absurd as it actually was when hateful, savage Islamic terrorists slaughtered innocent Americans.
In light of that attack, one college isn't taking any chances. Instead of issuing decrees that blame America for the attack and decrying gun culture, Liberty University is taking its own approach:
Liberty University President Jerry Falwell Jr. urged students, staff and faculty at his Christian school to get a permit to carry a concealed weapon on campus to counter any copycat attack like the deadly rampage in California just days ago.
"Let's teach them a lesson if they ever show up here," Falwell told an estimated 10,000 of the campus community at convocation Friday in Lynchburg. While Falwell's call to arms was applauded, his remarks also seemed to target Muslims.
"I've always thought if more good people had concealed carry permits, then we could end those Muslims before they walked in .," Falwell said. The final words of his statement could not be clearly heard on a videotape of the remarks.
However, Falwell told The Associated Press on Saturday he was specifically referring to Syed Farook and Tashfeen Malik, the husband and wife who shot and killed 14 people at a holiday party in San Bernardino on Wednesday.
It's nice to see a school that gets it.
Justices look anew at affirmative action in Texas
The Supreme Court is hearing Abigail Fisher’s admissions case for the second time in three years.
The justices Wednesday will take up a case that presages tighter limits on affirmative action in higher education. They will be hearing arguments for the second time in three years in the case of a white Texas woman who was rejected for admission at the University of Texas.
Abigail Fisher did not graduate in the top 10 percent of her high school class, which would have won her a spot at the state’s flagship college in Austin. She also did not get in under the program that looks at race among many factors and through which Texas admits about a quarter of its incoming freshmen.
Lawyers for Fisher say the university has no good reason to consider race at all because the “top 10” plan that the state put in place in 1997 works well to bring in Hispanic and African-American students. Texas says the plan by itself is not enough and it needs the freedom to fill out its incoming classes as it sees fit.
Fisher’s argument did not persuade the conservative-leaning federal appeals court in New Orleans, which has twice upheld the university’s admissions process. The second ruling, last year, followed a Supreme Court order to reconsider Fisher’s case.
Among the many groups urging the justices to leave the Texas program in place are the coaches, including Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski and the University of Connecticut’s Geno Auriemma, who said they have firsthand knowledge of the value of diversity on campus. “We are not writing as dilettantes or tourists. We live this life,” the coaches wrote.
The high court has been much more skeptical of the role of race in public programs since Justice Samuel Alito joined the court, replacing Justice Sandra Day O’Connor. In 2003, O’Connor wrote the court’s opinion in Grutter v. Bollinger that allowed colleges and universities to use race in their quest for diverse student bodies.
The conservative majority of which Alito is a part generally is cohesive on issues of race. It stuck together in cases that stripped the Justice Department of its power to approve in advance changes related to elections in all or parts of 16 states with a history of discrimination in voting, and threw out local plans to integrate public schools in Louisville, Ky., and Seattle.
The only break from this pattern was in June, when Justice Anthony Kennedy joined the four liberal justices to preserve a key legal tool in fighting discrimination in housing.
“Every time they take one of these cases, I worry,” said Sherrilyn Ifill, president and director-counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund.
Ifill’s worry might be especially apt in Fisher’s case because there is no split among lower courts to attract the justices’ attention. In addition, Fisher herself will not benefit from the ruling because she graduated from Louisiana State University in 2012, and one liberal justice, Elena Kagan, is absent from the case due to her earlier work on it while serving in the Justice Department.
So it seems the conservative justices have more they’d like to say about affirmative action.
The first time Fisher’s case was heard by the court, shortly after her graduation, people on both sides of the issue expected a decision that sharply cut back on or eliminated public universities’ use of race in admissions.
Instead, after sitting on the case for eight months, the justices released an opinion that ordered appellate judges to look anew at Fisher’s complaint to see whether Texas sufficiently explained its need to take account of race in admissions.
The vote was 7 to 1, with Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg in dissent. Kagan sat out the first round, too.
The outcome, in June 2013, concealed tense divisions among the justices, according to author Joan Biskupic’s account in her book “Breaking In” about Justice Sonia Sotomayor. Kennedy initially had written a decision striking down the Texas program that split the conservative and liberal justices, Biskupic wrote. Sotomayor drafted a blistering dissent that eventually caused Kennedy to reconsider, Biskupic said.
Last year, Sotomayor did issue a strong dissent to Kennedy’s majority opinion in a case from Michigan that essentially looked at the flip side of the Texas issue and concluded that Michigan voters could ban racial preferences in university admissions.
Michigan is one of eight states in which race cannot be a factor in public college admissions decisions. The others are Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, Nebraska, New Hampshire, and Washington.
Texas is unique in marrying the top 10 plan to a separate admissions review in which race is one factor considered.
Posted by jonjayray at 1:59 AM