Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Students Protest That All-Female School Is A ‘Rape Culture’ Stronghold

A 97-percent female college has been assailed by student activists who claim the school, despite a near-total lack of men, has become a center of “rape culture” because it engages in business with the family members of a rapist.

St. Catherine University only accepts women at the undergraduate level, and is run by an order of celibate Catholic nuns. Nevertheless, some students argue the school is a stronghold of “rape culture,” a set of rules and cultural expectations that allegedly make sexual assault more common.

The controversy driving these allegations started June 10, when St. Catherine hosted a women’s leadership seminar put together by Heartland Inc. Heartland has held a workshop at St. Catherine every year since 2012. The issue is that Heartland’s founders, Craig and Patricia Neal, have a son, Alec, who is currently serving a 12-year prison sentence for raping his ex-girlfriend at knifepoint.

During the seminar, a 27-year-old woman named Sarah Super, Alec’s victim, led a small protest outside. Super told the Minneapolis Star-Tribune she was upset that the Neals had organized a letter-writing campaign on Alec’s behalf prior to his sentencing, in an effort to help him get a more lenient sentence. Super argued that any support offered by the Neals on behalf of their son was wrong, and that their business should be boycotted in response.

At first, St. Catherine tried to make an appeal to Catholic values, saying that while they had ample sympathy for Super, they should also show mercy towards the Neal family.

“Our St. Catherine values of compassion and mercy must extend first, of course, to the victim and her family, but also to the family of the offender and even to the offender himself,” the school’s first statement said.

This statement only outraged Super and her supporters, though, who accused the school of effectively championing rape and having more sympathy for Alec than for his victim.

“It felt like they were giving more compassion to the rapist, in all honesty,” student Halimat Alawode told the Star-Tribune.

Their outrage prompted another statement from the school that completely reversed its earlier plea for mercy.

“In light of recent events, we have discontinued our association with Heartland Circle while we evaluate St. Catherine’s policies and criteria for partnering with external organizations,” the statement from college president Sister Andrea Lee says.

Even this wasn’t enough to satisfy protesters, though. On the protesters’ Facebook group, activist Maddie Harrison said the school had to take many extra steps, including setting up a committee to investigate rape culture on campus, before they would be satisfied.

As a result, activists held a second protest Monday that attracted about two dozen students, who carried signs bearing slogans such as “Rape culture is here” and  “Stop Raping Us!”

The Neals, for their part, said they are “saddened” by the school’s decision. “As longtime nonviolence advocates, we abhor and condemn all criminal violence, including that perpetrated by our son,” they said in a statement.


UK School bans packed lunches claiming parents are filling their children's boxes with unhealthy biscuits and McDonald's chips

A school has banned young children from bringing in packed lunches because of the 'unhealthy' food packed by their parents.

Rosemarie Jones, headteacher at St Mary Magdalene Catholic Primary School in Milton Keynes, has introduced the new policy for infant school pupils after claiming parents are sending children to school with 'chocolate, biscuits and cold McDonald's chips'.

Now children aged four-to-seven are subject to a school meals only rule after governors backed the move.

Under the government's Universal Infant Free School Meals scheme, the youngsters qualify for free lunches - regardless of parents' income.

Mrs Jones sent a letter home on Tuesday to explain the new rule, which prompted criticism from some parents who said the school was 'taking away their children's freedom of choice'.

One parent, who would not be named, said: 'My child won't eat anything if they can't have their packed lunch from home. This rule is unfair.'

But Mrs Jones insists the school is acting in the best interests of its younger pupils. She said: 'We have done this for very positive reasons because it is better for the children's health to have a nutritious meal. And, of course, it is free, saving parents £485 a year.'

The head added the school also had a problem storing lunchboxes and those full of sticky and sweet offerings were attracting ants.

She said: 'Many children bring unacceptable packed lunches, for example two chocolate bars and a yoghurt or cold chips and sausage or a packet of biscuits and crisps.

'We've even seen children with a cold McDonald's meal in their lunchbox. How can this be healthy?'

The school, which was rated outstanding by Ofsted, uses nationwide catering company Chartwells to supply cook and chill meals, which are ordered online a week in advance by parents.

'We have a range of hot meals but if children don't like them they can order a packed lunch through Chartwells,' said Mrs Jones. 'This will be balanced and nutritious and consist of a sandwich or wrap, yoghurt, a piece of fruit and a drink.'

The lunchbox ban only applies to children in reception to Year 2. Children in Years 3 to 6 will be allowed to bring lunches from home as usual.


Contentious Education Reform in Mexico in the Spotlight as Labor Unrest Continues

A newly released study says Mexico needs to shift the focus of education reform urgently from primary to secondary schools and higher education, as the government wages a pitched battle with teachers and unionists who blocked highways and occupied buildings in ongoing protests against reforms passed in 2013.

The reforms, aimed at breaking the national union’s iron grip on teacher hiring and imposing measures to evaluate teacher performance, now face a new challenge as the government ratchets back spending on education for the first time in 10 years, according to Fiorentina Garcia, an investigator with the think tank CIEP.

A 1.8 percent reduction in spending this year may be a sign of more cuts to come as the government faces the impact of lower oil revenues, pressure on the value of the peso and shifts in priorities towards infrastructure and social spending, she said.

The government had increased education spending by 29 percent over the past decade.

A CIEP study released Tuesday found that Mexico spends 15 percent of the government’s total budget on education – more than any other single item. Some 97 percent of all education spending goes to primary schooling, and 87% of that is spent on teachers’ salaries alone.

Less than 1 percent of the total government education budget is spent on higher education, with just 1.3 percent spent at high schools, shortchanging young Mexicans, Fiorentina said. Some 30 percent of Mexicans aged 15-24 do not work or study and only 29 percent are enrolled in public schools.

“Mexico has to transition from focusing only on primary school to secondary and higher education,” she said.

The lower levels of enrollment in higher education will cost the government in lost tax revenues, Fiorentina said, noting that for every year of higher education students can expect a 20 percent increase in salary compared to their peers with just a high school education.

According to Sergio Cardenas, a professor and researcher with the Mexican think tank CIDA, a recent government study tied lower higher education enrollments to a lack of space at institutions of higher learning and insufficient family resources needed to support students at university.

The government, Cardenas said, actually spends more per pupil per capita on higher education than it does on primary or secondary education, but because higher-ed students tend to come from families with more resources, the spending favors students with more means.

He agreed current education reforms are not targeting higher education, and said union and teacher resistance is “predictable” given unions’ loss of hiring controls, and a shortage of government resources needed to enact reforms and improve teacher training.

Ongoing teacher protests in several states may be due to the fact that those states haven’t been distributing the resources needed to fund the reforms required by federal law, he said.

Mexico’s biggest challenge is getting teachers to back the reform effort, Cardenas noted, adding it was “way too early” to judge if reforms are working.

This week, protestors occupied banks and department stores and stopped trains in the state of Michoacán. They blocked highways at 14 different points in Oaxaca state, and thousands of teachers demonstrated in Guerrero state, demanding the release of two union leaders arrested by the government, El Universal reported.

On Wednesday, the Mexico City newspaper Reforma revealed new allegations of the diversion of union funds to bank accounts tied to the controversial National Education Workers’ Union boss Esther Gordillo.

After running the union for more than 20 years, Gordillo was arrested in 2013 while sitting in a private jet on an airport tarmac in Toluca, and convicted on organized crime and corruption charges.


Common Core Does Not Prepare Students for College, New Report Finds

A recently released report confirms what Common Core critics have suspected all along: Common Core State Standards do not adequately prepare students for college-level work.

The ACT report finds many concerning shortcomings in the Common Core State Standards, which have been adopted by most states. Notably, the report reveals:

* “While secondary teachers may be focusing on source-based writing [essays written about source-based documents], as emphasized in the Common Core, college instructors appear to value the ability to generate sound ideas more than some key features of source-based writing.

* “Some early elementary teachers are still teaching certain math topics omitted from the Common Core standards, perhaps based on the needs—real or perceived—of students entering their classrooms.

* “In addition, many mathematics teachers in grades 4–7 report including certain topics relevant in STEM coursework in their curricula at grades earlier than they appear in the Common Core.”

Teachers who must adjust their curriculum to fit Common Core aligned state tests now find themselves in a bind. As the report finds, the Common Core math standards do not adequately provide a child with the skills needed to succeed in the classroom, forcing teachers to add on extra material to their limited instruction time.

Additionally, high school English teachers must now emphasize material that leaves students lacking in original thought and analytical skills, according to many college professors. For example, only 18 percent of college professors surveyed rated their students as prepared to distinguish between opinion, fact, and reasoned judgement—a skill determined to be important for college-level work.

The “one-size-fits-all” national standards are underserving American children. It is nearly impossible, and does a great disservice to future generations, to demand uniformity and place restrictions on the classroom that assumes one “best practice.”

Each child’s unique abilities require variation in teaching styles and curriculums. Common Core limits a parent’s say in their child’s curriculum, making the possibility of an education suited to his needs a near impossibility. Unfortunately, this report indicates that in an attempt to create uniform standards for achievement, Common Core fails to create the building blocks necessary to prepare aspiring students for college-level work.

The Heritage Foundation’s Lindsey Burke and Jennifer Marshall predicted the unintended consequences of Common Core in 2010:

"It is unclear that national standards would establish a target of excellence rather than standardization, a uniform tendency toward mediocrity and information that is more useful to bureaucrats who distribute funding than it is to parents who are seeking to direct their children’s education.

Education isn’t mentioned in the U.S. Constitution; it is quintessentially a state and local issue. Common Core forces uniformity on America’s ingenious system of federalism—which decentralizes power and allows different, but finely attuned policies to serve communities.

Yet initiatives like Common Core—and other efforts before it to establish national standards and tests—reinforce a misalignment of power and incentives, forcing states to respond to the demands of bureaucrats in Washington, D.C., instead of being responsive to the needs of families."

Correcting that misalignment will come by infusing education choice throughout K-12 education, by ensuring every child can access options like vouchers, tuition tax credit scholarships, and education savings accounts in order to be able to finance education options that fit their unique learning needs.

Instead of more centralization, which further removes parents from the decision-making process, states should fully exit Common Core and work to create choices for every family. Restoring parental control of education is essential to establishing truly high standards.


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