Sunday, August 21, 2016

Professor Criticized for Allegedly Talking about God in Ethics Class

News Channel 3 in Madison, Wisconsin is reporting that a professor at Madison Area Technical College is under investigation for allegedly talking about God in class.

Velena Jones reports that student Dan Roberts complained when professor Hien Van Dong allegedly encouraged him to have "a personal relationship with a living God." Van Dong teaches a three-credit course, "Leadership Principles, Practices and Contemporary Ethical Implications to Develop the Leader within You."

"Our text mentioned God a lot," Roberts said. "They mentioned prayer a lot. They mentioned taking a personal responsibility but needing a higher power to succeed."

Madison College is not a private university but a community college. Roberts is a former Christian turned atheist. The three-credit course was designed to encourage ethical thinking and practices, but Roberts complained that the course promoted Christianity, including one of the texts used, "Sometimes You Win, Sometimes Your Learn" by John C. Maxwell, who is an evangelical Christian.

"Having a text that pushes that having a higher power is necessary makes anyone who does not have a higher power, thinking that maybe they cannot be ethical, and that’s simply not true and that is very dismissive and uncomfortable," Roberts said. He added that he emailed the instructor with his concerns and Van Dong allegedly replied, "I discovered it isn’t about do’s and don’ts, it is about a personal relationship with a living God."

Madison College Provost Turina Bakken told News Channel 3 that the college is investigating the claims. "We will take any and all appropriate action of the learning environment for our students but also to protect our faculty."

She added, "To this point we have one letter that’s representing the experiences of one student, and we will have to let the process play out and do the right thing from there both for the faculty and the student to ensure that going forwards we put forward the most comfortable, effective learning experiences that we can."

Bakken also said Van Dong is a respected instructor with 16 years of experience at the college.


Middle-class parents need to accept that some children are just too thick for private school

By HARRY MOUNT, an extremely well-connected Briton

A friend of mine, a housemistress at a leading public [independent] school, loves her job: the teaching; the big, rent-free Georgian house; the subsidised education for her daughters.

There are only two drawbacks. In the evenings, she feels like an undercover cop, listening for sounds of naughtiness from the 60 girls who live on the other side of her sitting room wall.

And then there are the evening phone calls – when pushy parents ring up and ask her why young Caroline did so badly in her exams.

What my friend can never say is: "I'm afraid Caroline's just a bit of a thicko." That's not the answer the parents are paying £25,000 a year to hear.

My friend won't be surprised by the story of Scott Craddock, who is suing Abbotsholme School in Staffordshire for the £125,000 he paid for his son's education after the boy got just one GCSE - a grade C in science.

"David was disheartened when he got his results," Scott Craddock said of his son: "He said, 'You spent all that money on my education and I walk away with one GCSE.'"

I don't wish to be rude to David Craddock but he doesn't sound like the sharpest knife in the box. Not just because of his GCSE results – or result – but also because of his expectation that money will buy academic success; the same expectation parents have at my friend's school.

Yes, private schools do, on the whole, get better results than state schools – although Abbotsholme's GCSE results for the summer of 2015 were lower than the national average, with just 60 per cent of pupils receiving five grades between A* and C.

But Master Craddock clearly fell way below even Abbotsholme's average results. In every school in the country, there will always be pupils that literally don't make the grade.

In the row about Theresa May reviving grammar schools, critics attack the ruthlessness of the 11-plus exams. Private schools are even more ruthless. At every stage of my private education, we were subjected to a brutal survival of the cleverest routine.

Friends from my nursery school didn't get into my prep school. Friends from my prep school didn't get into Westminster, my public school. Friends from Westminster didn't get into Oxbridge. All my privileged contemporaries had parents who were paying a fortune for their children to succeed – and often to fail.

But, 25 years ago, when privately-educated children failed, their parents accepted that it was their children's fault, not the schools'. When my housemistress friend started teaching in 1992, she never got those calls from angry parents of dim children.

Today, those parents have been brought up in the All Must Have Prizes generation. They also expect good service everywhere else for their money – in restaurants, hotels and coffee shops. So why shouldn't money buy straight A grades, too? In 2010, Gary Lineker took this attitude, when his son, George, failed to achieve three Bs at Charterhouse, to get into Manchester University.

Lineker blamed the school for treating his son like a guinea pig by using the Cambridge Pre-U exams. Poor George, his father said, had "been marked much harder" as a result. It didn't occur to him that his son just hadn't done as well as his contemporaries. Or, God forbid, wasn't as bright.

And, meanwhile, the children – Generation Snowflake, as they have been called – have been mollycoddled and patronised throughout their younger days. Teachers, like my friend, are no longer able to be brutally honest about their shortcomings. If it's anyone's fault, it's the teachers', not the pupils. When I taught at a London university, I was told that it was my fault there was such a gap between the top undergraduates' results and the bottom undergraduates'.

At private schools in particular, teachers are expected to behave more and more like pliant instruments of parents' demands, rather than independent instructors of their children.

My housemistress friend doesn't just field those evening calls. She also has to have the parents to dinner twice a year to assure them how brilliant their children are, no matter how dim they might actually be. No wonder those parents are shocked when the GCSE results come through the letterbox, riddled with Cs and Ds.

It all makes for a perfect storm of entitlement, high expectation and babyish anger when that expectation isn't matched by underperforming brains.

If exams are to mean anything, all mustn't have prizes, however much money has been spent on their education.


Australian High School students propagandized about "alternative" sexual behaviour

A new sex education guide being promoted by the research institute behind the Safe Schools program provides ­students with explicit descriptions of more than a dozen sexual activities.

La Trobe University’s Australian Research Centre in Sex, Health and Society this month launched Transmission, a film with related educational activities that introduces its Year 10 audience to a range of highly sexualised terms that have not previously been canvassed in sex education curriculums.

The resource is written by the centre’s Pamela Blackman, a former Department of Education and Training employee who has written or consulted on a range of sex education resources endorsed by the Victorian government.

While the resource is centred on a film about HIV and sexually transmitted infections which was partly funded with a $15,200 grant from the Lord Mayor’s Charitable Foundation, one of the accompanying activities focuses on sexual pleasure.

In one classroom activity, students are asked to consider a list of 20 ways of “engaging in sexual pleasure” to determine which ­activities they “think might be okay”. They are then asked to sort each sex act by their level of ­comfort.

Ms Blackman acknowledges in the explanatory notes that the exercise might prove confronting for teachers and students.

“Sexual activity, for those ready to engage in it, should be a good experience, not an experience full of fear and guilt,” she writes. “I think it’s important to recognise that sexual activity is pleasurable as well as normal.”

A focus on pleasure in addition to risk appears to be an emerging development in sex education.

As is the widespread acceptance that not all students identify as heterosexual.

Research released by the University of South Australia earlier this year revealed that students wanted less repetition of the ­biological aspects of human sexuality in their sex education classes and more “explicit and accurate” information about intimacy, sexual pleasure and love.

The report, “It is not all About Sex: Young people’s views about sexuality and relationship education’’, claimed that boys in ­particular wanted more information about how to have sex, different types of sexual acts and pornog­raphy.

Those findings contrast ­heavily with research done by the La Trobe centre that surveyed secondary school teachers on the same topic. The accompanying report, co-written by Ms Blackman and ­released in 2011, found that the pleasure of sexual behaviour was taught by less than half the teachers surveyed.

It pointed out that most sex education classes focused on fact-based topics around reproduction, birth control, HIV/STIs, safe sex as well as managing peer pressure, forming healthy relationships and decision-making around sexual activity. Abstinence remains a key theme.

The explicit nature of the centre’s latest resource has been questioned by Australian Catholic University’s senior research fellow Kevin Donnelly.

Among the handouts provided to students is a list of sexual terms including “analingus”, also known as “rimming” and “scissoring”.

“Penetrative sex” is ­described as “when a penis or ­object is inserted into the vagina or anus”.

“Most parents and teachers would feel they’ve really gone overboard with this,” Dr Don­nelly said.

“The reality is the pressure is on young people to be sexually explicit and adventurous already but that doesn’t mean we have to endorse that by what we teach.”

Family Voice Australia ­national policy officer Damian Wyld said that many 15 and 16-year-olds had not engaged in sexual activity and classroom activities like this could be ­distressing.

“The Andrews government should place parents’ minds at ease by immediately ruling out any use of this program,’’ he said.

A spokeswoman for Victorian Education Minister James ­Merlino would not comment on whether there were plans to ­endorse the resource, saying only that it was not part of the department’s resources.

The La Trobe centre and Ms Blackman declined to comment.


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