Friday, November 04, 2016

Sesame Street Preaches Trans Politics to Parents

Watching television with your children is a great way to learn about their likes and dislikes and what resonates with them. For example, the other day my son wasn’t feeling so great, so I declared it a pajama day. After some rather unenthusiastic play, he grabbed his favorite Curious George stuffed animal and headed for the couch, his way of telling me he just wanted to zone out and cuddle. I complied and we tuned into Sesame Street.

My son quickly went from relaxed to confused. His brow furrowed as a series of puppets including Elmo, Abby, Cookie Monster and Grover got into an argument over how boys and girls could play dress-up. The narrative, a dress-up club on Sesame Street, was quickly lost amidst the puppets talking over one another about how boys and girls should play dress-up. One puppet kept screaming that girls needed to be princesses while boys needed to be superheroes. Grover and Elmo suddenly wanted to play tea party and then, Cookie Monster burst onto the scene in a tutu declaring himself to be a ballerina.

At that point my son was so confused and I was so irritated that I flipped over to an episode of Cat in the Hat I’d left on the DVR for a rainy day. Instantly he lit up, sat up and grew ensconced in the narrative. He was so excited about Nick and Sally’s adventure with the Cat to study amoebas in drops of water that he soon slid off my lap to get closer to the TV, smile and dance along.

There are a number of lessons to glean from this TV viewing experience. Firstly, even at 16 months old a child can follow a narrative. When the basic story is lost, the child quickly loses interest. In their zeal to infuse gender politics into a story about playing dress-up, Sesame Street lost the attention of their target audience. Kids don’t want to be told what to do. They want to be shown how it’s done.

Secondly, more children, boys especially, are going to be drawn away from the liberal arts and into the world of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math). Boys are practical, logical learners. Shows like the Cat in the Hat and Curious George use a logical narrative structure that involves problem solving with a STEM-related topic. While the girls on Sesame Street argue over what it means to be a girl, the boys will be busy with the Cat in the Hat exploring single-cell organisms, or working with Curious George to build an igloo at the farm. Critical, creative thinking in order to solve real-world problems using science, technology, engineering, and math. How logical is that?

The third lesson I learned is the most frightening to me. Not only are the liberal arts being stolen by this gender and sexuality obsession, but now imagination is as well. The goal of the Sesame Street dress-up club is to dress up in order to pretend fantasies. Telling girls they can be superheroes and boys that they can enjoy tea parties is nothing new or remarkable. Pick up a comic book and you’ll find a female superhero. Look around the world and you’ll find plenty of men drinking tea. But, when have you ever seen a male ballet costume featuring a tutu?

The history of dance has taught us that men can be dancers, even on a professional level, and still embrace their masculinity. Moreover, men do not need to cross-dress in order to dance, because dancing is not an engendered talent. By putting Cookie Monster in a tutu, Sesame Street turned dressing up into cross-dressing. And as happens often in the realm of gender and sexuality studies, male sexuality became a direct target for attack and feminization. Where is the freedom of imagination in that?

The overarching lesson of dress-up club on Sesame Street is that Children’s Television Workshop has clearly lost touch with its target audience. Kids are going to dress up however they want without any help or intervention from any media outlet. Contrary to popular opinion, children do have minds of their own. The real target audience of this episode is parents. Hence the TV Guide review of this particular episode ends with, “Though Sesame Street is clearly aimed at children, this is an episode that some adults could benefit from seeing as well.” Why? Because retailers are suddenly making toy aisles gender-neutral, or because politicians and school boards are passing laws against gender-oriented bathrooms? In other words, Sesame Street doesn’t really care about your kid’s imagination at all. They care about your level of political correctness as a parent. They care that you’re raising your child, not to think critically or creatively, but to go with society’s flow.


Rote learning of facts helps children become better decision makers as adults

It may not be the most fun method but rote learning for children will help them become better decision makers in the long run according to one expert.

Dr Helen Abadzi, a specialist in cognitive psychology and neuroscience, said that the method, which involves learning by repetition, commits knowledge to memory.

This in turn frees up the brain for more complex calculations - an important factor when it comes to decision making.

While speaking at a seminar for Cambridge Assessment, Dr Abadzi argued that 'traditional method' has been used for centuries and is a good indication that it works.

She said: '"Traditional" means we’ve been doing it for two, three, five centuries - it’s actually a good indication that it works because our memory system can do this stuff.

'People may not like methods like direct instruction - "repeat after me" - but they help students remember over the long term. A class of children sitting and listening is viewed as a negative thing, yet lecturing is highly effective for brief periods.'

The education specialist, who's currently based at the University of Texas at Arlington, said that people were 'prisoners to their working memory' and it's this working memory that helps them come to the right decisions.

In most cases, people can only fit a few facts into their working memory and these last for 12 seconds at the most according her presentation.

The facts in play will determine the decisions that are made - the faster people are able to process the information, the faster they're able to come to the correct decision.

However, people are able to 'escape the working memory prison through practice'.

Through rote learning, children are taught, for example, the times table by repetition and commit these to memory.

Home work and text books will all contribute towards the effectiveness of rote learning.

In the long run, instead of using their working memory to calculate numbers each time, they are able to automatically retrieve these figures from their long term memory.

This in turn frees up their brain for the more the complex calculations needed for decision making.

What's more, according to Dr Abadzi, 'those who practiced the most forget the least over time'.

In the same lecture, Dr Abadzi also criticised creative education proponents like Sir Ken Robinson and said that multi-tasking and technology are both new threats to education for children today.


How to Innovate in K-12 Education

Texans can boast about their state’s superior economic performance and business climate—they’re usually ranked among the top ten in the nation—but when it comes to educational innovation, the Lone Star State is a laggard, not a leader. If public opinion is any indication, however, things may quickly improve: A recent survey by EdChoice found that 71 percent of Texans polled support adopting a new policy tool for K-12 education—Educational Savings Accounts.

Texans’ support for ESAs may stem partly from their success in Arizona, where surveys of ESA-participating parents found that 100 percent reported they are “satisfied” or “very satisfied” with their state’s program. This popularity shouldn’t be surprising, according to Independent Institute Research Fellow Vicki E. Alger. While ESA programs vary by state—five states have enacted them, so far—all share an essential ingredient: They enable any parent to supplement their child’s education with additional funds, not simply the well-to-do, Alger explains.

ESA funds typically amount to some portion of the cost of a student in a public school, and they can be spent only on approved education-related services, including distance learning courses, tutoring services, educational therapies from accredited and licensed therapists, limited transportation services, tests, books, curricula, tuition and fees for public schools or any accredited private school. Funds not used in one year can be rolled over for future education expenses, including college tuition. Thus, a system of universal ESAs, not merely for a small segment of the public school population, can be a game-changer, Alger explains: It would vastly increase the supply of educational providers and foster more innovation and higher quality in education.


Thursday, November 03, 2016

Singapore teaching of maths IS better: Pupils taught using the technique shot ahead of their peers

Children make more progress in maths when teachers use Singapore-style methods, according to an Oxford study.

Researchers found pupils shot ahead of their peers when taught the traditional Asian way, which focuses on mastering core principles as 'building blocks'.

The 'mastery' method introduces core concepts, such as times tables, addition and subtraction, gradually until learners are confident.

Ideas are broken down into small steps, which means using real life objects to illustrate a point, before moving on to drawings and then concepts.

It is a departure from trendy, 'child-centred' methods which favour games and memorising facts. Experts have long warned such lessons foster only a shallow understanding of maths.

The Oxford University study comes amid a drive to bring Singapore-style teaching to Britain's schools to boost numeracy.

Britain came 26th in the latest international rankings for teenage numeracy by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, while Singapore came second.

Researchers monitored pupils learning with Inspire Maths, a Singapore-style textbook being trialled in schools by the Department for Education.

The Singapore method begins by allowing pupils to gain confidence with maths by playing with objects or pictures.

There is then a second stage of drawing pictures representing the objects, and only later do they gradually start to add numbers to their drawings. By contrast, many pupils in Britain are introduced to both maths and number symbols at once.

But figures and signs are often difficult for children to understand and many lose confidence in the classroom.

Lead author James Hall said: 'We found positive evidence that Inspire Maths benefited children's maths achievement.

'This boost to progress was surprising because pupils had only been in a classroom setting for a short period'.

The study involved two groups of children aged five to six – a total of 550 – learning maths in 12 English schools in 2015 to 2016.

The first group learned maths as normal for the first term, and then in the second term switched to using the Inspire Maths textbook.

The second group used the textbook for both terms, and made better overall progress than the first group.

Inspire Maths is published by Oxford University Press and is based on My Pals are Here, which is used in most Singaporean primary schools.

In July, schools minister Nick Gibb announced £41million over four years to fund a network of 'mastery specialist teachers'.

Jill Cornish, maths director at OUP, said: 'We now have clear evidence that a mastery approach can make a real difference to maths classrooms, and we support the Government's moves to support it'.

It comes six years after Michael Gove claimed schools in the Far East were putting Britain's to shame.

In 2010 the then education secretary said improvements must be made if our schools were to compete with nations such as China and Singapore.


Most college students think America invented slavery, professor finds

For 11 years, Professor Duke Pesta gave quizzes to his students at the beginning of the school year to test their knowledge on basic facts about American history and Western culture.

The most surprising result from his 11-year experiment? Students’ overwhelming belief that slavery began in the United States and was almost exclusively an American phenomenon, he said.

“Most of my students could not tell me anything meaningful about slavery outside of America,” Pesta told The College Fix. “They are convinced that slavery was an American problem that more or less ended with the Civil War, and they are very fuzzy about the history of slavery prior to the Colonial era. Their entire education about slavery was confined to America.”

Pesta, currently an associate professor of English at the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh, has taught the gamut of Western literature—from the Classics to the modern—at seven different universities, ranging from large research institutions to small liberal arts colleges to branch campuses. He said he has given the quizzes to students at Purdue University, University of Tennessee Martin, Ursinus College, Oklahoma State University, and University of Wisconsin Oshkosh.

The origin of these quizzes, which Pesta calls “cultural literacy markers,” was his increasing discomfort with gaps in his students’ foundational knowledge.

“They came to college without the basic rudiments of American history or Western culture and their reading level was pretty low,” Pesta told The Fix.

Before even distributing the syllabus for his courses, Pesta administered his short quizzes with basic questions about American history, economics and Western culture. For instance, the questions asked students to circle which of three historical figures was a president of the United States, or to name three slave-holding countries over the last 2,000 years, or define “capitalism” and “socialism” in one sentence each.

Often, more students connected Thomas Jefferson to slavery than could identify him as president, according to Pesta. On one quiz, 29 out of 32 students responding knew that Jefferson owned slaves, but only three out of the 32 correctly identified him as president. Interestingly, more students— six of 32—actually believed Ben Franklin had been president.

Pesta said he believes these students were given an overwhelmingly negative view of American history in high school, perpetuated by scholars such as Howard Zinn in “A People’s History of the United States,” a frequently assigned textbook.

What’s more, he began to observe a shift in his students’ quiz responses in the early 2000s. Before that time, Pesta described his students as “often historically ignorant, but not politicized.” Since the early 2000s, Pesta has found that “many students come to college preprogrammed in certain ways.”

“They cannot tell you many historical facts or relate anything meaningful about historical biographies, but they are, however, stridently vocal about the corrupt nature of the Republic, about the wickedness of the founding fathers, and about the evils of free markets,” Pesta said. “Most alarmingly, they know nothing about the fraught history of Marxist ideology and communist governments over the last century, but often reductively define socialism as ‘fairness.’”

Pesta also noted that, early on, his students’ “blissful ignorance was accompanied by a basic humility about what they did not know.” But over time he said he increasingly saw “a sense of moral superiority in not knowing anything about our ‘racist and sexist’ history and our ‘biased’ institutions.”

“As we now see on campus,” Pesta said, “social justice warriors are arguing that even reading the great books of Western culture is at best a micro-aggression, and at worst an insidious form of cultural imperialism and indoctrination.”

Pesta, an outspoken critic of Common Core, said he believes that these attitudes will become more pronounced moving forward, due to Common Core architect David Coleman’s rewrite of Advanced Placement American and European history standards.

Pesta argues that Coleman, now president of the College Board, “has further politicized the teaching of history, reducing the story of Western culture to little more than a litany of crimes, exploitations, and genocides, while simultaneously whitewashing the history of ideologies like socialism and communism.”

Despite no longer giving the quizzes, Pesta told The Fix that he continues “to seek effective ways to teach students the literature of Western culture, which it is not only alien and complex, but often condemned by students before it is truly encountered.”

“We must absolutely teach those areas where Western culture has fallen short, but always with the recognition that such criticism is possible because of the freedoms and advantages offered by Western culture,” he said.


No-offence culture of American campuses hurts Australia too

A chap in America, let’s call him the Bernard Salt of Rhode Island, recently wrote a grumpy little letter to his local newspaper about the poor sartorial choices made by women of a certain age who wear yoga pants. Boom. The cult of taking offence reared up, offended women gathered in their yoga pants to protest, social media lit up and the organiser took to radio stations, expressing outrage over “Bernard’s” criticism of her choices. Sure enough, it made news across the globe, from the BBC to the ABC and The Sydney Morning Herald with nary a question asked about the ramifications of the growing predilection to take offence.

To be sure, America is the home of the modern-day propensity to find offence. If this was a cult called Scientology, progressives would be carefully deconstructing its concerning presence in modernity. But the cult of taking offence is a slyer virus because it is largely unchecked. And it’s running rife on university campuses, where it threatens to do the most damage.

As Caitlin Flanagan wrote last year in The Atlantic, campus students who race to find offence are the inheritors of three decades of identity politics. In the lead up to Halloween this week, student fraternity leaders at Tufts University sent an email warning fraternity members not to wear: “inappropriate, offensive, or appropriative costumes”, or “outfits relating to tragedy, controversy or acts of violence”, or costumes that appropriate cultures or “reproduce stereotypes on race, gender, sexuality, immigrant, or socio-economic status”. Why? Because the dean of student affairs at Tufts warned of university and police investigations and the “wide gamut of disciplinary sanctions” if students engage in actions that “make others in our community feel threatened or unsafe, or who direct conduct towards others that is offensive or discriminatory”.

Indiana University’s Affirmative Action Office found a student guilty for reading Notre Dame v The Klan, a book that pays tribute to student opposition to the Ku Klux Klan, because a student was offended by the book’s cover. Oberlin College in Ohio released a list of areas that demand trigger warnings, everything from classism to privilege. Students at other universities have demanded trigger warnings for The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, Mrs Dalloway by Virginia Woolf and Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice. And on it goes.

The cult of taking offence has become a determined game of what Jonathan Rauch has called the “offendedness sweepstakes”, and it keeps lowering the bar on what words, ideas and freethinking analysis are to be mowed down to protect the hold identity politics has over academe. Political correctness, the soul brother of identity politics, may have started out briefly in some quarters as a sweet-sounding search for a very civil utopia imbued with respect for minorities. Now it is the weapon of choice in the pursuit of power and control over ideas, words, books, teaching and much more.

Students seek “safe spaces” to avoid ideas they don’t like and even comedians are not welcome: Chris Rock no longer appears on campus because students are more interested in not offending anyone than sharp humour that may offend. Jerry Seinfeld has said he has been warned to stay off campuses too because they’re too PC.

And the result, best described by Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt, has been the coddling of the American mind where emotional reasoning now determines the limits of university debates. “A claim that someone’s words are ‘offensive’ is not just an expression of one’s own subjective feeling of offendedness,” they write. “It is, rather, a public charge that the speaker has done something objectively wrong” and must apologise or be punished for committing the offence.

This made-in-America phen­om­e­non is no longer an only-in-America one. Students studying archeology at University College London were recently given permission to leave class if they encounter “historical events that may be disturbing, even traumatising” — in other words, if they are freaked out by bones.

The coddling of the Australian student mind is under way too. Last week at the University of NSW a well-meaning lecturer teaching a class on 20th-century European history told his students he felt obliged to issue a trigger warning about material they would cover. At the same university last year, a lecturer teaching a course on terrorism and religion issued a trigger warning too. Isn’t the trigger in the title? Isn’t history replete with traumatic events?

The Australian asked UNSW, the University of Sydney, Melbourne University, Monash University, Queensland University, Queensland University of Technology and the Australian National University in Canberra about their policies, formal or informal, about trigger warnings. Those that responded issued bland comments about having no formal policy, with some offering statements such as this one from Melbourne University: “We encourage academics to be sensitive to student needs and some may choose to give warnings about confronting content.” Or this from Merlin Crossley, UNSW’s deputy vice-chancellor education: “Some of our academics and teaching teams may choose to provide trigger or content warnings depending on course materials and in some cases possible confidential sensitivities of their students.”

In 2017 Monash University will introduce what it calls “a radical and far-reaching reform of our education and pedagogy” involving an “optional inclusion of content warnings where appropriate”.

While Monash rejects any dilution of learning outcomes and multimedia introduces a new perspective, this is how the censoring of intellectual debate and the cosseting of student minds started in the US. Trigger warnings and safe spaces run counter to why universities exist: they are places where students should be encouraged to engage in open and robust debate, exercise free speech and test and challenge orthodoxies in the greater pursuit of knowledge and progress.

The anti-intellectual consequences of trigger warnings led the dean of students at the University of Chicago in August to send a welcome letter to each new student advising them that the university “does not support so-called trigger warnings”, it won’t cancel controversial speakers and “it does not condone the creation of intellectual ‘safe spaces’ where individuals can retreat from ideas and perspectives at odds with their own”.

The lack of intellectual diversity on American campuses has led scholars from the west coast to the east to form the Heterodox Academy, an advocacy group that seeks greater intellectual diversity on campus in the face of rigid ideological orthodoxies that discourage both academics and students from speaking freely.

Co-founded by Haidt, a social psychologist at New York University and author of The Righteous Mind — Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion, the push for greater intellectual diversity has earned praise from New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof. Under the headline “A confession of liberal intolerance”, Kristof wrote: “We progressives … we’re fine with people who don’t look like us, as long as they think like us.” That could be the motto for our national broadcaster, sections of Fairfax media and much of academe here in Australia.

After all, try finding the Australian equivalent of Chicago University’s letter for new students entering Australian universities. Go looking for an Australian version of the Heterodox Academy or even a refreshingly honest progressive such as Kristof. You would have a better chance of finding a Tasmanian tiger.

The Australian asked each of the above-mentioned Australian universities whether they support the letter from University of Chicago to its freshers advising them of the university’s commitment to freedom of expression and opposition to trigger warnings because students are “encouraged to speak, write, listen, challenge and learn without fear of censorship”. Our leading universities responded with thunderous silence about that apparently thorny question.

Indeed, there are few signs of Australian academics trying to ward off the American-born disease taking hold on our campuses. Quite the contrary. QUT vice-chancellor Peter Coaldrake told this newspaper last month that the university did not choose to be associated with the current public debate about section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act. That’s unfortunate because section 18C, which makes it unlawful for someone to act in a manner that is reasonably likely to “offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate” someone because of their race or ethnicity, is the legislative extension of trigger warnings that stifle open debate and infantilise students.

Praise then for psychology professor Joe Forgas from UNSW who wants to see all universities, not just those in Australia, follow the example of the University of Chicago and strongly and explicitly reaffirm their commitment to freedom of expression and the diversity of views. “We have always taken this freedom for granted, but in the current climate of rampant identity politics and political correctness, it is important to give these values added and explicit emphasis,” Forgas tells The Australian.

The psychology professor is also opposed to trigger warnings because any “device that is designed to impose ideological self-censorship on academics can be hugely costly in terms of imposing limits on free speech and making lecturers hesitant to cover important but controversial topics”.

Forgas is a rare breed of scholar in Australia. One of very few Australian members of the Heterodox Academy, Forgas says he joined because defending the completely free exchange of ideas “is absolutely essential not only for the proper functioning of universities, but also for the long-term health of liberal societies”.

That some groups or individuals might find the discussion of controversial topics unpleasant cannot be a justification for limiting free speech on campuses, he says: “Quite the contrary, it is especially those issues that are controversial that need to be openly discussed and argued about if they are ever to be resolved.”

The alternative is the closing of the student mind, those same minds entrusted to universities to become our next generation of intellectually curious and emotionally resilient thinkers. As Flanagan asked, perhaps rhetorically: “O Utopia. Why must your sweet governance always turn so quickly from the Edenic to the Stalinist?”

But back to the bloke from Rhode Island. He would have been safer staying away from yoga pants and challenging the practice of yoga as a case of cultural appropriation. For seven years, yoga teacher Jen Scharf taught a free yoga class for students with disabilities at Canada’s University of Ottawa.

Until last year, when she was effectively shamed into shutting down her classes because Ottawa University’s student union was concerned over the cultural appropriation behind practising yoga.

Where does it end? That depends on where we start when it comes to freedom of expression, and currently too many self-indulgent Westerners are starting in entirely the wrong place.


Wednesday, November 02, 2016

 It's Time for Marketing School

What does one do when the product one sells is inferior to that of the competition? Spend money on better marketing, of course — at least that’s what several school districts across the nation have chosen to do. Since 2004, national enrollment in charter schools has grown by 219% while over that same period public schools have seen enrollment decrease by 1%. This decrease has impacted the amount of funding public school districts receive — funding that’s tied to a school’s student population. For example, the Los Angeles Unified School District has lost roughly $100 million in funding as the district’s enrollment is down by about 14,000 students. Most of the decreased enrollment has been attributed to increased enrollment in Los Angeles area charter schools.

While union-driven public schools complain of the loss of funding due to the competition from charter schools, their solutions often amount to nothing more than putting lipstick on a pig. Jason Mandell, a spokesman for the California Charter Schools Association, defended charters, saying, “As more families choose charter schools, districts are being forced to look in the mirror and examine why many families aren’t satisfied with their schools. It’s healthy, because in many cases it’s forcing systems that have become complacent or stagnant to evolve and improve, in order to deliver the kind of high-quality education that families expect.”

Charter schools are continuing to prove that, given a true choice, parents will opt for the best educational opportunities available for their children. Forcing parents and their children to accept substandard schooling for the sake of financing teachers' unions is quite simply egregious and un-American.


Magical Thinking at the New York Post

The [New York] Post is normally a pretty sensible paper; but race denialism does to IQ what Sherman did to Georgia. Here is an actual quote from their October 19th editorial, quote:

"The core problem remains the ugly fact that the city's worst schools are overwhelmingly in minority neighborhoods"

End quote. Just savor that, and think about the mentality behind it.

We have fun at with what we call Magic Dirt Theory: the notion that differences in the overall performance of different races are caused by people just being in the wrong place.

Well, you see in that quote from the Post that it's not just Magic Dirt, it's Magic Bricks and Mortar, too. See, there are these bad schools. New York's PS 191, for example, has low test scores, and it shows up regularly on New York State's annual list of most dangerous schools.

What makes a school bad? It must be the construction materials it's made from. The bricks and mortar exude invisible, noxious vapors that make the students dull-witted and violent. What else could it be? And look: These bad schools are, quote, "overwhelmingly in minority neighborhoods." How evil is that — to put these bad schools with their poisonous bricks in neighborhoods full of blacks and Hispanics?

Why don't we build good schools in minority neighborhoods — schools made out of good construction materials, that don't make the kids dumb and unruly? Why does nobody think to do that? Don't black lives matter? Look at the injustice!

That is the actual mentality of race denialists. That's what they believe. It's magical thinking, at a level that would disgrace headhunters in the Amazon jungle.

The hypocrisy of those Upper West Side parents is, as I said, amusing and entertaining to watch. The willed self-enstupidation of those who shape public opinion is not amusing, not entertaining. It's depressing and alarming, and bodes nothing but ill for our civilization.


How the GAMSAT is Raising the Bar on Australian Talent in the Scientific Field

The GAMSAT was originally designed to aid the selection process for students looking to enrol in graduate-entry courses in Australia. Split into three sections, the test evaluates students on Reasoning in Humanities & Social Sciences, Written Communications, and Reasoning in Biological & Physical Sciences.

All of this will ultimately determine a candidate’s capacity to commence a high-level intellectual course in either a medical or health professional related field. By effectively serving as the gate-keeper for high level graduate-entry courses, the GAMSAT is maintaining a minimum level of competency across the board and acting as a quality control measure for the scientific field as a whole.

Mayank Nagory, owner of Acamedica Coaching, said that the GAMSAT ensures hopeful applicants are kept accountable and work hard to get into the courses they’re passionate about.

“Many students spend countless hours studying and expanding their knowledgebase in preparation for the GAMSAT,” said Mr Nagory. “Majority will seek out specialised preparation courses to make sure they’ve truly mastered their skills and filled any knowledge gaps.”

This, in turn, has a direct impact on the quality of applicants sitting for the exam and will inevitably lead to an influx of highly skilled, and qualified professionals in the health and medical industries.

GAMSAT is not exclusive to those who have previously completed scientific-based fields of study. Candidates who have attained academy excellence in social and humanities sciences are also encouraged to apply.

“While a certain level of knowledge on biological and physical sciences is a big component of the exam, it is not the only consideration candidates should be worried about,” said Mr Nagory. “Successful applicants also need to possess a firm grasp of critical thinking, problem solving and writing ability.”

The exam will ultimately evaluate candidates’ knowledge and skills acquired via prior learning and experience. Preparation for the exam typically involves individuals reading widely and seeking professional guidance from a specialised tutor who understands the level of preparation necessary to excel. 

“The exam can pose as a challenging endeavour for any prospective student, but it plays a big role in determining the overall standard for Australia’s science-based fields,” said Mr Nagory.

 Via email

Tuesday, November 01, 2016

Primary school pupils were 'forced to recite Muslim Allahu Akbar prayer', according to an angry father

The parent said his daughter was told to learn the Islamic prayer at the school in German ski resort Garmisch-Partenkirchen, where it has been reported residents are 'suffering' due to a migrant influx.

A handout allegedly given to pupils read: 'Oh Allah, how perfect you are and praise be to you. Blessed is your name, and exalted is your majesty. There is no God but you.'

The girl was given the prayer during an ethics lesson at the school, according to the Express. 

Headteacher Gisela Herl said the school would issue a statement within a week but did not confirm the incident. 

With migrants now outnumbering native children in many German schools, tensions have risen in Bavaria. 

Last week a woman told MailOnline she did not feel safe in the ski resort town.

The woman living in Garmisch-Partenkirchen hit by a 'major migrant crime wave' has told how she carries pepper spray for protection because she no longer feels safe.

Barbara Plant said she will not go out alone at night in the town amid concerns over 250 migrants being housed in a disused army complex in the town.

Many other women in the Bavarian resort also say they are worried for their safety in what the mayor called 'an explosive situation' after police blamed a record increase in crime on asylum seekers.

'When it gets dark I stay indoors,' said Ms Plant, 59, who showed her can of pepper spray to MailOnline.

'I don't feel safe walking out at night anymore and that is because of the refugees.

'I have not experienced anything, but seeing groups of young men just makes it uncomfortable.'

Many other women in the Bavarian resort, pictured, say they are worried for their safety in what the mayor called 'an explosive situation' after police blamed a record increase in crime on asylum seekers

Ms Plant, who has lived in the town for over 30 years, is not alone in her fears.

Such were the large number of calls from worried residents to the town's mayor Dr Sigrid Meierhofer she was compelled to write a letter pleading for help to try and calm what she called an 'explosive situation'.

The letter sent to Bavarian politician to Maria Els was leaked to the local press leaving town officials to launch a damage limitation exercise.

In the bombshell note Meierhofer said her town of 27,000 people had 'massive problems' caused by the presence of the migrants. She was worried about public order and security in the town and in a cry for help added 'this is not to be ignored or tolerated.'

Meierhofer and other regional officials held a crisis meeting this week where it was announced police would step up street patrols in a bid to reassure residents.

The rising fear of crime stems from young male asylum seekers, the majority of whom are from Africa, living in series of disused US army buildings known as the Abrams Complex on the outskirts of the town.

Many have been in the secure camp for over two months surviving on a £120-a-month handout from the German government while they await notification of their asylum status. In the past six weeks police have responded to more incidents in and around the refugee camp than in the last 12 months.

Ethnic rivalries, frustration and boredom among the asylum seekers has been blamed for the spate of violence.

Thomas Holzer, the town's deputy police chief, said: 'There are brawls, fights and property damage. The migrants occupy the best Wi-Fi places, chose who sleeps in what room'

He said troublemakers have been moved out to other refugee camps in southern Germany but many residents in Garmisch-Partenkirchen fear the situation is only going to get worse if more arrive.

The town, less than 80 miles from Munich, close to the base of Mt Zugspitze, Germany's highest mountain, is heavily dependent on tourism - with 400,000 holidaymakers arriving to ski and hike.

Many business owners have now expressed concern that visitors will be put off from staying in the town if it gains a reputation for trouble involving migrants.

Thomas Helmbrecht runs a guesthouse less than half a mile from the Abrams Complex where the asylum seekers are housed.

He said he fears tourism will be hit when people learn about the problems with the refugees.

The 70-year-old is scathing of German Chancellor Angela Merkel for opening the countries border and allowing the mass influx of foreigners. 'We are in a mess. This town now has problems that it did not have before,' he said.

'You hear people talking all the time about how they do not feel safe. I am glad the letter from the Mayor is out in the open as it means it will be discussed. The authorities can no longer keep it quiet.'

Mr Helmbrecht, who rents rooms for £45-a-night, predicted Chancellor Merkel will be ousted from power as a result of her migrant policy at next year's federal election.


Free College? Not So Much

A growing number of policy experts aren’t jumping on board Hillary Clinton’s tuition-free college plan for a number of significant reasons. Hillary estimates that her plan would give up to $500 billion more to public universities and colleges over the next decade. Clinton claims this is needed to combat growing student loan debt and the ever-increasing cost of higher education. (What she doesn’t say is that it’s a craven pander to Bernie Sanders Millennials.) While no one argues rising college tuition isn’t a concern, there is little evidence to suggest that making tuition free for most college students would lower costs or increase graduation rates.

Giving public colleges and universities more money doesn’t mean they will spend it wisely or efficiently. In fact, it only encourages greater tuition increases since it’ll be the government paying bill, not students. Free tuition also doesn’t produce higher graduation rates. Third Way, a center-left think tank, has reported that students with a modest amount of debt are more likely to earn a degree than those who have no debt. Neil McCluskey of the Cato Institute stated, “The less of your own money you spend on something, the less you tend to be focused on whether or not you’re doing the best, most efficient thing.”

There is also evidence that other countries offering free tuition have a lower percentage of students pursuing degrees in science, technology, engineering and math — all fields where jobs are expected to grow by 10% over the next decade.

Finally, what may be one of the most troubling aspects of Hillary’s plan is the estimated impact it would have on private colleges. Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce estimates that private school enrollment would decrease by 11%, whereas public school enrollment would increase by 16%. This could effectively put some private schools out of business, so once again the government would be engaged in picking winners and losers. Americans would be wise to stop Hillary from doing to higher education what Barack Obama and the Democrats did to health care.


Australia: Walgett Community College, the 'worst school in the state' gets a fresh start

Wotta lotta ... !  How are new buildings going to solve behaviour problems?  Politicians don't or won't understand Aboriginal behaviour problems so they do the one thing they can: Build things

A school with a long and troubled history of violence and disadvantage has been given a fresh start as students moved into brand-new $9.2 million school facilities.

A viral video of teenage girls fiercely attacking a classmate in a classroom last year brought infamy to the remote north-western NSW school, Walgett Community College.

Students at Walgett High say their school has seen a dramatic turnaround since a time when regular fights left them feeling unsafe.

There were crisis meetings with the minister and education bureaucrats, more student fights during their visits and police were stationed in the school, which found itself thrust reluctantly into the media spotlight.

This was after Education Minister Adrian Piccoli​ had declared it "the worst school in the state" over the ruinous state of its buildings and facilities.

It wasn't just that. Attendance rates were abysmal, violent fights were common, teachers were subject to verbal abuse by students and the high turnover of principals had left a leadership gap and sour relations with the mostly Indigenous population in the town.

The students were hurt by the video and the media coverage. "That was just embarrassing," year 9 student Abbey Ashby, 14, told Fairfax Media this week. "It was pretty sad. It just made Walgett look bad."

But the school community celebrated a rare bright spot this week as they moved into brand new facilities built by the Department of Education under its Connected Communities Strategy, after what department officials say has been a stabilising year under new executive principal Karen McKinnon.

Year 9 student Raylene Kennedy, 14, said "It's better than how it used to be, it's safer. The learning, it's getting better. Nobody used to feel safe, 'cos there used to be so many fights. But now there's none."

The students are still the same, she adds, but they're behaving better.

Abbey, who wants to study nursing at university when she finishes school, said the new buildings were a major improvement on the old school. "It's just more like a learning space, [compared with] over there. You felt real crowded in."

The executive principal Karen McKinnon, who took over in October 2015, is being credited by the department for turning things around
in the school. She has worked in several remote and Indigenous schools, mainly in Queensland and the Northern Territory.

Making the school safer, she said, is "about expectations and being consistent. There are rules and students know the rules and they know there are consequences if those rules aren't followed, and they know there's a consistency in the follow-up.

"So in this school, fighting has been reduced almost to none this year. That's because the consequences are out there, kids know, and they don't like to be suspended. In the end they recognise fighting isn't the answer."

The victories are small – Mrs McKinnon cites a year 10 student who was virtually never at school last year, who shows up "almost" every day now. They have been given the budget to hold a breakfast club every day at the primary school to make sure kids get a decent feed so they can concentrate in class. Staff say they are committed and feeling positive. And overall attendance rates have lifted a little from 68.9 per cent last year to an average of 72.5 per cent for 2016.

There are just 98 students enrolled in the gleaming new school which could house three or four times the number. But there are hopes for a resurgence. Walgett has a potential high school population of around 350 according to a census by the department last year, most of whom attend high schools elsewhere, driven away by the school's terrible reputation.

Signs of the old problems were scarce for Education Minister Adrian Piccoli's visit on Wednesday – his fifth as minister – but a groundsman let slip he'd been hard at work the night before scrubbing off graffiti and laying neat astroturf in the outdoor learning area.

New buildings can't fix everything, the minister conceded, but they make a difference. "I think you would walk in here as a student and feel like the system values you," he said.

"Aboriginal people on many occasions have been treated like rubbish and when you saw this school in its original state, given the vast majority of students were of Aboriginal background, you can't not make that conclusion.

"So here we've turned that around. I'd like to think that the students see this is an investment in them."

The minister said needs-based funding in NSW had seen an extra allocation of essential resources to schools like Walgett.

"They'd been able to get out of this crisis mode they've often been in. Lots of drama comes into these schools because of what's happening in children's homes and a lot of the time was taken just dealing with that stuff.

"A principal said to me recently we've been able to get out of our welfare mentality and into a teaching and learning mentality. That's music to my ears."

Trent Graham, the acting head of teaching and learning, said the staff saw the new buildings as an "positive opportunity to continue the change" they'd been working for. Time will tell if they can maintain it.

The intensive, individual approach is a lot of work for the teachers, he conceded. "But the kids are worth it."


Monday, October 31, 2016

Re-Segregating America, One University After Another

People of color demanding segregation makes a mockery of MLK's vision

“I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.” —Martin Luther King, Aug. 28, 1963

While Americans remain distracted by the election, college campuses across the nation are busy turning Martin Luther King’s vision on its head. Students are demanding to be segregated, and spineless administrators are accommodating them.

At California State University Los Angeles, the Black Student Union sent a letter to president William A. Covino asserting that black students “have been, and still are, consistently made the targets of racist attacks by fellow students, faculty, and administration.” Fourteen “DEMANDs” were listed, including “the creation and financial support of a CSLA housing space delegated for Black students.”

Spokesman Robert Lopez offered up Orwellian rationale for Cal State’s surrender, insisting the arrangement “focuses on academic excellence and learning experiences that are inclusive and non-discriminatory.”

At the University of Connecticut, there is a “living-learning” community reserved for black male students. That’s okay with administrators because it doesn’t take over the whole dormitory — it’s one of 20 learning groups “topically” categorized — and because, as UConn spokesperson Stephanie Reitz put it, at “many predominantly white institutions nationwide, elements of African-American culture are harder to find, which can make some students experience a sense of detachment from their universities.”

UC Davis boasts a similar living-learning center, and UC Berkeley established a “Person of Color Theme House” described as “the best way to meet the needs of students of color and low income students' needs.”

Students at NYU have demanded two separate spaces, one dedicated to “Students of Color” and the other for Queer Students as part of an initiative called the “NYU 2031 Plan.”

One website lists 79 colleges that have established a “Link to Demands” where students have ostensibly “risen up to demand an end to systemic and structural racism on campus.” It includes three national demands compiled by the Black Liberation Collective: black student and faculty representation on campus must be equal to or higher than black representation in the general population; free tuition must be provided for black and indigenous students; and divestment from prisons and investment in communities must be undertaken.

Northwestern University plans to quadruple the number of black student safe spaces on campus, based on a 149-page task force report titled “Black Student Experience.” It asserts black students feel “dissatisfied, exhausted and alienated on campus,” and recommends a “cultural audit” of the entire campus to ensure it is “representative of the diversity that exists within the University.”

In a Washington Post op-ed, Northwestern president Morton Schapiro revealed the intellectual bankruptcy that attends these segregationist impulses. Commenting on an incident where a group of black students in the cafeteria decided they didn’t want two white students joining them, he insisted the black students “had every right to enjoy their lunches in peace.” He elaborated, “There are plenty of times and places to engage in uncomfortable learning, but that wasn’t one of them. The white students, while well-meaning, didn’t have the right to unilaterally decide when uncomfortable learning would take place.”

One need only imagine a group of white students denying black students seats at a cafeteria lunch table to grasp the hypocrisy.

Unfortunately, at DePaul, the nation’s largest Catholic university, no imagination at all is necessary to see how deep the hypocritical rot goes. A group of pro-life students was told it could not display posters reading “Unborn Lives Matter” because doing so could upset the campus’s Black Lives Matter movement. “By our nature, we are committed to developing arguments and exploring important issues that can be steeped in controversy and, oftentimes, emotion,” explained University president Father Dennis Holtschneider in a letter to the College Republicans who had sponsored the effort. “Yet there will be times when some forms of speech challenge our grounding in Catholic and Vincentian values. When that happens, you will see us refuse to allow members of our community be subjected to bigotry that occurs under the cover of free speech.”

Apparently the BLM movement, whose entire existence is based on fomenting anti-police bigotry, remains a paragon of Catholic and Vincentian values, even as one of the central tenets of the Catholic faith is too provocative for First Amendment protection. Not to mention that abortion claims a hugely disproportionate number of black lives.

Harassment of white students is part of the mix as well. As part of a protest at Berkeley reiterating demands for spaces of color and transgender safe spaces, white students were prevented from crossing a campus bridge, while students of color were granted safe passage.

Until public scrutiny forced them to abandon their plans to provide two course sections exclusively for black students, Moraine Valley Community College’s assistant director of communications Jessica Crotty revealed the motivation behind such efforts, noting that students “feel comfortable and are more likely to open up because they’re with other students who are like them.”

Chicago Tribune reporter Ted Slowik adds a dollop of the victimist worldview to the mix, insisting that “our system of public education isn’t perfectly balanced,” meaning some students “simply aren’t as well prepared for college as others.” Thus “peer support” (read: segregation) is an acceptable tool for achieving academic success.

Maybe some students of color aren’t well prepared for college because in virtually every major city in America, public education has been controlled by Democrats for decades. Democrats completely aligned with unaccountable education unions promising “reform” for 50 years and failing to deliver. Unions so strong, the NAACP voted for a moratorium on charter schools, despite the reality they currently provide 700,000 black families with an escape route from the most disastrous public schools overwhelmingly located in minority neighborhoods.

Or maybe students are indoctrinated into the grievance culture long before they reach college. Like those “taught” by the thousands of Seattle teachers who wore Black Lives Matter T-shirts to an event organized to dramatize the inequality of public schools — run by those same teachers. Or like students at Middletown South and Toms River North who decided to honor police officers, EMTs, firemen and military at a football game — only to be sent a memo by the New Jersey chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union condemning the ceremony as a “frightening message” designed to “intimidate and ostracize people who express their views about systemic racism and social just [sic].”

“Americans need to understand that this otherwise fringe ideology and extremism is now thoroughly embedded throughout the education system, from pre-K through university,” asserts Alex Newman, co-author of “Crimes of the Educators: How Utopians are Using Government Schools to Destroy America’s Children.” Newman further points out this system has “harmed black Americans even more than others, although all Americans have suffered from it” even as he warns the cure is not more of the same “racialist, collectivist, leftist poison.”

It is racialist, collectivist, leftist poison that has engendered one of the great ironies of modern times: people of color demanding segregation, making an utter mockery of King’s work and his vision. It doesn’t get much more twisted than that.


Dumb American Youth

Walter E. Williams

Do you wonder why Sen. Bernie Sanders and his ideas are so popular among American college students? The answer is that they, like so many other young people who think they know it all, are really uninformed and ignorant. You say, “Williams, how dare you say that?! We’ve mortgaged our home to send our children to college.” Let’s start with the 2006 geographic literacy survey of youngsters between 18 and 24 years of age by National Geographic and Roper Public Affairs.

Less than half could identify New York and Ohio on a U.S. map. Sixty percent could not find Iraq or Saudi Arabia on a map of the Middle East, and three-quarters could not find Iran or Israel. In fact, 44 percent could not locate even one of those four countries. Youngsters who had taken a geography class didn’t fare much better. By the way, when I attended elementary school, during the 1940s, we were given blank U.S. maps, and our assignment was to write in the states. Today such an assignment might be deemed oppressive, if not racist.

According to a Philadelphia magazine article, the percentage of college grads who can read and interpret a food label has fallen from 40 to 30. They are six times likelier to know who won “American Idol” than they are to know the name of the speaker of the House. A high-school teacher in California handed out an assignment that required students to use a ruler. Not a single student knew how.

An article on News Forum for Lawyers titled “Study Finds College Students Remarkably Incompetent” cites a study done by the American Institutes for Research that revealed that over 75 percent of two-year college students and 50 percent of four-year college students were incapable of completing everyday tasks. About 20 percent of four-year college students demonstrated only basic mathematical ability, while a steeper 30 percent of two-year college students could not progress past elementary arithmetic. NBC News reported that Fortune 500 companies spend about $3 billion annually to train employees in “basic English.”

Reported by Just Facts, in 2009, the Pentagon estimated that 65 percent of 17- to 24-year-olds in the U.S. were unqualified for military service because of weak educational skills, poor physical fitness, illegal drug usage, medical conditions or criminal records. In January 2014, the commander of the U.S. Army Recruiting Command estimated this figure at 77.5 percent, and in June 2014, the Department of Defense estimated this figure at 71 percent.

A few weeks ago, my column discussed the dishonesty of college officials. Here’s more evidence: Among high-school students who graduated in 2014 and took the ACT college readiness exam, here’s how various racial/ethnic groups fared when it came to meeting the ACT’s college readiness benchmarks in at least three of the four subjects: Asians, 57 percent; whites, 49 percent; Hispanics, 23 percent; and blacks, 11 percent. However, the college rates of enrollment of these groups were: Asians, 80 percent; whites, 69 percent; Hispanics, 60 percent; and blacks, 57 percent. What I am labeling as dishonest, fraudulent or deceitful comes from the fact that many more students are admitted to college than are in fact college-ready. Admitting such students may satisfy the wants and financial interests of the higher education establishment, but whether it serves the interests of students, families, taxpayers and the nation is another question.

To accommodate less college-ready students, colleges must water down their curricula, lower standards and abandon traditional tools and topics. Emory University English professor Mark Bauerlein writes in his book “The Dumbest Generation”: Tradition “serves a crucial moral and intellectual function. … People who read Thucydides and Caesar on war, and Seneca and Ovid on love, are less inclined to construe passing fads as durable outlooks, to fall into the maelstrom of celebrity culture, to presume that the circumstances of their own life are worth a Web page.”


The British state’s silent war on religion

The authorities’ attack on religious schools is an affront to a tolerant society

It is increasingly clear that the UK government’s failing attempt to promote British values has inadvertently turned into a sanctimonious and intolerant campaign against traditionalist religious institutions. Since most of the targets of the British-values campaign are culturally isolated – Jehovah’s Witnesses, Hasidic Jews, fundamentalist Christians, radical Islamists – many otherwise sensitive observers have not picked up on what is a silent war against religion.

This unrestrained and insidious turn taken by the disoriented British-values campaign was exposed last month when it emerged that young Muslim children in one primary school were given a test to assess their predilection for radicalisation. The stated purpose of this intrusive Big Brother-style initiative was to ‘identify the initial seeds of radicalisation’. Judging by the questions posed, it appears that the marker for the precrime of radicalisation was the strength of infants’ feelings about the way of life of their families. To discover how pupils felt about their beliefs, the test asked them to indicate whether they agreed, disagreed or were unsure about the following statement: ‘I believe my religion is the only correct one.’ Any child agreeing with this statement was deemed to be in danger of becoming radicalised into anti-British values.

The sentiments underpinning this infant-radicalisation test also inform the work of Ofsted school inspectors, assorted government programmes and the outlook of the political establishment. From this elite perspective, those who believe that their religion is the truth contradict the unstated official version of British values – namely, that all religions are correct. According to the jargon of the day, an inclusive, non-judgemental and respectful attitude towards other people’s beliefs is mandatory for school children. This demand for non-judgemental respect implicitly negates the freedom of conscience of millions of ardent believers for one simple reason: many religions assume that only they possess the truth. For Christians, Jews and Muslims, the idea that all religions are correct makes little sense. Indeed, if all religions are ‘correct’, then living in accordance solely with one particular faith is absurd.

According to today’s official guidelines, religions are acceptable as long as their adherents don’t take them too seriously. If they do, then such religions violate what appears to have become a fundamental but unspoken British value – automatic respect for beliefs other than your own. Over the past year, numerous faith schools have been downgraded by Oftsted inspectors and criticised because, allegedly, their pupils did not demonstrate sufficient awareness and respect for the cultures of other people. What’s interesting is that this criticism was based not on concerns about how pupils felt about Britain, but on concerns about how they felt about other cultures and religions.

Uncritical and non-judgemental multiculturalism has become the goal of British-values education. It focuses on people’s attitudes to others rather than on people’s values as such. In reality, non-judgemental multiculturalism avoids engaging with normative statements of value. In the absence of having any actual values of its own, the political establishment prefers to restrain and police those who live their lives according to their values.

The British-values campaign obscures its intolerance of strong religious faith through euphemism and jargon. For example, last year, Ofsted deemed several schools run with a strong Christian ethos to be ‘inadequate’. Ofsted justified its decision on the grounds that these schools were ‘failing to teach respect for other faiths or developing pupils’ awareness and knowledge of communities different from their own’. What’s remarkable is that Ofsted is assessing the quality of a school according to political and social-engineering criteria, rather than educational criteria. Inspectors seem far less interested in the academic quality of children’s classroom experience than in the cultural and social ethos imbibed by pupils. So, last month, it was reported that in two Christian schools in north-east England, inspectors were asking 10-year-olds questions about lesbian sex and transgender issues. And because these schools were not trying to socialise their pupils into the latest fashionable cause promoted by the PSHE industry, they were judged as failures. One of the schools involved, Durham Free School, is facing closure, while the other, Grindon Hall, was placed in ‘special measures’ on the grounds that the children lacked tolerance towards ‘people of other faiths and culture’.

Statements like ‘developing pupils’ awareness and knowledge of other communities’ serve as a code for forcing pupils to embrace a secular cosmopolitan ethos. Unsurprisingly, many religious educational institutions – rightly or wrongly – regard cosmopolitan values and practices as a corrosive influence on their faith. Indeed, one reason why many parents send their children to a religious school is to insulate them from some of the values and cultural practices prevalent in mainstream society.

During the past year, Hasidic Jewish schools have been condemned because they failed to deal with sex-education in an acceptable manner. That, for many Hasidic Jews, discussing the topics on the sex-education curriculum would be a deeply disturbing experience appears to be irrelevant to the authorities. It is worth noting that despite Ofsted’s reservations about the failure of Yesodey Hatorah Senior Girls’ School in Stamford Hill to address sex education, it still decided to give it a ‘good’ rating. Ofsted’s decision immediately roused the wrath of the National Secular Society and the British Humanist Association. As far as they were concerned, the school’s ‘good’ rating was undeserved because it indicated it would continue to tell pupils to avoid certain stigmatised topics in exams, like homosexual relationships, evolution and social media.

Tolerance not respect

A tolerant, democratic society would recognise that schools run according to a religious ethos would find it difficult to discuss and teach many issues that secular teachers find unproblematic. A tolerant, democratic society would also recognise that religious schools are particularly sensitive about morality, given their aim is to instil in children their own values, rather than the values of the Department for Education. Forcing religious schools to educate children in values that are alien to their faith has little educational merit. The purpose of such a policy is not educational, but political. Demanding that teachers ignore what their conscience dictates sets a dangerous precedent for society. It also violates one of the unstated principles of a tolerant, democratic society; namely, that the state does not interfere in the internal affairs of a religion. Since the seventeenth century, advocates of tolerance have argued that religious beliefs, matters of people’s heads and hearts, are not appropriate objects of state control.

The right to religious freedom is the cornerstone on which the ideal of tolerance was founded. It is paradoxical that in the 21st century, when the right to be different is so widely celebrated, that the right to act on your religious beliefs is so readily pathologised. Take the recent case involving two schools run by the Belz sect, a Hasidic Jewish group in north London. As was widely reported, the two schools sent a letter to parents warning that any children driven to school by their mother would be refused entry to the school. The letter outlining the ban on women drivers was based on the recommendations of Rabbi Yissachar Dov Rokeach, the Belzer spiritual leader in Israel.

The ban immediately provoked establishment outrage. The UK education secretary, Nicky Morgan, denounced the ban as ‘completely unacceptable in modern Britain’. Appealing to the core British value of respect, Morgan said that ‘if schools do not actively promote the principle of respect for other people, they are breaching the independent school standards’. She immediately launched an investigation into the affair. A few days later, the Equality and Human Rights Commission informed the Belz schools that the banning of mothers from driving children to school was illegal and discriminatory.

What was remarkable about the official and media reaction to this episode was the near universal reluctance to accept the right of a religious group to act and behave in accordance with its beliefs. The Belz sect did not demand that women who were not members of its faith should not drive children to school. Its rules applied only to members of its faith. No one else is affected by the practices of this sect, and in a tolerant society it is accepted that religious groups should be left alone to practice their faith.

Unlike the current fashion of non-judgementalism, the liberal ideal of tolerance does not demand that any of us should respect religions or cultural groups that we deem incorrect or abhorrent. Indeed, the verb ‘to tolerate’ conveys a judgement towards something we reject but nevertheless accept the existence of. I, for one, do not respect the practices of the Belz sect, but I tolerate its behaviour. Unlike the ideas of respect and non-judgementalism, which avoid the domain of morality, tolerance speaks the language of right and wrong.

The growing tendency to interfere in the internal affairs of religious schools is an indirect expression of the wider cultural conflict about lifestyles and values. Many of society’s questions regarding the moral order are played out through competing initiatives that target children.

But there is another important impulse behind the targeting of religious education. In recent years, officials and politicians have been taken aback by the spectre of Islamic radicalisation haunting many schools. Belatedly, they sought to regain the initiative through the ‘Trojan horse’ inquiry into the influence of radical Islamists in certain schools. The government is all too aware that it has not been able to contain or neutralise radical Islamists’ influence on young Muslims. It is also conscious that its attempt to impose British values on schools might appear as entirely focused on the Muslim community. That is why it has opted to target Christian and Jewish schools. There is little prospect that Hasidic Jews or Christian students are likely to get radicalised anytime soon. However, by targeting them, the government deludes itself into believing that it is actually doing something to rescue Britain from the scourge of religious extremism.


Sunday, October 30, 2016

‘Jackie’ says she was pressured to give Rolling Stone discredited rape story

THE former University of Virginia student who claimed she was gang raped at a fraternity house in a since-discredited Rolling Stone article testified Monday that she was “naive” and felt pressured into participating in the story.

“I remember she said there was no way to pull out,” the woman, identified only as “Jackie”, said of journalist Sabrina Erdely in a taped deposition from April, the audio of which was played at the defamation trial against Rolling Stone.

“I don’t remember specifically but I remember feeling scared and unsure what to do,” she added.

Jackie’s account of being raped by seven fraternity members was featured prominently in Erdely’s incendiary Rolling Stone article, “A Rape on Campus”, was retracted by the magazine after the student’s story was called into question.

A former UVA associate dean, Nicole Eramo, is suing the magazine for $US7.85 million ($10.3 million), saying the article painted her as the “chief villain” who turned a blind eye to Jackie’s rape allegations.

Jackie testified that she could recall “feeling upset” when Erdely informed her that her story was going to be the focus of the article. “I was uncomfortable with that,” she said.

“I was 19 or 20 years old and did not understand ‘on the record’ or ‘off’,” she added. “I was naive.”

A few weeks before the story was scheduled to run, she wanted to back out. “I felt overwhelmed and, um, stressed and scared,” Jackie explained. “I felt like I was getting a lot of pressure from a lot of people.”

She insisted that what she told Erdely was true. “I stand by my account to Rolling Stone,” Jackie said. “I believed it to be true at the time. I was assaulted.”

But she admitted, “Some of the details of my assault are hazy now. I have PTSD.”

Jackie said she couldn’t recall many things that happened between 2011 and 2014. “There have always been things I remember and some things I don’t know if I really remember,” she said, when asked if she had post-traumatic stress for all of 2014.

As for how she felt about Eramo, Jackie said, “She did what an advocate is supposed to do and helped me.”

She also felt that Erdely “wanted to help” by writing her story.   “I thought she wanted to help,” Jackie said. “She wanted to write an article that, her intention was good.”

Jackie said that she told them conflicting accounts of her alleged rape because her “comfort level” was different with each of them. “I don’t remember exactly what I told Dean Eramo and what I told Ms Erdely,” she said.

During the deposition, Jackie was also grilled about text message conversations she’d sent to Erdely that were supposedly from a pal.

When asked point blank if she’d ever created text messages or faked conversations for Rolling Stone, Jackie didn’t deny it, saying instead she didn’t know or couldn’t remember.


The Green-Left has ruined a good school system by adding a "Community School" option

This is a lightly edited Google Translation from the German.  The basic message is that a "progressive" alternative school system in one left-leaning German State (Baden-Württemberg) has led to a decline in skills among the students

The achievements of Baden-Württemberg students in English and German have decreased significantly. Responsible is school reform

There was no need to introduce a "Community school" in the land of the economic miracle. But the party ideologists did. Within a short time, the students' performance was downhill.

Shortly before the regional election in March, the then green-red state government in Stuttgart had its central project investigated: the community school. The election result was considered as confirmation and sold.

It was actually only that, according to the basic conditions and good teachers at the work, the pupils can benefit greatly from the new school form. A rush. It was not investigated, which is not the least important at school: efficiency.

And with it it goes steeply downhill in the southwest. The results of the IQB formation trend 2015 are a swat for the country. Their ninth-graders lose weight strongly against the students in other countries.

From a top position in the subjects German and English six years ago, Baden-Württemberg falls back in the middle, in the competence field "Listening" in German even to the third last place.

Severe is how fast this descent takes place. Normally, education researchers are talking about the consequences of school reforms only after ten to 15 years.

Now one could blame the community students, who are - maybe - just not good enough. But they did not participate in the study again. Thus, the students are responsible for the established forms Gymnasium, Realschule, Werkrealschule and Hauptschule. What does that mean?

In Baden-Wuerttemberg, school reform was done under a green umbrella, mainly from an ideological motive. There was no need to introduce a "Community school".

In addition, this school form was given all the attention. It got more teaching positions, more money and - that is probably the decisive point - the right to a future. The others, up to the Gymnasium, had to live with being only tolerated, in the worst case to become  fused with other schools.

This psychological moment is not to be underestimated, it has quickly eaten into the minds of those who are concerned with it: the teachers. It has conquered the lessons and now found its precipitation in a performance comparison, which should not only be a warning to the politicians in the south-west.


Melbourne high school teacher says she would refuse to teach ‘lewd’ safe schools and respectful relationships program

A MELBOURNE high school teacher says she would refuse to teach “lewd” material in the Victorian government’s mandatory respectful relationships program to be introduced in all state schools next year.

Moira Deeming, a teacher and mother-of-three, said she was shocked by the content and would rather be fired from her job than teach such “sleazy, unnecessary drivel” to her students.

Ms Deeming, 33, said educating children as young as 12 about porn and getting them to have classroom discussions about masturbation and sex was not appropriate and would not help to stop gender-based violence and discrimination as the program intended.

Under the program, children as young as prep are also being introduced to same-sex relationships through children’s books, including Tango Makes Three, a tale about two male penguins who adopt a baby penguin.

The book has been banned in Singapore and after parent outrage was scrapped from some school libraries in the UK and the US. It also featured in the most complained about books in America over five consecutive years for “promoting a homosexual agenda”.

“I feel that this program is bullying male students and stigmatising and stereotyping them — the absolute opposite to what it is supposed to do,” she told the Sunday Herald Sun. “It really does build up stereotypes. It doesn’t tear them down.

“If I was asked to teach it, I couldn’t let it out of my mouth. I’d have to be fired.”

Debate has raged about the content, particularly how students are taught about “male privilege” and that masculinity is associated with higher rates of violence against women, since the government made public the classroom resources of its Resilience, Rights and Respectful Relationships program earlier this month.

The $21.8 million program, a recommendation from the royal commission into family violence, also offers explicit videos to students entering secondary school giving sexual advice in an upbeat way, including that “you don’t have to have an ‘inney’ and an ‘outey’. You can have two inneys or two outeys” to have sex.

Also in the teaching tools for prep students, teachers are recommended to get further information and activities from the learning resource All of Us from the controversial Safe Schools program, which is aimed at much older students in secondary school to teach and increase students’ understanding and awareness of gender diversity, sexual diversity and intersex topics.

In this, one classroom activity suggests dividing the students in half and asking one side to imagine they are 16 and in a same-sex relationship; and the other half in a heterosexual relationship, before asking a series of questions, including would they feel comfortable telling their parents about their relationship.

Ms Deeming, who is a member of the Liberal party, has joined concerned parents and politicians to call on the Andrews Government to review the age appropriateness of the program’s content.

In the upper house this week, Democratic Labor Party MP Rachel Carling-Jenkins said the program focused on a “misguided feminist and gender ideology”, alienating and shaming boys by portraying masculinity as bad and women as always being victims.

Metropolitan Region Upper House MP Inga Peulich told parliament it was a “light version” of Safe Schools that targeted younger children.

Safe Schools is only mandatory in high school, while respectful relationships will be rolled out to all year levels from prep to Year 12.

“Victorian parents are concerned about the age appropriateness of the content being presented,” Ms Peulich said.

Opposition education spokesman Nick Wakeling called the program “radical” and said the biggest concern is that parents had not been consulted or given consent.

“Parents want their kids to fundamentally learn how to read, write and count. Parents wouldn’t have expected content on transgender as part of a family violence program,” he said.

But Education Minister James Merlino stood by the program in its entirety and called on those opposing it to “stop playing politics” so violence against women could be stopped.