Thursday, May 04, 2017

Trump’s Agriculture Chief Tosses Out Michelle Obama’s School Lunch Rules

Former first lady Michelle Obama’s dictates on school lunches were thrown out Monday by one of President Donald Trump’s Cabinet members.

Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue signed a proclamation to begin to undo federal standards that the Obama administration placed on lunches in public schools and return those decisions to local schools.

“This announcement is the result of years of feedback from students, schools, and food service experts about the challenges they are facing in meeting the final regulations for school meals,” Perdue said in prepared remarks. “If kids aren’t eating the food, and it’s ending up in the trash, they aren’t getting any nutrition—thus undermining the intent of the program.”

The announcement “begins the process of restoring local control of guidelines on whole grains, sodium, and milk,” a press release from the Agriculture Department reads.

The standards, implemented in 2012, were crafted with the heavy involvement of Michelle Obama, who made better nutrition and more exercise for children part of her agenda as first lady. The standards include directives on vastly reducing use of salt, calorie limits, restrictions on meat, prohibitions on the contents of vending machines, and increased servings of whole grains, fruits, and  vegetables, as the New York Post reported.

The standards implemented provisions of a law called the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010. President Barack Obama’s wife also championed the law, Daren Bakst, a research fellow in agricultural policy at The Heritage Foundation, told The Daily Signal in an email.

The 2010 law set calorie limits, stipulated portion sizes, and required specific nutrients.

“Michelle [Obama] is a big proponent and defender of the standards,” Bakst said. 

Perdue, the former governor of Georgia, said in a tweet that the rules have been counterproductive:

Perdue “took an important step to making school meals edible again,” Bakst told The Daily Signal. “The federal school meal standards implemented by the Obama administration have been a disaster, creating massive plate waste and imposing high costs on schools.”

Perdue’s action, Bakst said, is significant for both parents and kids.

“This issue isn’t about nutrition,” Bakst said Monday, adding:

It’s about whether one believes the federal government should dictate almost every aspect of what kids eat at schools, or if local communities, with the input of parents, should make these decisions. Today was certainly a big win for kids across the country, but it was also a big win for those who respect the opinions of parents more than those of federal bureaucrats.

Patricia Montague, CEO of the School Nutrition Association, a national nonprofit with more than 57,000 members that provides meals to students across the nation, praised Perdue’s leadership.

“I commend Secretary Perdue for taking this important step,” Montague said. “We have been wanting flexibility so that schools can serve meals that are both nutritious and palatable. We don’t want kids wasting their meals by throwing them away. Some of our schools are actually using that food waste as compost. That shouldn’t be happening.”


Professor with what sounds like a fried brain tells student to Stop Reading Bible
It’s apparently okay to read history books at Northern Arizona University, but not the Good Book.

Mark Holden, a 22-year-old history major, tells me he was ordered to leave a lecture hall after his professor objected to him reading the Bible before the start of the class.

Holden alleges that Professor Heather Martel ordered him to put away the Good Book around six minutes before a scheduled history class. It’s unclear why she objected to the reading of God’s Word.

According to her biography, Professor Martel is a noted scholar who is working on an essay titled, “The Gender Amazon: Indigenous Female Masculinity in Early Modern European Representations of Contact." She also teaches classes on Global Queer History and Feminist Theory.

When Holden declined to stop reading his Bible, the professor summoned Derek Heng, the chairman of the department. Heng then proceeded to explain the situation.

Holden recorded the conversation and turned it over to congressional candidate Kevin Cavanaugh. In turn, Cavanaugh provided me with a copy of the audio.

"So Professor Martel says that she doesn’t want you sitting in front of her because you put, you know, a Bible out, right?” Heng said.

“So she doesn’t want me in the front because I have my Bible out,” Holden replied.

“No, I think she, I mean, well why do you have your Bible out anyway?” Heng asked.

After a bit more back and forth regarding the dynamics in the classroom, the chairman of the department got to the heart of the issue. “So, will you, will you, will you, put your Bible away?” Heng asked.

The incident occurred back in February, but just recently became public after Campus Reform reported on the controversy.

Holden had previously drawn the ire of his professor during a classroom discussion on assimilation.

“All the students agreed with her that assimilation is oppressive and evil,” Holden said. “I suggested there are both positive and negative aspects to assimilation.”

As an example, he referenced a report about two Muslim men in California who reportedly said the Koran justified doing terrible things to women.

“She told me I was a racist and she would not tolerate that kind of racism in the class,” Holden said. “I told her Islam was not a race and I was only talking about what the two Muslims men as individuals said — I was not making broad claims about Islam or my interpretation of the Koran.”

After a bit of back and forth, Holden said the professor told the class, “Welcome to Trump’s new America — where straight white males can say prejudicial things without being reprimanded for it.”

I reached out to the university for its side of the story but so far it has not returned my calls.

However, I did obtain an email Martel sent to Holden warning him about “disruptive behavior.”

“For the remainder of the class, I will ask you to move to one of the desks along the wall by the door,” she wrote. “The roll sheet will be passed to you. You will make sure that students who come in late sign in. I will also require that you respect me and the other students in the class by acting in a civil manner.”

In a separate email addressed to the entire class, Martel vowed to “re-instate civility” in the classroom.

“I want this to be clear: hate speech does not meet the definition of respectful discussion and will not be tolerated,” she wrote. “In law, hate speech is any speech, gesture or conduct, writing, or display which is forbidden because it may incite violence or prejudicial action against or by a protected individual or group, or because it disparages or intimidates a protected individual or group.”

Something tells me Christians and conservatives are not considered to be a protected group at Northern Arizona University.

“If you are a Christian, you are being targeted,” Cavanaugh told me. “Christians are being silenced.”

Cavanaugh said he got involved in Holden’s case because stopping the radicalization of public universities is a part of his campaign platform. “If free speech is not permitted on a public university campus, federal funding should be refused,” he told me. “If you want to limit free speech, don’t take federal money.”

“We have seen on this campus and across the nation that people are being punished for their Christian views,” Cavanaugh said.

That may or may not be the case here — but based on that audio recording, there’s not much wiggle room.

The cold hard reality is a student was yanked out of a classroom for reading the Bible. Woe be to us, America.


Australia: Private schools the big losers under misguided Federal plan

Kevin Donnelly

It takes a particular kind of political ineptitude to arrive at a school funding model that represents a slap in the face to Catholic and independent schools — schools that John Howard, when prime minister, sought to defend and to properly fund.

It also beggars belief that the Turnbull government is employing David Gonski and Ken Boston, both strong supporters of government schools and favoured by Julia Gillard when she was Labor’s education minister, to undertake a needless and wasteful review investigating what is already accepted about how best to raise standards.

The Turnbull government’s proposed funding model, based on the original Gonski report, financially discriminates against parents who send their children to Catholic and independent schools — especially low-fee-paying, non-government schools serving less wealthy and less privileged communities.

The new model is also based on the flawed assumption that the cost of educating students across the different states and territories is the same; certainly not so when it comes to teacher pay scales.

The proposed model, by adopting what is described as the Schooling Resource Standards as the basis for deciding how much will be allocated to students and schools, is also flawed.

As argued by the Melbourne Institute’s policy brief No 2/13, the Schooling Resource Standards are “essentially arbitrary, and despite the veneer of technical sophistication in their construction, do not have a sound methodological basis”.

The authors of the policy brief also argue that because the Gonski model adopts a highly centralised command-and-control approach, school autonomy will be stifled and a one-size-fits-all approach enforced on all schools.

Both Gonski and Boston, who are responsible for Gonski Mark II, in addition to arguing that more needs to be done to boost enrolments in government schools, argue that a student’s socio-economic status (SES) or home background significantly affects educational results. Based on the mistaken assumption that SES is such a significant factor, the Gonski report then argues that what is most needed is additional funding. In yesterday’s press conference, Gonski made specific mention of SES when arguing what needs to be done to raise standards; not so, based on the latest OECD research that puts the impact of SES on Australian students at 12 per cent.

The fact the government met non-government school authorities only yesterday, less than a week before the budget is tabled, represents another blunder. Instead of presenting a fait accompli, what minister Simon Birmingham should have done over the last 12 months is negotiate and be transparent.


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