Sunday, May 14, 2017

UK: Malia Bouattia, who made controversial militantly pro-Palestinian comments, loses National Union of Students reelection bid

British university students have dumped a controversial leader of the National Union of Students who three years ago spoke out passionately in support of violent Palestinian “resistance,” insisted it should not be considered terrorism, and criticized the notion that “Palestine” could be freed by nonviolent action alone.

Malia Bouattia — the union’s first black female Muslim leader and an activist in the Boycott, Divest and Sanctions (BDS) movement — was defeated by Shakira Martin by 402 votes to 272, just a year after being elected.

A spokesperson for the Union of Jewish Students told the London Jewish Chronicle, “We extend heartfelt congratulations to the newly elected NUS President Shakira Martin on her election win. In particular, Shakira’s election demonstrates a rejection of the divisive rhetoric used by the current president, Malia Bouattia, whose past antisemitic comments have remained problematic for Jewish students for over a year.”

In 2011, Bouattia wrote an article in which she described Birmingham as “something of a Zionist outpost in British higher education.”

In a 2014 speech, she suggested that British student activists should “take orders” from Palestinian terrorists.

In that address, Bouattia protested that in “mainstream Zionist-led media outlets… resistance is presented as an act of terrorism” and complained that this has “become an accepted discourse among too many.”

She went on to say it was “problematic” to view efforts to boycott Israel as an alternative to Palestinian “resistance,” and appeared to encourage engaging with terrorists, raising the possibility of “taking orders” to show solidarity.

In the wake of Bouattia’s election a year ago, three universities disaffiliated with the NUS and some 57 Jewish student leaders penned an open letter to the president-elect voicing concern that she is “creating an element of suspicion towards Jewish students on campus.”


SPME is deeply concerned by Dartmouth’s recent appointment of Professor Bruce Duthu, a pro-BDS supporter, as Dartmouth's Dean of Faculty

PHILADELPHIA, PA—Scholars for Peace in the Middle East (SPME) is deeply concerned by the recent nomination of Professor Bruce Duthu, as Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences at Dartmouth College.

Duthu is a known supporter of BDS and was one of the signatories of the 2013 “Declaration of Support for the Boycott of Israeli Academic Institutions” issued by the Council of the Native American and Indigenous Studies Association (NAISA).

Positively, Dartmouth economics professor Alan Gustman circulated a faculty-wide email expressing his grave concerns over Duthu's anti-Israel activism arguing that such a position should not be filled by an individual who is opposes to working with Israeli academics and institutions based on their national origin as Gustman states,

“In view of Dartmouth's anti-Semitic history and Professor Duthu's endorsement of the anti-Semitic BDS document, Dartmouth must not simply appoint Duthu to the position of Dean of the Faculty and ignore the implications of that appointment…Professor Duthu should either publicly disavow the full ramifications of the BDS positions he has publicly endorsed, or resign his position as Dean and return to his faculty position where expression of these views is sanctioned as academic freedom, but is not representative of Dartmouth College or its faculty.”

Gustman further stressed that Duthu “cannot, without contradiction, 1) assure council signers of the NAISA document and holders of their position of his support for action to boycott Israeli academic institutions, and at the same time 2) administer his job as Dean of the Faculty, while assuring Dartmouth that he will not take such action…

Given its history, Dartmouth cannot turn a blind eye to this contradiction. These issues must be directly and publicly addressed by the Dean, the President, and by the Board. Papering over hypocrisy and prejudice is no way to run an Ivy League College administration.”

SPME wholeheartedly concurs and echoes Professor Gustman concerns. 

As an academic organization, what is most troubling to SPME is that pro-BDS individuals like Duthu, engage with the topic of and Arab-Israeli conflict in a lopsided way, focusing exclusively on Israel. Critiquing only Israel among all the nations on earth—many countries where academics are denied even the ability to study, attend classes, or travel—is both counter-productive, since Israel guarantees individual and human rights of its own citizens and visitors, including its Arab citizens.

BDS goes counter to any acceptable academic discourse and is contrary to the search for peace between Israelis and Palestinians. Moreover, academic boycotts are directly in opposition to decades of agreements between Israeli and Arab Palestinians, in which both sides pledged to negotiate a peaceful settlement and a commitment to a two state solution, but only Israel has repeatedly made concessions for peace.

Finally, viewing the Arab-Israeli conflict through the prism of BDS is dishonest, disingenuous and ahistorical something that hurts the academy at large. All of above, should cause President Phil Hanlon, Provost Carolyn Dever, and the entire Dartmouth Board of Trustees to seriously consider the serious ramifications of nominating pro-BDS individuals like Duthu and how such decisions reflect on the institution at large.

Via email from SPME

Education’s biggest trend: Why Australia's home taught kids are doing better

IT’S arguably the biggest trend in education and even teachers are shocked.

Home educated kids are outperforming their mainstream counterparts in just about every area, according to NAPLAN results and other studies. And more and more Aussie parents are taking their kids out of school.

No one is more surprised than Dr Rebecca English, from the Queensland University of Technology.

“I’m a teacher of two decades standing and I assumed that teachers knew better than parents how to teach.”

The shock for Dr English was to learn that lots of parents are doing better than teachers at educating children. This was “because of their ability to be able to individuate, and to draw on an incredible knowledge of what all parents know about their children’s likes”.

Home educator and casual high-school teacher Myfanwy Dibben says one of the reasons parents are taking their kids out of school is that teachers are not respected by parents or their students, which is leading to chaotic classrooms where teachers are often making children copy from the board because nothing else is possible.

Myf has been educating her 10-year-old daughter, Pi, for five years because of “the disengagement and disruptive environment of schools”.

Statistics are hard to come by, largely because most home educators are technically doing it illegally rather than face the invasive task of registering. Although only 14,510 students were registered as home educated in 2015, estimates of the actual number range from 25,000 to 55,000.

“This means three or four per cent of the population have been home schooled, Stuart Chapman, CEO of Christian based Homeschool WA, says.

“That’s almost mainstream. It is the fastest growing educational demographic in the country.”

But not everyone agrees. “It is still a tiny number of kids who are home schooled,” CEO of the Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership Lisa Rogers said.

“I don’t have a problem with home schooling but it is a tough job. It’s highly unlikely that kids have parents who are able to teach the specialist content across all the curriculum domains,” she said.

“It’s a trade-off. It’s difficult for parents to deliver a quality education in terms of curriculum outcomes, but school isn’t just about curriculum content.”

And of course, not all parents can afford, nor have the desire to stay home and teach their kids.


There are three types of home educators: religious, libertarian and accidental teachers, whose children might have been bullied, have special needs or don’t fit for another reason.

Anita Webster* began teaching her two boys, Josh*, 12, and Lewis*, 10, at home this year. Josh, who is autistic, was bullied by his teacher. Josh’s desk was his special place but his teacher dumped everything from papers to a fish tank on it and eventually removed it so Josh was forced to sit on the floor by himself.

Anita says, “There was no safe space for Josh at his school, symbolically and in reality.”

“They’re focused on outcomes so the real needs of the students get lost.”

The experience has led Anita, who is an occupational therapist (OT), to “rethink OT”.

“I have realised that most of what we do as professional OTs is try to get children to go to school. That’s ridiculous. We should be asking what the best schooling option is for each child.”

Triana Parry was motivated to home educate a decade ago when her son’s local Steiner school in the Southern Highlands of NSW closed down but she had always liked the idea of home education.

Her son Kiahl, 17, has since entered the workforce and her two daughters, Elinor, 14, and Freya, 10, both elite ballerinas, “have totally thrived in a home school environment”.

The sisters have both trained with the Bolshoi Ballet Academy in Russia, a rare honour for a non-Russian.

Elinor is the youngest in her Bolshoi Academy class, by years, and plans to complete advanced diplomas in dance. Freya accompanied her sister and mother to Russia and, after impulsively auditioning, was accepted and spent a fortnight training with the Bolshoi dancers.

Triana, a music teacher, is able to integrate her daughters’ love of dancing into their curriculum. ”Being able to follow your children’s passions is really important,” she said.

This flexibility is the most important aspect of home education for Elinor and Freya. “If Freya isn’t able to move she can’t sit and focus,” Triana said. This is an issue many teachers would either not notice or be unable to address.

“Teachers are passionate about what they do but their students are not their children,” Triana explained. “Parents have a much deeper understanding of their needs.“


A lack of socialisation is often the main criticism of home educators, but these parents disagree.

“The impression of socialisation being a problem for home educators came about because of Christian minority groups keeping to themselves. In reality it has never been a problem,” says Myf.

“The issue is fitting it all in,” Triana says. Her children made lasting friendships through after-school activities, home-education gatherings and holiday workshops. “I just make sure I always get phone numbers.”

Myf’s home education network meets for three hours a week to, for instance, present science projects or refine circus skills.


Stuart Chapman, a former pastor, and his wife home educated their five children for 18 years. Three went to university to pursue professions. Two became tradies.

The Chapmans began home educating as there was no Christian school in the country WA town where they lived. “Most people’s reasoning for home schooling is multifaceted,” Stuart said.

“We didn’t want to have children to give them away for the best part of the day,” he said.

Stuart has observed numerous changes since he began home educating. “There is a stereotype. It used to be the Christian fundamentalist. Now it’s much more likely to be the child who is bullied or withdrawn,” he said.

Stuart maintains bullying is the single biggest reason for home educating. “But the big market nowadays is what I call crisis enrolment. This includes student refusals and special needs, particularly autism.”

“Schools do achieve their Number one aim, which is to enable parents to have two jobs and not look after their children,” he said.

Myf agrees.

“ It’s never been easier to home educate your child,” she said.

“Quite frankly the education ministers should be coming to home educators to find out what to do. We’re the innovators.”


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