Tuesday, October 17, 2017

UK: Peace campaigners accused of 'indoctrinating' children, as teaching union promotes white poppy scheme

Peace campaigners have been accused of “indoctrinating” children, after Britain’s largest teaching union promoted a scheme to sell white poppies ahead of Remembrance Sunday.

The Peace Pledge Union (PPU), a pacifist organisation, will this week formally launch a new campaign for schools across the country to endorse white poppies.

It comes after the PPU exhibited for the first time at this year’s National Union of Teachers (NUT) conference, where it signed up over 100 teachers to its inaugural teacher network.

The PPU, which grew out of the conscientious objectors movement in the First World War, aims to challenge what they see as the “glamorisation” of war through the sale of red poppies.

But Colonel Richard Kemp, the former commander of the British Forces in Afghanistan, criticised the sale of white poppies in schools as “misguided”.

He told The Sunday Telegraph: “I think it is perfectly reasonably for schools to discuss different political perspectives, but they should not be indoctrinating children with a left wing political agenda.”

The PPU has sold around 100,000 poppies each year for the past three years - peaking at 110,000 in 2015 - and it is now looking to step up its activity in schools through its newly established teacher network.

They have developed a white poppy school pack, which costs £60 and contains 100 poppies as well as leaflets, educational resources and posters.

“The white poppy aims to foster an understanding that there are alternatives to armed force, and rallies support for resistance to the growing militarisation of society”, explains the leaflet.

Ahead of the formal launch on Monday, teachers have already started ordering the packs directly from the PPU, and peace activist groups have also purchased packs to distribute at local schools.

“Some parents don’t understand and think it is an insult,” Symon Hill, co-ordinator at the PPU said.

“The key thing we get across is that white poppies represent all victims of all wars, civilians, ambulance drivers, and those who fought for a different country.

“We are a pacifist organisation, we make no apology for that. We share a commitment for working for peace, rejecting militarism and attempts to glamorise war.”

He said: “The last thing we want to do is indoctrinate children or impose our views on them. We want young people to have the chance to consider a range of views.”

Mr Hill said that generally schools which sell white poppies also sell red ones so that pupils have a choice, adding “we don't have a problem with that”.

However, Col Richard Kemp said that state schools should not be spending taxpayer money on promoting white poppies to pupils.

“If teachers are getting involved in school time or using their professional position, paid for by our taxes, to indoctrinate children in this movement, that is wrong,” the ex-army chief said.

“It is right to share and discuss but wrong to encourage children to sign up to this or any other political agenda.”

Col Kemp, who previously led a campaign to recognise the sacrifice of British troops killed and wounded in action, added: “The red poppy, Remembrance Sunday and everything around it - these are institutions of the state and that is our tradition. It is right that schools should sell red poppies and take part in this.

“The poppy is not a political hobby horse; it is a means of raising money for the welfare of soldiers and for the families of soldiers who have been  killed, it has a specific purpose which is not political.

The red poppy should be respected as opposed to another fringe political movement.”

The PPU, which formed in the 1930s, also produces teaching resources for schools aimed at challenging army recruitment aimed at young people.

Mr Hill said: “Increasingly armed forces are going into schools - we are not saying children shouldn’t hear from them. But they should hear an alternative point of view.

“If they present life in army as glamorous and fun, and having to obey orders without questioning them when they go against your own conscious – that is very one-sided.

“We have resources that will encourage young people to think through the nature of the armed forces and the nature of war. We are also campaigning on a political level about armed forces recruitment.”

The NUT - which has now merged with the Association of Teachers Teachers and Lecturers - said that they do not have a former partnership with the PPU, but added that they only allow stalls to exhibit at their conference if they agree with their objectives.


Expensive St. Louis School Teaching Students and Staff to 'Witness Whiteness'

Once upon a time, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. stood in front of the Lincoln Memorial and said that he looked forward to the day when people would be judged by the content of their character, not by the color of their skin. When he said that, we were a long way from that ideal. Now, almost 55 years later, we're probably even further away from it than we were then.

That's largely because of the number of people trying to push racial identity as being something people should be constantly aware of. One of the latest examples is an expensive private school in St. Louis for kids from kindergarten through eighth grade. From The College Fix:

Thanks to the “Witnessing Whiteness” program, the $17,500 per year College School actually starts the racial consciousness in  pre-kindergarten, with teachers pointing out to students, for example, how “few specific shades [of crayons], ranging from beige to brown” can be used as “the skin colors of figures in their drawings.”

According to The St. Louis American, the program is part of the “school’s approach to addressing race at every educational level.” For teachers and staff, they get to participate in discussions designed to get them to “rethink” how they view race.

The approach is based on the book by Shelly Tochluk described on Amazon.com as “invit[ing] readers to consider what it means to be white, describes and critiques strategies used to avoid race issues, and identifies the detrimental effect of avoiding race on cross-race collaborations.”

Here's the problem that I don't think anyone in favor of this is thinking about. If we continue to teach kids about "whiteness" and make it an issue, some of them are going to take that teaching in a completely different direction than intended. If you want someone to consider what it means to be white, that consideration may yield an individual who embraces white-identity ideology or similar white-supremacist nonsense.

You cannot tell people to consider their skin color at all times, then act surprised that people are doing just that. You can't control what that consideration yields, after all. People have minds of their own, and unless you have complete control over the indoctrination process--something impossible in this day and age--those minds will reach their own conclusions.

Of course, the fact that people are paying $17,500 for this kind of racist indoctrination--and even if it's not teaching white supremacy, it's still racist, let me assure you--for their kids is even more mind-boggling. However, if that's what parents want to waste their money on, so be it. The market provides what people will pay for.


Australia: Inquiring about the elephant in the classroom

It is easy to understand why people find the idea of inquiry learning so appealing. It’s a lovely notion that children can and will learn important concepts and knowledge simply by being given an opportunity to discover them for themselves.

This is allegedly the education of the future — a future in which children need only to learn how to find what they need at the time they need it.

But is it true that children learn best by inquiry? You would think so if you listened to Andreas Schleicher, the Director of the OECD Education Directorate, which runs the Program for International Assessment (PISA).  Professor Schleicher was in Australia recently, giving interviews and speaking at events and forums. Disappointingly, he did not mention the pedagogical elephant in the room — that OECD reports show that inquiry learning is strongly negatively associated with PISA scores.

A deeper analysis of the PISA scores by McKinsey and Co found that the ideal balance is for almost all lessons to be teacher-directed with a small number of inquiry-based lessons. This fits well with the cognitive science-informed framework in which novice learners need more highly structured, explicit teaching, with a gradual shift to independent inquiry as they consolidate their knowledge and develop expertise.

The PISA data is supported by numerous other studies showing that explicit, teacher-directed instruction is more effective than inquiry learning.

Strangely, however, the more evidence stacks up against inquiry learning, the more it seems to take on a mythical status of being unassailably superior.

This week the long line of heavy weights endorsing inquiry learning included the Australian Association of Mathematics Teachers, and a German maths professor who happily acknowledged that her version of inquiry learning is not based on cutting edge research but on a centuries-old theory that was refined in the 1920s and popularised in the 1960s.

Inquiry learning can be useful when administered in the right doses at the right time in the learning process. It is not a miracle cure for a new age.


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