Friday, February 15, 2013

U Chicago sex week to include ‘Sex Ed for Kids,’ Star Wars porn, and ‘Anal 101’

The prestigious University of Chicago is in the midst of hosting a comprehensive sex week that includes controversial events such as a course on sex education for kids, a play entitled “Genitalia the Musical,” and “Anal 101.”

“We'll have a rope-demonstration where you'll find that kink is really focused on consent and communication,” the university advertises.

According to the event’s official webpage, “Sex Ed for Kids” will be run by the Secular Alliance from 5-6pm Sunday and will offer college students advice on how to “teach kids” about sex and “learn yourself.”

“How do we talk about sex and its related concepts of choice, gender, and desire to our kindergarteners?” asks the event’s description posted on

The sex week, which began on Monday, is funded by the Dean’s Fund for Student Life and the Student Government Finance Committee (SGFC), according to the school’s official student publication, The Chicago Maroon.

Minutes of the SGFC Dec. 4, 2012, meeting – which have since been deleted by SGCF website but were saved by Campus Reform –   indicate that the body allocated $5,048 in student fees for the “educational” event.

Administrators of the Dean’s Fund for Student Life, which is funded with alumni donations, declined to provide the size of its contribution or comment despite an inquiry from Campus Reform.

The event’s webpage encourages students to attend in order to answer burning questions such as “what are the finer points of penetration, oral, or anal sex?” and “how do I tie my partner up safely?”

The event also features a play, “Genitalia the Musical: Star crossed genitals wreak havoc in Pittsburgh.”

A Feb. 13 session, titled “Great Oral Sex: with Tea Time & Sex Chats,” promises a “discussion on going down on men and women”  — including “techniques” — all over tea.

A Feb. 15 session, entitled “Anal 101,” is advertised as a course on the “logistics and pleasures of anal sex.” It will include lessons on “prep, protection, barebacking, etc.”

The how-to sessions continue all the way to the last day with a rope-tying demonstration put on by the Risk-Aware Consensual Kink, which advises those interested in bondage to “bring your own rope, if you can!”

The university is also flying in Axel Braun, the director of more than 400 pornographic films, in from Los Angeles for a Sunday Q-and-A. The school will show one of his films, “Star Wars XXX: A Porn Parody.”

Other miscellaneous events include a cold reading of porn scripts by college improv groups and a live demonstration and tutorial on how to take naked pictures. It wraps-up on Sunday evening with fried food and a game of Twister on what the college website calls “the hugest Twister Board ever.”

The event’s website brags their sex week will go “far beyond typical sex education.”


You want a druggie driving your kid's school bus?  You've got it in NY

The state's highest court on Tuesday unanimously upheld an order requiring the reinstatement of a Shenendehowa bus driver who was fired after she failed a random drug test for marijuana.

The Court of Appeals ruling supported the conclusion of an arbitrator who determined the firing of Cynthia DiDomenicantonio on Nov. 10, 2009, was too severe a punishment for the district employee of 10 years.

The school district, represented by attorney Beth Bourassa, had argued that it had adopted a zero-tolerance policy for positive drug tests. The bus driver's attorney, Daren Rylewicz, countered that such a policy did not exist.

The arbitrator — who became involved after the bus drivers union, the Civil Service Employees Association, challenged the firing — found the dismissal violated the collective bargaining agreement.

The arbitrator ordered DiDomenicantonio reinstated — minus six months of back pay, follow-up drug testing and substance-abuse counseling.

A state Supreme Court justice reversed the arbitrator's ruling. That decision was, in turn, reversed by the Appellate Division of state Supreme Court, setting the stage for Tuesday's final decision by the Court of Appeals.

The Court of Appeals said there are three narrow grounds in which an arbitrator's conclusion can be vacated: if it violates public policy, is irrational, or clearly exceeds a specifically enumerated limitation on an arbitrator's power.

"None of these grounds has been established here," the high court ruled.

"The arbitrator's decision did not exceed a specific limitation on his power; nor was it irrational. Rather, he determined that, contrary to the school district's argument, the parties' agreement did not require the penalty of termination in these circumstances and that the district did not in fact have a zero tolerance policy. The consequent determination that reinstatement with conditions was the appropriate penalty did not violate public policy."

The decision was handed down by Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman and Associate Judges Victoria Graffeo, Robert Smith, Susan Read and Eugene Pigott.

The ruling was 5-0 because the court was missing two judges following the retirement of Senior Associate Judge Carmen Beauchamp Ciparick and the death of Associate Judge Theodore Jones. Ciparick's successor, Associate Judge Jenny Rivera, was confirmed by the state Senate on Monday but had no input on the ruling.


Schools trample on First Amendment

Schools like Tarrant County College have banned “empty holster” protests in favor of gun rights, which administrators perceive as somehow threatening. Never mind that such symbolic expression is protected by Supreme Court rulings like Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District (1969), as the civil-liberties group Foundation for Individual Rights in Education notes.

Speech cannot be banned simply by labeling it as violence: for example, in Bauer v. Sampson, another federal appeals court ruled that a campus newspaper’s depiction of a college official’s imaginary death was protected by the First Amendment, even though the college declared it a violation of its policy against “workplace violence.”

Yet, a San Francisco high school senior was suspended after she wrote a poem about the Sandy Hook massacre. “I know why he pulled the trigger,” wrote Courtni Webb, 17, in a notebook.  (In arguing that the poem was somehow “threatening,” the school district ignored an earlier California Supreme Court ruling that rejected the prosecution of a minor over a dark poem that had violent imagery. See In re George T. (2004)). Earlier, the Chandler Unified School District suspended a 13-year old boy just for doodling a gun.

In the aftermath of the past school shootings like Columbine, hysteria among school officials resulted in blatant violations of the First Amendment, and “draconian punishments of students under ‘zero tolerance” policies,” as I noted in The New York Times:

    "An 11-year-old boy was taken out of his Oldsmar, Fla., elementary school in handcuffs on May 9 for making drawings of weapons. A 14-year-old girl in Harrisburg, Pa., was strip-searched and suspended for two weeks for saying, during a classroom discussion of the Columbine High School massacre, that she could understand how ostracized students might turn homicidal. It is hard to know what is worse about these cases, the school officials’ inability to distinguish between fantasy and reality, or prosecutors’ contempt for the First Amendment."

In the progressive bastion of Montgomery County, Maryland, “a 6-year-old Montgomery County student who was suspended last month for pointing his finger and saying ‘pow.’” As the boy’s attorney, Robin Ficker noted, “That just shows a certain hysteria with the school administration,” Ficker said Tuesday. “What is the point? To say that you don’t like guns, you don’t like the Second Amendment?”

In nearby Alexandria, Virginia, an elementary school student was arrested for bringing a toy gun to school, even though he “did not point it at anyone.” “School officials said they learned about the incident Monday evening and immediately started investigating. Alexandria police spoke to school administrators Tuesday morning before the boy got to school. When the boy arrived, authorities found the toy in his backpack. He was taken into custody, transported to a juvenile detention center for booking and then released to his parents. . . Superintendent Morton Sherman said further action is being considered, including expulsion.” This seems like an excessive penalty for violating school rules. Not every violation of school rules should lead to an arrest, or even an expulsion.

In addition to trying to restrict speech like empty holster protests and gun drawings, government officials are also equating constitutionally protected speech with violence, through broad, vague bans on “bullying.” Bullying has been defined by some government officials to include anti-abortion advocacy and commentary in a school newspaper opposing gay marriage. New Mexico legislators want to go beyond schools and workplaces to restrict speech in society generally as “bullying,” allowing criminal prosecutions of people who create a “hostile environment” for politicians and others. Law professor Eugene Volokh criticizes that bill as unconstitutional at this link.  (I discuss some of the ways that the “hostile environment” concept has been used by government officials to suppress speech here at this link).

The current panic over bullying is leading to attacks on free speech, political debate, and free association in the schools; political pandering; dishonest stretching of existing federal laws by federal officials; and violations of basic principles of federalism.

Schools and anti-bullying activists have adopted incredibly over-broad definitions of bullying. The anti-bullying website, and schools like Fox Hill and Alvarado Elementary, define even “eye rolling” and other expressions of displeasure or hostility as bullying, even though doing so raises First Amendment problems.

The Obama administration claims bullying is an “epidemic” and a “pandemic.” But in reality, bullying and violence have steadily gone down in the nation’s schools, as even studies funded by the Justice Department have shown. The administration’s anti-bullying website defines exercises of free speech and association such as “spreading rumors” or “excluding someone from a group” as being “bullying,” and it says that “examples of cyberbullying include mean text messages or emails, rumors sent by email or posted on social networking sites, and embarrassing pictures, videos, websites, or fake profiles.”

The U.S. Senate passed restrictions on speech aimed at cyberbullying and “harassment” that UCLA law professor Eugene Volokh concluded violate the First Amendment, including an expansion of “stalking” provisions that were used unsuccessfully to prosecute a Twitter user who repeatedly criticized a religious leader. These provisions are contained in the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act, which just passed the Senate. (I discuss other problems with that bill at this link.)

The Obama administration has sought to define “bullying” and “cyberbullying” to include constitutionally protected speech, defining it broadly enough to include harsh criticism of politicians, as I explained here. It also has sought to redefine various sorts of real or perceived “bullying” (and even protected speech) as a civil rights violation prohibited by the civil-rights statutes administered by the Department of Education, where I used to work.


Thursday, February 14, 2013

Test of Academic Freedom at Brooklyn College

At Brooklyn College this week, it seems that everyone is talking about academic freedom.  A student group, Brooklyn College Students for Justice in Palestine, organized an event highlighting the “BDS” movement, which advocates for a boycott of Israel, urges people to divest companies that do business in Israel, and promotes sanctions against Israel.  Holding this event in Brooklyn naturally sparks controversy, and the controversy only grew when the political science department chose to co-sponsor it.

Hoping to quell the critics, President Gould issued a letter outlining her commitment to free speech and academic freedom.  She observed that “[s]tudents and faculty . . . have the right to invite speakers, engage in discussion, and present ideas to further educational discussion and debate.”  She noted that the “mere invitation to speak does not indicate an endorsement of any particular point of view, and there is no obligation, as some have suggested, to present multiple perspectives at any one event.”  Indeed, this is, in her mind, the very purpose of a university:  “Providing an open forum to discuss important topics, even those many find highly objectionable, is a centuries-old practice on university campuses around the country.  Indeed, this spirit of inquiry and critical debate is a hallmark of the American education system.”  Thus, she emphasized that “it is essential that Brooklyn College remain an engaged and civil learning environment where all views may be expressed without fear of intimidation or reprisal.”

Not only is this her position, but the political science department also “fully agrees and has reaffirmed its longstanding policy to give equal consideration to co-sponsoring speakers who represent any and all points of view.”  Those faculty also assured students that they “welcome—indeed encourage—requests to co-sponsor speakers and events from all student groups, departments, and programs.”

While many, such as Alan Dershowitz of Harvard Law School, may be skeptical, students should embrace the tremendous opportunity the President just gave them.  They now have an open invitation—from the President herself—to put the College to the test.  Does it really treasure academic freedom?  Does it really celebrate vigorous debate of “any and all points of view”—even controversial or “highly objectionable” ones?  Is it really an “environment where all views may be expressed without fear of intimidation or reprisal”?  Or is all of this just empty rhetoric administrators trots out when citizens object to leftist or politically correct ideas?

Well, as they say, actions speak louder than words.  Students can find out what the College really believes by organizing a whole series of events—complete with speakers and panel discussions—in keeping with the “BDS” theme:
Students United for Israel could call for a boycott of the PLO, Hezbollah, Hamas, and other groups that seek to destroy Israel; for the divestment of entities that financially support those racist—and often terrorist—groups; and for sanctions against those entities.

The Newman Catholic Club could call for a boycott of states that endorse same-sex “marriage” (including New York), for the divestment of groups that support same-sex “marriage,” and for sanctions against Catholics who stray from the Church’s teachings on this subject.

Chinese Christian Fellowship could call for a boycott of China due to its forced abortion policies and religious persecution, for the divestment of companies doing business in China, and for sanctions against China.

Brooklyn College Intercollegiate Studies Institute Group could call for states to boycott the Obamacare exchanges, for the divestment of groups that supported Obamacare (e.g., AARP), and for sanctions against Obama administration officials for implementing Obamacare.

The Coptic Christian Club could call for a boycott of the Muslim Brotherhood due to its persecution of Coptic Christians in Egypt, for the divestment of companies that do business in Egypt, and for sanctions against that country.

Intervarsity Christian Fellowship could call for a boycott of Planned Parenthood because it provides abortions, for the divestment of all businesses that support Planned Parenthood (e.g., Susan G. Komen for the Cure), and for sanctions against Planned Parenthood because of its taxpayer fraud.

Once these groups have organized their own BDS events and invited the speakers, they should ask the political science department—or even the President’s Office—to serve as co-sponsors.  Perhaps it could even be the College’s theme for the semester.

The responses to such invitations would be telling.  If the President and the political science faculty were to decline for one lame excuse or another or if they were to insist on a more “balanced” presentation, students could simply say, in the monotone the National Weather Service patented:  “This is a test.  This is a test of academic freedom at Brooklyn College.”  Then they could call a group that really believes in academic freedom—the Alliance Defending Freedom.


Respected British teacher hounded out of job: Career ruined by 7-year-old boy's unfounded assault claim

A deputy headmaster with an unblemished 41-year career has been forced to quit after an ‘uncontrollable’ seven-year-old boy accused him of assault.

Royden Cope, who had an ‘impeccable’ record as deputy head for 34 years, was ‘marched out’ of a Church of England primary school after the pupil claimed he hit him.

In March last year Mr Cope was alleged to have restrained the unruly pupil by his wrists before slapping him across the face.

He was charged with assault in May. But at the end of a four-month nightmare he was cleared by magistrates after grave doubts were raised about the case.

Despite fierce criticism of the prosecution and massive support for Mr Cope, he remained suspended from his job while education bosses carried out a disciplinary investigation.

Now 63-year-old Mr Cope – who is thought to have suffered a minor heart attack since the court case – has decided not to return to his £44,000-a-year post.

Yesterday Mr Cope from Accrington, Lancashire, would say only: ‘I am sad to leave the profession after 41 years.’

It is believed the youngster who levelled the accusations at Mr Cope is still being taught at the school, St Bartholomew’s in Great Harwood, Lancashire.

Mr Cope’s daughter Joy Corrigan, 33, said that since the allegations she has had to remove her eight-year-old daughter from the school after the girl was ‘goaded’ by the young boy.

Mrs Corrigan, who is also a teacher, added: ‘The saddest thing is that my dad was nearing retirement and after such a long career one of his resounding memories will be being marched off the premises. It should not have ended like this.’

Parents have been left shocked and angry that a highly regarded teacher has effectively been forced out of his job.

Victoria Mather, 34, said: ‘I think it’s horrible what has happened to him in the past year and he went through a lot because of that court case.

‘It is no surprise that this has taken its toll. He’s been in the profession for such a long time – it’s not right that it has come to this but he has always had a lot of support from the parents who stood by him.’

Kerry Molyneux, 30, said: ‘I’m really disappointed that he has chosen to step down but I can understand why. I just don’t think he wanted to have all this added stress. We are sorry to see him go as he was a good long-standing teacher.’

Linda Holt, 63, whose grandchildren attend the school, said: ‘I feel sorry for him and it has probably had a lot of effect on him and his family to be accused of something like that.’

‘Some of the kids today are out of control and they know exactly what their rights are, they say “you can’t touch me”. It was never like that in my day, there isn’t any respect any more.’

But the 38-year-old mother of the pupil – who cannot be named for legal reasons – defended her son and said she was ‘glad to see the back’ of Mr Cope. ‘We didn’t take it to court the police did,’ she said.

The mother, a music teacher, said he had never misbehaved at home and criticised other parents and staff who said he was disruptive.

‘I’m not saying he’s perfect but... he isn’t a devil child how they’ve made out he was,’ she said.

Mr Cope had faced up to six months in jail following the assault allegation.

But in August he was cleared by Blackburn magistrates when the chairman of the bench, Graham Parr, said there were ‘real doubts’ about the case.

The court heard that the boy had been disruptive since starting school and had been removed from classrooms regularly after he was violent towards other children.

In his statement to police Mr Cope said the boy was the most ‘disruptive and aggressive’ he had encountered in his career.

He said: ‘On some occasions he is uncontrollable. As he has got older, he has become more aware of his own physical prowess and he has become more aggressive.’

On the day of the incident in March last year, the boy is said to have ran amok, hitting ten classmates with his bag, pinning one of them to the wall and yelling at teachers. Mr Cope was called to deal with him.

Three days later, the boy told his mother that he had been hit by Mr Cope.  She said he had described ‘a struggle’ and said Mr Cope had grabbed his wrists before he ‘slapped him’.

Mr Cope told the court that the youngster had worked himself up into an ‘incandescent rage’.

He said: ‘He was next to a cupboard and a desk leg, and I held him by the hands as I was concerned he would bang his head.

‘I was trying to stop his head from rolling around so I put my hand out to stop him. That’s when he slammed into my hand and there was contact.

‘This allegation has caused me and my family great distress.’

Another teacher, Thomas Lowe, claimed he did see Mr Cope strike the boy. His evidence was rejected by the magistrates.

Mark Mackley, headteacher at St Bartholomew’s, confirmed yesterday that after ‘careful deliberation’ Mr Cope had decided to step down


Australia: University focus as Rudd marks apology anniversary

Rudd is Australia's Obama in terms of saying stuff that sounds good but is totally empty of any contact with reality. 

Blacks have had preferential access to universities ever since the Abschol sceme was set up decades ago.  But very few of them are bright enough to handle university.  And those that do get to university are, in my experience, just waved through regardless of their abilities

Thousands of people around the nation are marking five years since the formal apology and Mr Rudd has spoken of the need to boost tertiary access for Indigenous Australians.

Campaigner Brian Butler has been working to help Aboriginal people affected by forced removal of children from families over six decades.

He says the initial hope Mr Rudd gave Aboriginal people has long disappeared.

"Whether it's Kevin Rudd or anyone, no single politician is going to be able to make promises to the Aboriginal people because that's never happened before, things haven't progressed," he said.

"There might have been native title, there might have been a few payouts but it's still not reaching those people that are in this impoverished situation."

Mr Rudd was the keynote speaker at a breakfast held in Adelaide to mark the fifth anniversary.

The former prime minister said the latest Closing the Gap focus needed to be achieving university placements.

He said too few Indigenous students reached higher education and urged work to achieve a target of 10,000 extra Indigenous students going to the nation's universities.

"We must as a nation see the same number of Indigenous kids at our universities, proportional to their size and population in Australia ... and at present they are not," he said.

Mr Rudd said Indigenous participation in tertiary education should not be seen as "something exotic" but as mainstream.


Wednesday, February 13, 2013

'Everyone needs to hear "No" at some point': The British headteacher who dared tell parents to send their kids to bed

A primary school headteacher - fed up with sleepy pupils - has written an open letter to parents warning of the dangers of online gaming and allowing late night television in bedrooms after children in her school were 'ready for bed' by midday.

Suzanne Morgan, headteacher at Saltdean Primary School in Brighton, East Sussex, wrote a letter on the school website addressed to 'parents, carers and children'.

In the letter she claims some pupils were 'a little more than obsessed' with computer games and admitted to playing them 'late into the night'.

The letter goes on: 'This lack of sleep becomes cumulative and it is very difficult for staff to inspire learning from children who by 12 o'clock are ready to go to sleep.'

She adds that the teachers are greeted with 'tired looks' in the morning.

Mrs Morgan also highlights the problem with allowing children having televisions in their rooms: 'As more children have televisions in their rooms, we are finding that some are also watching TV until late.'

She also writes to parents directly: 'Obviously, we can only talk to children about good habits and about the need for a definitive amount of sleep at their age.

'We need cooperation of parents and carers to ensure that all our children arrive at school in the best possible frame of mind for learning.'

'There are all sorts of things online especially if these children are accessing it in their bedrooms.

'And in the virtual reality world they lose out on interacting with others. If there is no discipline in the home how will they get on in later life?

In her letter to parents she warned of the dangers of online gaming and allowing late night television in bedrooms after children in her school were 'ready to go to sleep' by midday

Mrs Morgan urged parents to 'shut down computers and television at a reasonable time'  'Everyone needs to hear 'no' at some point.'

Primary school children range from age 4 to 11.


Teach engineering not cookery, Sir James Dyson says

Schools should teach cutting edge skills to help Britain compete in the world, as engineers will not be trained by grilling tomatoes, Sir James Dyson has claimed

By 2013 this country will have a deficit of 60,000 engineering graduates.

This is compared to Singapore where applied science is so valued 40 per cent of graduates are engineers - in turn bringing in investors in their droves.

The master of invention believes that the way to combat the deficit is to teach children practical science and maths in design and technology lessons, which he says is essential for training the next generation.

Writing in The Times Sir James said that while Michael Gove may not have started a revolution, he has made progress as “academic excellence is back in fashion”.

Last week the Education Secretary's plan to scrap GCSEs in favour of new academic English Baccalaureate Certificates was dramatically shelved because of significant opposition from the Liberal Democrats.

But despite the u-turn he announced a tougher curriculum where schools must focus on knowledge and key skills, leading Sir James to believe “a whole new generation of mathematicians and theoretical physicists awaits”.

But despite the academic progress there is one area of the curriculum which still “ignores the importance of practical academic excellence”, he writes - D&T lessons.

“Design and technology should be the subject where mathematical brainboxes and science whizzkids turn their bright ideas into useful products.

“Britain needs these practical minds if it is to compete in the world…. But D&T teaching in our classrooms will now bring together cookery, construction and horticulture” Sir James said.

His recommendations to modernise the subject, made in conjunction with the Design and Technology Association, were ignored. Instead teenagers will still be taught skills like how to grill a tomato or replace a bike chain

Sir James said: “This new curriculum will not inspire the invention and engineers Britain so desperately needs. The academic rigour Mr Gove demanded in other core subjects is missing in D&T.”

In maths lessons have moved toward problem solving and tough algebra, and computing lessons have moved toward information technology and comuter-aided design (CAD).

But practical lessons in engineering are missing from the D&T, the lessons which are essential for those wishing to pursue a career in the field.

At the entrepreneur’s company, Dyson, CAD and algebra are both essential tools and engineering is moving toward virtual rapid prototyping. Therefore to stay ahead of the game youngsters “should learn to invent as well as fix”.

To inspire the next generations they need to be excited by developments in technology and allowed to explore it rather then being handed a hammer and a piece of wood, he said.

“All is not lost. Mr Gove has shown he is committed to making education more rigorous and the Government has shown a desire to make Britain a high technology exporter,” he added.

“But Mr Gove has forgotten about design and technology. We have until April to make him change his mind and re-engineer the D&T curriculum. Britain's future scientists and engineers depend on it.”


Teachers at Islamic College of South Australia's West Croydon campus ordered to wear hijab or face sack

SOUTH Australia's biggest Islamic school has warned teachers, including many non-Muslims, that they will lose their jobs if they do not wear a hijab to school functions and outings.

Up to 20 non-Muslim female teachers, who do not wish to be named, have been told they will be sacked from the Islamic College of South Australia's West Croydon campus after three warnings if they do not wear a headscarf to cover their hair.

The order, from the school's governing board and chairman Faruk Kahn, contradicts the policy of the Australian Federation of Islamic Councils.

Mr Kahn yesterday referred The Advertiser to AFIC for comment on the matter. "I have no comment ... I think you better go to AFIC, they are the only ones that are to make comment," Mr Kahn said.

School principal Kadir Emniyet did not return calls.

AFIC assistant secretary Keysar Trad said the policy was at odds with the national federation, but it was powerless to intervene.

"I'm aware there's a policy at that school with respect to the scarf," Mr Trad said.

"The AFIC policy is not to require any teacher to observe the hijab. In SA, the board itself has decided they want to operate in their way and we are not allowed to interfere in the matter.

"We maintain that staff should dress modestly but not be required by the nature of policy to wear the hijab."

Mr Trad said that matters of unfair dismissal resulting from teachers disobeying the school's hijab policy should be referred to Fair Work Australia.

"It's confusing for our children to see their teachers wearing the scarf in school and then they take it off when they are out shopping and the children see them there," he said.

"It is also a respect thing for our staff. If they are not Muslim they should not be forced to dress as Muslim."

One long-term teacher at the Islamic College of SA said a new school board was now "forcing teachers to put hijabs back on".

"There's no discussion ... you wear it or you're fired," the teacher said. "The teachers have always adhered to the policies and we are respectful of that.

"We are respectful of their religion but they are not going to respect us."

The college has about 800 students and 40 staff.

Guidelines from the Australian Federation of Islamic Councils to other Islamic schools do not require teachers to wear hijabs.

Glen Seidel, state secretary of the Independent Education Union, said the union was monitoring the policy.

"Essentially it means female staff have to wear a scarf covering most of their hair, and not have legs and arms exposed," he said.

"In 2012, the requirement was being managed moderately, but with a new principal in 2013 enacting the decisions of a very conservative school board, there is no room for compromise."

Mr Seidel said the union's view is staff should be free to decide whether to wear a scarf.

"The ultimate test would be in an unfair dismissal action to see if that requirement would be considered a `reasonable direction' and the termination therefore being reasonable.

"This is not a matter (in which) religious organisations are exempted from equal opportunity legislation in order to not cause offence to the `adherents of the faith'," Mr Seidel said.

"Non-Islamic staff are not being discriminated (against) in their employment as it is the same code for all.

"Non-Islamic staff can, however, feel rightly aggrieved that they are being coerced to adopt the dress code of a religion to which they do not belong."


Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Poor schools are a scourge as grave as gun violence

It is — and should always be — very moving when the President and first lady show public grief at a mournful recognition of young lives lost, especially when those lives are taken in or around public schools, at moments of particular innocence.

The Newtown massacre claimed 20 children; they were recently joined in endless silence by just one. At 15, Hadiya Pendleton of Chicago had been a good student, a dreamer and a member of a marching band from a school called King College Prep. But then, on Jan. 29, a gang-banger shot into a group of kids and killed her. He was not held back by her having performed in Washington at events surrounding President Obama’s second inaugural.

Being just a mile from the Windy City home of the President did not save Pendleton; nor did being an innocent teenager (one who had appeared in an anti-gang public service ad, no less) do much for her in the face of a lead slug that came flying her way. Boom, splat, fall. Rushed to the hospital, pronounced dead. Over.

Of course, something must be done about all of this violence. But there is a problem just as serious as the murder of children, whether in cities or suburbs. It is the problem of intellectual genocide that largely defines our public schools.

As with guns, the numbers are staggering. It is so thorough a problem that even the energy giant Exxon Mobil — in a naked bid for positive publicity — runs ads about improving our education as part of its “Let’s Solve This” campaign. The problem that needs to be solved? America having fallen into the middle of the pack in education compared to its peers around the world. China and India are leaving us in the dust.

Though many snicker about New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s weight being a huge obstacle to his presidential nomination, the Obama administration could learn some things from his battle with the Garden State’s powerful teachers unions.

Back in 2011, Christie told ABC News’ Diane Sawyer exactly how he felt about a labor group that put its own interests before those of children: “I believe the teachers in New Jersey in the main are wonderful public servants that care deeply. But their union, their union [leaders] are a group of political thugs.”

Now, Obama and his education secretary, Arne Duncan, have had some successes, like the Race to the Top program, which gives funding to states that use data to increase accountability and give more power to parents by opening more charter schools. And across the nation, states are using more rigorous means to evaluate teachers, no longer content to hand out raises for seniority alone.

Christie just happens to be the most vociferous opponent of the intellectual genocide that Condoleezza Rice once called “the civil rights struggle of our day.” She knows what she is talking about, having ascended from segregated Birmingham, Ala., to Stanford University — and from there to become one of George W. Bush’s closest foreign policy advisers.

Ignorance remains the deadliest force of all. But there are, sure enough, bright lights of hope in the very same communities that are often plagued by gun violence. I have long written about — and will continue to write about — the Harlem Educational Activities Fund, which helps so-called kids of color get to college and stay there until they graduate.

Praise is also due to Eva Moskowitz, whose Success Academy network has expanded out from Harlem to offer opportunities to ever more children around New York — even as she meets with opposition from misguided supporters of the teachers union.

Guns, schools — these are not easy battles to fight. But we must fight them. For the children of Newtown. For Hadiya Pendleton. We need to step up.


Inept teachers must go

Despite the fact that real spending on public education has doubled during the past 25 years, there remains an alarming number of bureaucrats and union bosses who propagandize that Kentucky is about to return to the days of the one-room schoolhouse both in terms of funding and academic reform.

Billy Harper, who recently completed a term on the state Board of Education, doesn’t drink that Kool-Aid.

Harper, who owns Harper Industries – a prosperous Paducah-based construction company, was the board’s only representative from the business community for the past four years. Gov. Steve Beshear recently refused to reappoint him to another term.

Beshear by rote answers every question about improving education with babble about needing more money and offering politically safe – but unproven – ideas, like forcing uninterested students to remain in school until they are 18 years old.

In contrast, Harper’s views are frank and thoughtful.

It’s refreshing to hear a business owner talk about Kentucky’s education policy in terms that go beyond the usual prattle of “if we just had more money, why, we could have our education system walking on water in no time.”

When Harper recently sat down with me to discuss his ideas about improving Kentucky public schools, it didn’t take long to figure out – he believes principals and teachers play critical roles in education reform.

“It used to be a principal could let the teacher go in the room and lock the door and do whatever they do,” Harper explained. “Now he’s got to be there to make sure they’re teaching the right things in the right way.”

He believes one way of retaining great teachers while weeding out those who need to find other professions is by basing their compensation on performance rather than seniority alone.

While he hopes Kentucky moves toward merit-based pay “in the next few years,” he says getting the education establishment’s support will be a “slow and hard process.”

The idea of evaluating teachers based on the academic progress made by their students, including using test scores, remains controversial in the education community. Still, Harper says there’s no way around the fact that productivity – and results – matter.

“You can be busy, but not producing things,” he said. “That’s going to be a critical part of (education reform) as well. When teachers truly are not performing and the students aren’t benefitting, there needs to be an efficient way to move on.”

While Kentucky’s education labor bosses – who spent $100,000 just on lobbying last year – despise any attempt to rid our education system of the scourge of failing teachers, Harper said it must be done.

Not only does having a failing teacher set children back academically, it’s costly. The average price for terminating a teacher for underperformance is a whopping $55,000, he said.

Given such high costs of ensuring classrooms aren’t occupied by inept faculty, Harper notes that “what usually ends up happening – they are pushed off to covering a department staff job somewhere, so it makes us more inefficient.”

While “some teachers are fearful of” enhanced evaluation policies, Harper said he has “no doubt that once we get there,” the hardworking, conscientious instructors in Kentucky schools – of which he notes there are many – will ultimately embrace and support the idea.

Harper’s optimism about our state’s education future is tempered with concern that we won’t keep working on the tough issues until they get resolved.

“The worst thing we did with KERA (the Kentucky Education Reform Act) is that we passed that and said ‘we fixed schools,’ and everybody went off to do other things. The key now is for us to stay at the table and keep getting better,” he said.


Ofsted: 'significant minority' of British schools wasting pupil premium

Millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money set aside to boost standards among poor pupils is being wasted chasing targets and employing ineffective teaching assistants, according to Ofsted.

The watchdog warned that a “significant minority” of schools were still failing to spend the Coalition’s flagship pupil premium funding properly.

In a report, inspectors said that the cash – worth £2.5 billion per year by 2014/15 – was being used by many schools to narrow the gap between pupils from rich and poor families.

Some heads used it to employ more good teachers, stage booster classes in the three-Rs, target parents who are failing to keep children in line and even pay for lap-tops to enable deprived pupils to work at home.

But the study warned that too many schools were failing to prove that money was properly spent on programmes to improve results among poor children.

The worst schools often:

 *  Spent the money “indiscriminately” on employing more classroom assistants with little impact on standards;

 *  Focused on pupils on the cusp of hitting Government targets – gaining five C grades at GCSE – without going “beyond these expectations”, meaning bright pupils from working-class homes underachieved;

 *  Compared the performance of poor pupils to other disadvantaged children – rather than national standards for all pupils – resulting in schools “lowering expectations” for the target group;

 *  Failed to monitor the impact of schemes and did not have a clear audit trail to prove cash was well spent.

The report – based on inspections of 70 primaries and secondaries in England – also said some Government funded invested in summer classes for disadvantaged children would be better spent on helping them catch up in English and maths if they are behind when they start secondary school.

The conclusions follow a more comprehensive report into the pupil premium published by Ofsted in the autumn.

Sir Michael Wilshaw, the chief inspector, said it was clear that “more schools are now taking their responsibilities seriously when it comes to using the pupil premium money and our inspectors have found evidence of some very good practice in their recent visits".

But he added: "Some schools still lack good enough systems for tracking the spending of the additional funding or for evaluating the effectiveness of measures they have put in place in terms of improving outcomes.

"We will continue to take an active interest in this issue in the coming months. Where we find funding isn't being spent effectively on improving outcomes for disadvantaged pupils, we will be clear in our criticism.

"It is vital that schools get this right. Every child who leaves school without the right qualifications faces a far more difficult path to fulfilling their potential and finding employment."

The pupil premium – repeatedly championed by the Liberal Democrats – has been seen as one of the Coalition’s most high-profile education reforms.

Schools currently receive £600 for each pupil eligible for free school meals. Ofsted found it was worth up to £134,323 in primary schools visited by inspectors and £296,501 in state secondaries.

David Laws, the Lib Dem Schools Minister, said: "If we are to build a fairer society, we have to make sure children can succeed at school whatever their background.

“The pupil premium is a significant amount of money going into schools up and down the country. It is vital that schools use it effectively.

"I am delighted with the good practice shown by many schools, as recognised by Ofsted in their report. But there is still a lot more that can be achieved."


Monday, February 11, 2013

Education Spending That Isn't Smart

Jonah Goldberg

Not long after President Obama proclaimed in his second inaugural that "an economic recovery has begun," we learned that the U.S. economy actually shrank in the last quarter. Many economists believe this is a temporary setback. This recovery may be the weakest in American history, but the economy isn't cratering either.

Still, you can bet that if the economy continues to contract, Obama will propose the same remedy he always has: more "investments" in education, infrastructure and various industries of the future. It seems that whatever the ailment, Dr. Obama always writes the same prescription.

This is hardly shocking: Building roads and schools is a big reason why God created Democrats in the first place. And identifying the Next Big Thing -- and taking credit for it -- is something of a vocation for many liberal policymakers.  But are these really the drivers of economic growth?

Higher education in particular is almost universally championed as the key to "winning the future" -- a buzz phrase the president borrowed from Newt Gingrich a while back. New York Times economics columnist David Leonhardt calls education the "lifeblood of economic growth."

Often channeling such writers as Thomas Friedman, whose fondness for the Chinese economic model borders on the perverse, Obama routinely elevates education to a national security issue. "There's an educational arms race taking place around the world right now -- from China to Germany, to India to South Korea," Obama said in 2010. "Cutting back on education would amount to unilateral disarmament. We can't afford to do that."

Now, obviously, education is important and necessary for a host of reasons (and nobody is calling for "disarmament," whatever that means). But there's little evidence it drives growth.

British scholar Alison Wolf writes in "Does Education Matter?": "The simple one-way relationship ... -- education spending in, economic growth out -- simply does not exist. Moreover, the larger and more complex the education sector, the less obvious any links to productivity."

Nassim Nicholas Taleb, author of "Antifragile: Things That Gain From Disorder," argues that education pays real benefits at a micro level because it allows families to lock in their economic status. An entrepreneurial father can ensure his kids will do OK by paying for them to become doctors and lawyers. But what is true at the micro level is not always true at the macro level.

Think about it this way: Growing economies spend a lot on education, but that doesn't necessarily mean that spending makes them grow. During the so-called Gilded Age, the U.S. economy roared faster and longer than ever before or since, while the illiteracy rate went down. But the rising literacy didn't cause the growth. Similarly, in the 20th century, in places like China, South Korea and India, the economic boom -- and the policies that create it -- always come first while the investments in education come later.

Japan is now well into its third "lost decade." Over the years, it has poured money into "stimulative" infrastructure projects that have yet to stimulate and protected industries that have steadily lost their competitive edge. Economic growth has averaged less than 1 percent since 2000, while government debt is now more than twice its GDP. If a highly educated workforce, support for allegedly cutting-edge industries and lavish spending on infrastructure was the recipe for economic growth (and if debt didn't matter), Japan would be doing great.

Obama surely wants to see some real economic growth. Perhaps the problem is that he thinks investing in a much bigger cart to put before the horse will get him where he wants to go.


Maine girls hoops players scolded after disturbing Nazi salute‏

Good that the school avoided the usual hysteria when kids are "incorrect" about something

As reported by the Associated Press and a variety of Maine outlets, including Bangor CBS affiliate WLBZ, a photo surfaced online depicting three members of the Greely (Me.) High girls basketball team celebrating a Nazi salute. Two of the girls were actually giving the salute while a third sat beneath her friends accepting the salute with a peace sign.

While the preceding events that inspired the pose have not officially been revealed, the girls were all wearing their basketball uniforms in the photo, and they reportedly referred to one of their teammates as "Hitler."

The salute and ugly tweets that surfaced were apparently a disturbing reference to the three girls' dislike of a particular Jewish teammate, with the trio also tweeting multiple references to Hitler and other anti-Semitic trains of thought.

Two tweets pointed out by WLBZ left little doubt about the girls' feeling about their Jewish teammate.

One tweet, dated December 24th, says "So Jewish to have prac on Christmas Eve day."

Another says "If ---- picked me up, she would've made me do sprints, then put me in a gas chamber."

All three girls are reportedly minors, so their identities remain protected. Their actions were brought to the attention of school officials by another concerned parent, with the note also pointing out that at least one student athlete had re-tweeted comments from the virulently anti-Semitic Twitter account @dictatorhitler.

The school said that it had not planned long-term punishment for the three girls, instead claiming that they made an out-of-character mistake and had learned from the incident. Whether or not that is deemed appropriate by the other parents -- let alone the larger Jewish community in Southern Maine -- remains to be seen.

"...These events, while disturbing, also provide us with an opportunity to teach our children about tolerance and respect...," Greely Principal Dan McKeone and Athletic Director David Shapiro wrote in a letter to parents of team members. "We will be working with the team in order to help them gain a better understanding of the ramifications of incidents such as this. We will also been looking for additional opportunities to educate the greater school community..."


Cookery lessons back on the British school menu

Carpentry too?  Apparently not

Cookery lessons are to become a compulsory part of the school curriculum for the first time after pressure from leading chefs and health campaigners.

Children as young as eight will now be taught basic cooking skills and how to make a balanced meal.

From September next year, primary school students will be given practical lessons in how to combine ingredients to produce simple, healthy food.

At secondary school, pupils will then master a number of different meals and will learn a range of cooking techniques including baking.

The proposals, made in the new draft national curriculum, have been welcomed by health experts concerned that children are growing up without basic culinary skills or food knowledge, which they say has helped to fuel the rise in childhood obesity and dietary-related diabetes.

They warn the demands of modern life have left many children living on a diet of ready meals because their parents are often too busy to cook.

Food technology is currently a component of the design and technology syllabus, but is not an independent part of the national curriculum.

And although food education is part of the curriculum at primary school level, teachers often prefer to focus on the nutritional aspects rather than the practical side of cooking.

The move is part of the Government’s strategy to tackle obesity, with one in three children in the UK now overweight by the age of nine.

The NHS spends around £6billion a year on diet-related diseases, which is thought in part to be due to poor levels of knowledge about healthy eating in schools and at home.

The proposals follow years of campaigning by a number of groups including leading chefs, Olympians and health organisations.

In a letter to the Telegraph last week, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, Tom Aikens and Prue Leith, all chefs and restaurateurs, as well as Alex Partridge, the Olympic rower, and Paul Lindley, the founder of the baby food producer Ella’s Kitchen, warned that the country is sleepwalking into a “dietary crisis”.

Their campaign, Averting A Recipe For Disaster, urged the Government to commit to improving nutrition for children or face saddling future generations with a multi–billion pound health bill.

Other signatories include Rob Rees, chair of The Children’s Food Trust, David Haslam, chairman of the National Obesity Forum and John Vincent, co-leader of the Government’s School Food plan and founder of restaurant chain Leon.

A study conducted for the campaign found that that the number of children who fail to eat any fruit or vegetables had increased by a third between 2009 and 2010.

Seventy per cent of primary school teachers and 87 per cent of mothers and fathers questioned said that cooking should be part of the curriculum.

The Department for Education ordered a review into school meals last year led by Henry Dimbleby and Mr Vincent, the co-founders of Leon.

Their aim was to get all children eating good food at school and to increase the teaching of cooking in primary and secondary schools.

Paul Lindley, founder of Ella's Kitchen, said: "The announcement from the Department for Education that cooking will be reintroduced onto the National Curriculum at Key Stages 1, 2 and 3 is a hugely positive development in the mission to improve our children's relationship with food.

"I wholeheartedly welcome this change, which has been driven by John Vincent and Henry Dimbleby as part of the School Food Plan and shows the change that can take place when good ideas gain traction."

Libby Grundy, director of Food For Life Partnership, a national programme working with schools to teach them about healthy eating, said: “It’s exceptionally good news that the Government is serious about improving children’s health. Catching the children at a young age is the best way to tackle the problem, when it’s not too late to teach them how to cook healthy meals for themselves.

“In schools that already offer cookery lessons, we have seen pupils go home and teach their parents what they have learnt. We found 45 per cent of parents were saying the family now ate more healthily as a result.”

A spokesman for the Department for Education said: “For the first time ever cookery will be a compulsory part of the curriculum from Key Stages 1 to 3. The new design and technology curriculum is about giving pupils the knowledge needed for their daily lives. Given the obesity issues that face our children today, it is vital that they know as much as possible about healthy eating and what constitutes a balanced diet.

“It’s also important that they can develop an interest and understanding of good food. By bringing this into the curriculum, we want to encourage children to develop a love of food and cooking that will stay with them as they grow up.”


Sunday, February 10, 2013

2nd-grader suspended over imaginary grenade‏

A seven-year-old boy was suspended from his elementary school for using an imaginary grenade while playing "Rescue the World" on the playground.

The story was featured on Fox 31 Denver. Second-grader Alex Evans pretended to throw a grenade into a box full of, in his words, "pretend evil forces."  "I pretended the box, there's something shaking in it, and I go pshhh," Alex explained.

Unfortunately for Alex, his exploits (heroic as they were) went against Mary Blair Elementary School rules. Those rules include no fighting (real or pretend) and no weapons (real or pretend).

Alex's mom commented that she doesn't think the rule is practical. "Honestly I don’t think the rule is very realistic for kids this age,” Mandie Watkins said. "I think that when a child is trying to save the world, I don’t think he should be punished for it."

Alex is just as perplexed as his mom. "I was trying to save people and I just can’t believe I got dispended," he told Fox 31.

A similar incident took place last month in Pennsylvania when a fifth-grade girl was reprimanded by school officials for bringing a piece of paper in the shape of gun to class.


California abandons algebra requirement for eighth-graders

By falling in line with other states, California is abandoning its push for all eighth-graders to take algebra.

Last month, the State Board of Education unanimously shifted away from a 15-year policy of expecting eighth-graders to take Algebra I. The state will allow them to take either Algebra I or an alternate course that includes some algebra. New state standardized tests will focus on the alternate course -- the same one adopted by most states under the Common Core curriculum being rolled out across the nation.

Supporters welcome the change as more in line with current practice, of schools offering two tracks of math for eighth-graders. But critics fear that the new standard will let schools avoid offering rigorous courses for all. They point to a report released last week showing that some schools are not placing black and Latino students in advanced math courses even when they're prepared.

The change is controversial because success in Algebra I is the single best predictor of college graduation.

Supporters say the state has adopted a more practical and effective way of teaching math. The new standards recognize that not all students can pass algebra in middle school.

"You have a lot of kids who get pushed into algebra when they're not ready," said Mark Stolan, a math teacher at Quimby Oak Middle School in San Jose. "Not only do they struggle, which is demoralizing, then they end up having to take it again."

Since 1997, California standards have included eighth-grade algebra. Under the new standards for algebra: "We are recommending you take it when you're ready," said Thomas Adams, executive director of the state's Instructional Quality Commission.

Competitive track

But critics say the switch could ease pressure on school districts to prepare poor and minority students for college.

"I think it's a step back," said Emmett Carson, executive director of the Silicon Valley Community Foundation, which has funded algebra-prep courses and has pushed for more rigor for all students.

In 2010, the state board created dual math standards: California's fast track to algebra and the Common Core approach, teaching fewer concepts in depth, leading to Algebra I in ninth grade.

But the Common Core sequence is out of sync with the progression that leads to college-bound students taking calculus in 12th grade, as expected by top-tier universities. The question of how to get kids taking the Common Core nonalgebra math on track for entrance to competitive colleges is left up to school districts.

That could mean students would have to take three years of high school math in two years. Some students do that now, said Morgan Marchbanks, assistant superintendent of the Sequoia Union High School District, but it's rare.

If more students stay on the Common Core track, she said, "It's going to have to move from rare to common."

Some say despite its goals, forcing too many students to take algebra in eighth grade has doomed them to fail in math. In Santa Clara County, for instance, two years ago only 44 percent of middle school students tested proficient in math; the figure was only 24 percent for Latino students. And studies show that almost 80 percent of students who retake algebra fail again.


Boy falls foul of British definition of "offensive"

It's offensive if someone else thinks it is

Ben Hayward, 14, was accused of making the racist hand gesture and clicking his heels while saying “Heil Hitler” to his unnamed teacher.

But the boy insisted he did not know he was being racist and was just stretching out his left arm to imitate his teacher’s gesture as she attempted to keep students quiet outside the classroom before the performing arts class.

Despite denying saying the phrase or that he clicked his heels, officials from Meopham School, in Meopham, Kent, handed him a two-hour detention.

But the schoolboy and his parents refused to accept that the incident was racist and demanded an investigation by the school, claiming the teacher was mistaken.

While the detention was initally postponed, officials later contacted his family to say Ben had to serve his punishment, despite the head teacher, Matthew Munro, admitting that the school was prepared to drop its claims that the incident was racist.

But last week, Ben returned from school and told his parents he had been in exclusion for the day. Ben’s phone was confiscated, he was placed insolation and communication with other children was “severed”.

Today, his father, Scott, 41, from Cuxton, Kent, said he now plans to lodge a complaint with the board of governors after the school failed to inform him why the punishment had "escalated".

He said the incident had left his wife, Robyn, 37 and his other teenage son, 17, who also attends the school, deeply upset. The couple also have a three year-old daughter.

"We asked the school to talk to the teacher as we thought she may have misjudged the incident as racist,” said Mr Hayward, a director of a construction company.

"At most it could have been seen as undermining her authority but definitely not racist.

"If investigated properly with witness statements from the other 20 or so children there, it would show the teacher was mistaken."

He added: “It's been upsetting because Ben has been questioned again and again because we've not been getting answers from the school. They are keeping us in the dark. But we stick by our son.

"He was being silly and was just mucking about with his mates. There was nothing in it. He understands that he has done something wrong. We have been questioning him about it to make about what has happened.

“We are quite upset about this. We feel we have not been listened to. We did really like the school.”

Mr Munro today defended the school’s handling of the incident, which occurred in November last year.

"The standard procedure when students have an after school detention is if they miss it twice they will have a day of internal exclusion in our internal exclusion unit,” he said.

"We had discussions with Mr and Mrs Hayward and we did agree we wouldn't categorise it as a racist incident but that it would be a serious incident and the punishment would stand.

"A racist incident is defined by perception of other people rather than the intention of the person who committed it and this is the point we tried to make.”

He added: "The fact remains a teacher took great exception and perceived the incident as racist. However, as I said this was a point we were willing to re-categorise and that is where we left it."

The co-educational secondary school has about 650 students and has "specialist status" as a Sports College.

Last week the school joined the Swale Academies trust as a sponsored academy. The trust principal Jon Whitcombe was unavailable for comment