Friday, February 22, 2013

Wolfe Cries Fox

 Mike Adams

Last week, after returning from an interview on a network that makes liberals cringe, I came home to an inbox full of emails. Usually, when I come home to a full inbox, it’s because a professor has done something stupid and people want me to write about it. This was no exception. A professor at West Liberty University had banned Fox News as a source and told her students that the "biased" station makes her "cringe." That kind of thinking is common among professors. But few professors are stupid enough to reveal it in a syllabus.

Stephanie Wolfe, a visiting assistant professor at West Liberty, made her own bias clear when she told her students orally that they could not cite the news station in any of their work for the semester. The problem was that she also put the following in her syllabus: "The tagline 'Fox News' makes me cringe. Please do not subject me to this biased news station. I would almost rather you print off an article from the Onion (sic)."

For those who did not miss the irony, "bias" occurs when someone allows an emotional inclination to interfere with the ability to process information. So the good professor banned Fox for being "biased" one sentence after she admitted that her emotional inclination impedes her ability to process information presented by Fox. Why not ban herself as a biased source of information?

Of course, putting this in her syllabus was stupid. But it brought about a good result. Students were able to share the information with others, including Fox News. That resulted in a rare national television appearance by a university president willing to express his concerns about academic freedom. In fact, President Capehart handled the situation perfectly by registering a concern that Wolfe's exercise of academic freedom was infringing on the academic freedom of her students to "gather information and look at as many different sources as possible on any side, before you reach your opinion."

Shortly after these remarks were made, Professor Wolfe reversed the ban and recognized her students' legitimate interest in examining different points of view - even those that do not comport with those of the professor. For this reason, I plan to contact the university using this link. It will be a rare opportunity to thank a university administration for doing the right thing. Even if you don't have time to write West Liberty, you've learned two things by taking the time to read this column:

1. Administrative support is needed to enable rogue faculty members. For years, leftist faculty members have relied on administrative support from Deans, Provosts, and Presidents. Whenever these administrators intervene with vague statements about "academic freedom" a signal is sent to the rogue faculty member. That signal is that they may do whatever they want without suffering repercussions in the workplace. But as soon as an administrator speaks about his concerns over balancing the freedom of different parties, the professor knows she is in trouble. Anything less than full administrative support will cause the professor to capitulate.

2. Justice often follows when we obtain written admissions. One reason the president responded in such a positive way was evidentiary. This was no mere accusation. Wolfe carelessly put her remarks in writing. So there could be no denying that a problem existed. The evidence forced Capehart to make a decision. And he made the right one.

Most professors spew their bias in the classroom without recording it on the syllabus. Therefore, students have to be vigilant. When, for example, your professor tells the class (in class) to refrain from using Fox as a source, you should seek clarification via email. Something like the following will suffice:

"Dear Professor Doe: I light of your ban on using Fox News as a source, I was wondering whether using MSNBC or Al Jazeera would also be unacceptable?"

Professors are often so arrogant that they will use the classroom to pressure students into accepting their beliefs. And they are often so careless that they will repeat their errors in writing when pressed. As you will see in my next column, it can be quite embarrassing when such coercion is exposed.


Georgia Elementary School Verse: ‘Obama Ran So Our Children Could Fly’

It’s no secret government schools have put President Obama on a pedestal unlike any other national leader.

Schools have been named after him long before his retirement or death, which is rather unprecedented. Students have been led in organized chants of his honored name. There are lesson plans comparing him to Abraham Lincoln.

But sometimes school employees take the rhetoric a bit too far and wind up in propaganda territory. The latest example comes from DeKalb County, Georgia.

For Black History Month, Livsey Elementary School created a cute display with the lines:

Rosa sat…so Martin could walk.
Martin walked…so Obama could run.
Obama ran…so our children could fly.

The jingle obviously refers to Rosa Parks and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, and the display features their pictures. There’s no questions their actions forged a pathway for many black Americans to have decent lives, and for first-term Illinois Sen. Barack Obama to run for – and win – the presidency of the United States.

But Americans shouldn’t teach children that they need politicians of any stripe to be successful in life. In fact, they should know that President Obama’s is about to hand them - and successive generations – an astronomical national debt that they will have to deal with someday.

This deifying of Obama is unhealthy for our students because we’re teaching them to look to an individual – or government in general - for life solutions. If anything, today’s kids need to be reprogrammed to remember that they are the masters of their own destinies, and they themselves make the decisions that will ultimately determine the course of their lives.

As President John Adams said, we have “a government of laws, and not of men.” The unhealthy tendency to worship the people that temporarily fill government positions is a distraction for young people who should be focused on their own efforts to find their way in life.

Students need responsible parents and high quality teachers and educational options to be prepared for life, not pandering politicians or a nanny state that tells them what to eat for lunch, makes excuses for failing schools and defends subpar teachers.


Michael Gove: free school applicants 'subjected to death threats'

Teachers and parents who support the Coalition’s flagship free schools are being subjected to personal attacks and even death threats, according to Michael Gove.

Organisations seeking to open their own schools under the Government’s education reforms have been repeatedly intimidated by groups ideologically opposed to the programme, the Education Secretary warned.

In some cases, existing teachers who support the scheme are being hounded out of their jobs, it was claimed.

The comments were made as the Department for Education was forced to release details of all organisations applying to open free schools.

Data released after a long-running battle shows that 517 separate bids have been made for new schools, which are taxpayer-funded institutions run completely independent of local council control, in the last two years.

Of those, around a quarter of applications were by faith-based organisations, including those named as Muslim, Plymouth Brethren, Orthodox Jewish, Sikh, Hindu and Greek Orthodox.

The DfE had opposed a Freedom of Information request for the data, claiming that naming applicants before bids were provisionally approved would deter future organisations from coming forward.

Free schools have proved hugely unpopular with teaching unions and left-wing pressure groups who claim they are undemocratic and may pull pupils away from existing schools – placing them under threat of closure.

But Mr Gove claimed that opposition to the scheme had “gone further than normal healthy debate”, with at least one applicant facing death threats and others losing their jobs.

He also suggested that the release of the latest information – ordered by the Information Commissioner – may subject future applicants to similar treatment.

In a letter to Christopher Graham, the Information Commissioner, he said: “We are aware of personal attacks on individuals who simply want to improve educational standards and choice locally.

“Organisations opposed to free schools have run hostile publicity campaigns. In some cases these have become highly personal, vilifying individuals involved in opening a free school.

“We have been told of instances where teachers have lost their jobs simply by virtue of their association with a free school application.

“One proposer has even told us that they have been the subject of a death threat.

“It is because we wanted to protect public-spirited volunteers from intimidation that we fought against the ruling.”

The British Humanist Association originally submitted an FOI request for data about the religious affiliations of organisations seeking to open free schools. The request was turned down by the DfE but subsequently overturned by the Information Commissioner.

Free schools have been opposed by teaching unions such as the National Union of Teachers and the NASUWT. They have also been attacked by the Social Workers Party.

Toby Young, the writer, who was behind a successful bid to open a free school in west London in 2011, said he had been subjected to intimidation over the move.

“The NUT shop steward in my part of west London circulated a document to the local council on NUT-headed paper falsely accusing me of, among other things, sleeping with prostitutes,” he said.

Richy Thompson, BHA faith schools campaigner, welcomed the release of the data but insisted it underestimated the involvement of faith groups.

“We believe the true number of religious schools is likely to be a third to 50% higher than what the data implies,” he said. “This is because it only shows schools with a formally designated religious character, and not those with a ‘faith ethos’. Academies and free schools can be religious without formally designating as ‘faith’ schools.”


Thursday, February 21, 2013

How Muslim proselytizing creeps into public schools

The Loudoun County School Board is reaching the denouement of a multiyear deliberation about an application for a charter school that has strong ties to Fethullah Gulen, a Turkish Islamist. His followers have already started some 135 American charter schools. Their focus is to promote an increasingly Shariah-dominated Turkey.

Incredibly, the school board’s members are studiously avoiding any acknowledgment or discussion of the role of Fethullah Gulen and his movement in the charter school. They have wrestled for many months with a host of problems with the application — such as serious deficiencies with the proposed curriculum, the financing, the management, the teachers and Maryland’s Chesapeake Science Point Public Charter School, the school in Anne Arundel County specifically cited as the “model” for the Loudoun Math and Information Technology Academy.

Yet the members of the school board have, to date, been unwilling to recognize that these problems are actually endemic in Gulen-associated schools — including Chesapeake Science Point. These problems are also much in evidence in three Gulen charter schools in Fulton County, Ga. Two of the three have lost their charters; the third — an elementary school — may soon follow suit.

I had the occasion to visit Fulton County last week and talked with several people involved in one aspect or another of its difficulties with the Gulenists. These included a former teacher, the parent of a former student and a local administrator. One thing is clear from these conversations: You simply cannot begin to understand, let alone cope with, the sorts of issues inherent in “Gulen-inspired” schools if you indulge — for whatever reason, be it “political correctness,” sensitivity to “diversity,” fear of litigation or being branded an “Islamophobe,” racist, etc. — in the pretense that applications like the one in Loudoun County can be properly evaluated while excluding from the evaluation process the 800-pound gorilla in the room: the applicants’ manifest associations to the Gulen movement.

Fortunately, the Loudoun County School Board is expected to hear from Mary Addi on Tuesday, in the course of its last public input session on the application for the Loudoun Math and Information Technology Academy. Ms. Addi and her Turkish husband, Mustafa Emanet, both formerly taught in a Gulen school in Cleveland. They have courageously made public their insights into issues sure to afflict the Loudoun County school system if the current application is approved: systematic mismanagement; use of Turkish teachers who are unqualified to teach, do not speak English comprehensibly or both; visa fraud; financial irregularities; chronic deviation from the curriculum and other rules and regulations meant to govern its operations; and so on. These issues have affected other Gulen charter schools around the country. Ms. Addi and her husband have even contributed to an ongoing investigation of the Gulen Movement and its schools by the FBI.

In a letter previously submitted to a select committee of the Loudoun School Board that — to its credit — actually recommended rejection of the Gulen charter application, Ms. Addi wrote:

“According to my husband, in addition to garnering as much taxpayer money as possible, the Gulen movement’s other agenda is to spread Islam though subliminal indoctrinations. More specifically, the mission is to spread Islam by means of the Turkish events such as trips to Turkey, the Turkish Olympics, other cultural events and teaching Turkish as a second language.

“Although the Gulenists are careful not to speak directly about their religious beliefs, it is their hope that by indoctrinating American students and parents with their culture and hospitality, that the students will likewise be more susceptible to religious conversion.”

Such behavior would, of course, fall afoul of prohibitions in the Virginia code barring proselytization in public schools. Like the rest of the Gulen program, however, unless the application is rejected, it is predictable that Loudoun County will find itself wrestling with what other school systems have confronted elsewhere: an entrenched school, indifferent to its obligations and responsibilities — and exceedingly difficult to discipline due, in part, to the Gulenists’ intensive efforts to buy political protection from county supervisors, state legislators, governors and others.

If the mere prospect of those sorts of vexing problems were not grounds enough to reject the application, this passage from the Loudoun County School Board code of conduct should be: “I must never neglect my personal obligation to the community and my legal obligation to the State, nor surrender these responsibilities to any other person, group, or organization; but that, beyond these, I have a moral and civic obligation to the Nation which can remain strong and free only so long as public schools in the United States of America are kept free and strong.”

Keeping our public schools free and strong means keeping them out of the clutches of cultish supremacists, be they of the Turkish Islamist stripe or any other.


Angry clashes at Cambridge University as  French far-right leader Marine Le Pen arrives to give speech to debating society

The leader of France's far-right Front National was greeted by anti-fascist protesters today ahead of a debate at the Cambridge Union.

Marine Le Pen - daughter of Jean Marie Le Pen and who took over the party leadership from her father in 2011 - addressed students at the Cambridge Union debating society about the future of the European Union and French politics this afternoon.

Her appearance sparked controversy, with "anti-fascist" group Unite Against Fascism organising a demonstration of about 200 people outside the famous venue.

Officers from Cambridgeshire Police attended to prevent trouble.

A spokesman for the Cambridge Union Society defended the decision to invite Ms Le Pen, 44, who has been an MEP since 2004.

He added: 'We welcome the opportunity to discuss, debate, and challenge an individual who has had an unquestionable impact on French and European politics.

'Whether you agree with her politics or not, this event represents one of the very few opportunities a British audience has had to directly engage with Mrs Le Pen, who finished third in the last French presidential election, behind Hollande and Sarkozy, and who currently sits in the European Parliament as a democratically elected representative.'

Student Rights, a group supporting equality, democracy and freedom from extremism on university campuses, called for the university to investigate the decision to invite Le Pen to speak.

In a statement, it added: 'Universities do have a duty to uphold freedom of speech, but they are no place for the promotion of fascist views, and university authorities have a duty of care to their students to protect them from those who would promote hatred.'

The Union Society is well known for hosting controversial speakers, who have in the past included former IMF chief Dominique Strauss Kahn and Wikileaks founder Julian Assange.


Leading British headmasters defend values of independent schools

As the debate about “posh prejudice” rages, the men who will lead the independent schools sector over the next two years enter the fray and launch a robust defence of the values of private schooling.

Independent schools are under the spotlight like never before, and their place in Britain’s education landscape has never been so intensely debated.

It started with the claim by Christopher Ray, the high master of Manchester Grammar School, that private schools were being “demonised” by politicians. And it quickly snowballed, prompting articles, letters and tweets about the existence or otherwise of “posh prejudice”.

Then a couple of weeks ago, Frances King, the headmistress of Roedean School in Sussex, revealed that she was leaving to work abroad and would not miss the “hostility” in which private schools have to operate.

On Friday, the former high master of St Paul’s School, in south London, joined the debate. Martin Stephen, writing in the Times Educational Supplement magazine, said that two of the three main political parties “hated independent schools to the core of their being” and that the third was run by so many public schoolboys that to extend even the “merest hand of friendship to independent schools would knock them into a trap the media are braying for them to fall into.”

Among many parents, the feeling is growing that at a time when many families are struggling to make ends meet, it may be better not to mention that you are paying for your child’s education – that such an outlay is morally questionable.

At the same time, the smooth path from selective independent school to leading university, via straight As at A-level, is becoming distinctly bumpier.

More than half of the members of the elite Russell Group now have a target, agreed with the Office for Fair Access (Offa), in return for charging £9,000 a year tuition fees, designed to boost the number of students recruited from state schools. If places are finite, this inevitably means a reduction in places for privately-educated sixth-formers.

Stepping into the fray is Tim Hands, the master of Magdalen College School, Oxford. The 55-year-old takes up his chairmanship of the Headmasters’ and Headmistresses’ Conference (HMC), which represents the leading independent schools, in very interesting times.

He will be followed as chairman by Richard Harman, the head of Uppingham School, the £30,000-a-year boarding school where HMC was originally established in 1896.

“It is not a question of feeling sorry for ourselves,” says Mr Hands, sitting in his study, along side Harman, at the £14,000-a-year day school.

“If you have a job like a football manager, then you are under pressure. If you have the spending power of Chelsea, there is going to be envy by the supporters of other clubs.

"That is only natural. Independent schools charge fees. Yes, a third of pupils have bursary support, but we can’t get rid of the fact that people pay.

“But it is not wrong de facto to pay for education. There is a kind of assumption isn’t there in some bits of society that it is necessarily wrong to pay for education, in a way that it is not wrong to pay for expensive holiday, for instance. And I disagree.”

The idea fuelling the “posh prejudice” debate – that independent schools are full of “toffs” – is simply mistaken, according to Hands and Harman. A third of pupils in HMC schools are on financial support to help with days fees which average £11,000-a-year and average boarding fees of £24,000-a-year.

It emerged last year that one third of the means-tested bursaries given out by Oxford University to undergraduates who are from low-income homes went to students who were educated at independent schools – a fact seized on by Hands as evidence that not all pupils who are privately schooled are “posh”.

“There is a tendency for Joe Public to think about independent schools with a 'them and us’ mentality in which independent schools represent toffs and are therefore to be tilted at," says Hands.

"That is not the reality. This school comes out of the grammar school movement. Schools like Uppingham are not about toffs either. HMC is about the aspiring middle classes.”

A raft of leading figures in the Coalition were educated at private school, including David Cameron, Nick Clegg, George Osbourne, Boris Johnson, Michael Gove, Jeremy Hunt, Andrew Lansley and Oliver Letwin. On the opposition frontbenches, Ed Balls, Harriett Harman, Tessa Jowell and Chuka Umunna were privately educated.

What particularly angers HMC is politicians who enjoy the huge benefits bestowed by the independent sector, but then distance themselves from it or seek to undermine it.

In last year’s conference speech, the prime minister, while referring to the “great school” he went to, did not mention Eton by name.

While Ed Miliband, the Labour leader, made a point of highlighting his education at Haverstock comprehensive school in north London, claiming that his time there had taught him “how to get on with people from all backgrounds”.

“One has to be realistic about the political pressures on politicians,” says Harman. “It is part of the world we live in but it is a paradox that many of our leaders are people who have been educated in our greatest schools but find it rather difficult to make a virtue of that.”

Hands pulls no punches, accusing Nick Clegg of “double standards”. The deputy prime minister is considering private school for his eldest son and recently looked round £23,000 a year Westminster School with his wife Miriam González Durántez.

However, in a speech last year that recommended giving university places to students from poor backgrounds even if their grades were slightly lower, Clegg said that the “great rift” between the best schools, most of which are private, and the schools ordinary families use was “corrosive”.

Hands says: “On the one hand there’s personal support for the independent sector by sending one’s own child into it. On the other there is a political interference in higher education by trying to limit the number of independent school pupils going to top universities.

“Worse, this interference is based on inaccurate statistics and questionable research. So it is rather a case of the left hand claiming not to realise what the right hand is doing – Nick Clegg’s actions and his language smack of double standards.

"If you want to find something corrosive, then you only need to look as far as political interference in the academic integrity of university admissions.”

The mixed messages coming from the Coalition make it difficult for the sector to “know where it stands”, according to Hands.

Despite this, HMC is confident about its power to influence the education landscape. In a recent interview Sir Michael Wilshaw, the head of Ofsted, said the techniques used by private schools to push bright children and talented sports stars should be emulated by state schools. In the 2012 Olympics, for instance, more than a third of British medal winners in the 2012 London Olympics were from private schools.

Sir Michael also praised the sector’s commitment to developing pupils characters – its concentration on pastoral care and extra-curricular activities that help to fuel outstanding academic results.

In last summer’s A-levels, almost a third of privately educated teenagers gained straight As, compared to one in 10 of state school pupils.

Some 18 per cent of A-level entries from independent schools received A* grades compared to a national average of 8 per cent. At GCSE, 31 per cent of private school entries gained an A* compared to a national average of 7 per cent.

Harman makes the point that successive governments have accepted the virtue of the “autonomy” of schools, making it the backbone of the academies programme.

He takes it as a tribute to the private sector that the notion of “independence”, even a partial one, is becoming embedded as education orthodoxy.

Links between the private sector and England’s 23,000 state schools are at record levels and when the two sectors speak in a united and loud voice, mountains can be moved – as was evident with Michael Gove’s back down over GCSE reforms. The next battle is improving exam boards’ record on the quality of examiners and marking.

Hands cites a recent book, Everyday Life in British Government by Rod Rhodes, an Australian academic and Professor Emeritus of politics at Newcastle University, which claims that during the A-level crisis of 2002 – when grades were “fixed” because the pass rates in Labour’s new modular A-levels were deemed too high – it was the intervention of HMC that swung the balance with the press and the public and lead to the downfall of Estelle Morris, the then Labour education secretary.

“That is the virtue of the sector,” says Hands. “Its ability to say what it wishes and what it thinks is best for young people. Opinion polls show that the majority of people would send their child to an independent school if they could. That means that when independent school heads speak out, the public is very prepared to listen.

“That’s the whole historic basis of HMC – it’s what we actually started for – to stand up for the rights of children over the long arm, and sometimes dead hand, of government.”

His comments do not quite amount to a threat, but they do suggest that whether it be on university admissions or sloppy marking, independent schools heads will be raising their heads above the parapet – even if it means they become a target.


Wednesday, February 20, 2013

British teacher returns to school after appeal over smacking

The head teacher sounds a complete bull-artist

A drama teacher who successfully appealed against a conviction for smacking a 13 -year -old boy in the head with a folder because he was talking has returned to the classroom.

Vanessa Hermione Greening, 49, was found guilty of assault after a court heard she lost her temper after he spoke during a drama performance in February last year. She faced magistrates after parents of the pupil at Alexandra High School, in Tipton, West Midlands, complained to teachers who then contacted the police.

The schoolboy admitted speaking, but claimed when Miss Greening lashed out with the binder he had not said a word. The court heard the boy was shocked but uninjured and told police "it didn't really hurt".

Miss Greening, from Bearwood, Birmingham, was sentenced at Sandwell magistrates' court in November to a six -month community order. After an appeal the following month she was cleared of any wrongdoing. This week the school lifted her suspension.

Ian Binnie, the school's head teacher, said Miss Greening had been phased back into work since February.

Alexandra High School is described as a large comprehensive with about 1,400 pupils.

Writing on the school’s website, Mr Binnie describes the children as “very friendly and eager to learn”.

He said: “Most of the pupils are lovely. Their parents send them to school well turned out, ready to work and tell them to behave themselves. Most do. They welcome new teachers and are both loyal and generous.”


By-election controversy in Britain

A Conservative Cabinet minister has defended the party’s Eastleigh by-election candidate after she said it was “impossible” for her son to get the education he needs at a state school.

Grant Shapps, the Conservative Party chairman, said it was quite right that Maria Hutchings, should be able to send her child to a private school if she chose to do so.

Mrs Hutchings, the Conservative candidate to take the Eastleigh seat previously held by Chris Huhne, has faced Labour attacks for a comment she made about the education one of her children.

Last week, she is reported to have said that her son could not get an appropriate education in the state sector.

She said: “William is very gifted which gives us another interesting challenge in finding the right sort of education for him – impossible in the state system. He wants to be a cardio-respiratory surgeon.”

Ed Miliband, the Labour leader, said Mrs Hutchings had “insulted every pupil and teacher at our state schools, including those in Eastleigh.”

Mr Shapps told the BBC’s Sunday Politics that Mrs Hutchings had every right to educate her son privately if she chose.

He said: “It's perfectly reasonable to look for the best options for your children.”

Mrs Hutchings has four children and the Conservative campaign in Eastleigh has presented her as a “local mother”.

Labour and Liberal Democrats in Eastleigh have suggested that one of her children attends a private school shows she is not committed to the area’s state schools.

Mr Shapps insisted that Mrs Hutchings supports state schools, saying some of her children go to them.

“The fact that she's got four children and two or three of them are in the state system, I think rather illustrates that she believes in it," he said.

Mr Shapps also used the row to make a jibe at Nick Clegg, the Lib Dem leader, who is expected to send his son to an independent school later this year.

“I think every parent wants the best for their child whether that's Nick Clegg or Ed Miliband or Maria Hutchings or myself,” he said.


Music lessons to boost your child's academic achievements 'are a waste of money', scientists say

It is just one of the ways in which ambitious  parents try to give their children an edge at school.

But making a child learn a musical instrument   to boost their academic achievement is a waste of money, according to scientists.

Although research has shown that youngsters who take music lessons are more likely to be top of their class, a psychologist claims this link  is misleading.

Instead, improved academic performance may be because brighter children from privileged backgrounds are more likely to learn an instrument, rather than music classes helping to boost their intelligence.

‘Music may change you a bit, but it’s also the case that different children take music lessons,’ said Professor Glenn Schellenberg of the  University of Toronto, who added that parents’ education was the most influential factor on musicality.

He told the American Association for the Advancement of Science annual conference in Boston: ‘Children who take music lessons come from families with higher incomes, they come from families with more educated parents, they also do more extra-curricular activities, they have higher IQs, and they do better at school.’

In tests on 167 children who played piano or other instruments, they found their answer to personality tests could predict how likely it was for them to continue their music lessons.

Those who were more outgoing and conscientious were more likely to continue to play.

Although children who took music lessons did better at school, when the researchers adjusted the results to take into account their social  background, there was no link to increased intelligence.

Instead, the research suggested upbringing and background played a crucial role.

Asked if so-called helicopter parents were wasting their money sending their children to music lessons in the belief they could boost their school results, Professor Schellenberg agreed.

‘You can explain almost all of the data that are out there by saying that high-functioning kids take music lessons,’ he added.

But Daniel Levitin from the McGill University, Canada, said: ‘There are benefits to having a society where more people are engaged with the arts, so even if music instruction doesn’t make you a better mathematician or a better athlete, even if it only gives you the enjoyment of music, I think that is a good end in and of itself.’


Tuesday, February 19, 2013

MO: No university exams on Wiccan, Pagan holidays

Students at University of Missouri don't need to cram for exams that fall on Wiccan and Pagan holidays, now that the school has put them on par with Christmas, Thanksgiving and Hanukah.

The university’s latest “Guide to Religions: Major Holidays and Suggested Accommodations” — designed to help faculty know when and when not to schedule exams and other student activities — lists eight Wiccan and Pagan holidays and events right alongside more mainstream occasions. It's all part of the school's effort to include everyone's beliefs, although some critics say listing every holiday associated with fringe belief systems is a bit much.

“The holidays and accommodations section of this guide is provided to faculty, staff and student leaders as an educational resource for the myriad of religious holy days celebrated at Mizzou,” the guide reads. “Not only does this section offer crucial information about dates and practices, we also hope that the information about recommended academic and food accommodations will be valuable to those planning classroom activities and other academic and co-curricular events.”

The first holiday on the list is the Hindu two-day festival celebrating the birth of Krishna, a god considered to be a “warrior, hero, teacher and philosopher.” During the observance, which occurs on Aug. 28 this year, Hindus are likely to forgo sleep in order to, among other things, sing traditional songs.

“Avoid scheduling major academic deadlines on this day, since it is likely that students will be operating on very little sleep,” the guide continues.

Other holidays like Ramadan, Rosh Hashanah and Easter are included in the guide of 43 holidays with varying degrees of suggested accommodations to be granted to students at the 34,000-student public university in Columbia.

For Samhain, listed as a Pagan and Wiccan celebration considered by some to be the Wiccan New Year, general practices include “paying respect to ancestors, family members, elders of the faith, friends, pets and other loved ones” who have died. The holiday coincides with Halloween.

In recognition of Hanukah, the eight-day Jewish festival of lights, “academics and work” are permitted according to the guide, which suggests that food accommodations be considered as requested and in accordance to Kosher restrictions.

The Chinese New Year, meanwhile, is billed as the “most important” of traditional Chinese holidays with Confucian, Taoist and Buddhist religions and corresponds to the new moon in Aquarius, which can occur between late January through mid-February. This year’s celebration fell on Sunday, while in 2014 it will be celebrated on Jan. 31.

“Avoid scheduling important academic deadlines, events and activities on this date,” the guide reads. “Many Chinese employees will probably request this day off.”

University officials said no complaints had been received in connection to the guide, which many have found "useful and informational," according to a statement to

"The information about the Wiccan and Pagan holidays has been in the guide since last fall," the statement read. "Please keep in mind that this is not intended just for faculty. This is an informational guide for anyone across campus (and beyond)."

Of Mizzou’s 34,748 students enrolled in fall 2012, more than 14 percent were listed as minorities and 6.1 percent were international students, with China, Korea and India accounting for the most pupils from overseas.

Tammy Bruce, radio host of the nationally syndicated “Tammy Bruce Show” and Fox News contributor, said she found the guide to be indicative of an unbecoming societal shift.

“It almost seems as though we’re looking for excuses for people to not have to take their commitments seriously,” Bruce told “It’s beyond political correctness; it’s almost like an excuse to do nothing. It’s like societal nihilism, where nothing matters.”


British Liberal leader accused of 'double standards' over independent schools

Nick Clegg has been accused of “double standards” by a leading headmaster for considering independent education for his son while “trying to limit” the number of university places open to private school pupils.

Tim Hands, the in-coming chairman of the Headmasters and Headmistresses Conference of leading public schools, criticised the Deputy Prime Minister for his assertion that the “great rift” between the best private schools and the schools “ordinary families” send their children to was “corrosive”.

In an interview with The Sunday Telegraph, Mr Hands, the master of Magdalen College School, a day school in Oxford, said Mr Clegg’s actions and language “smacked of double standards”.

Mr Clegg is considering privately educating his eldest son, who is 11, having said that he did not want the issue to be a “political football”.

However Mr Clegg has also backed giving university places to students from poor backgrounds even if their grades were slightly lower, to heal what he described as the “corrosive” division between “the best schools, most of which are private, and the schools ordinary families use”.

Heads of private schools are increasingly concerned that Mr Clegg’s assertion that the coalition Government was “encouraging universities to recruit on the basis of objective potential, on the basis of an ability to excel, not purely on previous attainment” creates discrimination against their pupils.

Mr Hands said: “On the one hand there’s personal support for the independent sector by sending one’s own child into it.

"On the other there is a political interference in higher education by trying to limit the number of independent school pupils going to top universities.”

In the speech last May Mr Clegg said that while the privately-educated dominate the upper reaches of society, only 7 per cent of children attend independent schools.

However Mr Hands pointed out that at sixth form level, double that number - 14 per cent - go to private schools, suggesting Mr Clegg’s reasoning was based on flawed figures.

“Worse, this interference is based on inaccurate statistics and questionable research,” he said.

“So it is rather a case of the left hand claiming not to realise what the right hand is doing – Nick Clegg’s actions and his language smack of double standards.

“If you want to find something corrosive, then you only need to look as far as political interference in the academic integrity of university admissions.”

Mr Hands also said that research from Bristol University, quoted by Mr Clegg, showing that students with top A-levels from state schools were more likely to get firsts than their private school counterparts had yet to be replicated elsewhere.

The Liberal Democrat leader’s son is due to start secondary school this summer, after being educated at his local Catholic state primary school in Putney, south-west London.

Mr Clegg and his wife Miriam González Durántez, have looked round his old school, Westminster, where fees are £23,000 a year, but have not toured the local state comprehensive in Putney.

The Deputy Prime Minister said he would send his son to a private school if he failed to find a place in a good comprehensive, saying he would use the state system 'if it works out’, but that there is 'huge competition’ for places in London.

Mr Clegg would not be the only Cabinet minister to use private education for his children, although he would be the most high-profile.

Others with children in the independent sector include George Osborne, the Chancellor.

In contrast David Cameron has spoken of his desire for his children - who are currently at state primary schools - to go to state secondaries.


Australia: "Truancy" revival highlights lost ground on child welfare

Compulsory school attendance was introduced in Australia during the Victorian era in the later-nineteenth century. The Victorians were the first to recognise that the state had a role to play in promoting child welfare by requiring parents to ensure that their children received a minimum level of schooling. This was part of a broader movement to encourage respectable standards of behaviour by people of all classes.

The effort to bring about social improvement had largely succeeded by the early-twentieth century. Working class communities had embraced ‘middle class’ notions of respectability (work, marriage, sobriety, and thrift) that had proven conducive to the formation of functional families. A marker of respectability was the ability of parents to send clean, well-fed, and properly dressed children to school each day. A marker of un-respectability was enduring the shame and stigma of having one’s children rounded up by the truancy officer.

For a hundred years, society traded on the legacy of the Victorians, but things began to change in the aftermath of the social revolution of the 1960s.

The Sixties ethos of personal liberation undercut the Victorian behavioural code, which was fashionably dismissed as so much ‘bourgeois’ uptightness. Complacency also set in. Official enforcement of respectable behaviour seemed unnecessary. Rarely-needed truancy laws appeared ‘harsh’ and anachronistic.

In the modern era of free-flowing welfare, however, these attitudes have become socially disastrous.

Social norms have collapsed in a significant underclass of welfare-dependent and dysfunctional families, and the failure to regularly send children to school symbolises the breakdown of behavioural standards.

The response to rising levels of chronic truancy has been feeble. Woolly-minded sociologists have offered lame excuses about ‘poverty’, and the self-serving welfare industry has demanded higher government funding for ‘more support services’ to help ‘struggling’ parents. Meanwhile, educational faddists have prattled on about making school ‘fun’ so kids are ‘engaged.’ Too little attention has been paid to the best interests of children denied an education due to parental neglect.

Our thinking about child welfare now appears to be slowly coming full circle.

The Victorian Government has just announced plans to make it easier to fine parents whose children miss more than five school days a year without a valid excuse. This follows embarrassing revelations earlier this year that not one fine had been issued for truancy under new laws introduced in 2006.

The renewed, if much belated, attempt to revive the specter of the truancy officer and crack down on absenteeism is welcome. However, the need to punish parents who don't send children to school highlights the truly appalling amount of ground we have lost over the last 40 years.


Monday, February 18, 2013

Obama Wants Universal Preschool, Even Though It's Expensive and Ineffective

President Obama made some pretty grand claims for the power of preschool:

"Every dollar we invest in high-quality early education can save more than seven dollars later on—by boosting graduation rates, reducing teen pregnancy, even reducing violent crime. In states that make it a priority to educate our youngest children, like Georgia or Oklahoma, studies show students grow up more likely to read and do math at grade level, graduate high school, hold a job, and form more stable families of their own"

The president is proposing a national preschool entitlement, focused on low- and middle-income families. (Though his actual preschool proposal is only slightly more detailed than what he mentioned in his speech.)

If only we had some kind of large scale well-tracked pilot program that could give us some information about whether that is a good idea. Oh wait! We do! It's called Head Start, the $8 billion federal program catering to more than 1 million low-income kids.

Better still, the federal government has done a huge study, tracking 5,000 kids and comparing them to kids who did not have access to Head Start.

The findings are not impressive. A 2010 analysis of that group found that the cognitive, health, parenting, and social benefits of the program had vanished by first grade. And a 2012 look at the third grade outcomes was even less heartening, with no discernible academic gains and teachers reporting slightly more behavioral problems in the Head Start kids.

Even if Georgia and Oklahoma have managed to formulate slightly more effective programs (Georgia is experimenting with a voucher-like system), there's still the larger evidence of the performance of American public schools overall in the last couple of decade. Spending is way, way up while academic results remain flat.

The current performance of Head Start and public schools overall is not exactly making a compelling case that we should spend hundreds of billions more dollars to shovel kids into this system earlier.


Loudmouth Pennsylvania graduate student sues over her grade

Graduate student Megan Thode wasn't happy about the C-plus she received for one class, saying the mediocre grade kept her from getting her desired degree and becoming a licensed therapist -- and, as a result, cost her $1.3 million in lost earnings.

Now Thode is suing her professor and Lehigh University in Bethlehem, claiming monetary damages and seeking a grade change.

A judge is hearing testimony in the case this week in Northampton County Court. Lehigh and the professor contend her lawsuit is without merit. Northampton County Judge Emil Giordano declined to dismiss the suit Wednesday, ruling that there was enough evidence for the suit to proceed, according to The (Easton) Express-Times.

Thode took the class in the fall of 2009. Her instructor, Amanda Eckhardt, testified this week that she stood by the grade, saying Thode failed to behave professionally and thus earned zero out of 25 points in class participation, bumping her down a full letter grade.  "I ... believed she received the grade she earned," Eckhardt said.

The C-plus prevented Thode, an otherwise A student, from going on to the next class and advancing in her professional therapist studies, the newspaper reported. She wound up getting a master's degree in human development instead.

Her attorney, Richard Orloski, argued that Eckhardt targeted Thode because she is an outspoken advocate for gay marriage.

Eckhardt testified that while she believes marriage is between a man and a woman, she would never allow her personal views to influence her treatment of students. She said Thode had outbursts in class, did not participate appropriately, was emotionally unstable and failed to heed a warning letter.

Stephen Thode, the plaintiff's father and a longtime finance professor at Lehigh, testified on his daughter's behalf and said her participation score was highly irregular.

"I have never heard of a case, not just at Lehigh, where a student achieved a zero in class participation where they attended and participated in every class," he said.


Students Told to Stop ‘USA!’ Chant, Take Off American Flag Bandanas

Four California high-school students were reportedly suspended for chanting “U.S.A! U.S.A!” and wearing American flag bandanas during a basketball game. While their punishment has since been rescinded, school administrators said “the incident is far from over.”

Oxnard Union School District superintendent Gabe Soumakian told Fox News Radio that “we need to pursue this further” and “work with teachers and students and the community about the concept of cultural proficiency.” Soumakian and Camarillo High School principal Glenn Lipman felt that the students’ actions might have had racist undertones since the schools have large Hispanic student populations.

“We wanted to make sure [their actions weren't] racially motivated, and I told the kids I just want to be sensitive to the feelings of everybody,” Lipman said. “If we’re doing it for patriotism, that’s fine. But if we’re doing it for something else that’s racially motivated, I’m not going to allow that.”

But the students deny any racial element to their chants. “We’ve done it always,” one student said. “It’s something we do. It’s the same group of friends. We’re all very patriotic.” The four students gained support from their peers: More than 100 students gathered by the school’s flagpole the following morning to protest in patriotic clothing.


Sunday, February 17, 2013

Elementary school bans white kids from tutoring
An elementary school principal in the Denver suburbs told parents that white children would be excluded from an after-school tutoring initiative.

Andre C. Pearson, the principal at Mission Viejo Elementary in Aurora, Colorado sent letters home to parents informing them that only students of color are eligible for the program, KJCT, the local ABC affiliate, reports.

Some shocked parents have alleged discrimination and segregation, reports CBS Denver.

“I was infuriated,” one parent, Nicole Cox, told CBS Denver. “I didn’t understand why they would include or exclude certain groups.”

“We have come so far in all of these years to show everybody that everyone is equal, that everyone should be treated equally,” Cox added.

Cox is white. She has a 10-year-old daughter at the school, and she wants her daughter to have tutoring.

CBS Denver explains that Principal Pearson left Cox a voicemail before she could complain directly to the school (as other parents already had).

“This is Andre Pearson,” the voicemail said. “It’s focused for and designed for children of color, but certainly, if we have space for other kids who have needs, we can definitely meet those needs.”

The district has since apologized for the error. A spokeswoman for the school district told KJCT that Pearson’s letter was a mistake and that white students can participate in the tutoring program.

“We deeply regret that they got that communication,” the spokeswoman added, according to notes CBS Denver.


Race riot at Minneapolis South High School

A cafeteria fight at Minneapolis South High School escalated into a melee involving hundreds of students Thursday, spurred by what parents and students said are growing racial tensions between Somali-American students and others.

Police said that 200 to 300 students shoved, kicked and threw bottles at one other and that extra Minneapolis police officers were called in to break up the fighting. Three students and one staff member were taken to a hospital for medical treatment, and police said rioting and disorderly conduct charges could be filed.

"We're very fortunate no one got seriously injured," said police spokesman Sgt. William Palmer, adding that in 19 years, "I honestly can't recall a [similar] situation of this magnitude."

While school district leaders said they didn't know what sparked the fights, students such as Adnan Farah said they were the culmination of increasing racial tensions.

"This school is not safe for Somali students," said Farah, a junior. "Throughout this year, there have been a lot of fights."

Senior Guled Omar said he and other Somali-American students feel targeted at the school. "I don't know if it's because we're minorities or the newest immigrant group," he said.

Omar said that students have complained to the school district and principal about perceived discrimination, but that nothing has been done.

School district spokesman Stan Alleyne said he couldn't comment on the students' claims, but added that the district takes any complaints about racism seriously. "It is a safe school," he said. Principal Cecilia Saddler did not reply to messages to comment.

Officials briefly considered canceling Friday classes, but decided instead to hold school, with some restrictions. Students will remain in their classrooms during class periods and access to the building will be limited.

"We are comfortable with the security measures that we currently have in place and we look forward to providing a normal instructional day," the school said on its website.

Tensions aren't new

The fighting came two days after an article in South's student newspaper, the Southerner, described Somali-American students' sense that tension around ethnic or racial differences has grown this year. Two students told the newspaper that earlier this school year, a welcome banner in Somali was ripped off a balcony by two students and that a lunch table that primarily had been used by East African students was removed from the lunchroom.

The article also described recent efforts to increase dialogue, such as creation of a Somali Student Association.

Palmer said Thursday's incident started during the first lunch period around 11:45 a.m., when a student threw a milk carton at another student, sparking a small fight. By the third lunch hour, about 12:45 p.m., tensions and unsubstantiated rumors about that initial fight spread and a melee erupted. Twenty to 25 staff members intervened, as did two school resource officers, who then called Minneapolis police officers for help.

Omar and Farah said Somali students jumped in to help one of their number who was involved in one fight. Farah said the violence "was a racial issue. This is just the biggest one throughout the year."

Palmer said the students dispersed only after police sprayed a chemical irritant. No one was arrested and no weapons were used, he said. The campus was placed on lockdown for the rest the day, with students remaining in their classes before being dismissed as usual.

Later, junior Simon Quevedo said the fights during the first two lunch periods escalated as word spread. "People came in to back up their friends and it turned into an altercation," he said. "I was a bit scared, because you never know what people will have on them."

Student Council president Connor Bass described the scene as "chaos." The senior said five to six fights were going on simultaneously. "When the cops came and started spraying Mace, it was just pandemonium," he said.

Palmer said police are still investigating the incident, which was captured on surveillance cameras inside the school.

Integration, not interaction

South High parent Kate Towle said she heard about the fighting when her son texted her after lunch. She said she has heard about students feeling unsafe and racial tension, but added that the school has been working to reduce conflicts.

Towle advises a group called Students Together as Allies for Racial Trust (START), which South students began in 2009. It meets weekly to discuss intercultural issues to try to bridge differences. "Like any area, these skills have to be developed like math, history. ... You can't throw kids in a building and expect them to get along," she said. "It's a challenge for all of our students to live amid such rich diversity."

Almost half of the 1,750 students at the school are students of color, and of those, 8 percent are of Somali heritage, according to the school district.


British pupil, 13, excluded from school for wearing 'dangerous' traditional tie instead of a clip-on

A schoolboy has been punished for refusing to wear a clip-on tie because he wants to wear a smarter traditional one - which breaches 'health and safety rules'.

Max Richmond, 13, was put into isolation for a day, for wearing the proper tie at Colne Community School in Brightlingsea, Essex.

The 1,438-pupil school insists pupils wear clip-on ties for health and safety reasons - but Max says the clip-on ones are uncomfortable and childish.

He prefers to wear a traditional tie of exactly the same design, given to him by a neighbour.

He was given work to complete on his own in a small cubicle for continuing to wear the tie.

Max, of Waterside, Brightlingsea, said: 'It seems bizarre and unnecessary especially over something like the tie I was wearing.  'I like wearing a real tie because it feels proper.

'People have worn them for generations, and if you are not wearing one during secondary school then you are never going to learn the necessary skills for when you go into the world of work.

'When you are wearing a clip-on tie it is hard to be taken seriously, especially when you go to competitions against other schools - it feels foolish, and childish.'

On their website in 2009, the Health and Safety Executive said it was a 'myth' that health and safety bans traditional school ties.

The school has agreed to review the policy.

Nardeep Sharma, headteacher, said the rule was introduced about three years ago to support the health and safety of young people.  He said: 'This was in line with the practice in most secondary schools nationally.  'The policy can only be changed by governors and a parent has requested the governors review this policy, which the school has agreed to do.'

Max said he welcomed the review and hoped the governors would take his points on board.

Roger Bibbings, occupational safety adviser for the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents, said schools can make pupils wear clip-on ties, but should not cite health and safety grounds.

He said: .It might be a sensible precaution if a school insists on pupils wearing ties while handling rotating machinery, such as in a school workshop, but for any other reason you cannot say this policy was required under health and safety law.'

The Health and Safety Executive's website says: 'Quite rightly, few parents would see wearing school ties as a safety issue.  'After all, millions of kids have been wearing ties for years without any real problems.

'Taking simple precautions during laboratory work or around machinery makes sense. But if the concern is about kids fighting, although clip-on ties may help, the real issue is discipline.

'So no, we don't ban school ties – it's down to the school to make decisions about uniform, not HSE.'

A spokesman for the Health and Safety Executive added: 'It seems to us to be a disproportionate response.'

Linda Painter, of the Schoolwear Association, said that producers had reported a 'strong trend' in school opting for clip on ties, largely because every tie looks uniform and neat, but also because it means that the ties do not get wrapped around students' necks.

She said: 'Lots of school do have clip on ties, it's a strong trend. It's not definitively about health and safety.

'Obviously they can come off quite easily and don't get stuck round children's necks, but clip-ons do mean that all the students' ties look the same and look smart.'