Thursday, December 24, 2015

Do mathematics matter?

Every so often, articles like this one appear, which seem to show that the American education system is, to use the term in the article, mediocre. What the article shows is that regardless of socioeconomic status, American students score below most developed nations in mathematical ability.

The problem with statistics like these is that most people do not need a great deal of mathematical ability to be productive citizens, or to be educated citizens. Mathematical ability is important for scientists and engineers, but people can be productive in sales, marketing, plumbing, auto repair, and really, in most professions without a great deal of mathematical ability. Entrepreneurs, corporate CEOs, and even accounting and finance professionals do not need to be math wizards. Curiosity, creativity, and critical thinking are more important in most settings, even those where math skills are important.

Surely less than ten percent of all jobs require anything beyond just basic math skills, so a better statistic to examine (and one I never see reported) would be how the top ten percent in the US compare with the top ten percent elsewhere. That’s what really counts: the mathematical ability of those who are actually using higher math.

Another test of the quality of American education is the market test. People from all over the world come to the United States to attend college and graduate school. Korea and Japan rank at the top in the article cited above. I see lots of Korean and Japanese students at American universities, but not many people from other countries go to Korea or Japan for a college education. The market test indicates that, at least at the university level, the American educational system is among the best in the world.

It makes little sense to judge the educational system based on the average student’s mathematical ability, because superior math skills are of little use to most people. It makes a lot of sense to do international comparisons by looking at where in the world people actually choose to go to school.


UK: Don’t blame Oxbridge for state schools’ failings

This week, a report by the Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission heavily criticised Oxford and Cambridge for the low number of places they grant to pupils from state schools. The report shows that although only seven per cent of British children attend a fee-paying school, the privately educated make up 39 per cent of Cambridge undergraduates and 43 per cent of Oxford undergraduates. Politicians and pundits have insisted that more be done to help state-school pupils gain entry to elite universities.

This is a familiar criticism. Educational and political elites have been obsessed with social mobility over the past decade. However, it appears that equality of opportunity has not prevailed at Oxbridge – access still appears to be restricted to the privileged few.

There are reasons for this. Private schools are better equipped to help children attain a place at an Oxbridge college. More Oxbridge-educated graduates, as well as those with postgraduate qualifications, are attracted to teaching in the independent sector, rather than the state sector. This gives those lucky enough to be privately educated access to a wealth of knowledge that may not be as readily accessible in the state sector.

However, as Julia Hartley-Brewer argued in the Telegraph, there are perfectly valid reasons why Oxbridge recruits far more students from the independent sector. For example, private-school pupils may only account for 15 per cent of all A-levels taken, but they achieve 30 per cent of all A grades and 33 per cent of all AAA grades. This means that while only one in 14 children is privately educated, the independent sector accounts for one in three of the pupils who achieve the grades required to get into Oxbridge.

In addition, applicants from the state sector are more likely to apply for oversubscribed courses, such as politics, philosophy and economics (PPE), medicine and law. They, therefore, have a statistically lower chance of gaining entry.

Beyond this, private schools offer a wider range of social experiences for their pupils. While independent schools might not be as diverse in terms of ethnicity and class, they offer their pupils the opportunity to meet interesting alumni and people of importance. As seen recently on the ITV documentary School Swap, pupils at Warminster School, a £27,000-a-year boarding school, attend formal dinners several times a year at which they engage in intellectual conversations with adults, many of whom attended Oxbridge. This gives privately educated children a major advantage in the interview process, insofar as they have the confidence and knowledge to engage with academics.

It’s easy to sit back and blame Oxford and Cambridge for not expanding their intake of state-educated students. But it’s far more difficult to explain why this is the case. It’s not that there are secret pacts between Oxbridge and private schools. Rather, it’s that the state sector is unable to offer opportunities to bright, ambitious pupils. It’s not Oxbridge that is failing; it’s the state-education system.


The New Left's "Free" College Scam Isn't Smarter Than A Fifth Grader

A friend of mine was recently pulled over for running a red light, it was an honest mistake, just a fluke moment out in the country where he wasn't paying attention. As the police officer pulled him over and asked why he ran the red, my friend could have very easily said, "I thought red means go!" Obviously, it doesn't, but imagine for a moment that a good segment of the population was running red lights and were giving the same excuse, does that mean the red light really means go?

This "red means go" analogy is a simplified way of understanding democratic-socialists' -- the "New Left," as I will call them -- definition of "free." Here is the hard truth, in government nothing is free; there is also no such thing as "government money" either. All money obtained by the state had to be taxed or confiscated from Americans, all Americans including the poorest of the poor to the richest of the rich. Recently an article from the Chronicle of Higher Education published a piece entitled "Nobody Should Have to Pay to Go to College," where they spoke of the issues facing America's college students and the policies proposed by Democrats such as Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders. In the article they brought up one major fact:

Student debt has filled the gap between flat household earnings and surging college costs. Total outstanding student-loan obligations now exceed $1 trillion, and the sum continues to rise at an alarming rate. Student debt is the only form of consumer debt to have increased since the recession of 2008, now ranking second only to home mortgages.

Apart from the obvious observation of the current rate of student debt, the rest of the article, along with anyone else that says that college should be free, is intellectually brain dead. The argument is childish and dead in the water not simply for the reason that the New Left has a severely misplaced sense of compassion, but because they fail to identify the true definition of the word "free," and while I'm at it, "labor."

Wise and selectively spoken, President Calvin Coolidge once said, "[C]ollecting more taxes than is absolutely necessary is legalized robbery." In trying to understand the foundations of our fragile republic, what is obvious for conservatives and others inclined to liberty is that the function of government in civil society is to protect your life and your property.

Sadly, from FDR to Johnson and Nixon, all the way to the current Obama administration, our government has exploded out of its constitutional boundaries. The government that was supposed to protect your right to life and your right to private property was now the government offering to coddle you cradle to grave. The biggest offense to the American institution is this idea that higher education can be "free," not because the promise alone is ludicrous, but more so because it's college graduates who actually think the plan is sound. Someone please shred, bury, and set their diplomas on fire, because these "intellectuals" fail to define something a fifth grader understands.

A military phrase for breaking down complex ideas is to "break it down Barney style," and for the "free" college crowd, this may be an appropriate phrase to use to continue further. Nothing in the world is "free," from your food stamps, government housing, public schools, libraries, etc. it all comes at a very real price. The price of your "free" stuff is covered by the American taxpayer, which ultimately means you.

Everyday hard working Americans must work and labor to earn a wage based on their skills in the market. From there, the government comes in and takes a part of your income, along with taking more and more from your wallet as they see fit. The initial argument against the free college fallacy was made in a previous article of mine discussing why there is no such thing as free college. Regarding the New Left's definition of "free," they can learn a thing or two from the Daily Signal's Edwin Feulner:

The problem, to put the matter very plainly, is that there’s no such thing as something for nothing. All money, goods and services — every last dollar of it — must be created through someone’s hard work. Remember, government has no money on its own. It produces nothing, so it earns nothing. Government has only the money it takes from taxpayers or borrows against the payments of future taxpayers. Everything government “gives” to one person or organization must be taken from another person or organization. Every dollar that government redistributes to someone, it must first take from someone else, and then deduct carrying costs before passing it on.

Plain and simple, nothing is free and the cost is very real, the only option left on the table is to decide whether or not you want to accept the false definition of "free" and live with a never ending national debt, or accept reality and fight for the principles of real free markets and limited government.

Bottom line, if you think anything the government gives you is for free, you're not smarter than a fifth grader.


Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Blatant racism: Despite the 14th Amendment, many universities openly admit to judging people by the color of their skin

The excuse that they need "diversity" is very thin indeed.  The most important sort of diversity for a university is surely intellectual diversity -- yet they have virtually none of that. They are Leftist monocultures where all conservative thought is thoroughly kept out.  Clearly, they don't in fact care a fig for diversity.  They are just carrying on the old Leftist obsession with race

A 19th century political poster

Boston-area universities are closely watching a Supreme Court case that could derail the use of race in admissions, a practice that several universities, including Harvard and MIT, say is fundamental to creating a diverse student body.

If the high court rules that it is unconstitutional for public colleges to consider race as a factor in admissions, it could have the biggest impact on the University of Massachusetts Amherst, the state’s flagship public college, which is trying to create a more diverse campus even as it becomes more selective and uses race as a factor in admissions decisions.

But legal scholars say a broad ruling by the court could also force private colleges to stop using race, even though they are not generally subject to constitutional rulings.

The case was brought by Abigail Fisher, a student who says the University of Texas rejected her because she is white. Oral arguments this month reflected the charged debate over affirmative action, with conservative justices sharply questioning its place in higher education

Harvard, MIT, and Yale are among the private colleges that have filed friend-of-the-court briefs in support of using race as a factor in admissions.

“It would be wholly antithetical . . . to ignore a facet of an applicant’s identity that may, to that individual, play an essential role in shaping his or her narrative and experience,” says a brief filed by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and 12 other elite colleges, including Brown and Dartmouth.

The Fisher case is making headlines at a time when racial tensions have roiled college campuses across the country, and many students say their concerns about diversity and discrimination deserve more attention.

Several Boston-area schools said they use an array of factors to attain a more heterogeneous class.

They recruit from a diverse group of high schools and consider applicants’ socioeconomic background, among other strategies.

“Not necessarily any one criterion is being used to shape or attain any goal,” said Sundar Kumarasamy, vice president for enrollment management at Northeastern University.

Tufts University and Boston University officials said they think race is an important factor but they don’t believe a ruling against its use will undermine their ability to field a diverse student body.

“We believe strongly . . . that the future viability of higher education will hinge on recognizing and dealing with the challenges and opportunities of accessibility, diversity, and inclusion,” said Tufts spokeswoman Kim Thurler.

In its friend-of-the-court brief, Harvard argued that the benefits of a diverse student body are “more important now than ever.”

“Universities play a unique role in helping to bridge the divides that threaten to prevent the nation from achieving its highest democratic ideals,” said the Harvard brief, written by university general counsel Robert W. Iuliano and other attorneys.

UMass Amherst looks for students who come from low-income families, who are the first in their family to attend college, or who are from underrepresented ethnic groups, said Jim Roche, associate provost for enrollment management.

“We also try to determine if the student is likely to contribute to and benefit from the critical thinking and diversity of ideas that are so important to the mission of a public research university,” Roche said.


Segregation in Boston

THE MARGARITA MUÑIZ Academy in Jamaica Plain has only been around four years, but it already looks an awful lot like the future of education in this country. Eleventh-graders listen to lectures about Che Guevara in Spanish. Then they learn about Malcolm X in English. Their math teacher can explain pre-calculus in either tongue. Muñiz, one of only two bilingual high schools in the city, expects every student to master both languages.

“Language is an asset,” said headmaster Dania Vázquez. “Not a deficiency.”

With rising test scores and more than 400 students applying each year for 80 seats, Muñiz is obviously doing something right.

But there’s one uncomfortable statistic about this innovative public school: 90 percent of the students here are Hispanic.

Vázquez says she’d like to see a more diverse student body in the future. “Our students don’t want to segregate themselves,” she said.

But Muñiz is just one of a growing number of schools in Boston with such an ethnically lopsided student body. Four decades after a federal judge desegregated Boston Public Schools, the Donald McKay School in East Boston, for instance, is 90 percent Hispanic. The Curtis Guild in East Boston is 84 percent.

That’s partly a function of demographics. Forty-one percent of all public school students in Boston are Hispanic. The larger a minority group grows, the more difficult integration becomes. In California, where 55 percent of public school students are Hispanic, 8 percent attend majority-white schools. In Boston, 2 percent do.

That has led some to decry the “re-segregation” in America’s schools.

Yet history suggests that Hispanics don’t dream of integration the same way that blacks do. In the 1960s and ’70s, as black families fought to integrate schools, Hispanic activists clamored for the opposite. They wanted their kids clustered in bilingual education programs that could celebrate their heritage, ease them into English, and counter the high drop-out rate.

In 1971, they won a huge victory: Massachusetts became the first state in the country to mandate that students be taught in their native tongue.

Those new bilingual classes were just gearing up when Judge Arthur Garrity ordered Boston to desegregate schools in 1974. At first, his ruling was a setback for Hispanics, who were reassigned away from bilingual classrooms to random schools that weren’t equipped to teach them.

But Hispanic parents petitioned for relief from the court, and Garrity agreed with them. For years, his oversight of the school system gave Hispanic activists the upper hand in negotiations over hiring more Spanish-speaking teachers. Thanks to Garrity — and the fear of another big lawsuit — the Boston School Committee grudgingly agreed to things they would never have entertained before.

But bilingual programs were costly, especially as more students arrived, speaking Mandarin, Cape Verdean Creole, and Khmer.

“It’s about money,” said Alan Rom, the lawyer who negotiated on behalf of Hispanic parents.

But critics also fretted that bilingual education was “un-American.”

In 2002, a referendum requiring that public school students be taught in English won in a landslide. Although the law made an exception for two-way bilingual schools like Muñiz, other kinds of programs must get waivers from the state.

That’s a shame. As the percentage of Hispanics grows from 17 percent to 30 percent nationwide in 2050, the demand for bilingual education is going to grow. We’re also going to have to rethink our ideas about segregation and civil rights: How will we protect the civil rights of minorities when everybody is a minority? What will “integration” mean when there is no more mainstream?


UK: Mary Beard raps zealots in Oxford Rhodes row

CLASSICIST and TV historian Mary Beard has railed against zealots at Oxford University who want to tear down two memorials to Cecil Rhodes but ‘go on using his cash’.

The Cambridge professor said students cannot ‘have their cake and eat it’ by ‘whitewashing’ him from history while still benefiting from his legacy.

Last week Oriel College agreed to remove a plaque featuring the 19th-century politician and ‘consult’ on the removal of his statue after students claimed it was racist.

They said that making ethnic minority students walk past it amounted to ‘violence’ as he was a colonialist in what is now South Africa.

However, Rhodes left vast sums of money to the university, with numerous foreign students benefiting from prestigious Rhodes scholarships.

Writing in her blog for the Times Literary Supplement, Professor Beard said: ‘I really don’t think you can have your cake and eat it – you can’t whitewash Rhodes out of history, but go on using his cash.

‘And his cash has done a huge amount of good in bringing foreign students to this country.

‘Wouldn’t it be better to celebrate what we have managed to achieve with Rhodes’s money, whatever his views.

‘If he was bad, then we have certainly turned his cash to the better and maybe, to give him for a moment the benefit of the doubt, if he had been born a hundred years later even he would have thought differently.’

The classics professor, who has been announced as a host of a new series of the BBC’s Civilisation documentary, said students were failing to see Rhodes in his historical context – and pointed out that Victorian ‘worthies’ in other statues probably ‘held views as bad or worse’.

She said: ‘A great statue cull, based on twenty first-century values, would leave few in place.‘Much more important is to look history in the eye and reflect on our awkward relationship to it, and what we are actually beneficiaries of, not simply to photoshop the nasty bits out.’

She said she had some sympathy with the idea that ethnic minority students might dislike the image of Rhodes, but said ‘we get nowhere if we try to conceal the past was aggressively not like us’.  The academic added: ‘The battle isn’t won by taking the statue away and pretending those people didn’t exist.

‘It’s won by empowering those students to look up at Rhodes and friends with a cheery and self-confident sense of unbatterability – much as I find myself looking up at the statues of all those hundreds of men in history who would vehemently have objected to women having the vote, let alone the kind of job I have.

‘It’s not the job of the present to tick the past off, but to get off its backside and do better!’

The student campaign, called Rhodes Must Fall Oxford, says Rhodes paved the path to apartheid by introducing discriminatory land ownership and voting rules. He was one of the era’s most famous imperialists, with Rhodesia – now Zimbabwe and Zambia – named after him.

Yesterday South African student Ntokozo Qwabe – one of the chief anti-Rhodes campaigners – was accused of ‘hypocrisy’ after it emerged that he had a Rhodes scholarship himself, money critics said he should now give back.  But he insisted: ‘There is no hypocrisy in taking back money that was looted from your people.’

He added: ‘We are finally raffling [sic] the fragile feathers of colonial glorification and apologism - which prop up British/European/Western neocolonialism and imperialism all over the world! Oh what a time to be alive.’

Yesterday, author Bidisha SK Mamata, who has presented BBC radio programmes, piled in to support the campaign and called for the Rhodes scholarship to be renamed.


Why These High School Girls Don’t Want a Transgender Student in Their Locker Room

Speaking out, they knew, could make them the public face of a very private issue.  It could lead their classmates to call them “bigots,” “insensitive,” and “homophobes.”

But after seeing their high school back down to threats that the U.S. Department of Education would strip away federal funding, and watching school officials overrule their parents, a group of six high school girls in Cook County, Ill., decided to speak out.

On Dec. 7, before a crowded school board meeting packed with news media, they would tell the world why they don’t want a high school student who was born male, but identifies as a female, to use the girls’ locker room.

They would tell the world why allowing a transgender student to see them in a state of undress would be an invasion of their personal privacy.

They would explain why, at 15 and 16 years old, changing alongside biological women is already hard enough.

“It is unfair to infringe upon the rights of others to accommodate one person,” the six girls, in a joint statement, told an audience of at least 500.

“Although we will never fully understand your personal struggle,” they said, addressing the transgender student, “please understand that we, too, all are experiencing personal struggles that need to be respected.”

Palatine, a well-off suburb of Chicago, is the first district in the country to be found in violation of civil rights laws on transgender issues.

By forcing the transgender student—known in the media as “Student A”—to use a separate locker room, the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights ruled that Township High School District 211 had discriminated against the student “on the basis of sex.”

The finding came as the result of a lengthy investigation, triggered by a lawsuit filed by Student A’s parents.

To resolve the findings—and to avoid the Department of Education’s threats of losing federal funding—the school board changed its policies to allow Student A into the girls’ locker rooms, so long as the student changed behind newly installed “privacy curtains.”

Those curtains, the six girls said, shield Student A from personal insecurities, but they leave the rest of them uncomfortably exposed.

According to the Department of Education’s investigation, Student A began transitioning to a female in middle school.

The student was diagnosed with gender dysphoria and currently receives an “ongoing course” of hormone therapy.

But some girls at the high school say Student A has not fully transitioned, which makes some of them uncomfortable sharing a locker room.

“What bothers me is the fact that this student is still anatomically a male,” a 16-year-old sophomore told The Daily Signal on the condition of anonymity. “If the student had already undergone surgical procedures, this would be another story entirely, but as it stands I just don’t feel comfortable with it.”

A 15-year-old told The Daily Signal “it just doesn’t feel right.”

“I know Student A poses no harm to me, but it just doesn’t feel right knowing someone with male anatomy is in the bathroom with me,” she said, adding:

I have nothing against Student A and would be her friend if I knew her better, but when it comes down to it, I don’t feel right changing in the same room as a transgender student. The locker room is already filled with so much judgment, and I barely feel OK changing in front of my naturally born girl peers.

A third student, a 16-year-old sophomore, expressed frustration.

“[W]e are supposed to accept this and feel like nothing really is happening, but the fact of the matter is that this did get pretty big and now we have someone with male genitals in our girls’ locker room when we are changing,” she said.

The Daily Signal spoke with five girls who attend the same high school as Student A, four of whom oppose the student’s use of their locker room and one who supports it.

The Daily Signal also spoke with parents and the state chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, which represents Student A in the lawsuit.

What became clear is that neither side is pleased with the final agreement the district reached with the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights, suggesting that public schools are not sure how best to deal with the difficult issues surrounding transgender students’ use of gender-specific facilities.

Privacy in the Locker Rooms

The Department of Education’s investigation into alleged discrimination found that “the district honored Student A’s request to be treated as a female in all respects except her request to be provided access to the girls’ locker rooms.”

This included granting the transgender student “unlimited” access to the girls’ bathrooms and allowing the student to play on the girls’ sports teams.

In lieu of granting access to the girls’ locker rooms, the school at one point installed a bank of lockers in a private bathroom and encouraged the student to invite friends who were comfortable changing there to move their lockers. This was meant to avert Student A from being forced to change alone.

Student A wasn’t happy with the setup and sought equal access to the locker area because “she wanted to be a girl like every other girl,” the Department of Education’s report said.

But on this front, the school administration wouldn’t budge.

The school originally held its ground based “not only on Student A’s rights and needs, but on the privacy concerns of all students,” the Department of Education noted in its report.

That all changed Nov. 2, when the school received the report saying if it did not change its policies to allow Student A into the girls’ locker rooms, the government could suspend or terminate the school’s federal education funding for violating Title IX regulations.151216_trans_quote3

Title IX is the federal law that bans discrimination on the basis of sex in any federally funded education program. Experts disagree whether the law applies to transgenders’ use of separate facilities, although courts in Pennsylvania and Virginia ruled it does not.

Both those cases are being appealed.

To avoid charges of discrimination, District 211 reached an agreement with the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights. In it, the school promised to provide Student A access to the girls’ locker room throughout the duration of the student’s time there.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, District 211 receives more than $5 million in federal funding each year.

The federal agency and Illinois school district reached the deal “based on Student A’s representation that she will change in private changing stations in the girls’ locker room,” the report said. Since Student A’s use of the privacy curtains is non-binding, legal experts say it is not clear what would happen if the student decided to change out in the open.

But even if Student A does abide by the arrangement, those who oppose the student’s use of the girls’ locker rooms say they’re still uncomfortable with the settlement.

“When she’s walking in and out of the privacy curtain, what happens when you’re in a state of undress?” a sophomore on the lacrosse team asked rhetorically, adding:

Then she is fully exposed to everything in the locker room. That was my main concern with the privacy curtain. It’s not like there’s a curtain around her face, it’s not like she’s not looking at everything around her.

To accommodate girls who “wish to be assured of privacy while changing,” the district agreed to install additional private changing stations inside the locker rooms.

Those critical of the compromise say the school is giving Student A “special treatment.”

“I will always be respectful to Student A and will treat her like I would anyone else I know,” the 15-year-old sophomore told The Daily Signal. “We all have to deal with inconveniences that we have to deal with, and I don’t feel as though someone should gain special treatment over me and all other naturally born girls.”

“I can’t say that I understand [Student A’s feelings], but there are so many other people that you have to consider despite yourself,” another student added.

When the school board voted 5-2 in favor of the agreement, members made clear that the deal applies only to Student A and is not a district-wide policy.

To accommodate Student A during off-campus sporting events, the Department of Education will require District 211 to provide access to girls’ locker rooms “in a manner consistent” with the home high school.

If locker rooms don’t already have them, this could mean installing privacy curtains inside all those locker rooms.

Lauren Gregory, a 17-year-old attending the same high school as Student A, sees the situation differently. Gregory, who had no qualms going public with her name, said she believes those against Student A’s use of the girls’ locker rooms are more concerned with the “principle of being transgender rather than the locker room thing.”

“I know a lot of people are talking about privacy, and there’s been a lot of talk about anatomy … [but] the things that we value most in life are not physical,” Gregory said, adding:

Everyone tells your kids when you’re growing up, don’t worry how you look, it’s what’s on the inside that counts. I think I really carry that with me still, and I think that if someone feels a certain way and they feel like they’re in the wrong body, then I don’t have a problem with it. I think they have the right to become whoever they should be.

Gregory agreed that girls already feel uncomfortable changing in the locker rooms—some even change in bathroom stalls to prevent other girls from seeing their bodies, she said.

But Gregory believes that transgender students face similar insecurities and therefore are “not going to flaunt it or use it for bad things.”

“I know that these people who want to change their gender, they truly do not like the way that they are—the way that they were born—they don’t like the anatomy that they have, and they’re not going to flaunt it or use it for bad things,” she said. “They don’t even want it. They want to change it.”

In an interview with The Daily Signal, Ed Yohnka, director of communications and public policy for the organization, said the girls who spoke out deserve “a lot of credit” for attempting to be “sensitive and yet show their concerns the best way they could.”

However, Yohnka said, “The concern that is being raised on the part of these students is not the concern that actually arises in the use of the locker rooms.” He suggested that girls don’t fully disrobe for physical education and sporting events.

“This is not an instance in which she intends to be immodest or provocative in any way, shape, or form,” Yohnka said of Student A. “If one actually reads the findings from the [Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights], what they reveal is that, despite the reputed claims of the administration, students don’t fully disrobe in the locker rooms that she’s seeking access to.”

Multiple girls who spoke with The Daily Signal disputed that, saying they undress in the locker room for various sporting events, including lacrosse. They added that most sports teams share the same locker room.

“It’s a misguidance people have about high school girls not changing their entire clothes,” the lacrosse player said.

Students say showering hasn’t been an issue in this case because of the way the PE and sports programs work, although the school has a swim requirement that could affect future cases.

The ACLU’s Yohnka said the concern about Student A’s anatomy is simply “hysteria” created by the school administration.

“This administration has gone on television and talked about our client’s anatomy,” Yohnka, criticizing the school’s decision to go public with the negotiations, told The Daily Signal. “If they had done this to any other student in this district, the parents would be there lynching the board.”

Reached by The Daily Signal, a spokesman for District 211 officials said they would let previous statements and actions speak for themselves.

In October, when Superintendent Daniel Cates went public with the complaint filed with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Right, he put out a statement defending the administration’s original position of limiting Student A’s access to the girls’ locker room.

In a message published in a newsletter, Cates wrote: “District 211 has supported—and continues to support—transgender students and their families while always balancing the rights and concerns of all students we serve.”


Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Schools in Virginia are Indoctrinating Students in Sharia Law

If you hadn't heard, religious instruction is banned in public schools, unless that religion is Islam, then it's just fine:

    "A Virginia school district is defending a classroom assignment that required students to practice calligraphy by writing the Muslim statement of faith, “There is no god but Allah. Muhammad is the messenger of Allah.”

    Female students at Riverheads High School in Staunton, Virginia, were also invited to wear Muslim clothing -- a story first reported by The Schilling Show.

    The school district convened a meeting on Dec. 11th to discuss the assignment with outraged parents.

    The Muslim-friendly calligraphy assignment took place in a world geography class. The teacher had the kids copy the Muslim statement of faith, also known as the shahada.

    “Neither these lessons, nor any other lesson in the world geography course, are an attempt at indoctrination to Islam or any other religion, or a request for students to renounce their own faith or profess any belief,” the district said in a statement provided to Fox News."


Bernie Sanders on education

Mike Rowe

Bernie Sanders tweets, “At the end of the day, providing a path to go to college is a helluva lot cheaper than putting people on a path to jail.”

I wonder sometimes, if the best way to question the increasingly dangerous idea that a college education is the best path for the most people, is to stop fighting the sentiment directly, and simply shine a light on the knuckleheads who continue to perpetuate this nonsense. This latest tweet from Bernie Sanders is a prime example. In less than 140 characters, he’s managed to imply that a path to prison is the most likely alternative to a path to college. Pardon my acronym, but...WTF!?

Historically, universities have promoted themselves at the expense of many other forms of “alternative education.” The implicit suggestion, reinforced daily by a generation of well-intended guidance counselors and misguided parents, is always the same - get yourself a four-year degree, or accept one of the many “vocational consolation prizes” that result from all other forms of “lesser knowledge.”

It’s a cautionary tale as predictable as it is false. But now, as people are slowly starting to understand the obscenity of 1.3 trillion dollars in student loans, along with the abundance of opportunity for those with the proper training, it seems the proponents of “college for all” need something even more frightening than the prospect of a career in the trades to frighten the next class into signing on the dotted line. According to Senator Sanders, that “something,” is a path to jail.

I try not to be political on this page, because the truth is, arrogance and elitism are alive and well in every corner of every party - especially with respect to this topic. But I have to admit, this is the first time I’ve seen an elected official support the hyper-inflated cost of a diploma by juxtaposing it with the hyper-inflated cost of incarceration. Honestly, I’m not sure what to make of it.

Is it possible that Senator Sanders doesn’t realize the number of college graduates with criminal records? Is he unaware of the millions of successful tradespeople and entrepreneurs who didn’t pay for a sheepskin, but somehow managed to stay of the clink? Does he not recognize that comments like his will encourage more kids who are better suited for an alternative path to borrow vast sums of money they’ll never be able to pay back in order to pay for a degree that won’t get them a job?

Maybe not. Maybe the 140 character limit has doomed him to be misunderstood or taken out of context. Certainly, it’s happened to me. But regardless, the damage is in the headline, and Twitter is nothing but headlines. The truth, in my opinion, is this: There is no alternative for an education, and no hope for a person who doesn’t want to learn something useful and apply it. But there are many, many alternatives to college. And none of them come with a prison sentence.

Anyway, I’m in no position to judge. After all, I’m going LIVE on Facebook at 5pm PT to raise money for Work Ethic Scholarships by singing The Grinch and selling a collectible Bobblehead.

So really, what do I know?


Mass.: Milton Catholic school loses gay bias case

In a decision being called the first of its kind nationally, a state judge has ruled that an all-girls Catholic school in Milton discriminated against a gay man when it rescinded a job offer after learning he was in a same-sex marriage.

Matthew Barrett accepted a position as food services director at Fontbonne Academy in 2013, but the school withdrew the offer days later after Barrett listed his husband as an emergency contact on an employee form, according to a 21-page court ruling issued Wednesday.

Barrett’s lawyer, Ben Klein of Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders, said the decision marks the first time a judge has rejected a religious organization’s assertion that it had a constitutional right not to hire employees because they were spouses in same-sex marriages.

“Marriage equality has been the law of Massachusetts for over a decade and is now the law of the land,” Klein said. “But you can’t have equality if you can get married on Saturday and fired on Monday.”

Several legal experts contacted Thursday by the Globe said they believed the ruling was the first in a legal dispute involving a religious organization and an employee in a same-sex marriage.

“It is the first reported case with regards to a religious institution,” said Brian D. Spitz, an employment lawyer in Ohio whose firm represents clients from the LGBTQ community.

“Sexual orientation is a protected class deserving of the same level of protection as other protected classes,” Spitz said. “If the Fontbonne Academy argued that it was against their religious tenets to hire a woman or a black person, their arguments would be ridiculed as absurd at first look.”

The decision was blasted by the Catholic Action League of Massachusetts, which called it “a frontal assault on religious freedom” and “an appalling subordination of the First Amendment to the Massachusetts gay rights law.” The organization is an independent group directed by a lay person.

Barrett, 45, who lives in Dorchester, sued Fontbonne in Norfolk Superior Court last year, claiming that the school discriminated against him on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender.

Mary Ellen Barnes, then Fontbonne’s head of school and chief executive, told Barrett that he could not be hired because his marriage to another man was “inconsistent” with Catholic Church teachings, the order said.

“What they did was blatantly wrong, and they violated a Massachusetts law,” Barrett said Thursday in a telephone interview. “They felt that being a Catholic-affiliated school that they can do that legally, and they can’t.”

In his ruling, Judge Douglas H. Wilkins rejected the three defenses the school offered.

“Fontbonne’s discrimination ‘because of’ Barrett’s same-sex marriage is undisputed and, as shown above, amounts to discriminatory intent as a matter of law,” Wilkins wrote.

“It is clear that, because he is male, he suffered gender discrimination when he was denied employment for marrying a person whom a female could have married without suffering the same consequences.”

Fontbonne, a ministry sponsored by the Congregation of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Boston, had argued it is entitled to a religious exemption under the state antidiscrimination law.

It also claimed that hiring Barrett would infringe on its constitutional rights because it views his marriage as incompatible with its religious mission.

Wilkins rejected those arguments.

“As an educational institution, Fontbonne retains control over its mission and message,” he wrote. “It is not forced to allow Barrett to dilute that message, where he will not be a teacher, minister or spokesperson for Fontbonne and has not engaged in public advocacy of same-sex marriage.”

Wilkins said Fontbonne could claim a religious exemption to the state antidiscrimination law only if it limited “membership, enrollment, or participation” to members of one religion. The school, however, is open to students and employees of all faiths, except for members of its administration, theology faculty, and mission and ministry staff, he wrote.

In a statement, Fontbonne said Thursday that it is considering its options.

The school’s lawyers did not respond to messages.

Klein said that Barrett is entitled to lost wages and other damages. A hearing to determine damages has not been set, he said.

Barrett said he resigned from his position with Milton’s public schools after accepting Fontbonne’s offer.

“When they fired me, I went crawling back. I said, ‘This is what happened. I need a job,’ ” Barrett said. “They were thrilled to have me back. I love it.”

He is now head cook at the Collicot and Cunningham elementary schools in Milton. Barrett said Fontbonne’s decision cost him wages, but that is not why he sued.

“That’s not my priority,” he said. “It was just wrong.”

Francis DeBernardo, executive director of New Ways Ministry, a nonprofit organization in Maryland devoted to the concerns of gay and lesbian Catholics, tracks how many people have been fired or lost employment offers at religious institutions because of their sexual orientation.

He said the number of cases has multiplied as more states, and now the nation, have legalized same-sex marriage.

“It’s something the Catholic Church still hasn’t been able to deal with,” DeBernardo said.

Sarah Warbelow, the legal director at Human Rights Campaign, said the ruling makes it clear that religious institutions must follow the law when hiring people with no ministerial duties.

“They should have the ability to earn a living just like everyone else,” she said.


Reading Recovery program used in Australian public schools does not work

A key $55 million-a-year program to teach struggling NSW students to read does not work, with the state's first major review of Reading Recovery warning it is offered in too many schools and has few long-term benefits.

The report, by the NSW Department of Education's Centre for Education Statistics and Evaluation, found that Reading Recovery, which is used in about 960 NSW primary schools, should be restricted to the lowest performing students.

While it may have some impact on students who are really struggling with basic reading, the improvements are short-lived, the report found.

Reading Recovery has been in NSW public schools since 1984, and is also used in Catholic and independent schools. It was developed in New Zealand in the 1970s to help struggling readers in year 1 with daily individual, 30-minute lessons from a specially trained teacher.

In NSW, Reading Recovery is in 60 per cent of schools and at least 14 per cent of year 1 students take part in it.

The report found that the program is an "effective short-term intervention for remediating reading text skills among the lowest performing students" but is not an effective intervention for "students who begin year 1 with more proficient literacy skills".

"The duration of the program is only 12-20 weeks so it is equally possible that Reading Recovery students do not receive the level of support they need to sustain any short-term effects beyond year 1," the report says.

Despite its widespread use, the program – which is also in the US, Canada and Britain – has its vocal critics and earlier this year, influential US literacy academic Louisa Moats told education bureaucrats in Victoria that it was "indefensible" to spend money on the program.

"The whole approach is based on ideas that have not held up to scientific scrutiny," Dr Moats said in March.

The NSW Department of Education's general manager of strategic information and reporting, Jenny Donovan, said the report found that overall, the program was "not particularly effective".

"It shows there is a positive effect on some students in year 1, the very lowest level of ability students, but for all students by the time they reach year 3, any positive effect that may have been seen by Reading Recovery has been washed out," Dr Donovan said.

"What the report is suggesting is that Reading Recovery isn't the answer for students who have reading difficulties, and increasingly we see students whose levels of reading are not as bad maybe being subjected to a Reading Recovery treatment and it doing no good whatsoever for them."

Dr Donovan said the report found that the year 3 NAPLAN results of students with similar reading abilities were the same, regardless of whether students had completed the Reading Recovery program or not.

Leading literacy academic Robyn Cox, president of the Primary English Teaching Association of Australia, said Reading Recovery was effective for some students but it was not the only remediation program available to schools.

"One way of improving achievement in early literacy would be to enhance teachers' skills in identifying children with reading difficulties and fine-tuning their teaching strategies for this group," associate professor Cox said.

"Reading Recovery is successful for many kids but there will be some kids who have ongoing difficulties in processing print. I wouldn't want to say it is ineffective because for many kids it is just what they needed at the right time.''

A spokeswoman for the NSW Education Minister Adrian Piccoli said the report showed where the program was working and where other strategies to improve reading could be more appropriate.

"The minister has asked the Department of Education for advice on how the report's findings can be used to further refine the effective, targeted delivery of reading support to students needing it most," she said.


Monday, December 21, 2015

The Education department's office of civil rights comes under fire from the national civil rights head

U.S. Commission on Civil Rights Commissioner Gail Heriot said she was “baffled” by Congress’ decision to include a 7 percent raise for the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights in light of their “pattern of disregard for the rule of law.”

Below is Commissioner Heriot’s statement.

“One of the more disturbing aspects of the omnibus spending bill is the 7 percent budget increase for the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (“OCR”).  That would be a large increase for any federal office.  But OCR’s pattern of disregard for the rule of law makes any budget increase clearly unjustified.

“I am not the only one seriously troubled by OCR’s actions.  Last year, 28 members of the faculty of Harvard Law School and 16 members of the faculty of the University of Pennsylvania Law School—hardly bastions of conservative thought—expressed deep misgivings over the sexual assault and harassment policies adopted by their respective institutions under pressure from OCR.  Expressing their thoughts in open letters published in the Boston Globe and Wall Street Journal, these legal scholars took the position that the procedures insisted upon by OCR were fundamentally unfair to students accused of wrongdoing.  It was only because OCR had the power to cut off colleges and universities from federal funds that it was able to “persuade” them to adopt procedures so heavily biased against the accused.

“Most recently, OCR employed hardball tactics with an Illinois school district in support of a “transgender” student who wished to use the girls’ locker room despite having an anatomically male body.  A number of female students and their parents objected to this on privacy grounds.  Under threat of losing its federal funding, the school district agreed as a compromise to allow the particular student to use the girls’ locker room so long as the student agreed to dress behind a private curtain and the arrangement was not used as a precedent.  Before the ink was dry on the agreement, however, OCR was asserting that the student could not be required to dress behind the curtain and that a precedent had indeed been set.  The school district felt betrayed.  Interestingly, in the last few days OCR has backed off its efforts to undo the compromise.  It is clear that it is eager to continue its practice of threatening schools with a loss of federal funding if they fail to respond to transgender students in the manner OCR desires.  But in addition it has shown itself to be keen on preventing cases like this one from reaching the courts, where its strained interpretation of Title IX in connection with the use of locker rooms by transgender students would likely be overruled.

“These are just two examples.  OCR has several other initiatives—like its recent policy on bullying—that take it far beyond applicable Supreme Court precedent.  Peter Kirsanow, one of my colleagues on the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, and I wrote a letter to Congressional leaders earlier this year citing that initiative’s conflict with Supreme Court precedent along with several other examples of OCR overreach.  Now Congress has given OCR a raise.  We are baffled.”


Why Wheaton College Is Right

Wheaton College professor Larycia Hawkins created a stir last week by announcing she would wear a hijab, the head scarf worn by Islamic women, to “stand in religious solidarity with Muslims” during Advent. Hawkins was later suspended by the school, though not for the reasons presumed by secularists and even some Christians. To be clear: We believe there are numerous flaws in the way she spiritually rationalizes and physically chose to display solidarity. But that alone is not a sufficient reason for punishment. What got Hawkins suspended was a fundamental assertion in her statement: “I stand in religious solidarity with Muslims because they, like me, a Christian, are people of the book. And as Pope Francis stated last week, we worship the same God.”

It’s not difficult to see why this might raise some critical issues for a Christian school. In a statement, Wheaton wrote, “The freedom to wear a head scarf as a gesture of care and compassion for individuals in Muslim or other religious communities that may face discrimination or persecution is afforded to Dr. Hawkins as a faculty member of Wheaton College. Yet her recently expressed views, including that Muslims and Christians worship the same God, appear to be in conflict with the College’s Statement of Faith.”

As RedState’s outgoing editor in chief and seminary student Erick Erickson points out, “Muslims are not ‘people of the book’ in common understanding among evangelicals, though they do descend from Abraham. They do not worship the same God. According to Islam, Allah neither begets nor is begotten — a line explicitly rejecting the trinity. Professor Hawkins and her supporters may wish to distract or may not even care, but Wheaton sets its hiring standards and requires fidelity to the Bible. Professor Hawkins' statement suggests a theological diversion not in keeping with Wheaton’s standards.” That’s why the college’s response isn’t just justified, but warranted.


Harvard placemats and the limits of diversity training

The Harvard placemat debacle has one upside: In a season of well-meaning but overzealous social-justice crusades on campuses nationwide, there’s still a point where almost everyone can agree that the ideological fervor has gone too far.

Recently at Harvard, the Freshman Dean’s Office and the Office for Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion prepared a “Holiday Placemat for Social Justice” for use in certain campus dining halls. It listed questions that, administrators imagined, students might hear from unenlightened relatives over the holidays. For instance, on the protests at Yale: “Why are black students complaining? Shouldn’t they be happy to be in college?”

As if hearing such comments would make students lose all pulmonary function, the placemat urged them to “BREATHE.” It also proposed responses: “I don’t hear complaining. Instead I hear young people uplifting a situation that I may not experience.”

It wasn’t until the placemats had been printed, laminated, and put in use in certain dining halls that Harvard brass caught on to just how misguided the idea was. For one thing, the “placemat guide for holiday discussions on race and justice with loved ones” presumed that any right-minded student would agree with the diversity office’s take on current events, and that students’ relatives back home in flyover country were more or less barbarians.

Last month, a “Saturday Night Live” skit suggested that only Adele’s “Hello” could spare families a lot of awkward Thanksgiving conversation. That was funny. The stilted talking points on the Harvard placemat were also funny — just not on purpose.

Ironically, they appear to have united the Harvard community. University President Drew Gilpin Faust told The Harvard Crimson that the initiative was “a really bad idea.” Eighteen members of the school’s Undergraduate Council said in a letter that they “reject the premise that there is a ‘right’ way to answer the questions posed.”

Student-life administrators apologized, if not as straightforwardly as the situation warranted. Stephen Lassonde and Thomas Dingman — the dean of student life and the dean of freshmen, respectively — wrote to students Wednesday night that the placemat “was not effectively presented and it ultimately caused confusion in our community.” “Sorry we insulted your intelligence” would have sufficed.

As student protesters across the country press their colleges for more help in creating safe spaces for underprivileged groups, more diversity training is a common demand — and the more comprehensive and emphatic, the better. But Harvard’s placemat episode hints at the limits to what bureaucratic action can achieve.

During the “just say no” era of the 1980s, an antidrug pamphlet widely distributed in American high schools tried to suggest hip ways of fending off peer pressure. Sample retort: “Take off, hoser” — as if the drug dealers supposedly plaguing America’s schoolyards were all Canadian. The authors of the pamphlet wanted to help students negotiate sticky situations, but most teens who bothered to read it were flabbergasted at its obtuseness and condescension.

Harvard’s laminated discussion guide is a similarly odd artifact of a tumultuous era. (Sadly, none had shown up on eBay by Friday afternoon.) Today, colleges can help students discover the value of diversity and inclusion for themselves, through one-on-one experience with people from different backgrounds over the course of four years. But not all pro-diversity initiatives are equal, and some are little more than goofy verbiage on a placemat


Sunday, December 20, 2015

UK: Head of student Islamic Society that heckled 'intolerant' speaker quits over a series of anti-gay tweets

The head of a university Islamic Society that accused an Iranian speaker of bigotry has quit – over a series of homophobic tweets.

Muhammed Patel, 20, is alleged to have called someone ‘fag’ on Twitter and to have written that ‘homosexuality is a disease of the heart and mind’.

Last month, members of the Islamic Society (ISOC) at Goldsmiths, University of London, disrupted a lecture by Maryam Namazie, a human rights campaigner and critic of Islam.

Men stood up and shouted, with one even switching off her projector when she showed a cartoon of the Prophet Mohammed alongside Jesus Christ.

One of her colleagues said he had received a death threat during the lecture, in the form of a ‘shooting gun’ hand gesture.

Miss Namazie, 49, a former Muslim who fled the repressive regime in Iran and is an advocate of women’s rights, was later sent an anonymous death threat on Twitter. At first, ISOC defended its actions, labelling Miss Namazie an ‘Islamophobe’ and claiming its members had been subject to ‘vile harassment’.

But in the days that followed, damning footage of what happened was posted online and critics uncovered abusive tweets about homosexuality sent from an account called Mopey96, thought to be used by Mr Patel.

They had been posted in August about the Channel 4 documentary Muslim Drag Queens, which explored the life of Muslim gays and drag queens in Britain.

Now, Mr Patel, a politics student, has resigned as president of ISOC after members brought a motion of no confidence. In a statement, the society said: ‘In light of recent allegations attributed to Muhammed Patel, a meeting was called to discuss a motion of no confidence.

‘Soon after Muhammad tendered his resignation and it was accepted by the committee. Hate speech of any kind has no place in our society.’ ISOC has denied that any of its members made death threats. Miss Namazie’s lecture – ‘Apostasy, blasphemy and free expression in the age of ISIS’ – was hosted by the university’s Atheist, Secularist and Humanist Society (ASH).

Before the talk, the Islamic Society insisted Miss Namazie should not be allowed to speak because her ‘bigoted views’ violated their ‘safe space’. Under university policies, people can be ejected from events if they are considered to be ‘invading’ a student’s ‘safe space’. This might include racist, sexist or homophobic insults’.

ISOC pointed to a number of controversial comments Miss Namazie has made in the past, including describing the veil as a symbol of ‘far-Right Islamism’ and calling the niqab a ‘bin bag’. Mr Patel lives with his father in Upton Park, East London. When a Mail reporter visited his home, his father said he was not in his room and refused to arrange for him to be contacted.

Mr Patel’s Facebook page carries an advertisement for an ISOC event featuring Moazzam Begg, who heads the CAGE group, which described Islamic State executioner Jihadi John as a ‘beautiful young man’.

The Goldsmiths students’ union said it had investigated what happened at the lecture and that both ASH and ISOC could be disciplined.

A Goldsmiths spokesman said: ‘We have a long-held reputation for promoting and supporting free speech and providing an inclusive and welcoming campus.

‘We are therefore concerned at reports from the student society event and its surrounding issues. We cannot comment on any of our discussions with individual students.’


UK: Schoolboy, 15, 'excluded from classes after row over him wearing a 'Lest We Forget' wrist-band in support of the armed forces'

The parents of a 15-year-old schoolboy claim he was excluded from classes after a row about wearing a charity wrist-band in support of the armed forces.

Jack White's stepfather said the teenager had been asked by a teacher to remove the black and white 'Lest We Forget' wrist-band during a lesson on Tuesday.

He refused to do so - saying he never takes if off because it's worn in memory of a family friend who died in the Gulf War - and was moved to isolation, his parents say.

Jack is then alleged to have been given a final ultimatum to 'remove the wrist-band or be excluded', to which he once again declined the request of staff at Harris Academy Greenwich, in London.

The schoolboy was therefore forced to miss the last three days of term, including a Spanish exam.

Jack's stepfather Barry Hooper, from Eltham, London, has hit out at the school for making 'such a big fuss' over something so trivial, but a Harris Academy Greenwich spokesman was quick to point out that no pupil in the academy has ever been excluded for wearing jewellery.

He would not comment on individual cases but said the school has 'high expectations of manners, attitude and behaviour.'

Mr Hooper, however, is adamant that his stepson was not rude during the alleged exchange.

He said: 'Jack was very careful to remain polite throughout the incident but simply said he would not take the wrist-band off.

'The school are now claiming that they never excluded Jack because of the wrist-band and that it was only because he was rude and because he attempted to leave without permission.

''I know Jack was not rude. He is very honest with us. When he got in some trouble for chatting in class once he was very honest with us about his behaviour and we backed the teachers 100 per cent and punished him for it but this is not the case here.'

Mr Hooper added: 'We couldn't believe that the school could have made such a big fuss and have such an impact on Jack's education over something as silly as this.

'It's pathetic. I understand why they need to ban jewellery but this is a charity wrist-band and is not even jewellery. It is usually not even visible as it is under his blazer sleeve and is not going to hurt anyone. It even matches the school colours.

'The most ridiculous thing is that this is a rubber band similar to a girl's hair bobble that they will often wear around the wrist.

'Pupils are also allowed to wear watches so we cannot understand why a charity wrist-band could be banned. Jack says one of the teachers involved was wearing a flashing, lit-up Christmas tree tie - why is that any more appropriate for school than a charity wrist-band?'

'At the end of the day, the wrist-band means a lot to Jack and is not just there for decoration, it is to show support so the school should be more understanding about things like that.'

Jack buys the Lest We Forget wrist-band each year. It holds sentimental value for him, particularly as close friends of the family are members of the armed forces.

He had owned this particular one for two months, wearing it every day without any problems.

But on Tuesday morning during Spanish, his first class of the day, the teacher allegedly embarked upon a 'nail varnish' check, which is also banned according to Barry, 44, and Jack's mother Angela Hooper, 49.

It was during this search that the wrist-band was spotted because Jack had pulled up the cuffs on his blazer. Mr Hooper claims he tried to reason with the headteacher before his stepson was sent home but was unable to resolve the issue.

He said: 'I tried to say that this was silly over just a wrist-band. I suggested they let him wear it for the remaining three days of term and then perhaps he could come back in the New Year without it, but he would not budge.

'This was something that was personal to Jack and all of our family are quite supportive of the armed forces.'

Since Jack was excluded he has missed numerous classes, including a mock exam in Spanish and also the exam itself, which he will have to take in January instead ahead of his GCSEs next summer.

A Harris Academy Greenwich spokesperson said: 'It would be inappropriate to specifically comment on an individual student, but nobody at our academy has ever been excluded for wearing jewellery.

'Indeed, even though we have a 'no jewellery' rule, if this was in the run up to Remembrance Sunday we would happily have given permission for students to wear Remembrance wrist-bands in the same way as we encourage the wearing of poppies.

'We do however have high expectations of manners, attitude and behaviour and, in order to be fair to the vast majority of students who conduct themselves with great maturity, we apply the same standards to everyone.'  [Waffle!]


Virginia School District Shuts Down After Backlash Over Islamic Assignment

After defending a Virginia teacher who made her students copy the Muslim statement of faith known as the shahada as part of a calligraphy assignment, Augusta County Schools shut down the entire school system Friday when a backlash erupted on social media.

 “While there has been no specific threat of harm to students, schools and school offices will be closed Friday, December 18, 2015,” Augusta County Public Schools said in a statement Thursday, noting the “voluminous phone calls and electronic mail” it had received “locally and from outside the area.”

The controversy ignited after parents learned that World Geography teacher Cheryl LaPorte had required her ninth-grade students at Riverheads High School in Staunton to copy the shahada, one of the Five Pillars of Islam, as part of an assignment on world religions.

Reciting the shahada is the first step in converting to Islam.   The passage translated from Arabic states: “There is no god but Allah and Muhammad is the messenger of Allah.”

LaPorte also invited her female students to try on headscarves, the Shilling Show first reported.

“Neither these lessons, nor any other lesson in the world geography course, are an attempt at indoctrination to Islam or any other religion, or a request for students to renounce their own faith or profess any belief,” Superintendent Eric Bond said in a statement.

“They were simply asked to attempt to artistically render written Arabic in order to understand its artistic complexity,” he said, adding that the assignment was consistent with the state’s Standards of Learning and that the scarf female students were invited to try on “was not an actual Islamic religious hijab.”

But Bond’s reassurances did not assuage the 100 parents and community members who attended a forum at the Good News Ministries Church near the school to protest the assignment and point out that a public school teacher who required students to copy passages from the Bible would be fired, the Staunton News Leader reported.

“These children were deceived when they were told it was calligraphy. This is not calligraphy, this is a language,” said Kimberly Herndon, a parent of six who posted a protest on Facebook December 12 after her son brought home the assignment.

Herndon also said on Facebook that the teacher “has passed that Koran around that room every single day since the beginning. That is wrong. Where is the bible? Can I take a bible and place it in every single class room tomorrow?”

Herndon said she and another parent met with school officials who “were forthright in admitting that the teacher made a mistake in assigning the children to copy the shahada…also it was admitted that asking the students to put on the head dressing of the Islamic woman was a bad choice in that there was no representation of any other apparel of any other culture or religion.”

The school system later said it had removed the shahada from the curriculum. “Although students will continue to learn about world religions as required by the state Board of Education and the Commonwealth’s Standards of Learning, a different, non-religious sample of Arabic calligraphy will be used in the future," it said in a statement.


Bipartisan Achievements: Bigger Government, Worse Schools

"This is an early Christmas present."

That is what a very merry Barack Obama said earlier this month when he signed into law a bill sent to him by the Republican Congress.

The Republicans in Congress entitled it "The Every Student Succeeds Act." They wrote it to replace the "No Child Left Behind Act" — which was sponsored 14 years ago by then-Rep. John Boehner, a future Republican House speaker, and signed by George W. Bush, the last Republican president.

The Every Student Succeeds Act now serves the same function as its predecessor: perpetuating federal involvement in primary and secondary education.

Like No Child Left Behind, it also demonstrates that big government is a bipartisan endeavor in Washington, D.C.

In fiscal 2002, when No Child Left Behind became law, the federal government spent $47.036 billion on the Department of Education. That equals $62.053 billion in 2015 dollars. In fiscal 2015, the federal government spent $90.031 billion on the Department of Education.

In the No Child Left Behind era, real annual federal education spending increased 45 percent.

At the same time, achievement scores in reading and math flatlined.

In 2002, public school eighth graders scored an average of 263 out of 500 on the National Assessment of Educational Progress reading test. In 2015, they scored an average of 264 out of 500.

In 2002, only 31 percent of American public school eighth graders scored "at or above proficient" in reading, according to the Department of Education. In 2015, only 33 percent did.

In mathematics, public school eighth graders averaged 276 out of 500 in 2003. In 2015, they averaged 281.

In 2003, only 27 percent were at or above proficient in math. In 2015, it was only 32 percent.

In the 2001-2002 school year, when No Child Left Behind became law, current expenditures per pupil in the nation's public elementary and secondary schools was $10,890 in constant 2013-2014 dollars. In 2011-2012, it was $11,732.

America's public schools are not failing for lack of money.

But federal involvement in the public schools is also increasing the moral hazard Americans face when they send their children there.

The Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights issued a "guidance" last year declaring that Title IX, the federal law banning sex discrimination in schools that receive federal funding, also bars discrimination against students who claim a "gender identity" different from their biological sex.

Pursuing this principle, the Department of Education and the Department of Justice told the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit in a brief filed this fall that: "[T]he Department of Education — the agency with primary enforcement authority over Title IX — has concluded that, although recipients may provide separate restrooms for boys and girls, when a school does so, it must treat transgender students consistent with their gender identity. Doing so is the only way to ensure that the school's provision of sex-segregated restrooms complies with Title IX mandated not to subject any student to discrimination on the basis of sex."

Meanwhile, the new bipartisan education law that President Barack Obama happily declared a "Christmas present" authorizes increased federal involvement in preschool.

"Title IX would house a new federal preschool program authorized by the Every Student Succeeds Act and establish annual funding at $250 million," Lindsey Burke of the Heritage Foundation wrote in the Daily Signal. "The new preschool program would be housed at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and jointly administered by the Department of Education.

"The funding would be made available to states to help coordinate existing government preschool programs, such as those operated by the states and Head Start, and to establish new preschool programs," says Burke. "Although some funding has been appropriated for the preschool program for the past two years, the new Every Student Succeeds Act would codify the new $250-million federal preschool program, creating mission creep in the Elementary and Secondary Education Act."

America does not need the federal government involved in preschools; it needs parents in total control of where their children go to school.

The federal Department of Education should be abolished. At the local level, local governments should take the same amount of money they now spend per pupil in their public schools and give it in the form of a voucher to every parent with a school-age child.

Parents should be permitted to redeem those vouchers at any school they like, period.