Friday, March 21, 2014
Schoolchildren as young as nine left terrified of bathroom after teacher plays horrific clip from shower scene in 1960s Hitchcock film Psycho
Primary school children as young as nine have been left terrified of the bathroom after their teacher played them an audio clip from the shower scene of Alfred Hitchcock's 1960s film Psycho.
Pupils at Eastfield Primary School, in Hull, were played the clip from the dramatic scene as part of a lesson on how to 'establish mood created by music'.
But Karen Kay, from Hull, East Yorkshire, has said her son Jason is now too afraid to have a shower and will not go to the toilet without taking a plastic sword with him. She said: 'I am absolutely disgusted and shocked any teacher would feel this is appropriate. 'Jason has become scared stiff and will not go to sleep on his own. 'He now feels he has to take his plastic sword and knife with him every time he takes a shower or goes to the toilet.
'He is always asking an adult to guard the door while he does whatever he has to do in the bathroom.
'The music to the murder scene is scary and Jason has said the children heard the woman screaming and the body falling in the shower. It’s horrific. 'This has had a massive impact on the way he thinks and I am furious with the school.'
The school, in west Hull, said the purpose of the lesson was to 'establish mood created by music'. It has since apologised and says it is reviewing the type of music it plays to children in the future.
But Ms Kay said: 'I’ve spoken to other parents about it outside school and they just can’t believe it.
'I have to literally drag Jason in the shower now and it’s all because of this.
'My message to the school would be for it to look hard at the material it is using and see whether the content matches the age group of the children.
'I don’t mind admitting that I get a bit scared when I hear or see any type of murder scene, so it is no wonder Jason is so frightened - he’s only nine.'
Katie Beal, headteacher at Eastfield Primary School, said: 'We have apologised to Jason’s mum and have looked to review the type of music played within lessons in the future.
'The purpose of the lesson was to establish mood created by music and short sound-only clips of film music were played to children to do this. 'References to the films including descriptions and any dialogue were not disclosed, although some of the children did try to guess the film.'
Physics teacher sacked for accidentally shooting a schoolboy during a science experiment gets his job back after the pupil leads a campaign to save him
A teacher who was sacked after accidentally shooting a student during a science experiment has got his job back - after the boy he hit led a campaign for him to be reinstated.
Physics teacher Richard West was suspended then sacked because the pellet, fired from an air weapon, rebounded off a table leg and struck sixth-former Ben Barlow in the leg.
The incident, which happened in November last year, left pupil Mr Barlow with a minor scratch and resulted in Mr West being dismissed as head of physics at St Peter’s Collegiate School in Wolverhampton last month.
Mr Barlow, 17, said: ‘Mr West set up an experiment where he was going to shoot through paper into cardboard boxes at the end of the room to work out the speed of the object and its deceleration.
‘I’m not sure how it happened - but the bullet must have rebounded off the table and it hit me on the leg.
‘You’d do more damage with a safety pin. It was a complete accident and Mr West was really concerned.’
The sixth-form student launched a huge Facebook campaign and petition entitled ‘Bring Back Westy 2014’ which called for his favourite teacher to be given his job back.
The campaign, which was backed by 4,500 past and present pupils, was successful and Mr West was reinstated after an appeals committee granted his return.
The school – of which One Direction star Liam Payne is a former pupil - has agreed for Mr West, of Bridgnorth, Shropshire, to return to lessons after the Easter holidays on April 28.
Adrian Richards, the school’s principal, said: ‘An appeals committee formed from the academy governing body met in response to an appeal lodged by Mr West regarding his dismissal.
‘The appeals committee made the decision to reinstate Mr West with immediate effect.
‘The committee considered all of the factors presented to them, bearing in mind that the primary focus was on safety of students being of paramount importance, how procedures to ensure the safety of everyone must be adhered to, and how important it is that staff report any accidents which happen on academy premises.
‘In being reinstated, Mr West has given assurances that lessons have been learned. ‘He will ensure complete compliance with all safety procedures and controlled conditions and ensure the correct reporting procedures are followed.’
The school, which caters for 1,300 pupils aged 11-18, was rated Good or Outstanding in a November 2011 Ofsted report.
On Monday night, the ‘Bring Back Westy’ Facebook page said: ‘Guys, we did it! He will be reinstated on the 28th of April.’
And former pupil Julia Bugler wrote: ‘So very please for Mr West, pupil power at its best. ‘Small minded people and those with no faith in this teacher really need to take a long look at themselves. ‘Brings to mind the passage in the Bible about casting the stones.’
New York Senate Rejects Tuition Assistance for Illegal Immigrants
For now, state tuition assistance in New York will not be provided to students in the country illegally. The 30-29 vote in the Republican-controlled Senate failed to reach the 32 votes needed to pass.
Advocates for the illegal immigrant community have been working behind the scenes for a very long time to get the Senate to pass the measure, and weren’t expecting it to be introduced as soon as it was. Republicans abruptly brought the bill to the floor late in the day Monday—a move supporters of the measure said was intentional.
"It certainly seems that it was bought up to fail, given the outcome," Sen. Michael Gianaris (D) said, reports Fox News, adding that the vote “made a mockery of a very important issue."
The proposal includes a budget appropriation of $25 million to open up Tuition Assistance Program money for students who are in the country illegally but attend public or private colleges, paying up to $5,000 a year for undergraduates at four-year institutions.
Since it was first introduced three years ago, opponents have argued that using taxpayer money to fund tuition assistance for people in the country illegally takes opportunity and funds away from students who are citizens. New York is among 16 states that already allow those students to pay in-state tuition at public colleges.
The Assembly passed the Dream Act last month. After the vote, Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who has indicated support for the bill, released a statement saying he was disappointed that the Senate had failed to pass the measure.
Opponents said the bill amounted to an improper use of taxpayer funds.
"I simply cannot justify spending tens of millions of taxpayer dollars annually to pay for tuition for illegal immigrants when so many law-abiding families are struggling to meet the ever-increasing costs of higher education for their own children," said Sen. Mark Grisanti, a Republican from the Buffalo area, Fox News reports.
Thursday, March 20, 2014
Northeastern University suspends pro-BDS group Students for Justice in Palestine
Scholars for Peace in the Middle East (SPME) and Americans for Peace and Tolerance (APT) applaud Northeastern University’s decision to suspend Students for Justice in Palestine
In a series of three videos, the APT documented its investigation into Islamic extremism, anti-Semitism, and anti-Zionism at Northeastern University. Professors and members of the Spiritual Life Office are shown abusing their classes and Northeastern Holocaust Remembrance Week to promote an anti-Israel and, at times, anti-Semitic agenda.
Students for Justice in Palestine leaders are seen vandalizing the campus with anti-Semitic messages, glorifying terrorist groups, and chanting for the destruction of Israel. All videos can be seen at shameonneu.com.
For the first time since these videos were released, NEU has taken some serious steps to deal with this insidious behavior. On March 7, 2014 members of Northeastern University’s Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) were informed by the school’s Center for Student Involvement that their chapter had been suspended for at least a year.
NEU’s Director of the Center for Student Involvement, Jason Campbell-Foster, offered a litany of charges against SJP, including their distribution of fake eviction notices across Northeastern campuses - a tactic used to demonize IDF policies regarding terrorist safe houses.
Campbell-Foster wrote, “You have not shown a concerted effort to improve your practices and educate your members on how to properly operate your organization within the boundaries of university policy,”
Additionally, before SJP members would be considered for reinstatement they must participate in civility and tolerance workshops led by university administrators.
SPME President Richard Cravatts said, "Students for Justice in Palestine have a long history of bringing a corrosive and radical activism to campuses when the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is debated. While SPME welcomes vigorous scholarly debate about a broad range of topics involving the Middle East, SJP's tactics have included libels against Israel, vituperative attacks on the Jewish state, the demonizing of Zionism and Jews, and other extremist rhetoric which is not part of a civil dialogue about contemporary political issues."
APT director Charles Jacobs said: “Years of anti-Semitic vandalism, glorification of terrorist groups, calls for the destruction of Israel, and other actions by Northeastern’s SJP documented by our organization have created a hostile learning environment for Jewish pro-Israel students on campus.
Sadly, these days the only hatred tolerated on campus is the one directed at Israel and its supporters, and so administrations at dozens of other colleges continue to turn a blind eye to SJP bigotry. Hopefully, NU SJP’s justified suspension becomes a wakeup call for those schools as well.”
Choosing to Learn
Increasing compliance to the state reduces accountability to parents
Americans face a choice between two paths that will guide education in this nation for generations: self-government and central planning. Which we choose will depend in large measure on how well we understand accountability.
To some, accountability means government-imposed standards and testing, like the Common Core State Standards, which advocates believe will ensure that every child receives at least a minimally acceptable education. Although well-intentioned, their faith is misplaced and their prescription is inimical to the most promising development in American education: parental choice.
True accountability comes not from top-down regulations but from parents financially empowered to exit schools that fail to meet their child’s needs. Parental choice, coupled with freedom for educators, creates the incentives and opportunities that spur quality. The compelled conformity fostered by centralized standards and tests stifles the very diversity that gives consumer choice its value.
Most low- and middle-income families today have no viable alternative to their zoned public school. Absent any alternatives, the school is not directly accountable to them, so policymakers try to approximate real accountability through one-size-fits-all regulations.
But distant bureaucrats cannot know the individual needs and preferences of every family. Nor do they share the local knowledge enjoyed by educators. Nevertheless, some policymakers and education experts have come to view top-down regulations as synonymous with “accountability” rather than as a pale imitation. They therefore mistakenly view parent-driven choice programs as “unaccountable,” confusing regulation with accountability.
In recent days, some have even argued that states should impose the Common Core tests on all school-choice programs. Yet there is no compelling body of evidence that top-down regulation improves student outcomes in schools that are already directly accountable to parents. By contrast, there is much evidence that direct accountability to parents yields results superior to those that are defined by bureaucratic red tape.
A global review of the scientific research comparing different types of education systems reveals that the most market-like, least regulated systems consistently outperform more centralized and regulated ones — by a ratio of 15 statistically significant findings to one, across seven different measures of educational outcomes.
In the United States alone, eleven of twelve randomized-controlled trials — the gold standard of social-science research — have found that school-choice programs improve student outcomes, from academic achievement to graduation rates and college matriculation. School-choice students outperform their public peers even though public schools, which are already heavily regulated, generally spend more than twice as much per pupil.
Moreover, as the education marketplace grows, all students benefit. In 22 of 23 empirical studies, academic performance of public-school students improved in response to increased competition. The only study to show no statistically significant difference was the voucher program in Washington, D.C., where public schools were intentionally shielded from competition. The gains from competition in the other studies tended to be modest, but so were the sizes of the choice programs. As in other sectors, greater competition will bring greater gains.
As educational choice expands, parents and schools will adapt. They already do. Many independent schools voluntarily measure their students’ performance with one of numerous nationally norm-referenced tests and publish the results to attract parents. Meanwhile, most parents talk with one another, visit schools, and otherwise do their homework before selecting a school — and even the least active choosers benefit from the decisions of their more active and informed peers.
Educational choice has also been repeatedly shown to produce far higher levels of parental satisfaction than does centrally planned schooling. That’s because choice empowers parents to find the best education for their children, and test scores are not their only consideration. Research shows that many parents care more about safety and discipline, graduation and college acceptance rates, and moral values.
Dictating uniform standards and tests threatens those other valued features by redirecting educators’ focus from serving families to catering to bureaucrats. It also contributes to a culture of “teaching to the test” that has already resulted in several large-scale public-school cheating scandals.
Children are not interchangeable widgets that can be beneficially fed through their education on the same conveyor belt. Even within a single family, children often learn different subjects at different speeds. Myriad new options are arising in response to that reality that allow students to learn at their own pace in every subject, helping all to fulfill their individual potential — the very antithesis of uniform government mandates.
Instead of imposing ineffective bureaucratic “accountability” on schools, our education system should ensure choice to all students so that every school is held truly and directly accountable to families. Policymakers then can dispense with rigid testing mandates, and all schools, public and private, will be free to serve their most important clients: families.
UK: Teachers’ rants at mother who hit out at four-letter words in lessons: Complained about her 14-year-old daughter studying a play containing 400 swear words
A mother who complained about her 14-year-old daughter studying a play containing 400 swear words has suffered a torrent of foul-mouthed abuse – from teachers.
Gerardine Stockford expressed dismay on Mumsnet after finding her daughter Anna was studying the gritty drama Mogadishu – which contains 218 uses of the F-word and ten of the C-word – as part of her GCSE drama course.
Mrs Stockford, 52, a former social worker, is running a petition to get the Government to put age controls on exposing pupils to swearing as her daughter had felt uncomfortable in classes at Teddington School in Richmond, West London. Former pupils there include actors Keira Knightley and Sean Pertwee.
Education Secretary Michael Gove has said he shares her concerns.
But one Mumsnet user, who claimed to be a teacher, responded: ‘Censorship – that’s what you want. So you can impose your middle- England, white, middle-class values on a world that no longer exists.
‘As a teacher, I will say very bluntly how sick and f****** tired I am of parents like you who think they are experts on all f****** areas of the curriculum.’
Another said: ‘This really, really p***** me off . . . I teach and have had half-***ed complaints from parents on occasion . . . What really boils my p*** is people having opinions about things they haven’t even read and certainly don’t understand.’
Mrs Stockford was so upset by the ‘vile’ abuse she removed the thread from Mumsnet. She said she was ‘no prude’, but was shocked by the language of the play, written by former teacher Vivienne Franzmann, about racism in a tough secondary school.
She said: ‘This would not have been deemed suitable for under 18-year-olds if it was shown in a cinema, so it should not be studied by under-16s in school.’
Mr Gove said in a letter to Mrs Stockford’s MP, Vince Cable, that teachers should be trusted to decide what to teach but, ‘as a father’ he was worried about the use of a play ‘littered with extreme language and explicit references’.
The Department for Education said: ‘We expect schools to alert parents before a text of this nature is taught and to give parents the option of withdrawing their children from these classes.’
Teddington School said students were invited to withdraw if they felt uncomfortable, but none did so.
Wednesday, March 19, 2014
Fury at school plan to force teenagers to share unisex toilets: Girls as young as 11 will use same bathroom facilities as 16-year-old boys
Plans to make teenage boys and girls share school toilets have been condemned by children’s campaigner Esther Rantzen.
The ChildLine founder said the proposal for unisex toilets at a school in Kent was ‘one of the worst ideas I’ve ever heard’.
The move will mean that girls as young as 11 will share the bathroom facilities with 16-year-old boys.
Parents at The Towers School in Ashford, which has 1,400 pupils, believe the plans will remove pupils’ privacy and provide an environment for bullying. And they fear the plans could lead to children having sex in the toilets.
But the school governors have given their backing to the scheme and claim it will cut down on vandalism.
‘These children are at an age when they are extremely self-conscious and aware of their bodies and the changes they experience,’ said Ms Rantzen.
‘It’s an extremely delicate time for them and one would hope that a school would seek to make them as comfortable as possible. This is one of the worst ideas I’ve ever heard and I suggest the school rethinks its proposal.’
Parent Daniel Gray, 39, said: ‘Many parents are upset that the school has dreamt up these proposals without consulting them. Some girls will be as young as 11 and experiencing puberty – not something to be shared with teenage boys as old as 16.
‘I think it is a bit much to ask teenagers to be responsible enough to give each other privacy. Girls in particular need privacy and there will be boys calling at them over the cubicle doors.
‘Teenagers are full of hormones and I’m sure this will encourage them to canoodle in the loos – whether it’s heavy petting or worse.’
Designs for two shared toilet areas have been posted on a school noticeboard, one with 11 cubicles for females, ten for males and one for disabled pupils, the other with eight male toilets and ten female. Both have wash basins in the middle of the room.
A sign underneath the designs reads: ‘These are just to give an idea of the proposed layout for the new unisex toilets. The colours of the cubicles and hand wash area we propose to have will be much brighter and the whole area more modern looking.’
School governor Simon Petts said the governing body has approved the idea and is waiting for it to go to a funding committee.
He added: ‘The toilets have been in desperate need of refurbishment for a long time and we decided the best way of reducing vandalism was to make them unisex. I understand parents’ concerns but we have had someone researching child welfare and this has not raised any red flags.
Pro-life teen defiant after alleged attack by feminist professor
A teenage pro-life demonstrator who claims she was assaulted by a feminist studies professor at the University of California in Santa Barbara during a campus event this month told FoxNews.com she is more determined than ever to protest against abortion.
Thrin Short, 16, and her sister Joan, 21, had handed out nearly 1,000 informational pamphlets during a March 4 outreach event organized by the Riverside-based nonprofit Survivors of the Abortion Holocaust before things took an unexpected turn. Associate Professor Mireille Miller-Young approached the demonstrators and a group of students who had gathered and she became incensed, according to Thrin Short, eventually snatching a sign the girl was holding and walking off with it.
“Before she grabbed the sign, she was mocking me and talking over me in front of the students, saying that she was twice as old as me and had three degrees, so they should listen to her and not me,” Thrin Short wrote in an email to FoxNews.com. “Then she started the chant with the students about ‘tear down the sign.’ When that died out, she grabbed the sign.”
With the graphic anti-abortion sign in hand, Miller-Young, whose faculty web page says she specializes in black cultural studies and pornography, then allegedly walked through two campus buildings as Short, her sister and two UCSB students followed closely behind. Short captured much of the incident, which she charged was a "deliberate" provocation by Miller-Young, on a cellphone video later posted to YouTube while her sister called campus police. Miller-Young pushed Short at least three times, the student alleges, as she tried to stop an elevator door from closing as the educator stood inside with her sign, Short said.
“I explained how I had been trying to keep the elevator door open with my foot, because I thought the police would be there any second, and that’s when she pushed and grabbed me,” Short’s email continued. “She then got off the elevator and tried to pull me away from the elevator doors so the others could get away with the sign.”
Short said she suffered minor injuries during the melee — scratches on both wrists — and said campus police are now reviewing the video.
Miller-Young declined to comment when reached by FoxNews.com, referring inquiries to her attorney, Catherine Swysen, who did not return a message seeking comment Wednesday.
Several messages seeking comment from UCSB police spokesman Sgt. Rob Romero were also not returned, but school officials acknowledged the incident in a statement.
“The university is aware of the incident and it is being reviewed by the appropriate offices,” spokesman George Foulsham wrote to FoxNews.com. “It is university policy not to discuss personnel matters.”
Kristina Garza, director of campus outreach for the nonprofit pro-life group, said Miller-Young initially tried to lead a small group of students to protest the anti-abortion advocates before simply grabbing Short’s sign herself.
“We recognize the irony of the incident,” Garza told FoxNews.com. “The professor is a feminist studies professor and her specialty is pornography, and she did commit an act of violence against another woman. So, the irony there to us is rather great.”
The event took place on the public university's so-called “free speech zone,” Garza said, adding that she was shocked by the level of anger shown by Miller-Young.
“This is one of the most extreme cases of lashing out in anger I’ve ever seen,” she said. “We’ve never seen a professor act so violently toward one of our missionaries or trainees.”
Thrin Short, who wants to see Miller-Young prosecuted for the alleged assault, said she won’t let it keep her from future pro-life events, particularly on college campuses.
“If she isn’t prosecuted, wouldn’t anyone else think they could do the same thing and get away with it? The assault on me was part of the whole package of her deciding that she was above the law and could do whatever she liked to us,” Short’s email continued. “ … Fortunately, in our country, we can speak out against abortion and other evils, and the law protects us. It would be cowardly to back off just because of what this one person did.”
Win, Lose or Draw
Today, as most of you sit in your offices pretending to work while reading my column (thanks, by the way) I'll be taking the stand in federal court in a First Amendment lawsuit against my employer, UNC-Wilmington. The trial will be over in three days, thus ending a seven-year legal battle with important implications for academic freedom. Some have asked how the outcome of the trial will affect my work in the campus free speech movement. I'm writing this column in response to those inquiries.
There are three possible outcomes to the trial this week in Greenville, NC. We could win, we could lose, or there could be a draw (for example, through the declaration of a mistrial). I want to start by outlining three initiatives I plan to push if we win the trial:
1. Center for Student Rights. The UNC system needs to establish a center for student rights. We have African American Centers to which black students can turn if they feel discriminated against or ostracized because of their race. We have LGBT Centers to which so-called sexual minorities can turn if they feel discriminated against or ostracized because of their sexuality. We need a Center for Student Rights to which students can turn when they are discriminated against because of their beliefs or because of their political associations.
Students also need a place to which they can turn when they are victims of the campus judiciary. Such an office needs to be given investigative authority over the student affairs divisions, which have become increasing hostile towards student rights. Finally, the center needs to be given the authority to make policy reform recommendations to the state legislative and executive branches in North Carolina. Our universities are badly in need of oversight.
2. Religious Liberty Legislation. Last year, I tried to get members of the NC Senate to push a religious liberty bill modeled on one already passed in Ohio. It would have prevented UNC administrators from interfering with the belief requirements for officers and members of religious and all other belief-based student organizations. A version passed in the house but was never signed into law. The matter needs to be addressed again until it becomes binding law applicable to all public colleges and universities in the Tar Heel State.
3. Line Item Veto Bill for Higher Education. North Carolina needs legislation that imposes a definition of "academic" versus "non-academic" program spending in higher education. Furthermore, such legislation must force universities to submit separate academic and non-academic spending budgets. Funding requests for the physics department should not be entangled with funding for the Gay and Lesbian Resource Centers. Finally, line item veto authority should be established so we can defund gay activism without defunding physics (and thus being accused of waging a "war on science").
I want to continue by outlining three initiatives I plan to push if we lose the trial:
1. Center for Student Rights. (Description: same as above).
2. Religious Liberty Legislation. (Description: same as above).
3. Line Item Veto Bill for Higher Education. (Description: same as above).
Finally, I want to conclude by outlining three initiatives I plan to push if there is a draw (such as a mistrial):
1. Center for Student Rights. (Description: same as above).
2. Religious Liberty Legislation. (Description: same as above).
3. Line Item Veto Bill for Higher Education. (Description: same as above).
In short, my goals will be the same regardless of the outcome of the trial. Nonetheless, this promises to be a challenging week. I could use your prayers. My attorneys, David French of the ACLJ and Travis Barham of the ADF would also appreciate your prayers. This thing is much bigger than each of us. We simply cannot do it on our own.
Tuesday, March 18, 2014
If you don't know the history, Google George Wallace or Orval Faubus
Crisis for Common Core: Indiana's Uncommon Ruckus Over Education Standards
What’s wrong with public education in America today? Across the country, just about everyone has an opinion. Very few, though, have the power to implement sweeping reforms.
In Indiana, a driver for the Uber car-for-hire service gets his mother on the phone for a reporter. Sharon Hurt is a 40-year veteran of the state’s South Bend public school district. What teachers need, Hurt says, is flexibility as individuals and support as a group.
“On a national level, we have to be concerned about how we’re lagging behind when it comes to other countries. Somebody’s got to take the lead on that,” Hurt says. “You can have a particular standard but it really boils down to the strength of the individual teacher and the strength of the support surrounding them.”
A “good teacher,” she adds, takes a government-prescribed education standard “and runs with it and uses it as an opportunity instead of a barrier.”
Indiana today is a battleground for one of the Obama administration’s preferred prescriptions to improve public schools — uniform national education standards formally known as Common Core State Standards.
In this special report, The Foundry examines why Common Core standards, originally touted as a bipartisan reform, proved divisive for Indiana residents — and what’s being done through layers of players to resolve the disagreement.
Common Core began as a broad reform, dreamed up by the bipartisan National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers, to provide a high-quality base of academic standards that any state in the country could choose to use. In 2010, Indiana became one of the first states to adopt the standards. By June 2012, 45 states, plus the District of Columbia, also began the implementation process.
Common Core already is woven into the fabric of American education. And where the words “Common Core” appear, protests are not far behind.
Birth of a Common Cause
Resistance began at the individual level, with parents such as Heather Crossin, an Indianapolis mom of four. Crossin, now one of Indiana’s most vocal opponents of Common Core, asked her school’s principal why 8-year-old Lucy’s math homework suddenly focused on abstract concepts, even drawing pictures to solve problems, instead of practicing formulas.
“I assumed initially it was just a bad textbook selection. I found out that was not the case,” Crossin says. Instead, the principal brought in a representative from Pearson, the publisher, to explain the new, Common Core-aligned textbooks.
Crossin, who has appeared as a speaker at events sponsored by The Heritage Foundation, which opposes Common Core on policy grounds, recalls what happened next:
“When parents still weren’t buying what [the publisher’s representative] was selling, our principal in frustration threw up his hands and said, ‘Look, I know parents don’t like this type of math because none of us were taught this way, but we have to teach it this way because this is how it’s going to be on the new [standardized] assessment. And that was the moment when I realized control of what was being taught in my child’s classroom — in a parochial Catholic school — had not only left the building, it had left the state of Indiana. And to me, that was a frightening thought.”
Fast forward to this month, when Indiana state officials, educators and parents are struggling through a lengthy reassessment and possible replacement of Common Core. Governor Mike Pence, a Republican, last May signed into law a bill mandating the review.
The decision was a little like changing tires on a race car in the middle of a lap. The new law also set a tight deadline for the state to review and decide on education standards going forward: July 1, 2014.
As late as the last week of February, officials maintained they were “on timeline” and simply doing the work of “articulating” and “clarifying” the set of draft standards that the State Board of Education intended to vote on in April, in time for teachers to plan the upcoming school year.
By March 7, Indiana Department of Education officials conceded they would need more time, The Foundry learned, and the date to vote on new standards would edge closer to the “reassessment” law’s July 1 deadline. The state school board is expected to take up the issue tomorrow.
From the outside, Indiana’s undertaking might look easy. Prior to adopting Common Core, the state had some of the best-rated standards in the country and a system in place for revising them every six years. The latest set was implemented only in a few grades state-wide in the 2011-12 school year.
For opponents of Common Core, Indiana is a trailblazer.
“By pausing implementation, Indiana wanted to assess the cost to taxpayers and the quality of the standards – something every state that adopted the standards should have done prior to adoption,” says Lindsey M. Burke, The Heritage Foundation’s Will Skillman fellow in education. “While it’s still unclear exactly what the long-term outcome will be in Indiana, the Hoosier State provided a blueprint for other states that are interested in putting implementation on hold.”
Indiana’s attempt to replace Common Core under fire
The first draft of Indiana’s testing and curriculum standards meant to replace Common Core national standards has grassroots activists in arms and educators and business leaders complaining, which has caused Gov. Mike Pence and his staff to slightly delay the rewrite process.
Almost no one has praise for the new standards, which essentially overlay Common Core with so many more mandates from other standards that roughly 90 percent of Common Core inside constitutes half the draft, according to an analysis of the math standards by former U.S. Department of Education official Ze’ev Wurman. During three public hearings around the state on February 24-26, school administrators and teachers complained that the 98-page draft with more than 1,000 K-12 mandates would be virtually impossible to cover during the school year.
At the very end of the February 26 hearing in Plymouth, a second-grade teacher stood up.
“I sat here for hours and didn’t think I would speak, but I have to,” she said. She feared publicly speaking her mind, she said. Common Core went into place in her classroom in 2013-14, she said, and it’s so overwhelming she can’t “truly care” about her students and their families. “We just run all day long,” she said, her voice trembling. “I feel Common Core is really beating up our children.”
In 2013, state lawmakers put Common Core’s national curriculum and testing mandates on hold, meaning they’d remain partially phased into K-3 classrooms while grades 4-12 would use Indiana’s previous standards until the state reviewed Common Core. Since then, Pence called for “uncommonly high” standards written “by Hoosiers for Hoosiers,” state Superintendent Glenda Ritz walked out of a state board of education meeting and sued the board when board member Brad Oliver moved that it follow the law by reviewing the standards, and the governor began a new education agency under his control, not Ritz’s.
Common Core has been besieged by parents and academics for approximately two years, leading to legislative challenges against it in approximately half of the states this spring alone. They’ve flagged a number of concerns, including the private process that created the standards, legally suspect Obama administration demands that states adopt them and corresponding national tests, the standards’ academic quality, loopholes that allow private entities to collect children’s personal data and give access to it to the federal government, and forcing the standards on teachers through test results that play into their job security.
More than 850 Hoosiers had submitted online comments on the draft standards as of Friday, said Lou Ann Baker, a spokeswoman for Pence’s education agency. “That’s a lot,” she said. Typically, few citizens comment on state standards proposals. Indiana also recently proposed new social studies standards, for example, which local media has not yet reported and even keyed-in grassroots activists just recently discovered, according to Heather Crossin of Hoosiers Against Common Core.
State board of education member Andrea Neal, who criticized Common Core before Pence appointed her to the board, met with Pence to discuss the draft on March 5. Neal, a middle school English and history teacher, says she is deeply concerned that Indiana will approve subpar academic requirements and called the draft a “fiasco.”
Neal told the governor “this is more than federalism; it’s about the quality of the standards,” she wrote in an email to School Reform News. “He reiterated that he wants standards that are ‘uncommonly high.’” That description doesn’t fit the current draft standards, she said, and even Common Core supporters agree.
British schools inspectorate under fire
School inspections favour trendy methods and force teachers to waste hours on pointless preparation, a report warns today. It calls for radical change, saying Ofsted’s verdicts are only as reliable as flipping a coin. Many rely on personal preference and value independent work over learning from a teacher, think-tank Policy Exchange claims.
Nearly three-quarters of teachers surveyed said they changed the way they worked during an inspection.
The think-tank called for routine lesson viewings to be scrapped and for better training for inspectors.
Its report has already inflamed tensions between Ofsted and the Government. Earlier this year, chief inspector Sir Michael Wilshaw said he was ‘spitting blood’ after learning that Policy Exchange and another right-leaning think-tank were preparing research questioning Ofsted’s effectiveness.
He said he suspected the Department for Education of a campaign to undermine him. Education Secretary Michael Gove replied that he backed Sir Michael ‘100 per cent’.
It later emerged Mr Gove had sacked the head of Ofsted. Baroness Sally Morgan – a Labour peer – claimed she was ousted in an attempt to politicise the watchdog, sparking further denials from Mr Gove and a fierce coalition row.
Today’s report says it found ‘widespread disillusionment with the inspection regime’, with teachers using Twitter and blogs to criticise lesson observations that may be only 14 minutes long.
Teachers gave examples of inspectors preferring independent learning to teacher-led lessons, the report says. It cites teacher and author Daisy Christodoulou, who analysed 228 Ofsted ‘best practice’ lesson descriptions.
She found that ‘very few’ highly praised lessons involved ‘teaching facts’, while ‘very often’ lessons were criticised for ‘the teacher talking too much’ or for ‘activities that involve factual recall’. The report notes that Sir Michael has warned inspectors on at least seven occasions not to favour one style of teaching.
However, it adds that it found a ‘consistent pattern in the preferred style of inspectors’ which often manifested itself ‘subconsciously’.
One teacher said: ‘Everyone knows their current buzzword is “pace”. This means we have to assume children have the attention span of goldfish.’
Schools do ‘harmful’ amounts of preparation for Ofsted visits, which is a ‘complete waste of time’, the report says. Some 189 out of 262 teachers polled said they changed their teaching for an Ofsted visit.
The report also says many of the 3,000 private inspectors lack training and experience.
Ofsted suggested last night that reforms were imminent, adding many of the report’s findings ‘chime with our own’.
Jonathan Simons, co-author, said the research suggests ‘you would be better off flipping a coin’ than relying on an inspector’s judgment of a lesson.
The think-tank is calling for shorter, more frequent inspections, followed by in-depth visits to struggling schools.
Ofsted schools chief Michael Cladingbowl said it is looking at reforms including giving parents more information. But he added: ‘In my view, parents will always expect inspectors to spend time in classrooms when they visit a school.’
Monday, March 17, 2014
Poor pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds children 'benefit most in a grammar [selective] school system'
Comprehensive schools prevent pupils from poor backgrounds achieving their potential, a study has claimed.
Researchers compared reading standards in countries which have retained grammar schools with those which have phased them out, such as the UK.
They found that family wealth played next to no part in a child’s achievements when they were taught according to ability. But a disadvantaged background was more likely to count against youngsters in countries that shun selective education.
British pupils were among the worst affected in Europe, with only those from Sweden lagging further behind.
The study, published in the European Sociological Review, examined the reading performance of tens of thousands of 15-year-olds across 22 nations.
It cross-checked the results against the teenagers’ socio-economic status and the type of education system prevalent in their home country.
The results showed how much influence wealth had on pupils’ marks. Overall, 9.4 per cent of the variance in UK performance was explained by the student’s social background, compared with a European average of 4.5 per cent.
Scandinavian countries, which have even fewer remaining selective schools than Britain, also had high figures, with Sweden on 9.6 per cent and Norway on 8.1 per cent.
However, countries which have retained selective education have virtually eliminated class disadvantage. Germany had the lowest figure at 1.4 per cent, followed by Hungary (1.5 per cent), Romania (1.6 per cent) and Austria (2.6 per cent).
The study by France’s National Institute for Demographic Studies set out to prove selective education discriminated against children from poor backgrounds. But it admitted that, against expectation, ‘in early differentiated systems rather than comprehensive ones, primary effects of social origin express less within schools’.
We cannot let Michael Gove be beaten by the Blob
Is Michael Gove in trouble? That's the subject of the cover story in today's Spectator which includes an interview with the Education Secretary by children's author Anthony Horowitz. Horowitz is a fan but he's left feeling a bit underwhelmed. "His vision should be uplifting but I cannot say that I particularly enjoyed my encounter with Michael Gove," he concludes. If you add this to Libby Purves's piece attacking Mrs Gove in the Times on Monday (££), Benedict Brogan's column on Tuesday ("Why are the Tories starting to grumble about Mr Gove?") and the row about free school meals on Wednesday, it's starting to look like a bad week for the Education Secretary.
Before we go any further, let's remind ourselves what Gove has achieved:
* He's cut the number of children being taught in failing schools by 250,000
* He's enabled more than half of England's state secondary schools to become academies, freeing them from the dead hand of local authority control
* He's opened 174 free schools (so far), with 75 per cent of the first wave being ranked "good" or "outstanding" by Ofsted
* He's rewritten the national curriculum, with more rigorous, intellectually challenging programmes of study being introduced in English, Maths, Science, Languages, Computing, Geography and History
* He's raised standards in GCSEs and A-levels, stripping out meaningless BTEC "equivalents" in subjects like Travel and Tourism, removing coursework and ensuring all pupils are assessed on their performance in end-of-course exams
* He's made it easier for head teachers to enforce discipline, giving them the power to permanently exclude children without the risk that they'll be reinstated by local authorities
* He's weakened the grip of Left-wing academics on the teacher training process, making it possible for outstanding schools to train teachers themselves
* He's made the league tables more transparent, forcing schools and local authorities to make much more information public so parents can make better informed decisions of where to send their children
* He's introduced new accountability measures that will make it harder for under-performing schools to "game" the league tables
As should be clear from this list, he's the Government's most effective Cabinet minister. He's achieved more as Education Secretary in less than four years than his all his Labour predecessors in the last 13. So why are the knives out?
To a large extent, that question answers itself. The reason he has so many enemies is because he's achieved so much. There's no great mystery surrounding why Education Secretaries usually achieve so little and why so few ambitious politicians have coveted the role until now. You're ranged against a vast array of vested interest who will fight tooth and nail to preserve the status quo. If you try and wrest control of our public education system from them, they're naturally going to do everything in their power to destroy you and, until now, few senior politicians have been willing to take that risk. Some, like Estelle Morris, threw in the towel before the bell was rung for the first round.
The upshot has been decades of managed decline in which a series of half-hearted "reforms" have quickly been absorbed by the Blob. As the former Education Minister George Walden wrote in the Telegraph: “Reforming education, a friend sighed on my appointment, was like trying to disperse a fog with a hand grenade: after the flash and the explosion, the fog creeps back. So it proved under Thatcher, and so it has been under Blair and Brown.”
So Gove is paying the price for taking on the Blob – a cost that his predecessors have been too lily-livered to bear.
Reforming our public education system is a particularly unappealing prospect for most politicians because they're unlikely to see any tangible benefits for years – long after they've left office. For instance, the new, more rigorous GCSEs won't be taken until 2016 and the new A-levels won't be taken until 2017. And because they'll be harder, the pass rates will initially fall. The impact of the teacher training reforms will take years – decades – to be felt and the children who benefit most from the curriculum reforms will be those entering Year 1 in primary school in September, where'll they'll be taught the new national curriculum from the beginning.
By my reckoning, the first true test of Gove's reforms will be the PISA tests taken by 15-year-olds in 2027. And, of course, they won't be a genuine test at all because Gove's successors are bound to unwind some of his reforms – or usher in new reforms that revive some of the problems he's tried to eliminate.
In light of this, the temptation for an ambitious politician is not to make any of the difficult choices Gove has made but to do something simple that's going to secure a quick political win – like making GCSEs easier so more children pass them each year. Which is what his Labour predecessors did. Their attitude was, "To hell with the long-term impact of my education policies on generations of schoolchildren to come. The critical thing is that I get a pat on the back from the PM at this autumn's party conference." Not Michael Gove.
There are other, less important reasons why Gove is having a hard time at the moment, some of which are discussed by James Forsyth in the Spectator. Clegg misses no opportunity to have a go because his private polling tells him that the best way to win back Lib Dem voters who've defected to Labour is to attack the Education Secretary. And Clegg unleashes these broadsides with a nod and a wink from the Prime Minister because he knows that it's in the Conservative Party's interests as well to see those Lib Dem refugees return to the fold. Cameron is just being politically sensible, but his tolerance of these attacks has the unintended effect of making Gove look isolated.
Then there's Gove's tendency to pick fights when he'd do better to cross the street – the recent row over the First World War being a case in point. To his enemies, he seems to suffer from a surfeit of joie de guerre, a character trait that his two ex-special advisers, Henry de Zoete and Dominic Cummings, are no longer around to restrain.
Finally, he's made an enemy of Boris by aligning himself too closely with the "George Osborne for President" campaign. The Mayor seems to have been under the impression that he and Gove had struck a Granita-style pact – "Back me and I'll make you Foreign Secretary, old stick" – so he sees this as a great betrayal. He probably suspects that Gove secretly plans to run himself at some point and wants to do whatever he can to prevent that. In a four-way contest between Boris, Gove, Osborne and May, Gove's candidacy might be sufficient to split the maverick vote and mean that the eventual run off is between Osborne and May.
But these are trivial matters in the grand scheme of things. The real reason Gove is currently so unpopular is because he has taken on the full might of the Blob. For anyone on the Conservative benches and beyond who values those reforms, the time has come to rally round the beleaguered Education Secretary. He has already paid a heavy price for putting the interests of his country before those of his career. He deserves more than to be left to the mercy of his enemies on the Left.
The sorry truth is it's now smart for girls to be stupid, says JENNI MURRAY
Oh dear, poor Gemma Worrall. If you haven't heard of her, she's the 20-year-old Blackpool beauty salon receptionist who became an overnight Twitter sensation last week with her ludicrously misspelled and misinformed observation on the Ukrainian crisis.
If you really did miss it - and sadly for Gemma not many did - it went thus: 'If barraco barner is our president why is he getting involved with Russia, scary.'
She's had more than her comeuppance for the public display of ignorance, with 7,000 re-tweets of her observation, making news as far away as Australia, a flood of comments berating her for her stupidity and the by now familiar online threats of violence and worse.
She was called a stupid cow, an oxygen thief, warned not to breed and told by one particularly nasty tweeter how he would like to kill her.
Then came those wishing to win political points, citing Gemma - who has 17 GCSEs and two A-levels, no less - as a product of our parlous education system. How could the nation justify the deep flaws that allowed such ignorance?
Finally, the sniggers and fury died down, and there was a collective sigh of relief it wasn't one of us who'd made such an appalling gaffe.
But I have a feeling it will be Gemma - and all the other beautiful girls like her - who will have the last laugh. They may, as the Yorkshire saying goes, have been at the back of the queue when the brains were handed out, but they'll probably have a far brighter future than young women who model themselves on clever old bluestockings like me.
Think about it. Gemma's had numerous interview requests and been wooed with promises of thousands of pounds for prime-time TV appearances. To her credit - so far at least - she has resisted the temptation to make a packet from her notorious gaffe.
It may, though, only be a matter of time before she succumbs to the pressure to become a public figure, given the tendency to handsomely reward the less educationally advantaged.
With those 14 ditzy words, Gemma achieved what millions of well-informed girls - who could find Ukraine on a map in an instant - have failed to do. And that's to be recognised and rewarded.
Times have changed and the value system seems to have gone into reverse. I call it 'being TOWIE-fied' after the millions made by the insufferably vacuous and wholly entertaining 'stars' of reality show The Only Way Is Essex.
The ones who hit the headlines and make the money are those who work hard - at being in the gym or at the tanning salon.
It's not brains that line your pockets or attract admiration now. Look at today's young barristers, who are striking for a day because they earn barely enough to keep them in shoe leather. Compare their earnings to those of glamour model Katie Price
Look at the brilliant young graduates pouring out of top universities each year who wind up working in burger bars.
When I read about Gemma, it got me thinking about two young women I met at Crufts on Saturday. I had my two chihuahuas with me and had been asked to present the Toy Class trophy.
They accosted me at the entrance to the Birmingham Exhibition Centre and begged me to buy a bracelet for chihuahua rescue. They were smart, charming and kind and I popped the bracelet on as I walked away.
It was only later I noticed it read 'I love Chihuahua's'. Total apostrophe failure.
I spent the rest of the afternoon dreading bumping into Lynne Truss, who was there too. She's the grammar and punctuation guru who wrote the bestseller, Eats, Shoots & Leaves. I'd have been so ashamed to be seen wearing such a mislaid apostrophe.
When women like Lynne and I were young working-class girls, education was rigorous - and it mattered.
Good exam results and a degree were our way of avoiding the kinds of lives which had so restricted our mothers - jobs as cleaners, factory workers or, at best, typists, followed by marriage, children and dependence on a husband.
We dressed smartly, made sure our make-up was tasteful and that it would be our brains that would attract employers, who would respect our well-stocked minds and pay us accordingly.
It was what society then required of us. We were expected to set aside the trivial, whether it be make-up, fashion, manicures or costly hairdos, and work hard to make our way professionally.
For Lynne and me it worked. Would we manage to claw our way to the top of the CV pile now, with our perfect grammar, well-honed arguments on foreign politics and ingrained knowledge of the periodic table? I fear we might not.
Women of our generation have encouraged our own children to take a similar path, only to find them burdened by student debt, struggling to find a decent job, paid peanuts if they do and with no prospect of ever saving enough money for a deposit on a house. So, is it us who have actually been the more stupid?
I'm not saying that Gemma's obsession with hair extensions and make-up should replace education and hard work for other young women. But I do think more might benefit from taking up a similar career, rather than struggling along the academic route only to find no job at the end of it.
For too long we've been deluded by the idea that everyone should have a degree to the detriment of our service industries.
Perhaps now we'll learn to value those not suited to an academic training, but who are hugely important when the electricity goes off or the central heating fails or, in Gemma's case, when we need a makeover.
These are, after all, the people we all seem to prefer watching on television; not boring old academics.
Even those who don't get famous seem capable of making a far better living than better-educated counterparts - sad though that might be to say.
When the sun shone last weekend, I abandoned my boots, got out the sandals and noticed what a terrible state my feet were in. I doubt I was the only 'clever girl' making an appointment for a 40-quid pedicure and 50-quid leg wax.
Who's the stupid one now?
And, anyway, is Gemma really as daft as some would have us believe?
She may not know how to spell Barack Obama, she probably hasn't a clue where Ukraine is and thinks the Cold War is something to do with the Winter Olympics.
Nevertheless, she knew that for a Western political leader to be getting involved in a dispute with Russia is scary. And that observation is not stupid at all.
Maybe next time she will just be wise enough to keep her opinions to the confines of the beauty salon.
Sunday, March 16, 2014
An Academic Fraud Exposed
From time to time, I put down my duties of writing about politics and other human follies and pick up a book, often a book of poetry, often by W. B. Yeats. The other night I read Yeats' poem "The Fiddler of Dooney." It is a little masterpiece, but then Yeats wrote so many masterpieces. It begins:
"When I play on my fiddle in Dooney,
Folk dance like a wave of the sea;
My cousin is priest in Kilvarnet,
My brother in Mocharabuiee. "
And on it dances for a few more stanzas, delighting the eye and the ear and the mind. Yeats obviously chose each word with the utmost care and gave his words a structure that was finely disciplined -- good show W. B.!
Yet there are perverse profs among us who lecture that the poet's words and structure could be cat scratchings on the page or hieroglyphics composed by a drunk. The words have no universal meaning. These profs call themselves "deconstructionists," and those who are not out-and-out frauds are obviously mental defectives. Readers under their spell could read Yeats, but they could also find meaning in chicken entrails, and you can eat chicken entrails. That is why I am taking immense pleasure in the revelations offered by a new book, "The Double Life of Paul de Man," by Evelyn Barish. I shall propose her for a Presidential Medal of Freedom once we get a proper president.
De Man was a knock-about litterateur in Nazi-occupied Belgium who after the war made his way to New York City, then to Bard College, then Harvard, and finally he landed at Yale where he was fabulous in advancing the cause of deconstructionism among the professoriate who, by the way, are pretty dreadful writers. There were a lot of these prehensile émigrés absconding from Europe after World War II. He died in 1983, which was lucky for him. Four years after his death it was discovered that while in Belgium he had written hundreds of literary articles for a collaborationist newspaper, one of which in 1941 speculated on what European literature would be like if the Jews were shipped to a remote colony. I doubt that de Man had Israel in mind. Of a sudden de Man's photo was appearing in Newsweek with photos of Nazi troops on the march.
Then things quieted down until Barish appeared with her book. Kirkus Reviews has called it the biography of a "master confidence man." She went back to de Man's early life on the Continent and found him indeed writing for collaborationists and even proposing an art magazine booming Nazi art. He was involved in various swindles and left Europe one step ahead of the law. In 1951, he was sentenced to five years in a Belgian prison for fraud, though by then he was plying his talents in New York City. He taught at Bard College, had affairs with vulnerable girls, and even married one, bigamously. He got his Ph.D. at Harvard where he occasionally skipped examinations, misrepresented his resume, and had his European record almost exposed. "He was," Barish told an interviewer "an enormously persuasive reinventor of himself."
Barish ends her book before de Man began his major teaching at Cornell and eventually at Yale, where he spread his theories of deconstruction like a smog. Yet she did say this about the imposter's philosophy. She apparently told the New York Times that she found that his philosophy -- "the idea that meaning cannot be pinned down" and that "clear-cut moral judgments are impossible" -- was "just a waste of time."
Well, Barish is a sophisticate. She let him off easy. To my mind de Man could have been a Nazi collaborator, a communist collaborator, a progressive collaborator. It all depends where he landed at a given time. There have been a lot like him and there will be more.
Put the Sex Back in Sex Ed
When public schools refuse to acknowledge gender differences, we betray boys and girls alike
Fertility is the missing chapter in sex education. Sobering facts about women’s declining fertility after their 20s are being withheld from ambitious young women, who are propelled along a career track devised for men.
The refusal by public schools’ sex-education programs to acknowledge gender differences is betraying both boys and girls. The genders should be separated for sex counseling. It is absurd to avoid the harsh reality that boys have less to lose from casual serial sex than do girls, who risk pregnancy and whose future fertility can be compromised by disease. Boys need lessons in basic ethics and moral reasoning about sex (for example, not taking advantage of intoxicated dates), while girls must learn to distinguish sexual compliance from popularity.
Above all, girls need life-planning advice. Too often, sex education defines pregnancy as a pathology, for which the cure is abortion. Adolescent girls must think deeply about their ultimate aims and desires. If they want both children and a career, they should decide whether to have children early or late. There are pros, cons and trade-offs for each choice.
Unfortunately, sex education in the U.S. is a crazy quilt of haphazard programs. A national conversation is urgently needed for curricular standardization and public transparency. The present system is too vulnerable to political pressures from both the left and the right–and students are trapped in the middle.
Currently, 22 states and the District of Columbia mandate sex education but leave instructional decisions to school districts. Sex-ed teachers range from certified health educators to volunteers and teenage “peer educators” with minimal training. That some instructors may import their own sexually permissive biases is evident from the sporadic scandals about inappropriate use of pornographic materials or websites.
The modern campaign for sex education began in 1912 with a proposal by the National Education Association for classes in “sexual hygiene” to control sexually transmitted diseases like syphilis. During the AIDS crisis of the 1980s, Surgeon General C. Everett Koop called for sex education starting in third grade. In the 1990s, sex educators turned their focus to teenage pregnancy in inner-city communities.
Sex education has triggered recurrent controversy, partly because it is seen by religious conservatives as an instrument of secular cultural imperialism, undermining moral values. It’s time for liberals to admit that there is some truth to this and that public schools should not promulgate any ideology. The liberal response to conservatives’ demand for abstinence-only sex education has been to condemn the imposition of “fear and shame” on young people. But perhaps a bit more self-preserving fear and shame might be helpful in today’s hedonistic, media-saturated environment.
My generation of baby-boom girls boldly rebelled against the cult of virginity of the Doris Day 1950s, but we left chaos in our wake. Young people are now bombarded prematurely with sexual images and messages. Adolescent girls, routinely dressing in seductive ways, are ill-prepared to negotiate the sexual attention they attract. Sex education has become incoherent because of its own sprawling agenda. It should be broken into component parts, whose professionalism could be better ensured.
First, anatomy and reproductive biology belong in general biology courses taught in middle school by qualified science teachers. Every aspect of physiology, from puberty to menopause, should be covered. Students deserve a cool, clear, objective voice about the body, rather than the smarmy, feel-good chatter that now infests sex-ed workbooks.
Second, certified health educators, who advise children about washing their hands to avoid colds, should discuss sexually transmitted diseases at the middle-school or early-high-school level. But while information about condoms must be provided, it is not the place of public schools to distribute condoms, as is currently done in the Boston, New York and Los Angeles school districts. Condom distribution should be left to hospitals, clinics and social-service agencies.
Similarly, public schools have no business listing the varieties of sexual gratification, from masturbation to oral and anal sex, although health educators should nonjudgmentally answer student questions about the health implications of such practices. The issue of homosexuality is a charged one. In my view, antibullying campaigns, however laudable, should not stray into political endorsement of homosexuality or gay rights causes. While students must be free to create gay-identified groups, the schools themselves should remain neutral and allow society to evolve on its own.
NRA shirt gets N.Y. high school student suspended
A New York high school student was recently suspended for refusing to take off an NRA shirt that said “The Second Amendment shall not be infringed.”
Shane Kinney, 16, of Grand Island High School was suspended for one day for an NRA shirt that his parents say he has worn before with no problems, a local station reported.
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“It’s the same shirt he’s worn before, but this time they said something about it,” Shane’s father, Wayne, told the station. All family members belong to the gun rights organization, and their son considers himself an outdoorsman.
“They said it was the guns,” Mr. Kinney said. Adorned on the shirt are two crossed rifles.
Shane’s mother believes that simply having the image of a gun on a shirt doesn’t mean that the owner should be suspected of desiring wanton death and destruction.
“Yes it has guns on it, but it doesn’t mean you are for any kind of violence,” Kim Kinney told the station.
The local station reported that while the school code notes that attire is not meant to “disrupt or interfere with the educational process,” it does not specifically address political statements or images of firearms.
Regardless, the young man also violated another part of the school code when he refused to obey a teacher’s request to turn the shirt inside out.
“Shane will probably not wear shirts like this to school anymore,” Mrs. Kinney told the station. “He can hold firmly to his beliefs but for those 7 hours a day, five days a week he’s in school, you have to kind of follow their rules like it or not. But he’ll move on, he’ll graduate, and probably serve our country and wear lots of shirts like that.”
The schools superintendent was told she was unavailable for comment, the station reported.