Interrupting the School Calendar

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schoolscene

Montgomery County School Administrators almost made the right decision by striking the names of religious holidays from the school calendar but then, at the same time, they made no decision at all. They failed to make the point that school is a place of education, not religious observance which they could have done by eliminating at least some of these  holidays from the school calendar. As important as the trappings and beliefs surrounding religious observance are to some families and individuals, certainly even the most devoutly religious parent recognizes on some level (but most likely will not admit) that religion and the days off school that people believe are ‘required’ for religious observances do nothing to improve the quality of a child’s education and, in fact, are distractions that interrupt the learning process. The time and place for religious indoctrination of children is when school is not in session, and in the home or in a religious center.’ There are lots of hours outside school and some of those can certainly be spent carrying out religious ritual.

Is it possible that Christian parents think that increasing their child’s wealth of knowledge and critical thinking abilities will in any way interfere with their understanding and observance of their parent’s religion? Organized religion should readjust it’s priorities by realizing that their holidays would not be harmed in the slightest by rearranging worship services so they don’t conflict with school time or study time.

Quality of Education Measured in OECD countries

There are 34 countries (including the United States) that belong to the OECD (The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development). This is an organization of developed countries committed to democracy, the market economy and the education of youth. Every three years, as part of their Educational tracking, students are tested, worldwide, for their academic abilities in three areas: Reading, Mathematics and Science. Until the last few years American students ranked about “average” (about 17th out of the 34 countries) in all three academic areas. A country as wealthy and powerful as the United States being just “Average” among these 34 developed countries in the field of education does not bode well for our countries future and should be considered scandalous, but as bad as it was, it got worse.  In Mathematics, the United States has, in the most recent testing, now plunged into 25th place. Understanding that one fact alone should encourage all intelligent Americans who care about their children’s future, without regard to their religion, to demand more classroom time, higher educational standards and less time away from school.

The OECD’s Secretary-General, Angel Gurría, during the OECD launch in Washington D.C. made the unarguable points: “With high levels of youth unemployment, rising inequality and a pressing need to boost growth in many countries, it’s more urgent than ever that young people learn the skills they need to succeed. In a global economy, competitiveness and future job prospects will depend on what people can do with what they know. Young people are the future, so every country must do everything it can to improve its education system and the prospects of future generations.” He made this statement several years ago and things haven’t changed much, at least in American education, since then.

According to the OCED , “Shanghai-China, and Singapore are top in maths, with students in Shanghai scoring the equivalent of nearly three years of schooling above most OECD countries. Hong Kong-China, Chinese Taipei, Korea, Macao-China, Japan, Liechtenstein, Switzerland and the Netherlands were also in the group of top-performing countries.” What’s different between them and us? You can bet that the children in those countries spend more time in the classroom than they do in their churches or athletic fields, perhaps more importantly, you can bet that bringing home a marginal or failing grade would have more severe repercussions for those students than it does for most of ours.

Religious Conservatives are labeling what happened in the Montgomery schools as a “War on Religion”! The fact of the matter is that Montgomery was engaged in a battle, in a war but it’s a war on education that is in progress as well as a war between religions. What choice did the Montgomery County School Administrators have? They are already sacrificing their ability to provide a quality education to their children to:  parents that are seemingly more interested in religious holidays than they are in their children’s education; parents who just don’t care and to those Liberal activists who value “fairness” far more than quality education and political correctnessness more than logic and truth.

References:

ABC News: Montgomery County Schools remove religious references from calendar

Huffington Post Religion: US Falls in Education Rankings.

TheAtlantic.com: American schools vs the world, Expensive, Unequal, Bad at math 

Salt and Pepper: Religion and Public Education

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The Cheatham County Tennessee School District is being sued by four students who are protesting the District’s position that allows, and apparently encourages, religious activities in the district’s schools. According to an article in the Tennessean:

The lawsuit alleges: a planned prayer took place at graduation last spring; the Gideons International were allowed to speak to classes and distribute Bibles; a cross hangs in a classroom; and a history teacher taught that the United States is a “Christian nation” and decried the separation of church and state. The suit asks the court to stop the activities.

Now this may seem like a frivolous lawsuit to some — to those of you who believe that your own religious beliefs have no borders and should have no limits — as well as those of you who argue that no one forced the kids to pray at the graduation or accept the Bibles or look at the cross on the wall and you would be right — well at least partially right. But when we come to that situation where students in a classroom, some of who may not know better, have to listen to a Christian Evangelistic version of U.S. History and an abstraction of the Constitution we’ve reached an unquestionable limit and have begun to corrupt the educational process.

The broader picture is: The United States is not a “Christian nation”; it is a nation based not on religion but on morality, a basic morality that forms the basis of ‘civilization’ as we understand it and practice it — a morality that exists apart from any religion — a morality that is, by law, the basis of even the most ardent atheist’s behavior.

I realize, of course, that it’s human nature to want to share a good thing and religious people believe that they have not only a good thing to share — they feel that it is their duty to share it. I wish they would also realize that there are many people in this world who have their own “good things” going in their lives (their own religions and/or their own non-religious or quasi-religious belief systems) and that Christian (or other) evangelism is not only an intrusion into these other people’s lives, it is an insult to their intelligence and their choice of life style.

Barack Obama: The Man vs. The President

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ALT TITLE The uproar over President Obama’s proposed “Welcome Back To School” broadcast, is really telling and I hope its telling him something: i.e., ‘People don’t trust me!’

These excerpts from an article in the The Detroit Free Press indicates, there is a lot of concern from parents and the schools over what Obama might say:

“When President Barack Obama gives a televised address to students in schools across the country on Tuesday, some metro Detroit school districts won’t be broadcasting it.

Districts throughout the suburbs have been hit with complaints from parents who are worried about their children hearing a message from Obama that they won’t have a chance to preview.

. . . . .

“Mike Reno, a member of the Rochester Board of Education, said the idea behind the message is noble, but the timing is bad because of the politically charged climate.”

Its a shame really but he did get himself into this “politically charged” situation with all of his flim-flam tactics on healthcare and his ‘economy-destroying-in-the-name-of-Green’ Cap and Trade proposal. How can you trust someone who shows absolutely no regard for American traditions, American institutions, the core of hard-working American taxpayers or the free enterprise system that made this country the riches country on earth.

If our last Democratic president, President Bill Clinton, would have proposed an opening day message to students, there would have been very little fuss by Conservative politicians or Conservative parents. Clinton may have had some different political views from these Conservatives but he was not a radical and no one would even hint at any radical ideas coming from his mouth in a broadcast to school children. President Obama, however, is a different story.

I imagine that Barack Obama, the man, is a very nice person who means well. He seems funny and caring which are great personal attributes but in his current position he is not Barack Obama the man, he is President Barack Obama, a president who only seems to care about the small minority of Americans who have trouble getting through life. Nothing wrong with caring about that minority but it is very wrong to care ONLY about them at a considerable expense to those who are not troubled, those who provide the ‘fuel’ for the ‘engine’ that drives our economy.

Barack Obama the man also cares a great deal about the environment and has become a deciple of Al Gore who believes, like Chicken Little, that the sky is falling (possibly tomorrow). Again, nothing wrong with Barack Obama the man wanting to keep air pollution at a minimum! President Barack Obama, however, needs to exercise some common sense judgement and not try to save the environment all at once and virtually shut down all industry while doing it. He is the president of an industrial society and he needs to understand that any industrial society will do some damage to the environment just by existing. Any problems that manufacturing and industry are causing to the environment, however, are very small and can be adequately addressed over the long term. And that is a big part of President Obama’s problem, he, like some little kid, wants everything NOW! More to the point — he wants credit for everything NOW.

For those who care about America’s “image” in the world, its wonderful having a black man as president — it shows the world just how diverse and open minded our society is; how will it look, however, when this black American president drives our economy into the ground?

Camp Twitch and Shout

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Tourettes

Imagine being a kid with Tourette syndrome; the muscles in your body and your face seem to have minds of their own, you make noises — sometimes alarmingly loud noises — that you do not intend to make. Perhaps worse than the disease you feel alone; people are scared of you because they don’t understand Tourettes; the adults want to shield their children from you and most of the other kids think you’re weird and funny and, in the school yard, they gather around you and laugh at you and imitate your tics.

An article at CNNHealth.com talks about a special summer camp in Georgia for kids with Tourettes and about the camp director Brad Cohen. Here’s what Brad Cohen remembers from his childhood more than 20 years ago:

“I remember eating lunch at school all by myself and the mean kids would parade around me and mock my noises. My teacher made me get up in front of the class and apologize to everybody for the noises I was making.”

For Brad Cohen the nightmare, the uncontrollable barking and squealing noises he could not control, began in the fifth grade and made his life hell; to this day, at the age of 35, Cohen still “barks” occasionally but something happened to Brad while in Middle School, — at that point in his life when his symptoms were the worst they had ever been — the school principle approached him and asked him if he would like to educate the other students about his condition.

“They gave me a standing ovation, and it was on that day that I realized the power of education. I wanted to be that teacher that I never had. And that was my dream. I wanted to be the teacher that focused on kids’ strengths, not weaknesses.”

And he did that and more — thanks mainly to that one middle school principal who understood the power of education.

Today Brad Cohen is an elementary school teacher, the author of a book about Tourette syndrome and the first director of Camp Twitch and Shout, a week-long summer camp in Georgia for kids from ages 7 to 17 who suffer from Tourettes.

Camp Twitch and Shout offers normal summer camp activities: swimming, fishing, music and arts and crafts but the most important thing about Twitch and Shout is it allows a child who has always felt like an outcast to see that there are many other kids just like him or her and to understand that they are not dysfunctional monsters they are just kids who have a special challenge.

“According to experts, Twitch and Shout is one of only five weeklong camps in the country for children with Tourette syndrome. Atlanta-based child neurologist Howard Schub says such camps help children better cope with their condition. Some campers have never met another kid with Tourette syndrome.”

Read the Article: At Camp Twitch and Shout, Tourette kids can be themselves

And understand more about Tourette Syndrome with this Fact Sheet from The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.

Does “Superstitious Nonsense” Remark Violate Constitution?

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While teaching a High School European History class, James Corbett strayed into a discussion of religion and made several statements that clearly denigrated religion and religious practices.

According to WorldMag.com, Corbett “told his AP European history class that creationism was ‘superstitious nonsense.’ He also told them, ‘When you put on your Jesus glasses, you can’t see the truth’ and he taught a correlation between high religious attendance and high crime in America.”

This kind of speech by a teacher in a highschool classroom is, at least in my opinion, certainly inappropriate: it is pure opinion and speculation on the teachers part in a class that is supposed to be focused on fact (remember this is a European History class) not the teacher’s personal feelings about facts, circumstances or outcomes.

One student, Chad Farnan, certainly thought that Mr. Corbett had crossed a line and he did something about it; he sued his teacher and claimed in that lawsuit that by making these kind of comments his teacher was violating the establishment clause of the Constitution.

Last Friday, a little less than two years after the original lawsuit was filed, U.S. District Judge James Selna, after studying the list of 20 statements that Farnan had included in his suit, agree that one of the 20 statements (calling creationism “superstitious nonsense”) was indeed a violation of the U.S. Constitution’s establishment clause.

Totally Ridiculous

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion” THAT is the establishment clause of the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment. Over the years this simple statement has been twisted, interpreted to death and generally corrupted by Federal Judge after Federal Judge until now, as is apparent by this story, a private citizen can violate the establishment clause by spewing anti-religious rhetoric.

This teacher needs to be retrained, no doubt about that! He is a 20 year veteran of teaching and should know better or should have long ago been “called on the carpet” for straying from fact into his opinion of religion or anything else. Students are in school to learn and not only will students learn nothing from a teacher’s personal opinion, some students may take those opinions as fact.

James Corbett may be a very bad teacher or he may have just gotten off on a rant and lost control — don’t know. But how about U.S. District Judge James Selna? What is his excuse for coming up with the ridiculous opinion that a high school teacher can violate a clause of the Constitution that applies ONLY to the U.S. Congress!

News Links:

Associated Press: ‘Superstitious nonsense’ remark violated rights

WorldMag.com: CA court condemns “improper disapproval of religion”

Blog Links:

The Sensuous Curmudgeon: Corbett Loses “Superstitious Nonsense” Trial

The Legal Satyricon: In the Establishment Clause We Trust: St. John’s County, Flori-duh, Tries to Indoctrinate Students – Gets Sued

Graduation Dilemma in Massachusetts

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You may have heard this tear-jerker on this morning’s news or read about it:

Dateline, Andover, Massachusetts: Sarah Pearson is two credits short of the requirements for graduating with the rest of her Andover High School senior class — she knows this and doesn’t debate that fact. The reason she is short on her credits is partially due to the fact that she transferred to another high school earlier this year — for just a few months — and for whatever reason, did not get credit for her work at that other high school and partially because she was hospitalized sometime this year with a kidney infection. That, however, is not the media headline.

The headline in the Regional Newspaper, The Eagle Tribune, reads: “Short 2 credits, girl denied graduation walk 200 sign petition seeking break for student who lost dad to cancer.”

Only the most cold-hearted among us will not feel sympathy for a child who lost a parent — under any circumstances — but someone is leading Sara Pearson seriously astray by making her think that this should give her special privileges and allow long-established rules to be broken out of sympathy (they, of course, refer to “bending” the rules to make it appear less significant).

There is an entire generation of people who believe that “rules are made to be broken” and, to be honest, I’ve invoked that phrase a few times in my life (in vain) when I wanted rules to be changed for me. While rules do, in fact, get broken under special circumstances, that should not be the expectation.

Now you may believe that the officials in Sarah’s school district are being petty jerks — she is, after all, registered for summer school where she will get her credits so what’s the problem? The problem is the school officials have been “stiffed” in the past by students who “promised” to do the summer school thing, were allowed to participate in graduation ceremonies and then did NOT do the summer school thing; that’s a slap in the face to the kids who did the work and earned that trip across the stage to get their diploma. I would imagine that school officials are also more than a bit annoyed at the media (not just the local newspaper but now the national media) making them out to be cold-hearted Bs & Bs for not ‘giving the poor girl a break when she recently (about a year ago) lost her father to cancer.’

Compassion is, at it’s best, a spontaneous gesture by an individual or group of individuals that shows that they understand a person’s “pain” (for lack of a better word). The situation in Andover is, however, not about compassion or a lack of compassion on the part of the school board — it’s about coercion; the student, her family and friends, and the 200 faceless facebookers who signed her online petition are attempting to coerce an act of compassion from the school board and, morbidly, they are using Sarah’s dead father as a weapon.

On a much broader level, it’s this attitude that dictates ‘compassion at any cost’ that is turning this country into a quasi-socialist state and its that attitude that will, eventually, turn the United States into something our founding fathers would not recognize as their United States. We’re already on that road and it all starts with situations like Sarah’s where one girl has been convinced that she is entitled to something she did not earn.

News Links:

The Eagle-Tribune: Short 2 credits, girl denied graduation walk 200 sign petition seeking break for student who lost dad to cancer

Andover Townsman: Summer school ahead, girl wants to graduate with her class: Against policy, says Andover system

Blog Links:

No other blog posts on this specific subject can be found on the Google Blog Search!

Homeschoolers! Come Out With Your Hands Up!

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When Justice H. Walter Croskey ruled that “California courts have held that … parents do not have a constitutional right to homeschool their children,” he set off a firestorm of protests from homeschooling parents and organizations, not only throughout the state but throughout the country — and rightly so.

What right has any court or government to reach inside of a home and determine how, when or where the children will be educated? They should have have no legal right to do that as long as a child is not being physically or emotionally abused or is not being denied a descent education.

The irony of this situation that has suddenly and almost totally banned homeschooling is that it started because some of the children in this particular case that was under review alleged that they were indeed being physically and emotionally abused.

Read the “Background of the Case” from the February 28th decision issued by the California Court of Appeal:

A Welfare and Institutions Code section 300 petition was filed on behalf of three minor children after the eldest of them reported physical and emotional mistreatment by the children’s father.

The Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services investigated the situation and discovered, among other things, that all eight of the children in the family had been home schooled by the mother rather than educated in a public or private school. The attorney representing the younger two children asked the juvenile court to
order that the children be enrolled in a public or private school. The dependency court
declined to make such an order despite the court’s opinion that the home schooling the
children were receiving was ‘lousy,’ ‘meager,’ and ‘bad,’ and despite the court’s
opinion that keeping the children at home deprived them of situations where (1) they
could interact with people outside the family, (2) there are people who could provide
help if something is amiss in the children’s lives, and (3) they could develop
emotionally in a broader world than the parents’ “cloistered” setting.

As noted above, the court ruled that the parents have a constitutional right to home school the children. From that ruling the attorney for the younger children seeks extraordinary writ relief.”

It appears that in this particular situation the intrusion of the court into the homeschooling situation may have been warranted — because of the allegations of abuse. It appears that this situation may have had parents holding their children captives from society for their own purposes.

This ‘throws some water’ on some of the outrage that has resulted from this decision — but the decision as a whole, which states that: “California courts have held that … parents do not have a constitutional right to homeschool their children,” is an outrage.

Had the original court that heard this case acted responsibly and had forced this one family to recify what was apparently an unacceptable homeschooling situation there most likely would have been no appeal and no chance for the Court of Appeal to make this decision that now effects ALL homeschoolers in the state.

Relief, however, may be on the way. Last week the 2nd District Court of Appeal put their decision on hold and granted a rehearing, some time in April after briefs have been filed. This gives homeschooling parents and organizations a chance to have their voices heard.

It may turn out in the end that California law does, indeed, ban homeschooling except by credentialled teachers; to quote the Charles Dicken’s character Mr. Bumble: “If the law supposes that, then the law is an ass.” Laws can, and in this case probably will be, changed. The state certainly has a responsibility to protect children from irresponsible parents, but they certainly have no right to assume that all parents are irresponsible.

News Links:

Philidelphia Evening Bulletin: California Rules Homeschooling Now A Crime

San Jose Mercury News: Court to reconsider home-school ruling

Blog Links:

Digital Diatribes of a Random Idiot: An Update on the Goings-on in the California Home School Controversy of 2008

Just Enough and Nothing More: CA Homeschool Joint Press Release and More

Whymrhymer’s P.O.V. can also be found at the Blogger News Network at the American Chronicle.