Send your kids to school — with caffeine

Had we in the conservative world not made an uproar, I have no doubt but that the Obama speech, and the supporting teaching materials, would have encouraged children to come to the cult of Obama.  Thanks to the uproar, the speech shows that the cult of Obama is pretty much comprised of one member — Obama himself.

You can read the speech here.  My eyes rolled back into my head about 12 paragraphs in, after Obama’s umteenth reference to himself.  “I” this and “I” that.  An enterprising Hot Air reader counted 55 self-references to Obama and only four to America.  It a paralyzing speech made up of equal parts vanity and lecture.

When I was living in England, there was a running joke about Yorkshire codgers greeting every complaint about the hardships of modern life with a self-serving story beginning “When I were a lad….”  Thus:  “You call this snow?  When I were a lad, it snowed like this every day, all summer long, and we had to walk through this wearing nothing but our swimsuits and snowshoes.”

Obama has created his own “When I were a lad” speech.  Unless his personal charm comes through in the videos (and some high schoolers with lingering affection for him may see it), most students will be twitching with the desperate desire either to run or to sleep.

We must be eternally vigilant, but I think we’re safe this time.

The voracious British government marches on

The progressives of the Victorian era would be proud, but the old fashioned liberals are rolling in their graves:

Independent schools are to be made to open their doors to more children from poor homes under guidelines announced to stop them being run as “exclusive clubs”.

Schools failing to meet the regulations could have bank accounts frozen, trustees suspended, buildings seized or even be closed down under a range of sanctions.

In the new guidance from the Charity Commission, schools are told they should consider charging lower fees so more families are able to afford places.

Schools with higher charges have been informed they should ensure money is set aside to provide free or subsidised places for poor pupils. They should also consider sharing facilities and expert teachers with local state schools.

The recommendations, which come in a landmark document, are designed to ensure independent schools justify their charitable status by meeting a “public benefit” test and hold on to £100 million-a-year tax-breaks.

Schools may be subjected to “random” spot checks and inspections to ensure they comply.

Education experts say some may have to increase class sizes, ditch A-level courses or cut teachers’ perks to fund more free places.

Under Labour’s 2006 Charities Act, organisations including independent schools, hospitals and religious groups no longer have an automatic right to call themselves charities.

According to the guidance, they must prove “people in poverty” benefit from their services – even if they cannot afford fees.

“At the extreme, charities should not be seen as ‘exclusive clubs’ that only a few can join, since the ‘public’ benefit from that is very limited,” says the document.

Now they pass the cui bono publico test, of course, but at what cost?

Quick picks *UPDATED*

The kids are back in school and I thought the house would fall silent and I would blog again. However, it turns out — and this is very flattering — that there were a lot of people who wanted to talk to me but felt they couldn’t while the kids were around. I’ve spent the last two hours on the phone with people who really, really needed to have my ear. So, blogging this morning will be somewhat abbreviated, and will boil down to my sharing with you somethings I found interesting.

The first thing I found interesting was the fact that both the WaPo and the WSJ expressed real dismay at the fact that the Dem candidates are engaging in truly unseemly contortions in their efforts to deny the Surge’s success. If this is just political expediency, it reflects poorly on their character. If it’s a genuine psychological inability to recognize the situation on the ground, its very scary that people who propose themselves as our Commander in Chief are laboring under that kind of mental handicap. At minimum, I’d like the person with his (or her) finger on the button to exist in the real world, and not suffer from monomaniacal delusions.

Speaking of delusions, Dennis Prager challenges the claim that Barack Obama is a “uniter.” This claim is, of course, ridiculous on its face. Obama is bound and determined to withdraw troops from Iraq instanter, if not sooner, as a colleague of mine used to say, while I’m an equally firm believer in staying in Iraq until the situation is completely stabilized for the US’s benefit. Where’s the middle road on that one? How in the heck is he going to “unite” his and my entirely disparate views? Here’s Dennis’ take on the real meaning behind the “unity” claim:

If those who call for unity told the whole truth, this is what they would say: “I want everyone to unite — behind my values. I want everyone who disagrees with me to change the way they think so that we can all be united. I myself have no plans to change my positions on any important issues in order to achieve this unity. So in order to achieve it, I assume that all of you who differ with me will change your views and values and embrace mine.”

If people from opposing viewpoints listening to Barack actually think he stands for their position, it’s because Barack is prevaricating and obfuscating. If he were clear and honest about his positions (and he is clear and honest about the War), approximately half the electorate would not view him as a uniter, but would view him as someone who could not possibly represent their interests.

Incidentally, Fred Siegel addresses much the same issue — Barack’s alleged universality — when he points out that those he knows who like Obama are completely unable to articulate what it is they like about him beyond a pretty face and nice voice. Many are also impressed by his Ivy League credentials, something that utterly fails to impress me. As I’ve mentioned before, while I’m sure there have been lots of good lawyers who emerged from Harvard Law in the last 20 years, I haven’t met them. Without exception, the Harvard lawyers I have met, have been almost stunningly inept. Many have been smart and nice, but all of them have ranked in the bottom 5th of lawyers I’ve worked with or appeared against. For me, a Harvard Law degree is like a big red warning sign. And if you are a wonderful, intelligent, incredibly competent Harvard lawyer reading this, my apologies. Clearly, I just haven’t met you, so you haven’t been able to un-skew my view.

On a completely different subject, let’s talk about vaccination. I’m a huge proponent of vaccination, something I think results both from the fact that I’m a history lover and I have older parents. The history part means that I’ve read about all the horrible epidemics that decimated childhood populations. Even in the 20th Century, although the US was able to reduce the 50% child mortality that existed in all prior eras and other places, polio was still a nightmare disease that hung over childhood until the Salk vaccine came along. My parents had measles, scarlet fever and diphtheria. I carry a discrete chicken pox scar on my face. The diseases are real and the consequences can be significant. As the diseases receded, though, people started fearing the vaccines’ side effects, even though those side effects, in all cases, have been minute compared to the disease risks. The latest fear was the fear that the preservative in many childhood vaccines caused autism. Yet another study has dis-proven this fear. I hope that finding encourages parents who were holding off on vaccines to give the subject another thought.

Here’s another wild jump in topic. The New York Times has a moderately interesting article about gephyrophobia — the fear of bridges. I’ve always found bridges concerning, perhaps because I grew up in earthquake country. My vague fear solidified completely when I saw the first Superman movie, back in 1978. (PLOT SPOILER HERE FOR ANYONE WHO HASN’T SEEN THIS MOVIE.) As you may recall, Lex Luthor’s nefarious plot involved creating a massive earthquake to get rid of California entirety, so that the Nevada property he’d purchased cheap would become valuable beach front property. When he successfully gets an earthquake going, the Golden Gate Bridge collapses. (SPOILER OVER.) As a kid in San Francisco, that image stuck with me — and was reinforced during 1989’s Loma Prieta earthquake, when a section of the Bay Bridge collapsed, killing one woman. I never got to the point where I avoided bridges, but I can’t say that I enjoy them.

Another topical leap: Your child and mine can now get college credit — at a taxpayer funded college — learning how to be gay. Yup, it’s truly no child left behind, or no child’s behind left alone, I’m not sure which. The famous university-level Mickey Mouse classes have just risen (or sunk) to a whole new level.

Whenever honor killings occur, whether in Canada or Texas, the usual suspects emerge to explain that honor killings and other acts of abuse against women have nothing to do with Islam, and that it’s just a bizarre coincidence that they keep cropping up in the Islamic community. Robert Spencer, however, got wind of a Yemeni columnist who wants nothing to do with this politically correct horse pucky. He’s quite clear on the fact that Islam demands the physical abuse of women — for their own good, of course.

And for now, th-th-th-that’s all, folks!

UPDATE: Whoops! I missed it. Fred Barnes also tackled the Dems’ peculiar aversion to the truth about the Surge.

UPDATE II: I like Bret Stephens’ take on the silliness of Obama’s constant promise to end American division in future:

Barack Obama, still fresh from his victory in Iowa last week and confident of another in New Hampshire tonight, has as his signature campaign theme the promise to “end the division” in America. Notice the irony: The scale of his Iowa victory, in a state that’s 94% white, is perhaps the clearest indication so far that the division Mr. Obama promises to end has largely been put to rest.

Of course, Barack’s Iowa victory may also cast into the light something I’ve already noted: Barack’s not really black. Sure, he’s got a genetic black inheretence, and he likes obsessing about his blackness, but his youthful influences and his education were mainstream white — something American blacks might notice.

UPDATE IIIChristopher Hitchens also examines the icky obsession with Obama’s race and suggests that, if you have questions about his racial views, you might want to check out the website for the Church with which Obama is publicly affiliated.  (Hat tip:  The Anchoress.)

Why are home schoolers for Huck?

Rational self-interest is a great concept, but it’s amazing how often people deviate from it and behave completely irrationally. A case in point is the “Home schoolers for Huck” trend we’re seeing right now. Huck’s political policies and pronouncements are completely antithetical to home schooling. He wants the federal government to encroach more and more on public school and, during his time in Arkansas, oversaw laws restricting home schooling rights. The NEA loves him, which tells you way more than you want to know about the man’s politics. Home schoolers ought to be running as far away from his candidacy as they can, but they’re not. Instead, the Home School Legal Defense Program is supporting him. One can only assume that they are so thrilled that a Pastor will take the White House that they are blind to their own self-interest. And speaking of self-interest, I’m also willing to bet that many home schoolers would be opposed to a whole bunch of Huck’s other stands, which are detailed here. (Hat tip: W”B”S.)

I think a lot of Evangelical Christians have to sit down and ask themselves a serious question: Am I willing to put in the White House a man who espouses political policies that go against my self-interest as a Christian merely because he himself is a vocal Christian? As for me, I would be much more interested in measuring Huck by his acts than by his words. And his acts have all the impetus and effects of a liberal Democrat. (By the way, if you have any doubt that a devout Evangelical Christian can also be an ultra liberal Democrat, just put yourself in the way back machine to the years 1976-1980, when this Country was headed by a vocal Christian who was not only a liberal Democrat, but also one of the worst presidents ever.)

Christians are also being short-sighted if they think that Huck’s expanding the federal government will Christianize it. Next time the administration changes into Democratic hands, or next time the Democrats finally take effective control over Congress, these same Democratic political leaders will take the federal government that Huck so thoughtfully expanded for them and use that new power for very Progressive (read: Leftist) ends.

The problem with American education

I blogged only the other day about the hare-brained thinking that characterizes the meetings I attend at my children’s public school. (See this post too.)  I’m constantly amazed at how foolish these teachers and administrators are, and are they are absolutely lacking in general knowledge or analytical skills. However, because they have “education degrees” they have a monopoly on our public school children. No one who hasn’t attended a teaching college can get near these kids. This means that thousands of people like myself — professionals with huge funds of knowledge (and, if I do so say myself, pretty good communication abilities) — are barred from reaching the kids unless we too want to subject ourselves to a time-consuming, expensive and foolish teacher’s education. Walter Williams has more about these teachers:

American education will never be improved until we address one of the problems seen as too delicate to discuss. That problem is the overall quality of people teaching our children. Students who have chosen education as their major have the lowest SAT scores of any other major. Students who have graduated with an education degree earn lower scores than any other major on graduate school admissions tests such as the GRE, MCAT or LSAT. Schools of education, either graduate or undergraduate, represent the academic slums of most any university. As such, they are home to the least able students and professors with the lowest academic respect. Were we serious about efforts to improve public education, one of the first things we would do is eliminate schools of education.

The inability to think critically makes educationists fall easy prey to harebrained schemes, and what’s worse, they don’t have the intelligence to recognize that the harebrained scheme isn’t working. Just one of many examples is the use of fuzzy math teaching techniques found in “Rethinking Mathematics: Teaching Social Justice by the Numbers.” Among its topics: “Sweatshop Accounting,” “Chicanos Have Math in Their Blood,” “Multicultural Math” and “Home Buying While Brown or Black.” The latter contains discussions on racial profiling, the war in Iraq, corporate control of the media and environmental racism.

If you have a fifth-grader, his textbook might be “Everyday Math.” Among its study questions are: If math were a color, it would be (blank) because (blank). If it were a food, it would be (blank) because (blank). If it were weather, it would be (blank) because (blank). All of this is sheer nonsense, and what’s worse is that the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics sponsors and supports much of this nonsense.

Mathematics, more than any other subject, is culturally neutral. The square root of 16 is 4 whether you’re Asian, European or African, or even Plutonian or Martian. While math and science literacy among white 15-year-olds is nothing to write home about, that among black 15-year-olds is nothing less than a disaster.

Few people appreciate the implications of poor math preparation. Mathematics, more than anything else, teaches one how to think logically. As such, it is an important intellectual tool. If one graduates from high school with little or no preparation in algebra, geometry and a bit of trigonometry, he is likely to find whole areas of academic study, as well as the highest paying jobs, hermetically sealed off from him for his entire life.

Having been so harsh, both directly and (through the Williams quotation) indirectly, let me add a few ameliorative statements.  There are absolutely wonderful teachers out there, people who are truly gifted at communicating with young people and at leading them to knowledge.  There are deeply committed people out there.  Indeed, even though I don’t respect professionally many of the teachers at my kids’ schools, there are some who do deserve professional respect and, with few exceptions, all of them deserve respect for their good will and their good intentions.

My complaint is the same as Williams':  we have a system that drives to the bottom, rather than aims for the top.  The monopoly of education degrees, degrees that turn out people practiced in certain methodologies but often woefully uninformed or incapable of thought, means that there is no way to allow others who are informed and able to help lift up the education system.  And that’s a crime that no amount of federal and state monies can fix.

More on the teacher accused of insulting religion in his class

I blogged very briefly on Friday about the lawsuit against Dr. James Corbett, who, along with his school district, is being accused of using his AP history classroom to indoctrinate his students in anti-Christian attitudes. I’ve discovered two things since then. First, the LA Times article from which I quoted was disingenuous in the extreme in citing to the inappropriate things Corbett said, since it managed to whitewash the lengthy anti-religious rants in which he engaged. Second, if you read the comments left at that same LA Times article, you’ll see a common threatd running through those that defend Dr. Corbett. Almost without exception, his supporters say that it’s appropriate to crudely insult religion and to use history lessons as a rant against Christianity. Why? Because in their minds he’s speaking truth, and it’s an educator’s responsibility to bring truth to his students, especially the benighted Christian ones. It doesn’t seem to occur to them that there is a problem, not with discussing faith, but with insulting faith. I’ve taken many comparative religion classes over my career as a student, which included discussions of the absence of religion, and all were thoughtful and respectful in their approach to and comparison of the different ways of worshipping or denying God.

Not so Dr. Corbett. If you’d like better examples of the crudity of Corbett’s discourse, crudity that is an insult to the Christian religion and that has nothing to do with scholarly discourse about the nature of religion, you only need to check out the allegations in the actual complaint against him.

For example, in the full quote alluded to in the LA Times article, he basically calls religious people ill-informed idiots: “How do you get the peasants to oppose something that is in their best interest? Religion. You have to have something that is irrational to counter that rational approach…. [W]hen you put on your Jesus glasses, you can’t see the truth.”

Another instance of his approach to discussing religion is to take one item of data about two different countries — their religious practices — and from that extrapolate to broad reaching conclusions about their crime rate: “People — in the industrialized world the people least likely to go to church are the Swedes. The people in the industrialized world most likely to go to church are the Americans. America has the highest crime rate of all industrialized nations, and Sweden the lowest. The next time somebody tells you religion is connected with morality, you might want to ask them about that.” It doesn’t seem to occur to him that a huge, melting pot frontier nation such as America might have developed differently from a small, entirely homogenous nation such as Sweden. A man who thinks this simplistically hardly seems fit to be a teacher, let alone an AP teacher. (Incidentally, Laer, at Cheat-Seeking Missiles, who wrote a wonderful post about the Corbett lawsuit, took the time to show the factual errors underlying this particular rant.)

Corbett also goes on lengthy rants about birth control, something that seems far removed from AP history, and that involves insulting entire American political parties: “….[C]onservatives don’t want women to avoid pregnancies. That’s interfering with God’s work. You got to stay pregnant, barefoot, and in the kitchen and have babies until your body collapses. All over the world, doesn’t matter where you go, the conservatives want control over women’s reproductive capacity. Everywhere in the world.” That’s news to me. I do know that American conservatives disapprove of out of control sexuality, believing that it is demeaning to the dignity of men and women alike, and that many of them are opposed to abortion, believing that it is destructive of the nascent life of a fetus. The only ones I know who do currently seem to advocate Corbett’s “Barefoot, pregnant and in the kitchen” attitude are the Taliban but, peculiarly, their views don’t seem included in his rants.

It’s also a bit hard to see where Corbett’s view of Rush Limbaugh (“I love Rush Limbaugh. A fat, pain in the ass liar. And, boy, is he a liar”) fits into the AP History curriculum. Frankly, I also don’t see room in the curriculum for the vulgarities that roll of this man’s tongue. This is a teacher who demeans students, rather than who uplifts and educates them.

The bottom line is that teaching history and critical thinking are not skills that involve lengthy rants that take aim at specific religions and political views, let alone rants that shower students with vulgar language. Those students who have left comments saying that they felt free to disagree with him miss the point. As a public school teacher, Corbett’s job is to provide information, which can include information about doctrine or its effect on historical movements (such as the anti-Slavery movement in American history, for example, which was strongly affected by its adherents’ Christianity). It is not to shout soap box slogans that merely hark back to what were, I’m sure, his youthful days as a Marxist imbued anti-War activist.

Softening children continues apace

They are scraping the bottom of the barrel to find cowardly, clueless school administrators, aren’t they?

Children at the Oakdale School here in southeastern Connecticut returned this fall to learn that their traditional recess had gone the way of the peanut butter sandwich and the Gumby lunchbox.

No longer could they let off their youthful energy — pent up from hours of long division — by cavorting outside for 22 minutes of unstructured play, or perhaps with a vigorous game of tag or dodgeball. Such games had been virtually banned by the principal, Mark S. Johnson, along with kickball, soccer and other “body-banging” activities, as he put it, where knees — and feelings — might get bruised.

Instead, children are encouraged to jump rope, play with Hula Hoops or gently fling a Frisbee. Balls are practically controlled substances, parceled out under close supervision by playground monitors.

The traditional recess, a rite of grade school, is endangered not only in the Oakdale School here in Montville, a town of 18,500. From Cheyenne, Wyo., to Wyckoff, N.J., recess — long seen as a way for children to develop social competence, recharge after long lessons, and resist obesity — is being rethought and pared down.

In the face of this, a national campaign called Rescuing Recess, sponsored by such organizations as the Cartoon Network, the National Parent Teacher Association, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Education Association, has taken hold at many schools where parents and children fear that recess will go the way of the one-room schoolhouse.

At Oakdale, Mr. Johnson finally relaxed some prohibitions after a parade of parents complained. Now, twice a week when a parent or grandparent is present, fourth and fifth graders are allowed to play a modified version of kickball as long as the score is not kept. Many parents are still not satisfied, however, saying that such coddling fails to prepare children for adulthood.

“Life is competitive,” said Shari Clewell, the mother of a fifth grader. “Kids compete for attention. They compete for grades. You compete for a job. You compete from the time you’re little all the way to the end.”

Pretending otherwise is pointless, she said. “They’re kids. They are competitive. They can play jump rope and jacks and make it competitive.”

But the principal is determined. “I’m honestly one of the most competitive guys in the world, having coached sports for a long time,” said Mr. Johnson, who has coached youth basketball and softball. “But I honestly don’t believe this is the place for that.”

Acknowledging that the changes caused “quite an uproar,” he defended his policy as a way to build skills and camaraderie rather than competition and conflict, and said that it had nothing to do with insurance costs. He said he had seen too many recesses where children “want all the good kids on one side and they want to win at all costs, and kids are made to feel badly.”

Read the rest here.

It’s unsurprising that, as the administrators get increasingly spineless and political (something it’s hard to imagine happening considering where they started), the teachers get increasingly aggressive in promoting viewpoints inconsistent with public education.

As you know from a post here a few days ago, the above article just touches the tip of the iceberg. At my kids’ school, the official policy is to ensure that the kids never play competitively, and that they never lose. God forbid that they should learn useful skills such as handling disappointment.

I was one of the kids at school who was always chosen last.  I didn’t like it.  The school could have helped, not by destroying the games kids play, but by having an administrator drop in occasionally to give tips about fair play, not gloating, and losing gracefully.  The sports were great; what was bad was that the school didn’t use the fallout to educate.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.