Uncommon Sense

politics and society are, unfortunately, much the same thing

Scholars warn higher ed seized by leftist indoctrination

original article: Scholars warn higher ed seized by leftist indoctrination – but debate on fixing it unresolved
January 23, 2017 by KATE HARDIMAN

A new report suggests left-leaning professors have transformed the teaching of traditional civics with an emphasis on activism, creating a pipeline of students eager to serve the goals of secular-progressive causes.

But how best to fix the problem is one area that remains unsettled among some scholars.

“Making Citizens: How American Universities Teach Civics” argues that “instead of teaching college students the foundations of law, liberty, and self-government, colleges teach students how to organize protests, occupy buildings, and stage demonstrations.”

Universities in America have redefined civics to mean “progressive political activism,” and the notion of a “good citizen” is now synonymous with “radical activist,” according to the report, recently published by the National Association of Scholars, a right-of-center academic watchdog group.

After surveying curricula at four major universities as a case study the report finds they are teaching fewer traditional civics classes while placing a greater emphasis on directing free student labor to progressive organizations in large part through the rise of “service learning” and “community engagement” courses.

“The New Civics seeks above all to make students into enthusiastic supporters of the New Left’s dream of ‘fundamentally transforming’ America,” the report states, adding pet causes pushed include environmentalism, socialism, identity politics, expanding government bureaucracy, and teaching students to essentially despise America’s founding.

“I was most startled that a number of these service learning professors cited Maoist China as one of their models for instruction,” David Randall, the association’s director of communications and report author, told The College Fix in a phone interview.

Randall said the new way of teaching civics is “grossly politicized,” adding “this is a reason for the public to be alarmed.”

He pointed to a specific example at Pomona College where a service learning course, and its funding, contributed to an anti-Trump rally.

Joy Pullman, an education pundit writing on the report at The Federalist, defines this new civics as “actually anti-civics: it teaches students how to be bad citizens, how to dismantle rather than preserve and improve their country.”

“New Civics teaches young people to revolt against the country that, among other things, educated them, provided for their security against foreign aggressors, and secured liberties most people in the world never had and still don’t have: freedom of speech, freedom of association, the right to a representative government dependent on citizen consent,” according to Pullman.

Reaction to the report has been mixed. Some agree it should sound alarm bells.

“It’s well-known that America’s K-12 schools are mediocre, when compared to the grammar schools of other countries. Less well known is just how mediocre our colleges are. The NAS report helps us understand why that is,” law professor Francis Buckley of George Mason University’s Scalia Law School told The College Fix via email.

But others are concerned about the report’s remedial recommendations, which include a coordinated civic literacy curriculum at the high school and college levels, a required course in traditional American civics, and a mandate that the traditional civics requirement be met only through classroom instruction. The report also suggests cutting all federal and state funding for service-learning and civic engagement at the university level.

Such recommendations pose “a severe threat to academic freedom because government officials would be imposing their judgments on college campuses rather than allowing universities to do what they think is best,” author and co-editor of Academe blog, John Wilson, told The College Fix via email.

“It’s particularly disturbing because the NAS wants the government to destroy purely voluntary programs of civic education that no students are forced to participate in,” Wilson said.

NAS’ Randall said he disagrees such oversight would hurt academic freedom.

“A state government has the right to determine what is being taught in a civics class. The setting of the syllabus is a matter appropriately governed by the state authorities,” he said. “The most basic thing is that I don’t believe the method, service-learning, has educational value. I think it is within the government’s right to provide funding only to those courses and programs that it believes have educational value.”

Another critique of the report came by way of respected law Professor Stanley Fish, who suggests the association’s call for the promotion of virtuous citizenship is akin to a political goal, much like the progressive left’s goals.

“Fostering intellectual freedom? Yes! Search for truth? Yes! Promotion of virtuous citizenship? No! Promoting virtuous citizenship is no doubt a worthy goal, but it is not an academic goal, because, like the programs the report derides, it is a political goal,” Fish argued in a Chronicle of Higher Education piece titled “Citizen Formation is Not Our Job.”

Meanwhile, some university officials have defended themselves in the wake of the report.

For example, a top official at the University of Colorado at Boulder, one of the institutions focused on in the study, has issued a statement calling the NAS report “an opinion piece” and taking issue with the characterization of CU Boulder.

“CU Boulder offers students the chance to choose from a wide variety of classes and community experiences — from courses in Western civilization to working with local K-12 students experiencing poverty and homelessness,” Provost Russell Moore stated. “Our faculty, as required by regent law and academic custom, have developed a high-quality, balanced curriculum that helps us to shape tomorrow’s leaders and positively impact humanity.”

bias, corruption, culture, education, government, ideology, indoctrination, left wing, liberalism, nanny state, oversight, progressive, propaganda, public policy, reform, relativism, scandal, study

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Should brownies be banned from public schools now?

original article: Why police were called to a South Jersey third-grade class party
June 29, 2016 by Emma Platoff

On June 16, police were called to an unlikely scene: an end-of-the-year class party at the William P. Tatem Elementary School in Collingswood.

A third grader had made a comment about the brownies being served to the class. After another student exclaimed that the remark was “racist,” the school called the Collingswood Police Department, according to the mother of the boy who made the comment.

The police officer spoke to the student, who is 9, said the boy’s mother, Stacy dos Santos, and local authorities.

Dos Santos said that the school overreacted and that her son made a comment about snacks, not skin color.

“He said they were talking about brownies. . . . Who exactly did he offend?” dos Santos said.

The boy’s father was contacted by Collingswood police later in the day. Police said the incident had been referred to the New Jersey Division of Child Protection and Permanency. The student stayed home for his last day of third grade.

Dos Santos said that her son was “traumatized,” and that she hopes to send him to a different Collingswood public school in the fall.

And she wants an apology. She said she graduated from Collingswood High School and has two other children, a 21-year-old who also went through Collingswood schools, and a 3-year-old. Her husband, the third grader’s father, is Brazilian, dos Santos said.

“I’m not comfortable with the administration [at Tatem]. I don’t trust them and neither does my child,” she said. “He was intimidated, obviously. There was a police officer with a gun in the holster talking to my son, saying, ‘Tell me what you said.’ He didn’t have anybody on his side.”

The incident, which has sparked outrage among some parents, was one of several in the last month when Collingswood police have been called to look into school incidents that parents think hardly merit criminal investigation.

Superintendent Scott Oswald estimated that on some occasions over the last month, officers may have been called to as many as five incidents per day in the district of 1,875 students.

This has created concern among parents in the 14,000-resident borough, who have phoned their elected officials, met with Mayor James Maley, blasted social-media message boards, and even launched a petition calling on the Camden County Prosecutor’s Office to “stop mandated criminal investigation of elementary school students.”

The increased police involvement follows a May 25 meeting among the Collingswood Police Department, school officials, and representatives from the Camden County Prosecutor’s Office, where school officials and police both said they were told to report to police any incidents that could be considered criminal, including what Police Chief Kevin Carey called anything “as minor as a simple name-calling incident that the school would typically handle internally.”

The police and schools were also advised that they should report “just about every incident” to the New Jersey Division of Child Protection and Permanency, Carey said.

Previously, the school district, following the state’s Memorandum of Agreement Between Education and Law Enforcement Officials, had only reported incidents it deemed serious, like those involving weapons, drugs, or sexual misconduct. Both Carey and School Board President David Routzahn described the protocol set forth after that May meeting as a significant change in procedure.

“It was a pretty clear directive that we questioned vehemently,” Oswald said.

But a month after the meeting, and after police investigations that parents consider fruitless had begun to gain attention, Maley wrote in a public letter that the May 25 meeting was intended to “reinforce the applicability” of the MOA, “not to expand its terms.” Prosecutor Mary Eva Colalillo, in an accompanying statement, said she hoped Maley’s message “clarifies” the responsibilities of school officials.

Maley said in an interview Tuesday that there had been a “misunderstanding” during the May 25 meeting. But Oswald said the Prosecutor’s Office was shying away from its own instructions.

“At some point, it seems, they’ve realized that the intent of the MOA that they’re leaning heavily upon is not what they directed us to do,” Oswald said. “It went way above what that MOA says.”

Another point of contention between the Prosecutor’s Office and school officials is what prompted Maley’s meeting in the first place.

In a public letter issued to parents Monday, Routzahn said he was “not aware of any single event” in the district that might have prompted the Prosecutor’s Office to ask for a higher reporting standard.

But Maley said the Prosecutor’s Office had been concerned about a “delay” in reporting an incident at Collingswood High School this spring. He would not comment further, noting that the incident was under investigation by the Prosecutor’s Office.

Oswald said the high school incident had not been raised during the meeting May 25.

“I welcome discussion on that as well,” he said.

Several parents said they consider the recent police involvement not only ridiculous but harmful.

Megan Irwin, who has two daughters who have attended Collingswood public schools and who teaches first grade in Pennsauken, said the police had been called to deal with behavior the schools could easily have handled.

“Some of it is just typical little-kid behavior,” Irwin said. “Never in my years of teaching have I ever felt uncomfortable handling a situation or felt like I didn’t know how to handle a situation.”

And Pam Gessert, a Collingswood resident who works as a school counselor in Burlington County, said that because teachers have the best relationships with students, they are most qualified to determine what happened in a particular incident.

bureaucracy, children, criminal, culture, education, extremism, government, hate speech, ideology, indoctrination, left wing, liberalism, nanny state, oversight, philosophy, political correctness, progressive, public policy, racism, racist, relativism, scandal, victimization

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Academic Freedom Under Siege

original article: Academic Freedom Under Siege
January 6, 2015 by Geoffrey R. Stone

Six weeks ago, Northwestern University President Morton Schapiro wrote a fine op-ed in the Wall Street Journal in which he offered a ringing endorsement of academic freedom. As he observed, a university must have “a compelling reason to punish anyone — student, faculty member, staff member — for expressing his or her views, regardless of how repugnant you might find those views.” Indeed, he added, “freedom of speech doesn’t amount to much unless it is tested,” and if freedom of speech isn’t aggressively protected “on college campuses, where self-expression is so deeply valued, why expect it to matter elsewhere?”

It is therefore both surprising and disappointing that Northwestern University recently found itself embroiled in two embarrassing violations of the core principles of academic freedom. Sadly, a university that should be a national leader in promoting and protecting these values allowed itself to lose sight of its very reason for being.

The first of these controversies began a little over a year ago. Atrium is a journal published by Northwestern University’s Medical Humanities and Bioethics Program. Each issue focuses on a different theme, and each contributor is expected to explore the theme “in different, thought-provoking ways.” The Winter 2014 issue of Atrium, which was edited by Professor Alice Dreger, included a series of lively articles on the theme of “Bad Girls.”

One of the articles, written by William Peace, then the 2014 Jeannette K. Watson Distinguished Visiting Professor in the Humanities at Syracuse University, was titled “Head Nurses.” In this essay, Peace, who is disabled, told the story of how 36 years earlier a young woman nurse, with whom he had grown close, provided oral sex to him during rehabilitation in order to address his deep concerns that, after a severe health problem left him paralyzed, he could no longer be sexually active.

Apparently, Peace’s essay, which was written and edited in a responsible, mature, and thoughtful manner, so upset the authorities at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine that they ordered the story removed from the online version ofAtrium. This act of blatant censorship, in direct contravention of any plausible understanding of academic freedom, remained in place for fourteen months, over the continued objections of Peace and Dreger.

Northwestern finally reversed course only after Peace and Dreger made clear that they would take the matter public if the university did not relent. Presumably, the university’s concern was that the inclusion of such an “offensive” article in Atriummight put off some of the university’s donors and the hospital’s patrons, either because of its acknowledgement of oral sex or because it might be construed as demeaning to women. Neither concern is a justification for censorship. The journal, the issue, and the essay were all squarely within the bounds of academic freedom, and Northwestern University should have stood proudly in support of that principle.

As Bill Peace later noted, “obviously, sexual relations between patients and health care professionals is inappropriate,” but “what I object to even more” are those “who are dedicated to branding medical institutions by censoring legitimate scholarship and attempting to erase the lives and experiences that they deem embarrassing.”

The second controversy began several months ago when Northwestern University professor Laura Kipnis wrote a piece in the Chronicle of Higher Education in which she raised important questions about the regulation of student-faculty relationships, the meaning of consent, the procedural irregularities that frequently taint the efforts of colleges and universities to address such issues, and the messy and destructive lawsuits that often follow.

Kipnis’ article is a serious, provocative, and valuable contribution to the ongoing debate about these often difficult and vexing issues. Among other things, Kipnis charged that some of the recently enacted campus codes dealing with such matters have had the effect of infantilizing women students. This, she reasoned, is not a good thing.

In response to this essay, several students at Northwestern staged a protest demanding “a swift, official condemnation” of the article because they had been made to feel uncomfortable by her thoughts on the subject. One woman student went so far as to describe the essay as “terrifying.” Shortly thereafter, a women student who had filed sexual assault charges against a professor at Northwestern filed a Title IX (sex discrimination/sexual harassment) complaint against Kipnis because of the publication.

As Kipnis traces in a powerful new article published this week in the Chronicle of Higher Education, for the past several months she has been subjected to a star-chamber proceeding in which outside investigators retained by Northwestern University have sought to determine whether her initial essay somehow constituted unlawful retaliation, “intimidation, threats, coercion, or discrimination” against the student who had previously filed the sexual assault charge against the faculty member at Northwestern.

As anyone who has read Kipnis’ initial article can discern, the accusation is ludicrous on its face. An essay that takes aim at the substantive values and procedures employed by universities in their efforts to regulate sexual relationships on campus is not, and cannot rationally be taken to be, an act of discrimination, retaliation, or harassment directed against any particular student who may have filed such a complaint.

What Northwestern should have done in the face of such a complaint was to dismiss it as quickly and decisively as possible and to reaffirm the fundamental right of members of the university community to write, speak, argue, and complain openly and vigorously about matters of public concern. Instead, Northwestern put Kipnis through months of “investigation” for doing nothing more than writing an interesting and provocative article in a journal of considerable repute.

It was only after Kipnis went public in her second article this week that Northwestern finally informed her that the charges against her were unfounded. As evidenced in both of these situations, it seems, not surprisingly, that the best way to get universities to stand up for academic freedom is to call them out publicly on their lack of commitment to the principles for which they are supposed to stand.

In fairness, I have to say that, at least in the Kipnis incident, this is not all Northwestern’s fault. The Department of Education has run roughshod over colleges and universities in recent years by demanding, on pain of loss of federal funds, that these institutions take extreme measures, often inconsistent with basic notions of due process, to deal with complaints of sexual abuse. But this is not much of an excuse, because the Kipnis case was not an instance in which she was accused of sexually abusing anyone. She was accused, rather, of writing an article that upset some students. Turning that into a federal case is beyond the pale.

Northwestern, and other universities, must have the courage to live up to President Schapiro’s ringing declaration that a university must have “a compelling reason to punish anyone — student, faculty member, staff member — for expressing his or her views, regardless of how repugnant you might find those views.” That is, after all, what makes a university a university.

bias, bigotry, bullies, culture, discrimination, education, elitism, extremism, free speech, freedom, government, hate speech, hypocrisy, ideology, intolerance, left wing, liberalism, nanny state, oppression, oversight, philosophy, political correctness, progressive, public policy, relativism, scandal, victimization

Do we need a separation between school and state?

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Feds Gave Low-Income Housing to Millionaires

original article: Feds Gave Low-Income Housing to Millionaires
July 27, 2015 by Elizabeth Harrington

The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) gave low-income housing to millionaires, according to a recent audit.

The Office of Inspector General (OIG) found over 25,000 families who earned too much to qualify for subsidized apartments, which will cost taxpayers $104.4 million this year.

“Public housing authorities provided public housing assistance to as many as 25,226 families whose annual household income exceeded HUD’s 2014 program eligibility income limits,” according to the audit. “Most of these families had earned more than the qualifying amount for more than 1 year, were not participating in programs that would allow them to reside in public housing, and occupied units while many families were waiting for public housing assistance.”

“This condition occurred because HUD regulations require families to meet eligibility income limits only when they are admitted to the public housing program,” it said. “The regulations do not limit the length of time that families may reside in public housing.”

Of the 25,226 overincome families identified, 47 percent earned at least $10,000 more than the income limit, and 70 percent lived in subsidized housing for more than a year.

A millionaire in Oxford, Neb., has been able live in low-income housing since 2010. The monthly rent is $300.

“As of April 2014, the single-member household’s annual income was $65,007, while the low-income threshold was $33,500,” the OIG explained. “Also, this tenant had total assets valued at nearly $1.6 million, which included stock valued at $623,685, real estate valued at $470,600, a checking account with a balance of $334,637, and an individual retirement account with a balance of $123,445.”

HUD did not evict the millionaire because “the tenant was income eligible at admission and has not violated the lease agreement.”

The OIG identified a sample of 25 overincome families who either had more than $1 million in assets, or had income that was significantly greater than the income limits.

Another ineligible family paid only $1,091 a month to live in Los Angeles, even though their annual income was $204,784.

A family in New York City was also able to stay in housing that limited income at $67,100, event though they earned $497,911 annually, plus $790,534 in rental income between 2009 and 2013.

Many housing authorities cited by the OIG said they do not evict wealthy individuals and families from low-income housing because “its policy does not require it to terminate the tenancy or evict families solely because they are overincome.”

budget, bureaucracy, corruption, criminal, entitlements, ethics, fraud, funding, government, nanny state, oversight, public policy, scandal, wealthy, welfare

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No improvement in school performance since Common Core

original article: Education Advocates React to Newly Released NAEP Scores
April 29, 2015 by HEATHER KAYS

The latest 8th grade U.S. history, civics, and geography results from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), released Wednesday, April 29, showed no significant change from the last assessment in 2010.

For 2014, the NAEP scores show only 18 percent of students scored proficient in U.S. history, 23 percent in civics, and 27 percent in geography.

Neal McCluskey, associate director of the Cato Institute’s Center for Educational Freedom describes the NAEP scores released today as “bleak.”

“The scores weren’t particularly surprising,” said McCluskey. “We’ve known for quite some time that American students have pretty poor historical, geographical, and civic knowledge, and nothing has happened since 2010 that should have radically changed that. Indeed, the focus on mathematics and reading, to the possible detriment of history and civics, may have been amplified a bit with the move to Common Core standards, though since the advent of NCLB math and reading have been essentially the first and last words in school ‘success.’”

School Choice as a Solution

Kara Kerwin, president of the Center for Education Reform says parents need additional educational options for their children if scores such as these are ever to improve.

“It’s appalling that not even 30 percent of our nation’s 8th graders are proficient in subjects like civics and history that are so fundamental to our nation’s founding and democracy,” said Kerwin. “If we don’t act now and take bold steps to empower parents and accelerate the pace at which they have access to opportunities that dramatically change their children’s learning outcomes, we will not be able to move our nation forward.”

Underachievement in the Middle Class

Koret Senior Fellow and Senior Director of Education Studies at the Pacific Research Institute Lance Izumi, says the unimpressive NAEP scores are an indication many parents believe their children are attending better schools than they are in reality.

“One of the key points to understand is that the low scores on the history, geography and civics NAEP exams are not due only to the performance of low-income students,” said Izumi.  “Non-low-income students, many of whom are from middle-class and more affluent backgrounds, underperformed on each of the NAEP exams.  In fact, as a group, non-low-income students scored well below the proficient benchmark on the history, geography and civics NAEP.  The underachievement of these middle-class students indicates that many schools in affluent areas are not as good as parents think they are, and that middle-class parents need to push for reforms like school choice that will help them and their children.”

Expanding Choice

Susan Meyers, a spokeswoman for the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice, agrees with Izumi. Meyers says school choice will be necessary in order to see positive gains in measurements such as NAEP scores.

“Students can’t function in today’s world with such inadequate skills,” said Meyers. “Until we have significant school choice in every community and schools feel the pressure to compete for students, they will continue with the same, tired and failed policies that are not educating our children. This is why parents want and deserve the freedom to choose a school that works for their child. They don’t have time to wait.”

Unsurprising and Disappointing

Matt Frendeway, national communications director for the American Federation for Children, says the NAEP scores are not at all surprising.

“National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) scores were released today, and like every year, serve as a national reminder that our nation’s public education system is largely failing our students,” said Frendeway. “The best way to challenge the status quo and help students is by offering parents access to choice and redefining public education by funding students, especially low-income students, and allowing parents to choose the best school for their son or daughter.”

Executive Director Roger L. Beckett of Ashbrook Center, an independent center at Ashland University, says students are missing important lessons regarding the American government and Constitution.

“The recent NAEP scores in history and civics further demonstrate America’s crisis in history and civics education,” said Beckett. “The test scores remain abyssmal. America is an experiment in constitutional self-government. If we are not preparing future generations with an understanding of our past as well as an understanding of how American government works, we risk seeing this great experiment fail. Today’s tests show yet again how badly we need a revival of history and civics education in our schools.”

McCluskey of the Cato Institute says he is not convinced the disappointing NAEP scores will change anything.

“These scores are neither surprising, nor will they likely have much lasting impact on the public consciousness,” said McCluskey. “History, civics and geography just don’t seem to matter that much in the current, top-down education system.”

bureaucracy, children, corruption, culture, education, government, nanny state, oversight, public policy, reform, scandal, tragedy

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School district to stop interrogating Christian homeschool kids

January 15, 2015 by Todd Starnes

A Virginia school district has decided to scrap a policy that allowed it to interrogate Christian homeschool teenagers and their parents about their religious beliefs.

Last November Douglas Pruiett and his wife received a letter from Goochland County Public Schools about updated procedures to the district’s requests for religious exemptions for homeschool students.

Under the updated rules, once a child turns 14-years-old, the district requires that homeschool parents reapply for a religious exemption to public education.

It sounds to me like some sort of modern-day religious inquisition – hauling Christian kids in front of the school board to be interrogated about the authenticity of their relationship with Jesus Christ.

The Prueitts have seven children, three of whom were impacted by the revised policy.

“Each application must be completed along with a statement of your bona fide religious beliefs and a statement from your child age 14 or older stating his/her bona fide religious beliefs,” the policy reads.

In other words, the homeschool kids have to prove to the school board that they love Jesus. And then there was this rather ominous paragraph:

“The School Board reserves the right to schedule a meeting with the parent(s) and, in the case of a student age 14 or older, with the student. The parent of a student younger than age 14 may choose to have his or her child attend the meeting. The purpose of the meeting is for the School Board to determine whether the request for exemption is based upon a conscientious opposition to attendance at a public school or at a private, denominational, or parochial school due to bona fide religious training or beliefs. Such meeting will be conducted in a closed meeting of the School Board.”

It sounds to me like some sort of modern-day religious inquisition – hauling Christian kids in front of the school board to be interrogated about the authenticity of their relationship with Jesus Christ.

“The policy provided the school board the right to call the child before them (and I call it interrogation) to defend those beliefs so they could determine whether indeed the child and the parents still held bona fide religious beliefs to qualify for the exemption,” Prueitt said.

His immediate reaction was to reject the district’s mandate – even though his refusal could have had landed the family in court. He cited the Virginia religious exemption statute which gives families a right to an exemption from school attendance based on the religious training the parents are providing to the child – regardless of what the child believes. The local policy, he said, violates that right.

So like a good citizen, Pruiett contacted the school superintendent.

“When I spoke with the school superintendent about this issue he stated that part of the rationale in changing the policy was to allow the board to ascertain if a home schooled child really wants to be home schooled so that they, ‘can be given the opportunity to go to public school,’” he said.

The Home School Legal Defense Association also weighed in – warning the school district they were in violation of state law and there was no legal ground to force the Pruiett family to do what they had been ordered to do.

“We are still a nation of ‘We the People,’” he wrote. “If liberties are taken away, it is because we did not stand. In a wonderful country like ours, we should desire that all our institutions and policies be characterized by a respect for individual God-given freedoms.”

And that brings us to Jan. 13th when hundreds of parents piled into the Goochland School Board meeting to show their support for the Pruietts and other homeschool families in the community.

The school board heard the will of the people and voted to repeal the policy. They also decided to suspend any religious exemption letters that were sent to other families.

It took a village to change what was a very bad policy – but it’s proof positive that “We the People” can still engage the political process.

“The board acted honorably to repeal this thing,” Prueitt told me.

But it’s also a reminder that the government seems to believe they know what’s best for our children.

“We are Christians and we homeschool our children so that we can instill in them Christian values – from an educational standpoint so that they will acknowledge God in every discipline of life,” Pruiett told me. “You’re not going to find that in public schools.”

So let what happened in Goochland County, Virginia serve as a warning to school boards across the fruited plain. “We the People” will not tolerate busybody school marms meddling in the private religious affairs of American school children.

original article: School district to stop interrogating Christian homeschool kids

bureaucracy, children, christian, discrimination, education, family, first amendment, government, ideology, nanny state, oppression, oversight, political correctness, public policy, religion

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Chaplain punished for sharing his faith in suicide prevention class

December 9, 2014 by Todd Starnes

An Army chaplain was punished for discussing matters of faith and quoting from the Bible during a suicide prevention training session with the 5th Ranger Training Battalion — leading to outrage from religious liberty groups and a Georgia congressman.

Chaplain Joseph Lawhorn was issued a Letter of Concern that accused him of advocating for Christianity and “using Christian scripture and solutions” during a Nov. 20th training session held at the University of North Georgia.

“You provided a two-sided handout that listed Army resources on one side and a biblical approach to handling depression on the other side,” Col. David Fivecoat, the commander of the Airborne and Ranger Training Brigade at Ft. Benning, Georgia, wrote in the letter to the chaplain. “This made it impossible for those in attendance to receive the resource information without also receiving the biblical information.”

The Christian chaplain was warned to be “careful to avoid any perception you are advocating one system of beliefs over another.”

The Christian chaplain was warned to be “careful to avoid any perception you are advocating one system of beliefs over another.”

However, attorneys for the chaplain, along with religious advocacy groups, say his comments are covered by the “right of conscience clause” that was passed in last year’s National Defense Authorization Act, section 533.

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Chaplain Lawhorn was ordered to appear in the colonel’s office on Thanksgiving Day where he was personally handed the Letter of Concern.

Based on Col. Fivecoat’s version of events — you would’ve thought Chaplain Lawhorn had turned the suicide prevention workshop into a Billy Graham Crusade. However, that’s not what happened.

During the course of conducting the training session, Ron Crews, the endorsing agent for military chaplains for Grace Churches International, explained, the chaplain discussed his own struggles with depression and the methods and techniques he personally used to combat depression. He said the chaplain did provide a handout with religious resources — but he also provided a handout with non-religious resources.

“The chaplain did nothing wrong,” said Crews. “At no time did he say his was the only or even the preferred way of dealing with depression. And at no time did he deny the validity of any other method.”

Lawhorn is one of the few Army chaplains to wear the Ranger Tab and Crews said it was through that identification that he shared his story about depression.

“His story involves his faith journey,” Crews said. “He was simply being a great Army chaplain – in ministering to his troops and providing first hand how he has dealt with depression in the past. That’s what chaplains do. They bare their souls for their soldiers in order to help them with crises they may be going through.”

However, someone in the training session complained to the Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers. That complaint led to a story on the Huffington Post.

Michael Berry, an attorney with Liberty Institute, a law firm that handles religious liberty cases, is representing the chaplain. He said the person who filed the complained “exploited” the chaplain’s “vulnerability.”

“It took a great amount of courage for Chaplain Lawhorn to discuss his own personal battle with depression,” Berry said. “At no time did he consider himself to be in a ‘preacher’ role.”
Berry called on the Army to rescind the Letter of Concern — calling it a violation of the chaplain’s constitutional rights.

“Not only is it lawful for a chaplain to talk about matters of faith and spirituality and religion in a suicide prevention training class – but the Army policy encourages discussion of matters of faith and spiritual wellness,” Berry told me. “The fact that one person in the class was offended changes nothing.”

Congressman Doug Collins, a Republican lawmaker from Georgia, whose district includes the area where the training session took place, fired off a letter to Col. Fivecoat expressing his concerns in the matter.

“I find it counterintuitive to have someone lead a suicide prevention course but prohibit them from providing their personal testimony,” Collins wrote.

He cited the Army’s Equal Opportunity policy and how it was set up to protect the personal beliefs of military personnel.

“I fear Chaplain Lawhorn’s freedom of expression was improperly singled out,” he wrote.

Liberty Institute tells me the Army will allow me to speak with the chaplain — but not right now. And Col. Fivecoat sent me an email telling me that he would not be able to comment at this point.

If I’m reading between the lines — that Letter of Concern comes pretty close to accusing the chaplain of proselytizing. Crews agrees with my assessment.

“The bottom line is — that is exactly what they are trying to accuse him of — when nothing could be further from the truth,” Crews told me. “The military leadership needs to commend Chaplain Lawhorn, not condemn him.”

Berry said Americans should be shocked and outraged over Chaplain Lawhorn’s punishment.

“His job is to save lives — and he’s being punished for trying to do his job,” Berry said. “He’s doing everything he can to save them – and yet now they’re trying to say – the way you’re doing it offends me.”

I find it both repulsive and heartbreaking to know that we have a military that frowns upon a chaplain using a Bible to save a soldier’s life.

original article: Chaplain punished for sharing his faith in suicide prevention class

abuse, anti-religion, atheism, bias, bigotry, censorship, civil rights, government, hypocrisy, ideology, intolerance, military, nanny state, oppression, oversight, political correctness, public policy, relativism, troops

Filed under: abuse, anti-religion, atheism, bias, bigotry, censorship, civil rights, government, hypocrisy, ideology, intolerance, military, nanny state, oppression, oversight, political correctness, public policy, relativism, troops

How School Choice Saves Money

September 30, 2014 by JASON BEDRICK

School choice programs expand educational opportunity, but at what cost?

Opponents of school choice frequently claim that vouchers and scholarship tax creditssiphon” money from public schools and increase the overall cost of education to the taxpayers. However, these critics generally fail to consider the reduction in expenses associated with students switching out of the district school system, wrongly assuming that all or most school costs are fixed. When students leave, they claim, a school cannot significantly reduce its costs because it cannot cut back on its major expenses, like buildings, utilities, and labor. But if that were true, then schools would require little to no additional funds to teach additional students. A proper fiscal analysis considers both the diverted or decreased revenue as well as the reduction in expenses related to variable costs.

A new study by Jeff Spalding, Director of Fiscal Policy at the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice, does exactly that. The study examines the fiscal impact of 10 of the 21 school voucher programs nationwide, finding a cumulative savings to states of at least $1.7 billion over two decades. Spalding, the former comptroller/CFO for the city of Indianapolis, is cautious, methodical, and transparent in his analysis. He walks readers through the complex process of determining the fiscal impact of each program, identifying the impact of each variable and explaining equation along the way. He also makes relatively conservative assumptions, such as counting food service and interscholastic athletics as fixed costs even though they are variable with enrollment. Critically, Spalding accounts for those students who would have attended private school anyway, explaining:

One common complicating factor is student eligibility. If a voucher program allows students already enrolled in a private school to qualify, then those students do not directly relieve the public school system of any costs. Thus, there is a new public cost incurred for the vouchers provided to those students, but no corresponding savings for the public school system. Anytime voucher eligibility extends to students not currently enrolled in a public school, the net savings calculation must include that complicating factor.

States save money when the variable cost of each student to the district schools is greater than the cost of the voucher, accounting for the students who would have attended private school anyway. After wading through each state’s byzantine school funding formula, Spalding calculated that the voucher programs reduced expenditures across all 10 programs by $4.5 billion over two decades while costing states $2.8 billion, producing $1.7 billion in savings.

In the last 40 years, government spending on K-12 education has nearly tripled while results have been flat. Moreover, the Census Bureau projects that the elderly will make up an increasingly larger share of the population in the coming decades, straining state budgetswith spending on health care and retirement benefits. Schools will have to compete with hospitals and nursing homes for scarce resources.

In other words, our education system needs to become more effective and financially efficient, fast. Large-scale school choice programs promise to do both.

original article: How School Choice Saves Money

budget, bureaucracy, economics, education, freedom, funding, government, nanny state, oversight, spending

Filed under: budget, bureaucracy, economics, education, freedom, funding, government, nanny state, oversight, spending

INSURERS BREAKING OBAMACARE ABORTION RULE

September 15, 2014 by RICARDO ALONSO-ZALDIVAR

WASHINGTON (AP) — A nonpartisan congressional agency is raising new questions about compliance with a key compromise on abortion that allowed the federal health care law to pass in 2010.

The Government Accountability Office said in a report released late Monday that only 1 of 18 insurers it reviewed was separately itemizing a charge for coverage of elective abortions on enrollees’ bills.

That detail is important because the original compromise that President Barack Obama sealed with anti-abortion Democrats stipulated that no federal funds would be used to pay for elective abortions. Instead, private health plans covering the procedure would collect a separate premium, which would be segregated from federal subsidies for other medical services.

Although abortion is a legal medical procedure, longstanding federal laws prohibit taxpayer funds from being used to pay for it, except in cases of rape, incest or to save the life of the mother.

The new GAO review did not address the fundamental question of whether federal subsidies under the health law are being used for elective abortions, but abortion opponents said the findings underscore their view that the compromise is an accounting gimmick.

In a written response, the Health and Human Services Department said it “acknowledges that additional clarification may be needed” when it comes to the health law’s provisions on abortions.

The report also found that some insurers were unaware of a requirement in the law that they notify policyholders if they cover elective abortions. Abortion opponents have complained that it’s very difficult for average consumers to determine whether or not their plan covers the procedure. Abortion supporters say they would also like clearer information.

Most health plans offered through employers routinely cover abortions. The health care law created new state insurance markets where people who don’t have access to job-based coverage can buy a government-subsidized policy. The flow of taxpayer dollars to insurers in the new exchanges created another battleground for opponents and supporters of abortion.

The compromise on abortion allowed Obama to secure votes from a small group of Democratic lawmakers who traditionally voted in favor of restrictions on abortion funding. Their support was critical in the face of overwhelming Republican opposition to the legislation.

The GAO report focused on 27 states, plus Washington, D.C., that do not have laws restricting access to elective abortions in the new health insurance markets. Another 23 states restrict or bar coverage.

The GAO found that 1,036 plans in these 27 states covered elective abortions, while 1,062 did not.

The 18 insurers that the agency reviewed accounted for nearly one-fourth of the plans that covered abortion. Each insurer offered multiple plans. None of the companies or plans were identified in the report.

All but one of the insurers said the cost of providing abortion coverage averaged out to less than $1 a month across their entire group of policyholders. In some cases it was as low as 10 cents a month.

The one insurer that itemized the abortion coverage charge on its monthly bill said it describes it as being “for coverage of services for which member subsidies may not be used.”

The report was released by Republicans on the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

original article: NEW QUESTIONS OVER ABORTION COVERAGE IN HEALTH LAW

abortion, babies, bureaucracy, corruption, criminal, ethics, funding, government, health care, nanny state, oversight, public policy, regulation, scandal, spending, study

Filed under: abortion, babies, bureaucracy, corruption, criminal, ethics, funding, government, health care, nanny state, oversight, public policy, regulation, scandal, spending, study

How to rig news coverage and a lawsuit at the same time

September 4, 2014 by Mike Ciandella

In 2011, Steven Donziger, an activist lawyer won a multi-billion dollar lawsuit against Chevron environmental damage in Ecuador. But a U.S. district court ruled it a “fraud” in 2014, once it was apparent that Donziger’s own case was polluted and the award “obtained by corrupt means.”

Now, new evidence released as part of Chevron’s counter-suit reveals that not only did Donziger unethically win his court case in Ecuador, but the Vanity Fair reporter who ran a hit job on Chevron had worked closely with Donziger to make sure that the “facts” favored his position.

A recent Miami Herald op-ed by journalist Glenn Garvin declared that the actions of the Vanity Fair reporter responsible for writing a long story about the case four years into the anti-Chevron lawsuit showed the “seamy side of journalism.”

The Vanity Fair story wasn’t written by some intern or new hire either. This piece was written by William Langewiesche, an award-winning journalist. A stockpile of emails that Donziger and company were forced to turn over in Chevron’s counter-suit revealed a serious lapse of journalism ethics as Langewiesche and Donziger had emailed back and forth throughout the entire process, with Donziger even approving interview questions before Langewiesche met with other sources like Chevron.

Donziger was also given the freedom to proof the finished story before publication to make sure that it came across as a “paradigm-shifting, breakthrough article” that he acknowledged was “going to change the entire case from here until it ends in a way that is favorable to us.”

“And just in case you’re wondering, Chevron did not get to see the story before it went into print, nor submit lists of questions it wanted Langewiesche to ask Donziger. Nor did Chevron get the face-to-face interviews they asked for. Except for a single phone conversation just before the story appeared, Langewiesche insisted all their communication be via email,” Garvin wrote.

Garvin also noted that published article in Vanity Fair included a $6 billion cost estimate for clean up of environmental damage allegedly caused by Chevron. But the expert who came up with this estimate had apparently “repudiated it a full year before the Vanity Fair story appeared, warning Donziger in a letter that the estimate was based on faulty assumptions and was ‘a ticking time bomb which will come back to bite you, and very badly, if anyone attempts due diligence on it.’”

Unfortunately, for the company under attack and the public who deserve to watch and read accurate reporting, Vanity Fair wasn’t the only media outlet to promote Donziger’s case. Scott Pelley reported from Ecuador in a 2009 episode of CBS’ “60 Minutes” that was  heavily weighted against Chevron. That 2009 story made attorney Steven Donziger look like a hero helping Ecuadorean tribal people go up against the big, bad oil company.

ABC, CBS and NBC all ignored Chevron’s court victory on March 4, 2014. CBS’s omission on “Evening News with Scott Pelley” was the most egregious, since that network was responsible for a lengthy anti-Chevron hit job on the legal battle.

But more and more media outlets are recognizing the “obvious hanky-panky” Donziger used to win his Ecuadorean lawsuit. The Miami Herald wasn’t alone in pointing to huge flaws in the case, which included video footage of an Ecuadorean judge saying how he would rule in the case before all the evidence was in. Bloomberg Businessweek reported the huge legal victory for Chevron in March, and even The New York Times wrote about a “bizarre twist” in the oil company’s favor in 2013.

In the book “Crude Awakening,” released on Aug. 20, 2014, Michael D. Goldhaber examined some of Donziger’s underhanded tactics. Goldhaber’s book included testimony of locals from the allegedly affected region in Ecuador, experts in the field and relatives of people who appeared in the documentary.

He even quoted Judith Kimberling, an environmental activist who wrote an expose in 1991 about Texaco polluting the rain forest — obviously no friend of Chevron — who worried that blatant inaccuracies in Donziger’s case might hurt other environmental fights against Chevron. “You can win with the truth,” Kimberling said. “You risk discrediting the communities you claim to defend when you try to win based on a lie.

These arguments will also be discussed in “Law of the Jungle: The $19 Billion Legal Battle Over Oil in the Rain Forest and the Lawyer Who’d Stop at Nothing to Win” by Paul M. Barrett, which is set to be released on Sept. 23, 2014.


Donziger’s lawsuit against Chevron stemmed from the oil company’s purchase of Texaco, because Texaco had been a minority partner with PetroEcuador producing oil in the Lago Agrio fields in Ecuador. In 1998, the government of Ecuador released Texpet (Texaco) from future clean up obligations after it cleaned up more than 100 sites. In 2011, Chevron lost a $19 billion dollar lawsuit in Ecuador filed by Donziger. But in 2014, Chevron won a civil racketeering lawsuit against Donziger that accused him of conspiracy.

original article: Vanity Fair Used Polluted Journalism Against Chevron in Ecuador Story

bias, corruption, environment, ethics, false, fraud, hypocrisy, ideology, indoctrination, left wing, liberalism, lies, litigation, news media, oversight, pandering, propaganda, scandal

Filed under: bias, corruption, environment, ethics, false, fraud, hypocrisy, ideology, indoctrination, left wing, liberalism, lies, litigation, news media, oversight, pandering, propaganda, scandal

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