JBS CEO Art Thompson's weekly video news update for December 26, 2011-January 1, 2012.
Nearly half of America’s public schools failed to meet federal standards under the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) law in school year 2010-2011. The Center on Education Policy (CEP) issued a report showing that more than 43,000 schools, or 48 percent, did not make Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) this year, tallying an 11-percent increase over the 39 percent of schools that did not make AYP in 2010 and the sharpest drop in educational achievement since the law took effect a decade ago.
In 35 states, the percentage of schools failing to meet AYP standards reached a six-year high, according to an analysis of trends running from 2006 through 2011. In 24 states and the District of Columbia, at least half of the public schools did not make AYP, and in five states (Missouri, Florida, Massachusetts, New Mexico, and South Carolina) plus D.C., at least 75 percent of schools did not meet the federal requirements.
"The fact that half of American schools are considered ‘failing’ under NCLB shows how crudely the law measures the quality of a school," said CEP President Jack Jennings. "NCLB needs to be changed, and since Congress is hamstrung, the Obama administration is right to move ahead with waivers of NCLB provisions."
The White House unveiled its new domestic terror-war strategy, announcing that the federal government would be involving local schools and community-based officials in its efforts to identify and neutralize extremists. Critics in Congress blasted the Obama administration for omitting any mention of radical Islam, but there has been very little criticism so far of involving school children in the so-called “war.”
The new plan was outlined in a 23-page document posted on the White House website entitled "Strategic Implementation Plan for Empowering Local Partners to Prevent Violent Extremism in the United States." Among the cabinet departments involved in deliberations and approval of the strategy were the Departments of Education, Health and Human Services, Labor, Commerce, and more.
The Government Equalities Office of the Home Office of the United Kingdom announced Thursday a "plan for action" to advance transgender equality. Transgender is defined as those who have had sex-change operations and those with both male and female sex organs. According to the plan, there has been a 14-percent increase in "hate crimes" committed against transgender individuals. The law of the United Kingdom, the plan proposes, must be altered in order to protect this segment of the realm.
In the ongoing effort by concerned parents and disillusioned educators to find ways of improving education for today’s youngsters, there’s a new kid on the block. And, from all appearances, one that is already making a mark on the learning landscape.
FreedomProjectEducation (FPE), based in Appleton, Wisconsin, opened its online doors to high-school students for the first time in September. Your reporter (despite being considered an adult in some circles) decided to take advantage of the program’s offerings and further her knowledge base. So I enrolled in an FPE class.
American Opinion Foundation established FPE to provide an education in the classical tradition of America’s Founders, according to the institution’s website. The heritage of classical education is one almost non-existent in America today, but one I believe to be superior. It is certainly what appealed to me in the first place. Course offerings include Latin, Logic, English Grammar and Composition, Spelling and Vocabulary, and one of my favorites, the Bible as Culture. The courses in English and Literature require students to have a thorough comprehension of works ranging from Shakespeare to C.S. Lewis, and are designed to strengthen writing skills as well. And listen to this description of the 11th grade Chemistry course: “Taught from the perspective that modern chemistry is the direct result of natural laws instituted by the Creator God, the course covers significant figures in chemistry, units, classification, the mole concept, stoichiometry, thermochemistry, acids and bases, solutions, atomic structure and more.” Not only is it demanding and interesting, but is designed in keeping with FPE’s mission to honor and promote America’s Judeo-Christian foundation.
Economist and conservative commentator Don Boudreaux attended the opening of the Institute for Justice (IJ) on September 10, 1991, and thought to himself at that time that “it sounded like a good idea.” Looking back at what IJ has accomplished since then, Boudreaux says, “IJ’s success over the past two decades is nothing short of phenomenal.”
At the ceremony marking the beginning of IJ, co-founder Clint Bolick spelled out exactly what they intended to do, and recognized the enormous changes in the way of their doing it. IJ is going to be focused, he said, on “removing barriers to opportunity and helping low-income people earn their share of the American Dream.” For instance:
Little Devon Williams, who was able to escape the cesspool of the Milwaukee Public Schools and instead get a good education in an excellent neighborhood private school, thanks to the nation's first real parental choice program. I tell you, the inspiration, the look of joy and optimism on their faces, speak volumes to the fact that we are right, and that we must persevere in these efforts that are only barely begun….
Each of us possesses fundamental rights that no government may take away. If any of us loses our rights, we all lose our rights. And if [anyone] does not have liberty, then none of us has liberty. We have so much work to do.
Does God Exist? I recently came across a very interesting debate on YouTube on the subject of “Does God Exist?” The debaters were Christopher Hitchins, the Anglo-American author of God Is Not Great, who took the side of atheism, and Prof. William Lane Craig of Biola University who argued in favor of creationism. You can actually watch the whole debate, which turned out to be a fascinating exchange between two highly intelligent men on a subject that will be debated forever.
Of course, I favor the creationist point of view. A cursory examination of just one’s own human body must convince one that there is a creator. The whole process of birth, starting from conception to the emergence of a complete human being in only nine months, is to me a miracle, which is performed millions of times a day all over the world. Just consider the different body fluids we all have: blood, sweat, tears, saliva, digestive juices, insulin, urine — all produced in just the right amounts at the proper times, each with its own distinctive purpose. How could any of this be the result of accident?
But all of these obvious manifestations of creationism that surround us have not stopped educators and judges from objecting to the teaching of Intelligent Design in the public schools. Why? Because it infers the existence of God. If creationism is the means whereby reality came into being, then God does exist. Yet, you would think that the most famous 19th-century advocate of evolution would be on the side of today’s atheist educators. But such is not the case.
I entered graduate school to study English literature in the late 1980s, eventually receiving a Ph.D. in Ren-aissance literature, and have been a professional academic ever since. I have reached that point in life where I am sufficiently wizened — and sufficiently jaded — to be allowed the luxury of griping about how much tougher it was growing up for my generation. As a life-long teacher, I might also be granted indulgence if I grumble about how little my college students actually know compared to what I learned. And although there is as much justice as exaggeration in these observations, the thing that never ceases to amaze me is how morally stunted and ethically underdeveloped our students are, how utterly unable to make even obvious moral distinctions, and how completely uninterested in differentiating between virtue and vice.
The very concepts make them profoundly uneasy: Who says virtue is better than vice? Who am I to judge the rightness or wrongness of what someone else chooses? For these students, “tolerance” — that catch-all virtue into which all other virtues have been absorbed — means accepting without question all choices and modes of behavior. They are smart enough to realize that legitimizing the bad choices of others means that they are entitled to the same legitimization for their own bad choices as well, a system of mutually beneficial amorality in which the self-interested embrace of tolerance is enough not only to absolve their own sins, but also to confer upon them a kind of active virtue that grants immunity from the moral and spiritual consequences of their choices.
Homeschooling and the computer: a match made in heaven? In many ways, yes. Homeschoolers can access lessons from online sites to successfully complete their education goals, but with a couple of caveats.
First, the online lessons must be separate from public schools. Take the recent debate over a Herndon, Virginia-based provider of full-time public virtual schools called K12 Inc., with its various nationwide components, such as Virginia Virtual Academy, Florida Virtual School, and Massachusetts Virtual Academy. These are always incorporated into one of the states’ official public school districts. Thus, the twist on K12 Inc.: the word public, meaning tax-supported, and therefore subject to government oversight, with all the various “strings” and biases that go along with the federal government’s schools.
We have known for quite some time that there is a socialist political agenda behind the movement to do away with systematic phonics and replace it with Whole Language and other similar sight-reading programs. A sight method, like Whole Language, teaches children to read English as if it were Chinese, that is, composed of word-pictures like Chinese characters, rather than letters that stand for sounds. Children are taught a “sight vocabulary,” a list of words they are supposed to memorize by their shape or association with a picture. They do not learn the letter sounds or how to decipher words by analyzing their phonetic structure and breaking multisyllabic words into their syllables, which is the proper way to teach a child to read.