It’s time for the annual trek to America!

It's time for the annual trek to America!
JISHOU, HUNAN — If all goes to plan, I’ll be in the USA for another summer vacation on Monday. Now is as good a time as any to catch everyone up on what’s been happening here. The spring term basically finished for me last Friday. I gave my final exams the week before, and handed in the grades on the 6th. Since that time, I’ve basically just been cooling my heels here waiting to get my passport with a new residence permit back from the Public Security Bureau (PSB). Until then, I can’t leave town. Two years ago, the PSB almost did not renew my residence permit because they thought I had been teaching at another school, which is against regulations. My foreign affairs officer was able to persuade them to grant me my residency, though. Last year’s renewal went off without a hitch, but this year not so much. See that photo above? I visited a combined primary-secondary school in Huayuan County in May, where a graduate student friend of mine teaches English. He thought I could visit the school’s English classes to encourage the kids to learn English better. I visited three classes in the morning. It was ...

Brittany McComb’s legal battle ends at Supreme Court 5

JISHOU, HUNAN — Ah, but the wheels of justice turn slowly … ‘Way back in June 2006, high school valedictorian Brittany McComb, after agreeing to school officials’ changes to her Christianity-laced graduation speech, proceeded to use her original text anyway. School officials’ “rapid response team” quickly cut off McComb’s microphone, to avoid anyone getting the idea a public school was preaching Christianity. Mayhem ensued. Well, mostly legal challenges. McComb, who is now a student in Biola University in California, acquired the legal backing of the Rutherford Institute, which filed a complaint in federal district court alleging Clark County, Nev., school officials had trampled her rights of free speech and equal protection under the law. The court found in favor of the school officials. McComb took her case to the federal appeals court, which found no reason to overturn the previous ruling. Then she took it to the Supreme Court, where it died a quiet death. (Technically, the SCOTUS denied a petition for a writ of certiorari, meaning the Justices were not going to tell the lower courts to hear the case all over again.) So, what’s it all mean? McComb’s attorneys claimed that Foothill High School, by attempting to cut ...

From the peanut gallery: abolish compulsory education 22

JISHOU, HUNAN — Recently, I wrote a reaction to the Christian rightwing hijacking of the Texas Board of Education, and the anti-public education views of one of its members. A visitor named Joey swung by this week, and left this comment: That a functioning democracy requires, first, a well-educated, literate public and, second, a public that shares the same knowledge about the history and political philosophy of the nation is the basic thinking of any statist, when public schools are to serve as the chief means to achieve this homogeneity of thinking. It’s no wonder there are parents and organization already determined to abolish public schools by opting out from compulsory education. It’s an effective way to fight tyranny, particularly the tyranny of the majority. You will note that Joey has nothing directly to say about the Texas BOE, but definitely agrees that public education is a Bad Thing. I don’t, though I am a critic of public education. My reply was this: Excuse me? You need to read up on some history. One of those “statists” who favored public education was Thomas Jefferson. George Washington also recognized the need for a well educated public. Read his farewell address. So, ...

Apparently, most Americans are not stupid 5

JISHOU, HUNAN — Maybe I can stop foaming at the mouth now. Two polls by Survey USA of Verona, New Jersey, shows people overwhelmingly favor President Barack Obama speaking directly to schoolchildren. In fact, the people surveyed said it was entirely appropriate for any president to speak to schoolchildren. Most said they would want their children to hear the speech. And most said school districts should make the decision whether students should watch or listen. Two identical polls were taken of 500 adults each in Fresno, California, and statewide in Missouri. Here are the results of the Fresno poll. The results of the Missouri poll are almost identical; you can check them for yourself. Question 1: President Obama plans to deliver a national address to school children on the importance of them taking responsibility for their own success in school. Do you think it is appropriate? Or not appropriate? For President Obama to deliver this address? Question 2: Do you think it would be appropriate? Or not appropriate? For ANY President to deliver this address? Question 3: If you had a child attending a school that was going to show the address, would you tell your child to pay attention? ...

Another head slapper

JISHOU, HUNAN — I shamelessly ripped this from the “pages” of Daily Kos. It’s a letter, similar to many, from a superintendent of schools to parents. I am reprinting the letter here. You can visit The Daily Kos to read another writer’s reactions. Dear Parent(s)/Guardians: As many of you may know, President Obama is scheduled to deliver a speech to students and teachers on Tuesday, September 8, 2009 at 12:00 PM EDT. According to the White House, President Obama wants to address our nation's students to challenge them to work hard, set goals and do everything they can to succeed. While the goals of the speech appear to be appropriate, a great deal of controversy has arisen regarding the event. The Hempfield Area School District has received numerous calls from parents who do not want their child(ren) to view the speech in school. To that end, the district was hoping to obtain more definitive information regarding the content of the entire speech, however no such information is currently available. (this was bold) THEREFORE THE DISTRICT WILL NOT PARTICIPATE IN THE VIEWING OF PRESIDENT OBAMA'S SPEECH ON TUESDAY. At the elementary level, the district is leaving the decision to view this ...

Judge battles defiant school officials in Florida

BEIJING — This story caught my eye, since mixing religion and public education is one of my pet peeves. Officials at Pace High School in Florida are openly defying court injunctions against public prayers at school functions. So the judge is charging them with criminal contempt of court. More Christian martyrs battling the lions (those nasty secular judges). Ed Brayton has all the details here. I’m too tired right now to weigh in on it myself. UPDATE Aug. 21: A school clerk, Michelle Winkler, was cleared of civil contempt charges today. U.S. District Judge Casey Rodgers found that Winkler, who asked her husband to pray at a school awards banquet, was not named in the original injunction. Winkler told reporters she believed school officials were in a “battle” against the American Civil Liberties Union and their school district.

Proselytizing teachers need to stuff it

JISHOU, HUNAN — Public school teachers — in fact most teachers — should just shut up about their religious preferences. Proselytizing is an abuse of their “bully pulpit.” The Panda’s Thumb has two articles this week demonstrating the misuse of teacherly authority. One is an update on the ever-continuing John Freshwater saga; the other a report on one teacher’s attempt to haul students to the Creation Museum in Kentucky. Freshwater is a seventh-grade science teacher in Mt. Vernon, Ohio, who has paraded his particular brand of Christianity — and anti-evolution propaganda — in front of his students for several years. His superiors looked the other way until Freshwater used a Tesla coil to burn a cross shape on the arm of a student. The student and his parents cried foul, and the parties involved are now in a legal thicket. Freshwater has been the subject of hours of administrative hearings regarding his continued employment. The boy and his family have filed a civil liberties suit against Freshwater and the school system. Freshwater himself has filed his own civil liberties suit against his employers, and another civil suit against the family, alleging they have slandered him. During the administrative hearings, witnesses ...

The primary-secondary textbook mill exposed

A few posts back, I wrote about the efforts by anti-evolution members of the Texas State Board of Education to emasculate the state’s science standards. It was big news, because Texas periodically buys its textbooks en masse, giving it a disproportionate influence on the content of the nation’s school textbooks. To put it another way, if the Texas SBOE had mandated that Texas children learn about Intelligent Design in Biology or the steady-state-universe theory in Earth Science, the SBOE would then prefer to buy textbooks that cover such topics. So, textbook publishers would scramble to add this content to their existing texts to remain competitive. If the changes were limited to Texas, it would be bad for Texas schoolchildren. But textbook publishers cannot offer 50 or more different textbooks versions, one for each state and territory of the USA. It would be neither feasible nor economic. So they target their textbooks’ content to the three biggest buyers, Texas, California and Florida. Tamim Ansary, who used to work in the textbook field, wrote an expose of sorts about the textbook mill for Edutopia in 2004. It’s been reprinted on the Edutopia website, and well worth the read, especially if you have ...

Deep in the heart of Texas …

JISHOU, HUNAN — Texas is a big state, with about 6 million schoolchildren. When the Texas State Board of Education speaks, textbook publishers listen. After all, if the publishers can sell their texts to Texas, it’s a big deal. It means money. So, when the Texas BOE met in March to discuss controversial changes to the state’s proposed science standards, science educators all over the USA were worried. Would the BOE, chaired by an unapologetic creationist, introduce language into the standards to allow the teaching of creationism and and its clone, Intelligent Design, in the Texas schools? To do so would be seriously damage science education in the Texas public schools. It would also likely influence textbook publishers’ treatment of evolution in biology texts, thereby affecting schools all over the USA. The Texas BOE is nearly evenly composed of creationists and more sensible members, so the results were by no means predictable. In the end, the original changes, as proposed by the openly anti-evolution chairman and board members, were rejected. Instead, the BOE passed more coyly worded standards that still could be used to introduce pseudo-science and religion into Texas classrooms, but did not exactly trample science teaching. Whether the ...
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