Chant of “USA” Causes a Stir at a California High School

You hear it so many places – sporting events, pep rallies, you name it. A group of people will begin to chant, “USA! USA!” and more join in. It’s an exhilarating show of patriotic pride that’s inspiring to hear.

But not at Vista Del Lago High School in Folsom, California (the same town where one elementary school banned tag earlier this year). School officials there are warning that saying the initials of your home country loudly and repeatedly may appear intolerant and may not be appropriate.

Students don’t understand the fuss over the chant:

“I wasn’t angry, but I was definitely like, ‘Why can’t we chant USA?’” said senior Ryan Bernal, “To say USA, you know, we’re all the same. We’re all American. It doesn’t matter what your skin tone is or where you’re from.”

Parent’s aren’t crazy about the warning either:

Mother Natalie Woodbury said, “I want to chant USA because I want us to pull together and help, not because I want anybody to feel left out or not a part of our country. ”

The interesting thing is that the school admits that there have been no complaints against anyone for shouting USA and maintains that there is no ban against the chant. But that hasn’t stopped the handwringing at the administrative level.

The school’s principal sent out an email to families Wednesday and relayed the same message to students over the school’s P.A. system, clarifying any confusion. She told students and parents that sometimes “We can communicate an unintended message.” She also said USA chanting is welcome, but it may be best to do it at what she says are appropriate times, like following the national anthem or the Pledge of Allegiance.

Of course, what’s missing from the discussion is the obvious: patriotic kids chanting because they love their country doesn’t necessarily or automatically leave citizens of any other country out or direct hatred toward another nation. Chanting “USA” is about love for America, not disdain for, say, Scotland or Djibouti or Paraguay or Sri Lanka. It’s certainly no cause for concern or for issuing needless warnings.

The theme of this weekend’s game at Vista Del Lago is “American Pride,” so there’s no doubt you’ll hear plenty of chanting and expressions of patriotism and unity. I’m sure school administrators won’t be able to enjoy the game for their constant sense of worry. And that’s a shame.

Kindergarten Class Celebrates Child’s Gender ‘Transition’ Without Parent Permission

It seems like every day the whole transgender debate takes yet another weird turn. Every day we hear a new wrinkle in the issue – from the entertainment industry continuing to blur the line between male and female to parents letting their five year olds determine gender identity.

And now a story from California that will blow your mind. At Rockin Academy, a charter school in Northern California, a kindergarten class spent the second-to-last day of school celebrating the “transition” of a child from boy to girl. Life Site News describes the scene:

During the lesson on the second-to-last day before summer break, the teacher read two books, “I am Jazz” and “The Red Crayon,” that purport to explain “transgenderism” to children aged four to eight, Fox40News reported.

“I am Jazz” is particularly explicit, beginning “From the time she was two years old, Jazz knew that she had a girl’s brain in a boy’s body.”

But the “huge bombshell” was that the teacher didn’t just read the books but “essentially put on this more-or-less transition ceremony” for the child, says Keller.

After the teacher introduced the five-year-old student to the class as a boy, he then went into the bathroom and emerged dressed as a girl.

The teacher then reintroduced “her” to the children, explaining “she” was now a “girl” who now had a girl’s name and was to be called that from now on.

Needless to say, some of the kids came home confused and upset. Attorney Jonathan Keller of the California Family Council told Life Site News that parents found themselves answering questions that they didn’t expect to have to address.

“There were several of the little girls that went to their parents and were crying and saying, ‘mommy or daddy, am I going to turn into a boy?’”

And a boy who hadn’t given “gender” a single thought before is now asking his mother if he can dress as a girl for school, added Keller.

Let’s think about the obvious. I’ve known plenty of kids over the years who acted like they were something else. Schools aren’t demanding that the little girl who dresses as a princess be treated as royalty or that the boy who makes truck noises be called F-150. Heck, I wanted to be Luke Skywalker growing up, but my parents didn’t insist that I carry a lightsaber to school or be able to attempt Jedi mind tricks on friends.

American College of Pediatricians President Michelle Cretella even told FOX40, “Having an authority figure teach the myth that a child can be trapped in the wrong body will potentially lead to fear that they aren’t the sex their bodies clearly indicate.”

But there’s more. The school systems insists that parents don’t have to approve whether their kids have to listen to transgender propaganda. The principal of the school sent a letter out to parents days after the event that failed to mention transgenderism or the celebration of the kid’s “transition.” Furthermore, the teacher hadn’t gotten permission to read the books, leading the school system to enact a regulation that teachers approve books that fall outside the curriculum with the district office.

Outraged parents are taking action, through legal channels and other avenues.

A number of families have decided to pull their children from the school, Keller says. Parents are also circulating a petition asking for parental notification before controversial material is brought up in class.

CFC is considering pushing for state legislation to protect parental rights.

“It’s such an egregious case, we’re trying to figure out what can be done, from the legal perspective, the legislative perspective, or at the very least at the local level,” Keller said.

Just when we think that the LGBT lobby can’t get any more brazen, we see things like what went on at Rocklin Academy. Parents, this is why it’s more and more crucial that give our kids a foundation in the truth early on.

Oxford University Changes Core History Exam To Give Higher Grades To Women

Oxford University – long held as one of the premier educational institutions in the world – is changing one of its core history exams in order to ensure that more women get the highest possible grade on the test.

One of Oxford’s five final-year history exams will be replaced by a paper that can be done at home to try to improve results for female students.

The move, which begins in the next academic year, comes as statistics showed 32% of women achieved a first in history at Oxford, compared with 37% of men.

Under the new exam structure, students most likely will be given similar questions to the existing exam, but rather than completing the test within a specifically designated time frame, students will have several days at home to finish.

University officials say that the “gender gap” was a major factor in considering the new exam, along with the fact that the new format would “reward research skills rather than memorisation, or performance under pressure.”

The decision isn’t without its controversy, however. Even the university admits that the risk of plagiarism grows with a take-home test. There’s no guarantee that students won’t collaborate, cheat, or seek outside help with the exam.

The exam isn’t exactly a hit with professors either.

Not everyone in the faculty welcomed the move away from traditional exams. While the introduction of a “take-home” paper was supported by staff and students, some of those who attended meetings about the reform warned that it increased the risk of plagiarism and could reduce academic rigour. “We don’t want girls within the faculty to be blamed for ‘softening’ the course,” one said.

So in this era when the college experience seems more and more like a joke, even highly acclaimed institutions like Oxford are changing important exams simply for the sake of giving higher grades to one group. Even if the new exams are a good idea and truly become a better barometer of academic performance, the reason behind it is totally ridiculous.

It’s enough to make you worry about the future – as if we didn’t have enough to create concern to begin with.

Sympathy for Terror in the Classroom

The Blaze has a disturbing report based on an investigation they’ve been conducting into an educational program called “Dying to be a Martyr” that appears to be designed to engender sympathy for Palestianian terrorism.  The lesson plan, which has been featured for over ten years on the website of the taxpayer-funded Public Broadcasting System, features videos of would-be terrorists explaining why they wage jihad against Israel and shows teachers how they can frame questions in such a way so that students can identify with those who carry out terror attacks:

Among the other biased aspects of the lesson plan are instructions for teachers to “Check for understanding by asking students to respond to the focus question. (Mohanned, feels he would rather die and by a martyr than live his life, sees his life as hollow—in contrast he sees Israelis as happy, going out, having fun, traveling.) Ask your students why Mohanned may feel that way (Answers may include: Palestinians have less land, fewer privileges, cannot come and go as they please.)”

A new investigation into the lesson plan and its origins show the plan was developed in New York state and was, until just a couple of weeks ago, promoted by the New York State Education Department. Following a request for comment from state officials, NYSED abruptly altered its website without a comment, essentially covering up the fact the website ever contained the “Dying to be a Martyr” material.

So basically the New York public school system, which thought it was jim-dandy to feature the lesson plan so long as it remained in the shadows, abruptly consigned it to the memory hole as soon as they got caught.  Just move along, folks, nothing to see here.

An investigation by The Blaze reveals the teacher who authored “Dying to be a Martyr” is still teaching at Ballston Spa High School, a public school in Ballston Spa, New York, located in Saratoga County. At Ballston Spa, the teacher leads courses covering world history for 9th and 10th graders. A review of classroom notes posted to the teacher’s website shows she covers the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in great deal in her course. Among the many questions students are asked to answer are “What is Hammas’ view ?” and “How were Palestinian refugees treated?”

What’s missing is that Hamas has already made that view perfectly clear in its charter:

The Islamic Resistance Movement aspires to the realization of Allah’s promise, no matter how long that should take. The Prophet, Allah bless him and grant him salvation, has said: ‘The day of judgment will not come until Muslims fight the Jews (killing the Jews), when the Jews will hide behind stones and trees. The stones and trees will say ‘O Muslims, O Abdulla, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him.’

Which brings us back to the fundamental problem that has prevented a long-term solution to the conflict between the Palestinians and the Israelis:  the Palestinians want the Israelis dead, period.  Compromise with people like that isn’t really an option.  As for the kind of sympathy that “Dying to be a Maryr” would seek to inspire, that would be an interesting trick–considering that genocide is the terrorists’ ultimate goal.

Now contrast that with another story that’s developing in my neck of the woods down in Florida:

The Pinellas County School District is looking into why a controversial, anti-Muslim propaganda film was played in a high school classroom.

A parent of a student at Tarpon Springs High school said his daughter told him she watched the movie, “Obsession: Radical Islam’s War Against the West,” in her sophomore history class on Wednesday.

The Council on American Islamic Relations says this film has no place in schools.

“This film is pure propaganda that is really used to demonize the Muslim religion by a group, the Clarion Project that was designated by the Southern Poverty Law Center as a hate group,” said Thania Diaz Clevenger, the Civil Rights Dir. with CAIR.

So on the one hand, we have a public school system hawking a lesson plan that presents an uncritical view of radical Islamic terrorism–and nobody has boo to say about it.  On the other hand, we have another public school presenting a documentary on the dangers of radical Islamic terrorism–and all hell breaks loose.  All because one parent complained, and then the Council on American Islamic Relations got involved.

So what exactly is the film Obsession all about?  WFLA, the TV station that covered this story, seems to take at face value CAIR’s assertion that it’s nothing more than bigoted, anti-Islamic propaganda.  The film itself, however, draws from interviews with mainstream sources who are very well-informed about the threat posed by global jihad–people such as Steve Emerson from the Investigative Project on Terrorism, Daniel Pipes from the Middle East Forum, and Caroline Glick from the Jerusalem Post.  In other words, it ain’t the work of fringe kooks who are out to bash Mohammed.  Obsession also takes care to point out that radical Islam is not all Islam, and that the vast majority of the victims of jihad are actually Muslims.  The film has also drawn a lot of praise from many quarters, all the way from Glenn Beck at the Blaze to Frank Gaffney at the Center for Security Policy.

CAIR, meanwhile, was named as an unindicted co-conspirator in a fundraising scheme for Hamas, a terrorist organization.  Call me cynical, but I think that undermines their credibility just a bit.  For an organization that shills for jihadis to label anything as propaganda–and be taken seriously by a major media outlet–would be laughable, if it weren’t so scary.

The greatest irony, however, came unwittingly from CAIR’s own civil rights director:

“How you could use that in an educational setting, especially for someone as a high school student, kind of boggles our mind,” said Clevenger.

With such a pointed statement, she could have just as easily been talking about “Dying to be a Martyr.”  But we all know better, don’t we?

Executive Order Aims To Return Local Control To Education

Over the past eight years, we’ve seen Obama’s Department of Education take a tight rein on educational policy, but, in what is certainly an encouraging move, President Donald Trump is set to undo that federal control with the stroke of a pen. The president will soon issue an executive order that takes great strides toward returning control of education to the local level.

The order will direct Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos to sift through the Obama era regulations and flag the ones that wrest control away from local jurisdictions within 300 days. This of course will reverse the course set by Obama and his Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.

(For instance, Duncan employed money from one particular program to promote Common Core standards, breaking protocol by essentially attempting to force states to adopt the standards as a national policy.)

I think this is a terrific decision and a massive step in the right direction. It’s a win for federalism and reflects well on Trump and DeVos. Control of educational policy – like so many other government policies – belongs at the closest level possible to the citizens. Good for President Trump in realizing this truth and taking steps to take educational decisions back to the local level.

Here’s what’s wrong with public education

I have learned many things during my time in public education.

Never turn your back on a class any longer than necessary.

Never try to be someone else when you teach.

Never change what you do just to impress an administrator or visiting dignitary.

Always grade papers as soon as possible upon their completion.

Okay I never said I was able to consistently abide by all these, just that they were truths I’d learned along the way.

Another such truth:  When faced with the decision of either going with your gut or going with what an educational expert says … go with your gut.

Case in point:  Education expert Christine Yeh says inequities in our system of education are more damaging than students’ lack of determination. Specifically, Yeh attacks the idea of encouraging students to have some “grit” when it comes to their studies.

The grit movement is a relatively new and honestly quite surprising (and refreshing) trend in education. The foundational idea is to encourage and foster determination in students. How that is accomplished is based largely on the individual learning and teaching styles utilized by each student and teacher, but the primary focus is on getting students to see their learning process – primarily assessed through formative assignments – through to the end.

Grit focuses on the long term, and when done right encourages the use of goal-setting and step-by-step planning in order to see a project or other formative assessment to completion.

In other words, some of the same tools consistently used by the most successful people in our society.

Problem is, many of the entrenched edu-crats in our public education system don’t like the idea. The reason is simple. At its core, expecting students to show grit in their work completely shifts the focus so diligently pushed by those edu-crats for decades. They’ve spent their entire careers trying to convince us that the reason little Johnny can’t read is because little Johnny had the misfortune of being born with the wrong skin color or the wrong cultural background.

The grit movement implies that maybe a little more effort would help little Johnny to improve his position and decrease the likelihood of his own children being trapped in the same failed cultural cycles that have made his road more difficult. It’s the old, forgotten American ideal of raising your children to enjoy a better quality of life than you’ve had.

Says Yeh:

“Grit is an easy concept to fall in love with because it represents hope and perseverance, and conjures up images of working-class individuals living the ‘American dream.’ However, treating grit as an appealing and simple fix detracts attention from the larger structural inequities in schools, while simultaneously romanticizing notions of poverty.”

Yeah, God forbid we romanticize poverty. You know, like believing that those who endure hardship come out of it with stronger values and character and are able to better appreciate what they have later on. Instead of teaching people to value the lessons learned in those lean times, we should just keep telling them how unfair it is that they have to go through those lean times.

She continues:

“Perhaps this idea of grit resonates with so many people who believe in the popular American adage that if you work hard and pull yourself up by your bootstraps, then you can achieve anything. This belief unfortunately, assumes that individuals have the power, privilege, and access to craft their own futures, regardless of circumstance and systemic barriers … Schools that focus on grit shouldn’t ignore structural inequities because they assume that regardless of your race, class, or social context you can still triumph.”

Did you get that? She didn’t say “will still triumph” or “may still triumph” but rather “can still triumph”. That’s not an accident – she wants you to believe that minority races and culturally challenged peoples cannot succeed, so we must level the playing field.

And this supposedly well-educated woman never realizes that what she’s spouting is Racism and Classism 101.

The bottom line in all this – in fact in pretty much all liberal ideas – is that human beings are incapable of living positive, efficient, rewarding lives on their own because we don’t really understand what is best for us and even if we do, “The Man” will hold us back. Only the collective – the Nanny State – knows what is good for us and can help us achieve it, and if we’ll just yield to its omniscience all our lives will be so much better.

Our system of public education is filled with people like this, folks. They are one of the primary reasons why I encourage every parent to VERY STRONGLY consider either home or private schooling. If you need more encouragement, let me leave you with this little clip from Yeh’s column:

“… not all things are worth sticking with.”

God forbid we teach this to our kids.

UPDATED: Education showdown in Oklahoma

In the world of public education, what is best for students can easily get lost in the myriad bureaucracy of state and federal regulations, not to mention constant budget cuts and the flurry of classroom trends that seem to come and go faster than a politician can change positions on an issue.

Such is the case in Oklahoma, where a substantial number of local school systems are bucking state leaders – including Governor Mary Fallin – over how long the school week should be.

The tiff began more than a year ago, when the state announced significant education funding cuts to help make up for a budget shortfall of more than $1 billion, an action that left district superintendents scrambling to come up with the means to adjust.

Enter the four-day school week.

While knocking a day off the school week won’t save a billion dollars statewide, in rural systems with large service areas and small student bodies, the savings in diesel fuel alone can often mean the difference between filling an empty teaching position and filling classrooms beyond their normal capacity.

A year ago, Newcastle superintendent Tony O’Brien told the Oklahoma City NBC affiliate, “We are conservatively saying we’re going to save at least $100,000-$150,000, that will be in utilities, transportation, another big cost is in substitute teachers we won’t have to hire.”

In February – just over halfway through Newcastle’s first year under the plan – O’Brien again spoke with the NBC affiliate, saying “I’ve saved almost a teacher in diesel probably already.”

Considering that Newcastle is a southern suburb of Oklahoma City, the savings for more rural systems – which make up the bulk of those opting for a 4-day week – may be even greater.

Systems adjusted their daily class schedules and annual school calendars to make up for the lost time, as well as adding 45 minutes to each day. Teachers and administrators say that students have fared well with the changes, and though some parents say they struggle to find childcare for younger children on Fridays, many are happy with the change. The initiative seems to be yielding the desired result, with no negative impact on student performance.

Enter state lawmakers.

In a state with a well-known conservative Republican governor like Fallin, one would think that increased local control over education would be seen as a good thing – especially when it comes to cost-saving moves that do not negatively impact student outcomes.

One would be wrong, at least in Oklahoma.

“We must have five-day school weeks,” Fallin said during this year’s State of the State address. State Senator Kyle Loveless agreed, introducing a bill that would mandate a five-day week for the state’s schools. As quoted in the more recent NBC story, Loveless stated:

“We need to have kids in schools five days a week … It is a bad PR, a bad image problem, bad optics to the state when we have 100 school districts that have gone to four days.”

Really. A state legislator says that local school systems cannot solve this problem – which, remember, was created by the state legislature – via a method that works for them, for their community, and (lest we forget) for their students because it’s “bad optics” to do so. Amazing.

These statements seem to be in direct contrast to the position Fallin has taken previously on local control. Upon signing legislation in 2015 to expand charter school opportunities statewide and bring charter approval under the authority of local boards, Fallin  had this to say:

“The legislation provides more local control for parents and school administrators.”

For his part, O’Brien doesn’t seem ready to budge.

“My school board is the guys who know what’s best for my kids, not somebody at 23rd and Lincoln,” he said, referring to the state legislative offices in Oklahoma City.

Though Loveless’ bill never made it out of committee, another version did. HB1684 requires that any school system following a four-day week submit a plan to the state board of education each year detailing “the intended educational and fiscal benefits and the anticipated impacts or outcomes the plan will have in the school district including a discussion of any potential disadvantages that have been identified by the school district”.

HB1684 passed in the House and is currently under consideration in the Senate. O’Brien stated in an email conversation this week that “This amounts to another unfunded mandate for each of us who has chosen to use a four day week”.

For the sake of the Oklahoma’s students, let’s hope that state lawmakers allow the focus to remain on programs that actually work at the local level rather than on what those programs look like at the state level.

*** If you live in Oklahoma and wish to express your thoughts on this or any other educational issue, start by contacting your local school superintendent. Then call your representatives in the state legislature and share your thoughts with them. You’d be surprised how great a difference one single contact can make.

This story has been updated to include information regarding pending legislation.

OMB Director: Trump Budget Rebuilds Military, Cuts Waste

A big concern for many conservatives has been President Trump’s promises of increased spending in many areas. Trump’s promises of more money for the military and infrastructure have many worried that the increased spending will explode the deficit. However, the director of the Office of Management and Budget pointed out in a new budget blueprint that Trump’s spending increases will be offset by cuts in other areas.

In the Washington Free Beacon, OMB Director Mick Mulvaney said, “This is the ‘America First’ budget. In fact, we wrote it using the president’s own words—we went through his speeches, articles that have been written about his policies, we talked to him, and we wanted to know what his policies were, and we turned those policies into numbers.”

A big winner in the first Trump budget is defense, which is slated for a $54 billion increase split between the Departments of Defense and Homeland Security. The Defense Department budget would be increased by nine percent and Homeland Security by seven percent.

“We’ve worked very closely with the Defense Department to make sure, a couple of things, that this funds their needs but does so in a responsible fashion in terms of what they can actually spend this year,” Mulvaney said. “The Defense Department has told us this is the amount of money they need and can spend effectively this year. We are not throwing money after a problem and claiming that we have fixed it.”

The budget also allocates $4.1 billion over two years for Mr. Trump’s border wall. The figures for the first two years include tests to determine the efficiency and safety of different types of barriers. Mulvaney noted that a 10-year cost projection would accompany the full budget when it is released in May.

Mulvaney pointed out that these spending increases would be offset by cuts in other parts of the budget. “You will see reductions exactly where you would expect it from a president who just ran on an ‘America First’ campaign,” Mulvaney said. “You’ll see reductions in many agencies as he tries to shrink the role of government, drive efficiencies, go after waste, duplicative programs, those types of things.”

“The president ran saying he would spend less money overseas and more money back home,” Mulvaney said. “So when you go to implement that policy you go to things like foreign aid, and those get reduced. If those had been in the Department of Education you’d see a dramatic decrease in education.”

In fact, the Department of Education’s budget was cut overall, but charter school funding and school choice programs saw an increase. Some of the other notable items in the budget blueprint include:

  • Cuts Homeland Security grants to local and state agencies
  • Raises TSA security fees for airline passengers
  • Eliminates funding for 49 National Historic Sites
  • Cuts funding to reimburse state and local governments for detaining illegal immigrants
  • Increases funding and lawyers for illegal immigrant removal
  • Eliminates climate change prevention programs
  • Reduces funding for UN peacekeeping
  • Privatizes the air traffic control system
  • Eliminates funding for many transportation projects
  • Cuts NASA budget by one percent

According to the Washington Post, the big losers in the new budget are the Environmental Protection Agency and the State Department, which lose almost a third of their budgets. The Department of Agriculture and the Labor Department also received cuts greater than 20 percent. Other departments on the chopping block with cuts of more than 10 percent included Health and Human Services, Commerce, Education, Housing and Urban Development, Transportation, and Interior.

The full budget will be released in May and will include more detail on the cuts and a 10-year projection for entitlement programs such as Social Security and Medicaid. Entitlement and safety net programs make up more than half of the federal budget according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. The full budget is subject to approval and amendment by Congress.