Category archives: Education

Jihad in the Classroom

by Robert Morrison

March 11, 2009

Islam is very much in the news these days. Even before 9/11, Americans had become aware of a powerful presence that had never really gone away. The 45-year Cold War between the U.S. and the USSR seemed to submerge Islamic identity in an East-West struggle. With the collapse of the Soviet Union, however, a resurgent Islam often intruded into the headlines of Western newspapers. Even before the terror attacks on New York and Washington, Americans had been targeted by Islamist radicals for murder -at the World Trade Center in 1993, Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia in 1996, the U.S. Embassies in East Africa in 1998, and aboard the USS Cole in 2000. Then, however, we seemed to be in a decade-long “holiday from history.”

It’s normal to expect that American history and world history textbooks would take a few years to catch up with world events. Textbook production is not an overnight process. The headlines, however, don’t wait. And the headlines all have some lessons to teach us about those regions where Islam predominates.

Here’s lesson one: Secretary of State Hillary Clinton met recently at Sharm-el-Sheikh, the Egyptian resort, with dozens of Arab leaders. She pledged U.S. monies to rebuild structures damaged in the recent Israeli incursion into Gaza. American taxpayers will be required to fork over $900 million to restore the homes and schools where local residents danced and handed out sweets to children to celebrate the attacks of 9/11. Mrs. Clinton assures us that the UN will carefully monitor where the funds go, to make sure that none of these monies get “into the wrong hands.” For many of us who remember the UN’s “Oil for Food” scandal, the UN’s hands are the wrong hands. In this case, UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon has already designated a Syrian-based bank as a receiver of funds. Problem: the U.S.government has identified that Syrian bank as a money launderer for Hamas, the Gaza terrorist organization.

Lesson two: In The Washington Post, we recently read of a seven-year-old Kurdish girl 100 miles north of Baghdad whimpering as village women approach her. They hold her legs apart as a midwife uses a razor blade to cut off part of the little child’s genitals. “I do this in the name of Allah,” the midwife cries. The screaming little girl is hustled away to her home. “We don’t know why we do it, but we will never stop because Islam and our elders require it,” says the girl’s mother. Tens of thousands of little girls are routinely so mutilated, The Post reports.

Lesson three: An Iranian freighter approaches the Chesapeake Bay, outside U.S. territorial waters. It launches a Shahab 3 missile with a nuclear warhead that explodes 300 miles above Des Moines, Iowa. The ship’s crew of jihadist “martyrs” blows the ship up, leaving no trace of attackers. But the Electro-Magnetic Pulse (EMP) created by the single nuclear weapon “fries” all the electronic circuits in North America, blacking out our communications, neutralizing our emergency response units, shutting down power grids, and throwing 300 million Americans back to the dawn of the industrial era. This is not a headline-yet. But it’s what the Claremont Institute’s Brian Kennedy writes could happen. It may be what Iran’s Ahmadinejad means when he says he can foresee a world without the United States. It is to this man that our new President extends his open hand.

None of these lessons-continued U.S. subsidies to America-hating Palestinians, genital mutilation of tens of thousands of Muslim girls, or the threat of an attack from a nuclear Iran—are in our kids’ textbooks. But the issues they describe have been with us for decades.

In a recent report by the American Textbook Council, educator Gil Sewall notes that textbook publishers have caved in to noisy lobbies that howl whenever painful facts are taught. Sewall’s group says these Islamic organizations are succeeding in “adjusting the definitions of jihad and sharia or remove these words from lessons to avoid inconvenient truths that the editors fear activists will contest.” In a public school system increasingly hostile to teaching about Christianity, the Teacher’s Curriculum Institute of California includes this Muslim prayer from the Koran:

Recite-in the name of thy Lord!
Who created man from blood coagulated.
Recite! Thy Lord is wondrous kind,
Who by the pen has taught mankind things they knew not.

The Council’s report on textbooks currently in classroom use charges that “the editorial caution that marks coverage of Christian and Jewish beliefs vanishes in presenting Islam’s foundations.” A Holt textbook extols Islam in glowing terms: “Helping and caring for others is important in Islam.” Muhammed “taught equality,” the text goes on.

Islam in the 700s does not conquer with fire and sword, according to these texts. Instead, it simply “sweeps” out of Arabia. With brooms?

More than 20 years ago, I was the liaison officer at the U.S. Department of Education for Dr. Paul Vitz. Dr. Vitz was an NYU psychologist whose careful study of basal readers and elementary social studies books showed that references to God and religion were being systematically “swept” away by American textbook publishers.

At the press conference at which Dr. Vitz presented his findings, many educators and reporters were skeptical of this study. But the curriculum coordinator for Montgomery County, Maryland Public Schools stood to say he agreed with Dr. Vitz’ findings. And to counter that trend, his very liberal school district would make sure that all students had a chance to see the real impact of religion in our world: The youngsters would see the traveling exhibit of Suleiman the Magnificent. Suleiman was the Sultan, or emperor, of the Ottoman Turks! He was a Muslim ruler.

I thought of that day when I read about John Walker Lindh. He was captured in the opening days of the Afghanistan War in 2001. Lindh is serving a prison sentence as “the American Taliban.”

In the mid-80s, Lindh would likely have been one of those elementary school children introduced to Suleiman’s magnificence by his very politically correct Montgomery County educators. His family then lived in a trendy Washington suburb that local wags call “the People’s Republic of Takoma Park.”

We cannot prove that his public schooling made John Walker Lindh a jihadist, but fair questions should be asked: Based solely on what he learned in school, would this young man or any others learn why America should be loved? Why she deserves our loyalty? Why she deserves to be defended? Would they learn to question the truth claims of Islamists?

Once this was a particular problem for ultra-liberal enclaves like Montgomery County and California’s “Marvelous Marin,” but these textbooks show that the problem is nationwide. We are all indebted to Gil Sewall and the American Textbook Council for their courage and their commitment to the truth.

School Choice is Key to Parental Involvement in Education, not Punishment

by Peter Sprigg

February 21, 2009

A Kentucky state legislator, Rep. Adam Koenig, has introduced a bill that would impose fines on parents who don’t attend parent-teacher conferences. [Source]

Rep. Koenig is certainly right that parental involvement in their children’s education is important, but this hardly seems the right way of encouraging it.

It might be better to use a carrot, rather than a stick. Instead of imposing on parents we should be empowering them, by expanding school choice. That could include magnet schools, charter schools, vouchers, tax breaks for private schools, and support for homeschooling. Giving parents real choices about their children’s education would be more effective that just forcing them to show up for a meeting.

A law like this (if adopted) would seem to be a case of the government punishing people simply for not being very good parents. We should be wary of any policy that involves the government interfering with the autonomy of the family in that way-by deciding what it thinks a “good” parent is, and punishing people who don’t live up to the government’s standard.

Obviously, government has to intervene when parents abuse their children, by beating them, for instance, or neglect them by failing to feed and clothe them. But missing a parent-teacher conference hardly seems to rise to that level. Koenig reportedly compared the fines to those imposed on parents who fail to insure that their children attend school. But we shouldn’t be treating parents like children by making the parents go to school.

On a practical level, it should be noted that face-to-face parent-teacher conferences are not the only means of communication available between parents and the school. They can use the phone, email, or even handwritten notes to and from the teacher. For families with two working parents or with younger children at home, or for single parents, it may be very difficult to find time to go in for a parent-teacher conference, yet they may still be very involved in their children’s education. We simply shouldn’t impose a one-size-fits-all solution.

From Crayons to Condoms:” Another Glimpse into America’s failing Public Schools

by Krystle Gabele

January 7, 2009

Over the Christmas break, there were several books waiting for my attention. Among the books, I chose to read was “From Crayons to Condoms: The Ugly Truth about America’s Public Schools.” This book definitely looked like it would provide some insights on what is being taught in public education. However, upon reading the book, I was appalled to read the stories from parents, students and teachers about the curriculum being taught in schools across the country, which seemed to provide a barrage of sex, promiscuity, lessons on being gay or lesbian, grotesque violence and talking about feelings.

As a public school graduate, I received a quality education that provided a strong background for college preparation without hearing any liberal propaganda being taught by my teachers. However, there are students all over America who subject to the leftist curriculum by either reading pornographic material or listening to an openly gay couple describe the discrimination they face because of their full-blown AIDS.

The book, which featured open accounts from concerned parents, students and teachers, also featured a section about what parents can do to improve the current state of public education. Suggestions include: reviewing what your child is reading for class, not signing any permission forms, and checking out the curriculum.

From Crayons to Condoms” was written by Steve Baldwin, a former California state legislator and Karen Holgate, who is an advocate for education reform. I strongly urge every parent, who has a student in public schools, to read this book and to become active in their child’s education. In a society where education is crucial, it is better for a student to learn in an environment that is not infiltrated with liberal propaganda.

More on the Crushing Costs of Higher Education

by Chris Gacek

December 12, 2008

As a follow-up to my earlier post on the growing unaffordability of higher education and its effects on families, I bring your attention to a Wall Street Journal article.  The author, Philip Shiskin, writes, “As the economy shrinks, joblessness expands and small-business owners lose income, many students and their parents are struggling to make payments for the second half of the academic year, which are typically due this month or in January.”  The story describes one parent who is carrying $100,000 in debt for her three children while planning to fund a fourth child.  Finally, it seems standard now that a good private college or university will be cost $50,000 per year.  In my opinion, this “business model” is completely unsustainable and is crushing parents and young adults across America.

Higher Education’s Broken Business Model

by Chris Gacek

December 8, 2008

    Jay Ambrose has written an important column about a recent study publicizing the skyrocketing costs of higher education.  Ambrose’s article discussed the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education’s recent report, “Mearusing Up 2008”.  “Measuring Up” makes it clear that the higher education business model is broken - like a lot of American institutions, it seems.  These hard realities are underscored by the current economic downturn.

    From 1982-2007, college costs increased 439% while median family income went up only 147%.  Of course, such numbers are always subject to various adjustments and corrections, but that it is a huge disparity that reflects what we have all observed.  College costs are out of control. The New York Times has also discussed the report here and here.

    Ambrose notes that some leaders in the educational establishment want more government money, but he correctly points out that “government assistance and student loan programs have contributed to the inflationary spiral at these institutions already, supporting them in their bad, old ways and keeping them from needed reform.”  There is a great deal of truth in this observation.

    Finally, Ambrose reiterates a point made by Charles Murray of the American Enterprise Institute, and with which I agree, that a major restructuring of college education may be in the offing.  It may be time for us to consider training professionals - like accountants, financial advisers, software engineers, nurses - with a combination of online education and apprenticeships.  A larger point is this:  the universal four-year liberal arts education may have become economically untenable given the debt levels students are being forced to bear post-graduation.  If the federal government would like to do something, it should construct aid programs that force colleges to compete for federal aid monies and students based on affordable tuition prices and cost containment.

Bob Morrison on John Adams Series

by Family Research Council

July 27, 2008

John Adams’ Pointed Prayer

By Robert G. Morrison

The great popularity of the recent HBO series, John Adams, is well deserved. The movie, unlike the fine David McCullough book, shows how good old honest John got himself in a peck of trouble as the first Vice President. He took up six weeks of the time of the first Senate with long and tedious lectures on titles. David McCullough, when he spoke at the National Press Club in 2000, airily dismissed Adams’ disastrous misstep. “Oh, he was a good, thrifty New Englander. He didn’t want to make the titles hereditary. But he knew everyone loves distinction and he thought titles would be cheap.” The HBO series shows the revulsion of many of the senators at the very idea. Adams wanted the President to be titled: “His high Mightiness, President of the United States and Protector of their Liberties.” Behind Adams’ back, the senators snickered at the portly, balding Vice President, calling him “His Rotundity.”

The series shows Adams in the best of lights, and he deserves much good light. Even when he’s wrong, even when he’s vain and prone to temper tantrums, we see the human toll of his brave labors for Independence. His son Charles dies of alcoholism. His beloved daughter Nabbie dies of breast cancer. Our hearts go out to him and to his beloved Abigail. McCullough told the National Press Club that the correspondence between John and Abigail is on microfiche—and the indelible record of their fidelity and love is five miles long!

When I take the Witherspoon Fellows to Monticello, I always speak of my reverence for Mr. Jefferson, that great defender of religious and civil liberty. But I always disagree with George Will. Will famously wrote that “Thomas Jefferson lived as a free man should live.” No, John Adams lived as a free man should live; he never freed his slaves because he never had any!

My favorite John Adams story dates to the year 2000. Then, Bill Clinton occupied the Oval Office. That December, the Clintons invited their nearest and dearest friends to celebrate the two hundred years that the White House had been the Executive Mansion. They asked David McCullough to come and read from his wonderful biography of John Adams.

As the liberal Washington Post columnist Mary McGrory reported, McCullough ended with John Adams’ famous prayer, the one FDR had had engraved in the mantle in the State Dining Room:

I pray Heaven to bestow the best blessings on this house and all that shall hereafter inhabit. May none but honest and wise men ever rule under this roof.”

Miss McGrory wrote that when the prayer was read, all of Bill Clinton’s best friends looked at their shoes in embarrassment. Honest John Adams had crafted that inspiring petition in 1800. He hurled it like a javelin two centuries into the future and he punctured Bill Clinton’s pretensions with his pointed prayer. God bless John Adams!

The Incredible, Disappearing Catholic School

by Michael Leaser

April 11, 2008

Inner-city Catholic schools are rapidly vanishing, according to the Thomas B. Fordham Institutes new report, Who Will Save Americas Urban Catholic Schools? Since 1990, 1,300 Catholic schools have closed, displacing 300,000 students and costing taxpayers $20 billion to absorb these students into public schools. These closures have had little to do with performance and much to do with Catholics leaving the inner cities for suburbia.

The report calls on parishioners, philanthropists, and others who recognize the quality educational option Catholic schools can provide, even to non-Catholics, to support these inner-city schools directly and through development and marketing plans that will ensure Catholic schools remain a vibrant and valuable player in American education.

More on the California Homeschooling Decision

by Chris Gacek

March 11, 2008

A great deal has happened since my Friday posting on the California home school decision — In re Rachel L. First, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger issued a press release on Friday striking out at the court decision:

Every California child deserves a quality education and parents should have the right to decide whats best for their children. Parents should not be penalized for acting in the best interests of their childrens education. This outrageous ruling must be overturned by the courts and if the courts dont protect parents rights then, as elected officials, we will.”

This opens the possibility that political action, in addition to legal appeals, may lie ahead. However, proponents of home schooling in California are wary of a legislative option because a new law might codify a set of parent-school relationships that are less friendly than those in place before the court decision. Given the liberal composition of the California legislature, that is a justifiable concern.

Second, the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) has taken a step to nullify the decision. While the Rachel L. family and its California counsel plan to appeal the decision to the California Supreme Court, HSLDA has also posted a petition online collecting the signatures of those who would like the Court to “depublish” the opinion. HSLDA plans to formally ask the Court to depublish the Rachel L. opinion which would render it unusable “by other California courts” and eliminate the decision as a threat to other homeschoolers. By gathering signatures, HSLDA would like to demonstrate to the Court “that many other people, both in California and across the country, care deeply about homeschool freedom in California.” Depublishing would be a simple way to alleviate this crisis.

Third, Eugene Volokh, a libertarian/conservative UCLA law professor and blogger wrote about the home schooling case on March 6th — as edited by Alliance Defense Fund:

Its pretty well-settled that the parental rights cases — such as Pierce v. Society of Sisters (1925) — dont secure a right to home-school … .

Religious homeschooling is a different matter. Wisconsin v. Yoder held that the Amish could pull children out of school at age 14, and then vocationally train the children at home, notwithstanding a compulsory education law that generally required school attendance until 16. And Yoder survives the Courts decision in Employment Division v. Smith (which mostly holds that the Free Exercise Clause doesnt require religious exemptions from generally applicable laws, but which expressly preserves such claims in parental rights cases like Yoder).

What appears to be the crucial California case, People v. Turner (1953), has some difficult language for the proposition that there is a constitutional right to homeschool:

…, we have been unable to find a single case in which it has been held that so-called compulsory attendance statutes are rendered unconstitutional and void merely by reason of a failure to recognize home instruction as an alternative to attendance in the public schools.

Well, only one thing is certain — we are destined to hear a great deal more about this case and the related legal arguments. A great deal has changed in California since 1953, and the Court would be wise to accommodate the educational arrangements that now exist for something like 200,000 students.

California Decision Highlights Judicial Trend against Parental Rights in Education

by Chris Gacek

March 7, 2008

On February 28, 2006, a three-judge panel of the California Court of Appeal handed down a ruling that may threaten the continued viability of home school arrangements in California. In this case, In re Rachel L., a lower court decision holding that parents have a constitutional right to home school their children was reversed. The appellate court held that parents do not have such rights. Furthermore, the decision appears to have rendered the vast majority of California home schooling arrangements violative of state law.

According to the Los Angeles Times, California law does not address home schooling in its statutes unlike thirty states that do. Apparently, the California Department of Education and local school districts have had a somewhat relaxed approach to home schooling. This has allowed the number of home schoolers to grow considerably. Estimates are that 166,000 children in California are taught at home, so the impact of this decision will be significant.

This case and two others of recent vintage, Fields v. Palmdale School District (U.S. 9th Cir. 2005) and Parker v. Hurley (U.S. 1st Cir. 2008), remind us of the fact that powerful elements within our society believe that parents have few, if any, rights over the educational content of their children. Once the state has spoken parents have to fall in line. In Palmdale, the Ninth Circuit used a dispute over psychological surveys that included questions about sex to assert that parents have no constitutional right … to prevent a public school from providing its students with whatever information it wishes to provide, sexual or otherwise…. (The parents were not told about the sex-related questions when their consent for participation was sought by the school.)

In Parker, a Christian parent objected to his young child being given educational materials promoting homosexual parenting and marriage. Here again, the appellate court affirmed the district courts ruling which stated that the constitutional right of parents to raise their children does not include the right to restrict what a public school may teach their children.

At bottom, the current case in California (Rachel L.), Palmdale, and Parker indicate that parents, pro-family groups, and friendly politicians will have to fight for the right to protect their children. They will need to aggressively pursue legislatively corrections. That may be possible in California regarding the status of home schooling, but it will not always be possible. Barring a legislative fix, it becomes clear how important it is to have judges on the bench who understand that the rights of parents are not derived from the state. Rather, parents have inalienable rights that supersede those of government — particularly when the moral education of their children is at stake.

Dr. John G. West to speak at FRC

by Robert Morrison

February 5, 2008

FRC is honored to present a Witherspoon Lecture on Tuesday, February 12th at noon by Dr. John G. West. Dr. West will speak on Darwin Day in America? This lecture is co-sponsored with the Intercollegiate Studies Institute (ISI) of Wilmington, Delaware. Dr. Wests new book is an in-depth analysis of the drive to replace Lincolns Birthday with an international secular holiday called Darwin Day. Dr. West is a Senior Fellow at the Discovery Institute. He will critically examine the movement to indoctrinate students in Darwinian naturalism. Darwin Day in America shows how our politics and culture have been dehumanized in the name of science.

Please join us in our newly redesigned Media Center at 801 G St. NW for this stimulating lecture and discussion. Hardbound copies of Darwin Day in America will available for purchase at a discounted price. Dr. West has graciously agreed to sign copies of his book for attendees. To RSVP, please call 1.800.225.4008 or register online here. The lecture will also be webcast live at www.frc.org.

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