Caesar Meets the Media

Not sure what that title means, but it went through my head when I saw the following. Not sure if others are keeping abreast of the gummit’s desire to give vouchers to private schools for helping with displaced Katrina folk, but this fella from People for the American Way was not impressed:

Don’t subsidize religion
If private schools get public money, they need to be held accountable.
By Ralph G. Neas

Senators about to pass an education package in response to Hurricane Katrina could make a huge mistake by creating what would be the largest private-school vouchers program in the nation’s history.

Right-wing special interest groups see Katrina as an opportunity to implement an ideological agenda that has little to do with the hurricane itself. One aspect of this opportunism is the insistence that education relief include a vouchers program to send massive federal funding to private schools.

Here’s what’s wrong with this proposal:
•First, public money should be used to support public schools that have taken in Katrina evacuees and the rebuilding of schools devastated by the hurricane. Instead, the proposal would funnel hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars into private schools’ bank accounts. And it could subsidize private education for the wealthiest students.

•Second, by allocating federal funds to religious institutions, the vouchers plan would undermine the First Amendment’s separation of church and state. The current Senate bill includes no effective oversight that would hold schools accountable for violating bans on the use of taxpayer dollars to support religious indoctrination.

•Third, while provisions to protect civil rights have been included in the bill, it is not clear that the bill would prevent the unconstitutional use of federal tax dollars to fund discrimination. In particular, the bill would allow private schools to use federal dollars to discriminate in hiring based on religion.

There is an alternative, constitutional way to support students who have relied on services provided by private schools called “equitable participation,” which would clearly and unambiguously hold private schools accountable for the use of public funds, as well as resolve any constitutional questions.

We believe some senators with long records of supporting public education are considering support for new voucher provisions because they believe such provisions are the unfortunate cost of winning Senate approval for the urgent relief needed by families and school systems affected by the recent hurricanes. We support that relief, but it should not be held hostage to voucher proponents.

Ralph G. Neas is president of People for the American Way.


Can We Talk?

It happens about this time every year. School classrooms take some time off and become conference rooms. Parents come in and see the teachers to find out how Johnny is doing and it all becomes a test of the parent and teacher’s perspiration protection. Why does Mr. and Mrs. Doe come into Mr. Teacher’s room with so much timidity. Why did Mr. Teacher, just before the Doe’s showed up, pop a breath mint and say a prayer of panic? Why are Parent Conferences an object of such stress?

I think the answer lies somewhere in the fact that we have lost the ability to converse. Folks have been saying this for years regarding education: we just don’t know how to talk to each other anymore, and it not only affects Mr. Teacher’s literature class discussion, but it hits him in the stomach during the typical conference. When it comes to teacher conferences, we live in a two class society and I wish we would seek the third, or middle class, in this instance.

The first class of conference is the “feel good” class. Parents sign up because they feel they need to. Maybe nothing has been said by the teacher about Johnny’s performance, so they should stop in for a little check up. The teacher has not said anything about Johnny because Johnny is doing fine and he is too busy trying to put out the fires elsewhere to say, “good job” very often to Johnny or his parents. The parents arrive, introduce themselves, ask if there is anything they need to know, and get the “no, everything is just fine” speech for five minutes before leaving. This has not lasted much longer than the “hey, how are you?” “Fine,” routine that we all too often shoot through on our way down a hallway.

The second class is no better, and perhaps much worse. It lasts longer, but about as much is accomplished. It is the conference about Problem Pete. Petey is not doing well for Mr. Teacher. The grade card goes home, the parents sign up for the conference, and the stage is set for 20 minutes of heavyweight contention. The parents confer the night before: “I’ll say…, and then you will say…, and be sure to bring that test and show him…” The plan is in place. The teacher has his folder of materials. Both sides are armed. And as soon as the pleasantries are over (exactly 30 seconds into the conference), the barrage begins. Whoever fires first often “wins” if winning can be determined. The teacher states all the reasons for Petey’s failure, none of which has anything to do with the school or Mr. Teacher’s teaching. Pete’s parents fire back with this factor, and that assignment, and this unclear grading policy and etc. The list really is impressive, at least to the parents. And the twenty minute bell rings, the participants return to their corners, and Pete is still failing.

Let me dream about the third class or alternative to these two vignettes. How about if the parents and teacher both came together to converse? There is a verse and a con in that notion. The verse is definitely words, but words about Pete and his issues, not excuses or justifications. They should be words designed to help both sides see Pete more clearly. And the con there has to do with back and forth. Both sides are able to come together, to converse, to have a conversation about Pete. And as the teacher shares his side of the issue, and the parents explain Pete better to Mr. Teacher, the overriding agreement in the conversation is that Pete is a human, a young one at that, and that like all students he is still growing. And the teacher is a human, and can always grow in his skills. And the parents are not perfect, and welcome any help they can glean. And this very human endeavor of talking it through is reborn in this one little part of our dying culture. And if it is tended and nurtured, it might grow until once again we can have real and fruitful conversations again. And Pete in particular learns how to converse by watching his parents and teacher model it beautifully. God bless us one and all to be conversant.

Time Out of Mind (with apologies to Bob Dylan)

Classically Crazy: Every once in a while I see one of those pieces that make me want to shout for a few minutes, and a blog is a wonderful place to shout, but with care.

Time magazine blasted for promoting ‘gay teens’Publication doesn’t disclose cover story written by homosexual

Posted: October 18, 20051:00 a.m. Eastern

© 2005

Time magazine’s controversial cover story on “gay teens” is being denounced by critics as blatant homosexual propaganda – which is not surprising, since the Time journalist who researched and wrote the story is a homosexual with a long history of advancing “gay” causes, including the promotion of anonymous homosexual orgies.

CC: So who am I upset with here, the gay guy writing like a gay guy, or the large “objective” news magazine, Time, who chose to publish his thoughts? Both, I suppose.

In its Oct. 10 cover story, “The battle over gay teens,” Time fails to disclose that its reporter, John Cloud, is himself homosexual, nor does Cloud mention until near the end of his lengthy report that the key researcher on which the entire story is based is also homosexual.
In the article, Cloud positively portrays the phenomenon of ever-younger American children self-identifying as “gay,” praises the massive proliferation of Gay Straight Alliance clubs in public schools nationwide, showcases the Point Foundation, which provides scholarships to youngsters who believe they are “gay,” and categorically dismisses professional therapeutic and religious attempts to help homosexuals change their orientation.

Cloud’s key expert throughout the Time cover story is Ritch Savin-Williams, chairman of Cornell University’s human development department and author of a new book called “The New Gay Teenager.” Not until near the close of the article does Cloud slip in the fact that Savin-Williams is “a 56-year-old gay man with a slightly elfish mien.”

CC: to go from worse to worst, Cloud has to impugn the good name of elves by making their mien slightly gay!

Cloud’s piece is particularly derisive of reparative therapy – psychiatric, psychological and religious efforts to help homosexuals change their sexual orientation. “It’s important to note,” Cloud asserts, “that nearly all mental-health professionals agree that trying to reject one’s homosexual impulses will usually be fruitless and depressing.”

CC: It don’t work and we don’t like it, so what has Truth got to do with it? You go, girls.

But Stephen Bennett, a high-profile ex-gay, says, “This article is filled with tons of misinformation, mocking of Bible-believing Christians, of people who have come out of homosexuality such as myself and who are happily married now.”

And one of the nation’s key professional organizations involved in reparative therapy – NARTH, the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality, headed by psychologist Joseph Nicolosi, Ph.D. – isn’t surprised Cloud’s latest article is biased against it.

“In past Time articles,” notes NARTH’s website, “Cloud has promoted gay political attacks against the Boy Scouts, portrayed transgender activists as a new oppressed minority group; wrote approvingly of anonymous gay sex orgies for an alternative newspaper in Washington, D.C.; and earlier had penned a guide to gay bathhouses in Washington, D.C.”

CC: And wouldn’t we all like to know what current residents of D.C. are in those bathhouses?

Comparing and Contrasting…

Posted on Fri, Oct. 07, 2005
A tool for evaluating schools
New Web site offers information for comparing N.C. school districts

A tool for evaluating schoolsNew Web site offers information for comparing N.C. school districts
From former N.C. Gov. Jim Hunt of Raleigh, who serves on the National Advisory Board of Standard & Poor’s School Evaluation Services:

The latest national report card on student achievement shows that North Carolina students are performing above average on national reading and math tests at virtually all grade levels. What’s even more impressive is that our schools continue to outperform despite spending less per-student than the national average, according to the U.S. Department of Education.

Still, our state’s schools are far from perfect. Our graduation rates are sub-par, and less than one quarter of our high schoolers go on to earn four-year college degrees. College graduates today have double the earning power of high-school dropouts. The need to turn things around couldn’t be clearer.

It’s not controversial to say that our schools can do better. The real question is how.
When I was governor, we launched several new initiatives to improve student performance. We created the primary reading program, reduced class sizes and focused hard on dropout prevention. Gov. Easley and the legislature have expanded many of these programs. I believe strongly that they have benefited our students.

But during my time in Raleigh, there was one thing we wanted to do but couldn’t: seamlessly share information between schools and districts in an effort to determine which districts are performing better, where attention is most urgently needed and whether the strategies and techniques used in better-performing districts could be adapted for other parts of the state. Our problem was that the key data and analysis had never been assembled in a single location before.

Fortunately, that’s changing. Several of the nation’s leading education reformers have built a Web site that includes vital information about every school district in North Carolina and throughout the nation. Anyone who is interested can visit free of charge to find out more about their local education systems and compare schools in their neighborhoods with schools elsewhere. provides many important insights. For example, an analysis of student achievement in economically disadvantaged districts shows a clear link between poverty and low test scores (no surprise there), but it also shows that some exceptional districts are bucking the trend. Their success shows that poverty does not condemn a student to failure. The data also show that high spending doesn’t guarantee high achievement. Students and teachers need more resources, but building a successful school takes more than just money. isn’t just a tool for educators. Parents can use the site to get more involved in their children’s education and inform their advocacy work in local districts. was created by Standard & Poor’s and the Council of Chief State School Officers, with funding from The Broad Foundation and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Their aim was to help schools and states look objectively at their education systems and develop home-grown solutions to the challenges they face. I believe their work will help our state’s education leaders become better informed and better-prepared to make decisions that impact our state’s schools and our children’s educations.

For The Record offers commentaries from various sources. The views are the writer’s, and not necessarily those of the Observer editorial board.

Have You Hugged a Middleschooler Today?

I have spent most of my adult life with Middle school kids. The following article was fun to help me consider why I keep working with these kids…

Mayhem in the Middle
How middle schools have failed
America—and how to make them work
By Cheri Pierson Yecke
Foreword by Chester E. Finn, Jr.
Link to article: