UC Berkeley students hold ‘teaching moment’

It was a ‘racist bake sale.’ No kidding.

At first glance, this looked like a parody in the Onion.

A student group at the University of California Berkeley has sparked a furor by staging a bake sale that charges customers differently based on their race and gender.

The Berkeley College Republicans devised the satirical “Increase Diversity Bake Sale,” as a protest against proposed bill SB 185, which would have the race, gender, ethnicity and national origin of prospective students considered alongside other admission criteria.

The bake sale, which went ahead Tuesday despite the disapproval of the school’s administration, set prices for baked goods on a sliding scale — charging the most to Caucasian males and the least to Native American women.

“If preferences based on skin color are okay for college admissions, they should be okay for other aspects of life,” wrote the group’s president, Shawn Lewis, on their website.

“We agree that the event is inherently racist, but that is the point.”

Delicious thought experiment. Though the school finds it tasteless. Only some critical thinking applies at UC Berkeley, and only some tolerance is tolerable.

What happened to school choice?

I’m told it’s the political power of unions. Makes me wonder about all the good teachers trapped in a system without the power to express or carry out their own ideas.

Dr. John Sparks is concerned, too, and we spoke late last week about the problems. Here’s how he expressed it in his latest column for the Center for Vision and Values at Grove City College.

In a recent editorial, The Wall Street Journal calls 2011 the “year of school choice.” Parents and the legislators who represent them, particularly in inner-city schools, are tired of waiting for the promised effects of “educational reform” on the public schools their children attend. Therefore, according to the Wall Street Journal, in one form or another, 13 states have passed school-choice legislation, and similar changes are proposed in 28 other states. Such legislation often permits the formation of publicly financed “charter schools,” which are run by new schools boards whose members insist upon an educational environment that will produce real learning.

Despite progress in many places, New York City children, many of them African-American, may not be able to return to charters or start in them anew in the fall due to a lawsuit instituted against the NYC’s Department of Education by what would seem to be a tragically ironic twosome: the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and the United Federation of Teachers (UFT).

What? That doesn’t make sense. Sparks makes the point, connecting the dots.

One would certainly assume that NYC’s charter program—which would allow parents to withdraw their children from the 22 poor public schools in New York and move them to effective charter or other schools—would be eagerly supported by the NAACP and the UFT. After all, these are schools deemed (by pre-established criteria) to be “failing.” But that is not the case. Why?

Perhaps one could understand the UFT, long an ideological champion of public schools, no matter how poorly they perform, engaging in such a suit, but why the NAACP, in light of its announced commitment to black and Latino youths and their parents? Here is a case where political/ideological dedication to the public-school monopoly is stronger than loyalty to the very people which the NAACP is pledged to help.

Fortunately, NYC parents with children attending or about to enter charter schools in the fall are not committed to this ideological blindness. They simply want the good schooling for their children that educational choice provides, and they are speaking out.

Good for them. In fact, Hooray for them. Outraged parents are telling the UFT their time’s up.

The same could be said to the NAACP. How can an organization supposedly committed to helping blacks and other minority groups climb the educational ladder file a lawsuit to obstruct educational opportunities for what amounts to 7,000 of New York’s most disadvantaged kids? Black parents have a right to be perplexed, frustrated, and outraged by such a stance.

The Economist reports that another parent, Ny Whittaker, whose child attends a Harlem charter school, summarized it well: the “NAACP is on the wrong side of history.”

So is the US Department of Education, at this point. In operation only since 1980, note this part of its original stated mission:

The Department’s mission is: to promote student achievement and preparation for global competitiveness by fostering educational excellence and ensuring equal access.

Seriously. Each time I’ve brought that up in an interview, someone inevitably expresses incredulous surprise.

Which makes the case for a movement to respect education and equal access to it as the civil rights issue it is.

Abolish the Department of Education

I’m hearing this from more voices now.

The most recent being columnist Dennis Byrne.

Here’s a way for taxpayers to save billions of dollars while improving education:

Get rid of standardized tests. Get rid of the No Child Left Behind Act, which requires the tests. Get rid of the U.S. Department of Education, which administers the tests. Free us from having to pay for this pointless extravagance.

This should be especially apparent with allegations of adult cheating (Atlanta, Washington, D.C., and elsewhere) to boost student test scores to meet idealized benchmarks set by legions of “experts.” Those allegations, of course, require the deployment of more legions of experts to hunt down frightened or fed-up teachers and administrators caught in the gears of this Rube Goldberg contrivance.

You don’t need more studies or tests to know that this whole scheme has done little in the years since it was installed as a national priority to quiet the alarms about American students. But the alarms have become more thunderous, requiring the application of ever more stringent and costly measures. It’s as mindless as Dark Ages bleeding; if bleeding off a pint doesn’t improve the patient, take a quart.

Attention-grabbing, but because it so resembles the truth.

Last week I had Dr. Anthony Bradley as a guest on my radio show and this was the topic of conversation for that ‘closer look’ at inner-city schools and the failure of the bureaucracy of education.

As Congress moves toward reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, the problem is not that the Department of Education is not doing enough but that it suffers from an acute case of what psychologists call “organizational narcissism.” If they really wish to address America’s inner-city public school crisis, federal education officials must look beyond the boundaries of their own agencies and recognize the crucial role of churches.

Steven Churchill, of the Center for Organizational Design, explains that organizations can have a grandiose sense of self-importance and an inflated judgment of their own accomplishments, leading to “an unreal, self-defeating preoccupation with the company’s own image.” For example, even with overwhelming evidence that, other than family support, church involvement is the most consistent predictor of academic success for inner-city children, the organizational narcissism of the education industry prevents it from tapping into the resources of black and Latino churches.

He made many good points, in fact the hour was loaded with them. The ‘War on Poverty’ has failed. Education reform hasn’t improved our public schools and especially inner-city schools, or access to them. Government programs separated from the influence of families and local churches fail. This is proven and easy to see, for anyone who looks.

In “Faith in the Inner City: The Urban Black Church and Students’ Educational Outcomes,” Dr. Brian Barrett, an education professor at the State University of New York College at Cortland, describes the unique contributions black churches play in cultivating successful students in the inner-cities. He observed that “religious socialization reinforces attitudes, outlooks, behaviors, and practices … particularly through individuals’ commitment to and adoption of the goals and expectations of the group” that are conducive to “positive educational outcomes.”  In fact, back in 2009 Barrett reported that for black inner-city youth who reported attending religious services often, the black/white achievement gap “was eliminated.”

Barrett reports that one of the most important advantages of inner-city churches is that they provide “a community where Black students are valued, both for their academic success and, more broadly, as human beings and members of society with promise, with talents to contribute, and from whom success is to be expected.” Churches also affirm inner-city youth as trusted members of a community that celebrates academic success, and the practices that produce it, which overrides the low expectations communicated at school. Additionally, Barrett highlights the ways in which black churches, because they are equipped to deal with families, are effective at sustaining and encouraging parental educational involvement from the heart as well as providing contexts where youth can have regular contact with other adults for role-modeling and mentoring.

The fact that they don’t or won’t see this at the federal level, while layering on more and more federal jobs in the Department of Education, proves Bradley’s point about the ‘organizational narcissim.’ He also adds that those bureaucrats know that with increased involvement of churches, the Department of Education would lose the lock on control they now have. Never mind that it’s dysfunctional.

“When more government programs came the breakdown of the family,” Dr. Bradley told me. “It fostered a culture of irresponsibility. The whole system needs to be radically restructered. It’s not a resource problem. Throwing more dollars into more technology for classrooms isn’t the solution, clearly. We need to ask better questions. Why isn’t the church part of the educational policy for this administration? Black pastors haven’t been invited into the Obama administration Department of Education planning.” He makes this point in his article ‘Inner-city education fails without the church.’

In 2008, President Obama rightly acknowledged that, “There is no program and no policy that can substitute for a parent who is involved in their child’s education from day one.” This is an indisputable truth. What should baffle every American citizen is that the role of inner-city ethnic churches is oddly missing from the Obama administration’s education reform vision.

Faith-based initiatives work when they are tried. School choice and the voucher system do, too. The principle of subsidiarity works.

Dennis Byrne concludes:

It will take nothing less than a revolution by fed-up Americans to break the hold that this cartel has on our children.

Anthony Bradley concluded, on radio, that…

We need a lay movement to be launched. We need paople to operate out of their convictions that this problem must be solved. We need people in the pews to be at school board meetings to put forward new solutions, backed by data, what’s known to work. And that’s new for us as Americans, because we’re used to coming to the aid of people in crisis in other countries. This is in the crisis category, but it’s happening here.

We need a bailout, from government intervention.

Suddenly, an old television public service spot just came to mind. “It’s ten o’clock. Do you know where your kids are?”

It’s school time, and the same question applies.

The Department of Education fable

It’s remarkably like The Emperor’s Clothes. Only this one is a true story.

Hard to believe that it is.

As Congress moves toward reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, the problem is not that the Department of Education is not doing enough but that it suffers from an acute case of what psychologists call “organizational narcissism.” If they really wish to address America’s inner-city public school crisis, federal education officials must look beyond the boundaries of their own agencies and recognize the crucial role of churches.

That rests on the big “if”. According to Bradley, they do not so wish.

…even with overwhelming evidence that, other than family support, church involvement is the most consistent predictor of academic success for inner-city children, the organizational narcissism of the education industry prevents it from tapping into the resources of black and Latino churches.

They have what he calls an “education monopoly” and enjoy wielding power and receiving big paychecks while devising new programs to address problems they’re responsible for in the first place. Though the Deparment of Education is unaware of that, since that would require institutional integrity.

This should not be happening, for many reasons. Here’s one:

In 2008, President Obama rightly acknowledged that, “There is no program and no policy that can substitute for a parent who is involved in their child’s education from day one.” This is an indisputable truth. What should baffle every American citizen is that the role of inner-city ethnic churches is oddly missing from the Obama administration’s education reform vision.

It’s because of politics and power, says Bradley. And the distinct lack of initiative to change or even seriously confront ‘the system’ that’s broken. “We have a graduation crisis,” he told me, citing statistics from major cities of around 28-35 percent of black males graduating from high school. Which leads, he continues, to a lack of not only education but skills and ambition, which leads to unemployment, drug use, crime and incarceration, teen pregnancy, hopelessness…

This is intolerable. And, as Bradley pointed out to me at least twice, it isn’t an achievement gap based on race but opportunity for access to involvement of families and community based churches.

A series of 2010 studies in Howard University’s Journal of Negro Education (JNE), one of America’s oldest continuous academic journals focusing on black people, reported how church involvement increases education success in inner-cities. In “Faith in the Inner City: The Urban Black Church and Students’ Educational Outcomes,” Dr. Brian Barrett, an education professor at the State University of New York College at Cortland, describes the unique contributions black churches play in cultivating successful students in the inner-cities…

In fact, back in 2009 Barrett reported that for black inner-city youth who reported attending religious services often, the black/white achievement gap “was eliminated.”

There. It’s verifiable…as if evidence were needed for the benefit of character development and the foundation of morals.

Barrett reports that one of the most important advantages of inner-city churches is that they provide “a community where Black students are valued, both for their academic success and, more broadly, as human beings and members of society with promise, with talents to contribute, and from whom success is to be expected.” Churches also affirm inner-city youth as trusted members of a community that celebrates academic success, and the practices that produce it, which overrides the low expectations communicated at school.

The ‘soft bigotry of low expectations’. What improvement has realization of this made in the past 5-10 years?

None.

Barrett is not alone. In another JNE study of 4,273 black students titled, “How Religious, Social, and Cultural Capital Factors Influence Educational Aspirations of African American Adolescents,” Hussain Al-Fadhli and Thomas Kersen, sociology professors at Jackson State University, report that “family and religious social capital are the most potent predictors for positive student college aspirations.” These scholars explain that “students who attend church and believe religion is important may be more likely to interact with more adults who can help them with their school work and even provide guidance about their futures goals and plans.” The authors conclude that students with an “active religious life, involved parents, and active social life have greater opportunities and choices in the future.”

So the answer is…

Lost on the Department of Education, which remains caught up in its organizational narcissism. And new schemes to justify its existence. In a dysfunctional system. Amazing.

Bradley suggests citizen involvement with the black ministerial alliance in the inner-cities, separate from any government agency, is the beginning of the solution to the crisis in the schools. And that seems like the least we can do, and the best place to start to impact the lives of these students.

“Provide a new narrative,” he told me, and we give them an alternative and the chance for success.

Pro-choice atheist to pro-life activist

It takes an open and intelligent mind that always seeks truth, willing to go wherever that leads. Becoming a parent also helps.

One of the things I love about this book I’ve been reading, The Appalling Strangeness of the Mercy of God, is its high-level of reasoning and engagement of critical thinking. I wasn’t exactly prepared for that when starting what I already knew was a touching biography about an exceptional life, the one Michael Pakaluk wrote about his wife Ruth after she died.

But I got a clue from the endorsement of scholar Michael Novak:

I have never read a more beautiful and touching book – a book about a joyous life and overpowering death, and grief and joy. Michael and Ruth Pakaluk’s account of love and grief towers head and shoulders above the justly acclaimed accounts of C.S. Lewis in A Grief Observed and Sheldon Vanauken in A Severe Mercy.

Wow. High praise. And more from Dr. Peter Kreeft, a brilliant philosopher who knew Ruth Pakaluk well. Early into the book, I saw why.

Ruth Pakaluk entered Harvard an atheist and “enthusiastically pro-choice”, according to her husband Michael in his narrative that opens the book. They met and married while at Harvard, and together made their way through an eager intellectual and spiritual journey to the Christian and then Catholic Christian faith and the reasoned belief in the sanctity of all human life. Which was a rare journey in the higher echelons of academia, they discovered.

Ruth and I were astonished to witness this discourtesy and hostility to free discussion. We couldn’t understand why everyone wouldn’t immediately agree with [a] very reasonable proposal [for revising a state law]. But what most disturbed us was that on a university campus – supposedly dedicated to learning – those who disagreed with the speaker weren’t interested in arguing with him but instead tried to drown out intelligent discussion.

And this is only one snip from this compelling narrative. Ruth became a powerful pro-life activist and an even more powerful public speaker, and this really caught my imagination:

In debate she was so effective that abortion rights activists often refused to go up against her.

She was a force to be reckoned with, and the reckoning meant resorting to reason, and opponents in the debate wouldn’t or couldn’t do that. But she kept on.

When the Supreme Court came down with the Planned Parenthood v. Casey decision in July 1992, Ruth decided in light of it that the pro-life movement needed to change its strategy…Before Casey, the chief pro-life strategy had been to change public opinion sufficiently so that a pro-life president would be elected who, it was thought, would appoint justice who would overturn Roe v. Wade

After Casey, then, Ruth changed her efforts in the direction of influencing the culture, especially influencing individual hearts and minds through education.

Without drama or emotion, Michael weaves the straight-line narrative of Ruth’s journey that was loaded enough with both, the emotion of becoming the mother of seven children with all the drama of a dynamo managing home and family, while also managing political campaigns and educational initiatives and pro-life movement strategies.

It was actually having a child that converted her to the view that her highest calling was to be a homemaker – and from her descriptions of her first child it is evident that she was deeply in love with him and that therefore the central question of her daily life became how she might make life best for him.

That struck home, in the heart, as the same thing happened to me, and hapened again with my second son.

This is a powerful story. In the Introduction, Dr. Peter Kreeft says:

I have read and debated much about abortion, but I have never seen a clearer and stronger pro-life argument than Ruth’s.

And that’s intriguing, coming from Kreeft especially.

Here’s how Michael summarizes it:

The core of Ruth’s argument about abortion and human rights may be summarized in this way: Human rights are rights that pertain to us simply in virtue of the fact that we are human, not for any reason above and beyond that; the fundamental human right is the right to life, and so, if that right is denied, then all human rights are in effect denied; the thing growing in the mother’s womb is surely alive (otherwise it would not need to be killed by an abortion), and it is human; thus, to deny that the thing growing in the mother’s womb has the right to life is to deny that anyone has any human rights whatsoever.

Once, an interviewer of a student newspaper at a university where she was debating asked her, “So, it’s not a legal argument you are making but a humanistic argument?” Ruth replied, “It comes from this idea: either you think all human beings are equal, and you don’t kill each other, or you don’t. I have always seen abortion as an issue where you should not need to believe in God in order to be against it. If anyone wants to say human rights exist or that all human beings are equal, those statements are tautologous with ‘Abortion is wrong.'”

There it is. The clarity of logic and reason, and the beauty of truth.

Ruth came to a turning point in her search for the truth about abortion “in the used book section in the basement of Harvard Book Store,” when she came across one particular book by “a firm advocate of tax-funded abortion on demand throughout all nine months of pregnancy,” as Michael writes.

What the book made clear to Ruth is that people directly involved with abortion are well aware that they are killing human persons – because that’s how they themselves describe abortion…

We perhaps resist recogizing this because it is so shocking. But it was this recognition that led Ruth to reconceive the abortion controversy, not as a difference of opinion as regards some philosophical thesis – “Is the fetus a person?” as people often say – but rather as a difference in two cultures: given that (as everyone really knows) the thing in the woman’s womb is a living human, do we act on the principle that all human beings are fundamentally equal, or do we proceed as if we believe that it is permissible to kill some human beings to solve our problems? The first is the Culture of Life, the second the Culture of Death. These two cultures, she thought, were vyinig for the allegiance of the young people she was addressing, and her concern was to teach them what they should know in order that they might choose life.”

The entire rest of the book is in Ruth’s own words, in the letters she wrote to many people over the years. Providentially preserved, and eloquently spoken. As Peter Kreeft says of the book:

I invite you to meet a warrior for life whose pen is truly mightier than death’s sword.

Truly.

Dear College Officials: Apply the Constitution

We have another case of free speech rights being restricted on a campus by academic officials who need a course in constitutional protections.

Namely:

Sinclair Community College has banned a student from distributing literature about abortion, birth control, and breast cancer to her classmates after class. The college also bans all distribution of literature on vast areas of campus. Student Ethel Borel-Donohue, who never disrupted class with her literature, came to the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) for help.

“The right to distribute literature about controversial topics is one of Americans’ most hallowed rights,” FIRE President Greg Lukianoff said. “If someone’s claim to be offended by speech were all it took to overrule the First Amendment, we would all be reduced to silence. Thankfully the Constitution does not recognize a ‘right not to be offended.’”

That’s the money line in this story.

On February 22, FIRE sent a letter to SCC President Steven Lee Johnson, making clear that “while SCC instructors may limit the expression of students during class time in the service of SCC’s educational mission, such narrowly tailored restrictions for instructional purposes cannot lawfully be extended to restrict all distribution of literature outside of class time.” In a 1979 decision…a federal district court in Solid Rock Foundation v. Ohio State University fully explained that absent “material disruption” or “substantial disorder,” the distribution of literature on campus is student expression protected by the First Amendment, even if students complain about the content of the message distributed.

Again…we have no right not to be offended. However, the school defended their restriction of free speech rights.

So…

FIRE wrote Johnson a second letter on March 23, copying Ohio Governor John R. Kasich and Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine. FIRE asked Johnson to bring SCC’s policies into compliance with the First Amendment and to reply by March 30, but SCC has not responded.

At a loss for words.

Dropouts and economics

Business and commerce means people, buying and selling. The economy is the conglomerate of how that’s doing. Let’s get back to the people at the heart of it all…

The Wall Street Journal had this big cover story this weekend that could be taken as a lengthy piece about an economic and political crisis in Europe, Portugal especially. But the fact that the piece starts with an anecdote about schooling is key and central. I found this piece most enlightening at least halfway down, right about here:

Education long was an afterthought here…The repressive dictatorship that ruled Portugal from 1926 to 1974 had the idea “that people should not have ambition to be something different than what they were,” Mr. Nóvoa says. The result was widespread illiteracy and little formal schooling…

…and a dispirited population of people, for generations. The audacity.

The “shoulds” or “oughts” in our judgments come from what Thomas Aquinas taught as the natural law, though one would need a morally informed education to know that. So the idea “that people should not have ambition to be something different than what they were” is a moral statement, though shaped by the particular ideological framwork of a represeive dictatorship. Trouble is, that dictator misses the point that having the ambition not to be something different but to be just what we are is the noble vocation that builds society. To be just exactly and most perfectly who we were created to be, doing what we are naturally gifted or talented or inspired to do, with training in those skills to help us excell.

But I digress…

Social engineers always need to control information to get their desired results of obedient citizen workers. Trouble is, without education, there’s no work, and that’s what this WSJ piece is about, as it’s playing out in Portugal. The good news is that they’re aware of it, and focusing this attention on it.

But it is a long road. “We have accumulated years and years of ignorant people,” says Belmiro de Azevedo, a billionaire industrialist.

He described the system as calcified. The central administration wields tight control. Curricula are simultaneously undemanding and rigid. Dropout rates are high.

This is another crime against humanity, of a sort not usually framed this way.

A push to evaluate teachers triggered searing strikes and demonstrations in 2008, souring relations between powerful teachers’ unions and the government. The political life of education ministers is measured in months: since the dictatorship ended in 1974, there have been 27.

This reminds me of ‘Waiting for Superman,’ in which a U.S. Lieutenant General (Julius Becton) said that running the D.C. schools was the toughest thing he’d ever done. He resigned in 16 months.

But the WSJ piece gets really interesting when it turns this corner.

In one town, A Dos Cunhados, the local school isn’t run or owned by the government. It is managed by the Catholic Church, in an arrangement that dates to the end of the dictatorship, when the new Portuguese state found it didn’t have enough facilities.

At the school, Externato de Penafirme, as at 90 others with what are called “association contracts,” the state pays a management fee to a private entity, which broadly follows the state curriculum but hires its own teachers…

Instead of being given teachers off a master list, Father Silva and other administrators of these quasi-private schools select their own. They adjust the curriculum, adding, for instance, more religious instruction. They set up teams of teachers responsible for students and try to rope back those prone to dropping out.

“We make an enormous effort to take them all to the end,” says a school administrator, José Mendes. Penafirme’s test scores put it in the top 15% of secondary schools nationwide. It is the best in Torres Vedras.

To their advocates, the privately run schools inject a needed dose of new thinking.

Yes. That’s the key, the turnaround, the ‘Eureka!’ moment in this crisis. And by the end of the story, they’re talking about young people who dropped out of school and realized they were going nowhere without an education. And the good folks in a nonprofit organization who are trying to encourage them back into classrooms.

Marco Monteiro, who is 16, was recently kicked out of his regular school. Bad behavior, he says. He hoped to go back—”I don’t have enough school to find work,” he says—and then maybe get a job in the mall. Project Leadership’s director, António Embaló, complimented him on his mechanical skills.

Might he consider college, perhaps studying engineering?

“It’s never crossed my mind,” Mr. Monteiro says. “I don’t know anyone who went.”

Injecting a needed dose of new thinking. One student, town and country at a time. It’s not the end of the story, it’s the beginning.

The state of education

Or…the state and education. Talk about an inconvenient truth…

Davis Guggenheim’s documentary on global warming was all the media rage. His followup ‘Waiting for Superman’ was more of a brush fire, but some honest critics appreciated Davis Guggenheim’s critique of public education in America.

The U.S. is near the bottom of advanced countries in math and reading scores. We may not pass sleepless nights worrying about Finland, but that country’s kids get a world-class public-school education, and ours don’t. Our problems are bigger and more systemic: that, in the world’s richest nation, a seventh of our citizens live in poverty; that the majority of African Americans form a near perpetual underclass; that the nuclear family has detonated into pieces, leaving many children with only one parent, if that, to love, instruct and keep an eye on them; that the culture of instant gratification convinces kids that studying is a bore, while the infinitesimal chance of making millions as a pro athlete or a rap star is worth pursuing.

A key and central character in this documentary, from whom the title emerged in a boyhood story, is Harvard trained education reformer Geoffrey Canada, a captivating teacher/renegade who ties the whole narrative together in his life’s work and vision for reform. Here’s how it all came toegether…

Guggenheim, who won an Oscar for the Al Gore documentary An Inconvenient Truth, might not have made his new film if, while taking his own children to their private school in Los Angeles each morning, he hadn’t had to drive past several public schools that he and his wife had decided wouldn’t suitably prepare their kids. What he found in his two years of researching Waiting for “Superman” (with co-producer Lesley Chilcott) was that a lot of schools aren’t right for any kids — neither the dull ones who need gentle prods to move competently from K to 12, nor the underprivileged bright ones who could be the Geoffrey Canadas of the future, if only a good charter school had enough slots to accept them all.

But the concerns go deeper, as Joe Tremblay points out eloquently in his blog Sky View.

Statists are well aware that the control of information, especially with regard to a nation’s education, is but the necessary groundwork for the control of the nation itself. The Democratic Party has capitalized on this principle with great success in the latter part of the twentieth century…

Today, approximately 90 percent of America’schildren are being educated in public schools. With this expansion of federal control over education, can there be any doubt that the authority of parents and local communities over their children’s education have diminished in proportion?…

Let a child experience through the working day and through most days of the year that this or that is emphasized in its teaching, and what is so emphasized becomes, for it, and for all its life, the essential.” And the essential in public education today is not primarily academic development; nor is it inspiring a sense of patriotism or the training in virtue which is so necessary in a democracy.

That Time review says

Guggenheim wants to start conversations, debates, elevated arguments — to get people thinking about a crucial problem whose solution has eluded Presidents and parents for the past half-century.

It has at least done that, and in those conversations and debates are hopefully the seeds of the future of education, and therefore the future of the world.

College students challenge speech codes

When you are declared in violation of a speech code in America, do you have the right to speak up and challenge it?

These companion cases aren’t just about the free speech rights of students, they’re over the right of students to fight policies that muzzle speech

One case involves a lawsuit that began when a professor at Los Angeles City College in California called a student a “fascist bastard,” accused him of offending others, and wrote “Ask God what your grade is” on his speech evaluation after he spoke about his faith and the meaning of marriage during an assigned classroom speech. The other case involves a pro-life student group at the University of Maryland-Baltimore County that was forced to move a display to a deserted location on campus because it might “emotionally harass” students.

In both instances, the students were threatened with punishment under the speech code, and both cases address the ability of students to challenge the constitutionality of those codes.

Yes, this is where we are.

The Alliance Defense Fund states the obvious.

“Christian and pro-life students should not have to suffer under unconstitutional speech codes and risk their academic careers before they can challenge such policies in court,” said ADF Senior Counsel David French. “We hope the Supreme Court will intervene to uphold students’ First Amendment protected rights and establish that students have the legal right to challenge speech codes that muzzle their speech.”…

As the petition in one of the cases explains, “In a campus environment rife with speech-restrictive policies, this split threatens to (further) stifle the marketplace of ideas on campus and cause college students to self-censor rather than risk punishment under various–and manifestly unconstitutional–speech policies. This Court should intervene to clear up the confusion and confirm a simple proposition: a student whose speech is chilled by the speech code of the university he or she attends has standing to challenge it to vindicate the First Amendment.”

To say the least.

Message for International Women’s Day

Actually, this message is for women of the world every day, and it seems to have only gained urgency since it was first delivered, four and a half decades ago…

What Pope Paul VI said in his closing speech of the Second Vatican Council, the part specifically addressing women:

And now it is to you that we address ourselves, women of all states…you constitute half of the immense human family. As you know, the Church is proud to have glorified and liberated woman, and in the course of the centuries, in diversity of characters, to have brought into relief her basic equality with man. But the hour is coming, in fact has come, when the vocation of woman is being achieved in its fullness, the hour in which woman acquires in the world an influence, an effect and a power never hitherto achieved. That is why, at this moment when the human race is under-going so deep a transformation, women impregnated with the spirit of the Gospel can do so much to aid mankind in not falling.

I work this address into many talks I give, especially to women’s groups, and they’re always suprised by its profound simplicity, gravity, and beauty.

You women have always had as your lot the protection of the home, the love of beginnings and an understanding of cradles. You are present in the mystery of a life beginning. You offer consolation in the departure of death. Our technology runs the risk of becoming inhuman. Reconcile men with life and above all, we beseech you, watch carefully over the future of our race. Hold back the hand of man who, in a moment of folly, might attempt to destroy human civilization.

Wives, mothers of families, the first educators of the human race in the intimacy of the family circle, pass on to your sons and your daughters the traditions of your fathers at the same time that you prepare them for an unsearchable future. Always remember that by her children a mother belongs to that future which perhaps she will not see.

And you, women living alone, realize what you can accomplish through your dedicated vocation. Society is appealing to you on all sides. Not even families can live without the help of those who have no families. Especially you, consecrated virgins, in a world where egoism and the search for pleasure would become law, be the guardians of purity, unselfishness and piety. Jesus who has given to conjugal love all its plenitudes, has also exalted the renouncement of human love when this is for the sake of divine love and for the service of all.

Lastly, women in trial, who stand upright at the foot of the cross like Mary, you who so often in history have given to men the strength to battle unto the very end and to give witness to the point of martyrdom, aid them now still once more to retain courage in their great undertakings, while at the same time maintaining patience and an esteem for humble beginnings.

Women, you do know how to make truth sweet, tender and accessible, make it your task to bring the spirit of this council into institutions, schools, homes and daily life. Women of the entire universe, whether Christian or non-believing, you to whom life is entrusted at this grave moment in history, it is for you to save the peace of the world.

Women, the time has come.