By JAMES K. FITZPATRICK
Our readers have responded to a variety of recent topics addressed in this space in recent months. They offer much food for thought. N.H., for example, points out that we should not assume that groups organizing against Common Core are doing so for the same reason as ourselves. He issues what he calls an LZA, a “leftist zombie alert.” He compares his LZA to an APB, an all points bulletin about left-wing maneuvering in the country.
He writes of a “nascent teachers’ organization positioning itself to use the disenchantment over Common Core. This organization is still in the incubation phase, but it may prove to be a potentially viral movement soon.” Those on the right who criticize Common Core argue that it establishes unacceptable standards for our schools rooted in secular leftist presumptions. The group that N.H. is pointing to argues “that there should be No standards and No standard for testing. One of its promoters is a professor of education currently tenured at St. Thomas Aquinas College in Sparkill, NY. The group calls itself Save Our Schools (SOS).”
N.H. contends that the group is seeking “to ride the tide of parental disgust over Department of Education Secretary Arne Duncan’s plans for Common Core to build support for subjective teacher assessment of students’ achievements.”
Why would they do that? N.H. writes, “Their main objection to Common Core seems to be that it is bringing about the left’s desire to have public education act as a paradigm for secularist, statist indoctrination — too slowly! The optimum goal of SOS is for assessment to be a subjective, personal review of student progress by a duly certified (i.e. indoctrinated) lecturer/teacher.”
N.H.’s warning about SOS is worth keeping in mind. The secular left has always been nimble enough to choose different tactics to advance their agenda when circumstances call for it. Consider how the free speech advocates of the 1960s and 1970s became the enforcers of political correctness once they took control of our universities.
Arne Duncan and the other Obama loyalists in the Department of Education are pushing Common Core because they are in charge of setting its standards. If a more conservative administration ever takes control of the Department of Education, one can easily see them turning to a position like that of SOS to prevent the enactment of an agenda with a traditional bent.
S.M. writes on another topic, what First Teachers on February 13 called the “eight-hundred-pound gorilla in the room” that gets overlooked in the discussion over vouchers, tax credits for parents of parochial school students, and charter schools: i.e., the disruptive and dysfunctional students who will be left behind in our failing public schools after the students leave for parochial schools or charter schools. A healthy society cannot look the other way about their plight. They need help.
S.M. argues the “eight-hundred-pound gorilla in our public schools is not students left behind as a consequence of charter schools, but the bureaucracy/union control of the money spent on our schools. The unions and the school administrators present themselves as opposite sides in the debate, but are joined at the hips. Until schools are returned to local authority with access to the same funds (with no strings attached), these two factions will go on spewing forth rhetoric about the ‘children left behind’ as a result of vouchers and charter schools, when their actual concern is themselves.
“Neighborhood schools would know how to deal with disruptive and dysfunctional students. Neighborhood schools should be just that — with parents responsible for discipline and accountability. If a student is disruptive, we need to return to the no-nonsense, commonsense atmosphere of the past: discipline, expectations, consequences, removal for disruption. I do not mean by that expulsion. Don’t expel. Focus on behavior. Isolate the disruptive student, with assignments he or she is required to complete. If a student does not pass to the next grade, repeating that grade for a second or third time should be the consequence. Reading, writing, and arithmetic are far more important than suffocating self-esteem. With the bureaucracy/union in charge, little to nothing will ever change. Is it just a coincidence that 30 years of school failure have paralleled the 30-year existence of the Department of Education?”
Another reader called our attention to a February 11 report from the Newman Society on those Catholic colleges that continue to sponsor performances of the play The Vagina Monologues. Pressure from alumni and parents of current students has led many Catholic colleges to put an end to performances of the play. But not all. According to the Newman Society, there are several holdouts:
The College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Mass., confirmed to the Newman Society that the Jesuit institution would host the Monologues from February 18-19.
“The Georgetown University Women’s Center in Washington, D.C., is advertising the Monologues as a ‘powerful performance that raises awareness about violence against women and girls’.” Performances ran from February 6-9.
DePaul University in Chicago is also on the list. According to the Newman Society, the school “will be hosting the Monologues for the 15th time this year.” On the final day of the show, “there will be a question and answer period with the cast about the show.”
Bellarmine University in Louisville, Ky., is advertising on its Facebook page performances of the play from March 28-29. The post states that the performance is independently sponsored by the performers, but the play will be held on campus.
The student group “Una” at St. Louis University (Mo.) presented the Monologues from February 20-21 at the Sheldon Concert Hall, a block north of campus. “‘Una is an officially recognized St. Louis University student-led feminist organization, according to the university’s web site’.”
Fordham University (N.Y.) hosted auditions for the Monologues from January 22-23, with show dates scheduled from March 6-8, according to a Facebook event page. The casting call reads: “No male actors….People who lead their lives as women are eligible to perform in this production. This includes individuals who were born with a vagina and transgendered individuals (trans men and trans women are welcome).”
Loyola University in New Orleans will host an appearance in April.
St. Mary’s College of California hosted the play for the 12th year in a row, on February 14; Seattle University had two dates scheduled. The university’s Society of Feminists, a recognized group on the Jesuit campus, hosted the event. Santa Clara University’s web site had not published a date for the play’s performance, but, according to the Newman Society, “the university has hosted the controversial play numerous times in recent years….There is a Vagina Monologues Club registered on the university’s web site.”
Beyond that, the Newman Society report continues, one theology course offered at Santa Clara during the winter semester titled “The Christian Tradition” required students to read Boston College professor Cathleen Kaveny’s article “Be Not Afraid: The Vagina Monologues on Catholic Campuses.”
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Readers are invited to submit comments and questions about this and other educational issues. The e-mail address for First Teachers is firstname.lastname@example.org and the mailing address is P.O. Box 15, Wallingford CT 06492.