A Voice of Reason: Sane Views for a Crazy World

April 23, 2007

Quote of the Day

Filed under: Culture,Inspirational,Philosophy,Quote of the Day — avoiceofreason @ 5:21 am

Science without humanity is social sin.

Gandhi

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April 22, 2007

Quote of the Day

Filed under: blogging,Culture,Humor,Inspirational,Quote of the Day — avoiceofreason @ 4:03 am

Moral indignation is jealousy with a halo.

H.G. Wells

April 21, 2007

Virtue Education: Does it Work?

For part of my Ed.D program I had to attend a practical research symposium. Some of the topics were rather interesting, and one of them dealt with an action research proposal, where findings from a doctoral dissertation were applied to a school building.

Here is the abstract of the study and some of the initial findings that were reported; all followed by commentary by yours truly.

Character Education: An Elementary School’s Journey Toward Implementing a Virtues-based Program. By Deborah DeLuca Ed.d

Abstract:

“Down through history and all over the world, education has had tow great goals: to help people become smart and to help them become good. ‘Good’ can be defined in terms of moral values that have objective worth, values that affirm our human dignity, and promote the ood of the individual and society” (Lickona, 1991) Ryan (2003) contines this thinking by reminding us that “Socrates defined education as what we do to help young people become both smart and good. ” Together, the ideas and rigors of character and the ability to demonstrate virtues are what our democracy is based upon.

However, academic test-based accountability is taking the center stage in public education and the social and emotional domains which are prerequisites to academic success are often overlooked. This study focused on one large suburban elementary school from Long Island, New York, where a focus on a Social and Emotional Literacy and a “virtues-based” Character edcuation approach has significantly impacted student behavior. In addition, some positive academic gains were noted.

From the lecture: Ten Virtues are explained and set about as a monthy theme for the entire school (K-5) with the Principal modeling the expected behaviors to all students in an assembly and with teachers enfusing these traits into daily learning activities. Virtues are emphasized, and not values. Values can be applied equally to positive and negative activities and are morally neutral. Virtues are always positive moral contributions.

Respect: Showing high regard for an authority, other people, self and country; treating others as you would want to be treated; understanding that all people have value as human beings.

Responsibility: Being accountable in word and deed; having a sense of duty to fulfill tasks with reliability, dependability and commitment.

Honesty: Telling the truth, admiting wrongdoing; being trustworthy, and acting with integrity.

Tolerance: Enduring or putting up with practices or beliefs that are different from your own; keeping an open and understanding mind and accepting difference even if you don’t agree with it.

Perseverance: Continuing to do something in spite of difficulties; facing obstacles with determination and patience.

Empathy: Understanding and being sensitive to the feelings, thoughts and experiences of another.

Integrity: Standing up for your beliefs about right or wrong; being your best self; resisiting social pressure to do things that are wrong; showing commitment, courage and self discipline. “Walk your talk”.

Humility: Recognizing and accepting your own talents, abilities and imperfections.

Forgiveness: Letting go of angry feelings; excusing or pardoning an offense.

Compassion: Showing understanding of others by treating them with kindness, genorosity and a forgiving spirit.

Other Data: Since implementing this policy the school has undergone a radical shift in behavior. The year before the changes were brought about the 800 students had about 175 disciplinary referrals and nearly 180 bus incidents. Last year school referrals went down to about 100 but bus incidents rose to nearly 200, however, this current year, there have been 13 discipline referrals and 35 bus referrals.

Commentary: I think this school is to be applauded in its positive framing of behavior, and I will follow their progress with interest. It is so refreshing to hear “good news” come out of an education setting.

April 19, 2007

Quote of the Day

“I do not separate people, as do the narrow-minded, into Greeks and barbarians. I am not interested in the origin or race of citizens. I only distinguish them on the basis of their virtue. For me each good foreigner is a Greek and each bad Greek is worse than a barbarian. “

Alexander the Great

Public Schools Embrace Islam?

In 1962 the New York State Regents passed a policy to “combat the decline of morals in public life” that called for “moral and spiritual training” as a part of the school day. The Regents introduced a generic prayer to be said by students in the public school as a part of the morning activities. The prayer recites: “

Almighty God, we acknowledge our dependence upon Thee, and we beg Thy blessings upon us, our parents, our teachers and our Country.”

This prayer drew criticism from the ACLU, and was struck down by the Supreme Court in 1963 by a 7-1 ruling. Personally, I agree with the ruling, as it was in my opinion unduly entangling the secular with the relgious world. On the other hand, here we are many years later with this “generic” prayer ditched and on the verge of being replaced with Muslim prayers.

MUSLIM PUBLIC SCHOOLS IN NEW YORK
New York City is about to open a new taxpayer funded “Arabic themed” school in Brooklyn. Khalil Gibran International Academy will be led by Debbie Almontaser a Muslim of Yemeni background. “It is a school that is going to be working quite hard in building bridges of understanding, tolerance and acceptance, valuing diversity and truly just developing students into global citizens,” says Almontaser. While some of this sounds good, this school will go a good deal further than those arguably, altruistic goals.

The New York City school’s goal is to focus on Arabic aka Islamic themes in education and eventually to teach half of the classes in the Arabic language. Isn’t it interesting that just recently Oxford University in London, England decided not to teach certain subjects like the Holocaust or the Crusades in the school’s history classes because they might offend some of the Muslim students. Yet, in America tax payers are at the very least facilitating a religion.

A valid question that many have asked if the Muslim religion could be separated from the school. In response to that question Almonstaser said,

“Being that we are a public school, we certainly are not going to be teaching religion.”

Maybe not but they will be facilitating it. I also wonder if the Islamic mandates of prayer, not voluntary mind you, will be enforced or will be disallowed. Will accomodations be made during Ramadan. All of these sound precariously close to an “undue entanglement” of the state with a “particular religion”, and all of this would be unconstitutional.

In Lemon v Kurtzman,403 U.S. 602 (1971) the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that Pennsylvania’s 1968 Nonpublic Elementary and Secondary Education Act, which allowed the state Superintendent of Public Instruction to reimburse nonpublic schools (most of which were Catholic) for teachers’ salaries, textbooks and instructional materials, violated the Establishment clause of the First Amendment. The decision also upheld a decision of the First Circuit, which had struck down the Rhode Island Salary Supplement Act providing state funds to supplement salaries at nonpublic elementary schools by 15%. As in Pennsylvania, most of these funds were spent on Catholic schools. The following guidelines were established, and these are the Law of the US.

1. The government’s action must have a legitimate secular purpose;
2. The government’s action must not have the primary effect of either advancing or inhibiting religion;
3. The government’s action must not result in an “excessive entanglement” with religion.

On the face this school would seem to be in patent violation of the third and possibly the third prong of “The Lemon Test”.

There are other instances of the state becoming “excessively entangled” in facilitating Islamic needs. Consider the policy of Minneapolis Community Colleges. The colleges have installed facilities to enable Muslim students to perform ritual feet washing before daily prayers at the college. Muslims are required to pray five times a day but must first wash their feet. According to President Phil Davis the school is simply extending “hospitality” to their newcomers. However, are such “hospitable” extentions afforded to Jewish, Christian, Hindu, Buddhist or other practitioners of a relgious faith. This practice would seem to be in violation of all prongs of the lemon test.

The question is why are public institution policies so correctly careful to not estabish or facilitate Christianity and Judaism, but are bending over backwards for Islam. I make no secret that I am a practioner of Christianity, however, I am not thrilled with public dollars being spent facilitating and advancing any religion unless there is a clear and legitimate secular purpose being served. These two instances don’t come close to meeting that standard.

April 16, 2007

Quote of the Day

Filed under: children,Culture,Education,Inspirational,Philosophy,Quote of the Day — avoiceofreason @ 10:37 pm

Life’s gonna such when you grow up; it sucks pretty bad right now.

Dennis Leary

April 14, 2007

What the Duke Case Means for John and Jane Q. Citizen

Reading MissLittleChatterbox today, I came across this post about the Duke case.

A vital statement about society was echoed by these players, and then by Rush Limbaugh this week, about the trend to accept the authorities word as always being correct. This is a view that people far too often put into practice, and is one of the better aspects of having strong discourse in the public sphere. This case shows the need and the continued existence of diverging ideas, agitation, free speech, and continued demands by the public for the furtherance of transparency of government.

While I am happy that these young men have deservedly had their names cleared, a great burden falls on society to consider what of those who do not have the means to combat and defend against incidents of prosecution, which resembles practices more commonly thought of with the Third Reich and Stalinist Russian than the United States. It must never be forgotten that terms such as a presumption of innocence mean something. That government exists by the consent of the governed. That the little people, collectively, mean in the end a great deal more than the power of the state. Yes, I am a strong believer in the principles of Federalism, and want a strong government. I also want them off my back, out of my wallet and bedroom and to do what they are Constitutionally mandated to do; provide for the common defence, ensure domestic tranquility, and promote the general welafare of the people. Also, while they may need to watch people to secure these objectives, must always be watched by the people. That’s all of our jobs, and not those who are elected into power.

Our Constitution is meant to protect the common man from overzealous government. It is time that John and Jane Q. Citizen remember that by bringing back a healthy dose of skepticism towards government and defense of the guarantees of civil liberties and rights enjoyed by common citizens we demonstrate the values of the Founders of our Republic. That is called Patriotism, and it is neither a Republican, Democrat, Conservative or Liberal responsibility. In that view, to paraphrase Jefferson’s inaugural address, we are all Republicans and we are all Democrats.

Quote of the Day

From a speech by Rudy Giuliani.

In 2009 the death tax rate will be 45%

In 2010 the rate will be 0%.

In 2011 the rate will be 55%

“Leave it to Washington D.C. to give people an incentive to die.”

Rudy Giuliani

April 13, 2007

Quote of the Day

Filed under: Culture,History,Inspirational,Philosophy,Politics,Quote of the Day — avoiceofreason @ 5:37 am

A bad peace is worse than war.

Tacitus

April 11, 2007

Quote of the Day

Filed under: Christianity,Church,Inspirational,Philosophy,Quote of the Day,Religion — avoiceofreason @ 3:48 am

I don’t understand my own actions.  That, which I want to do, I am incapable of doing, and I do the very thing that I hate.

St. Paul

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