Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Dirty little secret of who is behind the rise in British antisemitism

Good news for Britain's Jewish community - antisemitic attacks have decreased sharply in the past year. Racist attacks on blacks, Asians and Arabs are "far higher than the level of antisemitic attacks". So mazeltov then, you lucky, lucky Jews. Stop that whining. You've never had it so good.

That, at least, is the view of Lee Jasper, "race adviser" to Ken Livingstone and also on the board of the National Black Alliance, National Black Caucus and Operation Black Vote. (Indeed, if you were to choose two words at random and put the word "black" in between, you'd probably hit on an organisation run by Lee and funded, somewhere along the line, by your wallet.)

Jasper was responding to a survey by the Community Security Trust that seemed to show antisemitic attacks had doubled in the past 10 years and increased by 37% over the past 12 months. The attacks were at their most concentrated during the summer war between Israel and Hezbollah. But Jasper, who can usually be relied on to show you racism in a handful of dust or a bowl of chicken soup, unilaterally decided that the figures were rubbish. No story there, he said. Why's that, I wonder?

The trust's report was carried by quite a few national newspapers; but the curious thing is not one dared to mention why these attacks had increased nor speculated as to what group of people might be responsible for them. The impression one was left with was that any of us might have been out kicking Jews at night, perhaps because there was nothing good on the box. This was despite one or two strongish clues: the war in Lebanon and the graffiti that accompanied the desecration of Jewish graves in north London. The words spray-painted read "Hitler" and "Kill All Jews" and "Allah". Now, call me Inspector Barnaby, but that last one is a bit of a giveaway.

A spokesman for the trust, Mark Gardner, said the usual suspects, white right-wing extremists, were not responsible - yet conceded, almost as an afterthought, that Muslims were "overrepresented" in identifiable attacks. That's overrepresented in the same way that elderly middle-class white men are overrepresented in the Long Room at Lord's, I'd guess. Still, at least we now have an idea why Jasper wished to deny the figures and why everybody else trod so gingerly.

But if you don't spell it out, nothing will be done. The police, for example, are too busy interviewing Celebrity Big Brother contestants about who called whom "white trash" or "poppadom" to worry about real, hate-filled, violent racism. And yet the clue to the rise in attacks on Jewish people lies in the bookshop they raided in Birmingham last week - and thousands like it up and down the country.


British Teacher Fired for Telling the Obvious Truth

We read:

"Andrew McLuskey was sacked from Bayliss Court Secondary School in Slough after a Religious Education lesson discussing the pros and cons of religion.

Pupils at the predominantly Muslim school claimed Mr McLuskey said most suicide bombers were Muslim.


When are the little darlings going to learn about life's realities? Not while at a British school, apparently.

Another brainstorm from Britain

The traditional school timetable should be abandoned and replaced by a radical approach in which subjects are taught together and entire weeks or days are turned over to single topics, the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority will say today.

The authority is to propose the changes as part of its plans to reform the Key Stage 3 curriculum for 11 to 14-year-olds. Mick Waters, its director, told The Times that schools needed to find better ways of managing time to ensure that children were not turned off learning in the crucial first few years at secondary school.

Teachers will be encouraged to engage in joint subject teaching across a range of subjects and lessons will be divided into different lengths, some lasting no more than a few minutes. The proposals have been prompted by concerns about pupil disaffection; a dip in performance among pupils in their first years of secondary school; and the high dropout rates at 16. Britain has one of the worst rates among industrialised countries for dropping out of school at 16.

Resolving this problem has to go farther than merely changing the subject matter that pupils are taught. It also needs to focus on the ways they learn, Mr Waters told The Times. "We have to show students the link between the subjects so that learning makes better sense to them," he said. "If we can make them see the relevance of what they learn in school to life outside school, they may want to stay on in education."

Science lessons on anatomy, for example, could be taught jointly by science and PE teachers, helping pupils to see the practical application and relevance, say, of theoretical learning about how muscles or ball-and-socket joints work.

Other combinations could work just as well: languages and music (learning a song in French) or languages and financial literacy (learning how to convert different currencies); history and geography (studying patterns of local settlements); or maths and PE (collecting and charting scores and fastest times). "Wouldn't it be lovely if the PE teacher turned up in the history lesson to show examples of how great sportsmen through the ages had exercised leadership and control?" Mr Waters said. He added, however, that some subjects would need to be taught separately and in depth so that youngsters could build up a solid body of knowledge and facts in core areas.

He likened the new approach to the preparation of a mixed salad: "Imagine the programme of study in a school as the ingredients in a salad. The way you put them together to create the salad is the crucial bit in making it appetising. There is nothing to say that a school has to offer 40 minutes of tomatoes, followed by 40 minutes of lettuce, followed by double onions. "The challenge for schools is to work out which ingredients need to be taught separately, so that children quarry learning in real depth; which ingredients need to be taught by the drip-feed method for a few minutes every day; and which can be taught jointly."

Under guidance accompanying today's Key Stage 3 document, schools may also decide to adopt a total immersion approach to a subject, such as ICT, and to spend an entire week studying it, with teachers in every subject area focusing uniquely on the use of ICT in their own field for that week. Schools may also decide that some subjects, such as modern languages or maths, are best learnt by the drip-feed method, with constant repetition several times during the day. "They might be timetabled for a few minutes two or three times a day," Mr Waters said.

Timetables could also be adapted for different groups of children. Those who arrive at secondary school unable to swim, for example, could do only swimming in games and PE until they can swim. Those who can already swim could experiment with a range of new sports. Mr Waters said that schools also needed to adopt a new approach to skills. Pupils are currently taught research skills in each of their separate subjects, when equally these could be taught separately in a dedicated class to avoid repetition.


Another triumph for British gun controls: "A 16-year-old boy was shot and fatally wounded during a Saturday night disco at a crowded ice rink. James Smarrt-Ford was standing in a crowd of people yards from the rink edge at the packed disco in Streatham, South London, when a gunman opened fire, hitting him twice.... Detective Superintendent Gary Richardson, leading the murder hunt, said: "This was just a 16-year-old boy who went to the skating rink on a Saturday night." He said that police were trying to find out whether the dead boy had been with friends and what he had been doing during the evening. "We don't know who he came here with or how long he had been here." They were not sure whether he was the only target, or even the intended target. He appealed in particular for anyone who may have seen the gunman running down Streatham High Road at 11pm to come forward. Six youths and an 18-year-old man have been arrested, but Mr Richardson believed that the gunman had escaped. Yesterday detectives from Operation Trident, which covers black-on-black gun crime, were studying CCTV footage. Residents said that gangs of youths would descend on the arena on Friday and Saturday nights. "Every now and again there would be a crew or a gang who would come down," Sam Kinsey, 20, said. He added: "A knife attack wouldn't have surprised me, but it's not good to think of guns in Streatham."

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