Wednesday, February 20, 2008

The Left Wing School Agenda and the Banning of Patriotism

An article by Mark Loftin []

When Winston Churchill was dropped from the UK school curriculum last July, one had to wonder if patriotism itself was next. Now it's official. The Institute of Education, a leading educational body, has warned teachers not to instill pride in students when speaking of great moments in British History:

"To love what is corrupt is itself corrupting, not least because it inclines us to ignore, forget, forgive or excuse the corruption. And there's the rub for patriotism."

The recommendations singled out specific moments in history that students should now feel "ambiguous" about:

1750-1830 The Industrial Revolution: exploitation of the poor versus great wealth creation and growth

1807 Abolition of the slave trade. Britons were both practitioners of the trade and responsible for abolition

1947 Indian independence and Partition. How well did Britain manage its withdrawal from the sub-continent?

2003 Iraq war: was it liberation or occupation?

This shouldn't come as a surprise. The UK schools' leftist agenda has been in full steam over the last year:

* Last month, "Mum and Dad" become forbidden in British schools because it assumes a child's parents are different genders, and The Three Little Pigs was banned so not to offend Muslims.

* Last July, as mentioned, Winston Churchill was dropped from the UK school curriculum.

* Last April, teachings about the Holocaust were dropped as to not offend Muslims.

* Last March, schools began teaching 4-years olds about homosexuality through books like "King and King," (which is about a prince that rejects three female princesses before falling in love with a prince).

* An Inconvenient Truth is regularly shown in 3400 UK schools, instilling paranoia in 7-11 year olds.

Here in the U.S., the leftist agenda is also sinking its teeth into our schools at an equally disturbing pace. Leading the charge is California:

* San Francisco is debating an anti-war textbook, which features corporate American celebrating the spoils of war and Ronald Regan hugging Osama Bin Laden. Pete Hammer of the San Francisco Unified School District, who approved the book, says "The topic is one that a lot of teachers would have an interest in bringing into the classroom."

* A current bill gaining momentum by California lawmaker Joe Simitian (D - Palo Alto) would require California schools to include climate change as part of the science curriculum

* Last October, "Mom and Dad" were banned from schools, along with "Husband and Wife." In the same bill, public schools were ordered to allow boys to use the girls' restroom or locker room, and vice versa, if they choose

* Last June the state passed a homosexual education bill SB 777, which: ".requires textbooks and other instructional resources to cast a positive light on homosexual `marriages,' cross-dressing, sex-change operations and every other facet of homosexual and bisexual lifestyles."

* More hatred of Israel, as seen by anti-Israel speakers and the atmosphere that appears on the UC Irvine, UC Berkeley and San Francisco State campuses .

While there is not a specific mandate here in the US to "ban" patriotism - or any specific heroes that defined it - with more of the left's agenda taking up course time, one must wonder what will be slighted to make room.

A 2003 poll from California's Santa Monica High School said that 1/3 of students were not proud to American and 40 percent said America itself was "unjust". One can only imagine what the numbers would look like today in the name of "progress." Of course, you can't blame young, impressionable students for not being proud to be an American if that is what they are taught. The way the left commonly twists the meaning of the word, not being proud to American could be taught by a teacher as "patriotic."

In typical Doublespeak fashion, the left has been adamant about manipulating patriotism's definition for years. The Merriam-Webster's Dictionary defines patriotism simply as "love for or devotion to one's country." In 2001 Senator John Kerry redefined patriotism to mean "not drilling in the Arctic refuge." In 2006, Kerry redefined it again to mean "wartime dissent." Air America has defined it as "pointing out the flaws in your country." Entire Web blogs are dedicated to this trickery, such as US Patriots United which issued it's "10 commandments of patriotism." A few entries:

(someone who),

"respects the diversity and culture of all nations, recognizing that our continued success lay not in spite of other nations but in alliance with them in a uniform approach toward promoting the global general welfare."

"ensures that the basic rights of those we hold dear to access quality healthcare and education is steadfastly supported, uncompromisingly and without discrimination based on race, color, creed, gender, or orientation."

"offers foreign humanitarian aid unconditionally without tying it to religious dogma"

"exercises the right to openly challenge (the president) and hold accountable at all times, even and most particularly in times of war"

Multiculturalism? Socialized Healthcare? Government- administered education? Wartime dissent? If the left had their way, being a patriot would be officially redefined to mean.being a liberal democrat.

At Nathan High School in Tulsa, Oklahoma, a project was started in 2005 to hang a picture of George Washington in every classroom. John Pribram, chairman of Project George Washington and a member of the Military Order of the Purple Heart said:

"I'm grateful (for the success of the project). After Sept. 11, we were united at that point. Flags in front of every house. Patriotism was rekindled. George Washington does the same thing."

One can only speculate at the heated debate that would occur in California over whether George Washington - military hero and devout Christian - deserves the classroom wall. Unfortunately, with Churchill being pulled from the walls in Great Britain, there is now a precedent for more patriotic disillusionment from California's schools.

Perhaps Leo Lacayo, San Francisco Republican Party media surrogate, put it best with his response to San Francisco's anti-war book: "We're not teaching them -- we're basically washing their brains with liberal mish-mash."



Note that the "Express" story below is about winter ice while the Greenies have been gloating about summer ice. Nonetheless, if all the summer loss is replaced in winter the Greenies have only got theory to hang their hats on.

Also note that -- according to paleoclimate research -- the earth never loses its polar ice, not even during eras of extreme global warming. So the whole Greenie gloat is sensationalism, not science.

Note thirdly that the article below is from the mass media but the truth behind it can be seen from the scientific graphs below -- the first of which shows the extent of the antarctic sea ice right now -- which is SUMMER in the Antarctic. Instead of being minimal, the area of ice is greater now than it has ever been in the period graphed.

(Bigger version of the graph here)

The same thing is even clearer in the Anomaly graph ("anomaly" means "deviation from average"):

(Bigger version of the graph here)

And it's not only the Antarctic. The graph below is of the Arctic anomaly. Look at the tail end of it and you will see that after the big melt of 2007, the ice area has popped back up to normal

(Bigger version of the graph here)

The "Express" article:
New evidence has cast doubt on claims that the world's ice-caps are melting, it emerged last night. Satellite data shows that concerns over the levels of sea ice may have been premature. It was feared that the polar caps were vanishing because of the effects of global warming. But figures from the respected US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration show that almost all the "lost" ice has come back. Ice levels which had shrunk from 13million sq km in January 2007 to just four million in October, are almost back to their original levels. Figures show that there is nearly a third more ice in Antarctica than is usual for the time of year.

The data flies in the face of many current thinkers and will be seized on by climate change sceptics who deny that the world is undergoing global warming.

A photograph of polar bears clinging on to a melting iceberg has become one of the most enduring images in the campaign against climate change. It was used by former US Vice President Al Gore during his Inconvenient Truth lectures about mankind's impact on the world. But scientists say the northern hemisphere has endured its coldest winter in decades. They add that snow cover across the area is at its greatest since 1966.

The one exception is Western Europe, which has - until the weekend when temperatures plunged to as low as -10C in some places - been basking in unseasonably warm weather. The UK has reported one of its warmest winters on record. However, vast swathes of the world have suffered chaos because of some of the heaviest snowfalls in decades. Central and southern China, the USA and Canada were hit hard by snowstorms.

Even the Middle East saw snow, with Jerusalem, Damascus, Amman and northern Saudi Arabia reporting the heaviest falls in years and below-zero temperatures. Meanwhile, in Afghanistan snow and freezing weather killed 120 people.

In Britain the balmy February weather came to an abrupt halt at the weekend as temperatures plunged to -10C in central England. Experts believe that this month could end up as one of the coldest Februaries in Britain in the past 10 years.

The freezing night-time conditions look set to stay around -8C until at least the middle of the week. A Met Office spokesman explained: "There has been little or no cloud cover across England and Wales. So there is a capacity for a fair bit of heat to be able to escape at night. "It has been warmer in Scotland but that's because it has been cloudy there. "Until the weekend the temperatures were in the 14s and 15s, and we will see a return to that later this week, though it will look grey and overcast when the clouds return." But he added that there was little chance of snow. He said: "When the rain comes it will get warmer."


Criminalising acts of kindness

The routine vetting of everyone who works with kids will sow suspicion and discourage volunteering. So why aren't volunteering groups worked up about it?

UK government legislation requiring background checks on anyone who works with young people - including volunteers - could have a devastating impact on important areas of social life for children while placing a cloud of suspicion over adults. Yet one of the main bodies that promotes volunteering has published a rather mealy-mouthed report that offers no proper criticism of the ominous vetting culture.

The report by the Commission on the Future of Volunteering, Manifesto for Change, almost criticises the expansion of criminal records checks for all adults working with children. But it doesn't quite, and so is left in a bind. The report shows the extent to which this kind of background check - `vetting' - is now an unquestioned, untouchable practice. It also shows how the volunteering sector is in denial about the Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Act, which comes into force this autumn. This Act will make vetting compulsory for all adults working with children - including those who are providing their services for free as volunteers. That means everybody from mothers helping out at playgroups to fathers teaching a local football team will be checked. The Act will mean that 9.5million adults - one third of the adult working population - will be subject to ongoing criminal checks (see The case against vetting, by Josie Appleton).

The Commission is quite rightly not merely concerned with the technicality of volunteering - who can do it, when, how easy it is - but also with the ethos necessary for volunteering. The Commission's vision is `a society in which we will be united by our common concern for the wellbeing of others; a society in which we enrich our own lives by enriching the lives of others through the giving of time'; and it emphasises that this `depends as much on the way we all feel about ourselves and others as about technical questions'.

Yet the Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) check for all adults working with children turns people away from one another. The CRB check turns the suspicion of others into a basic assumption for the organisation of our relationships with one another. It means that the first question asked about people putting themselves forward for volunteering is: `Have they been checked out?' The spontaneous offering of help, freely given and received, simply cannot happen if that relationship is channelled through some unwieldy government bureaucracy. Genuine volunteering cannot happen if we need state clearance before our offer of help is accepted.

The Commission's report takes up the technicalities of vetting. It notes that mass criminal records checking is in many respects irrational; that CRB checks have `degenerated into caricatures of risk aversion', and are `disproportionate in relation to any actual risks'. But in the end, all the Commission can say is that vetting should be made more efficient: `We are absolutely in favour of safe practice and protection for volunteers and those receiving services, but it cannot be right that good people are deterred by avoidably slow and inflexible procedures'. These weasel words - `safe practice and protection' - embody the whole nasty assumption behind vetting: the assumption that an unvetted adult spending time with a child is an `unsafe practice'.

Who knows what Baroness Julia Neuberger, the chair of the Commission, really thinks. A rabbi and Liberal Democrat peer, and author of The Moral State We're In, she has a deep grasp of how morality has changed, and must remember the time before 2003 when vetting was not an everyday thing, when people turned up on a say-so to help out at a football match and society did not fall apart as a result. She must know that it is possible to organise adult-child relationships differently to today.

And yet the Commission was established by Volunteering England, which has from the beginning supported the Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Act. Volunteering organisations are, almost to the letter, behind the compulsory expansion of vetting of their members. The discussion of vetting has become almost taboo in volunteering circles - you can criticise the way mass vetting is done, but not the principle that it is necessary.

These volunteering organisations are burying their heads in the sand about the implications of the Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Act. Come autumn 2008, if a man helps out at the local football team and is not checked, he will be called a criminal and will be in line for a 5,000 pound fine. The government is cheerfully holding sessions to talk to `stakeholders' about what the Act will mean. But have they really thought about how this law will play on the ground? How many children's football teams/nurseries/cricket clubs are there that rely on local volunteers? Have officials really thought about what it means to make `helping out' into a crime?

This is an issue that cannot be fudged. If you support volunteering and the principle that we should give freely to help others, then you must be against the vetting law. This is no time for sitting on the fence. More people within the volunteering community need to start questioning the new vetting law, before it has the chance to erode the already-fragile community relationships that exist in the UK today.


Tying us up with even more red tape

Many hailed the UK government's new risk advisory committee as a challenge to the `cotton wool culture'. It is nothing of the sort

Last month, the British government appointed a Risk and Regulation Advisory Council (RRAC). This move is part of UK prime minister Gordon Brown's enthralling programme designed to ensure that `policymaking benefited from a fuller and more rounded consideration of public risk'. He specifically wants this rounded consideration to be applied `even when facing pressures to react to events' (1). What does this really mean?

Currently, it seems that every new risk that is identified, no matter how minor, has to be responded to with some new moralising campaign or draconian measure to restrict our liberties further. Even when civil liberties are not directly affected, excessive safety regulation can make normal parts of everyday life - like the humble school trip - impractical. And when government is not directly involved, companies still feel obliged to warn us about dangers that should be self-evident to any sensible person - like those coffee cups that tell us the `contents may be hot'.

Has Gordon Brown suddenly decided that we, the great British public, have the intelligence and wherewithal to be trusted to manage our own lives? Apparently he `is so concerned that the cotton-wool culture is denying people the freedom to enjoy themselves that he has asked the watchdog to report to him personally'

Media reaction was rightly somewhat sceptical that Brown might have been fortified suddenly by the spirit of Edmund Hillary reincarnated, ready to lead us into clear, clean air free from the stifling laws, regulations and red tape generated by 10 years of New Labour. As Roland White wrote in The Times (London): `Can the real problem be solved by a committee? No, because the real problem lies at the heart of modern politics: dividing the balance of responsibility between the individual and the state.' (3) If Brown had really had a change of heart, he would have appointed Top Gear host Jeremy Clarkson as head of his new committee to scrap unwanted safety legislation and not Rick Hawthornthwaite, geologist and private equity fund manager. After all, the financial markets have hardly covered themselves in glory when it comes to risk-taking of late.

These criticisms, however, are in danger of missing the real problem with the RRAC. It is not actually designed to liberate us from a nannying state but to find more effective ways of influencing our behaviour. It is also part of an ever-growing abdication of responsibility on the part of our political leaders. And at its heart is a real contempt for the abilities and opinions of the British public.

The RRAC came out of a report by the Better Regulation Commission (BRC) called Public Risk: the Next Frontier for Better Regulation (4). The aim of that report was to create a `more engaged and trusting relationship with the public around issues that have a significant day-to-day impact on lives and attitudes'. The authors admit that `public trust is on the wane'. To counter this they recommend a `move away from an approach based on trying to control people to an approach that seeks more to influence behaviours'. Rick Hawthornthwaite criticises government policy for `collapses in the face of a confrontational parliamentary system, the media and short-term career pressures'. He advocates `a more mature dialogue with the public on what really needs to be done whenever "something must be done". offering a more responsible alternative to whatever the clamour of the crisis may be demanding'.

You don't have to read deep to get this argument: government policy should bypass parliament and the media and go straight to the people. Not to ask us what we think - Labour is not in the business of letting us have referenda, after all - but to influence our behaviour towards pre-determined objectives. So, we can expect patronising consultations and citizen juries rather than the clamour and confrontation of real democratic debate. We can look forward to `the deployment of a high-calibre team to act as a "network catalyst" for high-quality, evidence-based dialogues in which all key stakeholders, internal and external, revisit issues and explore how better outcomes can be achieved'. Thank God no one has been out on the streets demanding that - it would never have fit on the placard.

A key part of the RRAC's approach will be to work `with external stakeholders to help foster a more considered approach to public risk and policy making'. This is to state baldly that unelected committees can deliver more consideration than our elected representatives. Brown's appointment of the council is nothing more than an abdication of responsibility for making policy; such authority has been gifted on our behalf to `external stakeholders' who will draw up `simplification plans' from forums convened as `action learning sets'.

As spiked has consistently observed, we live in a period where politicians, bereft of any big ideas and frustrated at their resulting inability to move people, are desperate for any means of gaining some legitimacy and getting their policies effected. This latest move is to ask risk managers and professional facilitators to do it for them.

Just as revealing as the aims and methods of the RRAC are its first targets. What are the top risks facing us that the council is going to tackle? It won't be the threat of economic recession, the dumbing-down of education or the state of the National Health Service - it will be food and superbug scares, animal disease outbreaks, under-pensioned citizens and obesity.

The approach to obesity, for example, is not to tell us that it might be healthier for us to relax a little about what we eat, that the health scares may have gone too far, that we should be sure to trust ourselves more than the continuously contradictory science. Instead, the decision has already been made that obesity is a real issue. The only risk here is that we might not change our behaviour to suit. The role of the RRAC is to mitigate that risk. As `independent, external voices', the committee can focus support around `clearly articulated objectives', `increasing public understanding of the issues. and establishing the right context for successful implementation'. This is a spin machine. Is it a coincidence that Brown set up the RRAC just a few weeks after appointing Stephen Carter - spin supremo - to head up `political strategy, communications and research and his policy unit'? (5)

This behavioural approach seems to have informed the latest initiatives on obesity, like compulsory cookery classes and even paying people to lose weight. We can expect more of the same in other areas as the work of the RRAC starts to influence more and more of government policy.

The political elite seems increasingly and even bizarrely out of touch with what we think, with how we actually live our lives. At its root is a deep contempt for people: if they really thought there was too much regulation, they would scrap it and let us manage risk in our own lives. Life, if one is to live it, involves risks and choices, trade-offs and gambles. Instead we get the RRAC. As one social commentator said: `It is a symptom of the overweight state that administrators at the top come to rate intellectual debates about risk management higher than the gut instincts of the brave people at the bottom.' (6)

These initiatives are nothing to do with making us any less risk-averse, with trying to reawaken a spirit of adventure. Rather this is about politicians trying to sell us policy that they are too scared to front themselves. Another risk management quango can only entrench the contemporary role of government as anti-democratic technocrats.


US and Britain join rush to recognise Kosovo: "Leading Western powers gave their formal blessing to the independence of Kosovo yesterday, as angry Serbs took to the streets across the Balkans to vent their fury over the loss of their historical heartland. Europe had hoped to speak with one voice on Kosovo but a failure to reach agreement left each country to issue its declarations separately. The first, from Spain, brought disappointment when it announced that it would not recognise a secession that it viewed as a breach of international law. But there was jubilation and relief when France affirmed its support, followed moments later by Britain, Germany and then Italy."

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