Thursday, March 31, 2011

Unrest in Syria!

United Nations Security Council Takes A Powder On Syria
Lebanon uses its seat on the Security Council to block any Council press statement critical of Syria
Joseph A. Klein
Friday, April 29, 2011
The United Nations Security Council has reverted to its usual modus operandi - inaction. On April 27th, after receiving a detailed report by the UN’s Under-Secretary General for Political Affairs, Lynn Pascoe, on the violence unleashed by the Syrian government against its own people, the Council members were unable to agree on a simple press statement calling on the Syrian government to stop its brutality.
In his briefing to the Security Council, Pascoe noted that the anti-government demonstrations in Syria had started in mid-March, following the detention of fifteen schoolchildren in Deraa for anti-government graffiti and gradually increased in geographic scope and participation. The protests began with demands for greater freedom and political and economic reforms and eventually included calls for the regime’s downfall. The Syrian authorities had reacted with a mix of ‘reform’ gestures, and increasingly violent repression. Despite the promise of reform, the government crackdown had dramatically intensified, Pascoe reported. As a result, more than 100 persons were killed across the country from Friday April 22nd to Sunday April 24th alone, according to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.
Pascoe went on to say that the overwhelming majority of protests had been peaceful, but there were also credible reports of a very few instances where protesters had used force, resulting in some deaths of security forces. Despite the Syrian government’s attempt to place the blame for the violence entirely on the protesters’ shoulders, however, Pascoe said there were no reports suggesting that violence from the protester side was a recurring phenomenon.
The Security Council members listened to Pascoe but the result was pre-ordained. Under Security Council rules, all fifteen members must approve in order for a press statement to be issued in the name of the Council. In this case, Lebanon refused to go along with any press release for fear of offending Syria.
While Russia and China expressed caution in light of the interventions in Libya and the Ivory Coast under Security Council auspices that they believed went too far, Security Council sources have told UN reporters
that Russia and China were at least willing to negotiate the wording of a press statement. However, the Lebanese UN ambassador reportedly had instructions from his government not to agree to any Security Council press statement, knowing that the unanimity rule would protect Syria from any official Security Council criticism.
Syria’s UN Ambassador Bashar Ja’afari told members of the Security Council during the open meeting, repeating a claim he had made previously to UN reporters outside the Security Council chamber, that the current violence in Syria was perpetrated by extremist groups, whose fundamental objective was the fall of the Syrian Government. He blamed the deaths of innocent civilians and of security forces on these armed extremists. And he repeated the mantra that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad was a “reformer” - a term that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton herself used about a month ago to describe the dictator.
Bashar Ja’afari rejected the idea of an independent international investigation and even went so far as to claim that statements heard from certain Security Council members - presumably referring specifically to the United States - could only be considered as an incitement to violence and terrorism. In her public statement shortly before the Syrian ambassador’s remarks, Ambassador Susan Rice had accused the Syrian government of accepting assistance from Iran and using the same brutal tactics as that regime.
The Syrian ambassador responded to the Iranian connection charge by characterizing it as a “Hollywoodian” attempt to link the two countries, which he asserted “did not respect the Security Council’s status and clearly showed the true negative intent of the United States towards Syria.”
Finally, the Syrian ambassador added that “with the end of the age of colonialism, the world’s peoples now recognized that some States were trying to interfere in the affairs of others under the rubric of the ‘responsibility to protect’ and humanitarian intervention.” How a simple press release, and nothing more, would constitute interference or intervention, the Syrian ambassador did not say.
Lebanon’s UN Ambassador Nawaf Salam explained that there were “special links between his country and Syria due to history and common fraternal interests, as well as mutual security concerns.”
Exactly what “special links” does Ambassador Salam have in mind, considering that Syria has been implicated in the assassination of the former Prime Minister of Lebanon, Rafik Hariri. One might think that many people in Lebanon who are concerned about Lebanon’s independence would want to distance themselves from the Syrian government. That might have been true before Hezbollah, Iran’s terrorist arm in Lebanon, engineered the collapse of the ruling coalition headed by Rafik Hariri’s son, Saad Hariri, leaving a caretaker government that effectively reflects Hezbollah’s Syria-friendly agenda. Syria is strategically important to Iran as a conduit for transporting arms to Hezbollah in Lebanon for use against Israel.
Adding to the disgrace of Security Council paralysis, Syria is currently likely to be elected to the UN Human Rights Council unless there is a last minute successful effort to stop them. While the Human Rights Council is scheduled to discuss Syria during a special session, the Arab League has indicated its support for having Syria join the Human Rights Council in May.
At the United Nations, if you have the right friends, you not only get shielded from the consequences of your human rights violations. You get a seat of honor on the UN’s Human Rights Council.
America and Syria
U.S. leaders should not excuse the brutality of Syria’s dictator
Claude Sandroff
Wednesday, March 30, 2011
National Review
If Pres. Barack Obama prefers not to intervene on behalf of the protesters being slaughtered in Syria, the least his administration could do is refrain from endorsing their tyrant. In Obama’s speech Monday night about America’s interest in defending Libyans and standing alongside other freedom-seekers of the Arab world, Syria didn’t even rate a mention. That discussion was handled Sunday in remarks by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, speaking on CBS’s Face the Nation. Not only did Clinton nix any thoughts of action on Syria, she ran interference for Syria’s murderous president, Bashar Assad, saying: “Many of the members of Congress of both parties who have gone to Syria in recent months have said they believe he’s a reformer.”
Such deference to U.S. lawmakers was absent from Obama’s decision to go to war in Libya; the president sought a resolution from the United Nations, but not from Congress. But if Congress is now back in the loop, with some members singing the praises of Assad, clearly the State Department needs to do a much better job of briefing them on the realities.
Clinton could start by highlighting the findings of her own department’s annual reports on human rights in Syria. These reports go far to explain why, after 40 years of the Assad family’s totalitarian rule, Syrians are so unhappy with this regime that tens of thousands of them have been risking prison, torture, and death in order to burn offices of the ruling Baath party, topple a statue of the late Hafez Assad, and march through the streets of cities across Syria, demanding freedom from the current Assad. The most recent State Department report, dated 2009, does not include the current season of shooting protesters. But it covers more than enough to convey the general idea.
The report begins with the observation that during 2009, the government and members of its security forces “committed numerous serious human rights abuses, and the human rights situation worsened.” Then come accounts of “arbitrary or unlawful deprivation of life” and “enforced disappearances” that go back to the vanishing of “an estimated 17,000 persons in the late 1970s and early 1980s.” Those numbers, which look like a conservative estimate, presumably include the regime’s 1982 massacre in the city of Hama, which was how the elder Assad dispatched an uprising of the Muslim Brotherhood. Hillary Clinton, in her remarks Sunday, dismissed that mass murder with the comment, “There is a different leader in Syria now.”
Yes, but since the younger Assad took over in 2000, the reign of terror, reinforced by the echoes of Hama, has carried on. The State Department report lists a slew of “suspicious” deaths, disappearances, and arrests in 2009 alone, for offenses such as “degrading speech” or “insulting the president and the judicial system.” The Syrian government, with its long record of allegedly “disappearing” individuals, offered no legal redress and “did not investigate or punish any security force members for their role in disappearances.”
Electrical shocks; pulling out fingernails; burning genitalia; forcing objects into the rectum; beating, hyperextending the spine
There is a description of the methods of torture and abuse inflicted on the inmates of Syria’s filthy and
crowded prisons. Among these are: “electrical shocks; pulling out fingernails; burning genitalia; forcing objects into the rectum; beating, sometimes while the victim was suspended from the ceiling; other times on the soles of the feet.” (I heard a first-person account of this technique some years ago from a survivor of Syria’s prisons, who showed me the horrible scars.) In a 21st-century reprise of the medieval rack and wheel, other methods include “hyperextending the spine; bending the detainees into the frame of a wheel and whipping exposed body parts; . . . [and] using a backward-bending chair to asphyxiate the victim or fracture the victim’s spine.”
This report goes on to enumerate other forms of agony, insult, theft, and repression inflicted by the Assad regime on the 21 million people of Syria. Corruption is rampant. Assad’s Baath Party keeps its monopoly on power by prohibiting criticism of the government and violating its own constitution in order to severely restrict such rights as freedom of assembly. A permit can be required for a gathering of more than three people. There is brutal censorship. Among the cases cited in this report is that of a blogger who was sentenced to three years in prison for “publishing information aimed at weakening national morale.”
For a source other than the State Department, consult the Washington-based Freedom House. The
organization puts out a handy report on “The World’s Most Repressive Societies”; in 2010, Syria ranked, as usual, among these “Worst of the Worst.” Freedom House also puts out a country report on Syria. The 2010 version includes an illuminating note about the regime’s practice of rewarding or coercing Syrians into informing on their own relatives, friends, and associates.
This is the regime that Syrians, with incredible courage, are now daring to defy. Assad is shuffling his cabinet and promising concessions he says will “please all the Syrian people.” But it’s a sure bet his security forces will be standing by, just in case the people aren’t pleased enough to stop protesting. One can see what Assad means by “please all the Syrian people” by looking at Syria’s 2007 elections, in which Assad officially produced a voter turnout of 96 percent and won 98 percent of the vote.
Along with all this, Assad’s Syria is a threat to the U.S. and its democratic allies — notably Israel. Its officials welcome terrorists and sanctions-busting weapons traffic, and Syria has amassed its own considerable arsenal of missiles and chemical weapons. It is one of four countries currently on the State Department’s list of terror-sponsoring states, a list it has helped populate since 1979. Under Assad, Syria hosts an array of terrorist groups, including leaders of Hamas, which controls Gaza.
Syria’s regime is a bedfellow of the terror-sponsoring, nuclear-bomb-seeking mullocracy in neighboring Iran
Syria’s regime is a bedfellow of the terror-sponsoring, nuclear-bomb-seeking mullocracy in neighboring Iran. The country supports and abets the flow of weapons to the terrorists of Hezbollah, the Iranian-backed terrorist group that now controls the government of neighboring Lebanon — which Syria occupied from 1976 to 2005. Not only is Syria a longtime missile client of North Korea’s, but under Bashar Assad, Syria became an enterprising nuclear client as well, building a secret reactor with North Korean help (it was destroyed by an Israeli air strike in 2007) and displaying a continuing and alarming interest in nuclear development to this day.
Calling Bashar Assad a “reformer” might satisfy the likes of the United Nations Human Rights Council, where — with Libya only recently suspended — Syria has now brazenly entered the running for a seat. For the U.S. State Department, which, along with those giddy congressional delegations, has been trying to “engage” Assad, it may look like reform when Assad grants them an audience, or Assad’s wife trots out her French designer handbag for an interview with Vogue. Or perhaps Obama and Clinton consider it simplest to try to dismiss Syria’s protests in whatever way might most seem to favor continuing attempts at “engagement” with the Damascus regime.
If it was right for America to intervene in Libya to protect people trying to rid themselves of a bloody tyrant, there can be no excuse for American officials’ doing anything that might help or encourage Assad in his efforts to hold on to power. The long and ugly record of Assad’s regime suggests that he will try to crush this uprising by jailing, torturing, and killing as many protesters as he needs to. Obama may be chiefly concerned with trying to avoid another military intervention in the Middle East. But with his administration praising Assad and signaling that Syria’s regime is exempt from the kind of punishment now descending on Qaddafi, Obama risks ending up with a lot of blood on his hands.

Disasters Happen! Be Prepared! (Part 1)

20 Signs That A Horrific Global Food Crisis Is Coming
In case you haven't noticed, the world is on the verge of a horrific global food crisis. At some point, this crisis will affect you and your family. It may not be today, and it may not be tomorrow, but it is going to happen. Crazy weather and horrifying natural disasters have played havoc with agricultural production in many areas of the globe over the past couple of years. Meanwhile, the price of oil has begun to skyrocket. The entire global economy is predicated on the ability to use massive amounts of inexpensive oil to cheaply produce food and other goods and transport them over vast distances. Without cheap oil the whole game changes. Topsoil is being depleted at a staggering rate and key aquifers all over the world are being drained at an alarming pace. Global food prices are already at an all-time high and they continue to move up aggressively. So what is going to happen to our world when hundreds of millions more people cannot afford to feed themselves?
Most Americans are so accustomed to supermarkets that are absolutely packed to the gills with massive amounts of really inexpensive food that they cannot even imagine that life could be any other way. Unfortunately, that era is ending.
There are all kinds of indications that we are now entering a time when there will not be nearly enough food for everyone in the world. As competition for food supplies increases, food prices are going to go up. In fact, at some point they are going to go way up.
Let's look at some of the key reasons why an increasing number of people believe that a massive food crisis is on the horizon.
The following are 20 signs that a horrific global food crisis is coming....
#1 According to the World Bank, 44 million people around the globe have been pushed into extreme poverty since last June because of rising food prices.
#2 The world is losing topsoil at an astounding rate. In fact, according to Lester Brown, "one third of the world's cropland is losing topsoil faster than new soil is forming through natural processes".
#3 Due to U.S. ethanol subsidies, almost a third of all corn grown in the United States is now used for fuel. This is putting a lot of stress on the price of corn.
#4 Due to a lack of water, some countries in the Middle East find themselves forced to almost totally rely on other nations for basic food staples. For example, it is being projected that there will be no more wheat production in Saudi Arabia by the year 2012.
#5 Water tables all over the globe are being depleted at an alarming rate due to "overpumping". According to the World Bank, there are 130 million people in China and 175 million people in India that are being fed with grain with water that is being pumped out of aquifers faster than it can be replaced. So what happens once all of that water is gone?
#6 In the United States, the systematic depletion of the Ogallala Aquifer could eventually turn "America's Breadbasket" back into the "Dust Bowl".
#7 Diseases such as UG99 wheat rust are wiping out increasingly large segments of the world food supply.
#8 The tsunami and subsequent nuclear crisis in Japan have rendered vast agricultural areas in that nation unusable. In fact, there are many that believe that eventually a significant portion of northern Japan will be considered to be uninhabitable. Not only that, many are now convinced that the Japanese economy, the third largest economy in the world, is likely to totally collapse as a result of all this.
#9 The price of oil may be the biggest factor on this list. The way that we produce our food is very heavily dependent on oil. The way that we transport our food is very heavily dependent on oil. When you have skyrocketing oil prices, our entire food production system becomes much more expensive. If the price of oil continues to stay high, we are going to see much higher food prices and some forms of food production will no longer make economic sense at all.
#10 At some point the world could experience a very serious fertilizer shortage. According to scientists with the Global Phosphorus Research Initiative, the world is not going to have enough phosphorous to meet agricultural demand in just 30 to 40 years.
#11 Food inflation is already devastating many economies around the globe. For example, India is dealing with an annual food inflation rate of 18 percent.
#12 According to the United Nations, the global price of food reached a new all-time high in February.
#13 According to the World Bank, the global price of food has risen 36% over the past 12 months.
#14 The commodity price of wheat has approximately doubled since last summer.
#15 The commodity price of corn has also about doubled since last summer.
#16 The commodity price of soybeans is up about 50% since last June.
#17 The commodity price of orange juice has doubled since 2009.
#18 There are about 3 billion people around the globe that live on the equivalent of 2 dollars a day or less and the world was already on the verge of economic disaster before this year even began.
#19 2011 has already been one of the craziest years since World War 2. Revolutions have swept across the Middle East, the United States has gotten involved in the civil war in Libya, Europe is on the verge of a financial meltdown and the U.S. dollar is dying. None of this is good news for global food production.
#20 There have been persistent rumors of shortages at some of the biggest suppliers of emergency food in the United States. The following is an excerpt from a recent "special alert" posted on Raiders News Network....
Look around you. Read the headlines. See the largest factories of food, potassium iodide, and other emergency product manufacturers literally closing their online stores and putting up signs like those on Mountain House's Official Website and Thyrosafe's Factory Webpage that explain, due to overwhelming demand, they are shutting down sales for the time being and hope to reopen someday.
So what does all of this mean?
It means that time is short.
For years, many "doom and gloomers" have been yelling and screaming that a food crisis is coming.
Well, up to this point there hasn't been much to get alarmed about. Food prices have started to rise, but the truth is that our stores are still packed to the rafters will gigantic amounts of relatively cheap food.
However, you would have to be an idiot not to see the warning signs. Just look at what happened in Japan after March 11th. Store shelves were cleared out almost instantly.
It isn't going to happen today, and it probably isn't going to happen tomorrow, but at some point a major league food crisis is going to strike.
So what are you and your family going to do then?
You might want to start thinking about that.


Wednesday, March 30, 2011

General Wesley Clark Speaks Out!


Monday, March 28, 2011

More News From Canada!

Beware of NDP leadership hopefuls bearing policy gifts from Greece
Brian Topp: proposing a radical program of huge tax hikes
Canadian Taxpayers Federation By Gregory Thomas, Federal and Ontario Director
Monday, December 5, 2011
In his campaign to become the next national leader of the NDP, candidate Brian Topp is proposing a radical program of huge tax hikes. To understand why a serious contender for the leadership of Canada’s official opposition would put forward such a destructive program, it’s important to consider his world view.
When the Greek debt crisis was unfolding this past summer, Mr. Topp was at the centre of it all, in Athens, admiring the leadership skills of former Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou.
To most of us the summer was frightening; watching Papandreou plunge the world economy into near-chaos – first agreeing to a bailout package from the European Union, then announcing a national referendum on the deal (without consulting the EU or his cabinet), triggering a global stock market sell-off and finally calling off the referendum vote and resigning under pressure. Investors took a 50 per cent loss on Greek bonds, pensioners saw across-the-board reductions in their retirement benefits, while Greek employers and workers prepared for a severe recession.
For Topp, then serving as national president of Canada’s NDP, it was business as usual.
In Athens on Canada Day, for the worldwide convention of Socialist International, he wrote home to his blog , that Papandreou “is a quietly inspiring figure.” Topp said the Greek leader “opened the meeting with a calm, thoughtful, and determined overview.”
“Perhaps his most important words were his final ones,” Topp wrote, as he thrilled to the uplifting rhetoric. “We will survive, and we will win.”
Everybody knows the next chapter in the story: Papandreou and the NDP’s Socialist International counterparts proceeded to default on Greece’s debt.
This would all be pretty funny if Brian Topp were not the most likely successor to Jack Layton, poised to become the leader of Canada’s official opposition.
In the current fiscal year, the government of Canada expects to collect record revenues. Even so, finance minister Jim Flaherty is forecasting a $35 billion deficit on account of spending that has soared 31 per cent since his government took office in 2006. And Flaherty is forecasting spending to increase a further 13 per cent over the next five years, before revenues overtake spending and we finally enjoy a balanced budget.
Like most of his colleagues in Socialist International, Brian Topp believes the solution to the worldwide debt crisis (a crisis caused by over-spending) is higher taxes.
In his policy paper released in late November, Brian Topp promises that, as Prime Minister, he will hike the top federal income tax rate from 29 per cent to 35 per cent, double the taxable capital gains rate from 50 to 100 per cent, tax stock options like employment income and boost the federal business tax rate from 15 per cent to 22.12 per cent.
He explains his $18 billion tax grab, saying our current tax rates are “benefits given to people who don’t need them.” Apparently in Mr. Topp’s world, any money you earn is rightful property of the government and any amount they let you keep is a gift for which you should be grateful.
For now, the people Brian Topp claims to really want to squeeze – 173,570 people earning over $250,000 – (less than the population of Barrie, Ontario) already pay $29 billion dollars in federal income tax each year. Or put another way, they are the 0.7 per cent of all taxpayers who happen to provide 20 per cent of all federal income tax revenue. In comparison, 12 million Canadians (52 per cent of taxpayers) pay $6 billion in federal income taxes – only 4 per cent of the total.
Topp’s solution is to target the people who already pay $29 billion each year in federal income tax and take another $3 billion from them.
And what would he do with that $3 billion tax grab? Topp says the money “would then be available for productive investment.”
Many of us could probably be classed as sceptics on that point: if you needed to find a truly productive investment for that money, you might be tempted to leave it in the hands of the people who earned it, rather than turn it over to the president of the NDP, the former prime minister of Greece and all the big brains in Socialist International.
Canada Gives the Bum’s Rush to Bill Ayers, Terrorist, Obama Pal, and ACORN Conspirator
Ayers, a self-described "small-c communist," was barred Wednesday by the Canadian Border Services Agency
Special to Canada Free Press
Matthew Vadum
Friday, June 17, 2011
Canada was absolutely right to deny entry to unrepentant American terrorist Bill Ayers.
Ayers, a self-described “small-c communist,” was barred Wednesday by the Canadian Border Services Agency. He had hoped to spread his visceral hatred of freedom and democracy at the Worldview Conference on Media and Higher Education on Thursday in Toronto. The conference was co-sponsored by the notorious Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE) at the University of Toronto. OISE is well known for its embrace of radical left-wing politics.
According to the National Post, conference organizers whined that Ayers was being denied his so-called academic freedom. A spokesperson said Ayers’s refused admission to the country “should raise red flags for citizens concerned with free and open debate.”
The spokesperson is absolutely right. Those flags should be red. Bright red.
The now-retired education professor was a leader of the communist Weather Underground, a terrorist group that bombed U.S. targets, including the Pentagon, throughout the late 1960s and ‘70s. He said he doesn’t regret the bombings and has never disavowed the use of violence to achieve political change.
The Weather Underground plotted to use dynamite to murder military officers at a dance in Fort Dix, New Jersey in 1970. The only reason the bombing didn’t take place is because his comrades blew themselves up while making bombs in New York City.
As I write in my new book, Subversion Inc.: How Obama’s ACORN Red Shirts are Still Terrorizing and Ripping Off American Taxpayers (WND Books), Ayers’s group had even more diabolical plans.
According to Larry Grathwohl, a Vietnam War veteran who infiltrated the Weather Underground, the terrorists also came up with a plan to murder millions of Americans when the communist revolution the group pressed for came to pass. Their plan was to slaughter the one-tenth of the U.S. population they expected would turn out to be “diehard capitalists” incapable of reeducation.
Ayers is a close personal friend of U.S. President Barack Obama. Obama launched his political career with a fundraiser in the living room of Ayers’s home in Chicago’s Hyde Park.
Ayers is also a longtime supporter of the U.S.-based Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN), a Saul Alinsky-inspired urban terrorist group that uses violence and intimidation against corporations and governments to spread its version of “social justice.” Obama worked for ACORN and represented it in court as its lawyer.
Ideologically similar to Jack Layton’s New Democratic Party (NDP), ACORN is a profoundly antisocial organization. It tries to destroy everything that’s good in society, including free political institutions.
When Ayers and Obama sat on the boards of the Chicago Annenberg Challenge and the Woods Fund of Chicago they directed funds to ACORN.
Now ACORN has metastasized to Canada. It maintains offices in Toronto, Hamilton, Ottawa, and Vancouver. (ACORN, incidentally, is also one of the evil groups New York Times bestselling author Ann Coulter writes about in her new book Demonic: How the Liberal Mob Is Endangering America.)
Investigators on a U.S. congressional committee concluded that ACORN illegally spends taxpayer dollars on partisan activities, commits “systemic fraud,” and violates racketeering and election laws.
The investigators’ findings were included in “Is ACORN Intentionally Structured As a Criminal Enterprise?” a report issued in summer 2009. The report declares that “[t]he weight of evidence against ACORN and its affiliates is astounding.”
As I write in Subversion Inc., acting in concert with other radical direct-action organizations ACORN successfully cornered the U.S. voter fraud market and helped to pump up the housing bubble that is still slowly deflating and causing havoc in U.S. markets. ACORN ridicules the work ethic and tries to recruit people onto the welfare roles. It supports gun prohibition and urges regulation of free speech. If something is good, ACORN is against it.
ACORN has no respect for democracy and the rule of law. Its mission ever since its founding in 1970 by New Left radicals has been to overthrow “the system.” ACORN routinely blackmails businesses for the political equivalent of protection money. It profits from its rent-a-mob services in which it takes money from one business with orders to stir up trouble for another business.
And now ACORN’s most famous employee, Barack Obama, is doing everything in his power to implement the destructive left-wing ACORN agenda from the White House.
Don’t let ACORN, Bill Ayers’s favorite activist group, wreck Canada.
Matthew Vadum,, is an investigative reporter at a watchdog group in Washington, D.C.
His new book Subversion Inc. can be bought at (US), (Canada), and as an e-book at Kobo (Canada).
Visit the Subversion Inc. Facebook page.
Follow Matthew on Twitter.!/vadum
One Year Later McGuinty Needs To Take Sex Ed For Six Year Olds Off The Table
Ontario PC Caucus forced Dalton McGuinty to backtrack on his new sex-ed curriculum
News on the Net
Thursday, April 21, 2011
QUEEN’S PARK— Today, in the provincial Legislature, the Ontario PC Caucus asked Dalton McGuinty why families should believe he won’t try again to sneak in changes to the Ontario elementary school curriculum and proceed with his plan to teach sex courses to six year-olds after the election. In the Legislature, McGuinty failed to assure Ontario families that sex-ed for six year olds is off the table for good.
Tomorrow marks one year since pressure from Ontario families and the Ontario PC Caucus forced Dalton McGuinty to backtrack on his new sex-ed curriculum. Last year, within 54 hours of introducing these changes to the curriculum, McGuinty reversed course on his two-years-in-the-making plan and promised to consult parents on a new curriculum. To date, no new proposals have been put forward and parents have still not been consulted.
In the next election, Ontario families will have a clear choice between the McGuinty Liberals who meddle with family decisions and whose out-of-touch priorities include sex-ed for six year olds, and Tim Hudak and the Ontario PC Caucus who will give Ontario parents the respect they deserve when it comes to decisions that affect their families.
“One year ago, the McGuinty Liberals gave a vigorous defence of why they were pressing ahead with sex-ed for six year olds only to find that hours later, McGuinty backtracked confessing they hadn’t really consulted parents and they would do so. Now, a year later—why is there still no indication that they will consult parents?”—Lisa MacLeod, MPP Nepean-Carleton, PC Revenue and Government Accountability Critic
“Dalton McGuinty promised to consult parents on changes to the sex education curriculum that they viewed as a fait accompli last year. Today, there is still no schedule of consultations, and parents see no sign that anything will change. Why shouldn’t parent believe that the Liberals are waiting until after the next election to bring back sex classes for six year olds if they’re given the chance?”—Lisa MacLeod, MPP Nepean-Carleton, PC Revenue and Government Accountability Critic
Quick Facts:
Dalton McGuinty supported the new curriculum when he was first asked about it on Tuesday, April 20, 2010. Within 54 hours, following a public backlash, McGuinty reversed course and promised to consult parents on a new curriculum.
Today, in the legislature, the Ontario PCs asked McGuinty why families should believe that he will not bring back sex ed for six year olds. The McGuinty Liberals failed to assure parents that the curriculum was off the table for good.
Minister of Education Leona Dombrowski admitted that the Liberal sex-ed plan was a deliberate scheme over two years in the making, while falsely claiming that parents were widely consulted on the plan.
Also See:
Our Society is Now Advocating Homosexuality
31 December 2010
Sex Education in Ontario Elementary Schools is Going Too Far!!
24 June 2010
Conservative Harper attacked right from pulpit of Catholic Church today
Judi McLeod
Monday, April 4, 2011
Talking Peace and Social Justice, the far left Development and Peace representing other leftist groups came to Catholic Church in Canada today, elbowing the Gospel of Jesus Christ aside for a full-tilt campaign speech for the Coalition Opposition.
In the last message heard before the final blessing was given, parishioners were told to “get on their computers” to spread the word that the Conservative Government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper is forcing Canada into the European Union.
The exact words of Susan at St. Gabriel’s Roman Catholic Church, Burlington, Ontario, who plugged the website of the Council of Canadians among others: “The Harper Conservatives are planning our country’s entrance into the European Union. Did you know this?” (go to the 1:04 mark on CFP YouTube).
The message was delivered at St. Gabe’s 8 a.m. Mass and repeated at the 11 a.m. Mass.
The captive audience at Sunday service, who had already contributed to a collection that went to Development and Peace, experienced something of a Charlie Sheen in Detroit moment. “I already got your money, dude,” he shouted to departing audience members who walked out on his show.
Nor did the political message stop there. “We need to have better health care, a stronger economy and jobs. We need to protect our freedoms here and now,”
Susan said.
A stony silence followed the 8 a.m. message. A smattering of applause followed the delivery at the later Mass where CFP videotaped the campaign speech.
Interesting to note that at the same time Susan’s 11 a.m. message was being delivered, Canadian Liberal Party Leader Michael Ignatieff (media dubbed “Iggy”) was launching his Barack Obama style campaign electronically via LiveFeed.
In both addresses at St. Gabriel’s, parishioners were invited to write Steve Harper’s “friend” Burlington MP Mike Wallace. “Please write to him and if you do not have a computer, visit him when you’re on the second floor of the Burlington Mall.”
Development and Peace and the Council of Canadians are Canadian both non-profit organizations.
Development and Peace is the official international development organization of the Catholic Church in Canada and the Canadian member of Caritas Internationalis. Development and Peace is a membership led organization supported by parish collections, individual donations and government grants, principally from the Canadian International Development Agency.
Our vision: Committed to change
Our mission: Support partners in the Global South who promote alternatives to unfair social, political and economic structures. It educates the Canadian population about the causes of poverty and mobilizes Canadians towards actions for change. In the struggle for human dignity, the organization forms alliances with northern and southern groups working for social change. It also supports women in their search for social and economic justice.
The Council of Canadians is a member of the Canadian Peace Alliance, touted as “Canada’s largest umbrella peace organization.
It is chaired by activist Maude Barlow, board chair of the Washington-based Food & Water Watch and executive member of the San Francisco-based International Forum on Globalization and a Councillor with the Hamburg-based World Future Council. In 2008/2009, she served as Senior Advisor on Water to the 63rd President of the United Nations General Assembly.
The Council of Canadians supports the War Resisters’ Support Campaign, which is a broad based coalition of community, faith, labour and other organizations and individuals that have come together to support U.S. soldiers seeking asylum in Canada because they refuse to fight in “the illegal war in Iraq”.
Both organizations are creatures of the United Nations. Development and Peace, through CIDA, the Maurice Strong founded Canadian International Development Agency. The Council of Canadians “which seeks to establish a Department of Peace in Canada to change the dynamic of debate and decision making in cabinet and parliament towards a culture of peace and non-violence at home and abroad,” is described on its campaign page as being “in concert with the UN”.
Canadian non-profit organizations like Development and Peace and Council of Canadians are curtailed by Canada’s rules for non profits from participating in overt political activities.
From The Canadian Government Website:
Political purposes
Organizations with political purposes will not qualify for registration.
The courts have determined political purposes to be those that seek to:
further the interests of a particular political party; or support a political party or candidate for public office; or
retain, oppose, or change the law, policy, or decision of any level of government in Canada or a foreign country.
In addition, a registered charity cannot engage in any partisan political activity (i.e., one that involves direct or indirect support of, or opposition to, any political party or candidate for public office).
However, a registered charity can engage, to a limited extent, in non-partisan political activities which help accomplish the charity’s purpose.
For more information and examples, see Policy Statement CPS-022, Political Activities.
Entering a Catholic church and campaigning for a political party is certainly partisan political activity and both organizations should have their charitable status pulled.
Most parishioners do not expect to hear speeches for political parties during election campaigns at their local church Sunday services.
The age-old hymn What A Friend We Have in Jesus could have easily been replaced today by What a Friend Iggy has in the Canadian far left.
Meanwhile, during election saving your immortal soul via the pulpit is being trumped by “Peace, Brother, Peace.”
Why are Canadian Conservatives covering for Obama in Libya?
So it should come as no surprise to any that Canada is in Drudge headlines “Canada Takes Charge on Libya” today
Judi McLeod
Friday, March 25, 2011
It could easily be argued that Canada is the most pro-UN country among all Western nations.

Canadian Maurice Strong, senior advisor to former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, who had more UN titles than any other person living or dead, until his name was connected to the United Nations Oil For food Scandal in 2005, was kingpin for the sweeping major reforms under Annan, and of most UN initiatives seeking a One World Government.
Canadian Louise Arbour was from 2004 to 2008 UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and a former chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rawanda.
Canadian Louise Frechette was until 2005 UN Deputy Secretary-General for eight years.
The United States of America has troops. Canada has “Peace Keepers”.
Former Liberal Canadian Prime Minister Lester Pearson, while he was President of the UN General Assembly in 1957, proposed the concept of UN Peacekeeping Forces.
Former Canadian Ambassador to the United Nations and President of the United Nations Security Council
George Ignatieff, is the father of current day Canadian Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff.
In fact, pull out a file from almost any UN portfolio, and you will find Canadian names with big titles.
So it should come as no surprise to any that Canada is in Drudge headlines “Canada Takes Charge on Libya” today.
According to Yahoo News, A Canadian general will take over command of the NATO mission on Libya”.
“Canadian Defense Minister Peter MacKay said Friday that Lt. General Charles Bouchard has been designated to lead the alliance’s military campaign in Libya. (Yahoo News, March 25, 2011). “Bouchard is stationed in Naples, Italy, at the Allied Joint Force Command.
“Bouchard’s recent job was deputy commander of NORAD, reporting to an American general.
“He will be commander of the NATO operations, yet to be fully defined NATO operations,” MacKay said.
Looks like President Barack Obama, who has yet to explain to Americans, what America is doing in Libya, got cover from Canada.
MacKay’s statement came only hours before the Prime Minister Stephen Harper two-time minority government fell.
Until the Libya flyover, the last military statements from MacKay and Harper were about withdrawing the 2,500 Canadian troops from Afghanistan on a deadline of July, 2011.
In May, Parliament passed a resolution that Canada would continue until July 2011 its military presence in the volatile southern province of Kandahar, where most of Canada’s roughly 2,500 troops in Afghanistan are based.
In response to public requests from Secretary of State Hillary Clinton that Canadian military forces stay on in Afghanistan after 2011, Prime Minister Stephen Harper reportedly told Clinton that by then the Canadian presence would be a civilian mission focused on aid and reconstruction.
As Rush Limbaugh stated on his radio show today, many people don’t know the origination of NATO. “Some have forgotten and some are too young”, Limbaugh said.
“North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) is a military alliance consisting of the United States, Canada, and 14 other Western countries [since this publication, 5 other countries have joined NATO, making 19 member states in all: see links below.] The 14 countries are Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Iceland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Turkey, and the United Kingdom. Formed in 1949, NATO was set up largely to discourage an attack by the Soviet Union on the non-Communist nations of Western Europe. After World War II ended in 1945, an intense rivalry had developed between Communist countries, led by the Soviet Union, and non-Communist nations, led by the United States. This rivalry became known as the Cold War. In 1955, the Soviet Union and Communist nations of Eastern Europe formed their own military alliance to oppose NATO. The Soviet-led alliance was called the Warsaw Pact. NATO was established not only to discourage Communist aggression but also to keep the peace among former enemies in Western Europe. In World War II, for example, Italy and Germany had fought most of the other countries that later became NATO members. In forming NATO, each member country agreed to treat an attack on any other member as an attack on itself. Militarily, the United States was—and still is—the alliance’s most powerful member, in part because of its large supply of nuclear weapons.
“Canada takes charge on Libya?”
Something’s off here. And the off is sporting a big red maple leaf.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Are You Reality Denied?


Legislators lied, and manipulated the facts to get you to think that they saved our government
Averted our nation’s financial ruin
Neal Ross
Tuesday, April 12, 2011
Recently, despite all the partisan bickering, Congress came to an agreement to shave $38 billion off the federal budget. They would have us all believe that they saved the world, that if it were not for their heroic actions, our government would have come to a screeching halt and life as we know it would come to an end. The funny thing is that quite a few people fell for this rubbish.
Hopefully, after reading the following information, you will begin to see how your legislators lied, and manipulated the facts to get you to think that they saved our government, and averted our nation’s financial ruin.
Let me begin by giving you a simple scenario that may help explain some of the terminology used when discussing our nation’s financial situation. Say an individual has a job in which they earn $300 a week. This individual has weekly expenses that total $400 so that they can pay their bills and put food on the table. The $100 shortfall between what they earn, and what they spend is their deficit. Now, to survive, this individual either takes out weekly loans, or charges the additional expenses on their credit card. The debt that they accumulate is just that, debt.
The same principle applies to our government. Currently our government takes in approximately $2.18 trillion in taxes from various sources. However, it spends $3.52 trillion upon all the programs and agencies that receive their funding out of the federal budget. That leaves a shortfall, or deficit, of over $1.34 trillion per year. All this money has to be borrowed to keep our government operating.
Now think about this for just a moment. Congress agreed to shave $38 billion off the federal budget. Seems like a whole lot of money, doesn’t it? Well, if you do the math, $38 billion is only about 1% of the total federal budget. To put that into perspective, that would be like our imaginary individual cutting his expenses by $4 a week.
Well whoop de doo Congress, now that we put it into terms the average citizen can understand, it seems like you didn’t even put a dent in your spending, did you? In fact, if you subtract that $38 billion from the federal budget, you are still running a deficit, which means you are still borrowing money just to keep operating!
Currently our national debt stands at a staggering $14.2 trillion. I just saw on the news this evening that our government is quickly approaching the debt ceiling, the amount of money the government is authorized to borrow. There is already talk of raising the debt ceiling again, to what amount, nobody knows.
These numbers, a million, a billion, a trillion, they are tossed about so routinely that they have seemed to lose their significance. So, once again, let me try to assist you in coming to terms with how huge our national debt truly is.
Say our government did shut down, business as usual came to a screeching halt. Say Congress stopped funding everything from the lowliest janitor to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and everything in between. Now imagine that once this happened, Congress began making daily payments of $100 million in an attempt to pay off the debt. Let me see, there are 365 days in a year, multiplied by $100 million, which comes to $36.5 billion a year. Now divide our national debt of $14.2 trillion by $36.5 billion and you get…389. That is 389 years it would take of daily payments of $100 million to pay off the debt. That is if Congress continued to not spend another penny for the next 4 centuries.
A couple more statistics ought to help put everything in perspective for you. I’m sure everyone has heard of the GDP, or Gross Domestic Product. The GDP refers to the market value of all goods and services produced within a country over the course of a given period. It is a marker of the country’s wealth, or its standard of living. For the calendar year of 2010, the US GDP was $14.66 trillion. Remember now, our national debt is $14.2 trillion. That means we owe roughly 97% of our entire country’s worth to creditors.
So, the next time you hear some legislator say that due to their efforts they shaved a few paltry billion off the federal budget remember that they are still spending more than they take in. Remember that ultimately, you, your children, your grandchildren, and your posterity for the next few centuries, are in hock up to your ears because our federal government cannot live within its means.
If anything at all occupies your mind when you go to vote in the upcoming elections, keep these facts in mind, would you?





Friday, March 18, 2011

Don't Blame the Teachers! Blame the Parents!



Don't Blame Teachers For Family Failings
Thomas Cangelosi
September 19, 2010
The latest flavor of the month in educational reform ties teacher evaluations to student performance on annual standardized tests. This, like most of the educational reforms over the past three decades, is just another political red herring distracting us from a more fundamental and more effective reform we'd rather ignore: family reform.
During 30 years as a Connecticut high school teacher, I participated in a number of school reforms, all of them based on "the latest numbers" and "the latest literature"; all of them developed by research experts, most of whom no longer teach students.
I learned the wisdom of teaching reading with phonics and without phonics; of guided discovery, Socratic method and team teaching; of student-centered classrooms and student learning styles; of "rooms without walls" and group learning; of homogenous tracking and heterogeneous tracking; of career outreach and community service; of teaching the gifted and No Child Left Behind. Though all of these ideas were well-intentioned and marginally effective in helping students learn, it's clear that not only are some contradictory to others, but none changed the 30-year flat-line in student learning.
Now, some are advocating using business model incentives in the schools; namely, holding teachers accountable for student performance. Just as business managers are held accountable for employee productivity, teachers will be responsible for student learning. If the manager/teacher fails to produce measurable results, he can be demoted, reprogrammed or terminated.
But this neat analogy fails to mention that managers can fire unproductive employees. Students, on the other hand, cannot be fired. Further, although employees understand the huge stake they have in their performance; students know their scores on most standardized tests affects neither their grade nor their promotion.
Finally, while the business model aims to maximize productivity and motivate adult employees who have freely chosen a career, public schools mandate that relatively immature children and adolescents learn material in which they may or may not have an interest. Holding teachers accountable for student performance not only misplaces responsibility but won't significantly improve student learning. Teachers may lead students to educational waters, but they cannot make them drink.
Perhaps one benefit of school reforms is that more stringent requirements, preparation, monitoring and mentoring have made today's teachers better prepared to teach than any time in history. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said about the children teachers face in the classroom. Although the overwhelming majority of teachers already deliver sound lessons to their students, far too many students are unready or unwilling to learn.
On the other hand, teachers universally agree that students who do their assignments learn. Students with a strong work ethic learn. Motivated students learn. The decline in education may say more about the character of our children than the quality of our teachers. What we need is not another school reform but a family reform.
What has been the most significant change in American culture in the last 30 years? The family. As it became more extended, more decentralized and less insulated; many parents, perhaps overcompensating for their strict upbringing, adopted more laissez-faire and lenient parenting styles. Whether or not a child likes his teacher has become more important to some parents than the responsibilities and self-discipline of the child. All too often, self-esteem trumps real character.
When a child isn't taught by his parents to make school his top priority, it isn't. When parents don't monitor their children's homework, it often isn't done; when grades and progress reports aren't discussed in the home, they aren't effective in the school. And, when children aren't held accountable for their academic performance by their parents, there is only so much a teacher can do.
Educational reform may have improved teachers over the decades, but if we want significant improvement in student performance, parents need to show the necessary resolve for instilling in their children the work ethic, responsibility and motivation essential to a lifetime of learning. Real educational reform starts in the home.
Thomas Cangelosi of Avon is a retired English teacher. He taught at the Gilbert School in Winsted.
Don’t be so quick to blame the teacher when Johnny can’t read
Ken H. Fortenberry
06 August 2010
We live in what I call a Blame Society in which too many people fail to take responsibility for their own actions and blame others when things don’t go according to plan.
Billy doesn’t make the football team and the coach is a stupid jerk.
Sally doesn’t make the cheerleading squad and someone had an “in” with the selection committee.
I am particularly annoyed these days that our public teachers have become the favorite whipping boys for politicians and parents when little Johnny gets into trouble at school, sweet little Sue fails a math test or one school doesn’t meet some contrived standard for teaching.
We insist that teachers spend countless hours in stupid bureaucracy, make them “teach tests,” and demand that they make sure that no child is left behind – even when some children NEED and DESERVE to be left behind.
Instead of holding the child or the parents accountable, we blame the teachers.
When I was a kid I may have complained about a few of my
teachers, but I never once considered blaming them when I flunked a test.
Sure, some teachers were better than others in my opinion, but isn’t that the way it is with everything in life? We don’t have cookie-cutters (yet) for people, and we can’t expect every teacher to be a clone of another.
Teaching is a tough job these days, made even tougher by parents who play the Blame Game instead of insisting that their children be held responsible for what they learn or don’t learn in a classroom and that they be respectful of others?
There’s not that much “wrong” with public education these days that a little common sense – and responsibility – can’t cure.
In Defense of Teachers
What charter schools really tell us about education reform
by Raina Kelley
May 28, 2010
Are teachers really different in charter schools?
I think it’s fair to say that most people know we’re in the midst of an educational emergency. Just this week, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan told CNN, “There isn’t one urban school district in the country—Chicago, L.A., New York, D.C., Philly, Baltimore—there’s not one urban system yet where the dropout rate is low enough and the graduation rate is high enough.” And for those people who work in the school system, no issue has come to represent the struggle to save public education more than the fight over charter schools. For the sake of clarity, let me just note that a charter school is one which uses public funds to run a school that is managed privately, thus giving them the freedom to experiment as well as hire nonunion teachers. Charters such as the Harlem Children’s Zone HCZ in New York have longer school days (and a longer school year) with kids often required to come in Saturdays to work with tutors. The most successful charter schools (and they are not all the same in either quality or mission) have produced stunning results. At the Harlem Success Academy, 100 percent of third graders passed their state math exam and 95 percent passed the state English exam.
I am thrilled by these test results and I am very glad that the educational needs of poor urban students are finally being addressed in a serious way. But lately I’ve grown increasingly cynical about the assertions of charter-school advocates that the most pressing problem facing our public education system is the plethora of lazy, incompetent teachers who cannot be fired under any circumstances. As Steve Brill wrote for The New York Times Magazine last week: “Indeed, the core of the reformers’ argument, and the essence of the Obama approach to the Race to the Top, is that a slew of research over the last decade has discovered that what makes the most difference is the quality of the teachers and the principals who supervise them.” Maybe it’s because I was a teacher’s pet growing up, or because of my undying love for school supplies, but a lot of this sounds to me more like a full court press to break the admittedly powerful teachers’ unions than simply an effort to improve public schooling.
Full disclosure: my husband is a public-school teacher in a middle school in one of Brooklyn’s toughest neighborhoods. But we try not to discuss education reform for the sake of our marriage. Personally, I’m a little confused about the all-out push for charter schools by billionaires such as Bill Gates and Bruce Kovner. On the one hand, I support charters for their ability to prove there are solutions to some of the huge and seemingly intractable issues facing our country’s education system. I’m very grateful that schools like HCZ have proven that the achievement gap between urban students and their suburban counterparts can be closed. But I do not support using their existence to demonize teachers. For the vast majority of public-school teachers, so much of their job is out of their control that asking them to be held accountable for their students’ performance is tantamount to blaming car salesmen for Toyota’s accelerator problems. Poverty is still a huge barrier to learning, for instance. Just a quick look at some of the other differences between charters and their public-school brethren should be enough to prove that the path to an improved educational system is not all about firing teachers.
1. Charter schools, by their nature, have students whose parents are motivated and involved in their education. On the off chance that charter-school parents are not motivated to help their children succeed, they are often given support and help by the charter school itself. Indeed, New York Magazine revealed that parents of kids at the Harlem Success Academies “must sign the network’s ‘contract,’ a promise to get children to class on time and in blue-and-orange uniform, guarantee homework, and attend all family events.” The same cannot be said of public schools, which are required to take any child who resides in their district and do not have the resources or mandate to teach parents as well. But rather than push to raise the cap on charter schools, why not copy and fund some of their parental-support programs for existing public schools?
2. Charter schools often receive the same amount of public funding per student as public schools, and also benefit from their ability to raise and use charitable donations. Public schools receive their budgets from their local departments of education and have no ability to receive more. In fact, they’re prey to budget and service cuts and layoffs—New York City expects to lay off 4,400 public school teachers this year but no charters will be affected.
3. Charter schools have many more resources than the public schools they’re trying to replace. Surely, classroom teachers would have more opportunity to teach and teach well if they had enough books and study materials for all their kids. Donors Choose, a charitable organization where teachers submit proposals for funding by ordinary folks like you and me, estimates that the average public school teacher spends more than $500 of his or her own money on supplies for their students, or more than $1.3 billion dollars nationally. As Charles Best, founder of Donors Choose and a teaching veteran, told me, “We were all spending our own money on basic stuff—copy paper and pencils. We had a tough time innovating and none of our ideas would go past the planning stage. Now, at any one time, there are 15,000 to 30,000 live classroom requests on our site. This is a testament to the character and spirit of teachers.”
4. Charter schools are not required to accept special-needs children or children with learning disabilities. Diane Ravitch, author of “The Death and Life of the Great American School System,” wrote in The Wall Street Journal that “The students who are hardest to educate are left to regular public schools, which makes comparisons between the two sectors unfair. The higher graduation rate posted by charters often reflects the fact that they are able to “counsel out” the lowest performing students … This is not a model for public education, which must educate all children.”
5. When discussing charter schools, advocates often mention the difficulty in firing public-school teachers. In that same Times Magazine article, Brill notes that “Once they’ve been teaching for three years and judged satisfactory in a process that invariably judges all but a few of them satisfactory, they are ensured lifetime tenure.” But teachers are not judged by themselves, but by their principals and other administrative staff. So isn’t there a way for school systems to strengthen their professional development programs or put forth proposals for more effective teacher observation, mentoring systems or remedial teacher training, if necessary?
It is simply not true that teacher quality is the sole difference between charter schools and public ones. As I’ve written in the past about the Harlem Children’s Zone, but which also applies to many other charter schools, “what the HCZ does is first recognize that the amelioration of poverty does not begin and end with an excellent education, but also requires a full belly, parental education, safety, advocacy, and the expectation that every student will succeed.” So until charter-school advocates can show me how teachers and teachers alone can be held responsible for all the learning that charter schools provide, I just can’t believe that holding only teachers accountable—and not the school systems they work for—is the fair or even the best way to improve public education.

Don't blame teachers when it's parents who are failing
Too many children start school without even the most basic social skills. Never mind the classroom, let's look at their family life
Mary Bousted, The Observer
5 April 2009
"A very disruptive six-year-old kicked my legs and clawed at my hand," said one teacher. "I broke up a fight and was kicked between my legs and butted," said another. Many people have heard stories like this. But the situation is more worrying still and it involves parents.
In this country, we do not have a particularly positive record on good childhood. A report by Unicef, published last year, that described Britain as a "picture of neglect" is now infamous. We finished in the bottom third of 21 industrialised countries in five out of six categories - material well-being; health and safety; educational well-being; relationships; behaviour and risks; and subjective well-being - ending up overall last, after the United States. The Netherlands, Sweden, Denmark and Finland topped the league table of child happiness.
We have, as a nation, to do more and to do better in our duty of care to our children. The government has declared that "every child matters". My union, the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, fully supports government efforts to improve the quality of children's lives. We recognise that it has put its money where its mouth is - moving beyond pious sentiments and hand-wringing - to providing real support for vulnerable children and families.
Every child, irrespective of the circumstances into which they are born, has the right to achieve their potential, irrespective of their parents' wealth and class. And we recognise that, as a nation, we are a long way from achieving this goal.
But with rights come responsibilities and my fear is that we are in danger of neglecting the latter. Let me give some examples. When the mum of 14-year-old Emma tells the head of year that Emma is pregnant, who does she hold responsible? She might blame the senior leadership team for the weakness of the school's PSHE (personal, social and health education) policy, or perhaps the PSHE teacher, or possibly Emma's tutor. She might, in other words, do anything she can to lay the blame for her child's pregnancy at someone else's door.
Or how about 16-year-old Jack whose parents come into school highly distressed because they have discovered he is a regular cannabis user. Their distress causes them to hit out. Jack has been led astray by his school friends. More should have been done to educate him about the dangers of drug abuse. They threaten to go to the local press to tell their story.
You might think these are extreme examples, but teacher members of ATL are reporting that such scenarios are becoming more and more common. Teachers are becoming increasingly concerned that they are being held responsible for aspects of children and young people's lives which are completely beyond their control.
We will be talking about children's behaviour in more detail this week at ATL's annual conference. We know far too many children are behaving badly at school, even to the point of being violent to staff. This is horrifying enough, but it is hard to be surprised since many children are just mirroring the behaviour of their parents.
My members tell me that parents often also come into school and threaten staff and some staff have been attacked by a pupil's parents. One father encouraged his child to start a fight in the playground before school started. A parent provided a raw egg for a pupil to smash over a teacher's head. A primary teacher reported that a parent swore and shouted at him.
It is clear to me that we need to rebalance the equation. We need to have a serious and sensible debate about the roles and responsibilities of parents and the support that they can reasonably expect of schools and teachers. Only last week, Estyn, the Welsh Ofsted, published a report which shows that over the past five years the proportion of five- to seven-year-olds achieving good levels of reading and writing skills has stopped rising, in both English and Welsh.
One of the key reasons for the standstill, the inspectors concluded, is that children are coming to school with poor skills in speaking and listening. The inspectors exhort schools to do more to improve their pupils' oral skills, but do not question why it is that pupils are starting school unable to converse and to listen effectively.
Just what is happening in the homes of these children? Why are they coming to school developmentally delayed? Children learn how to take turns in a conversation, how to ask questions, how to react to what others say, how to follow instructions, how to tell jokes through doing all these things. They will not learn how to behave as social beings if they are stuck in front of the TV for hours every day. They need their parents to show an interest in them and to spend time with them, helping them to play with their peers and to learn the rules of social behaviour.
Too many children start school without the social and verbal skills to be able to take part in lessons and to behave well. Too many are starting school unable to hold a knife and fork, unused to eating at a table, unable to use the lavatory properly. These children will not be living in absolute poverty. The majority will be living in homes with televisions, computers and PlayStations. What too many of them do not have are adults who are prepared to give their time and energy doing that difficult, but most essential of jobs: raising their children properly.
I've been accused of wanting to ban television in children's bedrooms, when for many parents a television in every room is the marker that they have made it and that they have provided well for their children. It comes to something, I think, when the mark of good parenting is the provision of a television which, in too many cases, becomes a substitute for parenting - a constant pacifier which suppresses interaction in the family.
We are in danger of becoming a nation of families living separate lives under one roof. The bedroom, once a place to sleep, has become the living space for the young. Spending hours in front of computer screens, on social networking sites or immersed in computer games, children and young people spend little time with their parents and their siblings. Parents are unable to monitor just what their children are watching. Teachers report that many pupils are exhausted at the start of the school day, tired out from viewing unsuitable programmes or sitting in front of the computer screen until late into the night or the early hours of the morning.
Schools cannot right the wrongs of society and teachers cannot become substitute parents. Both parties need to work together. Parents must be helped and given confidence to take back control. They are responsible for setting boundaries for their children's behaviour and sticking to those boundaries when the going gets tough. They are responsible for setting a good example to their children and for devoting that most precious of resources - time - so that children feel known and valued as individuals and as part of the family.
Schools do not exist in a vacuum. If they are to succeed, then more parents have to put more effort into their parenting and into creating the conditions in which their children come to school ready and willing to learn.
• Mary Bousted is general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers
Don't Blame the Teachers
NEA President Reg Weaver speaks his mind
February 19, 2007
Appearing at a Monday staff development program in Menomonee Falls, NEA President Reg Weaver said it is time to stop blaming educators for problems facing education. “Folks, you have the most important job in the world,” Weaver says.
“I am sick and tired of people putting you down, pretending you have the resources you need and then blaming you for problems,” he said.
“It is no longer acceptable for people not to give you the resources to do your job and then blame you when the job is not done.”
Citing the federal “No Child Left Behind” law, Weaver said he agrees with the law’s goals of raising student achievement and closing the achievement gaps.
“But the way that law is crafted makes it nearly impossible for you to accomplish what you have to do,” he said.
And then, instead of holding policymakers accountable for a bad law, he said, people blame the educators.
Weaver said we have to have high expectations not only for kids but also for policymakers. It is not a valid excuse for them to say we can’t afford to adequately fund public education, Weaver said.
“When this country decides something is important, we find the money,” he said.
Weaver encouraged the Menomonee Falls teachers and education support professionals to keep fighting for strong public education.
“We need you to stand up and speak out on behalf of your profession,” he said.
“I’ll be doggone if I’m going to let people talk bad about you,” he said, adding that such finger-pointing is not only unfair, “it negatively impacts what we’re trying to do for these kids.”
“Folks, you have the most important job in the world ... but if you don’t believe it it doesn’t matter.”
Weaver said we know the real answers to addressing our educational challenges, and they are not an underfunded “one size fits all” law that relies almost exclusively on standardized tests to measure a child’s success. The solutions involve smaller class sizes, qualified and certified teachers, safe and orderly schools, and parental involvement.
Weaver said schools need to focus on a new set of the three Rs: respect, responsibility and results.
He said it is time to “step out of the box and do things differently.” Administrators need to let teachers act creatively, and teachers need to let students do the same, he said.
He urged teachers to model proper behavior for students and to put extra effort into communicating with kids inside and outside the classroom.
“Kids don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care,” he said.
He told the story of how, when he was teaching in Illinois, he would go into the lunch room and clean up student messes. Students, he said, would say, “Hey, Mr. Weaver, that’s not your job; that’s the custodian’s job.” And he would ask the students, “Really, and who made the mess?” They admitted they did, so Weaver told them they – not the custodian – should clean it up. By modeling the behavior, he said, students got the message and soon they were cleaning up after themselves.
“You are the ones who make it possible for the kids to be what they can be,” Weaver said in his concluding remarks. “Thank you for who you are, and thank you for what you do.”