7 black Houston firefighters sue, say city exam biased
There appears to be agreement below that blacks are not in general good at doing ability tests but nobody even dares to think that they really are as dumb as the tests say. The aim of the lawsuit below is to put unqualified blacks into positions of great responsibility so is of real concern
Seven black firefighters are suing the city, contending that the Houston Fire Department's test for officer promotions adversely affects blacks. "This is systemic discrimination," said the firefighters' attorney, Dennis Thompson. "Selection rates for African-Americans are abysmally smaller than for white candidates." City Council on Wednesday delayed consideration of a request by the city attorney's office to spend up to $197,000 on an outside law firm to defend the city against the federal lawsuit, which was filed in August. The council is expected to take up the request next week.
Firefighters trying to attain the rank of captain and above in the Houston Fire Department must take a 100-question multiple-choice test. Numerous studies show that blacks as a group do less well on high-stakes tests, Thompson said. He said fire departments should use cognitive tests only as a pass-fail benchmark and also should focus on performance exercises and other criteria. "We don't do as well on these multiple-choice tests," said Capt. Otis Jordan, president of the Houston Black Firefighters Association. Jordan and the HBFA are not part of the suit. "I compare fighting a fire, riding an apparatus, to playing football. Your best athlete might not be the straight-A student." HFD has about 4,200 firefighters and paramedics. Roughly 700 are black, Jordan said.
Senior Assistant City Attorney Timothy Higley declined to comment on the substance of the lawsuit, but he said the case was complex. "It's all about the testing system in the Fire Department, so it's going to require quite a bit of analysis," Higley said. "Analysis about the validity of the testing program (and) whether the testing program is valid in the sense that it tests people for what is necessary in order to be (an officer)."
Kevin Michael Foster, an education anthropologist at the University of Texas at Austin's College of Education, agreed that research has demonstrated a test score gap between blacks and whites. There are several theories about why, but a primary explanation has to do with minority students disproportionately receiving inferior educations compared to whites, he said. "If you are African-American, there is a greater likelihood that throughout your academic career you have been taught by teachers of less experience, you have been taught in settings of low-performing schools," Foster said.
During standardized tests, minorities are also vulnerable to performance anxieties that stem from cultural stereotypes, Foster said. The result, he said, is that historically marginalized groups often do worse on tests, especially "high stakes" tests that affect one's livelihood or future life path.
While officer promotions once heavily emphasized the written test, HFD's system was adjusted in 2005 as part of a collective bargaining agreement, said Jeffrey Caynon, president of the Houston Professional Fire Fighters Association Local 341. There has been only one testing cycle since the change, he added.
The new system ranks candidates based on a 122-point system: 100 points possible from the multiple-choice test, and other points awarded based on seniority, college or graduate education, and level of state fire certification. When vacancies occur, candidates are promoted from the top of the list. Promotions in the lower ranks still use the old system of 100 points for a written test and 10 points for seniority, for a maximum of 110, according to Assistant Fire Chief Bill Barry.
The lawsuit seeks promotions to captain or senior captain for the plaintiffs, back pay and damages.
The English must not publicly celebrate their own national day
England's biggest St George's Day parade is facing the axe after councillors said many of those attending it were racist. For the last decade up to 15,000 have assembled in the town of West Bromwich under the slogan 'Forever England, For Everyone'. Children and parents from all over the country parade through the Black Country town waving St George flags and marching to rousing anthems such as Jerusalem. Organisers say one of the aims is to reclaim the Saint George Cross from Right-wingers and make it a source of pride for all.
But last night the local council, Labour-controlled Sandwell, voted to withdraw its support for the parade. Funds will go to support a Party in the Park instead. It leaves parade organisers with what they say is the impossible task of raising 10,000 pounds to cover their costs with only a few weeks to go.
In a letter to the organisers, one councillor, Yvonne Davies, said the parade created an 'unhealthy atmosphere' and inspired young boys to be racist. She wrote: 'It is not only the parade which is the problem, but the tribal excitement it creates.'
The West Bromwich St George's Day parade started in 1998 and began as a fairly modest affair with 5,000 turning up. Now three times that attend the two-mile parade in April. Fire Service and Scout Association bands have played, the British Legion lends its support and each year ex-servicemen attend. A volunteer dresses up as St George and rides with the marchers, children paint their faces with the St George Cross and there are activities such as medieval jousting. There have been some problems - last year organisers had to clamp down on drinking in the street and a band with hard-Right roots joined in without their permission.
Councillor Davies wrote in her letter: 'I am sure most are very respectful and law-abiding, however some are distasteful in the extreme and wish to divide and separate people from each other.' She said she had once been abused by youths who 'had been emboldened by the parade and thought racist chants were funny'. 'I have seen first hand how the parade (albeit unintentionally) creates an unhealthy atmosphere.'
At a meeting of Sandwell council cabinet last night, her colleagues sided with her and decided against backing the parade. Instead there will be the Party in the Park, a concert in the Town Hall and St George Flags will be flown on all of the council's buildings.
Trevor Collins of the Stone Cross Saint George Association, which organises the parade, said: 'To suggest the parade is racist is ridiculous and offensive. When you see the kids, the dogs, everyone out having fun, it's really a beautiful sight. It doesn't matter if you're black, white, green, brown or whatever, everyone's welcome. 'The council's decision means we have to foot the bills for insurance and security. We've got to come up with 10,000 pounds in two months which seems impossible.'
Another organiser Mark Cowles said the parades had raised 7,000 pounds for charity. He added that, as well as losing out on council support, they had probably missed the deadline for applying for road closures. 'All we wanted to do was organise a fun, family-friendly day for everyone that celebrates being English,' he said. 'We have been approached by extreme Right-wing groups and we have turned them away.'
More official hatred of Christians in Britain
A primary school receptionist, Jennie Cain, whose five-year-old daughter was told off for talking about Jesus in class is now facing the sack for seeking support from her church. Mrs Cain sent a private email to close friends to ask for prayers for her daughter after she was called into the school where she worked in Crediton, Devon, to be reprimanded. Her daughter Jasmine had been overheard by a teacher discussing heaven and God with a friend and had been pulled to one side and told off.
Mrs Cain contacted 10 close friends from her church by email but the message fell into the hands of Gary Read, the headmaster of Landscore Primary School where she works. The 38-year-old mother of two is now being investigated for professional misconduct for allegedly making claims against the school and its staff. Mrs Cain has been told she may be disciplined and was warned she could face dismissal.
Her case is being supported by the Christian Institute who said Mrs Cain was the latest example of a Christian being persecuted by society. Last week, nurse Caroline Petrie was told she could go back to work having been suspended for two months for offering to pray for a patient.
Yesterday, Mrs Cain said both her daughter and son were confused about what to say about their faith. She told The Daily Telegraph: "I think there is something about what I represent, about what the three of us represent. "This action that has been taken against me, how it has escalated, how trapped I feel - it is overwhelming. "The speed at which it has got to a place where I am being investigated for misconduct and could be dismissed, it is shocking."
Mrs Cain, who has worked part-time at the school for two and a half years, describes herself as a "quiet Christian" who would never force her beliefs on others. But she said she was angry about the way she had been treated: "I felt embarrassed that a private prayer email was read by the school - it felt like someone had gone through my personal prayer diary. "I feel my beliefs are so central to who I am, are such a part of my children's life. "I do feel our beliefs haven't been respected and I don't feel I have been treated fairly. I don't know what I am supposed to have done wrong."
On January 22, Mrs Cain went to pick up her children from the 275-strong primary school. "My daughter burst into tears, her face was all red and she was clearly upset. "She said 'my teacher told me I couldn't talk about Jesus' - I couldn't believe what I was hearing. "She said she was taken aside in the classroom and told she couldn't say that. I was so shocked, I didn't know what to do."
Mrs Cain said she decided to wait until she wasn't working to discuss the issue with the teacher Sharon Gottelier as a parent rather than an employee. But she was called into Mr Read's office the next day over another matter before he started discussing Jasmine. "He started talking about my daughter about how he wasn't happy about her making statements about her faith. "At that point I froze, I felt very small and I felt trapped as I was a junior member of staff."
That weekend, she emailed a prayer request from her personal computer at home to 10 trusted friends from her church. "I asked them to please pray for us, please pray for Jasmine, please pray for the school and pray for the church."
A few days later she was called back into Mr Read's office. "I didn't think at this point I could be more stunned. He had in his hand a copy of my private, personal email and it was highlighted all the way through. "He said that he was going to investigate me for professional misconduct because I had been making allegations about the school and staff to members of the public."
Mrs Cain, who was not suspended, said he refused to tell her where he had got the email but said two independent governors would be taking statements and calling witnesses. "He said the investigation could be followed by disciplinary action up to and including dismissal because of this private email." Mrs Cain said she still did not know how Mr Read came into possession of the email but she said the school was sending mixed messages by allowing carols at Christmas and celebrating the Hindu festival of divali. "If my children can go to school and sing a song which mentions Jesus, how are they meant to know that they are then not allowed to talk about God?"
Mike Judge, from the Christian Institute, said children should be allowed to discuss religion with each other without interference from teachers. "This is the latest in a series where Christians are being persecuted for their religious beliefs. "It is really getting to a point where it has to stop. I think the Government has got to start looking at its legislation. "Christians are in the firing line, not other minority groups."
Mr Read said: "An investigation by the governors of the school is being held into the conduct of a member of staff and at this stage I cannot comment any further."
As The Daily Telegraph disclosed on Monday, teachers now face being disciplined if they discuss their religious beliefs in school. The profession's regulator, the General Teaching Council, has drawn up a new code of practice that states classroom staff must "promote equality and value diversity". It was an alleged lack of commitment to this requirement that was used to suspend Mrs Petrie.
Drugs: Come down off your high horse
The [British] government's drug tsar, Professor David Nutt, has caused a furore by commenting in a scientific journal that the club-drug Ecstasy is about as dangerous as riding a horse. He's probably right. I've seen the lives of young girls ruined through an addiction to ponies. Their minds seem to turn to equine mush. And of course falls from horses can and do kill or paralyze people - as in the case of Superman actor Christopher Reeve.
But I'm not proposing that horse riding should be made a Class A activity. (I'm sorry I mentioned that idea: it can't be long before the government starts banning dangerous sports and withdrawing NHS care from those who ride motorbikes or go mountaineering.)
Professor Nutt might have been unwise to mention the comparison, but some rationality in the debate on drugs is devoutly to be wished. When I thought that my teenage son might be taking drugs at school, I asked a neighbour, a clinical psychologist, for advice. His view was that schools were rife with drugs, but that most of them were far less harmful than alcohol and cigarettes. It put things into perspective.
It's only when we can actually discuss the real risks of drugs that we will be able to advise young people on how to handle them. But the government seems to be more concerned by the outrage of the Daily Mail than the facts. It spreads the misconception that all drugs are as bad as heroin or crack - driving the others underground and making them more difficult to control. As a policy, it's failed.
True, many modern drugs haven't been in common use very long, so it's difficult to know their full medical and psychological effects. Even with drugs that have been around for years, like cannabis, we are still learning the full physical, psychological and social consequences. So maybe we are right to be cautious about them. But let's be honest: because then, at least, we can steer people away from the most damaging drugs by giving them a genuine profile of the risks.
Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.
American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.
For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For readers in China or for times when blogger.com is playing up, there is a mirror of this site here.