Campaigners say the sex education review for children needs to go farther
Compulsory sex and relationships lessons for 11-year-old children are to include classroom discussions on gay unions and civil partnerships. Secondary pupils will learn about contraception and sexually transmitted infections (STIs), while primary school children will learn about their bodies and friendships, a review of sex education has concluded.
The review was ordered in October after ministers announced that sex and relationships education (SRE) lessons should be made compulsory to help primary and secondary pupils to “navigate the complexities of modern life” and to ensure that children learnt their sex education from the classroom, not the playground.
The changes to personal, social, health and economic education (PSHE) classes mark the culmination of decades of campaigning by sexual health organisations, who believe that the patchy nature of sex education in schools is helping to fuel a record level of teenage pregnancy and STIs in England.
Last night campaigners welcomed the review, conducted by Sir Alasdair MacDonald, a secondary head teacher in Tower Hamlets, East London. However, they suggested that its recommendations did not go far enough.
Although the new PSHE classes will be compulsory from 2011, faith schools in England will be given licence to provide sex and relationships education within the context of their own values. This could mean that children will be taught that their religion regards the use of contraceptives as a sin. Parents will also have a legal right to withdraw children from SRE classes. Currently one in 2,500 parents withdraws children from nonstatutory sex education classes.
Sexual health charities warned that allowing parents to opt out, even if it involved only a small number, was an infringement of young people’s rights. Julie Bentley, chief executive of fpa, formerly the Family Planning Association, said that while religion and sex education were not incompatible, schools should not be allowed to interpret the report “to mean they can tell young people, for example, that contraception isn’t a matter of choice – it is simply wrong”.
She added: “We would like further assurances that when SRE becomes statutory, all schools will teach it responsibly, ethically and factually as a core subject.”
Simon Blake, national director of the sexual health charity Brook, said: “Young people need to understand the law – that you can get contraception, that you can have an abortion – and understand the health benefits of practising safer sex. It would not be right for anyone to tell them that this is wrong, but it is OK for them to be told that some people believe it is wrong.”
The Catholic Education Service for England and Wales welcomed the opt-out. “This is a crucial right in a community where parents are the first educators of their children, because parents are responsible for bringing up their children, and not the State,” it said.
Ed Balls, the Schools Secretary, accepted Sir Alasdair’s review, subject to a four-month consultation that will look again at the content of SRE lessons, but told MPs that he would keep the right of nonacceptance under review.
Sir Alasdair said that making PSHE compulsory would help the quality of teaching. “There is probably greater variability in teaching and learning in this subject than in most other subjects,” he said.
Newspapers are a dying breed because of technology and disappearance of neutrality in reporting
By Dan Gainor. This is testimony Dan Gainor gave before the U.S. House of Representatives subcommittee on Courts and Competition Policy of the Committee on the Judiciary April 21, 2009. The topic was a hearing on “A New Age for Newspapers.”
I’m Dan Gainor, Vice President of Business and Culture for the Media Research Center. It’s an honor and privilege to come here and speak about one of my favorite topics in the world – newspapers. From the first time I ever read on my own, newspapers have been a part of my life. I’ve worked at three different dailies and several weeklies and online news operations following that calling.
You don’t have to tell me that the newspaper business in changing. Three of those organizations I have worked for are now out of business. Until recently, I wrote a column for the Baltimore Examiner, but it closed putting dozens of friends and fellow journalists out of work.
The news media are going through a time of epic changes and that is never easy. In a few short years, evening dailies have all but died out. The rise of the Internet changed even more. Newspapers first lost most of the employment advertising to firms like Monster.com and since have lost classified ad revenue to Craigslist. Other sources of revenue – from personal ads to real estate – have met with smarter, more nimble competition.
While it is fair to blame much of the decline in newspapers to technology, it is not the only factor. The newspaper industry has changed too – for the worse. Standards have slipped or all but disappeared. The concept of a journalist as a neutral party has become a punch line for a joke, not a guideline for an industry.
We all saw how poorly the mainstream press covered the last election. According to the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press, voters believed that the media wanted Barack Obama to win the presidential election. “By a margin of 70%-9%, Americans say most journalists want to see Obama, not John McCain, win,” Pew reported. Other surveys confirmed it: According to Rasmussen, "Over half of U.S. voters (51%) think reporters are trying to hurt Sarah Palin.”
It wasn’t just surveys, it was journalists themselves. According to Washington Post ombudsman Deborah Howell, in a column headlined: “An Obama Tilt in Campaign Coverage,” the paper’s election coverage consistently supported Obama in everything from positive stories to flattering photos.
That same slant reappeared last week during the Tax Day Tea Party protests. The Post didn’t write a story about more than 750 events nationwide until the day they happened – far different from how they handled other protests. Their own media critic Howard Kurtz even knocked such minimal coverage. The New York Times did preview the events six times – and five of those were negative.
Such one-sided reporting has destroyed the credibility of the print press. Among newspapers, the most trusted name in news is The Wall Street Journal and just 25 percent of readers “believe all or most of what [that] organization says” according to Pew. For The New York Times, that number is 18 percent and USA Today 16 percent. The only publications lower are People magazine and The National Enquirer.
In fact, for The New York Times, the number who believe “almost nothing” in the newspaper is nearly identical to those who do believe. And while newspaper credibility has taken a hit among both Democrats and Republicans, it is lowest among Republicans with the Times having just a 10 percent credibility rating in that group. One person in 10? You could write graffiti on a wall and have more people believe you. But the Times still has widespread influence and a story on the front page can be picked up appear in some form in countless media outlets.
The Times’s former Public Editor Daniel Okrent answered the question the Times is a liberal newspaper by saying: “Of course it is....These are the social issues: gay rights, gun control, abortion and environmental regulation, among others. And if you think The Times plays it down the middle on any of them, you’ve been reading the paper with your eyes closed.”
For decades many in the media have been working with their eyes closed – convinced of their own neutrality when all around them feel otherwise. In study after study, journalists consistently admit they support liberal causes and vote for Democratic candidates. In 2004, Pew found journalists identified themselves liberal over conservative by a five-to-one ratio. Were journalists the only ones voting for president, they would have elected a Democrat every time since 1972.
The Society of Professional Journalists, to which I belong, has a detailed Code of Ethics. At its heart, it says journalists should provide “a fair and comprehensive account of events and issues.” They do neither. It’s fitting, then, in a hearing to discuss the “diversity of voices,” that everyone here grasp a key point. Diversity of voices in print isn’t about news, it’s fiction.
The Genocide Mechanism
By Itamar Marcus (Palestinian Media Watch director Itamar Marcus was in Geneva during the UN Durban II conference and counter-conferences last week, and writes about how ordinary people can be convinced to participate in genocide)
Survivors of the genocides in Rwanda and Darfur spoke in Geneva this week at the parallel conference on human rights to counter the UN Durban II event. Listening to them describe how they were systematically demonized by the killers made it clear that genocide does not happen in a vacuum. The hate condition of a population willing and anxious to commit genocide needs nurturing. Genocide must be framed positively to get the necessary broad public support.
Common to the framing of all genocide is a very specific kind of demonization. In Rwanda, the Hutus taught that the Tutsis were cockroaches and snakes. Tutsi women were portrayed as cunning seductresses who used beauty and sexual power to conquer the Hutus. In Bosnia, a fictitious news report said Muslims were feeding Serb children to animals at the Sarajevo zoo. Radio Rwanda repeatedly broadcast a warning that Hutus were about to be attacked by Tutsis, to convince the Hutus that they needed to attack first to protect themselves.
This demonization included two specific components. First, the victims had to be perceived as a clear and present threat, so that the killers were convinced they were acting in self-defense. Second, the victims were dehumanized, so that the killers convinced themselves that they were not destroying real human beings.
A decent person will not join in a murder of innocents, but a decent person might join in the killing of a subhuman who is threatening his very existence. Framing genocide as self-defense can turn decent people into killers. Protection of children and family can turn a calm neighbor into a passionate murderer, because self-defense is always justified.
In Darfur and Rwanda, all that was necessary to turn a society of ordinary people into killers was to convince them that they were in danger, and that the people endangering them were less than human.
LOOKING BACK on Jewish history, it is clear that the method used to foment violence against Jews has always involved the same framing of "self-defense," with only the details changed.
So when Jews were falsely accused of poisoning wells in the Middle Ages, causing thousands of deaths, even decent people joined in the killings. They did not perceive themselves as murderers because they were defending themselves and their families. When Jews were believed to be using blood of children for Passover matzot, even decent people felt comfortable massacring Jews, as they were defending their children from horrific torture.
Even Hitler used this argument of self-defense in Mein Kampf: "In this case [given the Jews' threat to the German people] the only salvation remaining was war, war with all the weapons the human spirit, reason, and will could muster... If the Jew... is victorious over the peoples of this world, then his crown will be the funeral wreath of humanity... Thus I believe today that I am acting according to the will of the almighty creator: When I defend myself against the Jew, I am fighting for the work of the Lord." Hitler, too, packaged his genocide as legitimate self-defense. The details may change in each society, but the framing is always the same.
EXAMINING PALESTINIAN hate promotion today, it is especially striking and disconcerting that these components of the past genocides against Jews are prominent elements of the hate promotion of the Palestinian Authority and Hamas against Jews and Israelis. Two items on Hamas TV earlier this month clearly document this.
Hamas TV broadcast a skit featuring actors playing a Jewish father and son, in traditional hassidic garb, discussing the hatred of Muslims that their Jewish religion mandates. The father even revives the age-old libel that Jews drink the blood of Muslims: "Shimon, look, my son, I want to teach you a few things. You have to hate the Muslims... we want to kill the Muslims, we Jews want to drink the blood of Muslims." He later criticizes his son for washing his hands in water before prayer: "We have to wash our hands with the blood of Muslims" (Al-Aqsa TV, April 3). Ironically, the Hamas accusation that Jews drink Muslim blood came the week before Passover, the anniversary of many horrific blood libels.
That same day, a Hamas religious leader ended his sermon with the promise of eventual genocide of the Jews. But to frame it properly, he opened with a depiction of Jews as the enemies of humanity: The Jews are inherently evil, seek to rule the world and are a threat to Muslims and all of humanity.
This is how Ziad Abu Alhaj framed it: "Hatred for Muhammad and Islam is in their [Jews'] souls, they are naturally disposed to it... Israel is a cancer that wants to rule the world." He concluded that the Jews are destined to be annihilated: "The time will come, by Allah's will, when their property will be destroyed and their children will be exterminated, and no Jew or Zionist will be left on the face of this earth" (Al-Aqsa TV, April 3).
THIS DEMONIZATION and dehumanization of Jews is not limited to Hamas. Although hesitant to call for explicit murdering of Jews while seeking Western money, the PA continues its unrelenting framing of genocide as self-defense and for the common good. In the PA-Fatah media today, Jews and Israelis are demonized through malicious libels, including such lies as the assertion that Israel intentionally spreads AIDS and drugs, conducts Nazi-like medical experiments on Palestinian prisoners and is planning to destroy the Al-Aqsa Mosque.
Says the Palestinian chief religious justice, Tayseer al-Tamimi: "The AIDS issue needs to receive due attention... since we neighbor a society [Israel] where the disease is widespread and which acts to transmit [AIDS] to Palestinian society. The occupying authorities, especially in Jerusalem, are working to spread drugs and drug addiction, without a doubt" (PA radio, February 17, 2008).
And this from Dr. Mutawakil Taha, head of the Palestinian Writers' Union and former PA deputy minister: "We saw how they [Zionists] stab bellies of pregnant women, slaughter infants and eat life in cold blood. They targeted children and the wombs of women so this people won't reproduce" (PA TV, March 4, 2008).
A July 2008 article in Al-Ayyam accused Israeli settlers of releasing rats in Jerusalem's Old City "to turn the [Arab] residents' life into a living hell, forcing then to leave..." (July 17, 2008). A PA TV video clip juxtaposes scenes of a real Israeli tank with fictitious scenes of a child actor being shot, creating the fiction that Israelis deliberately target and shoot Palestinian children (PATV, May 15, 2008).
Just as the Tutsis were described as cockroaches and snakes, both Hamas and the PA have described Jews as loathsome and dangerous animals, including cockroaches, spiders, scorpions and alligators. While each libel is somewhat different, their essence is the same: The Israelis and the Jews are dangerous, they are not human, we need to defend ourselves from them and we are clearly justified in doing so.
It is tragic that this framing of genocide as necessary self-defense has been so chillingly successful. A poll after last year's murders of eight teenage yeshiva students found that "84 percent of Palestinians support the terror attack killing eight young students in a Jerusalem yeshiva on March 6, 2008" (Poll by Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research, The New York Times, March 19, 2008). How can an entire Palestinian society support the murder of children? Clearly, the framing of Jews and Israelis as mortally dangerous to Palestinians has been totally successful.
Israel now faces a society that is very possibly past the stage of genocide framing and at the point of seeing the killing of Israelis, even teens, as justified. All that would be necessary for the population to go along with the final script, detailed so many times by its leaders, would be the means.
Australia: The "Four Scorners" come unglued
We see once again the bias and lack of ethics we have come to expect from Left-leaning public broadcasters. It is now completely clear that nothing they say should be taken seriously
Nick Kaldas specialises in assassinations. It was not his intention, it just worked out that way. He is on leave from his job as Deputy NSW Police Commissioner to head the investigation by the United Nations Special Tribunal into the assassination of a former prime minister of Lebanon, Rafiq Hariri, and several related murders and murder attempts.
Kaldas has also served in Iraq training the new police force, which routinely deals with political murder. His expertise in such dark matters began back in 1994, when he led the investigation into Australia's first political assassination, the murder of the NSW Labor MP John Newman. A local Labor politician and Vietnamese community leader, Phuong Ngo, was convicted in 2001 of orchestrating the killing.
Eight years later, to the distress of Kaldas, he has had to deal with a different kind of assassination - character assassination. It began on April 7 last year, when ABC's Four Corners broadcast a program which questioned whether the conviction of Phuong Ngo had been a miscarriage of justice, based in part on sloppy conduct by Kaldas.
The Four Corners program was loaded with suppositions such as this one, by a former Labor politician: "I don't think they [Phuong Ngo's accusers] had anything else to go on. I think just because he was Vietnamese." Friends of Ngo, such as the refugee advocate Marion Le, were quoted claiming there had been "a miscarriage of justice".
The report was based in part on the work of two academics from the Australian National University, Hugh Selby and Don Greig. Soon after the program went to air, both men made submissions to the Chief Justice of NSW, James Spigelman, calling for the murder case to be reopened. On the basis of these submissions and the public claims made in the Four Corners program, Spigelman ordered a judicial inquiry into the case. This was highly unusual. On the same day, the NSW Attorney-General, John Hatzistergos, issued a press release dissociating himself from the decision. [Spigelman was a far-Left student in his university days]
The Chief Justice ordered the inquiry without seeking advice from the NSW Police, the Director of Public Prosecutions, or the NSW Crime Commission. The matter had been exhaustively examined by hearings of the NSW Crime Commission, a coroner's inquest, a committal hearing, three Supreme Court trials (one aborted, one resulting in a 10-to-one hung jury, and one which led to the conviction of Ngo), an appeal to the Court of Criminal Appeal, and an appeal to the High Court of Australia, which declined to give leave to hear the case.
The inquiry went ahead. The cost to the taxpayer was $770,000. When it was over, the judicial officer who conducted the inquiry, the retired judge David Patten, issued a devastatingly comprehensive rejection of the accusations that had been regurgitated on Four Corners and put by Ngo's supporters in submissions to the inquiry, including a former independent member of the NSW upper house, Peter Breen. To quote from Patten's report, released last week:
"Not one scintilla of evidence points to any wrongdoing or improper activity by Mr Kaldas … despite a number of allegations by various supporters of Mr Ngo there is no evidence that the investigation of Mr Newman's murder was conducted otherwise than professionally and competently …During the preparation of the Four Corners report, Kaldas declined to be interviewed on camera because, he told me last week, he had come to the view that the ABC reporter, Debbie Whitmont, was biased against the Crown case. He did, however, agree to go through the trial evidence with Whitmont, in detail. He took notes of these meetings. When the Four Corners program went to air he found that not one of the points he had made to Whitmont was mentioned.
"[The] material put before the inquiry increased rather than diminished the strength of the Crown's case at trial. Moreover, Mr Ngo's own evidence, which was not before the jury at the trial where he was convicted, was, I believe, very destructive of his claim of innocence …
"Regrettably, the strength of the evidence available against Mr Ngo was virtually ignored by his supporters in their submissions to the inquiry. Unsupported allegations of gross impropriety were substituted for analysis of the facts … Mr Selby's submission to the Chief Justice … lost all significance, in my opinion, when scrutinised at an open hearing …
"I find that nothing in the matters raised by Mr Selby [and] nothing which has come before me [suggest] the investigation into Mr Newman's murder was conducted otherwise than thoroughly and competently by police officers dedicated to the task."
Unusually, the accusations made on Four Corners were subjected to forensic scrutiny and the report by Patten found the inquiry had "increased rather than diminished" the strength of the Crown's case. He criticised Ngo's supporters for their "lack of objectivity", "intemperate language" and "making allegations of fraud, perversion of justice, and improper conduct … without a shred of evidence".
Yet all this was the basis on which the two ANU academics and Four Corners based their claims. Debbie Whitmont submitted the report for a Walkley Award. And won.
Last week, Four Corners issued a statement standing by its report. No acknowledgement of error. No acknowledgement of distress caused. No hint of admission that the program contained innuendo, omission, supposition, false accusation and a preconceived outcome. This is exactly the sort of case another ABC program, Media Watch, should examine, but it is the last thing it would touch, because the opinionated Media Watch actually operates as Ideology Watch. Such is the ethical rigour at our ABC.
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.