Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Home schoolers free to teach own views on gays or abortion, Alberta government says

But fails to reflect that in the new education law in any way -- using vague generalities instead

The governing Conservatives have bowed to pressure from Christian home-schooling groups and amended Alberta’s new Education Act, making parental control over education explicit.

Advocates, however, say the changes don’t go far enough and they still fear they will one day be brought before a human rights tribunal for teaching that homosexuality and abortion are sins. “The amendment doesn’t hurt, but it doesn’t help,” said Paul van den Bosch, spokesman for the Alberta Home Education Association, which organized a protest at the legislature last week. “Home educators can’t swallow this, and neither should any parent in Alberta.”

Their concerns centre on section 16 of the proposed new law, which says all programs of study offered by Alberta schools must respect the Alberta Human Rights Act and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Christian groups worry that because their faith-based curricula teach that God created the Earth and that homosexuality and abortion are sins, they will be sanctioned by authorities and forced to stop home-schooling. Alternatively, they fear that a complaint lodged against them will land them before the Alberta Human Rights Commission.

The solution, van den Bosch says, is to change the law so that home education is not defined as a “school.”

The new Education Act currently says “parents have the right to make informed decisions,” and van den Bosch wants the language changed back to the wording used in the Schools Act, which says “parents have the right to make decisions.”

The amendment passed in the legislature just before midnight Wednesday does not make any of those changes. Instead, the government has added a preamble that details the intent of the law.

“The government of Alberta recognizes that parents have a right to choose the religious and ethical traditions in which their children are raised,” the preamble says in part, adding that “a child’s education begins in the home; that parents play a foundational role in the moral and spiritual formation of their children.”

Education Minister Thomas Lukaszuk has repeatedly said the government has no intention of undermining parents’ religious rights and that the amendment was only necessary to address concerns from the home-schooling community. “The act as it was written in no way affected parents rights or their ability to educate their children in a home setting,” Lukaszuk said outside the legislature Thursday. "But obviously there are some Albertans who are concerned that somehow their rights may be affected. So I have provided a new preamble.” A preamble is a section of a law that “interprets the spirit of the act,” Lukaszuk said. “It clearly restates what the act already says: There is no intention in any way to affect or in any way diminish parental rights.”

Premier Alison Redford said her government is staying out of the homes of Albertans to allow home-schoolers to teach their children their own views about morality, ethics and religion.

The premier told a talk radio audience Thursday the amendment “protects parent’s’ rights.”

Asked whether she was OK with home-schoolers teaching children that homosexuality is a sin, she said: “Parents are allowed to educate their children in whatever model of school they would like to and if they have particular views with respect to a number of issues and choose to educate their children at home as a result of that, they are entitled to do that,” she said.


A Dangerous Verdict in New Jersey

New Jersey jury on Friday convicted a Rutgers freshman of “bias intimidation,” among several other charges. Dharum Ravi had set up a webcam in the dorm room he shared with Tyler Clementi, and then posted footage online of Clementi being intimate with another man. Three days later Clementi jumped to his death from the George Washington Bridge. Ravi faces up to ten years in prison or deportation to India.

This verdict promises to have malign effects beyond the problems of hate-speech laws already long recognized. Most important, it will make it easier for Muslim organizations to achieve in the United States what they have in Europe: criminalizing legitimate and fact-based criticism of Islam by disguising it as “hate speech,” thus enlisting our criminal justice system in the enforcement of shari’a-based blasphemy laws.

Ravi’s conviction has dangerously expanded the already over-broad and subjective statutes against “hate crimes,” which are for the most part based on words and attitudes. Such laws are an attempt to criminalize preferences disapproved of by some political ideologies, and they are based on dubious social psychology theories about how “hate speech” creates a “climate of fear” that legitimizes and hence increases physical violence or harassment against protected groups. The problem with such laws, however, is that in practice they are selective, protecting politically favored constituencies while excluding other groups such as Christians, Jews, straight white males, or conservatives. Worse yet, what constitutes “hate speech” is highly subjective and reductive, ignoring the specific contexts and intentions that contribute to any speech act. Finally, under the Constitution, we are free to dislike whomever we wish for whatever reason we wish, no matter how much such dislike disturbs others. And subject to strict “fighting words” constraints, under the First Amendment we have the right to express that dislike in speech, including speech others may find offensive.

In short, “hate crime” laws represent another dangerous government intrusion into social and political life at the expense of freedom, all in an attempt to create some utopian world in which nobody ever feels bad, and social relations are without strife and conflict. Yet this goal is impossible given human nature and the great variety of people and their beliefs, some of which they passionately hold and consider foundational to their identities and the meaning of their lives. In a free society that by law gives people the right to express these beliefs and preferences, there inevitably will be clashes, and these disagreements won’t always be conducted with the decorum of a Jane Austen novel. Thus freedom of speech necessarily entails accepting that occasionally one will be insulted or offended. But that’s the price we pay for that freedom, for the alternative is the creation of legal limitations that inhibit speech by using the coercive power of the state to threaten or silence disagreeable political views.

The more dangerous consequence of such legislation, the illegitimate expansion of the scope of hate crime offenses, is what has taken place in the Ravi case. What Ravi did could be considered mean or boorish, but given he was a freshman in college at the time, such behavior is to be expected of a callow youth. There was no evidence presented that Ravi personally was homophobic, no past record of harassing or intimidating homosexuals. In fact, there was not any “hate speech” at all, just a subjective interpretation of his actions as the fuzzy crime “bias intimidation.” As a result, this verdict has broadened the categories “hate” and “bias” to criminalize immaturity––as long as the victim is a member of a protected group. If the roles were reversed, and Clementi had posted videos of Ravi having sex with a woman, nobody would have cared how humiliated or shamed Ravi became, even if he committed suicide.

As a result of this expansion, this verdict contributes to that “chilling” effect on free speech that the ACLU selectively complains about. People who disagree about the legitimacy of same-sex marriage, for example, or resist the attempt to normalize homosexuality, now face the possibility that their opinions, if expressed in ways subjectively interpreted as “hurtful,” could be construed as “bias intimidation” or a “hate crime” or “bullying,” and hence subject to legal sanctions. After all, if normal freshman boorishness can be criminalized, anything can. Already the threat of such prosecution lurks behind every charge of “sexism” or “racism” or “homophobia.” We saw this tactic in the recent uproar over Rush Limbaugh’s comments about Sandra Fluke, which a Washington Post blogger called “hate speech” that “crossed into the realm of sexual harassment.” That is, as something that the power of the government can punish. Such threats can lead to self-censorship and an environment that is hostile to free speech.


British Liberals block move to name the father on all birth certificates

Radical changes to the law to require fathers’ names to be included on birth certificates are being blocked by the Liberal Democrats.

Conservative ministers say unmarried mothers trying to cut a father out of a child’s life should be forced to acknowledge his role, with men given a right to insist upon a paternity test if they resist.

Meanwhile, they say, feckless fathers who refuse to be named on a birth certificate should – like mothers who decline to name a father – be liable for a fine, expected to be £200.

The plan is backed by Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith, who says fathers should have both a right and a responsibility to be formally acknowledged by the state.

He believes the move is a vital part of addressing a crisis in responsible parenting by fathers and increasing the rights of men in family law.

But in the latest coalition row, senior Lib Dems, including Children’s Minister Sarah Teather, are understood to be objecting to the move and refusing to agree to it being implemented – even though the necessary legislation is already on the statute book.

Currently, 50,000 women a year choose to leave the space for the father’s name on a birth certificate blank.

Conservative ministers believe children should have the ‘security’ of being formally acknowledged by both their mother and father.

Making it a legal responsibility for new fathers to register births jointly with mothers would also make it easier to settle disputes over child maintenance, they argue.

The change in the law, which was initiated by Labour and is now on the statute book, would cut both ways. Fathers who do not want to be named on a birth certificate would – like mothers who refuse to name a father – be breaking the law and be liable for a financial penalty.

In 1964 around 65,000 children were born outside marriage in Britain. In 2005 the figure was around 275,000 – and every year 50,000 UK children have the father’s name left blank on their birth certificate.

Under the change in the law, mothers would have to demonstrate exceptional circumstances to be allowed to leave off a father’s name. A GP or social worker would have to corroborate a claim of domestic violence or abuse that could mean a woman or child would be put in danger by naming the father. Children born as a result of rape or sperm donation would also not have to have a father’s name included.

The necessary amendments have already been made to the Births and Deaths Registration Act 1953 and the Children Act 1989 relating to how parental responsibility is acquired by unmarried fathers.

Government sources, however, said the Lib Dems are objecting to the plan. The party is said to have expressed concern that the system would tar some children permanently by associating them with undesirable fathers, as well as undermining the rights of new mothers to make their own decisions about whether or not to acknowledge paternity.

‘Sarah Teather is the main block to this,’ said one. ‘Ministers at the Department for Work and Pensions have expressed support for this policy, but to no avail.’


British parents told son is a health and safety risk because he's TOO TALL for nursery and will wear out equipment faster than smaller toddlers

The adoring parents of a two-year-old were horrified when they were told their son was a health and safety risk because he is too tall.

Staff at the Jolly Roger Adventure play centre in Swindon, Wiltshire, said Dylan and Amanda Sparks would have to pay extra for son Oliver to attend the nursery because he is 3ft 3ins (100cm) tall. Managers said that, at five-and-a-half inches (14cm) above the average height for a child his age, Oliver would 'wear out equipment faster' than the other toddlers.

Mrs Sparks, 24, was told that she would have to pay a full child price of £3.60 for Oliver instead of the under-four admission fee of £2.20.

The youngster's angry parents have hit back at the play centre, saying their son was being discriminated against because he had grown slightly faster than most children his age.

Dylan, 30, said: 'Ollie is tall for his age but, because he is asthmatic, he has had to take steroids from a young age which has probably made him grow a bit quicker. 'To me it just seems like complete discrimination against my son for being tall.

'He is only two so he is definitely still a toddler. I would say you probably stop being a toddler at about four years old, when you start school. 'They go there almost every week and he even had his second birthday party there last year.

'On their latest visit, Amanda went to pay the normal toddler price and was told she would have to pay more.

'She paid it because she didn’t want Ollie to know she was disappointed because he was so excited. But when they queried it afterwards with the manager they were told, "If you have a tall child then it is just tough".'

Mr Sparks emailed the management team the same day and was told that the decision had been made for health and safety reasons. He added: 'It’s not really about the price, it is more about the attitude that we have been given.'

A friend’s daughter, who is one month younger than Oliver, was able to enter as a toddler.

Mrs Sparks said: 'Last time we measured him he was about 100cm tall, so he is quite tall for his age, but he does have these steroids, and I am quite tall too. 'When they measured him he just came right up to the line, but that was because his hair was all spiked up.

'It just seems unfair when my friend’s daughter, who is just a month younger than Oliver, is classed as a toddler.

'He can still play in the toddler area once he is inside because that is done on age, but the price is done on height, which doesn’t seem fair to me.'

On the Jolly Roger website it states that the toddlers' area is exclusively for children under four years old or 95cm in height. Oliver will not be three for another two months, but already exceeds the specified height by 5cm.

Manager John Bolton said: 'We do go by height at Jolly Roger - a bigger child would wear the equipment out quicker than a smaller child would.

'But if an older child wants to play with their younger brother or sister in the toddler area then we wouldn’t stop this, as we want the children to be happy and play together, so we can mix and match. 'We would never stop friends playing together because of their height - that is not what we are about.

'We try to be as accommodating as we can and make the play areas as safe as possible.'



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, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN (Note that EYE ON BRITAIN has regular posts on the reality of socialized medicine). 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.


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