Category Archives: Education

Japan’s worst day for teen suicides. “Collective thinking” part of the problem?

japanese youthJapan’s “killer collectivism” has been around for some time.

CNN: Nanae Munemasa was at elementary school when the bullying started. The 17-year-old student says she was beaten by boys with broom sticks, slapped in the girls’ bathroom, and even attacked during a swimming lesson. “I was the last one to get out of the pool,” she said. “A brush flew out of nowhere and it hit me underwater. I nearly drowned. I had a huge bump on my forehead.”

Nanae started skipping school, and even thought about taking her own life.

Suicide spike

She’s not alone. More Japanese school pupils commit suicide on September 1 each year than on any other date, according to figures collated by Japan’s suicide prevention office over a period of more than 40 years.

The grim spike in the statistics is linked to the typical start date of the new school term after the summer holiday has ended. “The long break from school enables you to stay at home, so it’s heaven for those who are bullied,” Nanae said. “When summer ends, you have to go back. And once you start worrying about getting bullied, committing suicide might be possible.”

Japan has one of the highest rates of suicide in the world, and it is the leading cause of death among those aged 15-39. The government’s figures show that in total 18,048 under-18s took their own lives between 1972 and 2013.

Nanae said she became a target for bullies after she transferred schools for a short time before returning — meaning she was branded as a truant. When the bullying worsened, she considered suicide, but did not go through with it. “I thought that actions such as cutting my wrist would cause trouble for my parents, and committing suicide would not solve anything.”

collectivism

Collective thinking

In the end, Nanae decided to stop going to school and stayed at home for nearly a year.

Nanae’s mother, Mina Munemasa, was supportive of her daughter’s decision. “Nanae was saying things like, ‘If I jump off the Tokyo Tower, I think I can fly,” Mina said. “I don’t think school is a place where you have to risk your life to go.”

Nanae thinks the Japanese education system’s focus on collective thinking is at the root cause of the problem.

“In Japan, you have to fall in line with other people. And if you cannot do that, you’re either ignored or bullied,” she said. “You are required to have a unified opinion, and it crushes the uniqueness every person has. But that uniqueness is not something to destroy.”

Some experts agree. Child psychiatrist Dr. Ken Takaoka said the suicide rate increases when school restarts because schools “prioritize collective (action). Children who do not get along in a group will suffer.”

Living hell

To raise awareness of the issue, a Japanese non-profit organization, Futoko Shimbun, is even printing a newspaper for children who stay home to avoid bullying. Keiko Okuchi, one of the organization’s representatives, said the problem is exacerbated by a culture that dictates that going to school is the only option. “It is a living hell for children who know that they’ll be bullied at school, yet they have no other choice but to go,” she said.

Now, Nanae has returned to her studies and is also singing in a pop band called Nanakato along with her brother. Nanae hopes that one day they will have enough fans to fill Tokyo’s famous arena Budokan, and play their music in a foreign country.

Nanae is also trying to help others being bullied by writing a blog about what she went through. “It would be great if (the blog) helps at least one person stop thinking about committing suicide,” she said.

Nanae’s mother said her daughter’s time on the Internet was a key factor in helping her get through the bullying. “By creating connections with people in Japan as well as other countries, she was able to regain her confidence,” Mina said. “Adults tend to say that the Internet is dangerous but there are definitely some children who are saved by it.”

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Professors threaten bad grades for saying ‘illegal alien,’ ‘male,’ ‘female’

illegal

That’s progressive “higher education” for you.

Campus Reform: Multiple professors at Washington State University have explicitly told students their grades will suffer if they use terms such as “illegal alien,” “male,” and “female,” or if they fail to “defer” to non-white students.

According to the syllabus for Selena Lester Breikss’ “Women & Popular Culture” class, students risk a failing grade if they use any common descriptors that Breikss considers “oppressive and hateful language.”

The punishment for repeatedly using the banned words, Breikss warns, includes “but [is] not limited to removal from the class without attendance or participation points, failure of the assignment, and— in extreme cases— failure for the semester.”

Breikss is not the only WSU faculty member implementing such policies. Much like in Selena Breikss’s classroom, students taking Professor Rebecca Fowler’s “Introduction to Comparative Ethnic Studies” course will see their grades suffer if they use the term “illegal alien” in their assigned writing.

stupidity

According to her syllabus, students will lose one point every time they use the words “illegal alien” or “illegals” rather than the preferred terms of “‘undocumented’ migrants/immigrants/persons.” Throughout the course, Fowler says, students will “come to recognize how white privilege functions in everyday social structures and institutions.”

In an email to Campus Reform, Fowler complained that “the term ‘illegal alien’ has permeated dominant discourses that circulate in the news to the extent that our society has come to associate ALL unauthorized border crossings with those immigrants originating from countries south of our border (and not with Asian immigrants, for example, many of whom are also in the country without legal documents and make up a considerable portion of undocumented immigrants living in the country).”

“The socio-legal production of migrant illegality works to systematically dehumanize and exploit these brown bodies for their labor,” Fowler continued.

White students in Professor John Streamas’s “Introduction to Multicultural Literature” class, are expected to “defer” to non-white students, among other community guidelines, if they want “to do well in this class.” In the guidelines in his syllabus, Streamas elaborates that he requires students to “reflect” on their grasp of history and social relations “by respecting shy and quiet classmates and by deferring to the experiences of people of color.”

Streamas—who previously generated controversy by calling a student a “white shitbag” and declared that WSU should stand for “White Supremacist University”—also demands that students “understand and consider the rage of people who are victims of systematic injustice.” Later in the syllabus, Streamas goes even further and accuses Glenn Beck of being an “insensitive white.”

Several other WSU professors require their students to “acknowledge that racism, classism, sexism, heterosexism, and other institutionalized forms of oppression exist” or that “we do not live in a post-racial world.”

Ari Cohn, a lawyer with the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, told Campus Reform he considers such requirements to be contradictory, even given the sensitive nature of the courses. “It is notable that one of the syllabus provisions warns: ‘The subject material of this class is sensitive and controversial. Strive to keep an open mind.’ How are students supposed to approach these sensitive and controversial materials at all, let alone to keep an open mind, if they have to fear that a misconstrued statement, or one that unreasonably offends a classmate will lead to a grade reduction or even removal from class?”

Neither Breikss nor Streamas replied to Campus Reform’s request for comment.

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Pope Francis praises homosexual children’s book

In 2006, when he was Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Cardinal William J. Levada authored “The Family in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, in which he states that The Catechism of the Catholic Church affirms that “The vocation of marriage is written in the very nature of man and woman as they came from the hand of the Creator” (1603) and that “In creating man and woman, God instituted the human family and endowed it with its fundamental constitution” (2203). Levada writes:

Since marriage and family have their basis in the created order, confirmed by the explicit Revelation of God, the Church necessarily opposes the adoption of human laws that would abandon or overturn this order, such as is the case with laws that would recognize same-sex or polygamous “marriage.” Human laws and judicial decisions that fail to respect this fundamental and perennial teaching are contrary to God’s law, and are rightly considered unjust.

And yet Pope Francis is praising a children’s book celebrating homosexual parenting and same-sex families.

Rosie Scammel reports for The Guardian, Aug. 28, 2015, that the Italian children’s book is titled Piccolo Uovo (Little Egg), with a cover adorned by cute hippos, kangaroos and penguins. While following the adventures of an egg may seem harmless enough, its discovery of different family types – including same sex – has prompted a backlash by conservatives who accuse Italian author Francesca Pardi of promoting a pro-homosexuality gender theory.

Francesca Pardi (l) with wife and adopted children

Francesca Pardi (l) with wife and adopted children

Pardi is a lesbian in a same-sex relationship with her business partner, Maria Silvia Fiengo. The two women traveled to Spain to be legally married and adopted four children in the Netherlands.

In the book, the egg encounters a pair of gay penguins, lesbian rabbits successfully bringing up a family, as well as other family models, including a single parent hippo, a mixed race dog couple, and kangaroos that have adopted polar bear cubs.

Piccolo Uovo

The book was met with disapproval by Venice’s new mayor, Luigi Brugnaro, who in June banned Piccolo Uovo and about 50 other titles from schools. The decision led more than 250 Italian authors to demand their own books be removed from the city’s shelves, a move one writer described as a “protest against an appalling gesture of censorship and ignorance”.

Now Pardi has found an unlikely supporter in Pope Francis, who through his staff has written to the author praising her work. Peter B. Wells, a senior official at the Vatican secretariat of state wrote in a July 9 letter to Lo Stampatello, the publisher of Piccolo Uovo, commending the book for spreading “Christian values”:

“His holiness [Pope Francis] is grateful for the thoughtful gesture and for the feelings which it evoked, hoping for an always more fruitful activity in the service of young generations and the spread of genuine human and Christian values.”

Msgr Peter Wells

Peter B. Wells

Msgr. Peter Brian Wells was born in Oklahoma, was ordained a Presbyterian minister in 1991, and is now the number 3 man in the Vatican’s Secretariat of State.

Wells’ letter was a response to a parcel of children’s books sent by Pardi to the pontiff in June, all published by Lo Stampatello. In addition to Piccolo Uovo, 7 or 8 books also deal with lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender issues (LGBT). Pardi accompanied the books with a letter bemoaning the attacks she has come under in recent months:

“Many parishes across the country are in this period sullying our name and telling falsehoods about our work which deeply offends us. We have respect for Catholics … A lot of Catholics give back the same respect, why can’t we have the whole hierarchy of the church behind us?”

Pardi said she had not expected a reply and was surprised to receive the letter at her Milan home.

The Vatican said the closing blessing of the private letter was addressed to Pardi and not in support of teachings which went against church doctrine on ‘gender theory’.

The Vatican deems homosexual relationships “intrinsically disordered” and “contrary to natural law”, preaching that gay people must live a life of chastity in order to be good Catholics. While such a doctrine has effectively excluded people in same-sex relationships from the church, Pope Francis has adopted a more welcoming approach during his papacy. “If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?” he said in 2013. The same year, a gay man in France told his local newspaper he had received a reassuring phone call from the pope – a claim the Vatican denied.

Catholics worldwide have started campaigning against the pope’s openness, with more than half a million signing a petition calling on Francis to reaffirm church teachings on gay people and divorcees. Signatories of the Filial appeal aim to have an impact on the Vatican’s synod on the family in October, when church teachings will be discussed by the world’s leading churchmen. The petition has notably been signed by traditionalist Cardinal Raymond Burke, who was demoted by the pope last year.

As in the United States, attitudes on homosexual marriage in Italy are changing, with recent polls showing the majority of voters are in favor of “gay” marriage and adoption. Italy’s prime minister, Matteo Renzi, has pledged to legislate for same-sex unions this year. He has come under growing pressure to fulfil the promise following a decision by the European court of human rights, which ruled that Italy failed to protect same-sex couples.

See also:

~Éowyn

The cat who goes to school

Bubba1

Anne Gelhaus reports for the San Jose Mercury News, Aug. 19, 2015, that the Marienthal family adopted Bubba the cat in 2009 and tried to make him an indoor cat. But Bubba likes to roam and has become a fixture in two nearby schools — Leland High School and Bret Harte Middle School in San Jose, California.

Amber Marienthal said “He’s really loud” and that she still gets calls from staff and students who see him on campus and think he’s lost.

Like many members of Leland High School’s student body, Bubba is a social animal — he attends sporting events, hangs out on campus with his buddies and has a Facebook page dedicated to his exploits. Bubba even has a Leland student card.

Bubba's Leland High student card

But unlike Leland’s other students, Bubba can roam the school’s halls freely during class. And if he wants to be excused, he doesn’t have to raise his paw; he just meows.

Bubba is known and loved by many at both schools, as his 600-plus Facebook followers attest. Marienthal, the administrator of Bubba’s Facebook page, says Bubba’s fans want him to branch out into other social media. She says, “People want me to get him on Instagram” but “I only have so much time to devote to my cat’s social life.”

Bubba has been featured in other media. He’s been written up in the high school’s newspaper, senior magazine and yearbook. Marienthal says “The students at Bret Harte petitioned to have a statue erected in his honor,” but their petition was denied.

Both of Marienthal’s sons attended Bret Harte and are now at Leland. She says Bubba started hanging out on campus about a year before her oldest son Matthew, who just started his sophomore year at Leland, entered sixth grade at the middle school. And she says the cat is likely to stay in school even after both of “his boys” graduate.

Marienthal says she’s gotten no complaints from staff or students at either school about Bubba prowling the campuses. Her main worry is that Bubba has come close to shaving off one of his nine lives on several occasions. She’s seen him lay down on Leland’s soccer field in the middle of practice and wait for one of the players to pet him. “He’s really social and he has no fear,” Marienthal says. “I’m surprised he’s still around.”

While he usually makes it home at night, Bubba did have a scare when he wandered onto the Leland campus during registration last month and accidentally got locked inside a classroom for 36 hours. Luckily, a security guard heard him meowing and set him free.

Bubba conducts a locker investigation at Leland High

Since Bubba meanders freely in and out of classrooms, teachers have learned how to deal with his presence. “One teacher made the mistake of buying treats for him,” Marienthal recalls, which led Bubba to sit by his classroom door and wait to be fed. “Bubba would meow for treats. [The teacher] got sick of the noise.”

Marienthal says she’d like to see her cat included in another important campus activity: “We’d love it if they let him do cap and gown in 2017. That’s the group that’s been with him through Bret Harte and Leland.”

Meanwhile, Bubba has developed attendance habits that students may want to emulate. “He waits for school to start, and he doesn’t come home until all the sports are done,” Marienthal says. “As long as he’s alive, I think he’ll hang out at the school.”

Bubba’s Facebook page is at facebook.com/bubbatheschoolcat.

~Éowyn

How many days could you be late to work before you were fired? How about 111?

What exactly does it take to get a public employee fired?

The teacher who can't manage his time

The teacher who can’t manage his time

Fox News: An elementary school teacher who was allowed to keep his job despite being late for work 111 times in two years said Friday that breakfast is to blame for his tardiness.

“I have a bad habit of eating breakfast in the morning, and I lost track of time,” 15-year veteran teacher Arnold Anderson told The Associated Press.

In a decision filed Aug. 19, an arbitrator in New Jersey rejected an attempt by the Roosevelt Elementary School in New Brunswick to fire Anderson from his $90,000-a-year job, saying he was entitled to progressive discipline. But the arbitrator also criticized Anderson’s claim that the quality of his teaching outweighed his tardiness.

Anderson was late 46 times in the most recent school year through March 20 and 65 times in the previous school year, the arbitrator said. Anderson said he was one to two minutes late to school “at the most” but was prepared and was never late for class. “I have to cut out eating breakfast at home,” he said Friday.

Anderson remains suspended without pay until Jan. 1. A message seeking comment was left Friday with the school superintendent’s office.

The arbitrator found that the district failed to provide Anderson with due process by not providing him with a formal notice of inefficiency or giving him 90 days to correct his failings before terminating his employment.

Republican Gov. Chris Christie referenced the case in a tweet on Friday. Christie wrote: “Think I’m too tough on the teachers union? This is what we’re dealing with in NJ.”

Anderson said he was “very upset” to be suspended but conceded that losing his job would have been worse. When he returns to school in January, “I will be early,” he said.

DCG

School Bans Child’s Wonder Woman Lunchbox – Considered Too Violent

Get me off this crazy train…

wonder woman lunchbox

Yahoo: A child’s school has banned her lunchbox, because it features the comic book character Wonder Woman. 

The school sent the unnamed girl home with a letter for her parents, explaining why they deem it inappropriate – which a family friend and Reddit user has posted online for the world to weigh in on.

Reddit user twines18 posted a photo of the letter sent, along with a couple of snaps of the child’s lunchbox, explaining that the school finds Wonder Woman to be a figure that represents violence.

But it’s not just this particular superhero that the school has it in for – they don’t allow any superheroes to be worn on clothing, backpacks or lunchboxes of the children.

“We noticed that Laura has a Wonder Woman lunchbox that features a super hero image,” reads the letter. “In keeping with the dress code of the school, we must ask she not bring this to school. The dress code we have established requests that the children not bring violent images into the building in any fashion – on their clothing (including shoes and socks), backpacks and lunchboxes.

“We have defined ‘violent characters’ as those who solve problems using violence. Super heroes certainly fall into that category.”

wonder woman letter

Seems fair enough, superheroes do tend to throw a few punches. But anyone who’s ever picked up a Marvel or DC Comics book, or watched one of their films, will know that superheroes only turn to violence as a last resort and it’s always in a quest to save and protect others.

So surely aspiring to the likes of Wonder Woman (one of the only female superheroes, let’s not forget) is a positive thing?

Reddit users commented on the irony that the picture on the lunchbox isn’t even violent – it’s not like it’s an image of Superman punching something or someone or Iron Man shooting someone with his repulsor blasts. She’s simply holding her Lasso of Truth – which is never used as a weapon.

“I really thought that the lunch box would have a picture of Wonder Woman kicking or punching someone,” commented one person. “Nope, just Wonder Woman is enough to indicate violence.”

And another Redditor, who clearly knows a lot about Wonder Woman, delved into her character traits. “One of the things I find most ironic here is that Wonder Woman specifically was designed to be different from other superheroes from her inception.

“Her creator saw how other superheroes utilised violence to solve problems so often, and he felt there was a different way, he felt that was a very ‘masculine’ approach, and that a feminine superhero didn’t have to just be a copy of a male superhero, solving problems in the same ways, and acting and thinking the same way, but could be uniquely a woman on top of being a hero.”

The same Reddit user also explained a little about Wonder Woman’s lasso. “That’s a magic lasso, she can get people to confront the truth of what they’ve done, and tell the truth to her especially,” he wrote. “The Lasso is basically a magical psychiatric session, it doesn’t maim, it doesn’t mutilate, it contains, and makes whoever contained in it have to be honest for maybe the first time in their lives.”

We appreciate the school’s consistency, one rule for all and all that, but banning ALL superhero images seems a little extreme. After all, who didn’t have a Batman pencil case or a Catwoman lunchbox as a child?

And we have to wonder – does the school’s ban stretch to Disney memorabilia? After all, there’s violence in almost every single Disney film. Elsa hurt a number of people with her icy blasting powers and let’s not forget Scar virtually pushing Mufasa off a cliff…

DCG

St. Mary’s Academy in Portland rescinds job offer after learning candidate is gay

No doubt a lawsuit is on the way.

st marys academy

Oregon Live: St. Mary’s Academy in downtown Portland rescinded a job offer to an academic counselor after learning the 27-year-old woman is gay.

Lauren Brown

Lauren Brown

Lauren Brown said the private Roman Catholic school in late July pulled its offer for a college counseling position after she told an administrator about her sexual orientation. Willamette Week reported late Tuesday that Brown was offered a year’s salary to withdraw from consideration and to keep quiet about it.

Christina Friedhoff, president of the all-girls school, acknowledged the situation in a letter sent home to parents Tuesday. “St. Mary’s is grounded in the Catholic religion,” Friedhoff wrote. “We ask that the faculty and staff support and nurture the Catholic identity, practice, culture and mission on which we were founded.”

“We understand that others may hold different values, and we respect the right of individuals in society to do so. At the same time, as a Catholic high school, we are obligated to follow our current Catholic teachings regarding same-sex marriage in our employment practices.”

She notes that the school’s board of directors and the schools founders, the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary, support the decision. The Catholic Sentinel, the official newspaper of the Archdiocese of Portland, reported that Portland Archbishop Alexander Sample also supports the school’s actions.

“We expect that given certain reassurances by the federal government in the wake of the recent Supreme Court ruling making ‘same-sex unions’ the law of the land, our religious liberty would be protected in this case as well as any future cases of this sort,” the archbishop said in a statement.

Friedhoff asked parents to pray for the school, which she said will experience a “difficult time” given the public attention the decision has generated. The school, which traces its roots back to 1859, has about 700 students. Classes for the upcoming academic year are scheduled to begin next week.

The school’s usually lively Facebook page and Twitter feed have both been suspended. The school’s website continues to link to the pages, though they show all content is unavailable.

Meanwhile, St. Mary’s students and alumni upset by school administrators’ actions have taken to social media to express their outrage. On Twitter, they are using the #FightForSMA hashtag.

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