Wednesday, January 28, 2015

When the Teacher Is a Clueless Squish, Students Rule

This teacher is a "progressive." So when one of her students dissed Malala (the student, originally from Pakistan, claimed the Nobel Peace Prize-winner and her family were getting all sorts of freebies from foreign governments while women in the student's village were getting targeted by the Taliban), the teacher didn't go to bat for Malala and her ideas. Instead, she lent credence to her student's specious argument, and, in an epiphany of sorts, decided that that should be her new teaching M.O.:
We are teaching and raising a generation that has the world in their pocket. Since my conversation about Malala, I have made two changes to open my classroom up to the world. “How is she helping Pakistan? I want to go back and help my country; that’s why I am getting an education here. She is not helping them. Why does she not ask Britain and the U.S. to give money to the Pakistan government for education?” This outburst turned into a productive conversation about the troubled relationship that the United States has with Pakistan — and with that conversation, a realization that I had been doing something wrong. 
I teach Civics — the structure, purpose, and history of American government. In several of my class sections, more than half of my students were born outside of the United States, and a quarter of them speak little to no English. I had been so focused on trying to give them the background to understand American culture, politics and government that I had neglected to leave room for their own backgrounds and experiences. 
I teach American government in a global classroom. My students come from five of the seven continents, and a casual count brings me to around 20 different countries of birth. My students spend half of their day on their phones, on Instagram and Twitter. My students know exactly what is happening in the world, as long as it is relevant to their friends, their parents or their news feeds. Although I am required to discuss American politics, if I do not address what drove my students from their homes and what their families are still facing, I leave half of my class in the dust. 
We are teaching and raising a generation that has the world in their pocket. Since my conversation about Malala, I have made two changes to open my classroom up to the world. 
First, I have stopped fighting the weird obsessions that my 8th graders bring into class with them — one day it’s the Illuminati, another day it’s an utter conviction that they will die from Ebola. Even though the standards and curriculum guidelines don’t seem to connect to global politics, I find a way to make it work. Which branch of government is in charge of health workers abroad during a global pandemic? Are conspiracy theories another tool that the media use to influence elections? 
Second, I am much more careful with choice in my classroom. Frequently, I will give students a selection of three to five different reading options: newspaper articles, textbook excerpts, whatever medium I can use to get content across. Now, instead of focusing on generic high-interest topics like football or Justin Bieber, I think about what my students have brought up that week. Maybe my West African student wants to read about hyperinflation in Zimbabwe, since he was asking me why people can’t afford food in some countries. Then again, he might still choose the article about sports but if I never give him the option, I’ll never know. 
In the crush of testing, standards and the pitfalls facing students in poverty, it is easy to lose sight of the incredible richness that our interconnected world can offer.
Au contraire. In the din of our interconnectedness, it's easy to drown out the sort of lessons which America used to depend on to turn immigrants into Americans. Alas, that's unlikely to occur in a classroom where the teacher takes her cues from her students, allowing them to steer her in the wrong direction; into a dark region replete with conspiracy theories and Ebola hysteria and Malala's "villainy."

My Gushing Fan Letter to Mark Steyn in the NatPo

Just in time for Mark Steyn's appearance in Toronto this evening--hope to see y'all at the Manulife Centre's Indigo book store at 7--the National Post published this:

Steyn got it right

Re: Free Speech Is The Right To Insult Islam, Steyn Says, Jan. 26.Mark Steyn reminds us of the similarities between jihadists and climate-change alarmists. Both are fanatical. Both hew to ideologies that brook no dissent or criticism. Both go ballistic — albeit in markedly different ways — when some “blasphemer” has the audacity to make withering fun of them and their orthodoxies. 
Most crucially, however, is the fact that both are control freaks who seek to micro-manage our lives, the climate-change alarmists via onerous environmental regulations, the jihadists via Sharia law. Thank heavens there’s a Mark Steyn around to shoot off his mouth and puncture the pomposities of the power-crazed. The world would be far better off if there were more of him — and fewer of them.

Dear Paul Berman: It's the Islam, Mr. Smartypants

Paul Berman's analysis of the appeal of "the Islamist death cult" is good as far as it goes. Unfortunately, it doesn't go nearly far enough. Which is to say that Sayyid Qutb, the brains behind the Muslim Brotherhood--Berman, cleverly, calls him the Martin Heidegger of Islamism--didn't reinvent the wheel. He went back to the wheel--i.e. the source material of Islam's core texts--and dredged it up for a modern audience.

Berman's problem: he fails to locate the Islam in "Islamism," seeing the latter as a manifestation of 20th Century totalitarianism and therefore divorced from its source.

Update: CAIR Makes New Push to Get Media to Scrub Word "Islamist"

Dear CAIR: IslamistIslamistIslamistIslamistIslamistIslamistIslamistIslamist...

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

It's Amazing the Things That Get People's Shorts In a Twist

A comely tennista's "twirl," for example.

Why the Road to Hell Is Paved With Progressives' "Compassion"

Quotation of the day:
A secularized empathy provides religion without deity or scripture. The new temple becomes the government building and its new bible is a million pages of ObamaCare regulations that no one reads.

Steyn on the Levant Show

Need I say more?

European Jewish Congress Backs Pan-European "Tolerance" Law

That should do the trick, don't you think? ;)

Seventy years after the liberation of Auschwitz, the pathological Jew-hate in Europe is worse than ever, married as it is to a hatred for Israel, the Jewish state despised by on-scene Muslims and infidel chattering classes alike. One understands the desperation of European Jews, but there's no way a "law," especially one that kneecaps free speech, can cure or even ameliorate the disease of Zionhass.

Update: LRC has no time for Official Jews who refuse to acknowledge the Islam implicated in the current round of pathological Jew-hate.

Update: Sir Ben Kingsley doesn't seem to get it either.

An Example of How Interfaithiness Turns the Brain to Mush: Islamophilic NatPo Letter Urges Us To Contextualize Those Koranic Passages Calling for Jihad

A letter in the National Post offers an overly sanguine view of the world religion:
Re: Examining Islam, letter to the editor, Jan. 24.
Letter-writer Jonathan Usher’s seeming rejection of the Qur’an (Letters, Jan. 24) because of some suras in it, looks like a case of throwing out the baby with the bathwater. Yes, the Qur’an has problematic passages, but it remains the basis of belief and the foundation of faith for a billion-plus people. It inspired tolerant, inquiring and prosperous cultures like Muslim Spain in the past — cultures where original ideas and transmitted truths were passed on to us and are part of our heritage today. 
Isolating passages does not do justice to the whole of any scripture. One must look at context and circumstance. Fanaticism has a flair for fine-tuning specifics but ends up with a bunch of trees instead of a forest. Thus, interfaith understanding requires seeing the Qur’an through Islam, more than Islam through the Qur’an. Islam, like every world religion, is more than its scripture.
Doug A. Couper, Milton, Ont.
He's right, of course. Islam is more that its scripture. Islam is also the law--sharia--which, as Islam sees it, is supposed to rule uber alles.

As for "seeing the Qur'an through Islam"--that's an absolute crock. Why should non-Muslims see it that way when, clearly, that's not how practicing Muslims see it?

And re the alleged "tolerance" of "Muslim Spain": that's a function of ignorance and good PR. Here, for instance, is a more truthful account of those "golden" times, as cited by an expert on the subject, Andrew Bostom:
Expanding upon Jane Gerber’s thesis about the “garish” myth of a “Golden Age,” [36] the late Richard Fletcher (in his Moorish Spain) offered a fair assessment of interfaith relationships in Muslim Spain and his view of additional contemporary currents responsible for obfuscating that history: [37]
The witness of those who lived through the horrors of the Berber conquest, of the Andalusian fitnah in the early eleventh century, of the Almoravid invasion — to mention only a few disruptive episodes — must give it [i.e., the roseate view of Muslim Spain] the lie. The simple and verifiable historical truth is that Moorish Spain was more often a land of turmoil than it was of tranquility. … Tolerance? Ask the Jews of Granada who were massacred in 1066, or the Christians who were deported by the Almoravids to Morocco in 1126 (like the Moriscos five centuries later). … In the second half of the twentieth century a new agent of obfuscation makes its appearance: the guilt of the liberal conscience, which sees the evils of colonialism — assumed rather than demonstrated — foreshadowed in the Christian conquest of al-Andalus and the persecution of the Moriscos (but not, oddly, in the Moorish conquest and colonization). Stir the mix well together and issue it free to credulous academics and media persons throughout the western world. Then pour it generously over the truth … in the cultural conditions that prevail in the west today the past has to be marketed, and to be successfully marketed it has to be attractively packaged. Medieval Spain in a state of nature lacks wide appeal. Self-indulgent fantasies of glamour … do wonders for sharpening up its image. But Moorish Spain was not a tolerant and enlightened society even in its most cultivated epoch. 
One might say the same of the NatPo letter--that it is little more tha a self-indulgent fantasy that has next to no basis in reality.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Free Speech in Canada? Don't Be Silly

As Mark Steyn rightly proclaims in the National Post, "Free speech has to include the right to insult Islam." And Steyn says that as someone who was instrumental in getting rid of Section 13, the notorious censorship provision in our federal "human rights" statute. Unfortunately, as Barbara Amiel pointed out following the recent attacks in Paris, that didn't exactly make speech in Canada any freer:
For my money, the reason we don’t have a slaughter like the one at Charlie Hebdo is because no such magazine would ever be allowed in Canada. We save our Kalashnikovs for murdering free speech. First we had the human rights commissions who literally jackbooted freedom of expression. The case against Maclean’s centred largely on an article of Mark Steyn’s. The Canadian Islamic Congress didn’t like his piece on Islam and filed complaints with the federal as well as two provincial human rights commissions. Steyn’s work was vigorously defended by Maclean’s and Rogers Communications. Maclean’s and Steyn won. But the cost was high.  I speak from experience. When in 2011 I had the one and only column of my 37 years of writing for Maclean’s spiked, it was on Dutch anti-Muslim immigration politician Geert Wilders. I thought it was pretty milquetoast writing since I was automatically self-censoring and pulling my punches but I really couldn’t blame Maclean’s.  They were suffering from battle fatigue: nothing is more enervating and time-consuming than filling out the endless details and forms that human-rights complaints require. Not to mention the legal fees. “You’d win,” said one of my editors. “We know that. But we just can’t go there again.” In my view there is no media outlet in Canada brave enough to allow a full and proper discussion of Islam. 
After the imbroglio with Steyn, Prime Minister Harper gutted the HRC ability to monitor free speech.  The issue went by default to the Supreme Court—an inhospitable terrain for freedom. The jurists took on a case involving flyers written about a cow almost as sacred as Islam, namely homosexuality. The flyers written by “Christian Trust Activist” William Whatcott wanted to bring “sodomites” to Christ for redemption but not into classrooms as teachers on human sexuality. The unanimous judgment of Canada’s Supreme Court (overturning the Saskatchewan Court of Appeal that had allowed the flyers) should have been reprinted in its entirety in a Canadian satirical magazine with cartoons of our jurists were such a magazine allowed in Canada, which, according to the Supremes’ decision, it would not. Yes, we have free speech, said the Supremes citing the Charter of Rights but that doesn’t mean we can say anything we like because free speech may be hate speech or at least hateful to some group. But a guarantee of free speech is not divisible. You can’t guarantee “some free speech” any more than you can be “a little bit” pregnant.
Amiel is scathing on the subject of our state broadcaster and its craven refusal to show the Charlie Hebdo 'toons:
As George Jonas pointed out in a 2013 column, human beings find a way of rationalizing their behaviour so that they can claim they are refraining from publishing or saying something not out of fear but because they don’t wish to offend. They convert the base notion of being scared into a noble weapon of seeing someone else’s point of view. In fact, this is one of the most insidious aspects of terrorism: we wash our brains and convert our fear into understanding. Example: the awful spot CBC put news host Evan Solomon in when reporting the Paris murders. He was given the job of reading CBC’s rationalization to explain why, although the motive for the Paris murders were Charlie’s cartoons of Muhammad and Islamists, the CBC would not show the cartoons in reporting the story. I didn’t tape his explanation, fascinated as I was by its maze of clauses, but the phrase “not to offend” made a cameo appearance. 
I would have had more respect for the Ceeb had it told the truth: "We have decided not to show you the cartoons because we're too afraid of being targeted by the jihadis."
In other words: a simple iteration of the facts, no maze of clauses required.

The Good News: The University of Chicago Reaffirms Free Speech. The Bad News: The Fact That Free Expression on University Campuses Is So Rare These Days That This Is News At All

Peter Berkowitz writes:
The good news is also news because, regrettably, the admirable position the University of Chicago has embraced on freedom of speech distinguishes it from a majority of universities in the land. Not every American college and university aggressively discourages debate and independent thought with restrictive speech codes that forbid the expression of opinions at which anyone might take offense. Yet rare is the university that clearly articulates the principles of free speech and proudly stands behind them.  
So when the president and provost of one of America’s preeminent institutions of higher learning appoint a special committee and assign it the task of “articulating the university’s overarching commitment to free, robust, and uninhibited debate and deliberation among all members of the University’s community,” it is worth taking notice.
That's for sure. Let's hope its example inspires others, realizing, of course, that that's a long shot in view of the how wedded universities are universities are to their current hard-left/quasi-totalitarian orthodoxies--countering "micro-aggressions" and the rest.

Shia Fanatics See Recent Events, Including Death of Saudi King and Events in Yemen, as Signs of Their 12th Imam's Immanent Return

Ryan Mauro mentions some of the other "signs" indicating that the Mahdi is set for a return engagement. For some unknown reason, however, he leaves out a crucial one--the fact that all the Jews of the world must be eliminated before the Shia messiah shows his face. Then again, I have no doubt that Iran is interpreting Obama's willingness to cut it lots of slack, uranium-enrichment-wise, as a sign that it'll get to nuke the Jewish state sooner rather than later, thereby laying the groundwork for the Mahdi's return.