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April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review April 11, 2008 / 6 Nissan 5768

Character counts, but not by race

By Mona Charen


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http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | The public schools, perhaps more than any other institution in American life, are afflicted with "sounds good" syndrome. Let's teach kids about the dangers of smoking. Sounds good. Let's improve math scores with a new curriculum called "whole math." Sounds good. Let's reduce teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases by teaching sex ed. Sounds good. Let's have cooperative learning where kids help one another. And so on.


The Fairfax County, Va., schools (where my children attend) recently joined a nationwide "sounds good" trend by introducing a character education curriculum. Students were exhorted to demonstrate a number of ethical traits like (I quote from my son's elementary school's website) "compassion, respect, responsibility, honesty." It would be easy to mock the program — each trait, for example, is linked to a shape (respect is a triangle, honesty is a star). The intention to help mold character is a laudable one. But this program, like so much else about the public schools in the "sounds good" era, has foundered.


The curriculum made news recently when a report ordered by the school board evaluated student conduct for "sound moral character and ethical judgment" and then grouped the results by race. Oh, dear. It seems that among third graders, 95 percent of white students received a grade of "good" or better, whereas only 86 percent of Hispanic kids did that well and only 80 percent of black and special education students were so rated.


Martina A. "Tina" Hone, an African-American member of the school board, told the Washington Post that the decision to aggregate the evaluations by race was "potentially damaging and hurtful."


Where to begin? In the first place, why in the world do they count special education students? Isn't it obvious that this is a population that has difficulty regulating behavior? I hasten to add that I know from personal experience that the county has an outstanding special education program. Why would they seek to employ standards that are utterly inapplicable?


Further, do we really want the public schools to evaluate our children's moral characters? What is the measure? She "respects others' property" and he "complies with established rules"? Does this tell us anything useful on an aggregate basis? Worse yet to group the results by race. The county was apparently responding to the No Child Left Behind spirit of channeling resources to the most needy students. "Educators typically examine racial and ethnic patterns in academic data to spot problems and direct resources" explains the Post. And so, with the best of intentions, the school board winds up insulting an entire group.


The superintendent of schools, Jack D. Dale, apparently seeking a politically correct silver lining, said the study's results could lead to "new understanding about social and cultural differences in students." Here's a radical idea: How about one standard for everyone without regard to race, sex, ethnicity, or any other group membership? Ironically, this study, intended to help solve problems in the minority populations of Fairfax County (which includes substantial numbers of east Asians, south Asians, Hispanics, and African-Americans) will be perceived as evidence of racism by professional offense takers. Counting by race, no matter how benevolent the motive, is toxic.


The schools unavoidably teach ethics and morality whether the curriculum explicitly calls for it or not. The attention lavished on Martin Luther King sends an unambiguous message about human equality and dignity. Reciting the Pledge of Allegiance instills patriotism. Excessive focus on racism, sexism, and other fashionable isms undermines patriotism. Excusing late papers teaches irresponsibility. Punishing a kindergartner who plants a kiss on a classmate as a "sexual harasser" teaches an appreciation for the absurd. There is no point in urging that ethics and morals are not the proper province of the schools because they will inevitably intrude in a thousands ways.


Like so many other big public systems (and Fairfax is among the country's finest), the system clogs kids brains with so many politically correct messages that more traditional moral lessons are crowded out. My sons have been force-fed Manichean tales about noble Native Americans oppressed by whites and religious fanatics scheming against righteous descendants of slaves.


Far better to drop the newer books and teach only the classics. Let them read "Oliver Twist," "The Red Badge of Courage," and "Little Women." They are great stories and the ethics are implicit — which is always better if you wish to avoid cynicism.

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