Tag Archives: Parents

Are teacher unions interested in helping your children to succeed in life?

This is a great article from the Wall Street Journal. (H/T Club for Growth)


In her weekly “What Matters Most” newspaper column, Randi Weingarten recently bid the Big Apple farewell. Ms. Weingarten has been elevated to president of the national American Federation of Teachers from head of its New York City affiliate, and she had some notable parting words: “One of the most rewarding (and exhausting) things about working in public education in New York City is that it is the best laboratory in the world for trying new things.”

Well, it could be, if it weren’t for Ms. Weingarten’s union. Since taking over in 1998, she has done everything she could to block significant reforms to New York’s public schools. Take her opposition to charter schools. She resisted raising the state cap on charters from 100 unless the union could organize them. (She lost and the cap now is 200.)

Ms. Weingarten was also against merit pay for individual teachers. She supported a law that bars school districts from linking teacher tenure to student test scores. In return for even the mildest pension reforms, Ms. Weingarten recently won a concession that teachers no longer need to work on the two days before the start of the school year. Meanwhile, she has fought to ensure that the Absent Teacher Reserve Pool keeps allowing teachers whom no principal wants to hire to receive their full salaries. New York spends an estimated $150 million on this and on Teacher Reassignment Centers (for instructors who have been accused of misconduct) alone.

Speaking of money, Ms. Weingarten has long been among the union leaders claiming that more cash will fix public education. Mayor Michael Bloomberg has paid for the modest reforms he’s been able to implement by increasing spending to $22 billion from $13 billion, much of that in teacher salaries. The four-year high school graduation rate in New York City is now 56%. In union politics, results like these are how you win a promotion to national leadership.

I blogged before about the NYC teachers removed from their duties who are still being paid.

But there’s more to it than that. My Christian readers should also be aware that teacher’s unions, like most unions (but not all!), are also very interested in promoting left-wing, anti-family social programs. (Weingarten herself is openly gay)

If you missed my post about Obama’s appointment of a gay activist to be the director of “safe schools”, check it out here.

The take-home lesson for you is not to vote for Democrats just because they say they will spend more money on education. What Democrats really mean is that they will spend more money on teacher’s unions, so that the teachers can turn around and advocate for leftist policies, like abortion and same-sex marriage, using union dues.

Are things beginning to turn around in Alberta?

Political Map of Canada
Political Map of Canada

I blogged before about the California school district that is indoctrinating 5-year olds with homosexual propaganda in kindergarten. Well, Canada had a similar problem in the province of British Columbia, where the entire curriculum was going to be designed by gay activists. Now, you might think that the Canadians would be a lot more leftist on such issues, you’d be wrong.

Alberta has a bill in the works to give rights to parents to opt out of programs like this.

Check out this story from the Globe and Mail. (H/T My friend Andrew)

Bill 44, which proposes amendments to Alberta’s Human Rights, Citizenship, and Multiculturalism Act, contains two significant changes. The first adds sexual orientation to proscribed grounds of discrimination. This would bring Alberta’s human rights legislation into conformity with a Supreme Court of Canada ruling that “read in” sexual orientation after it had been deliberately omitted three times by the Legislative Assembly in Edmonton. The amendment has been widely praised.

Section 11 of the new act is more controversial. It requires that parents be notified whenever instructional materials are taught dealing “explicitly with religion, sexuality or sexual orientation.” If parents object in writing, the student can be excused from class.

According to Rob Anderson, Conservative MLA from Airdrie-Chestermere, a riding just north of Calgary, Bill 44 “is one of the most positive and meaningful advances for human rights that this province and this country has seen for many years.” Specifically, he explained, the “parental rights clause” enshrines Article 26 (3) of the United Nations universal declaration of human rights: “Parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children.” Premier Ed Stelmach added that his government “supports a very, very fundamental right and that is parental rights with respect to education.”

This article was written by a political science professor at the University of Calgary, which is the school where their prime minister Stephen Harper got both his degrees in economics. They are known for their conservative views. They even have a special name: the “Calgary School” of economics, just like you might talk about the “Chicago School” and the “Austrian School”. Awesome!

Here’s a letter to the editor from a University of Lethbridge (Alberta) professor that I found in the National Post, (H/T Blazing Cat Fur)

Bill 44 is a response to a B. C. Human Rights Tribunal decision mandating two gay activists to commandeer the Ministry of Education in that province to impose a “social justice” course into the curriculum. Parents’ rights, never mind those of local school boards, were overridden.

The B. C. example and Alberta’s Bill 44 indicate how HRCs have poisoned politics in those two provinces.

Now everyone, not just Christian preachers, has to worry about getting dragged before an HRC. A former chairman of the Calgary School Board once proclaimed the state “owns” children who must be liberated from the supposedly claustrophobic viewpoints of their parents. This goes to show how little this debate has to do with promoting critical thinking or cosmopolitanism, as the Post’s article suggests.

If there is an upside to this, perhaps now there will be sufficient support across the political spectrum to dismantle the HRCs.

Go Canada, eh?

How childhood experiences shape our view of religion

I have a very good friend named Rick Heller who blogs at several places, including Transparent Eye. Rick is not a Christian, but he is fairly familiar with the relevant evidence pro and con, except on the resurrection of Jesus. I was browsing on Transparent Eye the other day and I found this post about a childhood experience that turned Rick away from religion.


Even when I was religious, I always found the glorification of God to be a lesser form of spirituality. As an Orthodox Jew, I disliked the text of the Yishtabach prayer (though I liked the tune)

May your Name be praised, our King, the God, the great and holy King, in heaven and on Earth. Because, our God and God of our forefathers, you deserve song and praise, lauding and hymns, power and dominion, triumph, greatness and strength, praise and splendor, holiness and kingship, blessing and thanksgivings now and forever.

It seemed to me that the Rabbis thought that God had a self-esteem problem, and His ego needed massaging. Even as a religious person, I thought these prayers were inferior to the Psalms, which often expressed delight and gratitude rather than the obsequious praise of the courtier.

In life, I can think of two reasons why you might flatter someone. First, the person might be insecure, and out of compassion you might say a little white lie that makes them feel better. Second, the person might have power over you, and you tell a lie in order to elevate them in the hopes of reciprocity, that they will elevate you, or at least not punish you.

This sucking up to God seems to me like the flattery of the poweful. The extravagent praise of the Yishtabach prayer strikes me as something done to propitiate a powerful and potentially dangerous Being that could destroy you.

Does God need our glorification? A mature person does not need constant praise (though a heartfelt thank-you every once in a while is appreciated).

Let’s take a look at his concern and see if we can find a solution.

The problem of forcing religion on children

Now, I have a different view of worship than many Christians. I think it’s better to worship God in the public square, not just in church. I believe in worshiping with theological truths and with publicly available knowledge, such as describing the scientific discoveries that led to our knowledge of God’s role in creating the universe. And I believe in talking about God’s worth to non-Christians, not just Christians.

Surprising as it may be to many Christians, as someone who was not raised in a Christian home, I really struggle with the church. Unlike Rick, I enjoy ascribing worth to God. I think that voluntary worship is best, because you make your own case based on what you know about God from your own study. But I also think a prayer like Rick’s may be appropriate, but only after you convince yourself it is true.

I want to go on to make a general point about the way religion is presented to young people.

A lot of people who have religion crammed down their throats at a young age end up either rebelling or just going through the motions until they leave home. What I noticed about Rick’s post is that sounds like he was being made to do things that he didn’t want to do. Can you imagine what would have happened if he told the church elders or his parents that he was uncomfortable mouthing these parrot-praises?

This is the problem. Church elders and parents are long on ordering people around, and short on answering questions. They don’t try to convince you of anything, they just demand visible behaviors. Rick might be willing to say that prayer, but first he deserves to be convinced. It is not enough to just pressure him into mouthing the words. He needs to persuade himself that the words are true, by studying the facts!

The problem is that parents and the church won’t lift a finger to present religious truth claims the same way as truth is presented in the classroom, the lab or the workplace. Children know when they are being told fairy tales. We need to give them public knowledge! Show them some debates! We need to put in the same effort into persuading people about religion as we do about any other area of knowledge.

I once exchanged e-mails with a fundamentalist Christian who explained to me how her approach to atheist’s questions was to quote the Bible to them. I asked her whether it might not be better to appeal to scientific or historical evidence, instead, since atheists don’t believe the Bible. Naturally she cited a Bible verse to me, in order to justify her not having to answer anyone’s questions.

A wicked and adulterous generation looks for a miraculous sign, but none will be given it except the sign of Jonah.” Jesus then left them and went away. (Matthew 16:4)

Now the thing is, this woman had no idea what this verse was saying. She was just trying to justify being lazy. But every serious Christian knows that Jesus is predicting his own resurrection in that verse! That is what the sign of Jonah is: 3 days in the tomb and then out of it. So Jesus is saying, you guys are going to get a historical event, and it’s going to be done right in front of you as a sign to prove my claims.

This is exactly how the early church presented the resurrection (e.g. Peter in Acts 2:14-41). Non-Christians were supposed to form their opinion of whether Jesus was the long-awaited Messiah, or not, based on a historical event. The whole Bible is chock-full of examples of faith founded on fact! But you would never, ever know that by watching parents and churches present religion to children.

I hereby apologize to sincere atheists, agnostics and deists for these experiences. But guess what? Authentic Christians like William Wilberforce agree with me on this.

What would William Wilberforce think?

Well, take a look for yourself, from his own writings:

Look at the facts. Do cultural Christians view Christian faith as important enough to make it a priority when teaching their children what they believe and why they believe it? Or do they place greater emphasis on their children getting a good education than on learning about the things of God? Would they be embarrassed if their children did not possess the former while basically being indifferent about the latter? If their children have any understanding of Christian faith at all, they probably have acquired it on their own. If the children view themselves as Christians, it is probably not because they have studied the facts and come to a point of intellectual conviction but because their family is Christian, so they believe they must be Christians also.

The problem with this way of thinking is that authentic faith cannot be inherited. When Christianity is viewed in this way, intelligent and energetic young men and women will undoubtedly reach a point where they question the truth of Christianity and, when challenged, will abandon this “inherited” faith that they cannot defend. They might begin to associate with peers who are unbelievers. In this company, they will find themselves unable to intelligently respond to objections to Christianity with which they are confronted. Had they really known what they believe and why they believe it, these kinds of encounters would not shake their faith one bit.

I fear for the future of authentic faith in our country. We live in a time when the common man in our country is thoroughly influenced by the current climate in which the cultural and educational elite propagates an anti-Christian message. We should take a look at what has happened in France and learn a lesson from it. In that country, Christianity has been successfully attacked and marginalized by these same groups because those who professed belief were unable to defend the faith from attack, even though its attackers’ arguments were deeply flawed. We should be alarmed that instruction in authentic faith has been neglected, if not altogether eliminated, in our schools and universities.

Is it any wonder then that the spiritual condition of our country is of little concern to those who don’t even educate their own children about true Christianity?  Their conduct reflects their absence of concern, not only for the state of Christianity in our own country, but also for the need to communicate the message of Christ to those in other parts of the world who have not heard this truth.

This is the guy who stopped slavery in the UK, folks. My advice: let’s do whatever Wilber says.

In a forthcoming post, I’ll look at another childhood experience that causes problems for people. It turns out that bad views of economics can be traced to childhood experiences, just like bad views of religion.