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BY Jim Cosgrove
Trinity College Dis-invites Gloria Steinem
CHRONICLE OFHIGHER EDUCATION, March 24 — Officials from Trinity College decided that a speech by Gloria Steinem, a longtime leader in the feminist movement, would create too much controversy among some faculty members, alumni and students, the Chronicle reported.
Steinem had been invited last year to speak at the Catholic college's “Peace and Justice” lecture series. They recently reversed their decision in part because they feared that some of her views, particularly those regarding abortion, might trigger widespread protests, said Kathleen O'Dell-Thompson, Trinity's vice president for institutional advancement, in the Chronicle article.
O'Dell-Thompson said that Trinity, which is this year celebrating its 75th anniversary, had recently overcome financial problems and was fighting to reverse declines in its enrollment. The college's officials must focus on solving those problems, not stirring up controversy, she said.
Not everyone approved of the college's move. The Chronicle reported that Vermont State Rep. Mary M. Sullivan, a Democrat, quit her part-time job as communications director at Trinity College because the institution rescinded the speaking invitation.
Bush and Gore Spar Over Education
THE WASHINGTON POST, March 29 — Republican presidential nominee George W. Bush proposed a five-year, $5 billion plan March 28 designed to improve the reading skills of low-income children, arguing there is a “national emergency” in education, reported The Washington Post.
Bush's “Reading First” proposal, intended as one of the major initiatives of his campaign, would seek to ensure that all children read by the third grade by providing instruction for about 900,000 kindergarten and first-grade students in low-performing schools as well as mandating testing and additional teacher training.
“Too many of our children cannot read. Reading is the building block, and it must be the foundation for education reform,” the paper quoted Bush as saying. “Others have proposed throwing money at the problem. I'll spend more on schools, and I'll expect more from our schools.”
Advisors to Vice President Al Gore were quick to criticize Bush's program, the Post reported. They called Bush's initiative an echo of a program already enacted during the Clinton administration, while the vice president, in an interview with the Associated Press, charged that Bush's tax cut plan would leave no new money to invest in education. Gore said the Bush tax proposal “puts a huge cloud over everything that he says about education.”
Gore has proposed an education plan that would use $115 billion of the federal budget surplus over 10 years to fund universal preschool, hiring and testing of new teachers, reducing class sizes, building schools and repairing crumbling ones, noted the Post. He also wants to triple the number of charter schools, make preschool available to every 4-year-old and expand Head Start.
Keyes Speaks at Steubenville
FRANCISCAN UNIVERSITY, March 7 — Radiant and hopeful despite the darkness of a national media blackout, Republican presidential candidate Alan Keyes addressed over 1,700 students and faculty March 6 at Franciscan University of Steubenville in Ohio.
“We don't need to start off as strangers,” said Keyes, a 1996 recipient of an honorary degree from the school. “This is a special place for me and a reservoir of spirituality.” The Franciscan University Student Association (FUSA) sponsored Keyes'address.
Keyes addressed America's moral situation, making frequent references to Christian and Church teachings. “We should not have to show shame in recalling our country back to our Creator,” he said in reference to abortion, materialism, racism and other social ills.
“There is no other basis for moral discipline than to acknowledge the limits of freedom to prevent a literal ‘hell on earth,’” Keyes said to a packed floor of students and visitors. “This is not speculation of what will happen; this is an observation of what is happening.”
The sentiments of the students, who lacked no enthusiasm at the rally, were expressed well by FUSA president Tom Buck in his introduction of Dr. Keyes: “Our work is not just to watch someone like Alan Keyes go out and fight alone. We all must individually fight for the values we espouse at this university.”
BY Jim Cosgrove
Xavier Celebrates 75 Years
XAVIER UNIVERSITY, Feb. 29 — Xavier University of Louisiana is celebrating its 75th anniversary this March with a Mass, jazz brunch and a street dedication. The anniversary officially starts with a special Mass to be celebrated at St. Louis Cathedral in New Orleans on Mar. 19. Mass is followed with a jazz brunch in the French Quarter.
On March 24, Palmetto St. was scheduled to be renamed Drexel Drive, in honor of soon-to-be-saint Katherine Drexel, who founded Xavier University in 1925.
Notre Dame Students See Racism in Arrest
ASSOCIATED PRESS, Mar. 9 — Two off-duty police officers working security at a Denny's restaurant acted improperly when they arrested four black college students over a sign that fell off the wall, restaurant company officials said.
Denny's officials said March 8 they fired the security officers, who allegedly used pepper spray on a handcuffed student and slammed the head of another into a car trunk, bloodying her nose, the AP reported.
“We weren't doing anything,” said April Allen, one of the four Notre Dame students. “What they did was not logical, so you have to think [race] was a factor.”
BY Jim Cosgrove
Philly Library Gives Kids Access to Lewd Materials
URBAN FAMILY COUNCIL, Mar. 3—Philadelphia Free Library head Flliot Shelkrot revealed before the Philadelphia City Council hearings this week that the library's policy is to allow children 12 and older access to all library materials, including videos and computer software, regardless of their ratings.
Urban Family president William Devlin said, “Basically the head of the Free Library has said, ‘Let them have pornography and violence.’ … Are there any responsible adults left in the Free Library system in Philadelphia?”
Said Devlin, “One would think that, after all the youth violence we've seen in our urban, suburban and rural areas, that responsible adults would attempt to exercise a fiduciary responsibility with our kids.
“This isn't about censorship; this is about setting an example for our kids and putting them in contact with positive, life-affirming experiences. Do 12 year olds need more violence and sexual degradation of women?”
A New College Hopes to Up Enrollment
WASHINGTON POST, Mar. 5—Officials at the nation's first college geared to Christian home-schoolers said last week that they will offer admission to about 60 students, with hopes of enrolling twice that many before Patrick Henry College opens in September, the Washington Post reports.
Michael P. Farris, president of the Home School Legal Defense Association and founder and president of the Patrick Henry College, said he is aiming for a first-year enrollment of 120 to 130 students at the campus, which is under construction in Purcellville, Va. The eventual target is about 600.
But to do that, Farris needs to attract more than the 75 applications he has received or expects to be filed, the Post reported.
“We frankly would like a few more applicants,” said Farris.
He said the number of applications may be lagging because applications for admission became available only in January, a month after the State Council of Higher Education gave college officials permission to proceed.
Initially, Patrick Henry will offer only bachelor's degrees in government, in keeping with its mission to train a new generation of Christian conservative political leaders. Students will spend part of their time in class and part working in public policy jobs.
Patrick Henry will also have a dress code, prohibitions on alcohol and drugs and strict rules about dating, the Post reported. If an on-campus relationship becomes serious, the boy will be strongly encouraged to ask the girls’ parents for their consent to continue dating.
BY Jim Cosgrove
Hillary Vows to Fight School Vouchers
THE CATHOLIC LEAGUE, Feb. 7—Hillary Rodham Clinton started her candidacy for the U.S. Senate Feb. 6 by sending the “wrong message to Catholics,” said the New York-based Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights.
Addressing an audience at the state university in Purchase, Clinton said, “I'll be on your side in the fight against school vouchers, which drain taxpayer dollars from our public schools.” However, the League noted, Clinton had told 100 Orthodox Jewish leaders Dec. 17 that she would back certain “constitutionally correct” methods for government to help private schools.
Catholic League president William Donohue noted that politicians who denounce vouchers sometimes imply that the Church supports vouchers because they provide a way to drain money from public schools.
“Now Mrs. Clinton is at it, only this time her ‘fight against vouchers’ campaign comes on the heels of promising to deliver on offering public assistance to private schools,” said Donohue. “She needs to make up her mind on this issue and she needs to do so without offending Catholic sensibilities.”
By providing educational funds directly to parents rather than to public schools, school vouchers can enable the parents to send their children to the school of their choice — public or private.
Homosexual Groups Sprouting in High Schools
THE NEW YORK TIMES, Feb. 10—A school district in suburban California wants to stop a group of homosexual high-school students from meeting on school property, but so far a lawsuit and a judge have gotten in the way, reports the Times.
Federal district judge David Carter said that the school district in Orange, Calif., could not prohibit the students from their First Amendment right to free speech. The district insists the group is not appropriate for school since it discusses sexuality.
The school district is considering ending all 38 non-curricular clubs in order to adhere to the judge's orders rather than allow the homosexual group to remain on school grounds, the Times reported. The school district in Salt Lake City took such an action in response to a homosexual group and the ensuing lawsuit is in the courts.
The Times reported that homosexual groups are growing rapidly across the country. They cite statistics from a pro-homosexual group, the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, which estimates that 600 such groups exist in schools nationwide.
BY Jim Cosgrove
College Freshmen Cut Booze and Classes
THE WASHINGTON TIMES, Jan. 24—College freshmen are losing interest in smoking and drinking beer but also in going to class, an annual survey of first-year students has found.
A little more than half of the nation's freshmen said they frequently or occasionally drank beer — the lowest level in 34 years, reported the Times.
“Colleges have tried very hard to discourage drinking,” said Linda J. Sax, an assistant professor of education at UCLA's Higher Education Research Institute, which has surveyed freshman views at the nation's colleges and universities every year since 1965.
But the good news on substance abuse is tempered with concerns in the classroom, the Times said.
Researchers noted that academic disengagement is on the rise, with a record number of students saying they are frequently bored in classes and often tardy or absent. The percentage of students taking remedial classes has also hit a 30-year high. “Our findings underscore the need for colleges and universities to find more effective ways to accommodate the growing numbers of students who may be coming to college academically unprepared,” said Alexander Astin, a UCLA education professor and founding director of the survey.
While a record number of freshmen say they finished high school with an “A” average, there is mounting evidence that more schools are holding students back in an attempt to end social promotion. More than one-fourth of all students start college at age 19 instead of the traditional 18, the study found.
Virginia Considers ‘Moment of Silence’
RICHMOND TIMES-DISPATCH, Feb. 2—Senators waved the Constitution and professed their religious faith during debate Feb. 1 before passing legislation that would require every classroom in every Virginia public school to every day observe “one minute of silent meditation, prayer or reflection,” the Times-Dispatch reported. The Senate's 28-11 vote sends the bill to the House, where the newfound Republican majority is likely to receive warmly the legislation already endorsed by Gov. Jim Gilmore, the Richmond newspaper reported.
Yesterday's emotional debate was fueled by what Democrats deemed the bill's invitation to a legal challenge if signed into law. Still, seven Democrats quietly joined the GOP majority in passing the measure.
“I have no illusions about what's going to happen with this,” said Senate Minority Leader Richard L. Saslaw of Fairfax County. “If you want the worst-case application, if you think religion ought to dominate government at every level, then you ought to move to Iran and get your wish.”
“This is not a religious crusade,” countered the bill's sponsor, Sen. Warren E. Barry, R-Fairfax. “It's about helping students reflect on who they are and where they're going — while trying to do something to stem the spread of violence in schools.
Sen. Kenneth W. Stolle, R-Virginia Beach, recounted how being Catholic made him a victim of religious bigotry as a college student in the Bible Belt. Nonetheless, he said, noting the General Assembly's tradition of opening daily sessions in prayer, “If it's good enough for the Senate of Virginia, a moment of silence is good for our children.”
BY Jim Cosgrove
Teachers Help Kids Cheat
ASSOCIATED PRESS, Dec. 7—Instead of catching cheaters, New York teachers were caught helping cheaters.
Teachers and administrators at 32 New York City schools helped students cheat on standardized tests by providing them with questions in advance and even marking test forms for them, a special investigator for city schools charged.
His report describes crude cheating schemes designed to improve elementary and middle schools' performance on city and state tests, the Associated Press reported.
“Certainly this is the largest case of its kind anywhere in the country,” Edward Stancik told the AP. Stancik's job is to investigate the city's 1,100 public schools.
In one case, third-graders reported an exam proctor told them to write their reading test answers on a piece of scrap paper before putting them on the official test, then the proctor — a school principal — allegedly came around to point out incorrect answers.
As a result, Stancik said, scores at one school improved from 29% of third-graders reading at the appropriate grade level to 51% reading at grade level.
Proctors at some schools gave answers outright or even wrote on a child's exam, the report says.
Schools Chancellor Rudy Crew said he was taking Stancik's report seriously and would perform his own review of the allegations. He said all 52 school employees named in the report have been removed from their jobs pending the results of the investigation.
Dayton Honors Elizabeth Dole
UNIVERSITY OF DAYTON, Dec. 2— Elizabeth Dole will receive the first Leadership with Virtue Award from the University of Dayton at a banquet there on Feb. 10.
The festivity is part of yearlong celebrations of the university's 150th anniversary, Brother Raymond L. Fitz, the school's president, announced in a statement.
Brother Fitz said the award would honor nationally and internationally recognized leaders who try to integrate a sense of moral commitment in their work and their lives.
“Her many contributions to the health and welfare of humanity,” he said, “confirms her dedication and, thus, the appropriateness as our first honoree.”
Attack on Menorah Denounced
ZENIT, Dec. 7—Catholic and Jewish leaders at Georgetown University have united to denounce the vandalism carried out against a menorah placed on the campus by the Jewish Students Association, ZENIT reported.
The candelabrum symbolizes the biblical liberation of the Jewish people. The vandalism, which is thought to have occurred in the early morning hours of Dec. 4, was first noticed by university security after 6 a.m. The broken glass of the electric light bulbs of the menorah was found shattered on the floor.
On Dec. 6, Cardinal Newman Society President Manuel A. Miranda joined with university chaplain Father Adam Bunnell and the president of Georgetown, Jesuit Father Leo J. O'donovan, in a meeting led by Georgetown's Jewish Students Association to react to the violence, the news service said.
“Violence done to the faith traditions of any people is a violence done to all people of faith, and to all who love American freedom,” said Miranda. “It displays the result of an increasingly secular culture hostile to public expressions of faith and ignorant of the deep meaning of such symbols as the menorah and the crucifix.”
BY Jim Cosgrove
Footballers’ Faith Boots Them Past 100
USA TODAY, Dec. 3—The Concord, Calif., De La Salle Catholic High School already has the longest winning streak in high school history. Two years ago, they passed the old mark of 72 games held by Hudson High in Michigan.
The Dec. 3 USA Today reported that they were looking to pass another threshold: the first football team to break the century barrier (as this story went to press, newspapers reported that the school did break the record on Dec. 4, with a 38-14 victory over San Leandro High School).
USA Today reported some secrets to the school's success: Players take only three weeks off a year from conditioning. They rededicate themselves during daily chapel sessions and before their large pre-game spaghetti dinners.
The numbers De La Salle has tallied are remarkable. They have lost only one game during the ‘90s, with a 124-1 win-loss record. Coach Bob Ladoucear has won an astounding 94% of his games with a 235-14-1 record. During their 99-game winning streak, De La Salle has outscored their opponents 2,071 to 464.
But “Coach Lad,” as the boys call him, won't take the credit. “What is so incredible about the streak is that I'm not that talented and I'm not that smart.”
Ever humble, he told the USA Today, “But it's a real testimony to what kids can accomplish because we hear so many bad things about what kids can do and how kids are turning bad and what's wrong with our youth today.”
Georgetown Prof. Joins ‘Assisted Dying’ Group
PRNEWSWIRE, Nov. 30—Georgetown professor Tom L. Beauchamp has joined the board of Compassion in Dying Federation.
Compassion in Dying's Web site details their mission. “nlike every other mainstream organization, we insist meaningful reform must include legalization of assisted dying,” it says.
The group recently lambasted the U.S. bishops’ stance on assisted suicide, and Congressional attempts to curtail the practice in Oregon. “Dangerous legislation has reemerged from Rep. Henry Hyde and Sen. Don Nickles. Ghostwritten by National Right to Life and National Conference of Catholic Bishops, Hyde/Nickles 1999 seeks to overturn Oregon's twice voter-approved Death With Dignity Act and squash all patient choice debate in the rest of the United States.”
B. Kirk Robinson, chairman of the Compassion in Dying Federation board, said in a statement, “It speaks well of the importance and integrity of our mission that we have attracted a scholar of Professor Beauchamp's stature and accomplishment.”
Beauchamp is Professor of Philosophy and Senior Research Scholar at the Kennedy Institute of Ethics at Georgetown University, a Jesuit school in Washington.
Church-State Issue Returns to Court
THE NEW YORK TIMES, Dec. 2—The precise church-state question before the Supreme Court Dec. 1 was whether the Constitution permits the use of public money to put computers and other “instructional equipment” in parochial school classrooms, reported The New York Times.
“But throughout the argument, the justices were quite clearly feeling their way toward a more far-reaching debate over the relationship between government and religious schools, if not between government and religion generally,” wrote the Times.
Using federal money for anything other than the textbooks has long been considered acceptable by Supreme Court precedents. According to the Times, “The law's original focus was on projectors, filmstrips and other equipment that now sounds old-fashioned. More recently, with the federal government's encouragement, a major goal of the program has been making computers available to as many students as possible.”
The program is not well-known but the Times writes, “The case has received substantial attention as a harbinger of how justices might approach other church-state cases, including the question of publicly financed vouchers for parochial school tuition.”