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Harry Potter and the Prisoners of Radical Islam (Nancy Salvato)

I find myself not wanting to waste precious time commenting on the mainstream news story about the Gwinnett County Georgia mom who wants Harry Potter books taken out of the elementary school because the series encourages “witchcraft and evil.”  However, the fact that the school board is even considering her request compels me to write a column in order to lend some much needed perspective to this particular uninformed and inane distraction from larger concerns in the area of school reform and religious indoctrination. 

To begin, I must disclose that I whole heartedly agree with Gwinnett County, Georgia Schools attorney Victoria Sweeny’s opinion that, “Harry Potter promotes reading and good values.”  Furthermore, she is absolutely correct when she says that, “The major themes are good versus evil, overcoming adversity, loyalty, friendship and courage,” which I believe are all important ideas for kids to consider during their formative years.  More needs to be said, though, in order to frame this ridiculous issue in its proper context.  

We are facing clear and immediate dangers to our way of life and shouldn’t waste time entertaining the paranoid delusions of any person(s) declaring that Wicca is being proselytized through the Harry Potter series, especially anyone who hasn’t bothered to read an entire book. Indeed, from everything I’ve ever read about Wicca, it is a very peaceful practice.  A good site to read more can be found here.  

Yet, one can conclude that another religious practice is spreading evil amongst us; those who believe in the inalienable rights of every person to pursue life, liberty, and happiness; and respect and defend the U.S. Constitution which protects these rights.  As Mehdi Mozaffari explains on the History News Network website, Islamism is ‘an ideology bearing a holistic vision of Islam

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School Funding in Australia (Jennifer Buckingham)

A couple of times each year, usually in January and September, the Fairfax press in Australia makes a big deal about private school fees. Newspaper articles invariably list the schools with the highest increases in fees, note that the fee increases are greater than inflation, and point out that these schools receive government funding.

This year was no exception. The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age ran articles stating that tuition fees in some private schools in Australia will next year reach $20,000. This applies to only a handful of schools, but there are a substantial number of schools with tuition fees above $15,000 a year.

This is an enormous amount of money. It is net of tax and is for tuition alone. You could reasonably add another couple of thousand dollars for building funds, school uniforms, excursions, laptop computers, and other non-optional items. As one parent put it: “It used to be that parents slaved to pay off the mortgage, but the fact is that mortgage repayments are truly petty cash alongside this stuff. With two kids costing $20,000 each and a third at $18,000 – all after tax – plus trips, books, uniforms, sports, you have to earn $140,000 before getting out of bed.”

A little background on school funding in Australia might be helpful at this point. There are two school sectors in Australia: government and non-government (private). Government schools are fully government funded and cannot charge compulsory fees.

The non-government sector consists of Catholic systemic schools and independent schools. Catholic systemic schools receive around 80 per cent of their funding from government sources and the remainder is from fees which are set by their archdiocese. Their total funding level is similar to government schools.

Independent schools receive some government funding – between 10 and 70 per cent of their

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Planning Insanity (Elliot Haspel)

I don’t understand why first-year teachers are creating lesson plans from scratch. No, check that, let’s get more declarative: First-year teachers should not be creating lesson plans from scratch.

The objectives which students need to learn are not brand-new. Lesson plans exist from previous years — tested, pre-made lesson plans from veteran teachers. It is insanity that we eschew best practices. No other industry operates in this way. Not a single one. It would be like each car company coming up with their own way to build cars.

Now, not every teacher should be teaching carbon-copy lesson plans. They need to be adapted and tweaked and honed to fit each teacher’s personal style and the particular needs of his or her class. Not every car company uses the exact same building system — but they’re all based off the assembly line. Nor is there One Lesson Plan To Rule Them All — clearly, there are any number of ways to effectively teach an objective. So, make all the options available!

I should not be drawing up how to teach multiplication on a blank piece of paper, for example. Teachers have been teaching multiplication for decades upon decades, some of them quite well. Surely I can be handed a template for teaching multiplication that is battle-tested, instead of my ad hoc, I-hope-this-works system. It’s not that I’m adverse to the work–it’s that I’m going to be, on average, far less effective at doing the work. That doesn’t help the students learn multiplication, or anything else.

I do understand why the system is so incredibly decentralized. Traditionally, schools have been the exclusive bailiwick of localities, perhaps more than any other institution. And the classroom has reflected this independence, with the teacher as king or queen of his or her fiefdom as soon as the

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