Wednesday, December 13, 2017
Education

In Hillsborough, a voice of reason in defense of learning world's religions

School board meetings tend to be dull if necessary affairs, filled with proclamations, test score talk and the latest lineup of principals. (Stifle yawn here.)

But at a meeting of the Hillsborough County School Board this week came a Serious Moment of Truth out of an elected official who spoke up for education and showing kids what's out there in the world. You could even say she rose up righteous.

As is tradition around here, the controversy du jour was ignited by fear and misinformation and the flames fanned by our own in-house cast of moral crusaders. You know, the ones who have a direct line Upstairs. Just ask them.

Past local controversies have included what religious holidays should be days off from school and whether a display of gay-themed books belonged at a library.

This time, the subject was Muslims.

A Steinbrenner High history teacher found herself in the thick of it for inviting Hassan Shibly, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, or CAIR, to speak to her Advanced Placement class on assorted topics: stereotypes, human rights, women in Islam, that sort of thing. Shibly spoke with students and shook hands afterward. And apparently, we can't have that.

Actual fact: Official state curriculum calls for high school students to learn about major religions of the world. Leaving one out would be like denying the existence of a continent (Europe, maybe?) or a planet (and you know, I never really did trust Mars). The teacher had, by the way, invited speakers of other faiths, including Christianity.

None of which mattered to the likes of David Caton, ex-porn addict turned moral crusader, who made this the latest target for his Florida Family Association. The School Board was flooded with emails in protest.

At the mention of Caton, some people will ask: Why give this guy more ink to help him bolster his self-made image as Official Spokesman For All That Is Right? Fair enough. But when a small-potatoes guy like him can help pressure a chain the size of Lowe's into pulling ads from a TV show called All-American Muslim, you should know.

Citizens, activists, parents and others stepped up at this week's meeting to protest, including an 11-year-old boy who attends his classes online and told the board these were the same people who flew a plane into the twin towers.

When they were done, board chairwoman Candy Olson set some things straight. No, this was not an attempt to "indoctrinate" students as was claimed, only to give them a broader view of differing perspectives and customs that really do exist, no matter how you try to shield their eyes. (You go, Candy O.)

"Our children need to know what is going on in the world, and they need to get their information from somewhere other than the cellphone, the news or Jersey Shore," she said.

She did not say: Or from the David Catons of the world (but I will).

She also said, "I don't think that we can protect our children from the fact that there are extremists in every religion." She did not say: Maybe even really close by (but that's what I heard).

And so there it was, in the middle of a public meeting on the boring business of running a school district: a moment of sanity, and maybe even the very definition of education.

Comments

Pasco school district, employees reach contract agreement

The raises for Pasco County school district employees aren’t as high as anyone would like, but they’re now part of a signed tentative contract deal reached just before 6:30 p.m. Wednesday.If ratified by the staff and the School Board, the agreements ...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Hernando could be next stop for PACE Center for Girls

Hernando could be next stop for PACE Center for Girls

BROOKSVILLE — The new year could bring about new beginnings for at-risk girls in Hernando County.Pending a vote by the School Board next month, PACE Center for Girls, an alternative education program for middle- and high-school students, could open a...
Published: 12/13/17
For Bexley students in Land O’Lakes, math skills go airborne

For Bexley students in Land O’Lakes, math skills go airborne

LAND O’LAKES — At Bexley Elementary School in Land O’Lakes, students are throwing paper airplanes — with the help of a high tech computerized launcher. They’re also bowling — with a little aid from computerized drones. And when they get around to it,...
Published: 12/13/17

Proposal to rollback early learning programs could bring Citrus into Pasco-Hernando coalition

Some Florida lawmakers have not hidden their desire to scale back the statewide number of early learning coalitions that oversee child care and preschool programs, including Voluntary Prekindergarten.The state Office of Early Learning has now issued ...
Published: 12/13/17
Pasco-Hernando State College faculty to consider unionizing

Pasco-Hernando State College faculty to consider unionizing

Caitlin Gille grew up in a union household in Wisconsin, where her mom was a long-time teacher in the small city of Wauwatosa, just west of Milwaukee.She was accustomed to seeing educators advocating for their working conditions and pay, having a sea...
Published: 12/12/17
Updated: 12/13/17
Merriam-Webster’s word of the year for 2017 is ‘Feminism’

Merriam-Webster’s word of the year for 2017 is ‘Feminism’

NEW YORK — This may or may not come as a surprise: Merriam-Webster’s word of the year for 2017 is "feminism." Yes, it’s been a big year or two or 100 for the word. In 2017, lookups for feminism increased 70 percent over 2016 on Mer...
Published: 12/12/17
‘It’s like an insane nightmare’: Parents question private company hired to drive special needs kids to school

‘It’s like an insane nightmare’: Parents question private company hired to drive special needs kids to school

RIVERVIEW — As a foster parent with two sons of her own, Kayla Storey has learned all the tricks to get her kids out of bed and off to school every morning. But this year, Storey says she’s the one waking up every school day with a knot i...
Published: 12/08/17
Updated: 12/11/17

University of Central Florida Greeks won’t hold social events, serve alcohol for 6 weeks this spring

ORLANDO — University of Central Florida fraternities and sororities won’t host social activities or any events with drinking for at least the first six weeks of the spring semester, up from the two-week ban on alcohol that has been in place in the pa...
Published: 12/08/17

Pasco class notes for Dec. 15

School Calendar• Dec. 22: End of second grading quarter.• Dec. 23-Jan. 7: Winter Break.• Jan. 8: Teacher planning day. No school for students.Arts/Music/TheaterCenter for the Arts at River Ridge Middle High, 11646 Town Center Road, New Port Richey. (...
Published: 12/07/17
Updated: 12/13/17
Amid reports of rapes, beatings, cover-ups, grand jury to probe juvenile justice abuses

Amid reports of rapes, beatings, cover-ups, grand jury to probe juvenile justice abuses

Disturbed by stories about the rape of teens by supervisory staff, a pandemic of sometimes savage force, brutal beatdowns ordered by youth care workers and policies that permit the hiring of violent offenders, Miami-Dade’s state attorney wants to kno...
Published: 12/07/17