A Teacher’s Perspective on Betsy DeVos and School Choice

220px-school-education-learning-1750587-hThe liberal media pounced on Betsy DeVos after her confirmation hearing last week, alleging that Trump’s nominee for Secretary of Education is a radical Christian who supports “dismantling” public schools.

I teach at one of those private, for-profit, Christian schools that Democrats and their allies in the media are vilifying as one of the greatest threats to our nation’s youth and education system.

Although those opposed to DeVos’ nomination would like to convince you that private and charter schools are designed to serve only affluent whites, in reality, my school’s student body is majority-minority. Many of these kids come from broken homes on the lower end of the socioeconomic spectrum.

This isn’t as rare as the media would lead you to believe. Scholarships and voucher systems, whether privately or publicly funded, allow children to succeed in schools their families would otherwise have been unable to afford. In fact, empirical evidence overwhelmingly indicates that voucher programs improve racial integration in schools.

Many of my students were unable to achieve their full potential in their neighborhood public schools. Their parents were growing frustrated with what their children’s schools were teaching and were growing worried about the culture of drugs, promiscuity, and insubordination.

In my experience, low-income and minority families who are given the opportunity to attend schools like the one where I teach are so thankful their kids are able to receive a quality education in a safe and edifying environment.

Some of my students have shared with me their experiences attending local public schools. One of my black students carried a gun with him to school as an early teenager to keep himself safe from gang activity. Drug dogs sweep the halls of local public high schools, which also sometimes use metal detectors to check students for weapons.

Apart from concerns about their children’s safety, many families also feel uneasy about the content of their children’s education. In Washington State, for example, schools are now teaching elementary school children that they can choose their gender. Sexual education curricula teach students to use methods of birth control many parents find morally objectionable. And some teachers, schools, and educational standards distort history and science to promote their pet political agendas.

Many of the most vocal critics of DeVos and the educational philosophy she represents contend that the very existence of private schools with different educational philosophies threatens public schools and our social order. These critics oppose any system of school choice that allows parents to choose the school they want to educate their children.

Contrary to the baseless claims of her critics, Betsy DeVos has never supported “dismantling” the public school system. Instead, she is simply working to ensure that those low- and middle-income families who find their local public schools inadequate can have the same opportunities as wealthier families.

Providing more alternatives to public schools wouldn’t necessarily cause an exodus of children from public to private schools, nor would it require that public schools be “dismantled.”

If, in fact, most public schools offer an education superior to that of comparable private schools, families will decide to leave their kids in the public school to which they’ve been assigned. On the other hand, families who worry about their son or daughter attending public school would be able to move him or her to a school that better meets their needs and reflects their values.

No school or educational philosophy is perfect, and a one-size-fits-all system doesn’t really fit all families and students. That’s why choice is so necessary and important.

I’m especially thankful schools like mine exist to provide families an alternative to unsafe, failing schools that teach an educational philosophy antithetical to traditional Judeo-Christian values. Voucher programs like those supported by Betsy DeVos enable families to pursue whatever means of education works best for their children – and that’s something we should all celebrate.


This op-ed was originally written for the Family Policy Institute of Washington.

College Admissions Director: Supporters of Traditional Marriage are “Worthless Pieces of Trash”

an_aerial_view_of_the_johnson_center_at_dawnColleges and universities are widely known to be hotbeds of liberal progressivism, but one public university administrator’s recent comments about supporters of traditional marriage are beyond the pale.

Andrew Bunting, George Mason University’s Senior Assistant Director of Admissions, shared his feelings about supporters of traditional marriage, calling them “worthless pieces of trash.”

The incident began last week when Bunting shared on Facebook a blog post written by the National Organization for Marriage (NOM), a grassroots organization that advocates for traditional marriage.

The blog post shares NOM’s desire to work with the Trump administration to protect religious liberty, nominate conservatives to the Supreme Court, overturn President Obama’s gender identity directives, and oppose efforts to redefine marriage.

Commenting on the blog post, Bunting parroted the Southern Poverty Law Center’s claim that NOM is a “hate group.”

He went on to write, “If you agree with [NOM about traditional marriage] then that is your opinion. Just know that to the rest of us, you are a worthless piece of trash.”

The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) is a far-left political group known for designating as a hate group any organization that supports traditional marriage. According to SPLC, mainstream pro-family organizations like the American Family Association, Family Research Council, and Liberty Counsel (Liberty University) are “extremist, anti-LGBT hate groups.”

Bunting’s comments reveal what Campus Reform has termed “liberal privilege” on college campuses. This “liberal privilege” on college campuses is evidenced by the way students who share conservative ideas are maligned and punished by professors and administrators, most of whom are radically progressive and many of whom are openly Marxist.

The groupthink on college campuses has gotten so bad that the conservative perspective often isn’t even shared with students. Conservative speakers are often disinvited from campus events, if they’re even invited at all. If conservatives do make it onto campus, they’re often verbally and physically abused by protesters comprised of students and faculty.

With college administrators like Bunting making incendiary comments disparaging half of the U.S. population, it’s no wonder that conservative students fear retaliation from liberal professors and administrators.

Additionally, given Bunting’s senior position in George Mason University’s admissions department, prospective students who happen to be conservative are probably left wondering whether they are welcome on campus, and if their political views will affect their admissions chances or opportunities for scholarships.

Bunting’s comments are even more troubling because GMU is a Virginia state public university. So far, it doesn’t look like he’ll be fired, despite his comments dehumanizing those who believe in traditional marriage.

Andrew Bunting’s views are representative of those held by college administrators in schools all over the country. Knowing that this is the predominant ideological perspective on most college campuses, it’s unsurprising that college students at the University of Washington and Seattle University say things like this and this.


This article was originally published by the Family Policy Institute of Washington.

Just Like Roe, Marriage Isn’t Settled, Despite What Trump Says

58177a15150000d804530d10In his first interview since winning the presidential election, President-elect Donald J. Trump assured the American people that he won’t advocate reversing the Supreme Court’s decision last year requiring states to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

Speaking with CBS News correspondent Leslie Stahl on 60 Minutes, Donald Trump indicated that his administration will abandon efforts to overturn the controversial Obergefell decision. The news media has interpreted Trump’s support for same-sex marriage as a sign that the conservative movement has surrendered on the contentious issue.

“I’ve been a supporter [of the LGBT group],” Trump said in the interview this past Sunday. “[Marriage equality] is already settled. It’s law… These cases [regarding same-sex marriage] have gone to the Supreme Court, they’ve been settled, and I’m fine with that.”

In Obergefell v. Hodges (2015), the Supreme Court interpreted the Fourteenth Amendment as requiring states to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

The Court’s decision to force states to give equal treatment to same-sex marriages “has no basis in the Constitution or this Court’s precedent,” wrote Chief Justice John Roberts in his dissent. “Under the Constitution, judges have power to say what the law is, not what it should be…. Five lawyers have closed the debate [about same-sex marriage] and enacted their own vision of marriage as a matter of constitutional law.”

While President-elect Trump may be willing to accept the unconstitutional edict from the Supreme Court, Republicans and conservative Christians shouldn’t abandon efforts to restore traditional marriage.

Conservatives know that laws encouraging traditional nuclear families – consisting of a father, a mother, and their children – strengthen communities.

Furthermore, numerous sociological studies indicate that children raised within intact traditional families are healthier and happier. These children are also more likely to become successful, well-adjusted adults.

Our laws should reflect this social and biological reality. Just as our laws affirm that adultery and polygamy corrode the natural order and weaken families, so too should our laws reflect the truth that normalizing homosexual relationships isn’t conducive to maintaining a healthy society.

When trying to determine which approach should be used to oppose same-sex marriage, conservatives should be careful to avoid the pitfalls that derailed the movement against no-fault divorce. As states began adopting no-fault divorce laws during the 1970s and 1980s, many on the religious right articulately defended the sanctity of covenantal marriage, warning about the harm to children and communities caused by broken families.

Over time, however, the movement abandoned its role as prophet, conceding the issue of no-fault divorce to those who contended for the legal ability to divorce their spouse for any number of personal reasons. As religious conservatives began backing away from the issue, more states passed no-fault divorce laws, contributing to the near 50% divorce rate among married couples today.

Instead, conservatives concerned about the sanctity of marriage should mimic the tactics of the pro-life movement. Despite the monumental legal loss of the Supreme Court’s decision in Roe v. Wade (1973), people of faith have remained steadfastly opposed to the abortion on demand. Pastors, priests, and layman alike have lovingly explained how the inherent dignity of human life, created in the image of the Creator, disallows the notion that a mother has the right to choose to end her pregnancy. Likewise, researchers have published scientific studies detailing the capability of unborn babies to feel pain.

By mobilizing churches and congregations to advocate pro-life policies despite early legal losses, the pro-life movement has made significant gains over the last couple decades. In the wake of Obergefell, Christians should follow the model of political activism and social persuasion that has been so effectively utilized by the pro-life movement.

So here’s the bottom line, conservatives: Don’t give up on the sanctity of marriage just because the Republican in the White House refuses to get involved in the fight. We must continue agitating for a political order that better reflects natural law and the reality of the human experience, even when it’s not politically expedient. Sociologists, psychologists, other researchers should continue publishing empirical studies detailing how same-sex marriage adversely affects couples, children, and communities.

Marriage isn’t a lost cause. Although it may seem like society – including some prominent Republicans – is accepting the falsehood that same-sex marriage is a normal and healthy family arrangement, we must remain faithful to the truth, recognized for thousands of years, that marriage between one man and one woman forms the basis for resilient communities and healthy families.

Just like Roe v. Wade isn’t settled, same-sex marriage isn’t settled, either.


This article was originally published by the Family Policy Institute of Washington.

What Would Life for Christians Look Like Under a Clinton Presidency?

hillaryclintonwikileaks_c0-120-3829-2352_s885x516During the second presidential debate, Gorbah Hamed, a Muslim woman, asked Donald Trump to address her fears about living as a Muslim in the United States following the presidential election.

This isn’t the first time the media has asked questions about what life for Muslims would look like under a Trump presidency, and rightly so. Ever since Trump infamously proposed banning Muslims from entering the United States, journalists have been eagerly raising questions about whether the Republican nominee is a closeted Islamophobe, anxiously awaiting the opportunity to deny Muslims their constitutional rights.

Ironically (or not, depending on your opinions about the news media), I haven’t yet heard journalists ask an analogous question of Secretary Clinton: What would life for Christians look like under a Clinton presidency?

What reasons has Mrs. Clinton given for Christians to be so concerned about their constitutional right to live according to the precepts of their faith and the dictates of their consciences?

First, Clinton supports coercive non-discrimination statutes that trample upon the consciences of religious organizations and Christian business owners.

In remarks made to an event hosted by the militantly anti-Christian Human Rights Campaign, Clinton voicedher support for the Federal Equality Act. Critics warn that the Federal Equality Act would dismantle the essential pillars of religious liberty protections by amending the 1964 Civil Rights Act to include protections for sexual orientation and gender identity.

If signed by President Clinton, the Federal Equality Act could be used to compel Christian colleges to allow transgender biological males to live in female dorms. Likewise, Christian ministries should expect penalties if they refuse to employ practicing homosexuals. And Catholic adoption agencies could lose their licenses to operate if they follow their Church’s teaching by refusing to provide their services to same-sex couples. (Catholic adoption agencies have already stopped operating in both Massachusetts and Illinois because of similar state non-discrimination laws – an unfortunate development for the tens of thousands of children waiting to be adopted every year).

Mrs. Clinton also decried the Supreme Court’s ruling that allows Christian-owned companies like Hobby Lobby to refrain from providing abortifacients to employees. She called the Supreme Court’s affirmation of the business owners’ right of conscience “deeply disturbing.”

Under a Clinton administration, religious organizations and Christian business owners who don’t agree with the federal government’s revolutionary legal assaults on life, marriage, and gender should anticipate being given two options: repudiate the doctrines of your faith or expect the fist of government to squash you.

Second, consider Hillary Clinton’s comments at the 2015 Women in the World Summit regarding abortion. In her keynote address, she expressed her regret that too many women are “denied” reproductive healthcare and expressly stated that “deep seated cultural codes, religious beliefs and structural biases have to be changed.”

Christians find Clinton’s radical positions on abortion even more frightening when they realize that the Progressive Left, which is financing Clinton’s candidacy, supports using the federal government to force Christian doctors and hospitals to provide abortions, violating the most sacred human right protected by the First Amendment.

Third, Mrs. Clinton would nominate far-left judges who share her vision to limit the constitutional rights of Christians. The battle for religious liberty will be fought in court – and if Hillary Clinton is able to nominate judges of her choosing, that battle for religious liberty will be lost.

Christians have a lot to fear from a Clinton administration concerning their rights. Mrs. Clinton has made it clear that she’s not going to respect the constitutional protections of religious liberty, freedom of conscience, free speech, free association, and liberty of contract.

The mainstream media’s silence about Mrs. Clinton’s hostility toward the rights of Christians is revealing. Muslims are justifiably concerned about Mr. Trump rising to our nation’s highest office, and it is appropriate for the media to share those concerns with the public. So, too, are Christians justifiably concerned about Mrs. Clinton winning the election – but their concerns are being dismissed and buried by journalists with a political agenda.


This op-ed was originally published by Family Policy Institute of Washington.

Chimeras: The Next Moral Battle You’ve Never Heard About

human_embryonic_stem_cells_only_aIn Greek mythology, a chimera was an animal to be feared. Homer and Hesiod described chimeras as fire-breathing hybrid creatures composed of a mixture of animal parts – part-lion, part-goat, part-dragon.

The federal government is now considering whether it will fund medical research that would create part-human, part-animal chimeras – research that the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops calls “grossly unethical.”

The National Institutes of Health (NIH), the federal agency charged with funding and promoting biomedical research, issued a temporary moratorium on funding human-animal chimera experiments last September until it could consider the potential ethical ramifications of such research. Although NIH had not funded human-animal chimera research before issuing the moratorium, other agencies have funded similar research, including the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine, California’s state stem cell agency.

NIH recently proposed lifting parts of its moratorium, and it expects to decide before January whether it will begin funding human-animal chimera research. Among the proposed changes include limitations on the types of chimera research it will fund, as well as establishing a steering committee dedicated to providing input on research proposals and monitoring experimental designs.

The proposed changes suggest NIH is creating “a much more permissive environment” when it comes to researching human-animal hybrids, according to one neuroscientist quoted in Science.

But many scientists and ethicists are concerned about the ethical ramifications of creating human-animal hybrids.

“The effort to incubate organs in farm animals is ethically charged because it involves adding human cells to animal embryos in ways that could blur the line between species,” said Antonio Regalado, senior editor for biomedicine for MIT Technology Review.

According to Regalado, chimera research utilizes “advancements in stem-cell biology and gene-editing techniques”:

“By modifying genes, scientists can now easily change the DNA in pig or sheep embryos so that they are genetically incapable of forming a specific tissue. Then, by adding stem cells from a person, they hope the human cells will take over the job of forming the missing organ, which could then be harvested from the animal for use in a transplant operation.”

Some scientists believe that the research might also lead to breakthroughs in Alzheimer’s or cancer treatments.

There exists the possibility, however, that once human stem cells are added to animal embryos, the human stem cells may affect the hybrid animal’s development – possibly even giving hybrid animals some degree of human consciousness or cognitive abilities.

Researchers cannot guarantee that human stem cells intended to create a human pancreas in a pig, for example, will not end up in the chimera’s brain or endow it with human eggs and sperm, enabling it to reproduce part-human offspring.

In its proposal, NIH concedes that “there could be either a substantial contribution or a substantial functional modification to the animal brain by the human cells.”

One year after NIH issued its funding moratorium, ethicists are still wrestling with moral dilemmas like whether these cross-species chimeras should be given legal rights if they develop some form of human cognitive abilities.

“You’re getting into unsettling ground that I think is damaging to our sense of humanity,” said Stuart Newman, professor at New York Medical College.

Some of the human tissue and stem cells used in creating human-animal chimeras are harvested from aborted fetal tissue and human embryos, raising other moral questions.

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) says that chimera research results in the “creation and manipulation of new beings,” neither fully human nor animal, “whose very existence blurs the line between humanity and animals”:

“For if one cannot tell to what extent, if any, the resulting organism may have human status or characteristics, it will be impossible to determine what one’s moral obligations may be regarding that organism.”

Human-animal chimera research is currently being performed in labs that receive funding from sources other than the federal government.

Editors for MIT Technology Review estimate that “about 20 pregnancies of pig-human or sheep-human chimeras have been established during the last 12 months in the U.S.” One lab profiled by MIT Technology Review allows its chimeras to grow only to 28 days of gestation because researchers do not yet know how the human cells would contribute to the animal’s development.

Human life deserves to be protected in all stages of life, but human-animal chimera research creates animals that are partially human to be experimented upon or harvested for organs. NIH should realize the enormous risks to human dignity associated with this type of research and rescind its proposal to lift its moratorium.


This post was originally published by the Family Policy Institute of Washington.


 

AMA Reconsidering Position on Physician-Assisted Suicide

american_medical_association_logoThe American Medical Association (AMA) will soon decide whether it will drop its stridently held position against physician-assisted suicide.

In June, the AMA asked its Council on Ethical and Judicial Affairs to reexamine the association’s disapproval of the practice. It plans to make a final decision during its 2017 national conference.

The AMA has long opposed physician-assisted suicide and euthanasia, believing these practices to be “fundamentally inconsistent with the physician’s role as healer.” It most recently reaffirmed its opposition to physician-assisted suicide in the newest edition of its Code of Medical Ethics, which was adopted earlier this summer.

Other medical associations – including the California Medical Association, the Oregon Medical Association, and the American Medical Students Association – take a neutral stance on the issue of physician-assisted suicide.

A majority (54%) of American doctors support physician-assisted suicide, according to a 2014 Medscape survey of 21,513 American and European doctors.

Five states (Washington, Oregon, Montana, California, and Vermont) currently allow some form of physician-assisted suicide. In Washington State last year, there were 176 “participants” who received lethal medication from doctors to end their lives under the authority of the Washington Death with Dignity Act, according to state records.

Supporters of physician-assisted suicide are often motivated by misguided compassion. Arguments for physician-assisted suicide fail to recognize other more humane forms of treatment, as well as the inherent dignity and value of the terminally ill.

Instead of prescribing deadly drugs to end a patient’s life, physicians can more aggressively work to alleviate a patient’s pain and suffering through better palliative and hospice care.

Patients seeking physician-assisted suicide often suffer from depression and loneliness. This provides families and ministries with the opportunity to care for the dying, fulfilling intergenerational and communal duties by giving emotional support to terminally ill patients.

Physician-assisted suicide creates the perception that the terminally ill and elderly are burdens on their families and the medical system. It denies the most fundamental of rights – the right to life – and violates the basic principles of natural law and human dignity.

Life is an invaluable gift. Society looks to doctors for lifesaving medical care. The Hippocratic Oath, taken by physicians for millennia, dictates that they “do no harm.”

The American Medical Association should remain faithful to the oath taken by its members and reject efforts to change its position on this critical issue.


This post was originally published by the Family Policy Institute of Washington.

Distracted Colleges Fail to Equip Workforce

800px-seattle_u_admin_03Seattle University students are occupying the lobby of the school’s college of humanities, demanding the resignation of its dean.

The offense? According to the students’ petition, the college’s faculty and curriculum “traumatize,” “tokenize,” and “pathologize” students, resulting in a “profoundly damaging” student experience that has “lasting effects on [their] mental and emotional well-being.”

The students contend that the problems they are facing will only be corrected once the Seattle University humanities curriculum is replaced with a “non-Eurocentric interdisciplinary curriculum,” taught by staff from “marginalized backgrounds,” and “especially professors of color and queer professors.”  They want the college to “radically reinterpret what it means [for the college] to educate teachers and leaders for a just and humane world.”

In their minds, this can only be achieved by “centering dialogue about racism, gentrification, sexism, colonialism, imperialism, global white supremacy, and other ethical questions about systems of power.”  In other words, they want education to be rooted in the victim theories popular in the leftist culture of the modern academy.

FPIW’s most recent video, filmed at Seattle University, illustrates perfectly what happens when proper education takes a backseat to leftist social justice causes.

Higher education’s undue emphasis on elevating social justice, diversity, and tolerance diverts attention and resources away from the traditional purpose of education, namely, to prepare students with the skills and knowledge necessary to become productive citizens in a dynamic economy and society.

The recent events and video filmed at Seattle University are manifestations of the prevailing trend in higher education that seeks to indoctrinate students with a perspective that leaves them wholly unprepared for the workforce, and thus harming families in the long run.

Students of today and employees of tomorrow suffer when education is disproportionately devoted to topics arising from postmodern academic thought.  The University of Washington, for example, offers an undergraduate major in “Gender, Women, and Sexuality Studies,” which features course offerings such as “Queer Desires,” “Feminist International Political Economy,” and “Lesbian Lives and Culture.”  It goes without saying that most students who devote their academic studies to classes like these will likely be unprepared for the modern workplace.

There is little doubt among employers that colleges and universities are failing to properly prepare students for the workforce. A Braun Research survey of 500 senior executives indicates that nearly 60% of them believe that higher education is inadequately preparing students for today’s workforce.

Where is the skills gap most apparent? The senior executives who participated in the Braun Research survey mentioned soft skills (44%), including communication, critical thinking, creativity, and collaboration, as well as a lack of technical skills (22%). A robust study of humanities in core curricula would address the former while additional STEM programs and technology integration in the classroom would alleviate the latter.

Simply put, students whose education focuses primarily on gender and race studies, cultural and moral relativism, and anti-colonialist, anti-American, and anti-Western sentiments are far less prepared to make a living for themselves, let alone provide for a family.

Even students who don’t major in gender or race studies experience a lower quality education when taught by liberal academic institutions.  The National Association of Scholars publishes a list of the books most commonly assigned by universities as required reading for incoming freshman.  Their study found that the majority of assigned books are recently published and politically progressive, with topics focusing on victimization and oppression.

It appears that instead of encouraging their incoming students to familiarize themselves with enduring literature or books that will prepare them for academic and professional success, schools have been using texts to advocate progressive causes.

In recent years, universities began hiring diversity officers and other administrators to ensure compliance with prevailing conceptions of political correctness. Nonacademic administrative employment at U.S. colleges increased by 60% from 1993 to 2009, according to data from the Department of Education. This administrative bloat drives up tuition costs, increases student loan debt, and crowds out valuable resources that could otherwise be used for instruction and research.

With total national student loan debt nearing $1.25 trillion and graduating students facing an average debt of $37,172, colleges and universities have an obligation to provide students with a quality education that prepares them to enter the workforce. Without these skills and knowledge, both individuals and families suffer.

This ballooning burden of student loan debt increases financial insecurity.  Quality education leads to sustainable employment, providing the economic foundation without which many millennials will not enter into marriage.

Improving the quality of education will increase economic opportunity and strengthen families. To accomplish this task, colleges and universities must refocus their efforts on providing students with the skills and knowledge necessary to be successful in the modern workplace, without the added distractions of diversity and social justice advocacy.

This post was originally written for the Family Policy Institute of Washington:  http://www.fpiw.org/blog/2016/05/16/opinion-distracted-colleges-fail-to-equip-workforce-hurt-families/.