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Published in Print: May 1, 2006, as DISPATCHES

Dispatches

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NEW ZEALAND

Shin Guards: Violence can happen at any level of school, but even jaded education watchers were taken aback when scores of kindergarten teachers signed up to learn restraint holds and other hand-to-hand tactics they could use on their pint-sized charges. “It’s a sad indictment when people that just want to teach our children are being required to … take self-defense courses,” lawmaker Simon Power told the national Web site Stuff. About 80 teachers in the Manawatu region recently took the free, two-day “non-violent crisis intervention” course. On the curriculum: how to stop a punch, a kick, choking, biting, and hair-pulling. Jill Ellis, a 15-year kindergarten educator, called the course worthwhile, but said she feels more unsafe around parents than she does her students.

SOUTH AFRICA

Crossed Out: Hot cross buns—rolls that are daubed with small, white-frosting Xs and traditionally eaten during the Christian Good Friday holiday—are now verboten at schools in Ipswich. Over the local vicar’s protests and parental complaints that the ban represents “political correctness gone mad,” The Oaks primary school head teacher Tina Jackson insisted that all buns supplied by caterers forgo the marking, which symbolizes Jesus’ cross. “For our students who are Jehovah’s Witnesses, hot cross buns are not part of their beliefs,” Jackson told Agence France-Presse. “We decided to have the cross removed in respect of their beliefs.”

IRAQ

From Scratch: How do you teach students to love their country when the nation in question is a violent work in progress? “Patriotic education,” as the class is known, used to revolve around the hagiographic study of Saddam Hussein, but amid the power vacuum in his wake, the uncertainty of the class subject mirrors the volatility of the country. “We have hope that the children will learn to love their country, and that this will last, but I only say I have hope. … I am not so confident,” a 6th grade teacher in Baghdad told the Christian Science Monitor, using a pseudonym to protect her anonymity. For now, the course’s textbook is sticking to the practical, encouraging students to keep their neighborhoods tidy.

AUSTRALIA

It’s All Relative: Students Down Under aren’t learning much science in science class, some teachers are complaining—just “a way of knowing … constructed in a sociocultural context.” That’s the Northern Territory’s approach to the discipline, as described in its curriculum guide. Other parts of the country take only slightly different tacks. In West Australia, students are expected to learn that “aspects of scientific knowledge are constructed from a particular gender or cultural perspective.” Polysyllabics aside, critics charge, this relativistic approach is dumbing down science. “Last time I checked, Newton’s theories of motion hadn’t changed, the periodic table hasn’t changed, the basic atomic theory hasn’t changed,” Perth science teacher Marko Vojkovic told the Weekend Australian.

—Kristina Gawrgy

Vol. 17, Issue 06, Page 15

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