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October 23, 2012 3 min read
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| NEWS | RULES FOR ENGAGEMENT

Group Pushes Schools to Nix ‘Mix It Up’ Day

Hundreds of schools reacted to accusations that the annual Mix It Up at Lunch Day is part of the Southern Poverty Law Center’s “nationwide push to promote the homosexual lifestyle in public schools.”

Many quickly dropped their association with the event designed to promote tolerance, while others decided to sign on.

The characterization of the event, lobbed at the Montgomery, Ala.-based SPLC by the conservative American Family Association, takes aim at an 11-year-old program designed to “break down the walls between groups of kids,” said Maureen Costello, the director of the SPLC’s Teaching Tolerance arm.

The AFA, based in Tupelo, Miss., posted messages on its website and sent emails about the event earlier this month, calling the SPLC a “homosexual activist group.” The email claimed the SPLC had listed schools on a map of Mix It Up participants without their authorization. “ ‘Mix It Up’ day is an entry-level ‘diversity’ program designed specifically by SPLC to establish the acceptance of homosexuality into public schools,” the group’s message said.

About the same number of schools, 2,500 nationwide, plan to officially take part in the Oct. 30 event as before.

The Mix It Up event was created after teacher Beverly Daniel Tatum’s book Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? was published in 1997.

The 40-year-old Southern Poverty Law Center works to combat hate and bigotry. It has named the American Family Association a “hate group” for its anti-gay ideology.

—Nirvi Shah

| NEWS | CURRICULUM MATTERS

Film Looks at Texas School Board Strife

K-12 education policy and politics have seen a surge in the cinema of late, what with “Won’t Back Down” about a “parent trigger” law for school interventions, “Waiting for ‘Superman,’ ” and “The Lottery.”

Enter “The Revisionaries,” a new documentary film by Scott Thurman that chronicles the hotly contested development of recent state standards for science and history/social studies by the Texas board of education. The star of the show is Don McLeroy, a staunch conservative and former board chairman (and a dentist).

McLeroy lost his bid for re-election in 2010, in a primary contest to moderate Republican Thomas Ratliff.

Thurman isn’t a fan of McLeroy’s politics or worldview, but he ended up with a fairly sympathetic portrayal of the man.

According to the Houston Chronicle‘s Texas Politics blog, both McLeroy and liberal documentary filmmaker Michael Moore liked the movie. That in and of itself is a pretty remarkable accomplishment.

—Erik W. Robelen

| NEWS | TEACHER BEAT

Students Recruited for Ed. School Review

As its contested project to review all 1,400 schools of education continues, the National Council on Teacher Quality is appealing to a new party for help: university students.

The group unveiled a new ad campaign last week that will offer stipends to college students who agree to provide the materials the council is examining for its review, including course syllabi and student-teaching manuals.

Using graphics that could have been pulled right out of “Mad Men,” the campaign shows a silhouette of an individual wielding a flashlight. “You have the right to know,” one advertisement reads. “Help us do what your university would not.”

The teacher-prep community has been highly critical of the project, alleging that the review is biased or methodologically flawed. Other programs have asserted that they meet state standards or have fulfilled national accreditation.

The NCTQ alleges that colleges of education have been throwing up roadblocks, such as charging high fees for the materials, forcing the council to use freedom-of-information requests, or claiming materials are intellectual property.

Folks in higher education generally argue that they should not be coerced into participating.

The review is due out next spring.

—Stephen Sawchuk

A version of this article appeared in the October 24, 2012 edition of Education Week as Blogs of the Week

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