The recent trip to Venezuela by a group calling itself a Chicago Teachers Union delegation has upset some union members and expats who question the point of the tour and take issue with the group’s praise of the country’s disputed government.
The four travelers, who crowdfunded the July trip under the banner of the CTU, met with Venezuelan government officials and educators, visited a commune and were featured in local media.
They wrote online about wanting to connect with Venezuelan teachers, students and unionists, criticized U.S. economic sanctions against the South American nation and wrote admiringly of its socialism, its communes and high literacy rates.
But critics say the group glossed over Venezuela’s ongoing political and economic crises and were excessively complimentary of President Nicolás Maduro, whose administration has been accused in recent United Nations reports of “grave” human rights violations and violence against dissenters.
“I am appalled a delegation representing themselves as CTU went to Venezuela, not to support striking teachers, not to object to human rights violations, but to go on what appears to be a state-chaperoned propaganda tour,” said Karen Moody, a teacher and union member.
And though the four travelers regularly called themselves a “CTU delegation” online, the union representing close to 25,000 people has sought to distance itself from the trip, stating the CTU did not endorse, sponsor or fund the trip.
Asked on WTTW’s “Chicago Tonight” last week about “some controversy” surrounding the excursion, union President Jesse Sharkey said: “Members go all kinds of places in the summer. This was neither an official trip nor something that was funded by the union. This is a group of people who are members of the CTU who decided to go to Venezuela.”
Yet, the official CTU Twitter account retweeted some of the group’s updates, including a blog post titled “Introduction to CTU Delegation to Venezuela.”
CTU also retweeted another post by teacher Sarah Chambers, one of the travelers and a member of the CTU executive board, which read: “While staying in #Venezuela, we didn’t see a single homeless person. USA is the richest country in the world; yet, there are homeless people everywhere. Over 17k CPS students are homeless… This is why @CTULocal1 is fighting for fair housing #CTUAgainstVezIntervention.”
When contacted by the Tribune, Chambers deferred to the group’s blog, Radical Educator Collective. The three who traveled with her — two other educators and a union organizer — did not respond to interview requests. Online, the group was clear the union wasn’t helping pay for the trip. At least 55 people donated to a GoFundMe campaign titled “Send CTU Strikers to Venezuela,” an apparent reference to their involvement in the CPS charter school strikes last school year.
In part from (CNN) Five months before Tuesday’s fatal shooting at a Colorado charter school, a district official urged the school’s administration to investigate allegations of violence, sexual assault and campus bullying that an anonymous parent feared could lead to “a repeat of Columbine,” according to a school district letter obtained by CNN.
Hat tip: Ryan
2nd Lady, Karen Pence decided to take a part time job teaching art at a DC Christian school. Out comes the left and in a bigger way. The hashtag dejour is #ExposeChristianSchools. Anyone paying attention?
Over the weekend, included in the whole matter was the fake media scandal of a Covington Catholic student allegedly confronting a Native American playing his drum. That is hardly what happened at all. But the media and some members of Congress ran with the false narrative. Sheesh.
Ah but there is more to this attack on Christians and religious education. We had those like Congressman Ted Lieu slamming this privileged education. Then we also had Congressman John Yarmuth demanding that kids be banned from wearing MAGA hats, stating that they seem to be poisoning young minds.
But wait, let us go back a few months shall we?
How about Senator(s) Mazie Hirono and Kamala Harris? Harris just announced her intention to run for president in 2020. Ahem…
Just a few months ago, Trump nominated Brian Buescher for a Federal court vacancy in Nebraska. During that confirmation hearing, both Senators attacked Mr. Buescher for his membership with the Knights of Columbus. In fact, Senator Hirono demanded that Buescher drop his membership in the Knights. Senator Harris made a big point that the Catholic organization was all male and the Judge would need to recuse himself over any case involving abortion or touched legal matters dealing with challenging Roe v. Wade.
The Knights of Columbus is the single larges Catholic service organization in the country. Services to communities include be ushers during mass, charitable work and visiting those in prison. But hold on….let’s go back a little further shall we to Dianne Feinstein and her questions to Judge Amy Coney Barrett. Senator Feinstein does like Christians or Catholics either.
So, anyway, after the Judge Buescher exchange, Senator Ben Sasse took to the senate floor.
Ah , but the GOP in the senate passed an interesting resolution introduced by Senator Sasse. See the 2 page resolution here.
Guess what….that resolution passed without opposition last Wednesday following his floor speech. This was a formal rebuke of Senator Hirono and Harris and rightly so. Remember this as lil Ms. Harris begins her presidential campaign. One last item…
Article VI of the U.S. Constitution forbids the imposition of a religious test for any office holder.
Furthermore, let us not forget the 1st Amendment:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.
The First Amendment of the United States Constitution protects the right to freedom of religion and freedom of expression from government interference. It prohibits any laws that establish a national religion, impede the free exercise of religion, abridge the freedom of speech, infringe upon the freedom of the press, interfere with the right to peaceably assemble, or prohibit citizens from petitioning for a governmental redress of grievances. It was adopted into the Bill of Rights in 1791. The Supreme Court interprets the extent of the protection afforded to these rights.
US Parents Involved in Education, USPIE, explains more details about the Federal government in public education. Common Core is still alive in many states, while in others, it just has a different name. Furthermore, not only is the Federal government at the state level working on regulating homeschooling, there is the whole matter of zero privacy for students. This is a terrifying condition.
Wonder if Lesley Stahl reads The Hill and this significant report or if Betsy DeVos has read it.
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’ recent interview with Lesley Stahl on “60 Minutes” caused quite a bit of backlash from critics.
DS: As my colleague Jonathan Butcher has written, “60 Minutes” ignored many of the facts about the state of education in America. Response to the interview drew quite a bit of criticism of DeVos and her policy solutions.
Perhaps one of the most pivotal moments came when she suggested that the United States’ heavy federal investment in education has not yielded any results. Stahl hit back, asserting that school performance has been on the rise.
But the latest government data show otherwise. According to the recently released 2017 National Assessment of Educational Progress, also known as the nation’s “report card,” we now have more evidence that DeVos was correct.
In fact, recent scores show virtually no improvement over 2015 scores. Eighth-grade reading saw a single point improvement over 2015 scores (10 points is considered equivalent to a grade level), while all other categories saw no improvement.
These lackluster results come on the heels of declines on the 2015 assessment, suggesting the beginning of a trend in the wrong direction for academic outcomes.
Indeed, Stahl’s claim that the state of public schools has gotten better simply doesn’t hold up to the data. It fact, DeVos is entirely correct to point out that public school outcomes have not meaningfully improved, and that our nation’s heavy federal intervention in K-12 education has failed to help the problem.
As Heritage Foundation education fellow Lindsey Burke writes:
Forty-nine out of 50 states were stagnant on the 2017 report card, and achievement gaps persist. Historically, federal education spending has been appropriated to close gaps, yet this spending—more than $2 trillion in inflation-adjusted spending at the federal level alone since 1965—has utterly failed to achieve that goal.
Increasing federal intervention over the past half-century, and the resulting burden of complying with federal programs, rules, and regulations, have created a parasitic relationship with federal education programs and states, and is straining the time and resources of local schools.
Indeed, for decades, Washington has poured billions of dollars into the public education system under the assumption that more federal spending will close achievement caps and improve the academic outcomes of students. With mounting evidence that more federal spending is not the answer, it may be time to consider other policy approaches.
DeVos is correct to suggest school choice as a solution to lackluster school performance. Parents who cannot afford to send their child to a school that is the right fit deserve to have options. As DeVos told Stahl:
Any family that has the economic means and the power to make choices is doing so for their children. Families that don’t have the power, that can’t decide, ‘I’m gonna move from this apartment in downtown whatever to the suburb where I think the school is gonna be better for my child.’ If they don’t have that choice, and they are assigned to that school, they are stuck there. I am fighting for the parents who don’t have those choices. We need all parents to have those choices.
In light of recent evidence from the nation’s report card, “60 Minutes” and other school choice critics should consider that DeVos was correct in her framing of problems facing the nation’s schools and is on the right track with possible solutions—namely, that empowering parents is the right approach to improving American education.
Remember when the Obama regime traded out the top Taliban commanders from Gitmo to Qatar for Bowe Bergdahl? Remember when the Obama regime was working to normalize relations with the Taliban by funding an embassy for them in Qatar?
In 2017, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis placed the blame for the current mess in Afghanistan squarely on the Obama administration, telling Congress Wednesday that by cutting support for the Afghan forces prematurely, President Obama allowed the Taliban to regroup and recover.
“I believe that we pulled out forces at a time, as you know, when the violence was lower, but we pulled them out on a timeline rather than consistent with the maturation of the government and the security forces,” Mattis told a Senate subcommittee Wednesday.
“The result was that as security declined, all the other stresses have come to bear, to include heavy casualties on the part of the Afghan forces, other nations pulled their forces out as well, and the Taliban was emboldened.”
Or remember when Eric Holder traveled to Qatar in 2009 to deliver a speech on financial corruption? Did he know that the Qatari Fund was buying American teachers and spreading hate against Israel and promoting Islam in the American education system? uh huh….
The emirate’s educational foundation spreads anti-Israel and anti-American propaganda in U.S. schools.
NR: On January 27, Qatar Foundation International (QFI) sponsored a continuing-education event titled “Middle East 101” for public-school teachers in Phoenix, Ariz. It was hosted by the Arizona Department of Education — which is not surprising, given that QFI has donated over $450,000 to Arizona public schools (and over $30 million to public schools across the country). Unfortunately, while there was a good deal of interesting material, teachers also got a large helping of Islamist propaganda, designed to influence American schoolchildren and ultimately to advance Qatari foreign policy.
QFI program officer Craig Cangemi introduced QFI as an American member organization of the Qatar Foundation (QF), which he blandly described as “a private, education-focused foundation in Doha, Qatar.” In fact, QF is a massive apparatus directly managed by Qatar’s ruling Al-Thani family, which conducts a tremendous range of state-development activities ranging from technology research to higher education. This includes “Education City,” a district in Doha that hosts Qatari branches of American universities, including Texas A&M, Northwestern, Georgetown, and others, which QF funds to the tune of more than $400 million annually. Georgetown alone received nearly $300 million in grants from QF between 2011 and 2016.
However, while the American universities are able to preserve some freedom of thought, other QF-backed schools in Doha enforce a rigid ideological program. QF schools and mosques often host the most virulently radical Islamist preachers, including one who referred to the 9/11 attacks as a “comedy film,” another who said that Jews bake Passover matzoh with human blood (“believing that this brings them close to their false god”), and a third who accused the Shia of “poisoning” and “sorcery.”
A featured lecturer of the QF-backed Qatar Faculty of Islamic Studies was Mohamed El-Moctar El-Shinqiti, currently a professor at the QF’s flagship Hamad bin Khalifa University. El-Shinqiti was once an imam at a West Texas mosque, where he openly encouraged young people to engage in terror attacks against Israel and Egypt. The dean of the QF’s College of Islamic Studies (CIS) is Emad al-Din Shahin, a member of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood whose prominence led Egypt’s military regime to sentence him to death in absentia. Other CIS faculty are connected to the International Institute for Islamic Thought (IIIT), the Muslim Brotherhood’s American think tank that is the nexus of a terror-finance network named the SAAR Network. These CIS faculty include Louay Safi, former IIIT executive director and research director, and Jasser Auda, also an IIIT lecturer. Other faculty seem closely aligned with the IIIT’s long-term goal of the “Islamization of knowledge,” including one professor working under Auda who has written about “Revelation as a source of engineering sciences.”
An American educator who worked at a QF educational institution in Doha told the Middle East Forum that faculty were not allowed to purchase maps showing the state of Israel, the entire territory of which was instead labeled “Palestine.” Even tangentially mentioning the existence of Israel or the Holocaust in class would provoke severe reprisals from the Qatari Ministry of Education. The official government policy was “Israel doesn’t exist.”
QF is a committed supporter of Islamist extremism, particularly at its Al-Qaradawi Center for Islamic Moderation and Renewal — named in honor of Sheikh Yousef Al-Qaradawi, spiritual leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, who chaired the committee that established the Center’s faculty. (Al-Qaradawi has repeatedly endorsed suicide bombings, terrorist attacks against the United States, and the total extermination of the Jews. He is barred from entering the U.S. because of terrorism concerns.) And in 2012, QF hosted Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh (who was just designated as a terrorist by the federal government) and gave him a “victory shield” featuring the Dome of the Rock.
Meanwhile, during the “Middle East 101” event, Cangemi insisted that QFI (the American branch of QF) sets its own policies, saying, “We are an autonomous organization. . . . We do not have any ties with Qatar: the government, the state, or really [the] Qatar Foundation.” This is patently false. The CEO and nominal founder of QFI is Sheikha Hind bint Hamad Al-Thani, the daughter of Qatar’s former emir. The chairman of the board of QFI is Sheikh Jassim bin Abdulaziz Al-Thani, another member of the royal family. As of 2012 (the most recent year for which public records are available), the treasurer of QFI was Khalid Al Kuwari, a senior Qatari government official and a scion of the powerful Al-Kuwari clan. QFI is in fact a key instrument of Qatari state policy.
Evidence of this is found in the teaching materials that Cangemi recommended to his schoolteacher audience. Al Masdar, for instance, is QFI’s flagship curriculum project. It offers lesson plans and resources about countries all over the Middle East. Unsurprisingly, the most flattering collection is about Qatar. One resource offered is even titled: “Express Your Loyalty to Qatar.” No lesson plan appears particularly critical of Qatar, whereas other countries discussed in Al Masdar’s resources are subject to much more varied discussion.
Other lesson plans contain anti-Semitic and anti-American material, particularly several lessons produced by the Zinn Education Project, which claims to promote a revisionist “people’s history.” These include “Greed as a Weapon: Teaching the Other Iraq War,” which examines the “greed” of the corporations ostensibly responsible for the Iraq war in order to “feast on Iraq’s economy,” and “Whose ‘Terrorism’?”, which questions the definition of terrorism, creating scenarios for students to discuss — for example, if “Israeli soldiers taunting and shooting children in Palestinian refugee camps, with the assistance of U.S. military aid” should be considered an example of terrorism.
The main speaker at the “Middle East 101” event was Barbara Petzen, a senior staff member at the Center for Strategic and International Studies who once worked for the Saudi-funded Middle East Policy Council (MEPC). Petzen has been longaccused of anti-Israel bias in educational fora. During her presentation, she repeatedly argued that religion or ideology had no relationship with Islamic terrorism, which she claimed was more immediately rooted in Muslim political grievances against the West for its support of Israel and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. (Petzen hit similar themes in a 2015 presentation for QFI.)
Petzen particularly whitewashed the role of Islamism, a religious-political ideology with roots in 20th-century totalitarianism that demands political supremacy as a religious value, and thus leads inevitably to political violence. She argued that Islamism, as represented by Saudi Arabia and the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, is focused on governing society (albeit in a religiously severe fashion), and is therefore opposed to extremism, since “extremism, by definition, turns things over — is destabilizing. . . . If you’re in power, you don’t want extremism because it destabilizes your control.” (By this faulty definition, no ruling ideology can be “extremist.” Indeed, ISIS would not be considered “extremist” once it set up its government.)
Similarly, when commenting on the June 2017 decision by Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and seven other Muslim countries to sever ties with Qatar, Petzen downplayed the importance of the Qatari regime’s deep, systematic support for Islamism and terrorism. Instead, she claimed the diplomatic crisis was motivated mainly by Qatar’s close economic relations with Iran, a geostrategic competitor of Saudi Arabia. This ignores the fact that Qatar’s neighbors fear destabilization by the Muslim Brotherhood and its supporters and have abruptly reversed their own prior support of the Brotherhood in response.
Petzen’s claim echoes the line taken by QFI itself. In July 2017, QFI and Al Jazeera jointly produced a propaganda video condemning the so-called blockade of Qatar. In November, QFI organized a panel discussion claiming that the Gulf states’ isolation of Qatar was due to “fake news,” a claim that QFI’s executive director, Maggie Salem, explicitly endorsed on Twitter. For QFI to belittle the very real alarm that other Muslim states feel about Qatar’s support for extremism is telling, and it calls into question QFI’s claims of independence from the Qatari state.
Qatar Foundation International presents itself as a beneficent charity, merely working to spread knowledge of different cultures. In fact, it is an agent of Qatari foreign policy, with the aim of influencing American schoolchildren to support the Qatari agenda. No matter how attractive Qatari money may be, American educators must reject QFI.