Friday, February 23, 2007

Kansas: Has the anti-bullying bill been turned into a Trojan Horse?

By Diane Silver

Honestly, I don't know the answer to the question posed in the headline, but we need to take a look at what happened to HB 2310. I have to admit, though, that the more I examine the situation, the more I'm beginning to worry.

I didn't realize when I posted about the anti-bully bill last night that it had been amended heavily on the House floor. The amended bill is available online. The key issue is the newly added section 2, which requires school districts to institute "character-development program(s), such as Character First or Character Counts."

At first glance, I don't see anything problematic about teaching about positive qualities such as those named in the bill. These qualities include, "but are not limited to, honesty, responsibility, attentiveness, patience, kindness, respect, self-control, tolerance, co-operation, initiative, patriotism and citizenship."

Of course, it all depends on how you define these qualities. Is patriotism, the blind obedience of an unthinking patriot? Is self-control, the control over any behavior that might deviate from what one church or the other preaches as being Biblical law?

I'm also not certain how well any school can teach these qualities. As a mother, I've always thought teaching character was my job.

The bill specifically states that each program will be "secular in nature." Again, on the surface, that sounds just fine.

However, I would hate if a bill designed to protect students from harm is turned into something negative. But as I said, I don't have enough information yet. Thus, I'm calling on the collective wisdom of the blogosphere. Does anyone have more information on these programs? Have these kinds of programs been used as a Trojan Horse to hide other agendas?

I was just getting ready to post this when I decided to do one more Google search. Based on the story, "The Cult of Character," published by In These Times, I'm now becoming more concerned. I've also confirmed that the amendment was offered by Rep. Kasha Kelley, R-Arkansas City. Kelley gets a 100 percent favorable ruling from Kansans For Life. She voted to ban same-sex marriage in 2005.

Other troubling stories about the Character First movement include one about problems in Florida, a Wikipedia entry about an evangelist that shows the movement's ties, and a Texas Observer story about the movement in that state and its Christian reconstructionist ties.

1 comment:

Nancy Jane Moore said...

I think you're right to suspect the Trojan Horse. It's strange that the law specifically mentions a couple of programs that offer -- for a fee -- training and books and so forth. It looks like a cash cow for these programs, regardless of what else it does.
I notice that "Character Counts!" -- and why do both those programs have exclamation points in their names -- is certified under "No Child Left Behind" Act. I'm trying to think what character education has to do with making sure our kids can pass tests on reading and math, but maybe I'm just a cynic. (I haven't met a teacher yet -- and I know some very good teachers -- who doesn't think the NCLB law is idiotic.)
Anyway, let me encourage you to keep digging and to keep up the coverage.