STOP the War on Children

July 17, 2011

Santa Rosa Is Celebrating–So Should We!

by Karen Gushta                                                                                                                                       

“‘God bless you’ is no longer a dirty word in Santa Rosa County,” said Liberty Counsel lawyer Harry Mihet, to the enthusiastic crowd of nearly 600 gathered at the Pace Assembly Ministry church. The July 6th rally, which had another 5,500 people listening in on the Internet was “punctuated by prayer, music and passionate speeches,” according to the Florida Baptist Witness.

The event was originally scheduled as a prayer meeting for an impending court date, but turned into “a huge celebration” when it was announced that an agreement had been reached between the ACLU and the Santa Rosa School District. The agreement settled a federal lawsuit filed on behalf of 24 students, teachers, parents and community members who challenged a Consent Decree between the district and the ACLU. The suit had been filed by Liberty Counsel—a non-profit that provides pro-bono assistance in religious liberty cases.

In October 2009, the Coral Ridge Hour (now known as Truth That Transforms) featured an interview with attorney Mat Staver, founder and president of Liberty Counsel. Giving some background on the case, Staver explained that in 2008 the ACLU announced that it had almost reached its goal of raising $300 million—in addition to its annual budget of between $70 – $100 million.

“With this new $300 million war chest they said they were going to put more resources on the ground in several key states, including Florida.” Soon after, the ACLU filed suit against the Santa Rosa County School District. According to Staver, their charge was that “some of the school officials were endorsing religion.”

The Coral Ridge Hour also interviewed Dr. Ted Traylor, the pastor of high school administrator Frank Lay, who was charged with criminal contempt as a consequence of the Consent Decree. Lay had asked the school athletic coach, Robert Freeman, to offer a prayer before a school booster luncheon. In Dr. Traylor’s view, when the ACLU filed its suit, “the school officials, intimidated by the cost of standing against the ACLU agreed to sign a Consent Decree in order to avoid fighting the ACLU.”

That Consent Decree hung like an albatross around the necks of the school district officials, teachers and students, prohibiting them from acting according to their personal faith and beliefs when they were on school property or involved in any school events. With the decree in place, it appeared that the ACLU had accomplished its purposes.

As Alan Sears, president of the Alliance Defense Fund, explained in an interview with FrontPage Magazine, “The ACLU desires a secular, faithless America where all memory of faith traditions and religion are absent from the public square, morals are relative, and where parental rights, religious freedom and the sanctity of human life…are nearly non-existent.”

Like Liberty Counsel, the Alliance Defense Fund, which Dr. D. James Kennedy joined others in founding, is dedicated to seeing that the ACLU’s secular vision for America does not become reality. But, as Mr. Sears says, “This is the America we will get unless we stand up to the ACLU.”

“The ACLU has achieved many of its victories,” Sears notes, “because no one showed up in the courtroom – or those who did show up to oppose them were not those who cared most about the outcomes or were under funded and ill-prepared.”

But in Santa Rosa County, Liberty Counsel showed up and opposed the ACLU’s efforts to steam-roller over the religious liberties of school district officials, teachers and students. The new agreement, which has now been approved by the Santa Rosa County School Board, has put a roadblock in the path of the ACLU, and the residents of the county are celebrating their victory.

As Liberty Counsel attorney Mihet spoke at the July 6th rally, he noted that he is the son of an immigrant pastor “who survived the rigors of former communist Romania.” Therefore, he said, the fight for religious freedom in Santa Rosa County was personally significant to him. “In God we trust. In God we still trust. Tonight we are going to celebrate our country, our freedom, but most importantly—the freedom in Santa Rosa County Florida,” proclaimed Mihet jubilantly.

According to the ACLU, the Santa Rosa County School District shouldn’t be celebrating. In its press release, the self-proclaimed “guardian” of liberty stated that the agreement reached in early July resulted in “strengthening and clarifying the 2009 Consent Decree agreement that ended school sponsored religious activities by the district and its employees.”

Liberty Counsel, however, declared, “The Consent Decree that led to criminal indictments against school employees for prayer and banned ‘God Bless’ in Santa Rosa County schools will now be gutted and revised. The amended Consent Decree will restore dozens of constitutional religious freedoms that were previously denied.”

We can join the citizens of Santa Rosa County in celebrating their restored religious freedoms and their independence from the ACLU’s cramped concept of “freedom.”

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About Karen Gushta

Dr. Karen Gushta is research coordinator at Truth in Action Ministries, author of The War on Children, and co-author of Ten Truths About Socialism. As a career educator, Dr. Gushta has taught from kindergarten to graduate teacher education in both public and Christian schools in America and overseas. She has a Ph.D. in Philosophy of Education and Masters degrees in Elementary Education and in Christianity and Culture.

April 15, 2011

Cheating and Feeling Good About It

By Dr. Karen Gushta
Cheating doesn’t pay. Or does it? Most students today apparently think it does. Even though most say it’s wrong, 59 percent admitted cheating on a test, according to a 2010 survey of 40,000 public and private school students.
By contrast, only 20 percent of students surveyed said they had cheated at sports. This may say something about what kids are learning through academics versus the standards that are still upheld in athletic competition. Commenting on this phenomenon, John Fremer, president of a private test-security company in Midvale, Utah, said, “…on average, one of the things they are learning in school is how to cheat.”
The annual survey done by the Josephson Institute Center for Youth Ethics also found that 61 percent of students reported having lied to a teacher about “something important,” and more than 80 percent said they had copied homework.
If what students are learning is how to cheat, it’s worth noting what they are not learning. In a recent op-ed in the New York Times, “The New Humanism,” David Brooks observed, “When we raise our kids, we focus on the traits measured by grades and SAT scores. But when it comes to the most important things like character and how to build relationships, we often have nothing to say.”
Since the Ten Commandments were removed from schools, the ninth commandment, which prohibits “bearing false witness,” is routinely ignored by students who are not being taught that the “lying tongue” is an “abomination” unto the Lord (Proverbs 6:16-17).
How does cheating affect students who do it? According to research published in the March Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the short-term benefits of higher scores seduce cheaters into developing inflated expectations for their future performance.
Reporting on this research in Education Week, Sarah D. Sparks wrote, “The Harvard-Duke research also showed that cheaters lied to themselves.” One of the doctoral students involved in the study said, “In our experiments, we find that social recognition reinforces self-deception… getting a high grade will lead ‘Alex’ to feel smart, and being treated as smart by the teacher will lead Alex to feel smarter still.”
Sparks commented that “the Harvard-Duke study adds to emerging research suggesting that the mental hoops that students must leap through to justify or distance themselves from cheating can cause long-term damage to their professional and academic habits.”
In other words, if you hire an employee who has cheated his or her way through school and lied to teachers, you should not be surprised to find that employee “cheating” by cutting corners and lying to you. As Dr. D. James Kennedy wrote in Why the 10 Commandments Matter, “Lies not only destroy people’s trust in us. They also label us as untrustworthy…. People do not trust a liar. How can they? There is always a question about a person’s truthfulness once he has been caught in a lie, and the stigma generally lasts a lifetime.”
Sad to say, however, many student cheaters do not see the gravity of what they have done, nor do they acknowledge the effects their actions have on their moral character. As noted above, parents have not been focusing on character. Rather, as author Colleen Carroll Campbell points out, baby boomer parents, teachers and media gurus have focused on increasing children’s “self-esteem,” resulting in a generation brimming with narcissism.
The rising generation excuse their rule breaking while claiming to be satisfied with their own ethics and character. The common view of today’s youth is, as The Josephson Institute found in their 2008 survey, “When it comes to doing what is right, I am better than most people I know.”
Nevertheless, there is no escape from the consequences of sin in our lives unless it is confessed and forgiven and renounced. As Dr. Kennedy wrote, “A lie is a very serious matter to God for the simple reason that He is truthful.”  Because God is truthful, His universe operates according to fixed and immutable laws. “If God’s Word were not absolute and firm forever,” Dr. Kennedy observed, “then neither would the laws of His universe be reliable and subject to scientific investigation. We would have only chaos.”
Likewise, when the words of men and women are not firm and governed by the standard truth, chaos ensues. Human relationships and societies based on lies and deception will ultimately disintegrate and collapse. And, lying has eternal consequences. Among those who will forever remain outside the heavenly city, as stated in Revelation 22:15 will be “whoever loves and practices a lie.”
Isn’t it time to set clear standards for truthfulness and develop a code of honor for students in our schools? Giving students examples of heroes who have stood for truth at the risk of their own self-interest and requiring students to adhere to a code of conduct that forswears cheating and lying would be a good addition to the standard curriculum in our schools.
And, while we’re at it, let’s post the Ten Commandments too. God’s eternal, absolute, moral law provides the best “character education” we can offer.

Dr. Karen Gushta is research coordinator at Coral Ridge Ministries and author of The War on Children: How Pop Culture and Public Schools Put Our Kids at Risk. Dr. Gushta is a career educator who has taught at all levels, from kindergarten to graduate level teacher education, in both public and Christian schools in America and overseas. Dr. Gushta served as the first international director of Kid’s Evangelism Explosion. She has a Ph.D. in Philosophy of Education from Indiana University and Masters degrees in Elementary Education from the University of New Mexico and in Christianity and Culture from Knox Theological Seminary.

The War on Children by Dr. Karen Gushta Request The War on Children: How Pop Culture and Public Schools Put Our Kids at Risk, by Dr. Karen Gushta.

April 8, 2011

“Why Do We Let Them Dress Like That?”

By Dr. Karen Gushta

How do 12–13 year-old girls dress for a party? In “mini-dresses, perilously high heels, and glittery, dangling earrings, their eyes heavily shadowed in black-pearl and jade,” says Mrs. Jennifer Moses in a recent Wall Street Journal article. “They look like a flock of tropical birds.” Then she asked the question many are asking, “Why do so many of us not only permit our teenage daughters to dress like this—like prostitutes, if we’re being honest with ourselves—but pay for them to do it with our AmEx cards?”

 

Mrs. Moses provided little analysis of this phenomenon in answering her own question before giving her own opinion. Her theory—“It has to do with how conflicted my own generation of women is about our own past, when many of us behaved in ways that we now regret. A woman I know, with two mature daughters, said, ‘If I could do it again, I wouldn’t even have slept with my own husband before marriage. Sex is the most powerful thing there is, and our generation, what did we know?’”

 

Moses continues, “We are the first moms in history to have grown up with widely available birth control…. We were also the first not only to be free of old-fashioned fears about our reputations, but actually pressured by our peers and the wider culture to find our true womanhood in the bedroom. Not all of us are former good-time girls now drowning in regret—I know women of my generation who waited until marriage—but that’s certainly the norm among my peers.”

 

But following that “norm” did not produce happiness. Speaking of her own friends, Moses says, “I don’t know one of them who doesn’t have feelings of lingering discomfort regarding her own sexual past. And not one woman I’ve ever asked about the subject has said that she wishes she’d ‘experimented’ more.”

Mrs. Moses’ article opened up a forum in the WSJ for over 600 comments in response. Some of them addressed the moral values implicit in her question. One person wrote, “Why do we let them dress like that? We don’t. It’s important to emphasize the differences between beauty and attractiveness at a young age. Being more involved in our children’s lives will strengthen various values, it will also (hopefully) put us in the position to be the role models we need to be and provide us with a better chance to block negative influences.”

Another wrote, “It is sad to see girls give away something so precious. Our daughters need our loving guidance toward living well-adjusted lives away from the call for promiscuity from all over. They need to enjoy being young women of character. It is hard for a teenager to look to her future life, but parents must guide them to protect that future by how they present themselves now. If we require modesty in the workplace, why can’t we require modesty in our most precious young daughters?”

A homeschooling parent wrote: “The socialization offered by the public and by public school is exactly what we are trying to avoid….  The [popularized] view of the opposite sex as sex objects is the central social message of public school children, the main-stream-media, movies, and most TV. It may be the single most destructive thing many Christian homeschoolers are trying to avoid, and rightly so. … maybe you can’t control who your children become, but while they live in your home you can do your best to protect them from this destructive message and group-think.”

This is exactly the message that I’ve been sharing at recent homeschool conventions—homeschooling provides the best cultural medium for parents to protect their children from the toxic effects of a media and entertainment culture that produces hyper-sexualized and often obscene materials.

The most recent example of this hyper-sexualization showed up in the marketing of Abercrombie Kids, a division of Abercrombie and Fitch that markets specifically to 8-14 year olds. Their latest swimwear includes the “Ashley Push-Up Triangle,” a triangular-shaped bikini top that comes with thick padding. Human behavior expert Dr. Patrick Wanis called this “disturbing and dangerous” on Fox News. “Are we sexualizing young girls to get the attention of men or to encourage women to use their daughters to compensate for their own lack of sexual appeal by living vicariously through their daughter?”

The latter question is one that Jennifer Moses pondered as well. “What teenage girl doesn’t want to be attractive, sought-after and popular?” she wrote. “And what mom doesn’t want to help that cause? In my own case, when I see my daughter in drop-dead gorgeous mode, I experience something akin to a thrill—especially since I myself am somewhat past the age to turn heads.”

Mrs. Moses wrote from her personal experiences and that of her friends. She could have found dozens of books to support her view that something happened in her generation (and mine) that caused the moral compass of our nation to shift from “true north.” Diana West has written compellingly in The Death of the Grown-Up of how as a culture we’ve been taught to “let it all hang out.”  In Slouching Towards Gomorrah, Judge Robert Bork described the changes in ideology in the 60s that led to celebrating personal freedom and moral anarchy.

This flag of “personal freedom” was the banner both young and old marched under as they threw off “all thought of God’s constraint,” wrote Dr. D. James Kennedy in How to Have a Joyful Home. They “completely rebelled against their Creator and Lawgiver,” he observed.

In rebelling against our Creator and Lawgiver as a society, we’ve also lost the recognition that “Our loving heavenly Father knows the best way for us to live,” wrote Dr. Kennedy.  “By following God’s laws and living as a disciple of Jesus Christ, our lives will be as blessed as they can be in this sin-cursed world. God is on our side, and He wants what is best for us.”

Sadly, many Christians, have a mistaken idea of what “God’s best” is. Too often we think that happiness should be our goal. But, as Dr. Kennedy wrote, “God’s best for us is holiness.

Many people equate “holiness” with legalistic restrictions that for all practical purposes seem impossible to keep. The “holy life” is possible, however, wrote Dr. Kennedy, “with the help of the Holy Spirit dwelling within us.”

Holiness and purity go hand in hand. When Christians seek holiness, we will not let our daughters dress like prostitutes, and we will be diligent in teaching them about purity. For what truly makes a young women attractive is, as the Apostle Peter described in his first letter, “the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God.”

Dr. Karen Gushta is research coordinator at Coral Ridge Ministries and author of The War on Children: How Pop Culture and Public Schools Put Our Kids at Risk. Dr. Gushta is a career educator who has taught at all levels, from kindergarten to graduate level teacher education, in both public and Christian schools in America and overseas. Dr. Gushta served as the first international director of Kid’s Evangelism Explosion. She has a Ph.D. in Philosophy of Education from Indiana University and Masters degrees in Elementary Education from the University of New Mexico and in Christianity and Culture from Knox Theological Seminary.

Request The War on Children: How Pop Culture and Public Schools Put Our Kids at Risk, by Dr. Karen Gushta.

January 22, 2011

Watch What You Say! Free Speech at Risk on Campus

By Dr. Karen Gushta                                                                                                                        

When the Left ramped up its rhetoric, attempting to link the heinous actions of Jared Loughner to Sarah Palin and other conservatives, the issue of hate speech and hate crimes once again moved to center stage in American politics.

In the 2009 legislative session, Congress pushed through a hate crimes bill by inserting it into a defense spending bill. As Robert Knight observed, “‘Hate crime’ laws ensure unequal justice. They empower some groups of victims at the expense of others.”

Nowhere is “unequal justice” more apparent than on America’s college and university campuses, especially in regard to freedom of speech and religious liberty. Just ask Eden Jacobowitz. In 1993, when a group of rowdy black sorority sisters interrupted his late-night study by carousing under his dorm window, the Penn State University freshman made the mistake of yelling, “Shut up, you water buffalo,” in his effort to silence them.

The ladies did not take such an offense lightly—no doubt due to the more colorful epithets that rained down on them from other dorm residents disturbed by their late-night jubilation. None of these offenders came forward, however, when five of the 15 women, now self-identified victims of “racial harassment,” came through the dorm with campus police to look for their offenders. Consequently, only Eden was charged by the university’s judicial inquiry officer (JIO) with transgressing the University’s prohibition against “offensive speech.”

Under Penn State’s policy, Eden’s “offensive speech” had to consist of “slurs, epithets, hate words, demeaning jokes, or derogatory statements” that occurred “in a context such that an intent only to inflict direct injury may reasonably be inferred.” The university’s JIO apparently “reasonably inferred” that saying “Shut up, you water buffalo” to a group of raucous sororitarians met the policy’s criteria for offensive speech and verbal harassment.

This seemed strange to those who recalled that University president Sheldon Hackney had stated unequivocally that under the policy, calling a black with white friends an “Uncle Tom” or calling a white person a “f —– fascist white male pig” would not be categorized as “racial harassment.” Nevertheless, the translation of the Hebrew slang behema—commonly used at Eden’s former yeshiva to refer to a rowdy or thoughtless person—was judged cause for discipline.

“Weren’t you having racist thoughts when you said ‘water buffalo’?” asked the JIO, claiming that “it was important to take the women’s interpretation” of his words into account. Eden offered to apologize to the offended women to assure them that his words had no racial meaning, but was denied the opportunity. Instead he had the choice to accept a “settlement” or face a judicial hearing which could result in suspension or even expulsion.

You can read the rest of Eden’s story in the first chapter of Alan Kors & Harvey Silverglate’s book, The Shadow University: The Betrayal of Liberty on America’s Campuses. Kors became Eden’s advisor after his first one recommended that he accept the proffered settlement. Silverglate is a lawyer specializing in academic freedom and student rights.

In Shadow University, they argue that America’s colleges are in a crisis of liberty. “The university in loco parentis—the university standing in the place of parents—has been given over to the self-appointed progressives to do with what they will. The result has been an emerging tyranny over all aspects of student life.”

“Universities have become the enemy of a free society,” state Kors and Silverglate. “It is time for the citizens of that society to recognize this scandal of enormous proportions and to hold these institutions to account.” To do so, they established the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), a nonprofit educational foundation devoted to free speech, individual liberty, religious freedom, and the rights of conscience.

The Alliance Defense Fund, founded in 1994 by Dr. D. James Kennedy and others to defend religious liberty in the courts, is also holding universities to account. Most recently, Speak Up, (ADF’s blog) exposed Vanderbilt University’s application policy, which would require students applying to it’s Women’s Health Track in the Nurse Residency Program to provide an “acknowledgement” that, if admitted, they would be expected to assist in abortions; applications without it would not be considered.

Thankfully, when ADF notified Vanderbilt that it had filed a complaint with the Department of Health and Human Services on behalf of a student who wanted to apply to the program, the university immediately amended its application packet to eliminate this requirement. It sent out an email to that effect to all of its applicants.

This does not mean that nursing students’ conscience rights are not in jeopardy. The Obama administration has threatened to repeal the regulations that allowed ADF to file the complaint with HHS. Nevertheless, in this case, it’s a victory for students’ rights at Vanderbilt University, and Christian students are no longer being sent the message that they need not apply.

If students’ right of conscience and religious liberty are not protected, campus tyranny will only grow. As Kors and Silverglate have written, “It is a tyranny that seeks to assert absolute control over the souls, the consciences, and the individuality of our students—in short, a tyranny over the essence of liberty itself.”

Note: You can obtain a copy of the FIRE Guide to Religious Liberty on Campus by clicking on this link.

Dr. Karen Gushta is research coordinator at Coral Ridge Ministries and author of The War on Children: How Pop Culture and Public Schools Put Our Kids at Risk. Dr. Gushta is a career educator who has taught at all levels, from kindergarten to graduate level teacher education, in both public and Christian schools in America and overseas. Dr. Gushta served as the first international director of Kid’s Evangelism Explosion. She has a Ph.D. in Philosophy of Education from Indiana University and Masters degrees in Elementary Education from the University of New Mexico and in Christianity and Culture from Knox Theological Seminary.

The War on Children by Dr. Karen Gushta Request The War on Children: How Pop Culture and Public Schools Put Our Kids at Risk, by Dr. Karen Gushta.

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