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The Supreme Court's near-unanimous decision allowing protests at military funerals is getting a lot of attention this week, raising questions about the limits of free speech. In the education realm, buzz is building about an Arizona charter school teacher who got fired for refusing to remove a bumper sticker from her car. (It reads, "Have you drugged your kid today?") [quote]

From 3,000 feet away, the school's decision to terminate her contract strikes me as highly questionable. (Supposedly some parents were upset with the anti-Ritalin, anti-anti-depressants message, which I guess they found unfair or mean.) But regardless, the bigger question is whether her free speech rights were violated. On that score, it seems to me (not a lawyer, mind you) that it's not a hard call: if she was parking her car on school grounds, then there's little question: she had no broad right to free speech.

Click to play Click to listen to Mike and Rick discuss the firing of the Arizona charter school teacher on Chris Irvine's What's Up With That? from the Education Gadfly Show podcast

The courts have long held that employers can limit the expression of their employees. That's doubly true for schools, which can regulate the speech of their teachers, at least while they are working in their official capacity. To rule otherwise would be preposterous--to say that teachers have the right to teach whatever they'd...

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Amy Fagan

Earlier this week the Education Writers Association (EWA) announced the winners of its 2010 National Awards for Education Reporting. You can check out the list of winners here.

Among the numerous categories and awards, Bill Turque of the Washington Post took first prize in large market print?for beat reporting (he covers DC schools); ?a team from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and Hechinger Report took first prize in large market print for their series, Building a Better Teacher. First prize for beat reporting in small market print went to Julie Mack of the Kalamazoo Gazette. And the Chronicle of Higher Education racked up several awards.

There?were?many more winners. Congrats to all?of?them.

--Amy Fagan

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Liam Julian

Here's the abridged backstory: In 2006, Heidi Zamecnik, then a student at Neuqua Valley High School in Naperville, Illinois, arrived at school wearing a T-shirt that instructed readers to ?Be Happy, Not Gay.? The dean told Zamecnik to shed the shirt (and, presumably, to put on another one) or go home. The student declined. The dean called the pupil's mother, and the two adults determined the clothing's message would be acceptable were it revised to be more proactive?i.e., if it were changed to, ?Be Happy, Be Straight.? But post-phone-call, according to the Chicago Sun-Times, ?the dean instead had a female counselor cross the words ?Not Gay' off Zamecnik's shirt so it simply read ?Be Happy.'? Zamecnik was mad! And she sued. And Tuesday the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in her favor, noting in an opinion written by Judge Richard Posner that a ?school that permits advocacy of the rights of homosexual students cannot be allowed to stifle criticism of homosexuality.? Posner continued:

The school argued (and still argues) that banning ?Be Happy, Not Gay? was just a matter of protecting the ?rights? of the students against whom derogatory comments are directed. But people in our society do not have a legal right to prevent criticism of their beliefs or even their way of life.

?Beliefs.? ?Way of life.? How about identity? The Wall Street Journal reports that ?Nate Kellum, senior counsel for the Alliance Defense Fund, a legal alliance of Christian attorneys who represented...

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Amy Fagan

Fordham's president, Chester E. Finn, Jr., has been in front of the camera a lot lately. On Friday he talked to ABC World News for a segment they did about teacher tenure/seniority rules and the AFT's recent proposal on the topic (as a sidenote, Mike Petrilli was quoted in a NY Times article on this issue last week). Then, on Sunday, Finn was part of an NBC Nightly News segment about the impact of budget crises on schools and teachers.

-- Amy Fagan

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Amy Fagan

Fordham folks have done a number of radio interviews recently to discuss our new study, The State of State U.S. History Standards 2011. I wanted to share just a few examples. Fordham VP Mike Petrilli talked to a DC-area network; Kathleen Porter-Magee shared thoughts with a South Carolina station (Kathleen is senior director of Fordham's high quality standards program); and here's a great interview with Fordham President Chester E. Finn, Jr., when he was a guest on Bill Bennett's Morning in America.

--Amy Fagan

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Liam Julian

I'm reviewing a book by Joshua Foer, Moonwalking with Einstein, that will hit shelves on Thursday, March 3rd. (For background, check out this piece from Sunday's New York Times magazine, or this segment from yesterday's edition of All Things Considered.) Foer's book is about memory, and in addition to detailing his own idiosyncratic experience first covering, then training for, then participating in, then winning the U.S. Memory Championship, he devotes substantial time to walking down, if you will, memory lane?to recounting the history of memory and humans' experiences with it. In one passage, he notes how our ancestors feared writing because they believed the new technology would wilt minds. Only by memorizing information, they thought, could humans really know it. They could not conceive of writing as a?record of data?the record was supposed to be inside individuals' heads?and so written material for a long while functioned more as a reminder, a tool to ignite memory, to get its gears whirring, rather than documentation. Today, of course, we've moved beyond the printed word to the pixelated. Man's history is not held in minds but in Google. Students are no longer asked to memorize soliloquies or poems or even, in many cases, multiplication tables. This seems inevitable, but are we nonetheless losing something? As the art of recall disappears, does something important disappear with it? Does a pupil, in installing a sonnet in his memory, perhaps learn more about that sonnet than he otherwise would?

?Liam Julian, Bernard Lee...

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Amy Fagan

Remember -- there's a?great education event in Atlanta on Monday, February 21 (Presidents' Day). A panel of experts -- moderated by Fordham Institute President Chester Finn -- will discuss??Education Leadership for the 21st Century?.??(As you may know, Atlanta has been having some problems with education leadership lately.)?

If you won't be in the Atlanta area on Monday, no worries....the event?will be WEBCAST live.

Here are the panelists:??Sarah Carr, Times-Picayune education reporter and Spencer Journalism Education Fellow; Andres Alonso, CEO, Baltimore City Public Schools; Gerard Robinson, Virginia Secretary of Education; and Mark D. Musick, President Emeritus, Southern Regional Education Board.

The event is being sponsored by the Arthur M. Blank Foundation and the Atlanta Business Chronicle. (The Chronicle writes more about it here.)

--Amy Fagan

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The Education Gadfly

Well, I think it's safe to say that our new study, The State of State U.S. History Standards 2011, has folks talking. Just wanted to highlight some of the press attention it has received so far ? The Economist, NPR (blog), United Press International, USA Today (blog), Education Week, The Washington Post (blog).

It has received attention in multiple states across the country, but it has really kicked up some dust in Texas. Here's some of the coverage ? The Houston Chronicle here and here, The Austin-American Statesman, The Dallas Morning News (editorial).

Fordham's Mike Petrilli and Kathleen Porter-Magee did a radio tour yesterday, talking to stations across the country. Here's a snippet of Mike talking to a DC-area station.

--Amy Fagan...

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Loyal Flypaper readers?and even all you folks out there who stumbled onto our blog on this lazy Friday before a long weekend?have we got a treat for you! This week's Education Gadfly has it all.

First, Checker and Kathleen offer a sobering look at America's U.S. history standards, based off our recent publication: The State of State U.S. History Standards 2011. Expert reviewers assessed each state's (and D.C.'s) U.S. history standards and found the majority to be mediocre-to-awful. Collectively, the nation's standards earn a D. Read more to find out why this is so important, and what can be done to remedy the situation.

Click to play

Click to listen to commentary on Fordham's latest report from the Education Gadfly Show podcast

Mike then weighs in on the dueling education budgets proposed by President Obama and the House GOP, and what both mean for education in the real world. Per the President's budget, Mike asks if the President isn't playing politics, more than thinking about the needs of America's students.

...

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Click to listen to commentary on the proposed education budgets from the Education Gadfly Show podcast
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