It's not just politicians who love the pledge of allegiance. So does the little girl whose father sued, claiming she was coerced into pledging allegiance to one nation "under God."

Now the girl's mother, who has full custody, says her daughter is a church-going Christian who has no problem with "under God." The atheist father makes a revealing comment: 

(Michael) Newdow said that taking an 8-year-old to church doesn¹t mean the girl is choosing to be religious — and at any rate, it doesn¹t matter what the child believes. "The main thrust of this case is not my daughter, it¹s me."

Since Newdow falsely claimed his daughter was the "injured" party, the appellate court could throw out the case, writes Howard Bashman.

There must be an atheist child in America who feels coerced by "under God," even if Newdow's daughter isn't the one. But I'd hate to see the pledge changed. I'm inclined to believe the secular purpose — instilling love of country — outweighs the incidental reference to God. We wouldn¹t add "under God" today, but I can't believe we need to take it out. And if we do, children won't be able to sing "America the Beautiful" in school either. We've got to defend "America the Beautiful."

The Koran as Required Reading

The Koran is required reading for incoming frosh at the University of North Carolina, and some Christians aren't too happy about it. Students are supposed to read Approaching the Qur'an. The book translates and discusses the earliest 35 suras, the first words Muslims believe God revealed to the prophet Mohammed. The students will read the book during orientation week in mid-August and discuss it for "a couple of hours" in groups of 20 to 25 led by faculty members, according to UNC Chancellor James Moeser.

Critics object to requiring students to read the holy book of another religion and assume the book will provide a politically correct, sanitized, Islam-is-a-peaceful-religion message. Probably so.

I wonder about the educational value. The Koran is a fantastically complex document from a religous tradition that's very foreign to most North Carolinians. Students who want to understand Islamic beliefs will need to take a course on the subject. Gabbing for a few hours about mystical verses in the Koran isn't going to move the ball down the field very far.

Our country was attacked less than a year ago by Islamic fanatics who killed thousands of Americans in the name of Islam; their stated goal is to destroy our civilization and convert us to a nutso brand of Islam. Or kill us. Yet our universities are rushing to add courses on Islam to meet student demand. We want to understand their beliefs, even though they don't want to understand ours. Maybe it's a goofy response, but it's also a sign of how secure we are, how open to ideas. How strong.

Letter: Religion of Peace

Andy Freeman writes on UNC's Koran reading requirement:

Suppose the context is "Islam is a peaceful and good religion, so let's see out how they could have been driven to do things that look 'bad' to untrained Western eyes, such as yours, dear students, but are actually justified, if not actually good." I'd be more impressed if they actually had a useful program on Western Civ. 

And, I wonder why they don't plan to do anything on how Mohammed came to power. Good strategy/tactics, and awareness of his opponents, and a brutality, towards defenseless losers, that would have made Romans turn squeamish.

Mediocrity For All

Gilroy High School's three top administrators quit to protest a plan to offer honors English and history to ninth and tenth graders. Though the honors classes will be open to all students, the administrators told the San Jose Mercury News the program will lead to segregation.

They worry students from Spanish-speaking households — 65 percent of Gilroy High's 2,300 students — won't enroll in honors classes even if they can do the work because their parents aren't aware the classes exist and won't push their children to take them.

Of course, the school could inform the parents and push the students. If necessary, the administrators could have placed all A and B students in honors, unless their parents requested easier classes. Or don't they have Hispanic students who have As and Bs?

Maybe not. Gilroy starts tracking its students in second grade; students who started school without English fluency aren't likely to be in the top track. By ninth grade, they're almost certain to be behind.

Offering honors classes in high school is a smart idea. Even smarter: Stop picking the winners in second grade. Give all elementary students a chance to prep for the high school honors track.

Left Behind

Few students in low-performing schools will be able to transfer to better schools under the "Leave No Child Behind" Act. Good schools tend to fill up, The Baltimore Sun reports:

Baltimore school officials said yesterday they will offer 194 places this year for 30,000 students who are in schools designated as low-performing and are eligible to transfer to a better school. 

The city, like other school districts around the nation, is required to give parents whose children are in schools that have been classified as "failing" the choice of moving them to another school or providing extra help, such as tutoring after school, on Saturday or with a private company.

Baltimore kept transfer slots low by deciding students could move only to schools with decent test scores. The district doesn't have too many of those: only 11 elementary schools and no middle schools.

The No-Hopers

What a bizarre anti-voucher column in the Washington Post. A teacher writes that vouchers are bad because some kids have uncaring, incompetent parents who'd never get it together to use a voucher.

The lucky ones will flourish in private schools made richer with public dollars, while the unlucky will be abandoned in our doomed public schools.

Her example, Michael, missed four months of school because his aunt shipped him back to his mother and she didn't bother to enroll him. So, yes. Vouchers won't help Michael. Public schooling hasn't helped Michael. Public school funding could double, triple, quadruple: It won't help Michael. He's doomed by his upbringing.

But there are lots of other students who aren't doomed — unless they're stuck in one of those "doomed public schools." (And private schools aren't made richer by taking high-need students who have only a $2,250 voucher, as in Cleveland.)

As Education Weak and VodkaPundit observe, the logic is: Keep all students in bad schools because some kids have bad parents. That is bad logic.

I'm writing a book on a charter school that targets under-achieving Hispanic students. Their parents are the ones this teacher thinks can't make a choice. Most are poorly educated. They don't understand the system. They don't speak or read English well. But they're not stupid. Unlike Michael's mother, they care deeply about their kids. If they have a choice, they will use it to seek a better school for their kids.

Joanne Jacobs used to have a paying job as a Knight-Ridder columnist and San Jose Mercury News editorial writer. Now she blogs for tips at ReadJacobs.com while writing a book, Start-Up High, about a San Jose charter school. She's never gotten a dime from Enron.

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