Sunday, September 04, 2016
Parents furious after Catholic school teacher reads out sections of the KORAN before class prayers - but principal insists it was just an 'academic exercise'
Parents have been left fuming after discovering a history and geography teacher has been reading excerpts of the Koran to their children at a Catholic boy's high school.
Jesse Pittard, who teaches both subjects at Christian Brothers' High School, in Lewisham in Sydney's inner-west, has come under fire from parents for reading out sections of the Koran to his year seven students at the start of the day during home room and before classes.
Parents and students told Daily Mail Australia Mr Pittard began reading excerpts to students at the beginning of the semester in July and claimed he has since read 'more than half' the Koran to them.
Parents are particularly angry they were not told about the Koran readings and questioned why the Muslim holy book needed to be read outside of religion classes.
One mother said her son revealed during a conversation that Mr Pittard was reading the Koran to him before his geography class.
'We don't send our kids to an Islamic school to listen to the Koran and it's not a religion lesson, it's a geography lesson, so how does that relate to geography?' she said.
Mr Pittard has chosen not to comment on the matter.
The school's principal, Brother Paul Conn, confirmed Mr Pittard had read passages from the Koran before several year seven classes, and said he had received three emails and one phone call from concerned parents asking for him to investigate the matter.
But he denied the readings had been going since the beginning of the school semester and had only happened 'for a couple of days' and were 'supposed to be an academic exercise'.
'Unfortunately, due to the timing of the exercise being with the normal beginning of [Catholic] lesson prayer, some confusion did exist,' he said.
Mr Conn has since spoken to concerned parents. He said further discussion of the Koran in class has stopped.
'I ... clarified to all concerned that as a Catholic school, we are one hundred percent committed to our Catholic faith, and that our strategic plan and Religious Education Program has the Catholic faith as its core,' he said.
'Being a culturally diverse school, we are open to informed and balanced discussion on all faiths, but our commitment in terms of faith education is to the Catholic Faith.
'I spoke to the teacher concerned, who is a Christian, and he now understands that all beginning of lesson prayer at CBHS Lewisham is Catholic.
'He never intended to do anything differently, but his timing did cause some confusion. No further discussion on the Koran will be happening as no further need exists.'
The all-boys school caters for students from year five to 12 and prides itself 'in keeping with its rich faith-filled past' and only does Catholic prayers in their religion classes.
One of Mr Pittard's students said the teacher had read the English version of the Koran before geography class. 'We don't even listen, because it's so long,' the year seven student said.
'We only do [Catholic] prayers in religion classes, but for one geography lesson we were waiting for about seven to ten minutes while he was reading the Koran.' 'He gives us a demerit if any of us tell him not to read it ... He has read more than half the Koran,' another student said.
However, the principal denied any student had received demerit points for asking to not listen to the Koran.
'One of the parents who contacted me was concerned about the issuing of a demerit. It was clarified that this was definitely not for anything to do with the reading of the Koran but for a completely separate classroom behaviour issue.
'Nightlife is still alive and well': do critics have it wrong on Sydney's lockout laws?
The loudest voices are not aways right
Critics say the laws mandating last entry to venues at 1.30am and last drinks at 3am in Kings Cross and the CBD have had a chilling effect on the city’s nightlife, forcing businesses to shut down without targeting the root cause of alcohol-fuelled violence.
Opposition to the reforms gained momentum earlier this year when a lengthy opinion piece by technology entrepreneur Matt Barrie, accusing Mike Baird’s Coalition government of a pattern of nanny-state regulation, was widely shared.
“Sydney, once the best city in the world, has become an international joke thanks to the NSW Liberal government. No wonder everyone’s apparently moving to Melbourne,” Barrie said.
But supporters of the laws point to reductions in crime and hospital admissions as evidence of their effectiveness. Residents of affected areas such as Kings Cross say the restrictions have restored safety and civility to their neighbourhoods – and they deny the problem has been shifted elsewhere.
Have the lockout laws led to a decrease in alcohol-fuelled violence? A variety of sources point to an unequivocal “yes”. The question is, by how much? Reports and analysis released by the Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research (Bocsar) in April 2015 and February this year show a decline in assaults in areas covered by the lockout laws. The most recent figures show a 40% decline in assaults in Kings Cross and a 20% decline in the Sydney CBD “entertainment precinct”.
A report released on Monday by the Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education (Fare) that took into account figures from Bocsar and other sources put the figures much higher. It found that non-domestic assaults during the lockout period had reduced by 70.2% in Kings Cross and 30.7% in the CBD on weekend nights, and by 75.5% in Kings Cross and 41.5% in the CBD after last drinks were called at 3am.
The Last Drinks Coalition of NSW doctors, police, nurses and paramedics says emergency service workers have noticed the difference since the lockout laws were introduced. Recent Bocsar statistics show a 59.2% decrease in assault rates in Kings Cross between 6pm and 1.30am and a 93.9% decrease between 3am and 6am.
“Those are staggering statistics and proof that the suite of measures are working,” said Scott Weber, coalition spokesman and president of the Police Association of NSW.
A key argument against the lockout laws is their impact on Sydney’s nightlife, often referred to as “once vibrant”. The lord mayor of Sydney, Clover Moore, said they took a “sledgehammer” to the problems of the late-night economy without solving them. Several thousand protesters, mostly young people, attended a rally organised by lobby group Keep Sydney Open in February.
One reported impact has been the closures of high-profile bars, clubs and music venues. Analysis by Apra Amcos and the Live Music Office in February found a 40% drop in live performance revenue at Apra- and Amcos-licensed venues within the CBD lockout area and a 19% decrease in attendance figures at licensed nightclubs and dance venues.
But the Fare analysis, informed by that same report and other sources, found the average decline in foot traffic in Kings Cross was only 19.4% between 5pm and 4am on Friday and Saturday nights – and that pedestrian traffic in the evenings before the lockout, from 5pm to 1am, had not changed significantly between 2012 and 2015.
It indicated that rates of business closures as a result of the lockout appear to have been greatly exaggerated, finding that only four fewer businesses were trading between 5pm and 4am on Friday and Saturday nights in Kings Cross in 2015, compared with 2012. The number of pubs, bars and clubs trading during this time fell by just three from 2012 to 2015.
As for property values, both mixed use and residential property values in affected areas had increased between 2014 and 2015, though commercial property values in the Potts Point area declined by 20%.
Residents of Kings Cross, Darlinghurst and Woolloomooloo say the lockout laws have been highly effective in restoring “safety, diversity and amenity” to their neighbourhoods. Jo Holder, coordinator of the Darlinghurst Residents’ Action Group (Drag), said their communities had been “overrun every weekend by crowds of binge drinkers”.
“They literally ransacked our neighbourhood and left with little or no regard for the residents who had to endure their noise and businesses,” she says. “The lockout and last drinks legislation brought welcome respite for residents and many small businesses.”
The Fare report found a reduction of about 75% in antisocial behaviour of all degrees of severity – from physical fights and verbal abuse to loud music, vomiting and vandalism – in Kings Cross between 2012 and 2015.
Helen Crossing, the convenor of the 2011 Residents’ Association (2011 is the postcode for Potts Point), said the area had experienced a “renaissance” under the new restrictions, which had better balanced the needs of night-time trading businesses and those that were open during the day.
“Contrary to what many opponents of lockout laws believe, nightlife is still alive and well,” she said.
A survey conducted by the organisation this year found that more than 70 businesses had opened in Kings Cross since the laws were imposed in early 2014.
A recent ReachTEL poll of 1,600 voters commissioned by Fairfax Media found that support for the lockout laws was widespread, with nearly 60% of NSW voters in favour of extending them to the rest of the state. Support for retaining the 1.30am closing time and 3am last drinks was highest within young voters aged between 18 and 34.
Howard cites Trump as a response to bad policy
John Howard has pointed to the lessons of Donald Trump’s rise in the United States to argue buttressing the middle class is fundamental to enduring success in politics, and preserving the stability and harmony of societies.
In an interview ahead of the broadcast of a new series he has produced with the ABC about Robert Menzies, Howard told Guardian Australia it was during the Menzies period that the “great Australian middle class” emerged, and preserving a robust middle class was the “cement” holding societies together.
“That’s the greatest strength that Australia has – we have more, proportionately, in the middle,” Howard said on Wednesday. “This is one of America’s problems and one of the explanations of the Trump phenomenon.”
“I think there is truth in the argument that [Trump] is appealing to people who have suffered,” he said. “Their incomes have fallen, many of them have lost their jobs, the statistics tell a vivid story – people are just worse off now, in the middle.”
The former prime minister declined to be drawn on contemporary politics, replying “next question” when asked what Malcolm Turnbull could learn from the person who had founded the modern Liberal party.
But he made general observations when asked about the lessons contemporary politics could draw from the Menzies prime ministership.
Howard noted the bedrock of the Menzies’ success, and his own, was an ongoing dialogue with the middle class. “Very much so. It, more than anything else, holds the country together,” he said.
“It reinforces the notion of fairness and egalitarianism. It stands to reason that if you have a large middle class then the nation is more cohesive and people aren’t conscious of gaps.”
“We still have people who need to be looked after, we have people who are poor and people who are in need of government assistance and we have some people who are very well off.
“My philosophy is I don’t mind people having a lot of money provided they get it honestly and they pay their tax. I have absolutely no objection. I believe in capitalism.
“But the issue is the great bulk of the people in the middle. The stronger and larger the middle class is, the more stable the country is. History is on the side of that argument. You only have to examine the history of Europe in Australia to understand that.
“[Buttressing the middle class] has been very much part of the national cement and it’s very important to keep it. You keep it through a range of policy approaches on a whole raft of policy issues, and obviously fundamental is a stable economy.
“A stable economy is produced by a range of policies according to the circumstances of the day, but I don’t want to get into that. It’s not the purpose of the interview.”
Former PM Howard takes on Trump © AAP Former PM Howard takes on Trump
Howard also nominated consistency and strong cabinet processes as lessons that could be drawn in the modern political era from the success of Menzies, who was prime minister for more than 18 years.
Howard said successful prime ministers understood Australian politics was “a combination of the desirable and the achievable. You are successful if you can achieve the optimum blend of those two things.”
Howard said you need both ideology and pragmatism. “You need both. You’ve got to believe in things, and one of his great strengths was he did believe in things and people were in no doubt as to where he stood or where he would jump on issues, but he was also a pragmatist with great political skills.”
He noted Menzies was not a presidential figure but an “orthodox cabinet prime minister” who was very attentive to the views of his backbench. He also understood the “cardinal importance” of a united Coalition.
“That is something that has always been a key element of our success. He understood it, Fraser understood it, I understood it and of course Abbott and Turnbull have practised that as well.”
In the series that airs on the ABC on September 18 and 25, Howard interviews the former Labor prime minister Bob Hawke about the Menzies period. “The Labor left critique of Menzies is they were wasted years.”
Howard said both his book on Menzies, and the television series, were an effort to refute that suggestion.
Howard addresses the major events of the Menzies period and backs the decision to commit Australia to the Vietnam war.
Howard said halting the advance of communism through east Asia was an aspiration he would have “probably” subscribed to in the 1960s.
He reasoned you can only ever answer whether something was the right decision or the wrong decision by “putting yourself in the shoes of the decision maker at the time”.
“Obviously decisions are taken and then subsequent events might cast a different light on the decision,” Howard said on Wednesday.
“What I say in the program is if I had been in Menzies’ shoes in the 1960s I would have taken the same decision as he did. And why? He quite rightly judged that involvement in Vietnam was important in relation to the alliance with the US and the maintenance of American interest in our part of the world then.
“In the 1960s that was seen as an even higher priority than it is now. I regarded the context of that decision – and context is everything – as justifying the decision he took.”
Marijuana will be LEGALISED in Australia for medical purposes from November
Medicinal marijuana will be legalised across Australia from November this year, under a formal decision reached by the Therapeutic Goods Administration this week.
But the news does not mean just anyone will be able to get their hands on the leafy green bud – at least not legally.
The drug will be legalised for medicinal use only, and will be strictly controlled, as the federal government works to create a national regulator.
As reported on The Canberra Times, the final decision came after the federal parliament lent bipartisan support to change the Narcotic Drugs Act to allow marijuana to be grown and produced in Australia for medicinal purposes.
The move to legalise the drug was also fuelled by clinical trials which claimed the drug could significantly change the lives of people who suffered from chronic pain.
The trials reported the drug could help treat spasticity, and reduce nausea in patients undergoing chemotherapy.
Medical cannabis campaigner Lucy Haslam told Fairfax Media the move to legalise the drug was a step in the right direction.
Ms Haslam, has spearheaded the movement since she witnessed the dramatic relief her son Dan gained from using the drug.
She said it was an ‘essential step in the process’, but accepted this was just the beginning of a long road ahead.
The retired nurse said it could still be some time before the drug was fully and easily accessible to patients, and claimed they were stuck in a ‘holding pattern’ while the system was set up.
She said the industry was ‘so bound up in red tape’ to the point where it might be too difficult and too expensive to access altogether.
‘My fear is that the industry will become so expensive that patients won’t be able to access a legal supply at an affordable price,’ she said.
The medicinal cannabis campaigner said there was also a long way to go before the stigma surrounding medicinal marijuana was broken down.
‘There’s also a lot of work to do on educating people and doctors, some of who remain a bit uncomfortable about prescribing medicinal cannabis to patients,’ she said.
While the legalisation could bring about big changes for medicinal cannabis users, the drug will remain illegal for recreational users.
But similar products for therapeutic use will be listed on the Shedule 8 list for restricted drugs including morphine, as long as the drugs are prescribed by a doctor.
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