Vegan elementary

Posted: Oct 27, 2003 12:00 AM

If you took all failed, trendy education bureaucrat ideas, packaged them in a school and put radical animal-rights activists in charge of it, you'd end up with something like the Humane Education Learning Community -- a kindergarten-through-sixth-grade charter school approved by Sacramento's San Juan Unified School District.

Not that district honchos are proud. "As a taxpayer, I want my money to go to public education, but I don't necessarily want it to go to splinter groups," explained school board trustee Joe Hayes, who abstained from the 4-0 vote approving the charter. Still, his fellow board members had no choice. As the school district's attorney Diana Halpenny noted, charter applicants met all the qualifying criteria, so "there was no (legal) basis for the board to deny the petition."

Let me confess that when Sacramento parent Ann Silberman first alerted me to this proposed school, I didn't jump. The goal of a "violence free" school is laudable -- unless it is used to dress up animal-rights indoctrination as pedagogy. Then, it threatens to be anti-academic.

As kooky as Californians can be, I told her, I can't believe that the requisite number of parents would sign on to send their kids to an education-lite charter school. Wrong.

It turns out that the law doesn't require charter-petition signers to live in the district or even near it. Teachers from Stockton, Manteca and Cloverdale and parents from Redding, Antioch and Modesto signed petitions stating that they were "meaningfully interested" in teaching at or sending their kids to the school.

Silberman believes that parents could be drawn to the idea of the school because they'll think "this is a new touchy-feely California idea where all the kids are there to be nice to each other" without understanding the radical animal-rights agenda behind it.

Charter petitioner Dr. Yale Wishnick, a California Teachers Association educrat, told the Sacramento Bee, "We are not talking about animal rights. We are talking about compassion."

Really? Wishnick is a board member of Psychologists for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, an animal-rights group for shrinks. The charter petition begins: "People who are trained to extend justice, kindness and mercy to animals become more just, kind and considerate in their relations with each other." (Note that they're not more just with other people, which is why some animal-rights nuts feel free to bomb buildings and intimidate workers remotely connected to medical research that uses animals.)

The charter promises to promote "respect for humans, all species and the environment" and "the promotion of harmonious relations, kindness toward domestic pets and humane treatment of living creatures."

The charter model will "replace discipline based on rewards and punishments with one based on respect, responsibility and reverence." (As in: "Sierra, if you can't self-organize your workspace and continue to throw your math manipulatives at Conner, I'm not sure I can trust you with more tofu.")

Here's a clue as to how un-academic the K-6 school is likely to be if it opens next fall: "Mahatma Gandhi (the petition reads) once said, 'The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its non-human animals are treated.'''(Clue: Gandhi did not use the term "non-human animal.")

While the petition promises rigorous academics, it's hard to find advanced math or challenging literature buried under the avalanche of edu-jargon, as in "value of relationships," "a safe learning environment for students to speak about their own authentic feelings and experiences," "class bonding" and "constructivist and multicultural education and thematic, project-based learning."

Some of this sounds academic: Documents say social studies classes will "draw upon such disciplines as anthropology, archaeology, economics, geography, history, law, philosophy, religion, sociology." Except the school is K-6: Many students will be beginning to learn to read -- or are supposed to be learning to read.

Where's the math? The kids may not know how to multiply, but math classes will help students "explore economic costs as they relate to environmental degradation, the loss of wildlife and companion animal overpopulation." (No indoctrination there.)

If I were to write a parody of something an animal nut/educrat would create, I would have written this document. The difference is: I would never inflict it upon innocent children. I'd know it was a joke.