We have some very angry children. One was like a bull breathing out. He had been expelled for fighting. We get wallflower children. Or we get children who are aggressive verbally."
Marilyn Anderson, founder of Gateway School in Anchorage, Alaska, was talking about kids in her school who have spent years failing in their major elementary task: learning to read. Gateway, a school for dyslexic children, is a rarity in the world of Christian education, where many schools do not work with children who have special needs.
Although Gateway accepts students at age 6, its average student age is 12½. The gap reflects years of waiting on the part of parents hoping that each year will bring success in a traditional school. For many bright dyslexic students the gap represents years of feeling dumb and being placed in public-school special-education classes with children who have mild brain damage or emotional difficulties.
Dyslexia is a brain processing disorder that makes it difficult for kids to perform many language-based skills. When Marilyn Anderson taught in Christian schools in the 1970s, she says, many teachers didn't understand dyslexia and assumed it reflected laziness or poor habits. "I saw teachers chide parents," she said. They'd tell them their children "needed to work harder, they needed to behave."
Other schoolteachers, not knowing what to do, often did the wrong thing. "They gave sympathy rather than compassion," Mrs. Anderson said. "Instead of teaching a child the way he needed to learn, they reduced expectations."
In 1983 Mrs. Anderson started Gateway School in her basement with seven students. Nancy K. Smith, a nurse who had a son with severe dyslexia, joined her in 1986. Later Bev Lau, who is now director of the school, joined the effort.
From the beginning Gateway offered a rigorous curriculum but tailored it to meet the needs of individual students: Gateway teachers learn to "teach to the individual, not the curriculum." Last year the school had 36 students, with three full-time teachers and several part-time ones. Children are grouped by reading level, not age. Small classes and individualized tutoring are costly but key components of the school. Gateway uses a reading method called Slingerland, named after Beth Slingerland, who adapted the Orton-Gillingham reading method to classroom use. It is a multi-sensory method that engages at the same time a student's visual, auditory, verbal, and kinesthetic ways of learning. Teachers introduce words and consonants in sequence. Students are taught to see the letter or word, say it, and use their sense of touch to form it.
Mrs. Smith tests potential students to see if they are dyslexic or have some other problem like fetal alcohol syndrome or autism: "If I find that there is a flat line, then there are other problems going on. If there are peaks and valleys, strengths and weaknesses, that's a dyslexic mind."
Some students have social strengths that help them deal with dyslexia, but others dig themselves into deep behavioral holes. That's why the school sets strict behavior guidelines, while recognizing that many children are coming to the school after years of failure. "If we can teach them, if they begin to learn, the behavior stops," Mrs. Anderson said.
Gateway is expensive to operate because of its small classes, low teacher-student ratio, and extensive teacher training and monitoring. Its tuition is $7,000, about $3,000 more than the typical Anchorage Christian school; Gateway receives no support from a denomination or local church. Rising tuition has placed the school out of reach for many families, but overall demand from Christian and non-Christian parents remains high.
Meanwhile, Gateway's mission statement is clear: "Gateway School and Learning Center is committed to high quality education from a Christian perspective for students with dyslexia." Students, as Mrs. Anderson notes, "come knowing that we pray every morning. And that we are going to talk about God as a reality of our school." | Susan Olasky
Some of the worst junk e-mail doesn't come from scam artists selling quack medicine, get-rich schemes, and cut-rate vacations. It comes from friends and family.
A Silicon Valley computer-security company called SurfControl released a study that concluded friendly junk e-mail distracts people from work, eats up computer resources, and wastes company time.
The survey conducted by Market Facts found that workers with Internet access get up to 30 such e-mails per week. SurfControl claims this is far greater than the amount of junk marketing mail flowing through servers. The research firm also claims each piece of unwanted mail wastes $1 in lost productivity, including reading, deleting, computer maintenance, and distraction from more profitable activities.
Part of the problem is that junk mail increasingly includes sound files and graphics that eat up disk space. Sometimes friendly mail can unwittingly carry viruses that can take down a computer network. Many companies have policies explicitly discouraging non-work use of their networks, but those can be hard to enforce.
Prince and the revolution
Tausha Prince is a junior in college now, and her high-school Bible group, called the World Changers, has dissolved. But last week, it changed the world a little.
A federal appeals court last week ruled that the Bethel School District in Washington State violated Miss Prince's rights in 1997 by refusing her group the same status granted to other groups.
Miss Prince was in the 10th grade when the controversy started. School officials said her club could not have access to funds given to other clubs. They barred the group from making announcements over the school's PA system and restricted its fliers to one bulletin board. The district argued that recognizing the club would "destroy the careful balance between the free speech and establishment clauses of the First Amendment."
But Miss Prince's attorneys argued that her own First Amendment rights were violated, and that if the school accepts one sort of "noncurriculum" club, it must accept others. Originally, U.S. District Judge Franklin D. Burgess dismissed the complaint on summary judgment. But two members of a three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in Miss Prince's favor, with one judge partially dissenting.
WCC: World Council in Crisis
We are in a crisis," intoned Catholicos Aram I, moderator of the World Council of Churches' Central Committee, in the final hours this month of the governing body's 10-day meeting in Geneva. WCC financial officers had reported a shortfall of nearly $4 million in income in 2001, and the WCC had exhausted all its reserves. To cope, the committee agreed to cut programs and staff quickly, approve a $3.5 million contingency mortgage against the WCC's property, and slash the 2003 budget of $32 million by at least $5 million.
The committee also addressed another thorny issue: how to keep its remaining 20 or so Orthodox bodies in the fold. The Orthodox have long chafed at domination of the WCC's theology, worship styles, social-action agenda, and decision-making processes by mostly liberal Protestants. The Orthodox communions in Bulgaria and the Republic of Georgia bolted earlier, and others have been threatening to walk.
Responding to a special commission's recommendations, the committee agreed to replace the WCC's parliamentary voting procedure in decision making with a consensus method. Fewer controversial actions and pronouncements should be one of the results. Also, the committee agreed to drop "ecumenical worship" from its terminology (the Orthodox complained it suggested an accord in doctrine and liturgy that doesn't exist).
Not all committee members were happy with the changes. And some women clergy saw the revised approach to common worship as partly an unnecessary accommodation of Orthodox opposition to women's ordination. Lutheran bishop Margot Kaessmann, a Central Committee member from Germany since 1983, went home in a huff and resigned from the committee. (The German churches account for one-third of the WCC's income.)
Philadelphia pastor William Shaw was elected three years ago to the presidency of the National Baptist Convention U.S.A., reputedly America's largest predominantly black denomination, on a reform ticket. (The NBCUSA had been tarnished by sexual and financial scandals of its previous president, Florida pastor Henry Lyons. He is serving a five-year term in a Florida prison following his 1999 conviction on charges of embezzlement and theft.)
At this year's convention, which brought an estimated 30,000 churchgoers to Philadelphia, Rev. Shaw showcased some of his reforms so far. Among them: an overhaul of the constitution that reduces the power of the president and increases his accountability; payoff of the mortgage on the NBCUSA's lavish but under-used headquarters building in Nashville-it stood at $3 million in 1999 and in danger of foreclosure despite numerous unaudited funding drives; tighter financial controls; a clergy retirement and benefits plan; research to determine total NBCUSA membership more accurately (preliminary "extrapolation" of figures suggests about 7.5 million-still an inflated figure by some accounts).
Rev. Shaw said much of his work so far has just been "rubbish clearing ... so that we can get to the main task: centering ourselves in Christ."
Man knows not his time
Steven Snyder, president of Washington-based International Christian Concern, who gained prominence from Indonesia to Pakistan and Sudan for his forays into religious conflict and for provocative lobbying on behalf of the persecuted, died in a Baltimore hospital of a bacterial blood infection on Aug. 27. He was 53.
Silber's shot across the bow
Boston University Chancellor John Silber came back from a six-year hiatus from running the day-to-day operations of the school and promptly jumped into a culture war. He shut down a homosexual support group at a prep school run by the university.
The neoconservative gadfly and former Democratic gubernatorial candidate in Massachusetts complained that the program encourages kids to have sex outside of marriage. "We're not running a program in sex education," Mr. Silber told The Boston Globe. "If they want that kind of program, they can go to Newton High School. They can go to public school and learn how to put a condom over a banana."
The school involved in the controversy is the BU Academy, which includes grades 8 to 12. The school boasts some of the highest SAT scores in the country.
Mr. Silber lamented that kids have sexual messages "pounded" into them "from the time they're 6 years of age." He told the paper that troubled students should consult teachers instead of a support group, and he objected to the politicization of sexuality. "It's none of my business," he said. "So don't make it my business by insisting on rubbing my nose in whatever your preference is, because I don't want to know."
The support group's defenders claim they protect kids from being threatened and harassed by others. Kevin Jennings, executive director of the New York-based Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, murmured about Mr. Silber violating federal equal access laws. "Certainly he's violating the spirit of the law and we're looking at whether he's violating the letter of the law," he said. But some parents objected that such groups encourage kids to experiment sexually.
Mr. Silber won the Democratic gubernatorial nomination in 1990 (some called him a Reagan Democrat) but lost to Republican William Weld in the general election. He became known nationally for his outspoken style and fiery temper. | Chris Stamper
Indiana University is America's top school. Top party school, that is, according to rankings by the Princeton Review.
Every year, tens of thousands of students fill out surveys for the New Jersey company, which is best known for test preparation. The company bases the party school label on reports of alcohol and marijuana use, the popularity of fraternities and sororities, and how much time students spend studying outside of class. The company includes the controversial list in its popular Best Colleges guide.
The American Medical Association is the list's most prominent critic, claiming it legitimizes alcohol abuse on campus. "Students who are looking for little more than a good time may be influenced by this ranking, and the 'party school' designation becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy," said the AMA's Richard Yost.
Topping this year's party school list are Indiana, Clemson University, the University of Alabama-Tuscaloosa, Pennsylvania State University, and the University of Florida.
The clergy's tax-exempt housing allowance under the U.S. tax code is safe-for now. But stay tuned.
A three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco late last month dismissed a high-profile case involving Southern California megachurch pastor Rick Warren, a Southern Baptist. Rev. Warren had sued the Internal Revenue Service after the IRS rejected his $80,000 claim as a housing allowance. The IRS argued that only the fair-market rental value of a minister's home is exempt; Rev. Warren contended all costs related to clergy housing are exempt.
Instead of ruling on the case's merits, the panel initially decided to explore whether the religion-based exemption itself violates the Constitution's Establishment Clause. It asked Southern California University law professor Erwin Chermerinsky to file a friend-of-court brief on its legality.
Alarmed, Congress hurriedly enacted legislation in May to strengthen the exemption in law. And to head off the court's intervention, both Rev. Warren and the IRS, joined by the Justice Department, asked that the case be dismissed.
Wanting to keep the constitutional question alive, Prof. Chermerinsky opposed the motion for dismissal. But in its decision last month, the court said he hadn't established grounds for continuing in the case. However, the panel suggested he could now file his own separate lawsuit as a taxpayer questioning the exemption's constitutionality.
Prof. Chermerinsky told reporters he will do just that.
A Roman Catholic church in Medicine Hat, Alberta, canceled the long-planned wedding ceremony this month of Celina Ling and her non-Catholic fiancé three days after a newspaper article appeared, quoting her as an employee of Planned Parenthood.
Angry and "devastated," Miss Ling took her story to the media. She said she had confirmed the wedding plans with church officials nine months ago, paid a deposit, and completed mandatory marriage preparation classes. She said she had told Rev. John Maes, the parish priest, that she worked for Planned Parenthood, and he said nothing about it.
Rev. Maes says he doesn't recall being told, and declines to comment further. But Bishop Fred Henry in Alberta stood behind his priest. A Catholic can be forgiven for having an abortion, he said, but cannot publicly favor abortion and work for a pro-abortion organization without risking excommunication. There's no "wiggle room" on the abortion issue in the Catholic Church, he declared.
Forgiveness is available to those who are repentant, the bishop said, "but it's hard to construe of anybody being penitent when they run to the media and try and politicize the issue."
Korey Smitheram wants to cut the sex, violence, and bad language from films sold in his video stores-and his customers, obviously, appreciate it. So when he got wind of a possible lawsuit from film directors, he filed suit first, asking a federal judge to affirm his right to edit his movies.
Mr. Smitheram and two partners own Clean Flicks of Colorado, a franchise of Utah-based Clean Flicks (a chain with 70 stores nationwide and an online rental "cooperative" at mycleanflicks.com). He noticed on the website of the Directors Guild of America that movie directors planned to seek a court injunction against his livelihood. Directors Guild spokesman Andrew Levy said the guild has taken no legal action and that the information should not have been posted on the website.
Clean Flicks spokesman Pete Webb said that movies are edited "to remove the 'rough edges'-the objectionable content-only for the family viewing audience.... [They] appreciate the story line or historical context, and want to be able to view the movie, without having to listen to the 'F' word."
Clean Flicks calls its movies "E-rated," meaning edited for content. Editors mute offensive language on the soundtrack, and splice out sexual and violent scenes. In The Patriot, for example, one scene shows a cannonball blowing a man's head off. This is typical of the content that is cut from Clean Flicks tapes, according to Steve Taylor, owner of a Clean Flicks store in Ames, Iowa. Movies like Traffic, True Lies, Twister, and Saving Private Ryan are among the 350 titles sold there.