A Sad Day for Learners

7 07 2007

Gloria Pipkin of FCAR posted the following today:


Steve Orel, a student advocate and anti-high-stakes-testing activist from Birmingham, AL, died at his home early today, after a two-year battle with cancer. Steve was fired from his job as an adult education instructor in June of 2000, after he blew the whistle on Birmingham City schools for pushing out–involuntarily withdrawing–522 high school students a few weeks before state tests were given, when the school system was under threat of take-over by the state due to low test scores.
In partnership with a Catholic lay order, the Salesians, Steve opened the World of Opportunity, “a civil rights, social justice, educational, and job readiness program” in the Gate City area of Birmingham. Many of the pushed-out students enrolled at the WOO, which is now independent of the Salesians and continues to serve as a haven for the community. As a member of Advocates of Children and Teachers National Organizing
Workshop (ACT-NOW), I joined activists from around the country in honoring Steve Orel and the World of Opportunity with the Courage in Education Award in 2003, at a conference held at the WOO.

Steve Orel’s account of the pushouts, titled “Left Behind in Birmingham: 522 Pushed-out Students,” is featured in Silent No More: Voices of Courage in American Schools (Heinemann, 2003).

Donations to the WOO in Steve’s memory may be made to the following address:

World of Opportunity
7429 Georgia Road
Birmingham, AL 35212-2921

Steve often signed email with these lines from a United Mine Workers song, and they exemplify his philosophy, which we might also apply to our struggles against the most pernicious aspects of the FCAT:

Step by step the longest march, can be won, can be won.
Many stones can form and arch, singly none, singly none.
And by union what we will, can be accomplished still.
Drops of water turn a mill, singly none, singly none.

Rest in peace, Steve.



Steve was truly a wonderful person working in his community to help individual people in many ways. The WOO has been able to afford more than the school supplies they used to ask us to send as they have gained attention and contributions. But they still operate on a shoestring budget and truly will appreciate whatever small contribution anyone can make to the school in Steve’s name.


Coming Soon, Conservative Christian Home Law-Schooling?

7 07 2007

Public school exam questions a la NCLB and Diane Ravitch’s The Language Police, are familiar litigation fodder — but what about professional exams for public practice credentials? Doc, Scott Somerville and most of y’all need to know about this!

It’s news of the $9.75 million lawsuit filed in Massachusetts over the bar exam, by a man who flunked it and (representing himself, poor judgment which alone ought to disqualify him from legal practice!) says it’s all because one inappropriate essay question offensive to his religion, required him to endorse homosexual marriage and parenting law in MA. From the Boston Globe:

Dunne claims the question was used as a “screening device” to identify and penalize him for “refusing to subscribe to a liberal ideology based on ‘secular humanism,’ ”according to his lawsuit.

Our old NHEN friend, economist homeschool dad Paul, might want to take a look too; the plaintiff reportedly argues that the state’s same-sex-marriage law is a “sociopolitical tax” with dire economic consequences for out-of-staters, and that it violates the Establishment Clause, that he’s being forced to accept the “irreligion of Secular Humanism” in order to practice law.

But this all must’ve been God’s will, right? Secular humanism and the People of Massachusetts must be just playing their preordained parts? 😀

A delighted and devil’s advocational Cock of the Snook for this, to Zuzu.