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Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Teaching Methods

The Jesuits' school experiment
By Robert Pigott for BBC News, Chicago

The power of faith - coupled with a down to earth approach to the business world - has been harnessed by Jesuit priests in the US to send thousands of the poorest black and Hispanic children from deprived inner city areas to university.

The Jesuits have set up a network of schools which take students from neighbourhoods beset by gangs, drugs and crime, and give them an intensive high school education costing $10,000 (£5,300) a year.

At the age of 14, children must commit, single-mindedly, to working for a place at college.

The dress code is strict, punctuality rigorously enforced, and students who lie about being on drugs are kicked out. So are any who promote, or recruit for, gangs.

In return they get an intensive high school education in small classes, freedom from intimidation and a counselling system that does its best to defuse domestic issues such as abuse, violence, drugs and crime.

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Hizbollah hands out cash to war victims
By Alistair Lyon reporting from Beirut

A block of flats destroyedHizbollah handed out bundles of cash last Friday to people whose homes were wrecked by Israeli bombing, consolidating the Iranian-backed group's support among Lebanon's Shi'ites and embarrassing the Beirut government.

"People already had faith in Hizbollah, this will strengthen their faith," said Ayman Jaber, 27, with a wad of $12,000 (6,300 pounds) in banknotes Hizbollah had given him.

Israeli and U.S. officials have voiced concern that Hizbollah will entrench its popularity by moving fast - with Iranian money - to help people whose homes were destroyed or damaged in the 34-day conflict with Israel.

Hizbollah has not said where the funds are coming from to compensate people for an estimated 15,000 destroyed homes. The scheme appears likely to cost at least $150 million. The Lebanese government has yet to launch anything similar.

Many Lebanese say the conflict with Israel has enhanced Hizbollah's standing both in Lebanon and beyond.

At least 1,183 people in Lebanon and 157 Israelis were killed in the conflict that erupted after Hizbollah captured two Israeli soldiers in a cross-border raid on July 12.

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Restoring Jefferson's reputation
A POINT OF VIEW, by David Cannadine

Jefferson: Governor, secretary of state, vice president, presidentUS President Thomas Jefferson's reputation has taken a battering in recent years, but his towering intellect and secular rationalism wouldn't go amiss today.

According to some, the United States was a nation created on the Enlightenment principles of secular rationality and religious freedom, and it was one of the founding fathers of the American republic, the nation's third president, Jefferson who had made this possible.

The years since then have not dealt so kindly with Jefferson's reputation. These days, the Enlightenment, of which he was a transatlantic product and ornament, is now denounced by many non-western scholars as something wholly bad, for they regard it as the means by which Europeans created and manipulated knowledge to achieve and legitimate their power over the whole of the globe.

In the United States, the religious right is in full cry, and almost half of all Americans believe the Bible story about the creation of the world in seven days. In such a climate of opinion, Jefferson's brand of detached, sceptical rationalism seems to many at best outmoded, at worst wicked. His ideas of freedom and equality have also been criticised for their prejudice.

In the Declaration of Independence, Jefferson may have urged that all men were created equal, but this noble vision was confined to white males, and it didn't encompass white women or blacks. To make matters worse, Jefferson had owned slaves on his Monticello estate, and in 1998 great controversy was aroused when it was alleged that he might have fathered an illegitimate child by one of them.

Thomas Jefferson may no longer be quite the unblemished hero he once was. But as we contemplate our own world riven by sectarian conflict and religious hatred, we could certainly use some of his cool, sceptical rationalism just now.

Pictures courtesy of BBC News online

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