Posts Tagged “education”

A historical event that Jefferson County schools would not be able to teach kids (In case you were taught by Jefferson County schools, or for some other reason don't recognize it, this was the fall of the Berlin Wall) / PsiCop modification of Sue Ream photo, via Wikimedia CommonsConservatives have strange ideas about how teaching works. For instance, a lot of them think teaching evolution in science classes — which is currently the only known scientific explanation for our planet’s diverse life forms — is a form of persecution against Christianity and part of an effort to abolish that religion. Also, a lot of them think teaching kids things like slavery will cause kids to hate their country or something. They also worry that teaching kids about things will somehow force them to do them; e.g. teaching kids about communism will convert them to communism.

That the teaching of history, in particular, doesn’t work the way conservatives think it does, should be rather obvious. For instance, my 4 years in university learning medieval history didn’t make me into a crossbowman, swordsman or jouster, even though I learned about medieval military methods and read about a lot of tournaments.

An example of the outright-fucking insanity that erupts when conservatives get their hands on history curricula can be seen in this report by the New York Times on recent actions by the Jefferson County, Colorado school board (WebCite cached article):

A new conservative school board majority here in the Denver suburbs recently proposed a curriculum-review committee to promote patriotism, respect for authority and free enterprise and to guard against educational materials that “encourage or condone civil disorder.” In response, hundreds of students, teachers and parents gave the board their own lesson in civil disobedience.

On Tuesday, hundreds of students from high schools across the Jefferson County school district, the second largest in Colorado, streamed out of school and along busy thoroughfares, waving signs and championing the value of learning about the fractious and tumultuous chapters of American history.

“It’s gotten bad,” said Griffin Guttormsson, a junior at Arvada High School who wants to become a teacher and spent the school day soliciting honks from passing cars. “The school board is insane. You can’t erase our history. It’s not patriotic. It’s stupid.”

The Times article explains that the board’s conservative majority (3 to 2) has been stirring up trouble for several months, including driving out a 12-year superintendent. They’re really angry, and appear to have fallen for the prevailing conservative myth that public schools are nothing more than Marxist indoctrination camps.

In addition to the false notion that teaching kids about civil disobedience will force them all to become perpetually “civilly disobedient,” they appear to forget that civil disobedience has been used to promote conservative ideals and even to bring about changes that American conservatives approve of. Have they forgotten so soon about things like a western Rightist’s decades-long unrepentant refusal to obey federal law (cached) — a sterling example of civil disobedience if ever there was one? Or about the “Brooks Brothers riot” (in which Rightists working for G.W. Bush campaign used civil disobedience to try to derail the 2000 election recount in Florida)? Or have they forgotten about protests around the world, especially in eastern Europe, that toppled many communist regimes in 1989? Or even that many of their own number want the incumbent president removed from office, and wouldn’t object to civil disobedience or even revolt in order to make that happen?

My guess is, they’re blissfully unaware of this. They tend to be authoritarian, and demand unthinking adherence to authority. That they sometimes, themselves, object to some authority figures just doesn’t register with them all that often. In other words, they’re hypocrites — fiercely decrying civil disobedience if they find it inconvenient, but using it like a tool whenever they feel as though they can. Wah wah wah, little babies.

Photo credit: PsiCop modification of Sue Ream photo, via Wikimedia Commons.

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GeocentrismThis is rather an unbelievable story … but it’s true. A whopping 26% of Americans actually think the sun goes around the earth. NPR reports on a study that explains how stupid they are (WebCite cached article):

A quarter of Americans surveyed could not correctly answer that the Earth revolves around the sun and not the other way around, according to a report out Friday from the National Science Foundation.…

To the question “Does the Earth go around the Sun, or does the Sun go around the Earth,” 26 percent of those surveyed answered incorrectly.

In the same survey, just 39 percent answered correctly (true) that “The universe began with a huge explosion” and only 48 percent said “Human beings, as we know them today, developed from earlier species of animals.”

Just over half understood that antibiotics are not effective against viruses.

You can read about this survey here, on page 48 (cached).

NPR goes on to explain that these results aren’t out of line with similar surveys in Europe and China. Even so, this is astounding. The current heliocentric model of the solar system is over five centuries old, and has been widely taught since the Enlightenment. No American has any valid excuse for not knowing any better. None.

No wonder such a big percentage of the country is consumed by religionism. They’re ignoramuses who just don’t fucking know any better! That they’ve grown to adulthood remaining this ignorant, doesn’t bode well for any possibility they might actually be informed otherwise. Once I grasped the horror of the situation, the following dialog from Babylon 5 leapt immediately to mind:

“Weep for the future, Na’toth. Weep for us all.… I have looked into the darkness, Na’toth. You cannot do that and ever be quite the same again.” (G’Kar to Na’toth, episode “Revelations”).

Weep for us all, indeed. Weep for us all. We’re fucking doomed.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

Hat tip: Marty on Ex-Christian.Net Forums.

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MeditatingDespite the fact that it’s relatively common … and mostly done in a completely non-religious way in the occidental world … there are Christians out there who can’t get over yoga. They don’t understand that, while it did originate within Hindu religious tradition, yoga can be — and almost always is — non-religious. They object to it anyway, just because they think they can.

A couple years ago I blogged about evangelical theologian R. Albert Mohler going on a tear against it, but he’s hardly alone. As the (UK) Telegraph reports, some Christians in California are suing their local school district because it plans to have yoga as part of the phys-ed curriculum (WebCite cached article):

The Encinitas Union School District plans to offer yoga instruction at all of its nine schools from January, despite a protest by parents who say they believe it will indoctrinate their children in Eastern religion.

The growing popularity of yoga is forcing US public schools to address the question of whether it is a religious practice or simply exercise.

The parents have their reasons … which are incomprehensible:

Mary Eady, a parent who has pulled her child out of yoga classes, said the pupils were learning to worship the sun and it was “inappropriate in our public schools.”

I’m not sure how or why Ms Eady thinks yoga is “sun worship.” She might be referring — perhaps — to something like Surya Namaskara, which might be called a yoga practice … however, it is, at best, a subset of yoga, and is certainly not the entirety of yoga.

It’s actually not uncommon for fundamentalist Christians to dismiss or condemn things they dislike as “sun worship.” They similarly dismiss Islam as “moon worship.” I’m not sure why, but they do.

In any event, as I blogged previously, these Christians forget that a lot of the meditative practices which are part of yoga, also happen to be traditional within Christianity … particularly in the monastic and mendicant movements. In other words, they’re condemning something that can also be found within their own religion. The meditative practices of Christian monks, friars, nuns, etc. may not be something these fundamentalist Christians are personally familiar with, but they’re no less “Christian” than any of their own rites or practices. That they’re ignorant of their own religion’s traditions, is the real problem here.

Photo credit: RelaxingMusic, via Flickr.

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Evolution & Darwinism in Schools: Teaching Evolution & Darwinism Encourages Immoral, Bestial Behavior (Image © Austin Cline, Licensed to About; Original Poster: Library of Congress)The drums of the vast armies of Christofascism in the US are beating incessantly, and their forces are on the march. In skirmish after skirmish, they’re gaining victories around the country. The latest of these came in the Tennessee legislature, whose House approved a law that would teach religion in that state’s science classes. CBS News reports on this religionist debacle (WebCite cached article):

Tennessee’s Republican-dominated House of Representatives has overwhelmingly passed a bill that would protect teachers who want to challenge the theory of human evolution.

Thursday’s 70-28 passage of HB 368 [cached] was hailed by sponsor Rep. Bill Dunn, R-Knoxville, who said the proposal was designed to promote “critical thinking” in science classes.

It will be a cold day in hell before any Religious Rightist like Dunn ever truly gives a flying fuck about “critical thinking.” His promotion of this bill shows he has no comprehension of what “critical thinking” is.

The truth of the matter is this: TN HB 368 is NOT — and never was — about “critical thinking” at all. Religiofascists don’t like or want “critical thinking.” They demand, instead, “rigid dogmatic thinking,” and unwavering thralldom to their unbending, irrational metaphysics.

Rep. Dunn’s claim to be concerned about “critical thinking” is a lie, and that places him in my “lying liars for Jesus” club.

For anyone who’s not yet clear on this, “intelligent design” and its various relatives are all just variations on Creationism. It was none other than an evangelical Christian federal appellate judge — appointed by George W. Bush himself — who declared “intelligent design” a sham, a transparent cover for Creationism, in Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District (2005). Prior to that, the US Supreme Court had ruled that Creationism was effectively a religion and is therefore forbidden in public schools, in Edwards v. Aguillard (1987), and subsequently that evolution by contrast is not a religion, in Peloza v. Capistrano School District (1994).

It’s time for America’s religionists to grow up and get over the fact that science is not theirs to control. Evolution is science, at the moment, so that’s what should be taught in science classes. Period. End of discussion.

One final note for any other religiofascists out there who think they can force their religion on public school kids in the name of promoting “critical thinking”: To paraphrase V.P. candidate Lloyd Bentsen’s famous quip, I know Critical Thinking; Critical Thinking is a friend of mine. You don’t know what Critical Thinking is.

Hat tip: Mark at Skeptics & Heretics Forum at Delphi Forums.

Photo credit: Austin Cline / About.Com.

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Bible lecternIn a move sure to make dominionists around the country happy, Kentucky’s Senate just approved a bill which would permit Bible classes in the commonwealth’s public schools. WLKY-TV in Louisville reports on this development (WebCite cached article):

Bible classes could be taught in Kentucky public schools under a bill that’s made it halfway through the legislature.

State Senator Joe Bowen wants Kentucky public school students to have an opportunity to take classes about the bible.

“No doubt about it, the most important book ever written and obviously, it’s had so much influence on our society and all of western civilization,” Bowen said.

The bill in question is SB56; its supporters insist this is not an effort to proselytize to school kids; it’s supposed to be strictly academic-literary:

“What this bill provides for is a social studies course. It’s education, it’s not indoctrination,” Bowen said.

Riiiiiight. As though that’s how it will be. I’m sure some of these “Bible-as-literature” teachers will keep it strictly literary … but not all will. Devout Christians never let the rules get in the way of foisting their beliefs on others … not even the principle of separation of church and state.

Also, even though this “Bible-as-literature” course is only an elective, there’s no doubt that children will be pressured by their communities to take it, at least in areas that are intensively evangelical Christian (and that description applies to a great deal of Kentucky).

SB56 still has to get through the Kentucky House, though, and it’s not likely this will happen. So the Christofascists may well be kept at bay for another year, anyway.

We hope.

Hat tip: Mark at Skeptics & Heretics Forum on Delphi Forums.

Photo credit: FreeFoto.

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Don't tell us the F.F.s owned slaves (based on Gadsden flag, Don't tread on us)Tea Partiers in the great state of Tennessee have decided — as the militant Christianists in Texas have already done — that schools aren’t teaching history correctly. The Memphis, TN Commercial Appeal reports on a list of demands they’ve made of their state legislature (WebCite cached article):

Members of Tennessee tea parties presented state legislators with five priorities for action Wednesday, including “rejecting” the federal health reform act, establishing an elected “chief litigator” for the state and “educating students the truth about America.”

Railing and caterwauling about healthcare reform is, of course, standard fare among tea partiers. And whining about state litigation is, too. Neither of these really is unexpected or novel, then, in light of what the tea partiers have already been doing. What’s alarming is what they demand be done in the TN’s public schools:

Regarding education, the material they distributed said, “Neglect and outright ill will have distorted the teaching of the history and character of the United States. We seek to compel the teaching of students in Tennessee the truth regarding the history of our nation and the nature of its government.” …

The material calls for lawmakers to amend state laws governing school curriculums, and for textbook selection criteria to say that “No portrayal of minority experience in the history which actually occurred shall obscure the experience or contributions of the Founding Fathers, or the majority of citizens, including those who reached positions of leadership.”

TN’s tea partiers, then, don’t want to hear about anything bad about the Founding Fathers. And they don’t want their kids to have to study about those “minorities.” Their complaint is based on their own perceptions about how American history is being taught:

Fayette County attorney Hal Rounds, the group’s lead spokesman during the news conference, said the group wants to address “an awful lot of made-up criticism about, for instance, the founders intruding on the Indians or having slaves or being hypocrites in one way or another.

“The thing we need to focus on about the founders is that, given the social structure of their time, they were revolutionaries who brought liberty into a world where it hadn’t existed, to everybody — not all equally instantly — and it was their progress that we need to look at,” said Rounds, whose website identifies him as a Vietnam War veteran of the Air Force and FedEx retiree who became a lawyer in 1995.

The problem, of course, is that every school in the country already teaches that the F.F.s were “revolutionaries” and that they promoted their own vision of liberty. Their revolutionary nature is clearly implied, for instance, in calling the U.S. war for independence as “the American Revolution.” Moreover, mentioning that the F.F.s owned slaves, does absolutely nothing to change that. To teach both the good and the bad about the F.F.s is not wrong — if anything it’s the right thing to do.

TN’s tea partiers are trying to set up something of a “Founding Father cult” in which the F.F.s end up being venerated as saints or worshipped as demigods … bigger than life, having lived perfect lives, virtuous beyond compare. This flies in the face of reality, however; we all know that no human being is perfect, not even the F.F.s, and to suggest they were perfect, does both them and TN’s school children a disservice.

Also, the choice to do make this demand just before Martin Luther King’s birthday may be coincidental, or it might have been an intended slap at the Martin Luther King Day holiday, a frequent target of complaints about “political correctness.” I just don’t know.

It’s time for tea partiers to fucking grow up for the first time in their lives and stop screaming and wailing that history isn’t what they demand it was.

Hat tip: Unreasonable Faith blog.

Photo credit: My own modified version of the Gadsden flag, from Wikimedia Commons.

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A caveman hanging out with a dinosaurSome Australian Pentescostalists have absconded with education in Queensland, and have begun a laughable effort to swindle school children there into believing absurdities, such as that humans and dinosaurs had once coexisted. News.Com.Au reports on their campaign of ignorance (WebCite cached article):

Primary school students are being taught that man and dinosaurs walked the Earth together and that there is fossil evidence to prove it.

Fundamentalist Christians are hijacking Religious Instruction (RI) classes in Queensland despite education experts saying Creationism and attempts to convert children to Christianity have no place in state schools.

Students have been told Noah collected dinosaur eggs to bring on the Ark, and Adam and Eve were not eaten by dinosaurs because they were under a protective spell.

The Pentecostalists stooped to incredible absurdities in order to withstand any objections that might be thrown at them, such as in the following story:

A parent of a Year 5 student on the Sunshine Coast said his daughter was ostracised to the library after arguing with her scripture teacher about DNA.

“The scripture teacher told the class that all people were descended from Adam and Eve,” he said.

“My daughter rightly pointed out, as I had been teaching her about DNA and science, that ‘wouldn’t they all be inbred’?

“But the teacher replied that DNA wasn’t invented then.”

Really, these people have no shame … and no minds of their own, either.

Hat tip: Unreasonable Faith blog.

Photo credit: dewalt.

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