Posts Tagged ‘school’
Posted by mattusmaximus on December 20, 2012
As I recently blogged, there was the all-too-predictable nutty and inhuman reaction to the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School from the religious zealots in our nation in the past few days… it’s the fault of gays and atheists, don’t ya know! Thanks to all who have reblogged (thanks to Phil at Skeptic Money ), tweeted, commented, and emailed me with feedback about that blog post. I wanted to share with you all a really good bit of correspondence I got from my online friend “Other Jesus”, because it goes to the root of some deeper questions related to religion and how people do/don’t think about it. Read on…
I liked your article. I was actually waiting for these groups to emerge. Most of the responses on all sides of the background debate have responded in predictable manner. I know the main characters are the anti- and pro-gun groups, the “more mental health” people, and the “we need more God in school…” religious folks. But some of the most annoying folks are the “prayers and hugs” crew in the periphery. Every tragedy like this evokes a “hug your kids and pray for the family of the victims”. How’s that working? (Don’t quote me on the above!)
The Huckabee premise deserves a more blatant study and response. So Mike thinks we need more God in school for protection. Meanwhile, some folks are calling for full-time armed security in schools (Sean Hannity, eg.). So what if God applied for the security guard job at a school? Well the principal would need to review His resume and he/she might ask for more explanation about the following:
1) Where was God during the murder of Able? Was it preventable?
2) Where was God during the murder of the Egyptian first born in the 10th Plague? What about His alleged
ties to the Angel of Death?
3) Wasn’t God in the land of His “chosen people” during Herod’s “murder of the innocents”? Did He take any steps to prevent the slaughter?
4) During the Great Flood, what did God do to protect the babies and young innocent children? Did he have any role in the cause of the flood?
Now these are events from long ago, so the principal might accept God’s excuse that “that was then, this is now”. So how about a more modern example? A school like Huckabee wants: With God fully in-place. Maybe God’s checkered resume can be redeemed.
5) Where was God on December 1, 1958? Was he watching a student play with matches in the basement of Out Lady of Angel’s Catholic school in Chicago? What did he do when the young man ignitee a trash barrel? Did he take any action to stop the fire before it killed 92 kids and three nuns?
I don’t think that the principal conducting the interview would have a hard time deciding whether or not God was qualified, despite the endorsement from Mike Huckabee.
(NOTE TO SELF: Be very skeptical of anyone Mick Huckabee refers.)
And here are some other good points brought up by various people who read my article:
What really irritates me are those who claim that shootings happen at schools because God is not allowed in schools. However, that does not explain why students at a Jewish school in France (earlier this year) were killed by a gunman. Does God only dwell in Christian schools? The point is, belief in God has nothing to do with these tragic events. Horrible things happen because horrible people cause them to happen – it is not the result of divine punishment.
So how is it that shootings have occurred in churches, religious schools and if no sin is greater than another; why all the child molesting and rape in churches? Has God been removed from there as well.
Also, I’d like to know how Mike Huckabee explains the fact that slavery and segregation were legal while much of that praying was going on in schools.
Hmm, good questions. Food for thought, folks… food for thought.
Posted in religion | Tagged: Adam Lanza, agnostic, atheism, atheist, belief, children, Conn, Connecticut, conservative, crazy, CT, demographics, evangelical, fags, God, God hates fags, gun laws, gun violence, guns, homosexuals, mass hysteria, massacre, media, mental health, Mike Huckabee, Newtown, prayer, religion, religious, religious right, right wing, school, school violence, secular, secularism, separation of church and state, shooting spree, shootings, students, teachers, United States, victims, Westboro Baptist Church | Leave a Comment »
Posted by mattusmaximus on December 18, 2012
You’d pretty much have to be living underneath a rock to not have heard about last Friday’s tragic shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT. All told, 20 children and 6 adults were killed by the shooter, Adam Lanza, before he killed himself. Understandably, people all over the nation are numb and puzzled about how something like this could happen. I know that at the high school where I teach, it has certainly been a topic of much debate and conversation. One of the most asked questions is “Are our schools safe?” – in general, the answer is yes.
In addition, at a time like this people are looking for answers and asking “Why?” In answer, some are talking about the issue of gun control (the shooter had easy access to guns), while others are talking about mental health issues (society doesn’t pay enough attention to mental health); what seems to be common to these, and other, analyses is that they are based mostly upon media-fueled speculation at this stage. Speculation runs rampant, and facts are frustratingly few and far between…
… Enter the God Squad. These are the dim-witted troglodytes whom you could have easily predicted would crawl out of their caves spewing the usual disgusting, vile-filled claptrap about how this is all somehow “God’s punishment”, and how they know God’s feelings on the matter! Here’s just a sample of the putrid idiocy pouring forth from the fundamentalist faithful…
Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee suggested Friday that the absence of God from the nation’s public schools may have contributed, in part, to the deadly school shooting in Newtown, Conn., that killed 26 people, including 20 children.
Appearing on Fox News, Huckabee, an ordained Southern Baptist minister, was asked by host Neil Cavuto how “God could let this happen.” Here’s his response:
It’s an interesting thing. We ask why there’s violence in our schools, but we have systematically removed God from our schools. Should we be so surprised that schools would become a place of carnage? Because we’ve made it a place where we don’t want to talk about eternity, life, what responsibility means, accountability — that we’re not just going to have be accountable to the police if they catch us, but one day we stand before a holy God in judgment. If we don’t believe that, then we don’t fear that. And so I sometimes, when people say, ‘Why did God let it happen?’ You know, God wasn’t armed. He didn’t go to the school. But God will be there in the form of a lot people with hugs and with therapy and a whole lot of ways in which he will be involved in the aftermath. Maybe we ought to let him in on the front end, and we wouldn’t have to call him to show up it’s all said and done at the back end.
… My mother, atheist Madalyn Murray O’Hair, fought to make the public schools the armed camps they are today by removing prayer, the recognition of the authority of God. In 1962 and 1963, I was attending an all-boys public high school in downtown Baltimore, Md. The school was a magnet school before the term even existed and was intended to prepare young men for college, majoring in science and engineering. There were 1,800 teenage boys in the school, and there was not a cop in the building – ever. The doors were unlocked and often the un-air-conditioned rooms had open windows. There were no metal detectors, no picture IDs, and students went in and out the doors on the honor system.
What happens when you’re raised by America’s most famous atheist? Read William Murray’s riveting and redemptive new book, “My Life Without God”
The authority of God was present, even though I am very sure many of those young men, including myself, had some pretty vile thoughts that were not in the least way moral. The presence of the authority of God, vested in the teachers by His recognition every morning, was reinforced by the churches and the families of the students.
That high school has since merged with a girl’s school in another location, for purposes of political correctness. The last time I checked, the old building itself was the headquarters of the Baltimore City Schools Police Force, something that did not exist when Baltimore’s population was nearly double what it is now. Every kid at every school now has a photo ID. All the doors of every school are locked. All doors have metal detectors and drug-sniffing dogs roaming the corridors. I am told that every school in Baltimore has at least one armed “safety officer.”
In the vast majority of America’s public schools, the authority of God has been replaced with the authority of the iron fist of government. Morals? Without the authority of God, there are no morals, and none are taught in the public schools today. The ethics that are taught are situational, perhaps the same situational ethics that led to the logic that caused the tragic shootings in Newtown. …
and (of course it wouldn’t be complete without these assholes)…
The Westboro Baptist Church, the controversial group known for protesting outside funerals of slain U.S. service members, announced that it will picket a vigil for the victims of Friday’s Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, the second-deadliest school shooting in American history.
Shirley Phelps-Roper, a spokesperson for the group and, like most members of the organization, a relative of the group’s founder, Fred Phelps, announced on Twitter on Saturday the group’s plan “to sing praise to God for the glory of his work in executing his judgment.” …
So what are we to take away from this incredibly frakked up display of asshattery? Apparently, we are to all repent and come to the realization that God’s pissed off at us (“us” being the United States) for not forcing children to pray in public schools (and by “pray” I mean “pray to Jesus Christ”, because that’s what these morons really mean), or because our nation actually has the audacity to recognize and respect the rights of atheists and gays, not to mention in the United States we actually acknowledge the separation of church and state.
Yee-haw… Fun with Fundamentalism. Image Source
So what are we to make of this reaction on the part of the ultra-religious to the Sandy Hook massacre? As I’ve noted before, the fundamentalist right-wing segment of our nation is starting to slowly dwindle, and there is a more secular demographic rising in this country. I think part of what we may be seeing here is the gradual, but inevitable, unhinging of the religious right as they start to see their power over the rest of us who don’t share their twisted worldview slowly slipping away. They cannot handle the fact that their worldview isn’t THE worldview which is forced upon the rest of society through the power of the culture and the government, and that is making them nuts.
I predict more of the same in the future: every time there is a hurricane, earthquake, or other natural disaster; every time there is a man-made disaster (such as the Sandy Hook massacre); every time anything bad happens, these self-described servants of the Almighty (who, of course, have the message straight from God himself, you know) will scurry in front of the TV cameras to spread their message of doom and judgement in a vain attempt to appear relevant. And as time goes on, they will get ever more extreme with their message, as they marginalize themselves even more.
And that’s the key thing right there… what these preachers, prophets, and fundamentalist believers really fear is exactly what’s happening to them: they are slipping into irrelevance. Let them, I say, because civilized society has no need for their sociopathic mythologies.
Posted in religion | Tagged: Adam Lanza, agnostic, atheism, atheist, belief, children, Conn, Connecticut, conservative, crazy, CT, demographics, evangelical, fags, God, God hates fags, gun laws, gun violence, guns, homosexuals, mass hysteria, massacre, media, mental health, Mike Huckabee, Newtown, prayer, religion, religious, religious right, right wing, school, school violence, secular, secularism, separation of church and state, shooting spree, shootings, students, teachers, United States, victims, Westboro Baptist Church | 3 Comments »
Posted by mattusmaximus on December 5, 2012
My friend and skeptical colleague Phil over at Skeptic Money has passed along some welcome news: the Louisiana private school voucher program has been found to be unconstitutional! Whoo-hoo!!! [**Aside: If you recall, the state of Louisiana has been a hotbed of creationist activity over the years; more on that here and here. And yes, that fact is important. Read on...]
This is news partly because the program was being used to funnel public school money to private religious schools which specialized in indoctrinating children into fundamentalist forms of Christianity which taught, among other things, creationism as “science”. In addition, let us also not forget that this was the award-winning 21st century educational plan which would teach that the Loch Ness Monster was real as a way of supporting creationism. Phil has some more interesting information on these developments:
News from the State of Louisiana today!
“A state judge on Friday shot down Louisiana’s sweeping school voucher program, ruling that the state could not use funds set aside for public education to pay private-school tuition…”
This is huge. They were going to spend $11 Million to teach creationism.
“Louisiana is preparing to spend over $11 million to send 1,365 students to 20 private schools that teach creationism instead of science as part of Governor Bobby Jindal’s new voucher program.”
This $11 Million is to come out of the public schools. According to a report from “American Legislative Exchange Council” Louisiana ranks 49 out of 51 (They also ranked the District of Columbia). I guess they want to race to the bottom.
The governor is not happy about the ruling.
“Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, who had championed the program, called the ruling “wrong-headed” and “a travesty for parents across Louisiana who want nothing more than for their children to have an equal opportunity at receiving a great education.” “
A great education? These children are not being educated. They are being thrown back to the bronze age. We might as well teach them that 2+2 equals “fish”.
“While State District Judge Tim Kelley ruled the voucher program unconstitutional, he did not issue an immediate injunction to stop it. The 5,000 students currently receiving vouchers will be able to continue attending their private schools pending an appeal, state officials said.”
What? The state creates a blatantly illegal program and a judge rules against it but yet it continues. It looks like they are still going to spend that $11 Million on creationism. I feel like we live in some kind of bizzaro world.
This is all promoted by a guy that wants to be the next President of the United States Bobby Jindal.
So… the program will continue for the immediate future (probably until the end of the current academic year), which will no doubt give Jindal and his political allies time to come up with another cockamamie scheme that will bilk the taxpayers and direct their money towards religious zealots who have no interest in teaching their kids (or anybody else’s kids) science.
I agree with Phil. The irony here is that Jindal and his religious right allies go on and on about “giving the kids a great education” but it’s apparent they wouldn’t know good science education if it bit them squarely in the ass. Remember folks, these are the same people who want to give public tax money to schools that teach the Loch Ness Monster is real. Just chew on that for a bit, folks…
In conclusion, I think it is appropriate to end this post with the following clip from Bill Maher’s movie Religulous. In it he is interviewing a U.S. Senator (Mark Pryor from Arkansas) who is trying to justify creationism. When challenged by Maher, the Senator responds with the following, quite telling, line: “You don’t have to pass an IQ test to be in the Senate…”
Yup, he really said that. Watch for yourself (the dialog leading up to the line starts at 4:00):
Posted in creationism, cryptozoology, education, politics | Tagged: A Beka, A Beka Book, academic, Accelerated Christian Education, ACE, biology, Bob Jones University, Bob Jones University Press, Christianity, court, creationism, cryptids, cryptozoology, curriculum, dinosaur, education, evangelical, evolution, freedom, fundamentalist, government, ID, intelligent design, Jindal, judge, Loch Ness, Loch Ness Monster, Louisiana, Mother Jones, Nessie, origin of life, politics, private, public, religion, ruling, school, schools, science, separation of church and state, Skeptic Money, teach all views, teach the controversy, theory, unconstitutional, vouchers, Zack Kopplin | 1 Comment »
Posted by mattusmaximus on August 8, 2012
This past June, I reported that the science curriculum in Louisiana was on its way to going down the proverbial tubes, and evidence of this fact was made available through the uncovering of a creationist curriculum which wants to seriously teach the “reality” of the Loch Ness Monster. Well, as I predicted over a year ago, due to the stupidity of Louisiana’s so-called “academic freedom” law, the state will now be funding (with taxpayer dollars) private school vouchers which will be used to push all manner of nonsense, far beyond your usual garden-variety young-earth creationism, in Louisiana schools. It seems that the door to all manner of flummery and idiocy has been thrown wide open, and the students of these Louisiana voucher schools will be subjected to some truly unbelievable “facts” in their education; just get a load of these (from Mother Jones)…
—By Deanna Pan
Separation of church and what? Currier & Ives/Library of Congress
Thanks to a new law privatizing public education in Louisiana, Bible-based curriculum can now indoctrinate young, pliant minds with the good news of the Lord—all on the state taxpayers’ dime.
Under Gov. Bobby Jindal’s voucher program, considered the most sweeping in the country, Louisiana is poised to spend tens of millions of dollars to help poor and middle-class students from the state’s notoriously terrible public schools receive a private education. While the governor’s plan sounds great in the glittery parlance of the state’s PR machine, the program is rife with accountability problems that actually haven’t been solved by the new standards the Louisiana Department of Education adopted two weeks ago.
For one, of the 119 (mostly Christian) participating schools, Zack Kopplin, a gutsy college sophomore who’s taken to Change.org to stonewall the program, has identified at least 19 that teach or champion creationist nonscience and will rake in nearly $4 million in public funding from the initial round of voucher designations.
Many of these schools, Kopplin notes, rely on Pensacola-based A Beka Book curriculum or Bob Jones University Press textbooks to teach their pupils Bible-based “facts,” such as the existence of Nessie the Loch Ness Monster and all sorts of pseudoscience that researcher Rachel Tabachnick and writer Thomas Vinciguerra have thankfully pored over so the rest of world doesn’t have to.
Here are some of my favorite lessons:
1. Dinosaurs and humans probably hung out: “Bible-believing Christians cannot accept any evolutionary interpretation. Dinosaurs and humans were definitely on the earth at the same time and may have even lived side by side within the past few thousand years.”—Life Science, 3rd ed., Bob Jones University Press, 2007
2. Dragons were totally real: “[Is] it possible that a fire-breathing animal really existed? Today some scientists are saying yes. They have found large chambers in certain dinosaur skulls…The large skull chambers could have contained special chemical-producing glands. When the animal forced the chemicals out of its mouth or nose, these substances may have combined and produced fire and smoke.”—Life Science, 3rd ed., Bob Jones University Press, 2007
3. “God used the Trail of Tears to bring many Indians to Christ.”—America: Land That I Love, Teacher ed., A Beka Book, 1994
4. Africa needs religion: “Africa is a continent with many needs. It is still in need of the gospel…Only about ten percent of Africans can read and write. In some areas the mission schools have been shut down by Communists who have taken over the government.”—Old World History and Geography in Christian Perspective, 3rd ed., A Beka Book, 2004
[And, believe it or not, it actually gets worse from here... ]
Posted in creationism, cryptozoology, education, politics | Tagged: A Beka, A Beka Book, academic, Accelerated Christian Education, ACE, biology, Bob Jones University, Bob Jones University Press, Christianity, creationism, cryptids, cryptozoology, curriculum, dinosaur, education, evangelical, evolution, freedom, fundamentalist, government, ID, intelligent design, Loch Ness, Loch Ness Monster, Louisiana, Mother Jones, Nessie, origin of life, politics, private, public, religion, school, schools, science, separation of church and state, teach all views, teach the controversy, theory, vouchers, Zack Kopplin | 3 Comments »
Posted by mattusmaximus on June 25, 2012
I’ve written here before about the state of Louisiana’s so-called “academic freedom” law which is essentially a backdoor attempt to push creationism as science in public school science classes. As many critics of the law pointed out when it was passed, this would serve to dumb-down science standards and inevitably harm the education of students in Louisiana by placing pseudoscientific notions such as creationism on an equal (or better) footing than accepted evolutionary science. Well, as predicted, the consequences of this law are now becoming realized, and I’m sorry to say that things in Louisiana are getting even more stupid than I had predicted. Read this article for more detail:
For the 2012-2013 school year, thousands of Louisiana students will receive state-funded vouchers to attend private schools, many of which hold religious affiliations.
One of these schools — Eternity Christian Academy, in Westlake, Louisiana — utilizes the A.C.E. Curriculum Program, a Christian fundamentalist course of study that teaches students to “see life from God’s point of view.” And unbeknownst to most theologians, scientists, and amateur monster hunters, the Lord’s viewpoint apparently incorporates Scotland’s favorite cryptid.
Herald Scotland reports that a certain textbook in the A.C.E. curriculum transcends standard Creationist teachings and instead informs students that the Loch Ness Monster is proof positive that evolution never happened. (And here I always assumed Nessie was The Great Beast from the Book of Revelations.) Explains Herald Scotland:
“One ACE textbook – Biology 1099, Accelerated Christian Education Inc – reads: “Are dinosaurs alive today? Scientists are becoming more convinced of their existence. Have you heard of the ‘Loch Ness Monster’ in Scotland? ‘Nessie’ for short has been recorded on sonar from a small submarine, described by eyewitnesses, and photographed by others. Nessie appears to be a plesiosaur.”
Another claim taught is that a Japanese whaling boat once caught a dinosaur. It’s unclear if the movie Godzilla was the inspiration for this lesson.
Jonny Scaramanga, 27, who went through the ACE programme as a child, but now campaigns against Christian fundamentalism, said the Nessie claim was presented as “evidence that evolution couldn’t have happened. The reason for that is they’re saying if Noah’s flood only happened 4000 years ago, which they believe literally happened, then possibly a sea monster survived.”
The Loch Ness Monster as “evidence” of creationism?!!… Oh… my… FSM.
So it’s come to this, folks. As a direct result of the “academic freedom” law in Louisiana, some versions of creationism which are probably even too extreme for many creationists are being seriously pushed as part of the “alternate science” curriculum available to teachers and students…
Apparently, this is the new cover for biology textbooks in Louisiana – image source
I wish I could say that I was surprised, but honestly I’m not. This sort of development is the inevitable result of making science standards so loose (through the invocation of so-called “academic freedom”) that just about any kind of stupid, pseudoscientific nonsense which is completely unsupported by the scientific community can pass muster and be taught as if it were science. As I wrote recently, perhaps this is just the kind of thing we need to have happen in states like Louisiana that try to give a thinly veiled wink and nod to creationists under the auspices of “academic freedom”; perhaps it is time to advertise far and wide that any kind of nonsense can be taught in Louisiana schools. And perhaps there will be a point where the politicians in Louisiana may become so terribly embarrassed at what is passing for “education” (after all, one has to wonder how amenable they would be to Islamic creationism, for example) in their state that they might act to remedy the situation.
Until that day comes, however, I think we should be prepared for much more silliness to come out of Louisiana. One thing’s for sure, it will be entertaining.
Posted in creationism, cryptozoology, education | Tagged: academic, Accelerated Christian Education, ACE, biology, Christianity, creationism, cryptids, cryptozoology, curriculum, dinosaur, education, evolution, freedom, fundamentalist, government, ID, intelligent design, Loch Ness, Loch Ness Monster, Louisiana, Nessie, origin of life, politics, private, public, religion, school, schools, science, separation of church and state, teach all views, teach the controversy, theory, vouchers | 5 Comments »
Posted by mattusmaximus on January 24, 2012
This past September I attended Dragon*Con in Atlanta, and I participated in many events and interviews, etc. However, in my role as both a skeptic and a teacher, one of the most fruitful things I did was to participate in the Skeptrack discussion of how to approach the question of debunking in the context of education. The panel was an important discussion moderated by JREF President, D.J. Grothe on the topic of Education vs. Debunking, how they are different and when and how each should be used to the greatest effect. The discussion dealt with the issue in the context of the classroom as well as beyond in the broader culture. Below is the video footage of the discussion; I hope you find it useful…
Image and video footage courtesy of the fine folks at Skeptrack.org
Posted in education, skeptical community | Tagged: Barbara Drescher, beliefs, Brian Hart, bunk, critical thinking, D.J. Grothe, DC, debunking, discussion, DJ, Dragon Con, Dragon*Con, education, educator, footage, Grothe, inquiry, James Randi, James Randi Educational Foundation, JREF, Kylie Sturgess, Matt Lowry, method, panel, podcast, school, skeptic, Skeptic Magazine, Skeptic's Society, Skepticality, skepticism, Skeptrack, student, teacher, teaching, video | Leave a Comment »
Posted by mattusmaximus on January 7, 2012
I recently wrote another guest post for the James Randi Educational Foundation over at the Swift blog, and I just wanted to share it here as well. I hope you find it thought-provoking…
Anyone who knows me knows that I have no children of my own, and in all honesty I try to avoid little kids when I can. However, there is one thing I find really endearing about kids, especially the younger ones: their unbridled curiosity and willingness to ask questions.
I think the reason why I like this curious nature in children is pretty simple: to them the world is so new and fresh, everything is wondrous and interesting. In addition, they come at things so much more openly and honestly than most adults, because they are ignorant in the truest sense of the word and have no embarrassment whatsoever about asking direct questions about pretty much anything. To them, no subject is off limits or taboo; they manifest the spirit of free inquiry in its most unblemished sense.
And this sense of free inquiry and curiosity usually comes out in the form of asking question after question on all manner of topics. I think it is most especially interesting when it is related to topics regarding mythology, religion, life, death, the afterlife, etc. And how many times have you been interrogated by a particularly precocious young child, only to be bombarded by more questions once you’ve provided what you thought were adequate answers? I have had this happen to me more times than I can count, both as an educator and an uncle.
Sadly, this wonderful behavior of kids doesn’t often last into their adult years. Somewhere between those wonder-filled years of curiosity and college age, a lot of kids are too often encouraged by the adults around them to specifically not ask questions, especially on certain topics (often on the most important topics). Why this is I’m not sure, but I have a few guesses…
I think part of the problem is that some adults are made quite uncomfortable by the questions that little children can ask, precisely because they tend to break those social taboos which have been conditioned into the adults. Another thing that happens is that some adults tend to discourage children from asking questions because the adults don’t have the answer to the question, or they’re just tired of the kid asking questions, so rather than admit ignorance (or frustration) they tell the child to stop asking questions. And while kids are innately curious, if they get exposed often enough to the adults in their life telling them not to ask such questions, then they’ll eventually start to believe that they shouldn’t be asking such questions. And that’s a sad thing to see.
For example, I witness something along these lines a couple of years ago as I was traveling to Utah with some of my family. One of my nieces, a little girl of six years of age, and I were looking out over the gorgeous scenery of Bryce Canyon, admiring all of the columns, stratigraphy, and erosion patterns within the canyon walls. And, in accordance with that curiosity of young children, my niece asked me where the canyon came from. I proceeded to explain to her about the idea of erosion due to rainfall and the flow of water, pointing out to her some very small rivulets in the dirt off to the side of the trail due to a recent rainstorm. I further explained that given enough time, these erosive processes can eventually produce wondrous geologic structures such as the canyon which stretched out before us.
I eagerly awaited her next question, when something very interesting happened. My little niece’s older sister (a teenager) came along and told her that “God did it, just like we learned in Sunday school and the Bible says in Genesis”. I wasn’t surprised by this reaction from my older niece, seeing as how the members of her immediate family tend to be young-earth creationists who believe the Earth was created in six literal days about 6000-10,000 years ago. But what did surprise me (and delight me greatly) was my younger niece’s response to her older sister’s “explanation”; she looked up at her older sister and, without skipping a beat, simply asked: “Yeah, but how did God do it?” …
Click here to read the rest of the post at Randi.org
Posted in education, free inquiry | Tagged: answers, blog, children, creationism, critical thinking, curiosity, education, James Randi Educational Foundation, JREF, kids, questions, religion, school, skepticism, Swift, teaching | 1 Comment »
Posted by mattusmaximus on October 16, 2011
I am happy to report that the James Randi Educational Foundation is now awarding education grants to help educators with the development and implementation of lessons and curriculum related to teaching skepticism and critical thinking skills. Read on for more information…
… Right now, the JREF has a limited number of educator grants (up to $500 each) available to help offset the cost of developing or improving critical thinking and scientific skepticism programs in the classroom. Preference is given to projects aimed at creating educational content related to science or critical thinking through examination of the paranormal and pseudoscience.
Funded projects can include (but are not limited to) working with JREF educational modules (and related media) or developing new content to be made available to the educational community through the JREF.
If you’re interested in working with the JREF to share critical thinking tools with your students at a time when it matters most, please reply and let me know. I’m happy to answer any questions you have, discuss your ideas for projects, and explain the simple grant application process. For more information or to apply, contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
Posted in education, skeptical community | Tagged: camps, college, community centers, critical thinking, education, educator, elementary, funding, grant, high school, James Randi Educational Foundation, JREF, junior high, Michael Blanford, middle, money, museums, school, skepticism, teacher, teaching, university | Leave a Comment »
Posted by mattusmaximus on September 17, 2011
While I was at Dragon*Con a couple of weeks ago, one of the things I did was to participate in a very useful panel discussion on the Skeptrack. The title of the panel was “Education vs. Debunking”, and the panel was an important discussion moderated by JREF President, D.J. Grothe on the topic of Education vs. Debunking, how they are different and when and how each should be used to the greatest effect. The discussion dealt with the issue in the context of the classroom as well as beyond in the broader culture. The entire discussion was recorded and is being broadcast on the Skepticality podcast, so if you’re interested check it out…
Posted in education, skeptical community | Tagged: Barbara Drescher, beliefs, Brian Hart, bunk, critical thinking, D.J. Grothe, DC, debunking, discussion, DJ, Dragon Con, Dragon*Con, education, educator, Grothe, inquiry, James Randi, James Randi Educational Foundation, JREF, Kylie Sturgess, Matt Lowry, method, panel, podcast, school, skeptic, Skeptic Magazine, Skeptic's Society, Skepticality, skepticism, Skeptrack, student, teacher, teaching | Leave a Comment »
Posted by mattusmaximus on August 8, 2011
I had a recent blog post about my presentation at The Amaz!ng Meeting 9′s “Skepticism in the Classroom” workshop, but that was just a warmup, folks! I’m happy to say that this past weekend, while at the American Association of Physics Teachers summer meeting in Omaha, Nebraska, my skeptical physics colleague, Dean Baird, and I presented a more detailed and physics-oriented version of Skepticism in the Classroom
Our workshop was about 4 hours long, and we took turns presenting a wide variety of physics lessons that incorporate some aspect of skepticism and critical thinking into them (what I like to call “guerrilla skepticism”). For reference, all of Dean’s lessons are available at this link over at his Blog of Phyz. I share my lessons with you below, so feel free to use, adapt, and share them as you wish:
1. Astrology Debunking Activity and Solutions – This activity allows you to test out the notion of astrology with your students in a controlled manner. It illustrates pretty clearly that astrology doesn’t really work.
2. Bed of Nails – I’ve made a very detailed blog post already on the subject (at the link). However, at the end of that blog post the Youtube video of the moron cutting his arm with a razor sharp machete doesn’t work – try this one instead [warning: not for the squeamish!]
3. Board Breaking & Karate – This is another subject on which I have written before (click the link). However, included in my blog analysis of the topic are some additional materials: an article about the physics of karate and a notesheet that I use in my classes to illustrate the physical principles behind this not-so-miraculous feat.
4. Einstein Cranks – This is a link to a blog post I wrote earlier about how many physics cranks and pseudoscientists abuse physics and the rules of science in an attempt to promote their nonsense.
5. EMF Woo – These are a collection of blog posts I have made over the years regarding the nonsense and pseudoscience surrounding EMFs (electromagnetic fields). These posts – and the lessons associated with them – range from addressing claims of low-frequency EMFs inducing cancer to ghost-hunting woo (and the companies that promote such nonsense).
6. ESP Claims – Here I have collected a couple of lessons dealing with the claims of ESP and psychics. Most notable are the notesheet for James Randi’s Secrets of the Psychics video and an article from Skeptical Inquirer magazine I have my students read on the issue. You can find Randi’s excellent video for free on Youtube…
7. Glasswalking – This is just a blog post and video of why it is that walking barefoot on broken glass won’t cut you, provided you don’t slide your feet. Hint: nothing paranormal or supernatural is required!
8. Haunted Lab – Every year around Halloween I do a special, exploration-based lab that incorporates a lot of cool physics concepts in with some debunking of paranormal claims. It’s great fun!
9. Hot Stuff! – In this collection of lessons I address pseudoscientific claims from the standpoint of thermal physics. Specifically, I have my students learn about how firewalking isn’t paranormal, and I also have them look at the claims that a man uses his “chi” to avoid getting burned when he puts molten lead into his mouth!
10. Magnetic Therapy – This lesson is an article and notesheet regarding this time-honored classic of alternative “medicine” woo.
11. Mega-Woosh Water Slide – A couple of years ago, this Internet video went viral, supposedly showing a man making a near-impossible jump across a valley using a huge water slide. Well, it wasn’t real, but a basic analysis of physics also shows it is highly implausible as well.
12. Neat Tricks – These include some nice, off-the-cuff critical thinking exercises for your students: my “Uncle Harry” card trick, and my self-tying knot trick (the solution is here). Enjoy!
13. Optical Illusions – This is a really broad category: it includes a PowerPoint I give on illusions and pareidolia, an article I have my students read on so-called “mystery lights”, and some stuff about how spirit orbs are not what New Agers claim.
14. Ouija Board – At the link is a blog post I wrote on a lesson I use involving magnetic fields to get students to question the claims behind Ouija boards.
15. Pyramids & Aliens – These lessons focus on addressing claims by various UFOologists that aliens built the Egyptian pyramids. I have my students read an article from Skeptical Inquirer on the subject, then I give them a lecture on the physics of how humans (using simple technology) can build a pyramid, given time and a large workforce.
16. Movie Physics – In this end-of-the-year lesson, I get my students to think a bit skeptically regarding the physics presented in various movies.
It is our hope that through these workshops we can get more and more teachers to consider pursuing these skeptically-oriented topics in their own classrooms. We have plans to try doing workshops at future teacher conferences, such as the upcoming National Science Teachers’ Association meeting in 2012. Stay tuned!
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