Is free college the answer?

According to, plank number one in Bernie Sanders’ presidential platform is a plan to provide free college tuition at four-year public colleges and universities, funded by a tax on Wall Street stock transactions. I think overall that this would be a great thing, a great investment in America’s future, and an entirely appropriate use of government funds. That said, however, I have some reservations about whether this would really do as much good as we might hope.

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Anti-evolution bill nixed by lawmakers

Good news from South Dakota. As the Argus Leader reports:

Senate Bill 114 was killed last week. More accurately, it was deferred by the state senate’s education committee to the “41st legislative day,” which doesn’t exist.

Senate Bill 114 was another one of those stealth creationism bills designed to encourage public school teachers to introduce kids to Genesis under the guise of “questioning” evolution. And you have to love this bit:

Language in the bill is also similar to model legislation from a group that has created intelligent design curriculum for private and home school teachers. Representatives for the Washington-based Discovery Institute say they don’t support teaching intelligent design in public schools.

No, of course they don’t support teaching ID in the public schools. They just design the curriculum (and help craft laws like SB 114) to make it possible for someone else to support teaching ID in public schools. See, that way, when the school district gets sued for First Amendment violations, and loses, the Institute doesn’t bear any of the liability, and are free to move on to the next school district.

Accurate labelling

With all this intelligent design and duplicitous “teach the controversy” stuff floating around, it’s been a while since I’ve seen a good old-fashioned, unadulterated creationist screed. I recently came across a prime specimen, however, and I thought it might be fun to go back and take a look, for old time’s sake. The author, one A J Castellitto, is a freelance writer who has a BS in Counselling and Human Services, and whose research has been published in such well-respected science journals as The Christian Post, Intellectual Conservative and Reformed Perspective Magazine. His current paper made it through peer review and was accepted for publication by

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None of this namby-pamby “Intelligent Design” stuff here

Jack Wellman, at the Christian Crier blog, wants creationism taught in the public schools. And to his credit, he doesn’t try and hide behind a facade of pseudo-scientific “intelligent design” either. He wants creationism, plain and simple.

Should creationism be taught alongside evolution? Is it fair to give students only one theory to believe? Is it legal to do so in the public schools?

The obvious answers to the above are no, yes, and no, in that order. Schools exist to teach kids about reality, of which there is only one, and given limited time and resources it’s entirely fair and reasonable to give kids the scientific understanding that best explains the real world. The science classroom is not a public forum devoted to providing different religions free marketing for competing ideologies.

But Mr. Wellman would contest that observation, and offers us what he calls “Five Crucial Reasons to Teach Creationism in Public Schools.”

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Public schools “terrified” of creationism

Writing for the “Communities” section of the Washington Times, one Frank Kacer asks, Why are public schools terrified of examining evolution & creation?

If evolution is true, there’s a simple way for public schools to destroy any student’s belief in creation. Simply test each theory objectively in science classes using the scientific method. Instead, irrational lawsuits, court orders and fears of anything hinting of Christianity have become the weapons of choice to prevent use of objective science.

So, what are public schools really afraid of?

One wonders exactly who Mr Kacer believes the public schools are suing. If he stopped for a moment and remembered that the public schools are the ones being sued for First Amendment violations, he’d know that it’s only the creationists in public schools who are afraid right now. And if they’re not, then the school district is going to get taken to court and ordered to obey the law.

But despite his garbled grasp of the relevant facts, I think he has the germ of a good idea. Creationism has benefited a great deal from its special, protected status as a religious account of origins. I think we should teach the controversy and let public schools teach kids exactly why Genesis is a myth. If Mr Kacer and other creationists really want a head-to-head confrontation over the scientific study of origins, let’s take them up on it. [Read more…]

Bible distribution program in FL

The Christian Post reports that a conservative Christian group has begun a probably-illegal Bible distribution program in local high schools in the area.

Volunteers from a Florida-based group have distributed Bibles to the lunchrooms of several high schools in the Sunshine State.

World Changers of Florida, a conservative organization, distributed the Bibles on Wednesday, with a focus on high schools in Orange County.

There are apparently some restrictions on the program, but definitely not enough to comply with the First Amendment.

“Passive distribution means the Bibles may be placed on one unmanned table for distribution in a location where students normally congregate during non-instructional time,” reads the memo. “The representatives may only be allowed to replenish Bibles if they run out and must remove any undistributed literature at the end of the distribution day.”

Has the ACLU heard about this? Anybody got any copies of The God Delusion they’d like to make available for distribution in the same cafeterias?

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Clay County schools lose a good man

The Florida Times-Union reports that the Clay County school district has lost an unusually talented superintendent.

Ben Wortham closed his office door behind him last week ending a 43-year journey that has taken him from the classroom to superintendent of Clay County schools…

Three weeks after he became superintendent in 2008, the state cut the district’s funding by 5 percent. That was a $16 million loss in the middle of the school year. It was the first in a continuing series of similar state funding cuts to school districts statewide…

He said the district’s weathered the financial storm “with just a minimum of disruption to our district in the way of classroom and personnel.”

Clay is designated “an academically high performing” district by the Florida Department of Education. It’s one of 17 such districts statewide.

It also ranks 12th by student achievement statewide. It has an overall grade of “A” from the state. Clay’s graduation rate is 94 percent, while its dropout rate is 1.2 percent annually.

He was defeated by a fellow Republican who made a campaign issue out of “See You At The Pole” prayer rallies.

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Taking Back the Public Schools

Writing for The New American, Sam Blumenfeld has a plan for taking back the public schools from “the socialists” who, according to Blumenfeld, have been engaging in a decades-long plot to produce functional illiterates so that they will grow up to be Democrats. (Yeah, the whole piece is like that.) And his strategy involves, not better funding for public schools, or reducing the burdensome, irrelevant, and unfunded overhead imposed by Bush’s “No Child Left Behind” initiative. No, his strategy is to get parents to push school boards to reject what he calls the “whole language” approach to reading education, and replace it with a phonics-based program instead.

But the parents who put their children in these schools want them to be taught to read. They are the natural allies of the conservatives who want to take the schools back. Just as Obama as community organizer organized the “have-nots” into a local political force, so must conservatives organize parents in their communities — White, Latino, and African American — to pressure school boards to start teaching their children to read with intensive phonics. They can be called Parents for Literacy.

Of course, a phonics-based reading program will need a curriculum specifically designed to teach phonics. I wonder where the schools will be able to find such a thing?

First, we propose that the school board authorize the creation of a pilot program in which Alpha-Phonics is used to teach the worst readers to read. The program will prove that all children can be taught to read provided the correct teaching method is used. Now there are other very good phonics programs in existence, but as the author of Alpha-Phonics, I know how well it works and how inexpensive it is. The board may claim that they don’t have the money for this project. Yet they have enough money for programs that don’t work.

Hey, that’s great, we’ll all just buy his book. Lucky for us we have this opportunity, eh? We don’t even have to give the school district any more money to do it, ’cause they can just use the money they’ve been spending on “bad” programs.

Personally, I’m all for quality reading education, because I had one. That’s one of the ways I can recognize a scam when I see one.

Christian parents suddenly decide secular education is better

Forget about “teach the controversy” and all that stuff about allowing teachers the “freedom of speech” to share their religious opinions. According to the LA Times, Christian parents want the public school system scrubbed clean of any curriculum that even hints at having religious overtones.

Yoga is taught at the local YMCA; at nearby Camp Pendleton, it is used to help Marines who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder after having been in combat.

But soon after yoga teachers began leading students at five elementary schools in twice-weekly sessions of stretching, breathing and relaxing, four dozen parents protested to the school board, saying yoga is a system of spiritual beliefs.

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Good news from Kansas reports more good election results:

Democrat Carolyn Campbell of Topeka won a second, four-year term on the State Board of Education in Tuesday’s election in the 4th District of northeast Kansas. She defeated Republican Jack Wu of Topeka.

Jack Wu moved from California to Kansas to attend the Westboro Baptist Church, and was running for the school board on an “I hate evolution” platform. Apparently Westboro’s famous “God hates America” stand doesn’t play too well in Kansas these days.