Reducing men’s participation to the level of women’s interest

Thanks to some links by Jay, I’ve found some of the original writings of Christina Hoff Sommers, and while it’s interesting reading, it does tend to raise some questions in my mind. For example, just clicking around the AEI website, I came across one of her articles entitled “The Gender-Equity Hammer Comes Out.” She’s making the argument that it will be harmful to apply Title IX standards to academic science because, well, look what it’s done to sports.

Although Title IX has contributed to the progress of women’s athletics, it has done serious harm to men’s sports. Over the years, judges, federal officials, and college administrators have interpreted it to mean that women are entitled to “statistical proportionality.” That is to say, if a college’s student body is 60 percent female, then 60 percent of the athletes should be female–even if far fewer women than men are interested in playing sports at that college. But many athletic directors have been unable to attract the same proportions of women as men. So, to avoid government harassment, loss of funding, and lawsuits, educational institutions have eliminated men’s teams–in effect, reducing men’s participation to the level of women’s interest. That kind of regulatory calibration–call it reductio ad feminem–would wreak havoc in fields that drive the economy such as math, physics and computer science.

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Imagine you’re a homeowner in a heavily-wooded neighborhood, in a year when the rains have been few and far between. You’ve watched nervously as the local news covers area brush fires burning out of control, and you’ve tracked the burn on your online maps, and watched them get closer and closer. Then one afternoon, you see the smoke, off in the distance, and within an hour or so the flames themselves become visible. Where are the firefighters? you wonder.

Finally, they arrive, five engines and a score of men and women dressed in heavy slickers despite the oppressive heat. They pull up and rush from their vehicles to form a line between your home and the fire, and—just stand there. The fire gets closer, and still they stand, staring the flames down, but making no move to unfurl any hoses or uncap any hydrants. Now you can feel the heat of the approaching flames, and the firefighters slowly fall back. Inch by inch, foot by foot, the flames advance, and the firefighters retreat. At last, defeated, the flee to their engines and roar away, and you yourself have only seconds to escape, with just the clothes on your back and whatever you managed to throw in the car before the firefighters got there.

Down the road, you catch up with the useless fire crew and demand to know what the hell they were doing, and why they didn’t get out their hoses and fight the fire. And that’s when you find out: they were graduates of the Focus on the Family Fire Fighting Academy, and the only technique they were taught was, “Don’t play with matches.” So that’s what they were doing. They came to your home, and stood between you and the flames, and aggressively did not play with matches.

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Korean creationists get science out of textbooks.

It sounds odd to hear a story like this from Asia, but according to, South Korea has a creationist problem as well, to the point that it’s negatively impacting science education over there.

A petition to remove references to evolution from high-school textbooks claimed victory last month after the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology (MEST) revealed that many of the publishers would produce revised editions that exclude examples of the evolution of the horse or of avian ancestor Archaeopteryx.

I suppose one way to protect America from the negative consequences of sabotaging our own science education is to sabotage everyone else’s as well, but still.

An honest creationist?

It’s nice to know there’s at least one honest creationist left. Or at least, partly honest. And he lives in Georgia.

Educators across the country are now developing what’s called the “next generation of science standards.”

A member of the Villa Rica Church of Christ told Channel 2’s Diana Davis evolution should not be a part of those standards…

[Church member Bob] Staples and his church are fighting for schools to include another view… Staples told Davis he believes in the literal meaning of the Bible: That god created heaven and Earth.  Although, he says, he does not expect public schools to teach the bible’s view of creationism.

None of this namby-pamby “teach the controversy” stuff. He wants evolution out and creationism in. He doesn’t expect to get what he wants, but he’s telling the plain and simple truth about his goals. Rather refreshing in a way.
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And in the end, who pays?

The school board at Cranston RI racked up a $150,000 legal bill in their foolhardy attempt to defend the blatantly unconstitutional prayer banner in the Cranston High School. And now they’ve decided it’s unfair to expect them to pay the whole thing. Their solution? Split the bill with the taxpayers, 50/50. [UPDATE: A commenter informs me that I’ve got it exactly backwards: the city has already paid, and the school board is volunteering to pick up half of the tab. That’s marginally better, but still, that’s $75,000 that could have been spent on educating students, and it’s going to pay off a very foolishly-incurred debt instead.]

The vote was unanimous in favor of the proposed fee split proposal submitted by School Supt. Peter L. Nero.

The school district will pay $75,000 toward the legal fees owed the ACLU for representing Cranston High School West student Jessica Ahlquist, 16, in a challenge to the constitutionality of a prayer banner which used to hang in the school’s auditorium.

Yeah, I know, it’s taxpayer money either way. But still, why should the general public (including atheists, agnostics, and other non-Christians) get stuck paying for Christian evangelism efforts? Give that bill to the local churches and let them split it up. They’re the ones who were driving the original push for Christian supremacy in the public schools. Let them pay their own damn bills.

Aiming for stupidity

The Happy Scientist took a look at the test questions for Florida’s FCAT exam, used to assess whether or not fifth graders have achieved expected levels of scientific literacy for their age group, and found some problems.

I expected the Test Item Specifications to be a tremendous help in writing simulated FCAT questions. What I found was a collection of poorly written examples, multiple-choice questions where one or more of the wrong responses were actually scientifically correct answers, and definitions that ranged from misleading to totally wrong.

Click on the link to see some specific examples (the predatory cows are my favorite). But you know what’s even worse? The response he got when he pointed out the problems.

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Preach the controversy

Chalk up another win for the “Preach the Controversy” gambit injecting creationism into public schools. The governor of Tennessee has decided not to sign the bill, and not to veto it either. This will allow the bill to become law without necessarily making the governor personally accountable for its contents—which are pretty bad.

In any case, the legislators want to do what they can to enable science teachers to teach the controversy. To that end, they’re basically attempting to block any educational authority—school board, principal, the state board of education—from punishing a teacher for covering the “scientific strengths and scientific weaknesses of existing scientific theories.”

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Conservative trust in science in sharp decline

From the color-me-surprised department comes news of this study showing a very clear trend towards anti-science hostility among conservatives and/or people who regularly attend church.

Relying on data from the 1974-2010 waves of the nationally representative General Social Survey, the study found that people who self-identified as conservatives began the period with the highest trust in science, relative to self-identified moderates and liberals, and ended the period with the lowest.

A whole major subculture adopting hostility towards science as one of their major tribal identifiers. This won’t end well.

On the effectiveness of prayer

From time to time various people attempt to study the effect of prayer under real-world conditions, and it occurs to me that we have ideal conditions for undertaking such a study right now. The Cranston West High School has recently concluded a 48-year experiment in which students were exposed to a specific “School Prayer” on a daily basis. Has this prayer worked? Granted, atheists and unbelievers of various sorts might be expected to resist the effects of pious appeals to the Almighty Heavenly Father, so we shouldn’t look at the impact it has had on the godless. Instead, let’s examine the specific petitions in the prayer and see how it has changed believers’ lives, attitudes, and conduct.

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Florida committee takes aim at First Amendment

Looks like some “concerned Christians” in Florida are setting themselves up for a fairly blatant violation of the First Amendment. This time, however, it’s not going to be a local school board. It’s the state itself.

School prayer is one step closer to being legalized in Florida after a proposal was passed in a state Senate committee Wednesday despite strong opposition to the measure.

The bill, if signed into law, would allow school boards to adopt rules that allow “inspirational messages” at school events, according to reports.

The vague language leaves room for schools to allow prayers at events hosted at the school, including sporting games and graduations.

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