Texas Textbook hearing Tuesday Sept 15th in Austin

This hearing tomorrow, (Tuesday 2014/09/16) is a general hearing about the social studies textbooks that are up for adoption. Right now, there is a window where publishers can make changes to books prior to the final adoption/rejection that happens at the November SBOE meeting. For this hearing, it’s best as a strategy to first try to get changes made by publishers.
Even mainstream publishers have included changes which present a right-wing conservative Christian bias and even promote 19th century southern white racism.  Much of it qualifies as propaganda. They not only promote Christianity and denigrate other religions, but they also portray certain stories in the Bible as if they were actual historic events.  Read this article in the Washington Post for details.
Some of these changes in the textbooks also treat climate change as ‘questionable’.  Yes, the Social Studies textbooks are now tools of climate science denial.  You can read about that in the National Journal.
Depending on what gets corrected or does not, the secondary push later is for adoption/rejection of publications. No, the board cannot just start the whole process over. They’ve been working on this process for for almost 2 years. So they would never abandon the total effort because they will not believe it warrants that.
If you’re able to testify with us tomorrow, bear all of this in mind.  You’ll only have two minutes to make your case.

Rewriting Texas history books to instill American (Judeo-Christian) Exceptionalism

When I first started studying for the Texas Social Studies Textbook hearings last week to testify with Aron on Tuesday, I expected to find the most egregious historical misrepresentations by non-mainstream publishers like Worldview Software. And of course they didn’t fail to disappoint. Here is a quote from a Texas Freedom Network briefing to give you the flavor of the worldview  they are promoting…

“The spread of international terrorism is an
outgrowth of Islamic fundamentalism which opposes Western
political and cultural influences and Western ideology.”

Is that a fact? Are Islamic fundamentalists the only terrorists? Just in case you aren’t sure whether this publisher is being incidentally bigoted, their worldview on the origin of the inhabitants of Africa is straight out of 19th Century racist theories. I quote from here on out from the Washington Post‘s article on the hearing.

WorldView Software – World History A: Early Civilizations to the Mid-1800s

The text states: “South of the Sahara Desert most of the people before the Age of Explorations were black Africans of the Negro race.”

 Elsewhere, the text states: “The first known inhabitants of Africa north of the Sahara in prehistory were Caucasoid Hamitic people of uncertain origin.”

“Hamitic” pseudo-scientific theories of the origins of Africans originated in the 19th century’s attempt to explain  white supremacist assumptions. They believed that Northern Africans like Egyptians originated from the Biblical story of Noah’s cursed son Ham. They thought that the “Negroid” race as they called it was incapable of building civilizations such as Egypt. They sought to misappropriate their accomplishments to “Caucasoids” such as themselves.

As a teacher, I know that non-mainstream publishers don’t normally make their way into classrooms. No matter how much a crank publisher matches the ideas the right wing ideologues on the State Board of Education want to promote. So at first I wasn’t as worried.

Now that I have reviewed more of what is being published, it is worse than I thought. I am genuinely surprised and disappointed. Even mainstream publishers already on the bookshelves in many Texas classrooms are submitting new texts for adoption that revise history in such a way to emphasize Judeo-Christian influence over the Enlightenment secular ideals that our government is founded on.

McGraw-Hill School Education – United States Government
Text mentions Moses and claims that the “biblical idea of a
covenant, an ancient Jewish term meaning a special kind of
agreement between the people and God, influenced the formation of colonial governments and contributed to our constitutional structure.”

Let me get this straight our government is based on the covenant god gave to Moses in The Torah? The one most American’s break when they have pork ribs at Chili’s or shellfish at Red Lobster? We’re all going to Hell then for breaking the covenant  kiddos!

But wait there is more, I feel like a sadist for the face-palming that results from reading quotes from proposed history books in 2014!  Just a little break here to make you feel better.

You can still register to testify until Monday at 5:ooPM.  Instructions on how to testify and register are at the bottom of this briefing.

Join Texas Freedom Networks “Just Educate!” campaign to reform the Texas Board of Education.

Sign TFN’s petition for accurate textbooks.

Vote for reality based education in the school board. Voter’s Guide

Are you ready for more totally serious inanity from our national publishers?

This publisher goes even further than Biblical times with revising out the Enlightenment…

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt – United States Government: Principles in Practice

Text has a section on “Judeo-Christian Influences” that reads: “The Framers’ political thinking was influenced by a Judeo-Christian religious heritage, which includes traditions common to both Judaism and Christianity. These religions see the law and individual rights as being of divine origin. Moreover, the Framers benefited from the Protestant Reformation, a sixteenth-century Christian reform movement whose leaders developed ideas about individual responsibility, the freedom to worship as one chooses, and self-government.”

Cuz yeah Protestant settlers like the Puritans were all about the “freedom to worship as one chooses”. As long as you agreed with them, and conformed to their ideas of how to worship. If you were a Quaker though, not so much! Quakers were banished, branded, and had their ears cropped.

But what about separation of church and state you say? According to this national publisher…

McGraw-Hill School Education – United States Government

The text states: “Thomas Jefferson once referred to the establishment clause as a ‘wall of separation between church and state.’ That phrase is not used in the Constitution, however.’”

Fixed your wagon didn’t they?

If you think it can’t get more ridiculous, I have barely scratched the surface of what these textbooks are counterfeiting as history. Read the entire Washington Post article if you have a high pain threshold.

 

 

 

Dan Arel’s support is much appreciated. (Thanks for everyone’s support)

Since Aron launched his Patreon, he has been overwhelmed by the by all of the support he has gotten. The support has given him more time for new projects. These are a few of the new things he has been up to in the last 2 months. Like Dan Arel wrote, he has already put 4 podcasts together with his co-host Mark Nebo. This is the latest one with Deb Biennan and Vic Gettman, volunteer Humanist celebrants acting as chaplains at an American Air Force base. They talked about being persistent in providing support for Humanist airmen in the face of the opposition they get on base. The next episode will be live from Apostacon on Sept. 19th. There is an Evening of Scientific Inquiry with Neils Degrasse Tyson during the event also. Hope to see you there in costume! People think Aron is wearing one even when he doesn’t dress up.

Aron has also made  a new series called Living Science Videos with my help.  The mission is to provide teachers and students an introduction to biology based on the Next Generation Science Standards. These standards are opposed by Intelligent Design Creationist Casey Luskin of the Discovery Institute and the Heartland Institute. In a nutshell, their opposition is based on the standards including evolution and climate change. (so accurate science basically) Aron and I are often asked about alternative science curriculum for home schoolers, as it is currently dominated by propaganda mills like The Discovery Institute.

Science advocates often focus on textbook wars and standards adoptions, and these are worthy battles to keep pseudoscience out of classrooms. However, as a teacher, I know a good science teacher doesn’t just use a textbook. In fact, Texas skipped their obligation in 2010 to update textbooks, and is only now starting to update outdated books. Most of the books, I’ve been issued still had Pluto as a planet.  That is why we are producing science educational supplements, to aid teachers and students, who want accurate science and promote science literacy. The last video we made was about how hypotheses are formed and what a scientific theory is.  It answers the question that a lot of people ask, “How do we know?”

He is also finally able to go testify at a textbook hearing even if it is during the weekday now that he is a full time activist.  According to the Texas Freedom Network…

There are numerous issues spread across the dozens of social studies textbooks submitted by publishers this year. These include problems with the way religions are portrayed; endorsement of anti-government, Tea-Party ideology; denigration of affirmative action — to name just a few.

This is the link to find out more about the hearing on Sept 16th. Other projects are in the works, and we’ll update you when they bear fruit.

Duck Cage

I guess this is the star of Duck Dynasty. I don’t know; I’ve never seen the show. Anyway he says that atheists will be converted to end-times Christians if we watch the remake of ‘Left Behind’ starring Nicholas Cage.  Can it believe it took this for me to finally lose the last of my respect for Nicholas Cage?  To see him as the joke that everyone else has already seen for years?

I would say that this comment from the Duck Dynasty guy would have cost me my faith in humanity too -except that he is also the producer of this film, and we know how important money is when compared to anything else.

Irrational Rowlett – again

This video is from last April.

Last year, we had a bit of a confrontation with the city of Rowlett Texas, and the invocation that was illegal then, and for which they will not be held accountable. Now things have changed, but the more things change, the more they stay the same, and you’re about to read a demonstration of that.

Randy Word, one of my activist friends, has just relayed the following message:

The city of Rowlett has rejected our request for a local atheist resident to give an invocation at a city council meeting. They are now hiding behind Liberty Institute, a far right Christian pro bono legal entity, that defends religion sponsored by the government. This rejection flies in the face of the Greece NY vs Galloway Supreme Court decision last May that legalized sectarian prayer to open government meetings as long as there is no discrimination regarding who gets to give the invocation. Greece NY has allowed non-Christians to give the invocation including an atheist.

Metroplex Atheists and Metroplex Atheists Rowlett are calling for a protest at the city hall on 9/16 at 7PM which is 30min before the council meeting officially begins. The intent of the protest is to bring attention to the discrimination mentioned above and not the fact that the meetings are opened with an invocation. Resident Rowlett atheists will then speak to the council during the citizens input portion of the meeting.
We are inviting all atheists and anyone else who is against this type of discrimination to join us in this protest. We will have some signs but strongly recommend that you bring you own. Here are some ideas but if you make your own we recommend that you stay “on message” as described above. Please come to the next Metroplex Atheists bus mtg and help us make signs for the protest.

Rowlett – For Christians Only
Stop the Discrimination Now
Rowlett – Only Christians Allowed
Stop the Christian Bullying
Treat Your Citizens Equally
Stop the Hypocrisy
Your Policy is Anti-American
You Have Now Proven Your Discrimination, Exclusionism and Bias
Stop Hiding Behind the Liberty Institute
Greece NY Allowed an Atheist Invocation – Why Won’t You?
Stop Violating Your Own Invocation Policy
Rowlett – Non Christians Beware!

Another thing that someone could note in a public comment is that the Council has violated its own invocation policy in order to get speakers in the past. In 2012, Pastor Shane Pruitt of Connection Community Church gave the invocation five times (Jan 17, Apr 3, May 1, Nov 6, and Dec 4), in violation of the Council’s policy (see policy, page 5, #8). Additionally, for the Council meeting on June 7, 2011, the invocation was led by Senior Associate Pastor Clay Womack, First United Methodist Church of Garland. Though the First United Methodist Church may have “an established presence in the local community of the City of Rowlett, Texas,” the Pastor from Garland does not represent the local congregation. His inclusion therefore violated the policy (see policy, page 4, #4b). It also seems that the Council ends up giving the invocation itself more often than not. If the Council is this hard-pressed to fill its invocation schedule, perhaps that is an argument for being more inclusive.

Page 4 – 4b b The Congregations List shall be compiled by referencing the listing for churches congregations or other religious assemblies in the annual Yellow Pages phone books published for the City of Rowlett Texas research from the Internet and consultation with local chambers of commerce All religious Congregations with an established presence in the local community of the City of Rowlett Texas are eligible to be included in the Congregations List and any such Congregation can confirm its inclusion by specific written request to the Secretary Page 5 – 8 The Secretary shall make every reasonable effort to ensure that a variety of eligible invocation speakers are scheduled for the Council meetings In any event no invocation speaker shall be scheduled to offer a prayer at consecutive meetings of the Council or at more than three 3 Council meetings in any calendar year

Thanks

A reminder note from a Christian that Asians don’t belong here

I found this note on my car, after taking my children to the Asian part of town to eat.

 

As for me and my house we serve bacon. Checkmate theists. -wisdom from a facebook friend.

As for me and my house we serve bacon. Checkmate theists.
-wisdom from a facebook friend.

We love Vietnamese food because of our family heritage. It turns out this is part of a Biblical verse…

And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the LORD, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.” Judges 24:15

So somebody took time out of their day to to remind patrons at an Asian shopping center, that they aren’t to serve the gods of their ancestors. There are a few racist assumptions here.

  • Many Vietnamese Americans are Catholic.
  • That people of Asian descent are dwelling on another person’s land. Many of us are citizens, or have a right to immigrate here by the law of the land.
  • That Asian Americans aren’t native born, or it doesn’t matter if they are.

I could go on here, because there is much ignorance displayed by this note, but I have already proven the point.

Ra-Men – Being progressive

I’m doing a new podcast. Mark Nebo of BeSecular co-hosts the show, and he acts as producer as well.  He wanted a title that had my name in it.  My sense of humor came up with the Ra-Men.

I want to do something different. Anybody can bitch about any situation and every solution anyone ever proposes. But just to be progressive, I want to talk to people who are not only proposing solutions instead, but who are actually implementing them; Even if we don’t yet know that it won’t work, so long as there is still reason to believe that it *might* work. Think politics, economics, technology, environmental issues, social issues, civil rights abuses, reforms or responses to oppression, opposition to certain legislation, moral obligations for the sake of humanity or the spotted owl, the advancement of science, education, or the distribution of drinking water, etc. Whatever. Any suggestions? Who do you see trying to do something to fix things that might actually make a difference?

On being Mrs Ra (I get comments)

The first thing I need to get out of the way is for the most part it is great to be Mrs. Ra. I get to meet all sorts of interesting and intelligent freethinkers all over the country. And over time, I have come out of my introverted shell more. The cool thing lately, is that I meet people, who recognize me as well and thank me for projects I have done like Answers in Science. Although this article focuses on the big names, it actually started out because of my tiny webcast getting into it with Ken Ham. Really I don’t see myself as having the impact that Aron or the others at that seminar do on pseudoscience. But this is one instance where the roles were reversed and he was a part of something I started. That is one of the negatives about being “Mrs. Ra”, that people sometimes discredit or devalue my contributions. Even well meaning people some feminists themselves, who otherwise like me, have casually let it slip that people would not listen to me if it weren’t for Aron.

Others who know me personally and understand my contributions, as well, when they see anonymous comments along these lines, say ignore it they are horrible people, who lead horrible lives. In truth, that advice has made me stay silent about the friendly fire I’ve experienced inside the atheist community. I don’t want to validate people with attention, who are motivated to bully and harass people online. In their view I am “strong and independent” if I say nothing, and any response to their bullying is seen as “whining”. A  win-win situation for them right? Stay silent and they continue bullying, and it is bullying not trolling because people actually are that hateful in real life. Understand it is not unusual for people to call women bitches, cunts, stupid, emotional, irrational, feminazi, whore, slut, or  fat in real life. I have had people in real life call me most of those things when they are angry even total strangers. Many women have and even sometimes by other women.

If you do say something, you are seen as a complainer or a whiner. As a middle school teacher, I often see bullied children, who have had the onus of bullying flipped on them. One child actually said “snitches get stitches” when I was asking the class to tell me later if they knew who stole her phone. The school situations are different than online ones where drama gets magnified exponentially, and attracts rubber-neckers to the trainwreck. That one reason alone is a good reason to not say anything about it, especially if you want to accomplish positive things. It decreases the signal to noise ratio.

A good example of this is the science curriculum supplement videos I am working on with Aron. To be sure, Aron would do a kick ass job in articulating tough topics like evolution on his own. However, can he read broad state standards, and focus specifically on what students need to do well in school? An example, he could do this awesome, enriching  presentation on the development of the eye for teaching natural selection. However, if peppered moths are the tested example then it will be less effective. Does he have classroom experience with students, who don’t have a science background? Does he have training in pedagogy? Has he had the experiences of failing on a lesson he thought was great, and later revised it to make it better? Nope. As a teacher, I have had those experiences. I am helping to amplify his signal, and it is one of the greatest things about being Mrs. Ra. I know that the two of us would have a hard time replacing each other as a companion and partner. We make each other better people.

So, I go on the Magic Sandwich Show with Aron to explain the project to people, and I have an anonymous hater in the comments being up-voted that I am supposedly a “stupid whore”. Never-mind that although others like Concordance and Aron have more scientific gravitas, I am the only one on the panel, who is a certified science teacher with classroom experience. It doesn’t matter how true something I say is, or how qualified I am to speak on a subject. What matters in this case is that I disagreed in another show with Thunderf00t on feminist issues, and that I even identify as a feminist in other cases. Thunderf00t can’t be wrong to his fans, I have to be misunderstanding him because I am stupid, irrational, or emotional. And too, I am the emotional one when this commenter has used a discussion on science education to talk about how much he hates me. Hate is an emotion too and expressing inappropriate emotions is irrational too, right?

Even though it annoys me that the noise this person makes derails the discussion to an irrational discussion on whether I deserve to be hated or not, I still have to say this even against the very good reasons to leave it alone. I have to speak up in order to raise awareness of the strong influence of misogyny most virulently in the online atheist community. The things I have said, have been said by men like Aron in the same venue, and he is given a fair hearing and not subjected to irrational hatred. And this is why these people are not simply trolls, but bullies. Bullies are raised in the might makes right mentality. This puts men in unhealthy competition with one another and women at the bottom of the hierarchy, and their speech is viewed more negatively. Not just me all women.  Women are stereotyped as talking more to the extent that they believe this themselves. In truth, men dominate most mixed group interactions, including ones where decisions affect women too like legislatures.

Sometimes, it isn’t even a conscious effort on the part of men to dominate the conversation. Like the study I cited says, women themselves think they are talking more than they are because of societal norms that value taking turns and being polite in girls where men don’t have the same expectations. It happened here when I was discussing rape prevention on MSS with a panel of men, I am the only woman in the panel with life experiences on the topic, and still I wasn’t allowed to finish most of my points by some of the men.

The most important point I am getting at here is deciding whose speech is important in the atheist community is not like a competition in Game of Thrones where you win or you die. That world is so obsessed with dominance and being in power that it ignores the eminent threat of hordes of zombies.

game-of-thrones-new-poster

The most bad ass motherfucker gets to speak. Amirite?

 

I’d like to see a better world without the negative,regressive,domineeering effects of religious dogma.  Not a world without religion where the playground bully even if he isn’t the best leader wins. A world like this…

Not perfect, but light years ahead of the world we live in.

Not perfect, but light years ahead of the world we live in.

 

Anyhow to end on a more positive note, here are some comments of people that love me and get me. I meet these people in real life too, even in Bible Belt buckles like East Texas. A couple expressed to me there how puzzled they were, by some of the disagreements on women’s rights on my appearances on MSS. A lot of people don’t think it is cool to be hateful.

Here are the comments if you are a hater choke on it!

 

Mrs. Ra has an excellent point about creationists redefining words to suit there agenda. They use the same tactics while interpreting the Bible.
I bet Aron and Mrs Ra could come up with a damn good home schooling curriculum.Heck, Get Concordance and Ozzy on the team, too. Maybe they could come up with something to make kids woo-woo-proof.
Inspirational lady. I used to have bible studies and brought into the whole god story for a long time but they had too many pathetic answers to my valid questions. There are so many holes in the bible and christianity and religion in general that there is not enough space nor time to go into it all. I HAVE read the bible, cover to cover. I am not just an atheist. I am a guy that believed until I became old enough to grasp the inconsistencies in this nasty ass fairy story that has such a grasp on humanity.
You know what, screw it. I was anti-feminist for awhile, but fuck that. I agree with them on probably seventy percent of what they say. Just because I’m not big on the feminist culture doesn’t mean I’m not a feminist. I’ll still oppose censorship and misandry and racism when I see it in that community, but no movement is perfect. It’s better to try to fix the broken parts than to throw the baby out with the bathwater.  Lilandra is right, feminism is a part of humanism.
Bravo Lilandra!Thank you for your take on humanism.. It is very much appreciated. I really love your views on contraception. You and your husband are a gift to rational people :)
(and hopefully to those non-rational people as well)

Beeker Bod

3 months ago

Finally some women on the panel…but wait!! Lilandra, thumbs up. The other two…urggh!! I guess they made things lively through their outrageous statements but I’d love to see more deep thinking women joining in on the show.

I think there’s nothing wrong with diverse ideas within secular communities. Opposing abortion for instance seems a fair stance to me, even if I disagree – if anything it highlights that the conservatives actually do not have biblical reasons for it. It’s a philosophy on the meaning of human life, nothing more. I think it can be easily exposed as false though through plenty of thought experiments (as can be the radical “unlimited abortion” idea).No doubt many of us still hold baggage from a religious upbringing. But the main point is broken. We cannot say “god says so” and stop thinking. No doubt some still do similar things, but it’s not as easy. We know we have to consider morality carefully, and if someone points out our errors we have little defense but to argue our position (and perhaps to find that it’s not as strong as we thought). That doesn’t guarantee we’ll have the same conclusions (wouldn’t that be boring!), it just takes away one false escape card.
Lilandra has been given the chance to speak several times and has made good on the opportunity. she is finding her voice and it seems to suit her. good on ya Lilandra.
aron ra, aron ra, ra ra ra!
I think AronRa just got schooled by his wife Lilandra :P
Very interesting speech.
I could go on, but you get the point.

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I almost forgot that I was inspired to speak out by Laci Green’s new video where she admits she is a feminist and gives 51 reasons why.

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