Colorado students could teach their school board a thing or two about history

Students from seven suburban Denver high schools walked out yesterday to protest changes to history curriculum proposed by the majority conservative Jefferson County school board. We aren’t just seeing known culture warriors like the Texas Board of Education attempting to promote American Exceptionalism at the expense of accurate history.

How about that engaged students, who get the point?

How about that engaged students, who get the point?

So, the comments to the effect of, “Meh, why doesn’t Texas just secede?” These comments are missing the point on several levels.

What is so refreshing about this demonstration is that these students have been taught the history of civil disobedience so well that they are standing up to bigoted authorities.  Their teachers also staged a sick out that shut down two schools.  The problem isn’t that they don’t understand politics as usual. They don’t shrug their shoulders in response to injustice; they do something about it.

Why don't the authorities get this?

Why don’t the authorities get this?

Here are some of the social media parodying some of what the adults in authority would like students to learn about the good ole U.S.A.

Jen Caltrider@caltrider  "This woman is really, really happy. " #VacuumingInHeelsRocks #JeffCoSchoolBoardHistory #copolitics

Jen Caltrider@caltrider
“This woman is really, really happy. ” #VacuumingInHeelsRocks #JeffCoSchoolBoardHistory #copolitics

If you know history, the protesters of the Civil Rights era would have said, “Right on!” Only this school board doesn’t want you to read about that, because it would destroy the American Exceptionalism myth they want to sell to kids.

If only Rosa Parks followed orders & sat where she was supposed to, Bengazi never would have happened#JeffCoSchoolBoardHistory#copolitics

 

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?