Did you know teaching is a skill?

It really is. I will readily confess that the professoriate doesn’t give it much appreciation either — we’re all just tossed straight into the classroom with negligible preparation — but at least we’ve got a kind of Darwinian mode going on to weed out the worst. Jonnny Scaramanga has a guest post from someone who was subjected to Christian fundamentalist education. It’s ugly.

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AtheistTV gets a thumbs up

I was home for a late lunch, so I flipped on the Roku and installed the AtheistTV channel. It was easy, but then you Roku owners know that part already.

The channel is well organized into various categories, but right now content is a little thin — the comedy category, for instance, contains one video, and the movie category…well, there are a few entries there, but it’s a stretch to call them ‘movies’. I guess atheists are a bit light on providing entertainment.

But I consider the sparse content on the day of the launch to be a good thing. My dread was that they’d take a shortcut to filling up the channel by importing youtube videos wholesale, and then it would be an exercise in wading through garbage to find the gems. That’s not the case at all — they’ve exercised restraint and quality control.

So what you’ll find there is a lot of material relevant to American Atheists: recordings of talks at the last few national conferences and the Reason Rally, and AA’s official talk show, the Atheist Viewpoint. There’s a lot of stuff transferred from the RDF. The Atheist Community of Austin is featured with a collection of videos from the Atheist Experience. When I say it’s thin, I’m talking relatively, compared to a movie channel — you could still veg out for many weeks nonstop trying to watch everything on it. It’s still important that they are being selective about putting up videos with thoughtful commentary about atheism.

It also looks ready for expansion, and I’m sure even more will be added. It’s a good strategy for introducing the content of the conferences to a wider audience, and that’s a natural procedure for generating new material.

Some suggestions I’d make: it really is American Atheist-centered, understandably, but it would be nice to see partnering with CFI or American Humanists or British Humanists, for instance, to fold in some of their content. It would also be cool to adopt more science content — HHMI, for example, has lots of free science videos that aren’t at all explicitly atheistic but would fit in well with a theme of scientific naturalism (whether they’d be willing to have them shown on an atheist channel is an open question). Not just science, but also history and philosophy categories would be a nice addition.

Check it out. I think it’s going to be useful. If you have a Roku, it’s definitely worth getting the channel (it’s free, so I’m not saying much there), but it’s also yet another reason to get a Roku if you don’t have one.

Democrat behaving badly

The appointed Democratic senator from Montana, John Walsh, has a master’s degree from the United States Army War College. But does he deserve it?

An examination of the 14-page paper, titled “The Case for Democracy as a Long Term National Strategy” and posted online by The Times, revealed that about a third of Mr. Walsh’s 2007 paper consisted of verbatim language and extremely similar passages to other sources, without any kind of attribution.

“Another third is attributed to sources through footnotes but uses other authors’ exact — or almost exact — language without quotation marks,” The Times said.

That first clause made me pause…you can get a master’s by writing a 14-page paper? My undergraduate students write far more than that every semester. Thanks, War College, for cheapening the value of a degree so much!

Even if two thirds of the essay weren’t plagiarized (really, he wrote about 4½ pages to get his degree?), I’d say that isn’t graduate level work.

The cosmic Neil deGrasse Tyson tour

Now that Cosmos is over, the big man is going to travel about the country, bringing enlightenment.

Best-Selling Author and Host of COSMOS to Appear in LA, D.C., Chicago and More

Tickets On Sale June 13

Chicago – June 9, 2014 – Innovation Arts & Entertainment is proud to announce that Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson, the Host of Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey, Best Selling Author, and the Director of the Hayden Planetarium, will be appearing on a six-city U.S. speaking tour. The tour will be produced by Innovation Arts and Entertainment. Renowned astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson has guided the Ship of the Imagination to transport viewers to the nucleus of an atom, and the farthest reaches of the universe as he explores humanity’s quest for understanding. The tour begins January 26, 2015 in Madison, WI, with dates also confirmed at Los Angeles’ Pantages Theatre and Chicago’s Auditorium Theatre, among others.

Tickets are on sale Friday, June 13 and available at www.NeildeGrasseTysonLive.com.

Each family-friendly event features an engaging multi-media presentation bringing the expanses of modern science direct to audience members, and engages them in a Q&A that rivals the presentation itself. In the past, he’s been asked a myriad of questions about everything from television appearances and space elevators to parenting advice. He often takes questions from children since he is fascinated with young ones who are interested in science.

The New York City native is host of StarTalk Radio and FOX’s Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey (season finale airs June 8); he is a New York Times bestselling author of 10 books and is also a frequent guest on The Daily Show and The Colbert Report. President Bush appointed Tyson in 2001 and 2004 to serve on commissions studying the future of the U.S. aerospace industry and the implementation of the U.S. space exploration policy, respectively. Tyson is also the recipient of 18 honorary doctorates and the NASA Distinguished Public Service Medal, the highest award given by NASA to non-government citizens.

For more information and tickets, visit www.NeildeGrasseTysonLive.com

A confirmed list of tour dates follows:

Madison, WI
Monday, January 26
Overture Center

Chicago, IL
Tuesday, January 27
Auditorium Theatre

Denver, CO
Friday, January 30
Temple Hoyne Buell

Los Angeles, CA
Monday, February 09
Pantages Theatre

San Francisco, CA
Tuesday, February 10
Orpheum Theatre

Washington D.C.
Thursday, February 26
DAR Constitution Hall

More dates and cities will be announced in the coming weeks.

I notice that there is an omission: where’s Morris, Minnesota? I’m sure that was an accident. Or perhaps it will be added to the list in the later announcement.

Get ‘em young

I got to meet someone in Seattle who is working on an evolution book for four year olds — this is a great idea, because I remember shopping for kids’ books and their usual idea for introducing zoology was something about Noah’s Ark. But the real story is so much more interesting!

Rough sketches of the book, Grandmother Fish, are available online; those aren’t the final drawings, and the work will be done by KE Lewis, once funding is obtained. You can see the challenges of getting a sophisticated scientific concept across to very young children, but I think the current story does the job very well.

squeak

There will be a kickstarter later this week to get the project off the ground.

Online Gender Workshop 2*

You’ll note that we now have a separate thread for each exercise set. I won’t go back (if it’s even possible) to pull out exercises 5-8 and your responses from the first thread, but starting now we’ll be able to have people continue one discussion (on say, the video exercises, where it looks like Sundays wasn’t a great day for a lot of people) while the next begins.

Today’s exercise may be technically difficult for some of you, so I expect fewer people to complete it, but I hope everyone that joined us last week engages in the discussion. On the plus side, it requires a bit less time commitment than the video exercises, which may allow some people to catch up.

Exercise 9: Think of a gender neutral object. No. Not that one. Because gender, right? Exactly. That other one. Now you’ve got it. Ready? Sketch it. Sketch it without any context whatsoever to keep ideas about gender in relation to the object free from distractions caused by gender in relation to the context in which the object is drawn.

When finished drawing, upload that sketch somewhere (I recognize this won’t be possible for everyone).

Exercise 10: 3rd Report. Narrate a bit about choosing an object (whether or not you were able to post your sketch). Was it easy? Hard? Did the first thing that came to mind remain your choice? Now talk about the actual process of drawing. Did you stop, erase, and/or redraw at any point because of concerns that the sketch might not communicate gender neutrality?

In this report, provide a link to your sketch if you were able to upload an image.

Exercise 11: Discussion. Look at a number of the uploaded images. If there are any choices (or implementations of choice, through the image in the sketch) with which you disagree, say so. Provide an argument for gendering the object someone else considered gender neutral. If there are none with which you disagree, find someone’s comment that does disagree with one or more choices. Read that person’s argument and respond. Are you persuaded? Why or why not? You are welcome to defend your own choice in discussion, but if you do, you must do it using new arguments than the ones you made in exercise 10 when you initially discussed your choice and process.

 

Previous workshop thread. Next Workshop Thread.

*must. not. type. “:Electric Boogaloo.”

Damn you, Ed Brayton!

TESTS WARP YOUR BRAIN

That will be the new mantra of students — giving tests has a secret agenda to brainwash you. Charles Van Zant, Republican wackadoodle from Florida, thinks standardized tests will turn children gay. This is all in response to the commission of a company to administer tests statewide.

These people that will now receive $220 million from the state of Florida, unless this is stopped, will promote double mindedness in state education, and attract every one of your children to become as homosexual as they possibly can. I’m sorry to report that to you. … I really hate to bring you that news, but you need to know.

He doesn’t know the half of it. I’m not gay, so my tests only inculcate atheism in all of my poor victims students. If I try harder, maybe I can get all of the students who take biology here to emerge as gay socialist godless abortionists, just by asking them questions about mitochondria or recombination or Sonic Hedgehog.

But the esteemed legislator does ask everyone to look at the website for the testing company, AIR, so I did. I’m not much of a fan of standardized testing — I think we lose sight of the individual when we develop a single instrument to measure — but a lot of what they say does makes sense, and I couldn’t find anything about their magic gayness-inducing tests. I did see stuff about standards of care for “many LGBT people [who] face harassment, violence, stigma, rejection, and discrimination in their families, schools, employment, and social settings”, or improving the well-being of LGBT youth or ending LGBT youth homelessness. I don’t see what there is to oppose in that, unless you think that LGBT kids should be treated violently, not be healthy, or not have a home.

We also have AIR’s official statement on the issue.

AIR’s Health and Social Development program develops knowledge and understanding about LGBT youth that takes account of their experiences and needs. AIR also enhances opportunities for the healthy development, well-being, and safety of LGBT children, youth, and their families by providing workforce training and technical assistance to service providers across systems addressing behavioral health, child welfare, education, juvenile justice, and homelessness.

Those all sound like desirable things. I guess it’s only if you’re a Republican that caring about children without reservations about their sexual orientation is considered wicked.

We have some screwed up priorities here

You might also take a look at the whole defense budget, which will reach almost $500 billion, and which is characterized as…

…a sound path to responsibly meet the risks and challenges of the current national security environment.

It actually is a reduction in military spending from last year ($526 billion), but it’s still obscenely high.

2012milspending

Is it reassuring to know that we have a military that out spends the military of China, Russia, the UK, Japan, France, Saudi Arabia, India, Germany, Italy, and Brazil? I guess we can pick a fight with everyone all at once. Maybe the logic is that we can’t afford to have kids fill their heads with book-learnin’ when their most important job is to fill the ranks of the army.

Next: we think neutering your children would better prepare them for the labor market, too

An elementary school in New York canceled their yearly Kindergarten art show, and they sent out a letter explaining why they had to do it.

Dear Kindergarten parents and guardians:

We hope this letter serves to help you better understand how the demands of the 21st century are changing schools and, more specifically, to clarify misconceptions about the Kindergarten show. It is most important to keep in mind that this issue is not unique to Elwood. Although the movement toward more rigorous learning standards has been in the national news for more than a decade, the changing face of education is beginning to feel unsettling for some people. What and how we teach is changing to meet the demands of a changing world.

The reason for eliminating the Kindergarten show is simple. We are responsible for preparing children for college and career with valuable lifelong skills and know that we can best do that by having them become strong readers, writers, coworkers, and problem solvers. Please do not fault us for making professional decisions that we know will never be able to please everyone. But know that we are making these decisions with the interests of all children in mind.

Reading between the lines here…

Art will not get your children a job. They are five years old, and it is about time they started learning necessary job skills…and art will never be necessary. Art may make people happy and it may teach them about the world outside the narrow window of their daily drudgery, but it also makes them imaginative and restless and creative and non-complacent.

Look at us, your school administrators. We don’t believe in art. We have a job to do, and that job is to train a generation of workers, just like us, who will apply themselves to their tasks. The flowering of the human mind is undesirable when what we want is a flat uniform lawn of the human workforce. We shall achieve that flatness and uniformity, even if we have to snatch the crayons and glue and sparkles out of your child’s hands.

Your children have more important things to do.

Obey.