Whose Rights Ring Wronger at School?

30 09 2009

Public school? Check.
In the United States of America? Check (well, it’s Tennessee, and the states aren’t very united these days, does that still count?)
Constitution still technically in effect despite a decade of stacking the U.S. Supreme Court with evangelical Catholics? Hmmm. . .

cheerleader christian banner controversy sept 2009 chattanooga

At a football game on the school’s field, cheerleaders at Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe High School hold up a sign with a Biblical verse on it. After a complaint last week, the school has banned the cheerleaders from using any more signs with religious statements on them, saying it violates the U.S. Constitution.

Don’t even try to calculate how many objective orders of magnitude worse this is, without a peep of protest from the self-appointed School Indoctrination Police (still snarling about what sickening idol worship it was for some little children to sing a non-religious song about the first African-American president during Black History Month.)

Fort Oglethorpe Mayor Ronnie Cobb vehemently disagrees with the ban and said he’ll call on the City Council to support the cheerleaders and their signs.

The signs don’t infringe on anyone’s religious rights and are good for school spirit, he said.

“I’m totally against them doing away with it,” Mr. Cobb said, adding that the cheerleaders’ rights are being abused.

The mayor said football coach John Allen made the signs a tradition around 2003 and it has continued ever since.

“If it’s offensive to anyone, let them go watch another football game,” he said. “Nobody’s forced to come there and nobody’s forced to read the signs.”

Current head football coach Todd Windham said the school system must obey the law, despite everyone’s opinions.

Both are public servants paid with taxpayer dollars, are they not? — both charged with responsibilities to the whole community, not winner-take-all favoritism especially in intramural dispute. Strange that it’s the elected mayor who gets it wrong and wants to choose up sides and fight instead of concentrating on Read the rest of this entry »

The Unvirtuous Truth About The Virtue of Harvard

29 09 2009

While you’re raging against American institutional gods like Wall Street and the insurance cabal, think about this:

Think Tank: The "Veritas" About Harvard"

Elite universities have benefited mightily from a number of converging long-term trends, none of their making. The markets made them rich, America made them famous, globalization and the information revolution made their services particularly valuable. The winner-take-all society made them objects of aspiration, nexuses of money, power, and prestige, places where those forces pulse and converge.

They are, without a doubt, extremely valuable institutions that contribute much in the way of science, scholarship and culture. They make the world a better place. But they’ve mistaken their good fortune and great fortunes for virtue, and have lost their way. . .

How does that manifest itself and why should you care, especially if you weren’t trying to send a child to Harvard anyway? Well, let’s see:

Read the rest of this entry »

“Confessions of a Home-schooler”: Salon

28 09 2009

Cock of the snook for this to COD:

. . .Some people seem genuinely disturbed by our decision, on philosophical or political grounds, as if by keeping a couple of 5-year-olds out of kindergarten we have violated the social contract. Specifically, we have rejected the mainstream consensus that since education is a good thing, more of it — more formal, more “academic,” reaching ever deeper into early childhood and filling up more of the day and more of the year — is better for society and better for all children. This is almost an article of faith in contemporary America, but it’s also one that’s debatable at best and remains largely unsupported by research data.

In a related vein, some people suspect we have a hidden ideological or religious agenda we’re not telling them about. We may look like your standard-issue Brooklyn creative-class family — two 40-something parents, two kids, two pet rabbits and a battered Chrysler minivan — but who are we really? Home schooling has become a lot more mainstream and diverse in recent years, but familiar stereotypes endure. . .

In order to avoid one or more of these discomfort zones, we try to answer all well-meaning interlocutors with bland, diplomatic and totally unspecific generalities. Not quite lies, but well short of what you’d call the truth. This is a phenomenon known to almost all home-schoolers, from Mormon separatists to off-the-grid hippie anarchists, and a frequent discussion starter in online home-school groups. . .

JJ Reading Dan Brown’s New Book

27 09 2009

. . .and glad it isn’t BANNED! 😉

At the same time, I quite appreciate Killing the Buddha’s much more, ahem, historical and rational writing about the new book.

Dan Brown shares with the Masons a belief in the mythology that gave rise to modern culture, and hopes that his readers will join him in affirming those myths once again.

So I am just as glad Samuel Biagetti’s scholarship isn’t banned either, as I was glad the people freaked out by The Da Vinci Code couldn’t quash it or the people freaked out by Harry Potter couldn’t quash HIM:

I think Rowling’s genius is to see humans as carrying both hope and fear, both good and evil, to see us as magnificent, and animals, and facing new threats of extinction — to realize our ancient songs and stories need to be understood in progressively evolving ways, for anyone to win anything worth living or dying for.

Mortimer Adler’s definition of education was “the freeing discipline of wonder.” Religious education seems like an oxymoron then, unless we change our definition of religion, to match. Make it freeing rather than oppressive, wondrous rather than warlike, open to questions and new discovery and change. That was the thought when I wrote this:

“Maybe human spirituality is evolving [for the next cultural era] as we discover and accept truths not through patriarchal personification and studying “authoritative” writings spelled out for our dutiful performance on demand, but through an “unschooled” direct [and democratic if you will] personal connection to each other, and to the universe as a system?”

It’s not quite Dan Brown’s power of story, but it’s close enough to satisfy me.

“Ideas Are Incombustible”: Banned Books Week 2009

27 09 2009

This year, the event features work by Ellen Hopkins, a young adult author who was recently banned from speaking at an Oklahoma middle school when a parent complained about her novels. . .her “Manifesto” for Banned Books Week 2009:

To you zealots and bigots and false
patriots who live in fear of discourse.
You screamers and banners and burners
who would force books
off shelves in your brand name
of greater good.

You say you’re afraid for children,
innocents ripe for corruption
by perversion or sorcery on the page.
But sticks and stones do break
bones, and ignorance is no armor.
You do not speak for me,
and will not deny my kids magic
in favor of miracles.

You say you’re afraid for America,
the red, white and blue corroded
by terrorists, socialists, the sexually
confused. But we are a vast quilt
of patchwork cultures and multi-gendered
identities. You cannot speak for those
whose ancestors braved
different seas.

You say you’re afraid for God,
the living word eroded by Muhammed
and Darwin and Magdalene.
But the omnipotent sculptor of heaven
and earth designed intelligence.
Surely you dare not speak
for the father, who opens
his arms to all.

A word to the unwise. Read the rest of this entry »

Learning to Play, Learning From Play

27 09 2009

The whole New York Times Sunday magazine today is about various individual “identity” issues with education, from family background to sexual orientation. (Don’t miss the cover story, Coming Out in Middle School.)

One big piece is the story of our experimenting to figure out how little kids learn to control their own cognitive function, basically how they learn to learn to play, and from play.

It is Not News That Play Works, least of all here at Snook. Which is better news than this was! And Dana is writing about outside play instead of TV for little kids.

For me though, even outside play wasn’t so much physical education as it was the same sort of imaginative role-playing it would have been inside. Fresh air and sunshine was just another staging ground for the same power of story that tv and movies had infused for me with the Rules of the Roles.

And it turns out that’s what this NYT story is all about:

Can the Right Kinds of Play Teach Self-Control?

. . .a simple but surprising idea: that the key to developing self-regulation is play, and lots of it. But not just any play. The necessary ingredient is what Leong and Bodrova call “mature dramatic play”: complex, extended make-believe scenarios, involving multiple children and lasting for hours, even days.

If you want to succeed in school and in life, they say, you first need to Read the rest of this entry »

Lego Evolution T-Shirt

25 09 2009

You’ve seen this . . .


But why not wear this?

lego evolutionm t-shirt from thinkgeek dot com

You got your Lego creationists and your Lego evolutionists. Lego creationists are always asking, “If minifigs evolved from 1×1 bricks, then why do 1×1 bricks still exist?” Cause you can’t build the Death Star with a bunch of minifigs. Duh. But you don’t want to hear the Lego version of the big bang theory. Bricks flung to the far reaches of the living room. It’s not a pretty thing, especially if you’re walking around barefoot.