Sunday School Science Teacher Costing Schools Credibility and Cool Half-Million

31 12 2009

Remember this guy?

Creationist John Freshwater, branding kids for Christ while on the public payroll as mild-mannered public school science teacher. . .

(Evidence of the monstrous harm done when kids are taught alchemy, that leaden lies can be transformed into golden truth, if only you believe hard enough and get a bunch of other people to believe it too?)

But wait, there’s more! This true story keeps getting less believable and more costly as the hearings drag on and his attorney plays games.

Freshwater is expected to be the last direct witness in the hearing that has been held, on and off, over about 14 months and has cost the school district more than $500,000 in legal fees. Rebuttal witnesses might be called in coming weeks.

The latest plot twist being reported this festive Christmas week is that Freshwater taught his creationist ideology as science not just with cool magnetic lab equipment, but by rigging “experiments” to exploit the awesome intelligence built into playful, wholesome, trustworthy kid-magnet Legos — sacrilege!

Freshwater described using Lego blocks to show that cars, buildings and other structures cannot build themselves.

I beg to differ.

Did you know the word “lego” is a creative fusion of the Danish words leg and godt, which my playful mind notes with glee, literally means “play well” and not the seemingly obvious “shin and calf of deity” that an illiterate literalist might insist on imagining is factual?

. . .[Celebrating Legos] gave me a gift too, a story with power to play with in the real world, imagining how all the elements of man’s myth and reality can connect to build the most wondrous cities . . .Legos are limitless fishes and loaves in every room of OUR house, how about yours?

lego evolutionm t-shirt from thinkgeek dot com

Freshwater’s religion belongs in his church and if he wants to get paid for teaching holy truth to kids who want to learn it, that’s fine too. Let his church put him on the payroll, not the school district. As for what my own children are learning, the true meaning of intelligent design taught through Lego power of story was found under our secular Christmas tree by unschooled and unchurched Young Son.
On a t-shirt of course. 😀

Please know the message war is not just about “science” class any more (never really was, you knew that, right?)

So forget curriculum; today’s lesson is education by t-shirt. And if you and yours are on holiday from dogma and curriculum, at least this week if not permanently, then please enjoy this intelligently designed gift together free from church or state politics, the gift that truly keeps on giving:

Cobbling Together the Best Real Learning We Can

Political Power of Story in Smacking, Hitting, Punching

28 12 2009

UPDATE August 4, 2010 at Meming of Life

Matalin to Palin: Quit Bitching, That’s Just How The GOP Treats Its Women

If someone isn’t in tears every day, that day wasn’t all it could be advancing the campaign. I once witnessed an experienced (big) man slap a professional female colleague across the face over an ad buy… and no one thought anything of it, starting with the woman. In fact, she would have been insulted if anyone told her she should have been insulted.

. . .the reason the modern GOP mindset is broadly accepting of the physical brutality Matalin shrugs off so easily, is the work of child psychologist / reactionary Christian leader James Dobson. Nearly forty years of Dobson’s abusive child-rearing strategies have produced a modern far right wing filled with smacking, punching authoritarians who learned from childhood that might alone makes right.

Legitimizing this mindset depends on enablers like Matalin, who extend the aura of civil acceptability toward violence against women and co-workers. When this violence persists, we should remember who “thinks anything about it” and who does not.

Snooking on smacking as effective:
Can you go all day without hitting a child?:

Can anyone really deny that we are perpetuating and endorsing the lesson of “might makes right” when we rule over our children using physical punishment?

Stop every kid-hitter you can — teach ’em a lesson!

Thinking about hitting and children

Child abuse is not home education:

Spankings were a minor part of the allegations. Hitting with objects and . . .in anger, yes, but there is much more to this
story than that. . .

Fear of fashion and it’s not even a man-purse!

[S]chool policy doesn’t have to be about religion–much less Christmas–to be soulless . . .
Sooner or later, unthinking policy at school or home–from labeling children to make them tolerant of differences, to hitting children to make them stop hitting, to clipping their wings to teach them to fly–achieves its own natural consequence, a new unthinking norm, normally to the detriment of the very children the stupid rules are meant to “save.”

Is your love for your kids controlling?

The Real Santa I Believe In

25 12 2009

Cool science with which I am making merry:

Yes, Virginia, There Is a Santa Claus — and Here’s What He Looks Like
By David Gibson

More detail and color art at the Saint Nicolas Center:

The image and the process to create it were featured on a one-hour television documentary, The Real Face of Santa, produced by Atlantic Productions for BBC 2 and also shown on the Discovery Channel.

Click to see the animation of the three-dimensional reconstructed image

Putting a Face to the Past, BBC interview with Dr Caroline Wilkinson

JJ’s Got a Naughty and Nice List

18 12 2009

It’s a good thing I am not in charge, she muttered darkly . . .
Most public figures* including everyone with more money than morals would be in BIG trouble this year!

Although I heard Andre Agassi* answering some questions after a speech on NPR today and he makes the Nice list regardless of his clueless youthful excess, for honesty and modesty and public service and decent fatherhood, having reached his senior emeritas status.

When Santa is Scottish . . .

16 12 2009

Young Son has a bagpipe-playing Santa tree ornament involving a red-and-green tartan kilt, with knee hose and Santa pants underneath, fashioned as um, knickers? — to keep him cozy but culturally correct at the same time. 😀

Congressional Christmas List: Stop Child Abuse at School

16 12 2009

Congress isn’t always the enemy and bipartisan help for people in need isn’t always a cruel joke:

Across America, children are restrained, confined in seclusion rooms, and subject to aversive interventions. Roughly half of all states have little or no legal protections against restraint and seclusion in school. In several states, efforts to pass laws and adopt regulations have failed.

On December 9, 2009, the Preventing Harmful Restraint and Seclusion in Schools Act, HR 4247 was introduced by Congressman George Miller (D-CA) and Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA). A companion bill was also introduced in the Senate by Senator Chris Dodd and is numbered S 2860.

This issue of the Special Ed Advocate contains a comprehensive overview of the proposed legislation in a new article by Jessica Butler, Esq. You’ll find the provisions of H.R.4247 and will learn about the safeguards in the bill, what is prohibited, how it will impact children with disabilities, and the requirements for compliance and data reporting.

Please don’t hesitate to forward this issue to other friends, families, or colleagues. . .

Holiday Fun in TV Family Dys-fun-ction

15 12 2009

Favorite Daughter and I have been watching Christmas movies, lots of them. Hilarity ensues. We grade them by a complicated and quirky power of story checklist we’ve developed over years of good, bad and ugly Christmas film fiction fare.

The other night we sat up late to wallow in a recorded made-for-tv movie that promised to be a twist on It’s a Wonderful Life, where a mom sees how differently her life could have turned out if she literally had been someone else by building her life on different values and choices, called Holiday Switch.

But for us, it was a moral morass and no one deserved a visit from Santa, much less a Christmas Angel to magic away their misery and make their dysfunction fun. Unlike the Cratchits or Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed, who were just as fun and functional rich or poor, this woman was dysfunctional rich or poor! What a pill she turned out to be. We were so annoyed after sitting all the way through it that we’ve nominated it as top rival to our Worst Christmas Movie Ever:

From FavD’s 2007 review of “One Magic Christmas” —

This movie features Mary Steenburgen as a desperately poor mom at the end of her rope with two guilt-ridden children and an emasculated out-of-work husband. Needless to say, they can’t afford a merry Christmas. Enter Happy Christmas Angel to show them how much they love each other! Right? Well, almost.

The angel, a hangdog Harry Dean Stanton in a trenchcoat and fedora which make him look just like the polygamous cult leader I always think of him as, is not exactly Clarence from It’s a Wonderful Life.

Harry decides that the best way to make Mary appreciate what she’s got is to magically disappear what little money there is in the family bank account. As you may imagine, this turn of events only makes Mary more shrewish, snapping at her kids, screaming at her useless husband, and generally raging at God.

Since she failed to respond to this brilliant tactic, the angel magics a bank heist next to Mary’s work. Mary’s husband gets shot, and the robbers try to run away his car, in which the kids were waiting. The robbers drive the car into a river in their haste, drowning the kids. Yes, you read that right: the Happy Christmas Angel just killed Mary Steenburgen’s entire family in front of her.

Feeling jolly now, Mary? Are ya?

Ho ho ho. . .
Let’s put more bourbon in those bourbon balls next batch, shall we??

But at least that’s all just made-for-tv dysfunction. Real social and economic dysfunction delivers no holiday fun despite its spelled center, and there’s no honest-to-god redemption at the end of a real greed and exploitation story for the rich OR the poor — not even on Christmas Morning.

C.S. Lewis once explained power of story as real, writing about his friend’s Read the rest of this entry »

Thinking of Damien Middleton Tonight, With Love

4 12 2009

Brandon on FaceBook reminded us just as we were leaving for the Dance Studio, that this was the day three years ago, that the kids Learned the Hard Way what it was like to lose our dear, dear Damien . . .

Our children are neither schooled nor churched, but they both were drawn to and “belong” within an extended family of artists and performers centered around their dance studio.

This week the learning is especially hard and especially personal.

We’re Off to Another Musical Audition

4 12 2009

Young Son and Favorite Daughter are both auditioning tonight for the first local production of this musical, but for Young Son it’s mostly for the experience; the men’s parts all pretty much require beard follicles as well as a man’s voice, I think. 🙂

He is singing “Luck Be a Lady Tonight” from Guys and Dolls. She is singing In His Eyes” from Jekyll & Hyde.

We have to go out in a freezing dark drizzle; wish them leg-breaking but don’t mean it! I’l report in over the weekend about how they did and later, about the casting . . .

Latest Palin Lies Exposed: The Aunt Was a Peacock

3 12 2009

Couldn’t resist the scholarly book pun, for yet another Republican/conservative calling out the ridiculous Sarah Palin for her self-aggrandizing and self-serving public lies. The original Ant and the Peacock is about complex and nuanced scientific truth. Want to lay odds about whether she’s read it? (I have.)

And speaking of Sarah Palin and science thinking, she who claims that God has everything planned out for her and wanted her to run for vice-president (and wanted her son off to war, her daughter pregnant, sister divorced etc etc?) — what a fitting exemplar of the effect discussed in this next story, frisky cock of the snook to Daryl via PZ Myers: divining the divine mind is really about probing the echo chamber of one’s self, how Dan Brown! [see chapter 118-133 note at link]

Epley’s research calls the worth of this counsel into question, for it suggests that inferring the will of God sets the moral compass to whatever direction we ourselves are facing. . .

The brain scans found the same thing, particularly in a region called the medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) that’s been linked to self-referential thinking. . . The three images below show the differences in brain activity between the three tasks and you can see that the ‘God’ and ‘self’ scans had little to distinguish them. . . . many people, from Rousseau to Twain to Voltaire, are credited with the line: “God created man in his own image and man, being a gentleman, returned the favour.”

Epley’s results are sure to spark controversy, but their most important lesson is that relying on a deity to guide one’s decisions and judgments is little more than spiritual sockpuppetry. . .