About Me

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I am a former middle and high school science teacher pursuing a doctorate in Science Ed. at George Mason University, with a concentration in cognitive science and the evolution of cognition and learning. Postings on this blog represent my own views, not those of my employer or school. All writing displayed on this page is original work unless otherwise noted, and thus copyrighted.

09 December 2010

But he's only worried about teh childrenz!

Rachel Maddow deals rather well with this man, considering what a complete twit he is... Note the persecution complex and cries of "I'm thinking of the children" coming from someone who wants to have homosexuals jailed for life or put to death. It's only in Uganda you say? Yes, but his backers are not, and have their fingers in a number of Congressional and gubernatorial pies (pun intended). For those that don't want to bother watching this deplorable fool, the highlights are thus:
  He accuses homosexuals of 'recruiting' children in schools by paying them American dollars to become gay.
He believes that homosexuality can be 'cured'.
His 'kill the gays' bill is based on his interpretation of Biblical law, which unfortunately seems to match what's written in Deuteronomy and Exodus. I'm not about to pollute my blog with verse; feel free to find it yourself.




02 December 2010

Laws of Nature: Nomic or Gnostic?

Some of the issues with Foster's argument have been left alone due to the instructions of the professor for whom the paper was written. These are apparent in any case.     




 John Foster, in The Divine Lawmaker, believes that he has made headway on a philosophical account of natural laws by taking natural laws as causal regularities that are (or were) enacted by a universal creator.  While this may be satisfying to the theist, both as a teleological proof of a deity and as an account of natural laws, it is lacking in the way of parsimony and explanatory power. There is utility in Foster’s nomic account of laws as causing regularity in the universe: it is possible to present an account of natural laws that properly describes what the laws of nature are and excludes those regularities that are accidental. After a careful examination of Foster’s views, along with some pertinent criticisms of them, this paper will attempt to make sense of Foster’s account of laws without the need for the involvement of a supernatural agent.

02 November 2010

New Life for Liberals...

 In light of the recent surge of the Tea Party, Democrats, and liberals in general, seriously need to find an answer to that energy, however misplaced it may be. This is my solution.

  We are the future of America, not trying to recreate an ideal that never existed. Wrapping yourself in the flag may gain you some votes, but it's also the path to Fascism, and we should refuse that path.

Core Values:


- All people should be treated equally and equitably. Thus, restrictions to marriage, voting, and holding office based on sexual orientation and religious persuasion need to be abolished immediately as they run contrary to the founding principles of this nation, and, more importantly, to common decency and ethics.

- In an effort to continue the above, the income tax system should be abolished and replaced with a value-added tax on all purchases. This is the only permissible tax on citizens, and as it is based on spending rather than income or property, it is entirely voluntary in an important sense: if you don't want to give money to the government, don't spend any.

- A complete overhaul of the criminal justice system aimed at breaking the cycle of crime, and the poverty from whence that cycle arises. Criminals will be given reasonable sentences, and billed for their room and board while incarcerated,  after the first year. In order to allow the prisoner a means of doing this, they will be afforded the opportunity to learn a trade or complete a degree during their imprisonment, and then paid for their time, less the real costs incurred by housing them. This not only gives the prison system a chance to be self-financing, but provides a means to be a productive member of society when released. Prison manufactured goods will be sold on the open market. Citizenship rights will be stripped from no one, including felons, once they have served their sentence.

- Decriminalisation of illegal drugs, and the legalisation of marijuana. We spend far too much money on law enforcement for something that we cannot hope to control. Prohibition is not an effective solution, therefore: those arrested on drug offences will be sentenced to in-patient rehabilitation, not prison. Those convicted of trafficking or selling large quantities may still be subject to criminal penalties, as above, and in addition all liquid assets will be seized and donated to the rehabilitation programs that treat their customers.

- Real and reasonable social welfare programs: a) universal health insurance for all, administered by the government and paid for by tax dollars. Those under 18 and over 65 will receive completely free care and prescriptions, all others will pay a co-pay, up to a yearly limit. This is about eliminating a predatory health insurance industry and ensuring proper preventative care and treatment for all. Thus, health care providers will be paid on a per patient basis, and as an incentive, pharmaceutical companies will be awarded grants from NIH/NSF just like other researchers. These are for the public good, not profit, and should be treated as such.
b) Unemployment/disability insurance should continue, with the requirement that those taking benefits attend a workshop, weekly, aimed at job-seeking skills and/or training for a new career. Frankly, with the current computer technology, there's no reason to claim physical disability... unless you're mentally incompetent or quadriplegic, you can certainly operate a keyboard or man someone's customer service line.

- Dismantle the military-industrial complex, beginning with aggressive foreign policies and empire-building. This doesn't mean that we don't need a military for defensive purposes, nor even does it mean that we might not need bases on foreign soil, but we no longer need to enter into a war simply because the president feels the need to assuage daddy's pride. All acts of war require a formal declaration of such in Congress, as written into the Constitution. We need not inform the enemy of this declaration, but it ensures that one man or woman doesn't get to play a game of soldiers with real people again. To make up for the lost productivity in the economy, I suggest retooling all those brilliant minds and the factories that produce their inventions to generate clean, domestic energy sources. Removing the dependence on foreign oil will remove much of the need for the military in any case, and let's face it, the idea of clean coal is a joke. Ethanol/biofuels are a band-aid for this problem, what we really need are renewable, non-polluting energy sources.

- Government spending and size of government are not the problem, what we choose to spend government money on the the efficiency with which government business is conducted are. Not only should a government protect it's people, it should also serve their best interests, as determined by them.

21 September 2010

We call them IDiots for a reason

Satirists used to be clever, but this one seems not to have the knack. It might be fun to respond to his canards, however.

 The troublesome issue of intelligent design (known simply as ID) is one that every science educator needs to be prepared to deal with. The issue threatens our society on several levels. For example, how can our nation hope to compete in an increasingly technological world unless our budding new scientists believe life is a purposeless cosmic accident? The very integrity of science is in danger. In fact, the continued existence of civilization might be at stake.

True science must always provide purely naturalistic answers, not simply follow the evidence where it leads. Unless we restrain the range of acceptable answers to scientific problems, we cannot guarantee appropriate, scientific conclusions. Such is our duty as educators. The following suggestions should make your job of shaping young minds somewhat easier.



   We aren't troubled by you at all, at least not any more than we might be troubled by bedbugs or mosquitoes. Your existence is unfortunate, sometimes we feel the need to swat you when you're being particularly irritating, but you haven't a leg to stand on. Funnily enough, we do follow the evidence where it leads, and that isn't to your deity.

19 September 2010

Not my normal post

... but this one is important. If you happen to be a resident of Wake County, NC, and reading this, you need to carefully consider who we elect to the Board of Education this fall, given the situation on the board over the past year or more. Get the scoop on each here. I urge you to pay careful attention to a candidate's stance on diversity and busing, as it has a profound impact on the well-being of all students in Wake Co. While neither group of students (low socioeconomic status or high) may make significant academic gains by being placed in the same schools, students of low SES stand to make important gains in social capital (the ability to navigate mainstream society) and those of higher SES are likely to have a greater understanding of segments of society to which they don't belong. Those of a liberal bent don't need this urging, but to those who aren't, ask yourself this: Is paying for busing now better than paying out larger sums in welfare-related programs and funneling money into failing neighbourhood schools later?

17 September 2010

And Darth Ratty would know...

Pope Joseph Ratzinger has declared that the "extreme atheism" in UK and other places is akin to Nazism. No, really, Godwin's law has come to life, and of all people to make the comparison, it happens to be someone who was a member of the Hitler Youth and the German Army circa 1944. Compulsory or not, you might think someone that had those experiences would be a tad more tactful in invoking the analogy.
     Let's talk about this...

11 September 2010

To the man in the big white house...

Dear Sir,
  While I did indeed vote for you, mostly because the anti-science cranks you were running against were far more objectionable than you, you should be aware not only that you are reviled by those that supported the last inhabitant of that house of yours, but are swiftly losing the support of many of those that might have otherwise supported you. Personally, while I am not offended that you had Rick Warren speak at your inauguration (this is a nation of Christians, although not politically a 'Christian Nation'), I was not a fan of the mixing of politics and religion on that day either. You made scant reference to the nonbelievers amongst the American public, which might have won you some accolades from us if it weren't for your recent conduct.
  Firstly, while the burning of books of any form is a detestable form of protest, it is within the rights of those who wish to protest to do so. The real issue here is that those who plan to do the burning would give birth to live kittens by the dozen if someone were to do it to their book of myths and magical thinking. More so, there is a problem when we find it necessary to protest the construction of a building near the site of a national catastrophe because it happens to be of the wrong religious persuasion. Don't get me wrong, I don't support the building of any more monuments to peoples' imaginary friends than already exist, but it matters little whose imaginary friend it happens to be.
  Slightly more recently, you made the unfortunate comment that we are indeed "One nation under god." Unfortunate, because many hoped you might help us as a nation rise above sectarian nonsense; unfortunate because sectarian nonsense involves comments that deliberately leave out the 15% of your subject population that has transcended the fairy tales of our past and no longer accepts that statement as true. Pandering though it may be, there are better ways of stating your approval for the 'tolerance' (read: lack of hypocrisy) eventually shown by the conservative Xian douchenozzles that wanted to burn someone else's book of lies. That, and the scare tactics used to prevent that were equally detestable; those who are enemies of this nation because we are anathema to their particular brand of sky-fairy aren't going to hate us more for the burning of a few books when their hate is already beyond imagining.
Signed,
 An Atheist who is not so much perpetually angry as disgusted with, well, society in general

10 September 2010

Reason Obfuscates: How the Rationalist Paradigm is Limiting Understanding in Education Research

The rationalist dogma that pervades education research is a methodological throwback to the masculine sciences, ignoring important critical perspectives and smothering the experiences of the individual in attempts to generalise to a larger population. Critical perspectives on education, rather than quantitative measures, allow us to tell the story of the student without judging them in terms of neo-Smithian society, describe their experiences in a rich, holistic manner. Contextualising student experiences in capitalist dogma precludes understanding of their sexual identity, just as teaching within the confines of the patriarchal system destroys the ability of the feminine to emerge in the sciences. The fictions perpetrated in the name of the sciences do no justice to the cultural realities of the individual, nor to the economy of society.

07 September 2010

In which I disagree with the Education Research Establishment

Education research is, largely, the laughing stock of the academic community, and I'm sorry to say that we deserve it. For some reason, it was decided that education research should not follow the model of the natural sciences, nor should it prescribe to the model of the social sciences.
Failing to adhere to a natural or physical science research model makes sense, in some ways. Educators are not studying purely natural phenomena, nor are tightly designed lab experiments feasible or particularly meaningful in determining the efficacy of educational practices. There is something to be said, however, for taking a leaf from ecology in our studies of large populations of students, if we were to treat those students as part of an ecological community that has its own social niches, other 'organisms' (teachers and administrators), and a complex set of interactions. However, this is not the most pragmatic approach when other techniques have been developed to study populations of human beings.

06 September 2010

An Open Letter to the Tea Party

To those involved in the 'movement' known as the Tea Party,
I can and do empathise with your frustration and anger directed and the political process in this country, and I fully support your right to publicly declare your opinions, no matter who distasteful I might find them. We should have that much in common, but the evidence of your practices would incline me to believe that you don't feel I have any right to opinions that differ from your own nor do you think I should be allowed to voice those opinions.
Perhaps what is required is a rational, evidence-based understanding of the issues on which you choose to make your stand, as excerpted from the Tea Party website.
Non-negotiable core beliefs
Illegal Aliens Are Here illegally.
Pro-Domestic Employment Is Indispensable.
Stronger Military Is Essential.
Special Interests Eliminated.
Gun Ownership Is Sacred.
Government Must Be Downsized.
National Budget Must Be Balanced.
Deficit Spending Will End.
Bail-out And Stimulus Plans Are Illegal.
Reduce Personal Income Taxes A Must.
Reduce Business Income Taxes Is Mandatory.
Political Offices Available To Average Citizens.
Intrusive Government Stopped.
English As Core Language Is Required.
Traditional Family Values Are Encouraged.

Common Sense Constitutional
Conservative Self-Governance

05 September 2010

The view through your underpants must be great...

Excerpt from a Facebook post and conversation (I'll leave the usage and grammar alone, as it's too easy a target):


Brandy S. i cant believe that they are putting this shit up!!!! its FN RETARDED!!!!!! LETS JUST LET THE BASTARDS WHO BLEW US UP HAVE A PLACE TO WORSHIP WHERE WE GOT BLOWN UP AT!!!! ITS ALMOST LIKE A SHRINE FOR THEM FOR WHAT THEY DID TO US!!!! F THAT BS

I'm flying this flag to oppose the Muslim worship center at Ground Zero.
I am the 420,516th person to fly the flag in opposition of Muslim mosque at Ground Zero. I hope 5 million will join me! No app install required.
4 hours ago via Being Conservative - Fly the Flag · Comment · Like · Fly your Flag
Brandy S. i wonder how long it will take an american to blow up there stupid little shrine!!!!
3 hours ago · Like
April D. That's OBAMA for ya! Obama= One Big Ass Mistake America!
2 hours ago · Like
Brandy S. Hell yea!!!!
2 hours ago · Like
NOTE: In deference to another with the same name as the original poster, I have replaced all surnames with their initial.

29 August 2010

I'll give this a try...

It's been a while since I read The God Delusion, so I'll have a go at something that was brought up in my philosophy of natural science class on Thursday: The ontological argument.
It reads something like this (Anselm's original, as taken from wikipedia):
1. If I am thinking of the Greatest Being Thinkable, then I can think of no being greater
1a. If it is false that I can think of no being greater, it is false I am thinking of the Greatest Being Thinkable
2. Being is greater than not being
3. If the being I am thinking of does not exist, then it is false that I can think of no being greater.
4. If the being I am thinking of does not exist, then it is false that I am thinking of the Greatest Being Thinkable
Conclusion: If I am thinking of the Greatest Being Thinkable, then I am thinking of a being that exists

11 July 2010

This douchenozzle works at a public university?

http://townhall.com/columnists/MikeAdams/2010/07/01/an_immodest_proposal/page/full

Mike S. Adams is a professor (passed over for tenure) at UNCW, my alma mater. He's also an ultra right-wing Dominionist bigot:

I can’t stand atheists. And I plan to do something about them. Thankfully, the U.S. Supreme Court has given me a powerful tool to use in my war against the godless. Earlier this week, the Court ruled that a public university may require all student organizations to admit any student as a voting member or officer. The decision applies even to a student who is openly hostile to the group's fundamental beliefs.
So, when I get back to the secular university in August, I plan to round up the students I know who are most hostile to atheism. Then I’m going to get them to help me find atheist-haters willing to join atheist student groups across the South. I plan to use my young fundamentalist Christian warriors to undermine the mission of every group that disagrees with me on the existence of God.


Gee Mike, really? That's too bad, I can't stand foul, overbearing Fascists who wrap themselves in a flag and drape their neck with a cross... I plan to email the provost and chancellor demanding that you be fired, organise a number of people to do the same, and get anyone I can to refuse to donate to UNCW until you're no longer employed there.

24 April 2010

Evidence?

     I spend so much time tearing into other people's ludicrous claims on here that I thought I'd espouse some of my own; these are to some degree a tongue in cheek stab at the less scientific aspects of evolutionary psychology, while also being an unsupported hypothesis of my own.

15 April 2010

They're more bigoted too...



NY Times says that Tea Party Backers are wealthier and more educated than the population as a whole... I think this article bears examination.
Firstly, this was determined by a phone survey, which included a whopping 1500 people (ok, almost 1600), which calls into question the validity of any of the data based on sample size and how representative the sample actually is of the American people. I'll be fair, and pretend that these issues don't exist for the sake of argument:
According to the survey, about 18% of the population supports the Tea Party movement, stemming from the bailout and continuing into resistance of Obama's health care initiatives. There's nothing cited in the article to substantiate the headline, whatsoever, so we're left to take the author's word for that. If it proved true, it would lend some credibility to the assertion that this is a class issue more than anything else (Yes, Jacqueline Holman, it means I'd have to agree with you on parts of this, since that's where the evidence lies). I'm inclined to buy the first half of that thesis, based on the selfish greed that drives the whole "I don't want to share my money with people who didn't earn it, even if it keeps them alive" sentiment behind the Tea Parties. I'm not terribly inclined to accept the better educated aspect, as it also cites that those people involved in the movement tend to be older Americans, who, quite frankly, didn't need to be better educated to compile the wealth that some of these people have. It could just as easily be a function of the good old boy networks, particularly since 80% of the people who identified with it were white males, and 98% were white.
Some of the other numbers are equally interesting... such as that 25% of them think that Obama is favouring blacks or the 90% that think America is headed in the wrong directtion. This reeks, unfortunately for those involved, of "I don't want teh Black as POTUS". Too far you say?

29 March 2010

But Christians Aren't Dangerous... wait..wtf?

Christian Militia accused of plotting to kill cops.


Nine alleged members of a Christian militia group that was girding for battle with the Antichrist were charged Monday with plotting to kill a police officer and slaughter scores more by bombing the funeral — all in hopes of touching off an uprising against the U.S. government.

Classy, especially the plan to bomb a funeral, that's a nice touch. There are sure not to be any children or anything like that at one of those. Before we simply condemn these people as domestic terrorist wackjobs, and claim that religion has nothing to do with it, we should examine some of what the people associated with them say about this group, as well as what the group itself says.

"It started out as a Christian thing," Stone's ex-wife, Donna Stone, told The Associated Press. "You go to church. You pray. You take care of your family. I think David started to take it a little too far."

Started?! No, lady, I think he's gone well beyond started here.

Hutaree says on its Web site its name means "Christian warrior" and describes the word as part of a secret language few are privileged to know. The group quotes several Bible passages and declares: "We believe that one day, as prophecy says, there will be an Anti-Christ. ... Jesus wanted us to be ready to defend ourselves using the sword and stay alive using equipment."

A secret language that other people aren't given to know, there's a spectacular way to make your followers feel special. Actually, all sarcasm aside, that may be the only intelligent thing this loon put together, if he didn't believe it himself. Notice the reliance on Iron-Age mythology to support their position?

The wife of one of the defendants described Hutaree as a small group of patriotic, Christian buddies who were just doing survival training.
"It consisted of a dad and two of his sons and I think just a couple other close friends of theirs," said Kelly Sickles, who husband, Kristopher, was among those charged. "It was supposed to be a Christian group. Christ-like, right, so why would you think that's something wrong with that, right?"
Sickles said she came home Saturday night to find her house in Sandusky, Ohio, in disarray. Agents seized the guns her husband collected as a hobby and searched for bomb-making materials, she said, but added: "He doesn't even know how to make a bomb. We had no bomb material here."
She said she couldn't believe her 27-year-old husband could be involved in anything violent.
"It was just survival skills," she said. "That's what they were learning. And it's just patriotism. It's in our Constitution."

Of course. How could something based on the idea that this life isn't important in the face of one you'll live after you die be dangerous? What could possibly be wrong with that? They're just a bunch of good Christian men practising survival skills in the hopes that they get to use them when they bring about the downfall of the U.S. and plunge us all into a civil war. And the Marxist guerillas in Central American were just a bunch of poor people who decided they wanted to practice survival skills in case their democratic (or dictatorial) but capitalist regimes fell apart, rather than a bunch of violent individuals who were preparing for a coup. (Notice I've avoided the fascist comparison here, because it's too easy, not to mention overused.) The man's wife is clearly not in denial, either.

Rather than continuing to quote from the news story, let's have a look at the website of this group, shall we? (Warning: the writing quality on that site is on par with with of a middle school drop-out, and the thinking doesn't even meet that pithy standard. Some things cannot be unseen.)
Hutaree Home Page

The site itself has a camouflage background, complete with links that explain their bizarre doctrine and a reference to something called the "Christian Colonial Republic," which is something I certainly don't want to see come to fruition. Among their listed information sources are the World Nut Daily (unsurprising, that), Jack VanImpe Ministries (you can find him on cable Xian broadcasts along with Benny Hinn and the rest of them), and Real Truth magazine, which appears to be nothing short of really conservative, really obsessed with apocalyptic fantasy, and really like something out of a Hal Lindsey novel.
The doctrine of the Hutaree reveals that they think they're actually out to save the world in the name of their zombie god, and that they will in turn receive eternal life for their efforts. Remember, Xianity isn't supposed to be dangerous (see quotes above).
As for the passages from teh Babble, for any religious readers, we can give those a fair examination as well. The site itself cites Luke 22:35-37 as the reason why they are supposed to prepare themselves for war in the name of their deity, which reads:
And He said to them, “When I sent you without money bag, knapsack, and sandals, did you lack anything?” So they said, “Nothing.” 36, Then he said to them, “But now, he who has a money bag, let him take it, and likewise a knapsack; and he who has no sword, let him sell his garment and buy one. 37, “For I say to you that this which is written must be accomplished in me: ‘And He was numbered with transgressors,’ For the things concerning Me have an end.”

(followed by the statement that this clearly justifies the position of the militia).
Context might have some bearing here: this passage is part of the discussion before Jesus' betrayal and the Peter's denial, where he seemingly tells his followers to defend themselves against the priests that are coming to take him. The verse immediately following the quote states that two swords is enough, which might also seem to imply that there is no need for everyone to arm themselves, or , just possibly, for them to form a militia? I'm certainly not a theologian, but they seem to be taking things just a wee bit out of context.
The synopsis? These people are seriously deluded, and while they have severe right-wing leanings, the stated reason for their training, and ostensibly for their planned attacks, is explicitly religious. Can we quit pretending that these are just harmless stories that give people comfort now?

But

Jim Jefferies on Religion

Not original for me, but worth having archived... Enjoy.

16 March 2010

Well, the Pledge is safe...

The Federal Court of Appeals for District 9 ruled against Newdow. Again.
The Yahoo article is more depressing yet, and I'd happily rebut some of the fucktards on there if they could grasp the words.

Here's a better suggestion for their pledge:


From "Life in Hell", 16 Dec 94,


I pledge allegiance to and wrap myself in the flag of the United States Against Anything Un-American and to the Republicans for which it stands, two nations, under Jesus, rich against poor, with curtailed liberty and justice for all except blacks, homosexuals, women who want abortions, Communists, welfare queens, treehuggers, feminazis, illegal immigrants, children of illegal immigrants, and you if you don't watch your step.

08 March 2010

Just for lolz




I've been wanting to share this sign since I saw it. 95th and Columbus in NYC.

01 March 2010

Fun with Physics

I don't post on things like this often, but I should do so more. My students completed an inquiry lab today, wherein they were asked to use foam pipe insulation to construct a "roller coaster" track for a marble, and then later determine how Newton's Laws apply to making their design work, as well as calculating the kinetic energy of the marble at the bottom of each hill. Here're some videos (I'm not posting the ones that clearly show faces, as I'm not certain who has given permission and who hasn't. Besides, the permission slips were from the school system, and this isn't their site.) video video video

And no, they don't always work as planned.

20 February 2010

Ideological nonsense...

is ideological nonsense, regardless of the source, and it crosses lines of religious belief, political affiliation, and education level.




Self-identified Republicans are significantly more likely than Democrats to have 4-year college degrees.


Low-income voters tend to favor the Democratic Party while high-income voters tend to support the Republican Party. President George W. Bush won 41% of the poorest 20% of voters in 2004, 55% of the richest twenty percent, and 53% of those in between. In the 2006 House races, the voters with incomes over $50,000 were 49% Republican, while those under were 38%.[55]


from Wikipedia, so we can take it with a grain of salt (the figure is from a Pew survey).

The point of sharing this is to debunk the notion that the feelings of anti-intellectualism, exemplified by Palin, have roots in a class/educational divide. The teabagger, Glen Beck bullshit spewed forth by Repubs is certainly a function of something, but the data suggests that Repubs are also more likely to be educated and have a greater income than those who are not subscribing to an anti-intellectual agenda. They may hate what they perceive as liberal and educated, but they themselves are also educated, and make the same or better money than those they disparage. Irrationality is irrational, however you choose to frame it. Some people need to adjust their bullshit detectors to home in on liberal bullshit, rather than just that put forth by the right.
To relate this directly to a previous post and it's comments: It's nice to be able to say that the reasons behind the attempted segregation in Wake Co. and the backlash against Ms. Hussain are for reasons of class, but both are coming from the same source: middle to upper class, college-educated whites. Race issues anyone? Perhaps not, as that requires examination as well, but let's not project our beliefs onto the situation without examining the data.

16 February 2010

Sayonara, Del Burns

Superintendent Del Burns, of WCPSS, has resigned, stating that he cannot in good conscience work for the new school board. Whilst I am not a fan of Dr. Burns, I do feel badly for the citizens that did not elect the new majority of right-wing, anti-education bigots to the school board; everyone's children are going to suffer the consequences of a knee-jerk election.
Dr. Burns is largely, although not solely, responsible for the well-intentioned but poorly considered attempts at school reform centred around the PLT/PLC system of Rick DuFour. Like many education reforms before it, it was adopted long before the verdict was in on the efficacy of the approach, and based on the data available at All Things PLC, namely anecdotes and the most ad hoc of regression trends, the verdict is that DuFour has concocted a lovely scheme to make money that does little for learning. In that regard, I'm not sorry to see the man leave.
On the other hand, he is/was a voice of reason on the topic of diversity, choosing to continue WCPSS policy of shipping students a fair way from their homes to balance schools ethnically and economically. This, while not something that has an effect on student academic performance as evidenced in Greensboro and Charlotte, does prevent the creation of low-income sewers of schools that can't attract quality teachers (read: nearly every inner-city school you can imagine) and promote an understanding of the rest of the world in all types of students. Neighbourhood schools, especially if you read the comments on the above and every other N&O article on education, are code for "I don't want my kid goin' to school with no darkies." It's unfortunate that de facto segregation was the most attractive option to voters this past fall, since those of us who didn't think it was that great an idea didn't storm the polls like those who did.
From the comments on the site
Burns has been just like all the other life long "educators", out of touch with the needs of the kids, parents, and communities in Wake Co.

Really?! Why do ignorant fucktards feel that because they happened to go through school, they know more than people whose profession and life's work are in education? This is perhaps the most frustrating thing about working in education.
More "Joe the Plumber" right-wing, blue collar bullshit
One of the things I've been noticing lately is that some people seem to feel that college degrees trump intelligence, experience and integrity.
That's right buddy, your personal experiences as a car salesman or construction worker trump the combined learning of academia and the actual classroom experience of former teachers. Well done.
Wake County, you're going to end up getting what you asked for... unfortunately it isn't what your children deserve. Good-bye, Del Burns, and hello to the South before Brown v. Board. Luckily, I won't be sticking around to welcome in the return to a bygone era of fascist family values with you. Perhaps you can pray about what to do when most of your qualified staff follows suit over the next few years. After all, you've done nothing so far, why not continue?

15 February 2010

Why I Shouldn't Post This...



As I was about to write this post, which I fully intend to write, I noted this lovely article in the N&O
: A Middle school teacher in my district was suspended for comments posted to her Facebook page. This isn't unusual in and of itself, it's been done elsewhere before this. The difference is that she posted comments related to students leaving a Bible on her desk (from her surname she is certainly of Middle Eastern descent and ostensibly Muslim?) and that the parents of her students were "bigoted, stupid, and uncaring." She also mentioned that she was "able to shame her students". Now, investigation of that final comment is the only thing that seems to be a legal reason for suspension, since the others amount to her right to free speech and/or her being persecuted, not the other way around. I don't doubt that Wake Co. has a legitimate excuse for her suspension, but I seriously doubt their motives.

Now to the meat of the post: I attended a January graduation ceremony because a number of my former students were graduating. For the most part, they were graduating early, not a semester late. The part of this that stuck in my head, however, was that there was a graduation speech delivered, not by a member of the faculty or graduating class, but by a pastor at a local church of which our principal is a member. Yes, that's right, a member of the clergy was asked to give a "message", for which he chose the life of David, complete with passages and Biblical references. While I'm not sure where else he would have found information on him, since most of what we know of him is from that fictional source. The speech included some decent worldly advice, but also some outright Christian messages, as well as direct reading of a Psalm. From what I remember, that pretty well matches what a sermon is.... how is this legal? Our public schools should not be a recruiting ground for local churches.

UPDATE PZ Myers of Pharyngula has picked up the first part of my post... although not due in any way to me: here

Change of plan...

I'm not going to continue posting the Evo Ed series at this point, as I've submitted it to JRST for publication... Once copyright issues are ironed out, I'll continue in that vein.

06 January 2010

Draconian policies?

WCPSS mandates a long-term suspension for a number of violations of the student code of conduct, and while many of these are offences for which most people would agree a child should be suspended, the repercussions of long term suspensions aren't well publicised. Students who are suspended for 365 days are placed in an alternative education setting; this punishment doesn't necessarily affect their academic progress. So, why then, are students who are suspended for less than 365 but more than 10 days not provided a reasonable means of getting an education? If a student is merely suspended for the rest of the school year, they're allowed to take 2 courses online. This assumes, of course, that the student has internet access, and that for some reason they only need to earn 2 of the 8 credits they can usually gain in a school year. If a student has internet access, but is suspended for the remainder of the year before the first semester is over, they can get a total of 2 credits, and if they don't have internet access they can't even earn that. WCPSS penalises students by automatically holding them back a year for certain offences, in essence. That has to be changed.