Friday, January 27, 2006


I started blogging again at a new blog: Dreaming of the Future. If you are interested, stop by! :)

Friday, November 04, 2005

Cervical Cancer: God's Justice on the Hussy

Reason magazine's science correspondent, Ron Bailey, has a great article up on the effort of the FDA and certain social conservative groups to regulate not only drugs, but morality. Recently, it was announced that researchers had discovered and produced a vaccine for HPV, a virus that causes cervical cancer. Some, however, have argued that this vaccine is, basically, a tool of Satan, and could encourage promiscuous sex, so should not be given approval. Horrors! Bailey's response? (emphasis mine)

Federal agencies must reject the logic of values regulations. The FDA should stick to regulating medications solely on the basis of their quality, safety and efficacy—if even that. Bureaucrats should not be deciding whether or not people should be having sex, with whom they should be having sex, or what type of sex they should be having. If a medicine makes it safer to engage in an activity of which some people disapprove, so what? If anyone must be punished for putting his or her genitalia where other people think they shouldn’t, then leave that regulatory decision up to God—or whatever agency is in charge of morals enforcement in the hereafter.
I couldn't put it any better. As Bailey argues, why pursue a cure or treatment for HIV then? Surely THAT is a punishment from our angry God as well? I wonder when the theocracy begins. Just kidding. Really.
(Crossposted by Bostondreamer at Floridablues)

I hate reading. I REALLY hate reading.

I have previously posted something of a diatribe/self-pity party about my ongoing experiences in education. While things have certainly improved and I am over my yearly funk, I am still rather saddened and frustrated with some of the approaches and issues that I am seeing daily.

Recently, in a faculty meeting to discuss the progress of our school's attempts to raise reading scores through the introduction of reading 'strategies' and a heavy use of those strategies (to such a degree that students have told me that they are sick and tired of them), I was informed by our reading coach that my content comes second; I am to put a heavier emphasis on teaching reading strategies for students to use later in life and in school. If I don't cover all of my material, if I skip over some parts of history because I am teaching reading strategies, well, that's okay. It's simply important that I am using and demonstrating and emphasizing and beating into them the reading strategies. No matter that I am a history teacher, my first love is history, and I have high standards and expectations for my students. I need to change my approach and fill up my day with strategies. Screw history.

have very rarely been so angry at someone (non-Yankee fan) in my life. It is so frustrating. You try to teach, you think you are doing a good job, your students enjoy the material, but no, you are doing everything wrong and you need to do it this other way.

'Your content comes second.' That's complete and utter horse&%$#!!!Please forgive the tone of this post. I still love teaching and the classroom; I'm just sick of priorities that take away from true learning.
(Crossposted by Bostondreamer at FloridaBlues)

State of the (Red Sox) Nation

So, anything new going on in the world of the Red Sox? Hmmm...should be a quiet off-season. It's only been a year since we won the World Series, after all. How bad could things be?


Damn it.

Knightmare of the Know Nothings

Amy Sullivan has an interesting column up over at Beliefnet that wonders just what may be coming down the pike in the future for the Supreme Court (assuming that Alito wins confirmation). Next year at this time, there could be a majority of Catholics on the bench, and will the Church take the same attitide towards Catholic judges has they have taken toward Catholic politicians: toe the pro-life (abortion) line, or be denied communion? From the piece:

In an ominous note bordering on a spiritual threat, the bishops wrote, “We urge those Catholic officials… to consider the consequences for their own spiritual well-being, as well as the scandal they risk by leading others into serious sin.” Catholic public officials are appropriate targets of attention and pressure, they explained, because their high-profile status puts them in a position to influence ordinary Catholics. They have a special responsibility to be model Catholics and to uphold the Church’s teaching.

After all, if it applies to politicians, it most certainly applies to judges. I would point out, however, that as Sullivan states, being Catholic does not always translate to complete social conservatism. Only time will tell what direction the Court will go.

Well, what ever happens, (gratutious history reference coming!) one thing is for sure: the Know Nothings are surely screaming from beyond the grave!

(Crossposted by Bostondreamer at FloridaBlues)

Sunday, October 16, 2005

On Liberalism and Christianity

From a discussion I had in a seminar on democracy. It holds some truth, I think, though it is perhaps a bit rambling:

In reading the print media and in discussions with fellow students on the campus of this university, I am struck by the fact that at least among some of us, there is an antipathy towards religion interacting with public policy. Indeed, the statement has been made by some who call themselves liberals that generally speaking, 'religion is too dangerous to allow it to influence public policy' and it must be opposed at all costs. This is an argument without merit, and I am, I must confess, quite bothered by such a blanket condemnation of religion in the public sphere. While I may not be as liberal as some, I do consider myself a progressive. A hallmark of liberalism and progressivism, at least in my admittedly limited view, is tolerance and a willingness to consider a variety of opinion and influences if such opinions and influences can provide solutions to the problems of the day. To blanketly reject the idea that religion can have a positive and beneficial impact on public policy and democracy is, simply put, illiberal and close-minded. While there are obvious examples that some have cited of the negative influence of Christianity in public policy, of the 'atrocities done in the name of Christ,' it would serve us well to examine the long and positive tradition of religion in the public sphere, and how it has influenced democratic matters for the better. I speak from the perspective of one who is not a currently practicing Christian, though I was raised Catholic and my own wife is a semi-regular church-goer of the Protestant stripe. Please note that I focus on Christianity because of its great impact on American democracy, and no disrespect of other faiths is intended.
Examining the expanse of American history, one cannot help but note that much of the Progressive movement and the effort to create a more socially progressive public policy in the late 19th century was influenced by Christian thinking. William Jennings Bryan stands as the liberal lion of this era, and modern liberals err in ignoring his
contributions to the progressive cause, emphasizing instead his unfortunate last days and the fiasco that was the Scopes trial. And yet, it is Bryan's strong Christian beliefs that led him to advocate for causes that today might classify him as socialist. His 'Cross of
Gold' speech is a stirring call for relieving debtors of their unfair burden, placed on their backs by a system that increasingly ignored the needs of the working man. Throughout his career, he argued in favor of the so-called 'Social Gospel', supporting female suffrage,
anti-imperialism, regulation of business for consumer and worker protection, and even his anti-evolution crusade, while unfortunate, was a progressive response in its own way. Doug Linder has argued that Bryant fought evolution less from a literal interpretation of the Bible but because it "...provided ammunition for those who, calling it "survival of the fittest," would sterilize the abnormal or forget the weak. Given a choice, Bryan said, "I would rather begin with God and reason down than begin with a piece of dirt and reason up." " Bryan, Linder argues, was almost single-handedly responsible for turning the Democratic Party toward an embrace of the working classes and the suffering classes (with certain unfortunate and obvious exceptions that would not be dealt with until the mid-20th century).
To reject the role of religion in public policy is to reject the efforts of Jewish reformers in the late 19th and 20th centuries to create a stronger, better America. It is to reject their call for Social Justice as demanded by God, which insists on the freedom of man
to make his own choices unfettered by the constraints of inequality.
To reject the role of religion in public policy is to reject the demands of the Social Gospel. It is to reject the driving force behind abolition, the belief that the Creator created all men equal, and that to enslave a man is to create an abomination before God. These men and women, these lovers of freedom, certainly sought to create a public policy where democracy mattered, and they did so not in spite of their religious beliefs, but because of them.
To reject the role of religion in public policy is to reject the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960's. It is to reject the very foundation which inspired such men as the Christian Martin Luther King and Muslim Malcom X (as he thought and spoke upon his return from the Hajj).
To reject the role of religion in public policy is to reject public education. It is to reject the common schools of Horace Mann, himself a Christian Socialist, which were centered around a vague, amorphous, but very present Protestant morality. Mann and other public
education advocates did not separate the need for a Christian morality from the obligation for positive public education for all students. Dewey himself, while rejecting the idea of an all-knowing Creator and a true Christian outlook, accepted the universality of ideals and the demand for justice, embracing education as the means to ensure social justice and democratic education. He was influenced, in part, by his own association with the Unitarian faith and his early liberal Protestant background.
Ultimately, I believe that religion and democracy go hand in hand. The Christian Religion in particular, with an emphasis on the Divine call for justice and equality, is a natural partner to democracy, which demands an equal voice for all peoples. Democracy untempered by Christian charity is the tyranny of the majority; Christianity untempered by democracy is theocratic foolishness. A true lover of democracy, a true believer in liberal principles, will not reject the important contribution that religion can make to formulations of public policy. To do so is simply foolish, and again I say that it rejects
many of those liberals and progressives that came before us.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Kevin Drum Channels Monty Burns

I'm sorry. I can't help but picture Kevin Drum tapping his fingers together and looking very Burns-like as he wrote the post below. I added a sound effect for, well, effect. :)

From the Washington Monthly:
MIERS....Speaking about the Harriet Miers nomination, John Podhoretz tosses out this unsubtle warning today:
IT'S GETTING WORSE [John Podhoretz]
The White House needs to know this. Really. It's getting worse. Trust me.

Excellent. [ed: added sound!]

Monty Burns and Kevin Drum: Separated at Birth?

(Crossposted by Bostondreamer at FloridaBlues)

We Have Excellence and Service. Where's the Integrity?

As an active duty veteran of the Air Force, I am proud of my military service and proud of those who continue to serve in uniform stateside and in theater. I encourage my students to join the military; despite the obvious dangers today, it can be an excellent career, with a decent enough benefit package and a way to gain discipline in yourself and pride in your country. I am most certainly a minority in this view, but the semi-fascist side of me believes that serving your country in some manner should be a requirement for elective office at the very least, if not for the franchise. The rational, liberal side of me wishes to put that other side in a locked room with combat disabled veterans. All of that being said, recruiters who mislead or lie to recruits are some of the lowest scum in the service. From the Boston Globe:

Brian Shepard thought he had the perfect plan: a special program, offered by a Marine Corps recruiter last spring, that would let him finish four years of college before he faced active duty.

Instead, the 18-year-old was notified last week -- less than one month into his freshman year at New Hampshire Technical Institute -- that his Marine Reserve unit will be sent to Iraq early next year, a development that Shepard said his recruiter never told him was possible.
I will grant that this young man should have read the (very) fine print, but it is up to the recruiter, I feel, to ensure that there are absolutely NO misunderstandings prior to signing that paperwork. This is young person's life we are talking about here, not an automobile lease. The enlistee needs to go in with eyes (and mind) open. In a related topic, the recruiters should also make recruits aware of the whole concept of Stop-Loss. When I was Stop-lossed a few years ago, I couldn't believe they could do that. Fortunately, it was only a couple of weeks. Integrity, Excellence, and Service Before Self was the motto of the USAF when I was in. Recruiters need to start paying attention to the Integrity part again.
(Crossposted by Bostondreamer at FloridaBlues)

Bombing Them Back to the Smurf Age

From the Telegraph by way of Reason:

It seems that Unicef has begun a new antiwar campaign, emphasizing the impact on children.

Philippe Henon, a spokesman for Unicef Belgium, said his agency had set out to shock, after concluding that traditional images of suffering in Third World war zones had lost their power to move television viewers. "It's controversial," he said. "We have never done something like this before but we've learned over the years that the reaction to the more normal type of campaign is very limited."

I find it kind of disturbing that people would be more bothered by a crying Baby Smurf and a devastated Smurf Village than by, you know, actual death. The ad campaign could have been even more gruesome:

Julie Lamoureux, account director at Publicis for the campaign, said the agency's original plans were toned down.
"We wanted something that was real war - Smurfs losing arms, or a Smurf losing a head -but they said no."

And the very first comment over at Hit and Run is this, which reminds one of a Fox News pundit at the least:

"If you are going to to there, you need to show the whole story. We need to see "Beloved Papa" and his roving death squads, disfigurment of Smurfette when she gets out of line, and mysterious happenings in Handy's garage. It could be nothing, but there is an awful lot of unaccounted for fungicide ..."

Check out the Hit and Run bit here. Original article here.
(Crossposted by Bostondreamer at FloridaBlues)

A Bitter End to the Red Sox Season (But You Just KNEW It Was Coming!)

So I guess it's time to focus on the Patriots.

Damn Graffanino. He fields that groundball and we at least do not get swept. I almost got thrown out of freaking Alehouse for cursing at the TV that night.

Oh well, still a Red Sox fan until I die. And Go Angels.

The Church Speaks: 'The Bible is NOT a history or science text!'

So it is perhaps time to give props to the Catholic Church, church of my forefathers and source of much supression of knowledge and science in the not-so-distant past. Recently, it seems, the Church has declared that the Bible may NOT be 100% accurate when discussing science and history, a response to the recent upsurge in calls for a fundementalist or literal interpretation of the Holy Book of the Christianity, particularly in the United States. In discussing what is to be interpreted literally and what is intended as a spiritual lesson,

"...the bishops cite the early chapters of Genesis, comparing them with early creation legends from other cultures, especially from the ancient East. The bishops say it is clear that the primary purpose of these chapters was to provide religious teaching and that they could not be described as historical writing.

Similarly, they refute the apocalyptic prophecies of Revelation, the last book of the Christian Bible, in which the writer describes the work of the risen Jesus, the death of the Beast and the wedding feast of Christ the Lamb.

The bishops say: “Such symbolic language must be respected for what it is, and is not to be interpreted literally. We should not expect to discover in this book details about the end of the world, about how many will be saved and about when the end will come.” "
It is refreshing to see the Catholic Church taking a stand for science as well as for faith, rather than supressing either. It is unfortunate that many of those in the United States that should heed these words tend to view Catholicism and the Vatican as a false church with some good ideas at best and the 'whore of Babylon' at worst.
H/T Andrew Sullivan!

(Crossposted by Bostondreamer at FloridaBlues)

Greetings from the Land of the Almost Dead

Hi! Well, it's been great fun so far this year, being a full-time doctoral student as well as a full-time high school teacher. And of course, my wife has been gone almost 6 weeks writing insurance claims. I have been trying to post some stuff, but hey, you know, I am enjoying my current laid back and stress free existence!

Saturday, September 24, 2005

'News Alert: Heaven now closed to children of sinners; fundies rejoice'

So it seems that the best way to educate some children in the principles of Christian faith, forgiveness of sin, and all of that stuff is to expel them from school for the supposed sins of their parents. From the LA Times:

"Your family does not meet the policies of admission," Supt. Leonard Stob wrote to Tina Clark, Shay's biological mother. The policy, he added, states that at least one parent cannot engage in practices "immoral or inconsistent with a positive Christian life style [sic] such as cohabitating without marriage or in a homosexual relationship."
The letter included two checks refunding $3,415, Shay's tuition for half the school year and an art fee. Attempts to reach Stob were unsuccessful.Clark and her partner, Mitzi Gray, have been together for 22 years, and have three daughters; the others are ages 9 and 19. Clark and Gray said school officials learned of their relationship after Shay and another cheerleader were reprimanded for talking to the crowd during a football game Sept. 16.

My, what a quite sinful life her parents lead. In a committed, monogamous relationship for 22 years, a mother named Mitzi, the parents of 3 children, and geez, their daughter was a cheerleader for goodness sake! How much more American could a family possibly get?
All of this being said, this IS a private institution, entitled to do whatever it likes and admit whoever it likes. This does, however, provide a strong argument against vouchers. My public money better not go to support an institution such as this.
Check out the libertarian blog Hit and Run for a great discussion in the comments section on this issue.

(Crossposted by Bostondreamer at FloridaBlues)

Friday, September 16, 2005

'I just want to teach.'

Sometimes, I wake up in the morning, and I cry. There are times when I want to just quit, to walk out the door and say, ‘So long, and thanks for all the fish.’ These are the days, the times, when I think that teaching was the wrong profession for me.
Sometimes, I wake up in the morning, and I smile. There are times when I cannot wait to walk into my classroom and say, ‘Hi folks. It’s great to see you, let’s get started.’ These are the days, the times, when I think that teaching was the best profession for me.
Lately, I cry more than I smile. I am so tired of a lot of everything. I have been repeating a new mantra, a bitter mantra: ‘I just want to teach history!’ I hate this mantra, because it makes me feel like I am not a team player, that I am somehow failing to do what must be done to help my students.
My school is all about ‘the team’ and all about ‘the students.’ I understand, and on the surface, I agree with it all completely. And yet, I cannot help but feel that being all about ‘the team’ and all about ‘the students’ leaves out the individual teacher. I want to teach my students the joy of history, the passion that I feel for a subject near and dear to my heart, and sometimes I succeed, I think. But now, now I must place a heavier emphasis on specific methods of delivery, and I must take almost full responsibility for the success or failure of my students. And this bothers me. It shouldn’t, I know. Teachers SHOULD bear some responsibility for the success or failure of their students…but not at the expense of removing all of the responsibility from the shoulders of the students. That is where education and education ‘reform’ seems to be going.
There is no box on the IEP or the 504 or the AIP for helping a student overcome laziness or attitude or anger or socio-economic status. There is no box that will allow the student to get a new set of parents that will make him care about learning, or a new set of goals that will make her want to go beyond getting a boy or a baby. There is nothing I can do about a lack of will in the student. But I am responsible 100% for the success of that student.
I am tired. I am angry. I recently spent 45 minutes in a training session on the proper use of word walls. Word walls. In high school. I know how to use word walls. I simply choose not to use them because I have not found them effective, research be damned. The students at this level find them amusing, if anything. They mock them, and they mock the whole idea of using elementary level strategies on high school level students.
Paperwork. Paperwork. It all about paperwork. Document everything, build a file, write a letter, beg, plead, hope, pray, for the student to care about learning.
I am not sure I can care much longer. I’m not sure my students, many of them, want me to care.
I love history. I love teaching. I wish I could teach history.
(Crossposted by Bostondreamer at FloridaBlues)

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Fu--No, Scratch that. LOVE the Police!

Regular readers of FloridaBlues and, really, the whole bloggerverse, are aware that there are enough villians in the cock-up that is New Orleans to fill a Flash Gordon movie. This post is not about them. Rather, I want to take this time to thank those men and women of the New Orleans Police Department who stayed behind to fight the good fight. Brian MacQuarrie of the Boston Globe has a moving piece about these officers, and it is well worth the read.

On the reactions of officers to the disaster:

Across from the mass human suffering at the fetid convention center yesterday, before a convoy of Humvees finally delivered hundreds of National Guard troops to this crime-ridden intersection of dashed hopes and mounting anger, a city police officer touched his finger to his eye and began to cry.

''I'm going to stay here till everything's done," the officer said. ''I love this city."

On why the officers in the article requested not to be named:

In the morning, when the police officer cried, he spoke caustically about the supplies that had yet to arrive for the storm victims, and the lack of food and equipment for the officers. Whatever they needed to eat, the officer said, they had taken from the looted stores around them. The officers asked not to be identified for fear of retribution from the department.

(Retribution? For doing their jobs in the only manner open to them?)
On how they survived, and on how they are trying to do their jobs:

The officers had been shot at every night, he and his colleagues said, by criminals who entered the teeming convention center to rob, assault, and rape some of the hurricane victims. Given their own vulnerable circumstances, the officers said, they took over an empty Hampton Inn to serve as a command post, positioned a backhoe as a barricade, erected a bogus ''Raw Sewage Danger" sign to keep away meddlers, and bulked up their firepower, supplementing the department-issue .40mm Glock pistols with their own shotguns.

''We had to arm ourselves," said another officer, a nine-year veteran who had been on duty for 29 straight hours. ''It's against regulations, but they're shooting at us constantly."

In one foray for supplies, the officers said, they broke open a store's safe containing a cache of weapons and added the firearms to their own stash at the Hampton Inn.

(Against regulations? Screw regulations in this case!)
Finally, on why they are doing what they are doing, and what their prescence, however symbolic, means to those they are sworn to serve and protect:

Outside the convention center, as edgy National Guard troops began taking up position shortly after noon, the New Orleans police who had been there since Sunday posed for photographs with some of the storm victims.

''Y'all did a wonderful job," said Yolanda Camese, 49, as she hugged one of the officers. ''You made us feel safer. I watched you every night."

''I made a commitment to the city," said the officer, who paused for nearly a minute as he looked at the pavement. ''I made a commitment to my [police] district, and I made a commitment to these people out here and to my fellow officers. That's why I'm here."
Lord knows the New Orleans Police Department has had its share of corruption and shame. It is important, I think, to point out those times when the department goes above and beyond the call of duty. Folks, many of us on the left justifiably attack law enforcement when they place themselves beyond the pale. Now, it is time that we honor these officers in New Orleans and other ravaged areas for going beyond their duty and staying after others, understandably and blamelessly, abandonded it. Heroes, all of them. One hopes that they will be recognized as such when this is all over. Read the article!!!!!
(Crossposted by Bostondreamer at FloridaBlues)

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Night of the Living Dead in New Orleans

Defending Science in Florida: Fighting the Good Fight

Wesley R. Elsberry, in response to my earlier post about Florida's new chancellor, informs us that he is leading an effort to defend science in Florida. His comment:

"I am working on organizing "Florida Citizens for Science". Citizens for Science groups have been instrumental across the country in defeating or ameliorating the antievolution attacks on science education. Please drop by the Austringer and leave your email address if you would like to join Florida Citizens for Science. There's a lot of hard work ahead. We need people who want to see science taught in science classes and non-science taught elsewhere. For more information on getting involved, please see the National Center for Science Education site, where I work."
I have signed up. Have you done your part? Defend science in Florida now.
(Crossposted by Bostondreamer at FloridaBlues)

Derbyshire gets it right on ID

John Derbyshire of National Review, not my favorite person, has an excellent piece up that trashes the idea that schools should teach Intelligent Design. He argues, basically, that if science classes teach Intelligent Design, they should also teach such fun fantasies as hollow-earth theory, astrology, and all of the other nonsense pseudo-science that plagues man. To those that feel the faith of their child would be threatened by the teaching of evolution, he has this to say:

If you are afraid that your children, being confronted with science in school, will turn into atheists and materialists, you have a wide variety of options available to you in this free nation. Most obviously, you should take your kids to church regularly, encourage them to pray, say grace before meals, and respond to those knotty questions that children sometimes ask with answers from your own faith. Or you could homeschool them, or send them to a religious school, and make sure they are not exposed to the science you fear so much.

What a great line. God forbid we gain exposure to anything that we fear, and that might challenge our worldview. Thank you, Mr. Derbyshire, for a strong defense of science education and a powerful take down of what amounts to 'faith-based' science. Wow, I'm thanking John Derbyshire. Weird.
(Crossposted by Bostondreamer at FloridaBlues)
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