Class Warfare Blog

January 22, 2020

Further Thoughts on Public Funding of Religious Schools

Filed under: Culture,Education,Politics,Religion — Steve Ruis @ 11:11 am
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One thing I thought of after my previous post on this topic was our experience with the State Lottery in California. As it was constructed 50% of the proceeds was to go to public education in the state, with the prize money and overhead to come out of the other 50%. Opponents to the lottery law said that “lottery funding will displace state funding and the schools will be back to square one with no net increase in funding.” Well, the law passed and lottery funding for schools was disbursed and . . . guess what happened.

I am also reminded that promises made by politicians mean absolutely nothing. Consider the promises made with regard to the recent Trump tax cuts. Our experience from the past told us that corporations would take the tax money saved and buy back their own stock with it, which would line the pockets of their stockholders and their executives who were being remunerated with stock options (who were responsible, btw, for making the decisions as to what to do with the windfall). The politicians promised instead: capital investment in productive capacity, higher wages, more jobs, better wages. Are you aware of what did happen? yes, it was stock buy-backs and none of those other things.

With regard to funding religious schools, what I hadn’t considered is what displacements would occur. If the funding from the public coffers replaced private tuition and contributions by the established religions, where does that money go that was being provided before? For the religious institutions, it goes back into their budgets so this is not direct support of a religion, but is one small step removed from that. It is a bank shot rather than a direct shot in the corner pocket. And believe you me, the parents who are no longer ponying up tuition to have their students educated at a religious school are going to receive a marketing campaign from their church like no other as to what to do with their “windfall gain” in prosperity.

One really needs to question the motivations of people sending their kids to a religious school when the options are public schools and secular private schools. Why a religious school when those other options are available for the same or even much less money? The quality of schooling might be an issue but that doesn’t hold up to scrutiny. If the local public schools are ramshackle and underfunded, a private option if one can afford it seems reasonable, but why a religious school over a secular private school?

For those who argue that the religious schools aren’t really religious, why would those school not incorporate as secular schools and, what benefit would there be to have the religious label, other than to sucker believers into thinking your school is better when it isn’t or are they just trying to avoid the regulations that come with being a truly public school. (We created those regulations to make sure our kids were safe and receiving a decent education, not some red-tape factory like ALEC.)

So, this is a direct violation of the Constitution because state funds would be taking the place of funds provided by the religions or the religious for religious purposes.

I’m ag’in it.

January 21, 2020

Public Funding of Religious Schools?

One could ask why charter schools are resisting government oversight so very vigorously, but one would question that only if one didn’t realize who is behind the charter school movement as it is currently constituted. These movers and shakers are conservatives looking to make money, a great deal of it, in a deregulated business. After having hoovered up as much money as could be made in the private sector, they looked at the pile of money that was being spent on public educations and said “I want me some of that!”

But these blood sucking assholes are not just out for #1, they are also a stalking horse for the public funding of private religious schools.

Tomorrow, the United States Supreme Court will hear arguments in a crucial case called Espinoza v. Montana. The goal of the Espinoza plaintiffs is to strike down state laws that prohibit public funding for religious schools. This is a case that could not only erase the line between church and state but could actually compel states to fund religious schools. It would require states to fund religious schools of every kind, and no one knows who will determine what is a legitimate religious school. It would divert funding from public schools to support students enrolled in religious schools, now and in the future.” (Source: Diane Ravitch’s Blog)

To my mind, there are a number of ways that this could occur and that would be if all religious schools were included in the deal (Ashrams, Yeshivas, Catholic schools, Sikh schools, Scientology schools, Jehovah’s Witnesses’ schools, Evangelical schools, etc.), that would eliminate showing some of the favoritism which is expected and government wouldn’t be sponsoring a religion, it would be sponsoring all of them. And, of course, the cost of accepting the funding would also include accepting government oversight and complying with the national hiring laws, anti-discrimination laws, etc. This is under the well-attested constitutional principle of “He who pays the piper names the tune.”

Oh, the religious schools are no longer interested? Ah!

SCOTUS

You’d think that the evangelical Christians behind this effort would be more aware of Church History. These folks seem to be quite anti-intellectual, and that includes with regard to their own documents. That notwithstanding, the Christian Church of the time, the “Orthodox Church” as it came to be named, even later to be called the Catholic Church, made a deal with the Devil by accepting status within the Roman Empire, first as a official state religion of Rome and then the official state religion of Rome. Think about this . . . Rome, represent Jesus’ executioners in this corner, and the relatively powerless nascent Christian Church in the other corner. A marriage made in . . . Hell.

The Christian Church officials of the time, like those behind this case, drooled over the prospects of exerting Roman state power in support of their religion. When they first acquired it, it was applied to the extermination of pagan cults (aided by Roman officials cashing in by claiming the confiscated lands and buildings of those cults). Once the pagan cults were vanquished, they took on the heretics. Of course, the definition of heretic was actually anyone who opposed the power of this or that ambitious prelate. (There was no central authority in the church at the time, there were just ambitious church politicians looking to claim it. Are you at all surprised that the church in Rome won that contest?) Those prelates used theological wars to provide the basis for greater power acquisitions.

Oh, and the cost of having state power at their beck and call? Well, it was steep. Most of the practices of the Christians of the third and fourth centuries no longer exist. They have been replaced by formalisms urged by Roman cult officials. (The separation of laity and priests, heck—priests and preachers, music in church, funny robes being worn by presiding officials, oh—presiding officials, funny hats being worn, you name it.) All adopted because of the Romans.

So, if the religious schools would sign on to play by the rules every other public school has to play by, then I might not oppose this move. Of course, the religious would be getting in bed with secular types who might just strangle them in their sleep. We can only hope.

 

January 19, 2020

Followers

Filed under: Uncategorized — Steve Ruis @ 10:08 am
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At this point I think of some of you who regularly comment on my blatherings as at least colleagues if not friends (yes, casual friends, but friends nonetheless). I was just reading a post elsewhere on WordPress and the author asked to be “followed” here and on Instagram and Twitter.

I was struck by the fact that I have never done the like. I have never asked people to “Follow me!” Now, it isn’t that I don’t check my site stats from time to time, being a bit of a stat junkie, but I haven’t had the thought of “Gee, how can I increase my number of followers?” or “Gosh, I would like to have more countries on my followers list.”

At no time have I thought of this endeavor as being a contest to see who can acquire the most followers, although I understand some politicians, athletes, and entertainment celebrities brag about how many followers they have. Now, that makes sense as they are all in the “look at me” business.

My motivation for posting has been to get a few things off my chest, clarify my thoughts, and to step out of the closet on some of my more unpopular stances. (I had not talked to anyone outside of my family about my atheism since college.)

To me followers declaring themselves as such is a little like declaring for a political party. There are no entrance requirements, no controls over who may or may not join, so bottom line I guess is that it is a gauge of how interesting you are as a poster and, even then, not a particularly good one as people need to find your posts to make that determination and that seems hit or miss. Plus they may be following you because they hate what you say rather than “like” what you say.

So, is acquiring followers for your blog(s) important to you?

January 8, 2020

New AP Poll Shows White Evangelicals . . .

Polls, being what they are, are more than a little problematic. But I guess it is not all that strange that a poll would find white evangelicals to be the least Christ-like of the groups polled (including the “Nones”!) and . . . well, here is a comment:

Compared to Catholics and mainstream protestants, white evangelicals oppose helping the poor, protecting minority groups, supporting children, and reject Biblical admonitions to avoid hoarding wealth. Non-religious people scored the highest when it came to supporting the basic tenets of Christianity actually.” (LGBTQ Nation)

“Non-religious people scored the highest when it came to supporting the basic tenets of Christianity actually.” Sheesh. Says a lot, but a poll like this cannot be used to make general conclusions, but the results are intriguing.

* * *

The AP-NORC poll of 1,053 adults was conducted Dec. 5-9 using a sample drawn from NORC’s probability-based AmeriSpeak Panel, which is designed to be representative of the U.S. population. The margin of sampling error for all respondents is plus or minus 4.0 percentage points. Respondents were first selected randomly using address-based sampling methods and later were interviewed online or by phone.

January 6, 2020

Academic Writing

Filed under: Education,Science — Steve Ruis @ 10:41 am
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The Conversation web site ran an interesting article on the third of January (Academic Writing Can Be Boring – But There Are Good Reasons for That) which gave some history of academic writing and why it tends to be dry and, well, dull.

Since I taught academic writing to my chemistry students I have some interest in this topic and I think there were a few things left out, at least as they apply to serious writing about chemical subjects.

Academic journals all set their own formats so that topic will not be covered but in addition:

  • Chemists are writing about their experiments which all occurred in the past, so they use past tense. In fiction writing exclusive use of the past tense is a manuscript killer because it implies that everything already happened, and so no change can occur. So, some history can be covered but there is no tension as to what might happen next because everything has already happened.
  • The only “actors” are the chemicals, so everything is written in passive voice, e.g. “water was boiled, chemicals were mixed, heat was applied.” They do not write “I boiled some water, etc.” because it doesn’t matter who boiled the water, just that it was boiled, so passive voice–impersonal (no pronouns other than “it,” etc.) is the rule of the day. This adoption would be lethal in fiction writing because there are no actors in the writing, so no characters.
  • There is no suspense because all formats start out with an abstract, which tells all regarding the article. This is so very busy scientists can read a synopsis of what was done to decide whether reading the details is worthwhile. (There is even a publication called “Chemical Abstracts” which published just the titles and abstracts of all of the chemistry articles appearing in the other journals. There is way too much stuff published to not supply these tools. (Of course, with the advent of computers and the Internet, there are tools that automatically search journals for a set of key words you supply, and many others.)

As a consequence, chemistry journal articles are dry and lifeless, exactly the way we want. The focus is on the chemicals and what they did . . . when . . . etc. The names at the top of the article tell you who did it, and there is no other mention of them otherwise. (Although this “rule” is breaking down somewhat.)

An Anecdote As a teacher of freshmen chemistry to freshmen, part of the lab portion of the course involved writing formal reports. Just before I retired, I got the number of such required reports down to exactly two. All students were supplied with written instructions as to how to do this. They even got a lecture going over these things. If something egregious showed up in the first set of reports, a “grade killer” provision was made for the second one. As an example, students seem to be addicted to formatting titles as if they were sentences (first word capitalized, period at the end). Since I was a part-time editor I made an attempt to figure out how this came to be and I believe it was from a practice of modern magazine ad formatting. The ads in magazines used to have “zingers” at the top, which were essentially titles, to attract attention. At some point, magazines figured out that having a sentence at the top of the ad implied something was being said and made it more read-worthy. Since students read a lot of magazines and very few books, this “format at the top” became their exemplars of “titles.”

In any case when this started showing up, it became my first “grade killer.” After leading a discussion of title formats (which resulted in the meta rule “If in doubt, capitalize all of the big words.”) I told them that if they instead formatted their title as if it were a sentence, they will have effectively killed their chance of getting an A on the report. (The grade being killed was the possibility of getting an A, not an automatic F on the report. I was not an ogre. If they formatted their report title as a sentence, the max grade they could get was a B.)

The first time I imposed this rule, the percentage of reports with titles formatted as sentences was ____ ? What do you think? I though it should be 1-3 percent. If you guessed 40% you hit the mark. I was shocked. What happened to all of the grade grubbers that were supposedly filling our college classrooms?

I tried all kinds of things, like supplying them with checklists of things to look over before submitting their reports (and lots more). The effects of these were small. (This ineffectiveness on my part fueled my early retirement to some extent.) End of Anecdote

Scientists have to learn how to write for other scientists. Even non-scientists (and I assumed the vast majority of my students would not become scientists) have to be able, from time to time, read something written for scientists and be able to decipher it, just as all U.S. citizens need to be able to read the Constitution and be able to decipher it . . . usually with some help.

I like my chemistry writings like I like my Martini’s “dry, shaken, not stirred” or some such.

Having said all of the above, I absolutely love the writings of gifted science writers. These are people who make science come alive for lay audiences. This is another gift altogether.

 

 

January 3, 2020

The Netflix Messiah

Filed under: Culture,Entertainment — Steve Ruis @ 12:57 pm
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I just finished watching the new Netflix series Messiah. This is not a review of that series, although I enjoyed it greatly. It was mostly a comment on how we would respond if Jesus came back and seemed more than a little realistic. But what I am writing on now is that Netflix has decided (because they pay for it) that everything they put out now will have atmospheric music running continuously in the background. Actually if it just ran in the background, that might be okay but often it almost dominates the dialogue, making it hard to hear. When people are speaking in foreign languages, in this case a lot of them, and in accented English, sometimes it is hard to follow. It is especially hard to follow when the damned music rises and falls along with the dialogue . . . and the tension in the scene.

They even have leitmotifs! When a phone rings, for example, there is a little chime riff in the music. Sheesh.

I admit I am a little hard of hearing but I am using over the ear headphones to maximize my ability to hear.

Don’t let my kvetching stop you from viewing the series. It was very enjoyable.

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