Class Warfare Blog

September 29, 2017

Major College Basketball Scandal Adds to Previous One

There is currently an ongoing FBI investigation into payola in college basketball which is going to result in a number of firings (already begun) and people going to jail (coming soon). In the FBI’s investigation, a shoe company and sports agents illegally funneled money to athletes and athlete’s families in the hopes of reaping a reward later.

Asked to comment, Hall of Fame NBA player and now commenter, Charles Barkley said amongst other things “the value of a free college education has been undervalued” as part of his criticism of the players involved. I happen to like “Sir Charles” because you never have to wonder what he is thinking; he will tell you. In this specific case, though, I disagree. You see the college education he speaks of isn’t “free.”

Basketball players receive “scholarships,” with the NCAA (one of the college sports governing bodies in the U.S.) limiting the number of scholarships to 13 in Division 1 teams (the most competitive). The scholarships often cover tuition, and room and board, and a miniscule per deum, which is what Charles thinks is undervalued by the athletes who took money on top of that. The “scholarship” is really in exchange for the athlete’s services. I had friends who were in college on scholarship, who then had an accident and couldn’t play and voila, they no longer had a scholarship. The scholarship is contingent on the performance. Get cut from the squad and often there goes your scholarship. So, it is not free, in fact it is quite expensive. I played Division II basketball in college at a school which did not offer scholarships. During the season (roughly half the year) I spent three to four hours a day practicing. (Today that is minimal as there are weight and flexibility programs and team meetings, etc. added in.) This is equivalent to working a full-time job for about four months. So, an “opportunity cost” is that one cannot use that time to otherwise gain wages. (Over four years that is a years wages, plus.)

Consider the University of Kentucky basketball program, which in 2014 grossed $40 million and made a $24 million “profit.” (This is just the most obvious program I could find numbers for. Smaller programs don’t make anywhere near this much money, but …) NBA teams pay out half of their gross as salaries to players. UK pays none of this as salaries. I don’t know whether the program reimburses the university for the tuition of the players, I think “not” but it doesn’t matter, as the $24 million in “profits” goes into the university coffers. If, as in the NBA, UK were to pay its players half of what the program grossed, they would be paying the 13 players $20 million dollars in total or $1,538,000 each (note they could afford that).

If one estimates tuition at UK at $25,000 per annum and living expenses at another $25,000, then the cost of the college educations for the entire team would be $1,300,000 or $238,000 less than each player made for the university that year! Each player made enough to fund the entire team’s college educations!

This is why generalities like “the value of a free college education has been undervalued” are not helpful, because the players aren’t spending $50,000 for their education, they are spending $1,538,000 each for their educations. How is that undervaluing the cost of their educations?

Note that the program still had $16,000,000 to cover expenses, including grotesque overpayment for the coach, and would have had a $4,000,000 profit anyway were they to have done this.

Now, some of you will surely say, but Steve, those “profits” go to support the university’s other teams, the ones, unlike football and basketball, which do not make a profit. So, you are saying that exploiting the football and basketball players is acceptable because it supports minor sports? Is that what you are saying?

I mentioned I played NCAA Division II basketball. One of my years, the team made it to what was then called the Small College “Final Four,” so it had some success. We played our home games in a gym that would house about 800 spectators and students got in for free with an ID card. We often only drew 300 for a game. None of the college’s sports offered scholarships and none of the sports made a profit. None of the games were shown on TV (the source of the bulk of the monies made by college programs). The college offered these programs as part of its educational programs (plus it was good marketing as it placed the college’s name in the newspapers). The uniforms were the same one’s the team used last year. The shoes we bought ourselves. The coach taught the team as part (not all) of his teaching load with a bit extra for the extra hours involved. When we traveled we had team blazers to wear in public, the same ones that had been worn for decades. I am not saying this to show the nobility of the effort, I learned a lot and had a great deal of fun while sweating a lot and bleeding a little. The only reason the “major” colleges spend so much on their programs is because of the TV money. They are competing for the TV money because it is so lucrative. The money “earned” off of the players sweat can be used to support all of the other programs, thereby relieving the university from having to pay for them. The way I played was the way it was in the early days of college athletics. Now, TV money has made universities greedy, to the point that the highest paid public employee in every state of the U.S. is now likely to be a major college football coach. The coaches cash in, but the players, well, they shouldn’t be corrupted into thinking their participation is a job, even though other students toil away on campus, doing jobs that need doing and they get paid. And the difference is?

Hey, if the program can’t afford it, then it can’t afford it, but for the major college programs which can, well this is the big scandal. If those kids, often Black kids from very poor families, got paid a small fraction of what they made for their schools, then there would be no incentive to take payola from shoe companies and shady sports agencies.

They work. They make money for their employer (virtually the definition of economic work) and they are woefully underpaid. Pay them.



June 24, 2017

We Don’ Need No Regyoolayshuns … Education Edition

Check out “Multi-state investigation alleges Akron-area charter school founder bilked millions from parents, students, taxpayers” (Akron Beacon Journal/

The “pro choice” education lobby seems to be more of a “pro-corruption” advocacy group as more and more of these scams are popping up. Politicians, paid for by the scammers, insist no public oversight is needed. After all it is just money we are giving them, and the responsibility to teach our children. Nothing to see here, move along.

May 22, 2017

High School Graduation Rates Going Up? Maybe . . .

Filed under: Education — Steve Ruis @ 7:49 am
Tags: , , ,

The Brookings Institution published a piece on high school graduation rates. According to that piece, studies show high school graduation rates had been higher in the 1970s, for example, but from 1990 to 2007 they had been “stable” in the 71%–75% range, but since then have crept up to 82%. Their point was that the statistics, while being soft, were also unexplained; we don’t know why they declined and we don’t know why they have increased lately.

I don’t know either, but I’d be willing to bet a dollar that the cause is that high school students aren’t leaving high school because they got a good job as much as they used to. The years 2007-2008 were pivotal. That is when the Great Recession began. Since then young people have witnessed the impact of the shitty job market and the wage suppression efforts of the plutocrats’ effects on their parents. The economic uncertainty of those parents trickled down to their children, no matter how hard they tried to shield them from it. So, the pressure to “stay in school” was higher and the opportunities to take a “good job” in lieu of graduating were many fewer. Both could increase the high school graduation rate.

Congratulations economy destroying capitalists!

I graduated high school in 1964 and at that time, not everyone went to college. You didn’t even consider it unless you had B average grades. Many of my classmates went off into the world of work right away. It was “normal.” Now, it seems that the only path forward recommended to high school students is college. Trade apprentice programs, the military, technical schools, all of the alternatives available when I was young seem to be no longer in favor. Granted, community colleges offer certificates in cosmetology and welding and auto mechanics, filling the “trade school” gap somewhat, but children are actively discouraged from going into trades for the most part.

So, apparently my generation has effed up the economy of this country sufficiently that while we were unable to use the “scared straight” approach to stop drug use, we apparently have done a good job of scaring youths straight to high school graduation.

May 18, 2017

GOP Gives Lie to Their “Small Government” Goal

The GOP has clamored for smaller government, mostly at the federal level, for many decades. “Big Government” was a term said only as a slur. In particular, the GOP has advocated that the federal Department of Education should be dispensed with as education was the responsibility of the states. (I do not argue with that point.)

But, well, times have changed. In particular, the GOP is in power and positioned to do almost anything they want to do. So what do we get? According to a press release from the American Association of School Administrators:
“Alexandria, Va. – May 17, 2017 – Legislation pending in Congress would create new opportunities for corporations and successful investors to earn huge profits by transferring public funding to private schools, according to a report released today by AASA, The School Superintendents Association, and the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy.
“The legislation—the Educational Opportunities Act—would put two new federal voucher tax shelters within reach for many more Americans and lead to an explosion in funding for private schools. It would also keep in place an existing federal loophole that permits savvy taxpayers to benefit from ‘double dipping’ practices, where they receive a federal deduction and state tax credit on the same donation to a private school entity. At present, high-income taxpayers in nine of the 17 states offering voucher tax credits can turn a profit using this technique.

So, apparently, federal meddling in the state’s business of educating the next generations is now okay now, because … money.

May 5, 2017

Stop with the Throw Away Lines

Too often now I am seeing lazy writing (too often my own which then needs to be corrected, but that’s another story) in the form of “throw away lines:” President Trump is “good at real estate,” Bill Gates “knows computers,” etc. In truth, Mr. Trump, for example, is involved in real estate deals of a magnitude none of us will ever touch but so what? If you had been given as much startup money as he was, would you have done as well or better? How successful has he been? (You’ll have to consult someone other than Mr. Trump on that; maybe if you could see his tax returns….) What brought this to mind was a line in an article regarding the rage to extract profits from the K-12 education “market.” (Why For-Profit Education Fails by Jonathan A. Knee in the November issue of The Atlantic magazine). This was the line.

“Advocates of for-profit education often understandably emphasize the role that market forces play in improving quality and efficiency.”

Understandably? Market forces improve quality and efficiency? This is a bit generous. Mr. Gates is famous because he captured a rapidly expanding new market. His big idea? That you should pay substantial amounts for the software needed to make the software that you actually want to run on your computer work. (Reasonably, we should have expected that to be free with the price of a computer and upgraded for free). Then he made marginal improvements in his product and charged more and more for every “upgrade.” Some of these “improvements” actually made his product worse. Through hardball business tactics, though, he extracted billions of dollars from a captive market (it is very hard for the average computer user to pick up his marbles and go home; if one decides to scrap one’s “operating system,” one incurs a great deal of expense and no little commitment of time, so this is not something to be undertaken lightly … I know I have done it several times).

“The role that market forces play in improving quality and efficiency,” uh, maybe.

Also, there is no acknowledgement of how those “market forces” accomplish those “improvements” when they do occur. Generally they are accomplished by the crushing of opposing companies, costing their investors money and their workers jobs. Currently is “improving the quality and efficiency” of bookstores (and more). Ask any bookstore owner or worker how that is going.

Also, do any of these people consider whether it is appropriate to apply “market forces” to an endeavor in which we desire there to be no failures? Does anyone interview the parents and school kids involved when a charter school shuts down in mid year and those kids need to be placed into another school (with the money to educate them gone in the disaster)?

Has anyone suggested that the military be run this way? Or the education of doctors? (It is so expensive to educate doctors that great efforts are extended to select students who will succeed and then great efforts are made to help them do so.) Should we be applying the same standards to volunteer soldiers that we are recommending for teachers? (Wash 10% out every year and replace them with better ones!)

Stop with the “the role that market forces play in improving quality and efficiency” throw away statements, especially when they are not even close to being true.

April 25, 2017

International Test Scores … and Other Meaningless Drivers of Policy

In yet another piece by a think tank on education [(Brown Center Chalkboard) “What International Test Scores Reveal About American Education” by Louis Serino, April 7, 2017] we are treated to a fairly typical display of data showing “some progress” but still typically mediocre results. (We are America, for Christ’s sake; shouldn’t we be #1!)

At the end of the article comes the important segment, which many will not read far enough to partake of:

“Why Do These Scores Matter?

Rankings based on international assessments are simple to understand—but they can also mislead. While researchers often shy away from using rankings in serious statistical analyses of test scores, they can have a substantial impact on political rhetoric, and consequently, education policy. Media outlets often take these lists and use them in headlines or sound bites, providing little context and furthering educational policy discussion that can often be misleading. To get the most value from U.S. participation in PISA and TIMSS, policymakers—and the public—should closely analyze the trends on both tests with caution and context.”

What almost all of these pieces leave out is a simple question: are we comparing apples to hand grenades? “Apples to oranges” is the usual forn of this cliché but that form instills some similarity in that the comparison is at least fruit to fruit, which is too close of a match for what these articles do.

To compare “fruit to fruit” we might ask “Has the U.S. ever done well in these international tests?” The answer is No! We have never, ever, ever done really well on those tests. There are many reasons for this but let me point out that our school children scored fairly mediocre in international math testing one year, the same year in which our school children won the prestigious and highly competitive Math Olympics. Also, since about the 1960’s we have had these “mediocre international test scores” but still had a university system the envy of the world, and innovation that was the envy of the world, an economy … well, you know.

In comparing “fruit to fruit” why should we compare how we did with how well Singapore or Shanghai did? Are they countries of similar population? (Hint: They aren’t even countries!) We break up high school football championships into myriad categories by size of the schools, but we compare a 300 million population country (us) with Singapore (pop. 5 million)? We are also compared negatively with Finland, an actual country, but one which has a population the same as Singapore’s. Sheesh!

And, what about breakouts? When we separate out some U.S. states, we can’t help but notice that Massachusetts does as well as any country on the list, all by itself. That is not often noted because you can’t claim that “public education is an abject failure” when there are examples galore of it kicking ass. Now there would be policy recommendations you could get from that one breakout factoid, maybe “Massachusetts seems to be able to make public education work for American students, lets all do it like Massachusetts.” That would be a viable policy recommendation if … if what Massachusetts does didn’t counter the narratives of some of the current crop of education reformers.

Would the automobile industry accept all of the input from think tanks, political groups, privately-funded reform groups, were they to insert themselves into the business of making cars? I think those entities would be more or less politely told to go suck eggs.

I think it is time for the education reformers to be told to go suck eggs. They do not know what they are doing. They do not know how to really analyze the data. And they have no special perspective you couldn’t get from a hired bean counter. They need to just go away and return education to the people closest to it.



January 15, 2017

You Have to Ask “Why?”

Have you ever heard of the High School Movement? I certainly had not, so I looked it up in Wikipedia, which provided the following:

The high school movement is a term used in educational history literature to describe the era from 1910 to 1940 during which secondary schools sprouted across the United States. During this early part of the 20th century, American youth entered high schools at a rapid rate, mainly due to the building of new schools, and acquired skills “for life” rather than “for college.” In 1910 19% of 15- to 18-year-olds were enrolled in a high school; barely 9% of all American 18-year-olds graduated. By 1940, 73% of American youths were enrolled in high school and the median American youth had a high school diploma. The movement began in New England but quickly spread to the western states. According to Claudia Goldin, the states that led in the U.S. high school movement (e.g. Iowa and Nebraska) had a cohesive, homogeneous population and were more affluent, with a broad middle-class group.

“The United States exceeded Europe in mass secondary education. The American system of education was characterized as open to many (mostly white) students, forgiving, lacking universal standards, and academic. On the other hand, the European system was closed, unforgiving, with uniform standards, and academic for some and industrial for others. Secondary schools in America were free and generally accessible, while in most of Europe they were costly and often inaccessible with difficult entrance exams. In the United States, schools were provided by small, local districts. Because decentralized decision making system rose competition among districts for residents in the United States, the U.S. moved quickly in building schools initially. In contrast, schools were provided by the central government as a national decision in Europe. Further, high school was designed to be the terminal degree rather than a pre-college diploma of office or skilled blue-collar workers in the United States. By 1955 80% of United States youth had graduated from an academic high school. In this setting general skills and social mobility were emphasized, not specific training or apprenticeships. Even by the 1930s, America was virtually alone in providing secondary schools that were free and accessible; however, this accessibility was limited to white students. While in Europe the rate of those graduating from academic high schools was only 10%-20%. Most Europeans, 40%-50%, attended full-or part-time vocational training.

“From the viewpoint of economics, this movement led to the increase of women’s labor force from 1930 to 1950 in the United States. Knowledge and skills women gained in high school helped them attain better jobs outside the home.

I didn’t know this. I did know that the transition the country was in from a farming-based economy to one less involved in farming made a great many farmers job’s superfluous. In the late 19th century, 40% of all jobs were in farming; now it is closer to 2-3%. As labor required more expertise to be effective, it became smart to keep kids in school longer. It also kept the kids out of the job market for non-farm related jobs.

So, greater prosperity for all and greater opportunities for women. Wow! But, wait, there’s more!

In the early 1960’s a combination of events lead to a similar expansion, this time in U.S. citizens going to college. In the mid-1800’s there was a tremendous growth in the number of four-year colleges, mostly in the western states. But, still, the number of colleges was relatively small. Also, the entrenched eastern colleges had different ideas regarding the purpose of a college education from the newer western colleges. The western colleges were more pragmatic, teaching subjects like engineering and mining and animal husbandry. The eastern colleges were more traditional, emphasizing philosophy, the arts, as well as the law and medicine. We have remnants of those disputes still today: in many eastern colleges the BA degree is considered superior to the “more pragmatic” BS degree. In the west, it is the reverse.

As few people went to high school as there were in the early 1900’s, the demand for students to take slots in U.S. colleges and universities was still being met. But in the early 1960’s there was a huge explosion in the number of community colleges. These were colleges which only addressed subjects that were addressed in the first two years of a tradition four-year program, hence their label as “two-year colleges.” At one point in California in the early 1960’s, a new community college was opening about one per week. Even though many derided these colleges as “high schools with ash trays” and pointed to programs in cosmetology and welding as being inappropriate topics for colleges, this expansion lead to a number of things: for one it lead to a great many students being able to afford a college education (I was one of those) and it allowed a great many more to attend college due to having one in close proximity. The State of California credits the expansion of the college-educated workforce for a great deal of the expansion of its economy, especial in areas like aerospace, electronics, and high tech (Silicon Valley, etc.).

As a community college professor (later), I remember entertaining delegations of Chinese educators coming to this country to see our colleges and universities and especially they wanted to see our two-year colleges. Nowhere else in the world was attendance in college being offered to so many citizens as was being done in the U.S.

So, since the expansion of education to a greater and greater share of the U.S. population has lead to unprecedented prosperity and well-being, you have to ask why are our public schools currently under attack? “Entrepreneurs” have high jacked the voucher school and charter school movements expanding those offerings substantially by siphoning off funds from public schools to do so. Of course, there was a disinformation campaign involved (a major weapon in the plutocrats arsenal). Our public schools were described as failing, not up to international standards, etc. “Evidence” was cherry-picked to support these false claims. And people have offered almost no resistance to these efforts resulting in the dismantling of our system of public schools and colleges. Why is this being done?

Oh, greed. Well, that explains it. There is money to be made in opening these “schools.” So much money that new stories of mismanagement and malfeasance at charter schools are now a daily occurrence. These schools, being offered as a promise to do better than the “failing public schools” are, of course, not doing better, most are about the same but many are far, far worse and many only do as well as they do by excluding “difficult” students: those “of color” and/or disabled.

This is another example of the Killing the Goose that Laid Golden Eggs Syndrome. You know how the parable goes: a goose is discovered that lays golden eggs. After extensive discussions, the owner of the goose is induced to kill the goose and harvest all of the eggs inside of it. (This is a terrifically stupid story in that anyone ever having lived on a farm knows that fowl take a day or more to create one egg; they aren’t egg dispensers having many eggs inside and just dispensing one a day.) Of course, killing the goose reveals no more eggs and now that the goose is dead, there will be no more eggs.

The Great American Economy was built not on capital and entrepreneurship, but on educating American workers so they became the most productive workers in the entire world. We are now in the process of destroying that educational base. I remember when “public education reform” was something done to make education better, not just more profitable for the rich.

Let me requote the above “The American system of education was characterized as open to many (mostly white) students, forgiving, lacking universal standards, and academic. On the other hand, the European system was closed, unforgiving, with uniform standards, and academic for some and industrial for others.” Why are we trying to take the system that worked so well and transforming it into the one we superseded?

Oh, greed, I forgot for a second.

And, you will notice that we denied this opportunity to people of color, to whole we offered only substandard educations. Why are we continuing this practice, a practice that has worked so poorly and not offered them what worked for white people?

Not with a bang, but with a whimper. Is this how you want to go out?

January 3, 2017

Follow-up on Agriculture-Smagriculture

We have been having a lively interchange in the comments to this recent post (see Agriculture-Smagriculture below) and it occurs to me that many readers may not be aware of how much industry has inserted itself into the public research that affects our health.

The N.Y. Times ran an article that lays out many of the themes involved in this complex story in an article titled “Scientists Loved and Loathed by an Agrochemical Giant” by Danny Hakim. If you read that article, imagine multiplying that situation by a very large number and you will get an idea as to the breadth and scope of this issue.

One of the reasons behind the Republican effort to “shrink government” is that when the government supports scientific research it is in the public interest and has to let the chips fall where they may lack of bias (well, at least a minimum amount; it is not immune to corruption). When corporations sponsor public research it is often on a “if it is good for us, it gets published and if it isn’t, it doesn’t” basis.

Academics are often in a “must publish” situation, also called “publish or perish.” Even tenured professors can undergo a tenure review if they do not show a strong publication record. While that is rare, you are not going to get to full professor without a list of publications longer than your arm. So, corporations include “non-disclosure” clauses in their contracts for research to give them the right to publish or not. Their argument is that it is proprietary research and there is money to be made which they don’t want to just give to their competitors.

There is a movement afoot to have all publicly sponsored research made available to the public. (Hey, we paid for it.) Much of it is behind pay walls at US$35 per article, which I can attest is as good as being hidden. Combine that practice with corporate-funded research that counters a sponsoring corp’s interests getting buried, never to see the light of day, and you can see the public is pretty much kept in the dark.

Do realize also, that this is a selective use of scientists’ and their universities’ public images. Any research a giant corp wants done could be done “in house,” but by having a prominent scientist, working at a prominent university, doing the research, well, that gives the findings an imprimatur they can’t get from their own “findings.” Of course, if the research is damning, those imprimaturs work against them, hence the “contract provisions” giving them the power to publish … or not.

A crippled federal government, a la the one envisioned by the GOP, will not have the funds to sponsor the research we need done by neutral investigators who publish their works in somewhat accessible journals. It is not by accident that “Big Business” favors the party striving toward “smaller government.”

December 23, 2016

A Time of Year for Worshiping … What?

Filed under: Religion — Steve Ruis @ 2:10 pm
Tags: , , , , ,

Creationists seem to think that there is only one process of dating antiquities: carbon-14 dating. Actually the list of techniques that can be used to date materials is rather long, too long to list here (with explanations, names wouldn’t mean much). And the interesting thing is that there is rough agreement between all of these. Realize, though, that all of these do not overlap with one another. Counting tree rings, for example, only goes back a few thousand years, which overlaps with all of the others, but just for a few thousand years. Carbon-14 dating can only go back about the last 50,000 years (modern humans have been around longer). Others go back billions of years which overlap with just a few of the others, so the amount of deep time these techniques covers differs quite a bit.

And what have we learned from these techniques?

If we were to use the age of the Earth as measure, which is about 4.5 billion years, and we were to go back from now to about one sixth of that time, we would find a world containing only single cell organisms. Studies keep pushing the first occurrence of such organisms back and back but let us just say that they first appeared fairly early in this entire time period, much lass than the first billion years of earth’s existence, so “life on Earth” was only single cell organisms for over three quarters of its time in existence.

During that last one-sixth of the Earth’s existence, as we go back from “now” to “then,” life gets simpler and simpler and less diverse, meaning that during this period of hundreds of millions of years, life became more and more complex.

These are just a few of myriad things we have learned about our planet of origin. Once living organisms formed, then the process of evolution mindlessly made life more and more complex. Creationists say this violates the laws of thermodynamics with is incredibly stupid. All the laws of thermodynamics say is if a chemical process involves the creation of more complicated chemicals from less complicated chemicals, then it will cost some energy. And where might that energy have come from? I don’t know … maybe the sun, gravity, lightning, heat from inside the Earth pouring out in volcanic eruptions, etc. There were many sources of energy available to make more complicated things from less complicated. We are still paying this cost. To prevent the collection of very complex chemicals that is each of us from degrading too quickly, we must eat food quite regularly to provide the energy needed to remake complex chemicals to replace those falling apart. This is done by a chemical process called metabolism (scientists have learned about that, too). If we refrain from eating for a month or two, we might die from that (it depends on how much food energy we have stored before we begin).

Creationists, aka Intelligent Design advocates, deny all of this knowledge (from fields of biology, geology, paleontology, etc,) a quantity of denial that is astoundingly large, all because it conflicts with their Bible. The Earth cannot be as old as it is measured to be. Man was created fully formed and all of those fossils of early “men” were really just from apes. The fact that none of these apes show up in our history books or stories is because they all died in the Great Flood of the Bible. They claim that there are “holes” in the scientific story (there are, there always are) but the holes they claim are there were filled decades ago. (Creationists know this, they are just being dishonest, using arguments they think you might buy out of ignorance.)

Basically Creationists/IDers are claiming that God could not have made the Earth … and us … the way we actually demonstrably are because the Bible says differently. They do not believe God is powerful enough to have made the Earth … and us … as our lying eyes show us quite plainly. They do not believe in God so much as they believe in the Bible, a form of idolatry they were warned against by the Bible itself.

A recent blog post asked the innocent question: what if … what if we taught Creationism rather than the massive scientific knowledge that contradicts the claims of the Bible? What would change? Well, I would contend that nothing would change as human beings are pragmatic beings and we tend to ignore and then “forget” nonsense we learn in school. Would people with sick children take them to church to have their demons exorcized or would they take them to the hospital for modern medical treatments? Would people no longer buy automobiles because they contradict the teachings of the Bible? Would cell phones be considered demonic and non-Biblical and hence have to go back to the pit of Hell whence they came? Would we stop exploring space because God gave us dominion over this planet and well, when it is used up, it is time for us to all die?

I think you can answer these questions.

Basically, what the Christian Creationists are denying is that the Bible is man-made, like every other book in existence. The fact that the various books of the Bible were written at vastly different times, indicates that there was more than one author, as does the various viewpoints expressed, the various writing styles, and literally dozens of other facts, etc. Many Christians are unaware that none (zero, zip, zilch) of the original biblical manuscripts are available. Of the earliest copies we have found, there are more differences between those manuscripts than there are total words in the entire Bible. And there were literal battles about what materials should go into the Bible, with people being killed, not just intellectual battles. These, of course, proceeded alongside the battles over how the scriptures were to be interpreted. The book literally screams “man made.”

But Creationists insist that with regard to their special interest, the Bible has no mistakes and is the actual word of god. There are, of course, hundreds of such mistakes/contradictions in their book. These are denied or just waved away with nonsensical arguments.

The real effect were Creationism were to be taught in our schools, either alongside the science or in place of the science, should be the increase of all forms of denial. After all, anything you practice that much should make you good at it. So Climate Change Denial and Evolution Denial would be just the tip of the iceberg, metaphorically.

And, if you get really good at it: denial, that is … why you might just become President of the United States some day!



December 6, 2016

The Demolishing of Public Schools for Fun and Profit

Well, not for fun, and I have been wrong about it being only for profit. I have argued that since the plutocrats/oligarchs who really run this country have captured almost all of the major wealth producing activities in the U.S., that they have been more and more attracted to the billions of dollars of public funds spent annually on public education, that the “privatization” efforts going on (Charter Schools! Vouchers! Yay!) were fueled by greed for a share of that pile of money. I still believe that is true but that there is another source of fuel for the fire in the bellies of the current crop of education “reformers.” And, no it is not fun, but religion. And, as usual, it was right there, hiding in plain sight, ignored by the “usual news media suspects.”

“Well, not for fun, and I have been wrong
about it being only for profit.”

There is a long history in this country of fundamentalist religiosity, typically Protestant in nature. Currently, in parts of the country you can see extreme pushback at public schools for teaching mainstream science in the form of the theory of evolution and the phenomenon of climate change. This is understandable. If the theory of evolution is right, then the fundamentalist, “young earth” Christian worldview (and hence the promoting religion promoting that view) is wrong. If they lose the fight over evolution, they will lose the grip their religion has over a large segment of the U.S. population.

In surveys of Americans on the topic of evolution, a significant fraction of U.S. citizens do not believe in it, believing in magic instead, and that disbelief is securely linked to certain religious affiliations. You do not observe anything like it anywhere else in the developed world. The folly of “belief” in evolution is actually preached in their churches, not surprisingly as those pastors preaching it will be out of jobs if evolution is accepted.

The religious right in this country wants control over their school systems to be able to teach what they know is true, and it ain’t evolution. This is the other major force in the current education “reform” efforts. Consider the following:

The religious right has long had the goal of eliminating public education. Candidates don’t need to be closet Reconstructionists to be influenced by the work of Reconstructionists, but it’s worth noting that when R.J. Rushdoony wrote the Messianic Character of American Education in 1963 he argued that education is not a proper function of government. ‘Government schools’ were the vehicle for promoting the anti-Christian religion of humanism and should ultimately be abolished. Few outside his small circle took him seriously.” (“The Republican ‘No Schools Left’ Program” by Julie Ingersoll, August 8, 2012)

Few took Rushdoony seriously in 1963 because we had communists to fight, but now that we done whipped the commies, we have turned to fight the real enemy, the atheists that supported commies all of those years, which when they weren’t eatin’ babies, they was promoting God-less, atheist science in the form of evolution. (“We ain’t no kin to no monkeys!”)

While I poke fun at these folks as being untutored, etc. it really is not that anymore. Their attitudes are not due to a lack of schooling but from the general tendency of us to surround ourselves with other people who think and act as we do. The religious right live in communities dominated by the presence of other religious right people. In their churches they reinforce each other’s beliefs. In their schools, they teach the right way (pun intended), schools in which biology teachers are cowed into teaching something other than the theory of evolution, telling themselves they “ran out of time” to cover it. It is immensely fascinating to me that the religious right has gone all in for the GOP which, while they pay lip service to the religious rights “needs” and “family values,” in general worships only the God of Mammon. But, if a horse is going in your direction, you don’t check its worthiness, you just saddle up.

So, charter schools, vouchers, they are all good as far as the religious right is concerned. They can then set up schools that teach the Real Truth™ and use their own tax monies to pay for it. No need to invoke the Constitution or nuthin’ like that.

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