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What Are We Teaching Kids Anyway? September 13, 2009

Posted by Bill in Church and State, Religion, Schools.
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In Texas, a proposal being reviewed by the State Board of Education would drop the mention of Christmas from the 6th Grade Social Studies curriculum, replacing it with information about Diwali, a Hindu religious festival. Not surprisingly, conservative Christians are up in arms and revisiting their Continuous “War on Christmas” battle cry.

Actually, to be precise, the standards being considered are a requirement that sixth graders be able to explain the significance of religious holidays such as Yom Kippur, Diwali, Ramadan and Easter. Christmas is not included in that list although it is included in the CURRENT standards and Diwali is not.

Personally, I’d include them both, however, it’s possible that the committee recommending the changes thinks that sixth graders are probably already very familiar with the significance of Christmas and don’t need the school to spell it out for them. Let’s face it, it is not possible to live in the United States and NOT be aware of the religious significance of Christmas. It’s kind of like expecting the schools to teach kids in Texas about the importance of football– oh, wait a minute, schools in Texas– Arlington, Texas– are already expected to teach students about the importance of football. That’s why the district is busing 500 fifth graders to the new Cowboys Stadium in September.

No! No! No! It’s not to teach them the importance of football! It’s so they can hear the former president, George Dubya Bush, explain the importance of a volunteer initiative that will happen during the 2011 SuperBowl.

Volunteering is important, and no one should have a problem with their kids hearing about it. After all, it’s an important value, kind of like staying in school and studying hard- but wait! This is the same school district that completely boycotted Obama’s speech to school children about staying in school and studying hard because it took 18 minutes of class time away from IMPORTANT things, presumably like teaching the significance of Christmas!

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The Remark Heard Round the World September 11, 2009

Posted by Bill in Obama, Politics.
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“You lie!”

Two words. Two small words. A challenge to be sure. An insult.

And in uttering them  Joe Wilson, a  lawmaker from South Carolina may have unwittingly ensured that health care reform will happen.

The last few months have seen a real break down in civility in the American political process. Not that it’s ever been particularly civil, but since Obama took office we have seen a huge deterioration of political civility  unlike any we’ve seen before. From town hall meetings that look more like a barroom brawl to the lies and claims about senior citizen death panels, it’s enough to make you wonder if everyone remembers that we are actually all living in the indivisible United States.

What is impossible not to see is the fact that an incredible amount of antipathy and hatred has been focused against one man, Barack Obama, the President of the United States, and I am truly at a loss to explain why. After all, his detractors keep claiming it’s not because he is black, so it surely MUST be something else.

Obama  faced uncivility and rudeness long before he took office. When Obama visited a North Carolina barbecue joint in late October, a woman at the back of the restaurant yelled, “Socialist, socialist, socialist — get out of here!” Another woman actually refused to shake hands with him. Just stop and picture this for a moment. Picture walking into your local Tony Roma’s or Spring Creek Barbecue and as you do, a voice from the back yells, loudly enough for all to hear, “Socialist! Socialist! Get out of here!” Despite this you continue to walk into the restaurant. You go from table to table and stop to speak to the folks sitting there. As you extend your hand to one woman, you politely ask, “How are you ma-am?” and she pulls her hand away and refuses to shake yours.

Can you imagine that? Can you imagine the guts it took to walk into that restaurant? Yet, Obama not only went into the restaurant, but he went around and spoke to each of the diners- at least the ones who WOULD talk to him. Blazing Saddles anyone?

Since Obama was elected, we’ve been treated to the harangues by the birthers, a group of nitwits who insist that Obama is not actually a US citizen and have actually tried to file lawsuits declaring his election invalid. Earlier this week we saw a protester greeting the presidential motorcade at a school where Obama had gone to speak. The protester held a sign saying, “Mr President, stay away from our kids.” And now we have a lawmaker who broke the decorum of an address to a joint session of Congress to directly challenge the President. “You lie!”

Can you imagine sitting in a meeting with your boss and the CEO with all of the stockholders of your company watching? Imagine your CEO talking, laying out proposals for the upcoming year and all of the sudden you just feel compelled to burst out with, “You lie!”

What on earth would ever make ANYONE think that this kind of behavior is permissible? Sadly, a lot of people not only seem to think it is okay, but they welcome it. GOP leaders have been quick to criticize Representative Joe Wilson, but Wilson’s SC constituency had some different opinions to offer:

“He’s the only one who has guts in that whole place. He’ll get re-elected in a landslide,” said John Roper, an insurance agent, as he sat among patrons at a diner near Columbia. ~ AP Yahoo News

However, the remark seems to have galvanized Democratic lawmakers who seem, finally, to have realized that enough is enough. Nobody likes a bully, and Wilson’s remark, combined with images of hysterical right-wingers demonizing the President for daring to tell kids to stay in school and study hard, makes it clear that Obama’s opponents are just, plain and simple, bullies.

Now the Dems have finally found their voice- and their spine. They’ve finally realized that they are in the same party with Obama and are vowing to pass health care reform with or without the GOP. The Dems are voicing their support for the president and speaking out against the rudeness. They are finally realizing that civil discourse does not mean that anything goes.

It’s about time.

OMG! They Were Right September 9, 2009

Posted by Bill in Obama, Politics.
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It is now the day after President Obama’s education speech. Enough time has passed to evaluate the true effects of his speech. And much to my surprise the Christian and Conservative Hard Right were right. An initial report by a panel of eminent sociologists, psychologists, anthropologists, historians, and political scientists shows that the predicted deleterious effects of his speech have rapidly manifested themselves in our children. According to this report, out of all the students who listened to President Obama’s education speech:

– 63% are now reading the works of Marx and Lenin and are calling each other comrade. When you look at the age groupings you find that the younger the child, the more pronounced this effect. Among 1st graders 79% of those who listened were affected this way.

– 64% are now atheist. This group largely overlaps the above group. There is however a gap of 1% between those students who are now atheist and those who are communists. This 1% consists of atheist capitalists. The experts surmise that this group, although obviously affected by President Obama’s speech, were not as strongly affected by it due to their having read Adam Smith’s On The Wealth of Nations at home.

– 12 % are now Satanists. According to reports from school officials and local police they are now actively searching for virgins to sacrifice to Lucifer. Fortunately they seem to be having difficulties with this due to their tendency to rape all the virgins they find.

– Another problem for the Satanists is that there seems to be a significant decrease in the number of virgins after the speech. School officials reported widespread orgies immediately after President Obama’s speech. Also according to reports just now coming in, those students who listened to President Obama’s speech got together this morning before school and engaged in massive orgies. It promises to be the new way to start the day for our students and lends a whole new meaning to “See You at the Pole”.

– 82% of the students turned gay. This effect, though, may not be permanent as it was noted that during the orgies very few students had sex with one sex exclusively.

– 99% of the students visited the local Planned Parenthood centers for abortions. Many appeared disappointed when told that they were either prepubescent, not pregnant, or male. I understand that there is now a petition making the rounds demanding the right to an abortion without regards to pregnancy status or gender. – On the downside for Planned Parenthood and the plus side for the Religious Hard Right the experts are predicting a significant and substantial drop in the use of birth control. It remains to be seen if the significant and substantial increase in abortions will make up for Planned Parenthood’s losses in contraceptive income.

– 83% of the students have turned black. Those that were already black turned even blacker. This has obviously caused great consternation in their families with many of them having to discontinue going to their church and becoming home churched instead.

– A rather surprising finding is that the whole population of Kenya is now claiming to have been born in Hawaii. It is not sure if this is related to President Obama’s education speech or not. Research is ongoing.

Somehow the Kids Survived September 8, 2009

Posted by Bill in Obama, Politics.
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Well President Obama has given his much feared speech, and not a single white child turned black as a result. Nor did any children convert to socialism or Islam, and not a single one of them turned into a native of Kenya. I haven’t even heard of a single one who told his parents to support Obama’s health proposal as a result of listening to the speech. I did, however, hear of more than a few kids who said they were going to start doing their homework after listening to the president tell them how important it is:

At Thomas Jefferson High School in Auburn, Wash., a racially and economically diverse district outside Seattle, sophomores listened attentively to the address. Fifteen-year-old Ariana Steele said the message connected with her.

“When you see someone of such power saying what your parents say or your teachers have said, like all your life, it really makes it more powerful to you and it really makes you want to try more,” she said.

And William Geist, a San Francisco fifth-grader who likes to sleep late, listened closely to Obama’s story of studying with his mother at 4:30 a.m.

“Now since I heard this speech, I’m like, `Man, I’ve got to get up early in the morning. I’ve got to get ready for school. I’ve got to do this,'” William said. ~ Associated Press

Hysterical parents across the US heaved a sigh of relief and many of them backed off their earlier rhetoric. “It was perfectly innocuous and a praiseworthy message,” Missouri Lt. Governor Peter Kinder, who originally opposed the speech, said Tuesday.

Honestly folks, what did you THINK he was going to say? Did you expect him to sign your kids up for membership in the National Urban League or the American Communist Party? As I have said more than once since this whole brouhaha started, you folks just need to get a grip.

Yet, despite the fact that the White house released the text of the speech a day early so that anybody who cared as much about what he was going to say to their kids as they claimed could look at it, despite the fact that no less a personage than Laura Bush came out in favor of the speech (now there’s a subversive element if there ever was one!), despite the fact that former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich has urged every child to read the Obama’s remarks, some people just could not get over their sour grapes:

“They don’t need to be told by the president what their responsibilities are. It’s the parents’ responsibility to teach them that, not the government,” said Ryan Christensen, a carpet cleaner who asked that his 10-year-old daughter be pulled from a fifth-grade class watching the speech in Caldwell, Idaho. ~ Associated Press

Now there’s someone who was just LOOKING for a reason to oppose the speech.

And finally, to the group of people who greeted the presidential motorcade when it arrived at Wakefield High School in Arlington, Va, particularly the person who carried a sign reading: “Mr. President, stay away from our kids,” have you lost your mind? I hope someday you are able to explain to your kids about the idiocy and ill manners you displayed today, because it sure doesn’t make any sense to me.

Some People Need to Take a Giant Chill Pill September 7, 2009

Posted by Bill in Obama, Politics.
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I simply cannot get over the fuss and bother from right-wingers about President Obama’s proposed speech to the nation’s schoolchildren on Tuesday, September 8. The President… of the United States… wants to talk to kids about the importance of staying in school, and you have a bunch of nutters protesting because they are afraid their kids are being indoctrinated into some liberal cult.

I frequently tell people that you can’t fix stupidity and here is a prime example of it. For my first example, we have this mother who is so distraught about the prospect of Obama speaking to her children via television that she bursts into tears.

Then we have this highly confused mother, who can’t even remember the question,  explaining why she is keeping her kindergartner home from school on the day of Obama’s speech lest her child pick up cooties or something (it’s never exactly clear what she is afraid that her child is going to pick up, only that she doesn’t want her picking up whatever it is from Obama)

Finally we have some sanity from James Carville who has the audacity to say aloud what the rest of us have been thinking– these people are nutters.

Have we become so polarized in this country that we cannot let the President of the United States talk to our children because we didn’t vote for him? Well yes, it appears that as far as some people are concerned, we have. Where were these people when President Reagan addressed the nation’s schoolchildren– On November 14, 1988 he addressed and took questions from Washington area middle school students in a program taped and distributed by C-Span. During this program he [gasp] strayed from his “stay in school and stay off drugs” message into a message about the importance of low taxes.

Then in 1991 President George Bush (the first) gave a message to the nation’s school children, urging them to stay in school and stay off drugs. Democrats fussed about the expense of the speech, but I don’t recall parents pulling kids out of school and screaming about indoctrination.

A lot of the fuss now is centered around study guides that the Department of Education prepared to accompany Obama’s speech. Parents are outraged about a question in which students were asked what they could do to support Obama. That question has since been removed. Okay, so maybe maybe the question was ill advised, but does this really rise to the level of indoctrination?

Now you have these parents who are so concerned about their children that they don’t want them exposed to a 15 minute speech from the President of the united States. These parents, who are making a big fuss about how concerned they are about their children’s education, are keeping their kids out of school for an entire day lest they get cooties from hearing this 15 minute speech. How does that compute?

I’ve even seen some politicos suggest that Obama’s opponents should be given equal time with the schools. How stupid is that? Are you going to put someone in there to tell the kids they should drop out of school and turn to drugs to solve their problems?

When our kids were growing up, when they were exposed to things that Bill and I disagreed with, we used it as a teachable moment and discussed it with the kids.  I disagreed with just about everything George Dubya Bush did as president. I think he was the worst president in this country’s history, and hold him directly responsible for the economic problems we are experiencing today. However, if he had chosen to address the schools, I would have used it as a springboard for discussion with my kids.

I have always thought that lessons will have more of an impact on kids if they understand both sides and if they are free to ask questions and explore various options. Yet, there are people who clearly do NOT want their kids exposed to anything but their own beliefs.

However, the protests against Obama go beyond that. People are genuinely afraid of him and what he stands for. If you look at the right wing blogosphere, it is full of accusations about Obama’s purported ties to socialism, to Islam, to the Antichrist. It’s easy enough to dismiss this as the irrational musings of right wing nutjobs, but there are far too many politicians who are willing to capitalize on people’s fear for their own political gain. For example, Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, a possible contender for the GOP’s 2012 presidential nomination, said Friday the classroom is no place to show a video address from Obama, while Florida GOP Chairman Jim Greer released a statement this week accusing Obama of using taxpayer money to “indoctrinate” children.

Folks, the reaction to Obama’s speech is flat out stupid. Whether you like it or not, Barak Obama is the president of our country. A lot of the parents screeching about the speech make a big deal about how they want to be the ones to teach values to their children. Well fine; while they’re teaching your kids about values, maybe they ought to  spend some time having a discussion with them about respect. In fact, it’s a lesson they might want to learn for themselves since they seem to have missed it somewhere along the way.

Indoctrination Indeed September 3, 2009

Posted by Bill in Politics, Uncategorized.
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I wonder if everyone else is as….. bemused?…. as I am by the furor President Obama’s speech to public school students is arousing.   It is amazing what people who are firmly convinced that the President is out to do in the country will come up with.

Folks – and by folks I am referring to all of those who are going to keep their kids home from school that day, write letters of protest, and yell loudly “Socialism! Socialism!” (thanks to my daughter for that observation) over and over again –  all President Obama is going to do is use this wonderful new means of communication called television to deliver a message to students on the importance of being in school, getting a good education, of persevering even when times are tough.  The only difference between what President Obama is doing and what every other President has done when they visited schools is that he is reaching more of them at once using television instead of going to schools one by one.  I believe that even President Bush visited schools and talked to the students there.

I did not really think that the religious right and conservatives could hate a President more than they did President Clinton.  Well, I was wrong.  I have this habit that irritates my wife and children.  I like to listen to religious right and conservative radio talk shows.  It is fun arguing and yelling back at the people whose views I can count on disagreeing with at least 80% of the time.

Anyway on listening in on what they are saying it quickly becomes obvious that they have taken the dislike, distrust and outright pure hate that they used to pour on President Clinton and heated it up enough to make lava look like ice and poured it over President Obama.  President Obama is setting up death panels, he is evil, he is similar to Hitler, he is, he is, he is, he is every bad thing imaginable.  I have even heard some speculation that he is the Antichrist.

Good grief.

If you are a conservative there is plenty to honestly disagree with.  That’s fine.  I know I did my share of bashing President Bush and his policies.  But nothing like this.  This goes way beyond rational disagreements.  I cannot but feel that there is more going on here than an honest disagreement.  I can’t help but wonder if some of this is fear driven.

The changes that our old world has been going through for years – birth control, the rise of science and its often unsettling findings, civil rights, the ubiquitous showcasing of people whose values and beliefs are different on TV, movies, and the Internet and so many other changes – has been challenging the comfy worldview of the religious conservatives.  What is worse they perceive themselves, rightly I think, as being on the slowly losing side of the changes.    For awhile they could console themselves that at least they had a conservative in the White House, that Congress had enough people that thought like them.

And then came President Obama.  He personified all that they found threatening.  He was black with a foreign Arabic name.   He was educated and sounded it.  He supported the findings of science.  While acknowledging his faith he also acknowledged the importance of the separation of church and state.  He supported a woman’s right of choice.

President Obama is all of their fears personified.  Because of that instead of trying to see him as he is and dealing with their honest disagreements about his policies, they project all of their fears on where the world is going and what might happen unto all of his actions and words.  Instead of a man trying to do what he feels is best for the country he becomes the symbol of all that they see is wrong.

I was going to end this with one of those witty or enlightening “All I can say” sayings.  But in the face of such blind unreasoning hate I really can’t think of an appropriate one.  All I can do is sit, watch, and try to counter the many falsehoods being said so that the real policy disagreements can be honestly and rationally argued.

Oh, and I can continue to watch and listen and be both amusedly concerned about the fury.