Last week, the Texas State Board of Education held its final public hearing on new social studies textbooks being adopted for use in the state’s schools over the next decade. Despite being deep in the heart of Texas, some right-wing activists testifying at the hearing appeared to believe we were actually trapped somewhere between Syria and Iraq. Our children are under threat of Islamic indoctrination in schools! Sharia! Jihad! Intifada! The tense negotiations among activists, Texas politicians, and textbook publishers will influence what children in Texas, and around the country, will be taught about issues from Islam to Moses to climate change.
Roy White, chairman of the right-wing group Truth in Texas Textbooks, testified that the draft textbooks contained selective disinformation that was “pro-Islamic and anti-Christian.” White was furious about a passage in a Cengage textbook that read: “Muslims spread their religion by conquest, through trade, and through missionary work.” White claimed that Muslims who followed Muhammad’s example would only “attack or kill” non-Muslims. He said that violence as the overwhelming method of conversion had continued on from Muhammad’s time to today, when terrorist groups “under the Islamic umbrella of some multisyllable name” are messengers for Islam.
State Board of Education member Tincy Miller called White “a great patriot,” but the books’ treatment of Islam remained the same.
Turns out it’s actually pretty common for people to mistake Texas as the next target for incorporation into ISIS’s caliphate. Texas’ standardized curriculum was discarded last year in part because of accusations that it was pro-Islam and because in one school, during one lesson on Islam, a few students wore burqas. The incoming Texas lieutenant governor, Dan Patrick, ran a television ad about how ISIS was infiltrating Texas’ borders.
Has your local school district been raided by FBI?
FBI agents on Monday removed 20 boxes of documents from the Los Angeles Unified School District related to the awarding of contracts for the ill-fated $1.3 billion iPad project, officials confirmed.
The FBI visit surprised school officials, according to L.A. schools Supt. Ramon C. Cortines.
“They stopped by late yesterday afternoon,” Cortines said Tuesday. “I found out at 4:30 in the afternoon on Monday.” Cortines said he then alerted the district’s general counsel to notify the Board of Education.
Cortines said he was still waiting for a report on the nature of the investigation, but other sources within the district confirmed that the agents were focusing on the effort to provide every student, teacher and campus administrator with computers.
Lecturing for a week about how “evolution could not have happened.” Offering extra credit for students to watch the film “God’s Not Dead.” Showing religious bias in exam questions. Student reviews saying he’ll try to “convert you.”
Those charges, among others, make up a complaint filed recently by two First Amendment watchdog groups against T. Emerson McMullen, an associate professor of history at Georgia Southern University. The institution says it’s now investigating the professor for allegedly using his classroom at the public university to promote his anti-evolution Christian beliefs.
“We understand that as a historian, particularly a historian focused on science, McMullen could legitimately discuss the development of scientific ideas,” reads a letter sent to Georgia Southern from the Freedom from Religion Foundation and the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science. “He could even legitimately discuss religious doctrines masquerading as science, such as young earth creationism and intelligent design.”
However, the letter continues, “it appears that McMullen does not present these as religious ideas lacking scientific merit. Instead, McMullen presents these religious beliefs as scientific fact. In short, McMullen appears to use at least some of his class to preach religion instead of teach history.”
Not really for education. Who woulda thunk it?
State lotteries claim to be good for education and the general wellbeing of citizens.
But are they? (Spoiler alert: No.)
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The Texas state school board has been notable for its shaky grasp of science, mostly targeting the presentation of evolution in science textbooks used by the state. This has posed problems for the nation as a whole, as the size of Texas’ large student population ensures that publishers try to structure all their textbooks so they can be approved by Texas—including ones that get used elsewhere.
That history made people very nervous when it became apparent that some of the social studies textbooks submitted for approval in Texas had stumbled into a scientific topic—and fallen flat on their face. The topic was climate change, and the textbook writers did things like present the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change as being functionally equivalent to the Heartland Institute, a free-market think tank that has in the past questioned whether second-hand smoke was dangerous. Other texts confused carbon dioxide with ozone-destroying chemicals or suggested that there is widespread disagreement over the cause of recent warming.
FIRE is one of those organizations that make you uncomfortable - while you agree with them for the most part at times you see them defend persons some would consider less than wholesome for causes you might not agree with in order to defend rights and legal principles. This is one of those times.
Right now there’s a push to use title X as a club to encourage Universities to improve their handling of sexual harassment, rape, rape reports, and the rights of victims. If you watch “The Goodwife” then you’ve seen this situation dramatized and then resolved in a grey murky manner that left you feeling queasy about both sides. You can see that processes and policies on campus do need to improve, but they need to protect both the rights of the victim and the accused in equal manner, something you saw as the crux of the issue in “The Goodwife’s” example.
The Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) announced last week that it has entered into a resolution agreement with Princeton University after finding that the institution was in violation of Title IX. OCR’s demands include the use of the “preponderance of the evidence” standard of proof in adjudicating sexual misconduct cases—meaning that students accused of sexual assault or harassment must be found guilty if the fact-finders determine it is more likely than not that he or she committed the violation.
As FIRE has noted on The Torch before, until recently, Princeton was one of just a small number of institutions (PDF) still requiring “clear and persuasive” evidence of guilt (generally considered to be the same as the “clear and convincing” standard) in such cases. Most colleges and universities adopted the “preponderance” standard following OCR’s April 4, 2011 “Dear Colleague” letter. There is debate, though, over whether the standard is required by Title IX. FIRE’s Joe Cohn spoke with Inside Higher Ed about the change at Princeton. IHE reported last week:
While the Department of Education has the ability to determine what exactly violates Title IX and potentially pull federal funding from colleges who are in violation, preponderance of evidence has not been codified by Congress. The Campus SaVE act does not dictate what standard a college should use, only requiring that institutions disclose what that standard is. Joe Cohn, legislation and policy director at the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, said that the department is “on shaky ground when they insist that preponderance of evidence is the only acceptable standard of proof under Title IX,” because, legally, it is only the current administration’s interpretation of the law.
When gender perceptions and negative stereotypes towards women in mathematics and science are non-existent, the gender gap in performance seems to disappear. That’s the lesson to be learned from not just Finland, but also Puerto Rico where females are performing as well as males and better than males in some math and science subjects.
This is a very interesting interview on how the gender gap in STEM fields came to be in the USA and how it can be closed down.
Muslims in Montgomery County asked the school district — the largest in the state with 140,000 students — to close schools on their two most important religious holidays, just as the district does for major Christian and Jewish holidays.
Instead, the school board voted 7-1 on Tuesday to strip all mention of religious holidays from the calendar, even though Christian and Jewish holidays remain official days off.
Next year, Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha both happen to fall on vacation days. So all the school board would have had to do is add the holiday names to the calendar as a symbolic gesture…
The school board’s decision seems to have made everyone mad: Muslim leaders are furious that the board would get rid of religious holidays before acknowledging Muslim ones, while conservative media outlets are accusing the board of “banning” Jewish and Christian religious holidays in order to appease Muslims.
#576: When Women Stopped Coding
Sat 18 October, 2014
NPR: Planet Money Podcast
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PODCAST AT LINK —APPROX 18 minutes
More: #576: When Women Stopped Coding - NPR: Planet Money Podcast
UPDATE—as requested —FNB’s synopsis:
Gender Bias in Advertising is the reason women stopped coding. At some point home computers became possible, those who marketed them couldn’t conceive that there were nerdy women who might want to purchase them. The vast majority were purchased by men.
This gave young men in college computer classes an advantage —they had taken and passed and unwritten prerequisite and were already very familiar with computers and basic coding. Professors unwittingly began teaching to these students, leaving those without experience feeling out of place. Many, mostly women, eventually changed majors.
As many of the original coders were women (as explained in the podcast) this represented a change in the gender make-up of the computer nerd world.
A motion was proposed at the Goldsmiths Students’ Assembly yesterday to commemorate Holocaust Memorial Day and victims of genocide.
Education officer Sarah El-alfy urged students to vote against the proposal, rejecting it as “eurocentric”.
This comes a day after it emerged the NUS voted against a motion to condemn ISIS and support the Kurdish resistance on the grounds of “Islamophobia”.