Category: Education

Pardoned Oregon Rancher to Focus on Putting God in Public Schools

By Stephanie Mencimer

Last year, Western land activists and other conservatives had been lobbying President Donald Trump to pardon rancher Cliven Bundy, who in 2014 had engaged in an armed standoff with federal officials trying to confiscate his cattle that were trespassing on public property. But earlier this year, a federal judge dropped all the charges against Bundy thanks to misconduct by prosecutors, and there was no longer any need for Trump to pardon him. So Trump last week did the next best thing: He pardoned Oregon rancher Dwight Hammond Jr. and his son Steven, whose 2012 convictions for arson on federal land had inspired Bundy’s son Ammon to lead the armed takeover of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon in 2016.

The takeover ultimately resulted in the death of one of the occupiers, LaVoy Finicum, who was shot by an FBI agent while fleeing the site, and it turned the Hammonds into a causecélèbre for activists in the West who believe federal land should be returned to the states. The Hammonds had battled the feds over a variety of land infractions for two decades before they were finally prosecuted for setting a fire that spread to federal land.

The Hammonds negotiated a short prison term for the arson charges and served just a few months. But in 2015, prosecutors succeeded in convincing a judge that the original sentence had failed to follow federal guidelines, and they were resentenced to five-year terms, a decision that helped set off the wildlife refuge takeover. The Bundys pressured the Hammonds not to report to prison, but they ignored the requests and turned themselves in as required.

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Kavanaugh record suggests he would favor religious interests in school debates

By Laura Meckler

Judge Brett Kavanaugh, President Trump’s choice for the Supreme Court, has defended the use of taxpayer money for religious schools and backed student-led prayers at high school football games, siding with religious interests in the debate over government entanglement with religion.

In private practice, Kavanaugh backed the government when it sought to support religious interests and challenged schools when they attempted to exclude religious groups.

Together, legal experts say, these cases suggest he would continue the court’s steady shift from a strict separation between government and religion to a far more permeable relationship — a matter with implications for public and private schools.

Kavanaugh is the product of religious education. He graduated from Georgetown Preparatory School in Maryland’s Montgomery County, a Jesuit school where every class begins with a prayer. His daughters attend Blessed Sacrament, a Catholic school in Northwest Washington.

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Talk Nerdy Episode 214 – Bertha Vazquez

In this episode of Talk Nerdy, Cara speaks with Bertha Vazquez, the Director of the Teacher Institute for Evolutionary Science (TIES) of the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science, a division of the Center for Inquiry. They discuss her incredible work providing the tools and training necessary to effectively teach the science of evolution throughout middle schools in the United States. Follow TIES: @rdfrsTIES.

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OK State Rep’s Education Plan Blames “Secular Progressives” for Ruining Schools

By Hemant Mehta

This Tuesday, Oklahoma will hold its primaries for the upcoming election, and Chuck Strohm will be running for re-election in the state’s House of Representatives. After narrowly winning the Republican primary in 2014, he cruised to victory in 2016 and hopes to repeat that this year. That shouldn’t be too difficult coming from a deeply red district.

Still, coming from a state where public education is a hot mess, Strohm released a “blueprint” for to handle the issue over the weekend. His solutions would turn a hot mess into a flaming dumpster fire.

It would take a long time to go through the entire 48-page document and point out all the problems, but let me highlight some key concerns.

The biggest one may be that, while teachers are protesting stagnant wages and cuts to education funding, Strohm is miffed that they went on strike even after they received a raise (emphasis his).

For decades the state of Oklahoma grappled with the issue of funding for public schools. Just this spring, the legislature acted by passing a historic teacher pay raise averaging 16 percent.

Then, in proof that fact is often stranger than fiction, teachers engaged in a two-week long strike — after the pay raise was signed into law by the Governor! As a State Representative, I have never seen anything like it, and those who’ve worked at the Capitol for decades told me they had never seen anything like this…. not ever. The level of hostility, and the number of angry, disrespectful and threatening contacts was unprecedented.

He neglects to mention that teachers were upset because the raise wasn’t enough to meet their sensible demands; neither was funding for schools.

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Gay rights, climate change could disappear from Michigan social studies

By Lori Higgins

Potential changes to Michigan’s school social studies standards are stirring controversy because they remove references to Roe v. Wade, gay rights and climate change while trimming references to the role of the NAACP. The revisions also eliminate the word “democratic” from the phrase “core democratic values.”

Much of the controversy has centered on Republican state Sen. Patrick Colbeck, who has faced mounting criticism since Bridge Magazine published a report last week that described the revisions — of standards adopted by the State Board of Education in 2007 — as having a conservative bent, thanks to Colbeck and several other conservatives who were part of the process.

Colbeck clearly influenced the removal of language on climate change, the removal of “democratic” from “core democratic values,” and a change in language from describing the U.S. as a constitutional democracy to a constitutional republic. He also insisted that if there were references to civil rights for gays and lesbians and other members of the LGBTQ community, that the department include language about religious freedom.

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Evolution, climate change skeptics lose battle over Collier science textbooks

By Annika Hammerschlag

The Collier County School Board voted 3-2 on Monday to adopt a new batch of science textbooks after residents filed objections to more than a dozen of them.

Four Collier residents opposed some of the textbooks, making arguments ranging from unbalanced views of evolution and climate change to inaccurate racial depictions of science experts.

Board Chairman Roy Terry and members Stephanie Lucarelli and Erick Carter voted in favor of adopting the disputed textbooks. Erika Donalds and Kelly Lichter voted against them.

The slate of instructional materials was unanimously approved for adoption at the May 8 board meeting. Since then, four people submitted 220 objections to content in 18 textbooks. The overall theme of the objections was a lack of balance and context in references to evolution and climate change and the treatment of those topics as fact rather than theory.

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Mississippi Mayor Delivers Christian Prayer at Local High School Awards Ceremony

By Hemant Mehta

When Long Beach High School in Mississippi held its “22nd Annual Superintendent’s Academic Awards” this spring, the schedule included a speaking slot for Mayor George Bass (below). Specifically, Bass was scheduled to deliver a prayer, which is exactly what he did:

Bass led the assembled group of parents, students and staff in a prayer addressed to “our Father” and concluding, “in Jesus Christ’s name, Amen.”

Why was a Christian prayer scheduled at a public school event? And even in Mississippi, how did every administrator and the mayor himself not realize this was breaking the law?

Maybe we shouldn’t be surprised. The Freedom From Religion Foundation wrote to the same school last September regarding a football coach who prayed with students and a marching band director who “scheduled recitations of the Lord’s Prayer.” They never heard back.

But FFRF is writing again to put a stop to the mayor’s prayers.

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Your Taxes Are Paying for Kids to Learn That Dinosaurs and Humans Lived Together

By David G. McAfee

Dinosaurs and humans never lived at the same time — not even close — and evolution is a scientific fact, but Florida taxpayers (and the rest of us) are funding schools that rely on textbooks that teach the opposite.

The textbooks in question come mostly from three Christian education companies: Abeka, Bob Jones University Press, and Accelerated Christian Education (ACE). In addition to teaching lies about evolution and dinosaurs, the books teach that slaves who “knew Christ” were better off than free men who weren’t religious, according to the Orlando Sentinel.

At the Orlando Sentinel’s request, educators from Florida colleges and school districts reviewed textbooks and workbooks from these publishers, looking at elementary reading and math, middle school social studies and high school biology materials.

They found numerous instances of distorted history and science lessons that are outside mainstream academics. The books denounce evolution as untrue, for example, and one shows a cartoon of men and dinosaurs together, telling students the Biblical Noah likely brought baby dinosaurs onto his ark. The science books, they added, seem to discourage students from doing experiments or even asking questions.

“Students who have learned science in this kind of environment are not prepared for college experiences,” said Cynthia Bayer, a biology lecturer at the University of Central Florida who reviewed the science books. “They would be intellectually disadvantaged.”

If you’re not asking questions in science class, you’re not doing science.

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Bill requiring display of ‘In God We Trust’ at public schools becomes law

By Wilborn P. Nobles III

Hundreds of public schools in Louisiana will have to display the national motto of “In God We Trust” on their buildings by August 2019, after Gov. John Bel Edwards signed the proposed bill into law last week.

The governor’s signature May 23 means public school authorities must now display the national motto in each building used by a school under its jurisdiction. The law also requires Louisiana’s social studies curriculum to teach students about the motto by the 5th grade, a provision that expands upon the existing law that orders schools to teach students about the U.S flag and other “patriotic customs.”

When the law was initially proposed to Louisiana’s senators in March, State Sen. Regina Barrow, D-Baton Rouge, stressed it would help address “moral decay” in the public school system. She later told lawmakers she believes “this will serve to be an improvement to our schools” because they cannot assume students learn about the “patriotic history and founding of this country” when students are at home.

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Catholic school denies entry to lesbian couple’s children because marriage is “between a man and a woman”

By Bailey Vogt

A Catholic priest denied a lesbian couple’s children from attending his private school due to their homosexual marriage.

The Charlotte Observer reports that the mothers (who wished to remain anonymous) applied to St. Francis Catholic School in Hilton Head Island, S.C., this spring, but subsequently received a rejection email.

When one of the mothers called the priest, Rev. Mike Oenbrink, to question why her children were denied, he told her: “Your children have been denied because you’re homosexual. If we admit your children, it will send a bad message to the other families.”

The two mothers have been married since 2009 and the decision to deny them has apparently created controversy among parents in Hilton Head. However, Rev. Oenbrink refused to apologize for the rejection, saying the application was denied because the two women were married.

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