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Out of the mouths of babes...
April 27, 2008 2:51 PM   Subscribe

New Jersey high school student Matthew LaClair has been at the center of controversy before, challenging his U.S. History teacher for proselytizing in class. He's in the news again, bringing attention to conservative bias in his American history textbook.

His efforts have gained some response, highlighting a trend that has been underway for some time. As pointed out by LaClair, his textbook is written by "James Q. Wilson, a well-known conservative academic, and John J. DiIulio, a political scientist and former head of President Bush's Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives." The authors' political views are apparently quite evident in the textbook. Mr. LaClair's ACLU Scholarship Essay is here, and an informal interview is here.
posted by LooseFilter (123 comments total) 22 users marked this as a favorite

 
America needs more people like him.
posted by rhymer at 3:00 PM on April 27, 2008 [12 favorites]


Good kid. I hope he goes far.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 3:05 PM on April 27, 2008 [2 favorites]


Good kid. I hope he goes far.

Let's hope when he grows up there remains a civil society in which he can go far. The way his community and classmates reacted to his conflict with his history teacher do not fill me with confidence on that point.
posted by felix betachat at 3:14 PM on April 27, 2008 [9 favorites]


Hell fuckin yeah, Matt! Good, reasoned work.
posted by inoculatedcities at 3:16 PM on April 27, 2008


We need more Matt LaClair's.
posted by andythebean at 3:23 PM on April 27, 2008


The fact that this did not occur in Kansas or the Deep South, but happened 10 miles west of New York City in suburban New Jersey, should make us all realize that the creeping, pernicious influence of far-right ideology and ultra-conservative activism is not confined to any one area of this country: it represents a long-term attempt, stretching back many years now, by conservative activists and evangelical zealots, to pitch their anti-scientific battles in the classroom. It must be stopped.
posted by ornate insect at 3:27 PM on April 27, 2008 [12 favorites]


Hope the kid doesn't get strung up by some wackos though......brave kid. Good luck to him.
posted by dibblda at 3:27 PM on April 27, 2008


I doubt that it's possible to actually teach history without any bias. Still, it might be possible to do it in as neutral a way as possible, but even how much time you spend on various topics is going to the result of bias.

A better way to teach history would be to present various versions of the same story from different perspectives, so kids can learn not only what happened, but how biases can temper how information is presented. However, that would have to be a lot more in-depth and frankly I kind of doubt we'd ever see that in a high school setting.
posted by delmoi at 3:29 PM on April 27, 2008


I doubt that it's possible to actually teach history without any bias.

I happen to agree with this, but we're not talking about a minor amount of inevitable interprative bias here on the part of Matt's teacher; were talking about a wholesale dogmatic ideologue:

(from the NYT article):Shortly after school began in September, the teacher told his sixth-period students at Kearny High School that evolution and the Big Bang were not scientific, that dinosaurs were aboard Noah’s ark, and that only Christians had a place in heaven, according to audio recordings made by a student whose family is now considering a lawsuit claiming Mr. Paszkiewicz broke the church-state boundary.
posted by ornate insect at 3:36 PM on April 27, 2008 [1 favorite]


I'm adding Matthew LaClair to my list of true American heroes.
posted by amyms at 3:36 PM on April 27, 2008 [4 favorites]


Good for him...

I'm suggesting Howard Zinn's "A People's History of the United States " as the only accurate history text around....
posted by HuronBob at 3:40 PM on April 27, 2008


I doubt that it's possible to actually teach history without any bias.

That's obviously true but this isn't a case of the author's built-in cultural biases causing them to inadvertently slant the text to one side. This is a case of a blatant attempt to teach children propaganda in favor the current administration's policies. This wasn't accidental, the book was written by the former head of Bush's faith-based initiatives and a the Ronald Reagan Professor of Public Policy at Pepperdine University. You aren't going to tell me that those two didn't have an explicit agenda.
posted by octothorpe at 3:47 PM on April 27, 2008


I was all set to get upset over everyone applauding Matt for stamping out the evil conservatism, but then I actually RTFA and can safely say that what the teacher was trying to pull was in fact way out of line.

Still, I just can't imagine this kind of a response to a teacher with a liberal bias, doing the exact same sort of preaching on the opposite end of the spectrum.
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 3:49 PM on April 27, 2008


Here is the technique I used to stop all student questions and particpation: when a student raised his or hand, I would say :"Sure. You can go to the bathroom...but play nice there." Do that a few times and no troublesome students.
posted by Postroad at 3:54 PM on April 27, 2008


Still, I just can't imagine this kind of a response to a teacher with a liberal bias, doing the exact same sort of preaching on the opposite end of the spectrum.

Those teachers usually get weeded out by the interview process.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 3:54 PM on April 27, 2008 [4 favorites]


Mr.Encyclopedia--just google "teacher fired religion" for numerous hits.

Or does it have to be printed in an encyclopedia before you can imagine it?
posted by hexatron at 3:57 PM on April 27, 2008 [1 favorite]


Sounds like this kid is doing a good thing.

And I'm enjoying the absurdly hyperbolic reactions as always. I can only hope is not lynched by the evil red state fundies of AmeriKKKa within the next week.
posted by drjimmy11 at 3:58 PM on April 27, 2008


Is he running for President? No?

Will someone tell me when he is?
posted by loquacious at 4:04 PM on April 27, 2008


I can only hope is not lynched by the evil red state fundies of AmeriKKKa within the next week.

Don't you think "AmeriKKKa" is also a bit of absurd hyperbole?
posted by killdevil at 4:05 PM on April 27, 2008 [7 favorites]


Good on ya, Matt. Keep up the fine work. There are legions of assholes out there and too few people like you.
posted by Guy_Inamonkeysuit at 4:06 PM on April 27, 2008


Kid sounds like a troublemaker to me! Exactly what we need in the trenches these days!
posted by ericb at 4:08 PM on April 27, 2008 [3 favorites]


The first link reminds me of a story from my brief public high school career, although I am not the badass that this kid is. It's just sort of funny.

I knew that the sex-ed class the gym coach was teaching in health class was kind of goofy. It adequately taught some of the relevant basics in anatomy and such before moving on to the heart of its curriculum: a "timeline" of sexual activity in relationships that insisted that if, for instance, you touch your girlfriend's boobies you're probably going to end up boning shortly thereafter, and a brief review of various contraceptives that emphasized that NONE OF THEM WORK VERY WELL and so your ONLY REAL OPTION is to NOT HAVE SEX OUTSIDE OF MARRIAGE EVER BECAUSE YOU WILL GET HER PREGNANT WITH AN AIDS BABY.

Whatever. I basically just rolled my eyes--this was a pretty backwaters Texas school, and besides, I'd already been through a pretty goddamned thorough sex ed course*. So it was with an attitude of general bemusement that I relayed this info to my dad when he asked how the class was going over the family dinner table.

"Huh," he said, "that's strange. Hey, does the coarse use slogans like, 'Pet your dog, not your date' and stuff?" Why yes, yes it did.

I guess coach hadn't considered the possibility that the father of one of his students might have been the executive director for Planned Parenthood of North Texas. Busted, dude, for using a sex-ed curriculum created by an anti-abortion group.

I don't know exactly what happened. I think my dad wrote a letter to the principal or something. I can't remember if the class just ended or if the curriculum switched midway through or what. In any case, the coach, who was basically a good man, never gave me any shit about it, and I don't think anyone in my class that I didn't tell about it ever knew what went down.

Still, as a little 15 year old abortion-clinic-patient-escorting, war-protesting, wannabe-radical meek kid, I thought it was goddamn hilarious.

*that part in the Wikipedia article about the dude tasting his cum after jerking off? Wow, yeah, I had forgotten about that and would have preferred to have stayed forgetting.
posted by 2or3whiskeysodas at 4:11 PM on April 27, 2008 [6 favorites]


a teacher with a liberal bias, doing the exact same sort of preaching on the opposite end of the spectrum.

The problem is that, speaking pragmatically, facts have no bias, and the quote from the NYT piece I excerpted in my post above shows a history teacher imposing all sorts of patently false (and cartoonish) views on the classroom as if they were facts; likewise, what Matt is currently disputing (according to his LA Times op-ed) about the texbook centers on an issue related to incontestable facts that are falsely portrayed by the authors:

The text contains a statement, repeated three times, that students may not pray in public schools. In this edition of the text, the authors drive the point home with a photograph of students holding hands and praying outside a school. The caption reads: "The Supreme Court will not let this happen inside a public school."

I knew this was false. In fact, students are allowed to pray in schools; courts have ruled many times that a student's right to pray may not be abridged. What's generally impermissible is state-sponsored prayer, in which school officials lead prayer or students are called on or required to pray. It seemed clear to me that the purpose of the discussion in the textbook was to indoctrinate, not to educate.

posted by ornate insect at 4:11 PM on April 27, 2008


This is an annoying story. Looks like he had his moment in the liberal sun, and now he or someone else is trying to repeat the experiment.

This has nothing to do with him, and everything to do with the fact that the liberal media has found someone to champion their cause. Not that I don't agree with the cause, but can we please stop pretending that this is anything but propaganda.
posted by seanyboy at 4:19 PM on April 27, 2008


That article is very well-written. How common is that writing ability and thought process to your average high school senior?
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 4:25 PM on April 27, 2008


I do believe that facts are the only thing that belong in a classroom, along with a curriculum that begins equipping students with the tools necessary to judge beliefs and biases for themselves as early as possible.

Bias in either direction shouldn't be encouraged.
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 4:27 PM on April 27, 2008


Seanyboy, can we please stop pretending that your comment is anything but propaganda?
posted by Knigel at 4:36 PM on April 27, 2008 [14 favorites]


Is the Liberal Sun a NYC rag?
posted by zerobyproxy at 4:36 PM on April 27, 2008 [2 favorites]


This explains why the Center for Inquiry looked specifically at that book. This kid kicks all sorts of ass.
posted by Hactar at 4:39 PM on April 27, 2008


Looks like he had his moment in the liberal sun, and now he or someone else is trying to repeat the experiment.

That's the opposite of the impression I get from this kid. In fact, school textbooks have been a subject of tremendous controversy for some time now: for instance, Texas, which uses statewide (rather than local) textbook adoption, also influences national textbook content--being such a large market, publishers do not print two different versions, one for Texas and one for everyone else; they most often print one version, the one that one particular conservative panel in Texas wants to see: NPR on this committee's national influence forcing abstinence-only perspectives into the classroom; and from the early 90s, the history textbook fiasco:
Once in a great while, the corruption that pervades the schoolbook business is displayed so vividly that it draws the attention of the national media. That is what happened in 1991, when the Texas State Board of Education staged an adoption of American-history books.
I think LaClair is bringing attention to rather urgent, though largely unnoticed, issue.
posted by LooseFilter at 4:40 PM on April 27, 2008 [1 favorite]


A better way to teach history would be to present various versions of the same story from different perspectives, so kids can learn not only what happened, but how biases can temper how information is presented. However, that would have to be a lot more in-depth and frankly I kind of doubt we'd ever see that in a high school setting.
posted by delmoi at 6:29 PM on April 27 [+] [!]


History isn't about sides. There are facts, and there are things we debate because we don't yet have enough (maybe will never have enough) facts or we don't agree on how to interpret those facts. Yes, the choice of topics are biased, but there I would say that the most pernicious and wide-spread bias in history curriculum (at the secondary or tertiary level) is not in the choice of topics, but in the choice of time periods. There is an extreme bias towards modern and western history, much to the detriment of our understanding of pre-modern or non-western societies.
posted by jb at 4:49 PM on April 27, 2008 [2 favorites]


I'm suggesting Howard Zinn's "A People's History of the United States " as the only accurate history text around

Me too; especially for the repeated mention of armed rebellions.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 4:49 PM on April 27, 2008


That said, both of these cases are terrible, and I'm so glad that this student has spoken out, especially about the very inappropriate discussion of ancient middle eastern history in what was suposed to be a US History class. Moses was clearly not American, and lived well before 1776.
posted by jb at 4:50 PM on April 27, 2008


This kid pays attention in class. Dork.
posted by jonmc at 4:55 PM on April 27, 2008


You know, every time the church/state separation in schools thing comes up on Metafilter, I'm absolutely flabbergasted at what American teachers who have a firmly religious mindset are able to get away with in the course of teaching classes that have absolutely nothing to do with religion.

It's such an odd state of affairs to read about if you were educated at a state school in the UK. The idea that my history teacher, who had plenty biases of his own, most of them relating to Scottish nationalism, which occasionally crept into his classes – though only when discussing topics where Scottish nationalism was actually relevant, such as the Jacobite rising or the union of 1707 – would suddenly start talking about dinosaurs on Noah's Ark and the unscientific nature of the Big Bang is utterly ludicrous and beyond imagining. Had he even hinted at such things, we'd have all laughed him out of the classroom as some sort of crackpot; it would have been as odd as my chemistry teacher suddenly spouting off on why he believed that the Highland clearances were caused by some noxious gas which emanated from peat bogs and talked the locals into emigrating to Canada.

I went to a fairly standard – though well-regarded and rated by the authorities – state high school in Scotland; the only time when religion was ever part of the curriculum was in Religious Education classes, when we were taught not just about Christianity in its various forms, but other religions too; a big part of the classes concerned the social and community aspects of religions, and the way in which many religions – Christianity included – are about building social networks which help look after the more disadvantaged members of their community. My RE teacher was a Buddhist – though I only learned this a few years after I left school, because she married and it was reported in the local paper. The idea that she would ever let her own religion ever influence how she taught – beyond espousing general principles about how people should in the main be nice to each other – still seems alien to me.

I know that the teaching of evolution in American schools has, of late (well, I say of late; it's been going for decades), become a hot-button topic, and a wedge issue for various religious groups, but to British eyes such a debate appears to be fantastical; the idea that evolution is somehow controversial – or, in the eyes of some, actually false – strikes me as odd. That teachers – whether they're supposed to be teaching history or anything else – can actually get away with spouting creationist theories at their pupils comes across, to me, as weird as allowing maths teachers to teach that 2+2=5.

The starkest example of this divide between the US and the UK, I always think, is that despite all that church/state separation stuff in the constitution, American currency is, by law, required to have the phrase "In God We Trust" printed on it (something that wasn't mandated until 1955, and was brought in to fight the Godless Communists); in contrast, the £10 note has a portrait of Charles Darwin on it.
posted by Len at 4:57 PM on April 27, 2008 [26 favorites]


I work for this textbook publisher. The book is horrible, but let it be said the kid is complaining about the way Global Warming is taught in a Political Science class--not science. There's going to be some sort of political "perspective" on display. And the book really doesn't say anything that's not out there--it exaggerates a little, but I've seen worse. It's unfortunate that right-wing dudes like this were permitted to author a textbook, but I say that because I am not a rightwinger.
posted by mattbucher at 5:16 PM on April 27, 2008


Heh, 2or3whiskeysodas, I'm an AYS alum myself. I was, ahem, VERY well informed on birth control and STD prevention, but I do remember some painfully awkward 'let's rap about masturbation'-type sessions.
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 5:18 PM on April 27, 2008


If Matt LaClair is "Textbooks are too conservative!" then the Gablers are "Textbooks are too liberal!"
posted by mattbucher at 5:19 PM on April 27, 2008


'let's rap about masturbation'

You mothafuckas might say it's wrong
but I'm mad pullin' on my johnson and it's lean and long
tell yo sex-ed teacher and word to yo moms
They mad lyin' if they say it grow hair on yo palms...
posted by jonmc at 5:22 PM on April 27, 2008 [8 favorites]


The textbook business is rather queer. A conservative movement is afoot in nearly every state to make the texts more conservative, present intelligent design as science and other obnoxious things. My brother in-law is an editor in the business and the stories he tells would curl your toes, even if you are not liberal. Conservatives have a grass roots plan to bring conservatism to the local level, by filling school boards and state boards of education with very conservative candidates. Liberals have not responded in kind. It might be time.
posted by caddis at 5:23 PM on April 27, 2008 [8 favorites]


There is no fucking way I'm raising my kid in US. Don't know exactly how I'm going to go about this yet, but if she has to be home schooled or sent to Ukraine of France, or some other country in order to avoid being exposed to this sort of bullshit, so be it.
posted by c13 at 5:24 PM on April 27, 2008


Oh, and as I remember, Kearny's response to this whole episode was to ban recording in class rooms (although that might have been a different school district with a similar incident).
posted by caddis at 5:28 PM on April 27, 2008


On a related note, are some ultra-conservative Dartmouth alumni trying to take over that Ivy League school? It sure seems that way.
posted by ornate insect at 5:29 PM on April 27, 2008


I don't think LaClair and the Gablers compare in terms of influence:
For more than four decades, the couple influenced what children read, not just in Texas but around the country.

The reason was Texas’ power to be a national template; the state board chooses textbooks for the entire state, and of the 20 or so states that choose books statewide, only California is bigger than Texas. It is difficult and costly for publishers to put out multiple editions, so a book rejected by Texas might not be printed at all.
posted by LooseFilter at 5:30 PM on April 27, 2008


Dartmouth is a fine school, but they have serious issues with some hard core conservatives and have had these issues for quite some time. This is odd as most of the Ivies are rabidly liberal which drives many of the more conservative and older alumni batty.
posted by caddis at 5:39 PM on April 27, 2008


I will likely vote for Matthew LaClair when he inevitably runs for public office, should I have the opportunity to do so.

He is consistently impressive. His 2007 interview on Freethought Radio (direct MP3 link) was a good example of how cool and collected he is. He was also featured on the First Freedom First simulcast last month.
posted by gurple at 5:51 PM on April 27, 2008


Amazing the difference a catchy hook makes.

This post is more or less a double... the exact same textbook issue was posted to MeFi earlier this month, except from the side of the people this kid said he contacted to complain. I can't see that anyone's pointed this out in the comments yet; apologies if I missed it.

Previously: Trust in Textbooks

What interests me most about this (especially as a journalist, to whom this ought to be obvious) is how much more compelling stories get when you put a human face on them.

Center for Inquiry Complains About Textbook? Meh.

Boy Hero Carries On The Good Fight Against Bias? Huzzah!
posted by bicyclefish at 6:13 PM on April 27, 2008


I had a class in high school (public school, in the midwest, in the 70s) that taught critical thinking -- how to detect and see through the BS in advertising, political communication, etc. How common is this now? Stories like this make me think, probably not very.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 6:19 PM on April 27, 2008


That so many of the towns residents are supportive of this teacher is what is most alarming.
And a side note to len. Fifty years ago more than half the residents of Kearney, N.J. were Scottish immigrants or first generation Descendants thereof.
posted by notreally at 6:26 PM on April 27, 2008


Shortly after school began in September, the teacher told his sixth-period students at Kearny High School that evolution and the Big Bang were not scientific...

How the hell do idiots like that get hired into the public school system? Surely there isn't such a dearth of applicants that they have to scrape that deep down the barrel.
posted by five fresh fish at 6:53 PM on April 27, 2008


Teach both theories, let the kids decide. :-)
posted by five fresh fish at 6:56 PM on April 27, 2008 [3 favorites]


This guy's premise is patently false. Everyone knows that there were no dinosaurs on Noah's Ark. I can prove it.
posted by Nick Verstayne at 7:04 PM on April 27, 2008 [1 favorite]


This is an annoying story.

yeah, it's really annoying when kids think for themselves and consider what they're being told critically, because, after all, that's what an education is supposed to equip them to do
posted by pyramid termite at 7:28 PM on April 27, 2008


...along with a curriculum that begins equipping students with the tools necessary to judge beliefs and biases for themselves...

This, I think, should be taught before students are given any history courses. Give them philosophy of science and critical thinking skills and start young. Montessori already does this, to a certain extent. I went to a Montessori school for most of my early education (1st to 5th grade), and it informs my thinking to this day. I'm in college now, and I still think that the thinking and reasoning tools (just opening your eyes and looking at the world around you, for starters) I learned at the Franciscan Montessori Earth School help me to get all my work done (and to enjoy it, and to use it).
posted by OverlappingElvis at 7:31 PM on April 27, 2008


I must say, I'm quite underwhelmed by the bias he is alleging.

I was expecting so much more than an ambiguously-captioned photograph & a few poorly substantiated slurs against global warming.
posted by UbuRoivas at 7:33 PM on April 27, 2008


There is no fucking way I'm raising my kid in US. Don't know exactly how I'm going to go about this yet, but if she has to be home schooled or sent to Ukraine of France, or some other country in order to avoid being exposed to this sort of bullshit, so be it.

If there's any lesson from the collected stories and comments here, it's that engaged parents create engaged children and that both can be a powerful force for good and bad change. Gift your kids with a good bullshit detector, support them and empower them to be resilient and they'll be fine.
posted by Skwirl at 8:01 PM on April 27, 2008


Give them philosophy of science and critical thinking skills and start young.

I don't think that would be to the benefit of the super-class. The power brokers and ultra-wealthy do not desire the mass population to be sharp thinkers.
posted by five fresh fish at 8:21 PM on April 27, 2008 [4 favorites]


I was expecting so much more than an ambiguously-captioned photograph & a few poorly substantiated slurs against global warming.

So I guess you're saying that it's true you can't pray in school?
posted by Mental Wimp at 8:34 PM on April 27, 2008


There is no fucking way I'm raising my kid in US. Don't know exactly how I'm going to go about this yet, but if she has to be home schooled or sent to Ukraine of France, or some other country in order to avoid being exposed to this sort of bullshit, so be it.

No matter where you go, your kids will be exposed to SOMETHING you don't believe in. In the Ukraine, their version of history is still a little strained. In France, religious tolerance is not at the top of the list (I hope your kid doesn't try to wear a head scarf to school). The point isn't to shelter your kid from any exposure to beliefs other than your own. Trying to make sure that your kid only hears your beliefs is to do the exact same thing that you're deploring in others.

As others have said, it's inevitable that you'll be exposed to something that you don't like. Thankfully, schools have your kid 8 hours a day 5 days a week for just 30-odd weeks. You get them the remaining 16 hours, 2 days, and 20-odd weeks. Teach 'em how you think and teach 'em to keep an open mind. They'll turn out just fine. It's far better than teaching them to shut out the world.
posted by Leon-arto at 8:38 PM on April 27, 2008


The point isn't to shelter your kid from any exposure to beliefs other than your own.

NTM, it's a bit silly to believe that kids believe everything they're taught in school.
posted by jonmc at 8:54 PM on April 27, 2008


it's inevitable that you'll be exposed to something that you don't like.

There's a difference, I think, between one's child simply being exposed to something you don't like, and the egregious nature of what's gone on here. I wouldn't get upset if my child's history teacher were, say, teaching a beatific view of Christopher Columbus, that's a common enough historical whitewash of negligible consequence. But when a teacher is proselytizing and practicing open religious intolerance toward students, refuting fact with fantasy, and the textbook has propaganda masquerading as fact, I think it's appropriate to be concerned and upset.

Also, during the school year, parents split kids' time about evenly with the school (8 hours is for sleeping), and that's not accounting for any extracurricular stuff. It's a false dilemma to assume that one's choices are either teach your kid to think so they can negotiate all the bullshit and manipulation they'll encounter or teach them to shut out the world. It's possible to help them develop critical thinking skills and simultaneously to insist that they not be exposed to malicious, false propaganda and religious zealotry from authority figures in a public school; adolescence and the school environment are tough enough to negotiate without these blatant attempts at indoctrination.
posted by LooseFilter at 9:05 PM on April 27, 2008 [1 favorite]


So I guess you're saying that it's true you can't pray in school?

I imagine the most natural reading of the photo* & caption would be that school-mandated prayers have been ruled out by the Supreme Court.

* not that I've seen it; it would depend on whether it shows a whole classful of kids at their desks in prayer position, or a closeup of one or two students
posted by UbuRoivas at 9:06 PM on April 27, 2008


UbuRoivas, I wholeheartedly disagree. The far-right and the administration it put in power to do its bidding know the power of a plausible lie. Including in a history book that the Nazi Holocaust did not take place would cause even the most casual critical thinker to stand up and say, "This is wrong information." By subtly yet insistently making a statement that may sound "kinda true" to young minds, it effectively sneaks under their radar. What Matthew LaClair is saying is, "It's not true, but more insidiously, it's not true on purpose, and the purpose is to influence thinking in a certain direction, at a time when the development of beliefs is critical."

It's propaganda. Just like the practice of hiring ex-military officials with strong financial ties to the current government to go on television and, despite witness to the contrary, tell the American public that the war in Iraq is going well, that progress is being made, that the Iraqis are happy to have us. Just like the practice of saying "America does not torture its captives" while leaving it tacitly understood that the definition of torture is not to include waterboarding or various other tactics that have been, historically, understood to be torture. The spin doctors split hairs until the general public loses interest and changes the channel, but the core truth is, there are a lot of people in America today who are being lied to, and the people doing the lying are controlling our destiny in ways that, without dissent, will be to our greater culture's lament in the not-too-distant future.

When MeFites say America needs more Matthew LaClairs, they're absolutely right - but it's half the equation. We also need a lot less UbuRoivas, who shrug their shoulders, say "Who cares?", and go back to wondering who will be the next American Idol.
posted by mrkinla at 9:09 PM on April 27, 2008 [7 favorites]


I don't think we get American Idol here.

The reason I said I was underwhelmed was because I've been remotely following the fight over there about things like the religious fundies trying to get "intelligent design" into textbooks on an equal footing with evolution.

Compared with that kind of blatant propaganda, what this guy complained about sounds very tame.
posted by UbuRoivas at 9:26 PM on April 27, 2008


(and that was quite a ridiculous slur, suggesting that i care in the slightest about idol, or any other reality show, for that matter. or, well, television in general. but i get your point; it was just misdirected)
posted by UbuRoivas at 9:29 PM on April 27, 2008


the liberal media has found someone to champion their cause.


Aaaand this cause would be what, exactly?

I imagine the most natural reading of the photo* & caption would be that school-mandated prayers have been ruled out by the Supreme Court.

"The text contains a statement, repeated three times, that students may not pray in public schools. In this edition of the text, the authors drive the point home with a photograph of students holding hands and praying outside a school. The caption reads: "The Supreme Court will not let this happen inside a public school."
posted by flotson at 9:33 PM on April 27, 2008


My parents taught me to think for myself. So, no matter what my teacher, or anyone else, said, I took it with a grain of salt and just moved on. I do that now when I watch the news, CNN, Fox, NBC, CBS, ABC, whatever. That's the best we can do. Teach our children to think for themselves. This young man seems to have done that.
posted by wv kay in ga at 9:38 PM on April 27, 2008 [1 favorite]


Oh, ok, I wasn't paying attention very well. Ignore all that.

The funny thing is, I actually take it for granted that your textbooks are already filled with far more outrageous lies, which was why I was looking forward to something juicier - more than two examples, in any case. I wanted to hear all about Saddam's WMDs, how Bush legitimately won Florida, how environmentalists are actually ecoterrorists, and why peak oil is a myth & SUVs the best choice for your motoring needs.
posted by UbuRoivas at 9:45 PM on April 27, 2008


LooseFilter: ... school textbooks have been a subject of tremendous controversy for some time now: for instance, Texas, which uses statewide (rather than local) textbook adoption, also influences national textbook content--being such a large market, publishers do not print two different versions, one for Texas and one for everyone else; they most often print one version, the one that one particular conservative panel in Texas wants to see...

Alexander Stille discusses the sad state of American history textbooks in The Betrayal of History (from 1998). It's behind the New York Review of Books subscriber wall, but somebody's put a copy here (Microsoft Word, HTML-ized by Google).
"In trying to avoid anything that might be offensive to either the left or the right, we were reduced to producing totally bland, middle-of-the-road pabulum," says one Macmillan/McGraw-Hill editor who, unsurprisingly, was not eager to be identified. ...

Many of the changes urged by this or that pressure group can be justified and defended, but the overall result is what has been aptly called a "conspiracy of good intentions"; the need to please or not offend every possible constituency has paralyzed textbook writers. Each paragraph is a carefully negotiated compromise, making it virtually impossible for a textbook to have a distinctive voice, not to mention humor, moral outrage, or evocative prose.

"It is a process that is destined to produce a dumbed-down product," says Byron Hollinshead, the head of American Historical Publications, and formerly president of American Heritage and Oxford University Press. "The Harvard Education Letter," he told me, "once compared textbooks to pet food. Pet food is not really concocted for pets, it's meant to appeal to pet owners. Textbooks are not written for children, they are written for textbook committees who flip through them to make sure they have the right ethnic balance and the proper buzz words."
Stille recommends Joy Hakim's series A History of US:
... The books, written by Joy Hakim, an independent writer and grandmother from Virginia, are a refreshing exception in the otherwise bleak textbook scene. A former schoolteacher and journalist, Hakim was appalled by the dullness of the textbooks she saw and decided she could do a better job herself. As she began writing her first book, she tested it on children at a local Virginia elementary school and she paid them to comment on her manuscript, marking passages that were interesting, dull, or unclear.

Even though she was only circulating computer printouts, other classes that were using regular textbooks began asking to use her book. While virtually all the other textbooks are written by committees in as neutral a tone as possible, and do little more than present a series of events, dates, and people, Hakim tried to make story-telling central to her work. Her books have a distinctive personal voice and are enjoyable to read. They have been praised by, among many others, cultural conservatives such as Lynne Cheney, back-to-basics educators such as Diane Ravitch, liberal teachers in inner-city schools, and prominent professional historians. ("I was impressed by the accuracy and the depth of her research," said James McPherson, a professor of American history at Princeton University.) And while Hakim's books contain more of the traditional subjects of American history than others, they also include more about women and minorities. In this respect, McPherson told me, "I thought her book did a good job of inclusiveness without being obtrusive."

It is not politics, however, that sets A History of US apart, it is its prose. Hakim believes in the value of narrative history for children. She was impressed by a study showing that children retained far more of what they read when the texts were written by professional writers rather than education specialists. Three pairs of writers—composition instructors, linguists, and Time-Life journalists—were all asked to rewrite the same passages from a widely used history textbook. The texts by the education specialists produced no improvement in students' comprehension, while students retained 40 percent more from the passages written by the two professional journalists.
posted by russilwvong at 9:48 PM on April 27, 2008 [6 favorites]


The far-right and the administration it put in power to do its bidding know the power of a plausible lie. . . . It's propaganda.

You do realize that the Commissioner of Education in New Jersey is a Democrat, appointed by another Democrat, right?
Commissioner Lucille E. Davy (NJ)
Current Office: Commissioner of Education
...
Professional Experience:
Education Policy Adviser, New Jersey Democratic Committee, 2000-2001
Propaganda, or a textbook author that didn't go to law school?
posted by Leon-arto at 9:53 PM on April 27, 2008


Don't get me started about the dipshit conservatives who are running a takeover scam WRT the Dartmouth Alumni organization and board or trustees. Two of them were classmates, and they were idiot ideologues then, and they are idiot ideologues now.

Re: textbooks and Matt LaClair - he's doing what he should be doing, which is using his brain. I was fortunate in high school to have had history teachers who mostly thought textbooks were useless. We used primary sources, and coursepacks of articles about whatever period we were studying, with articles about a particular incident written by different historians with different interpretations of what had happened. If you want dumbed-down kids who think history is BOOOORRRRIIINNNNGGG, then you should give them textbooks. You'll reap what you sow.
posted by rtha at 10:10 PM on April 27, 2008 [2 favorites]


(russilwvong, thanks for those links!)
posted by LooseFilter at 10:11 PM on April 27, 2008


delmoi wrote: I doubt that it's possible to actually teach history without any bias. Still, it might be possible to do it in as neutral a way as possible, but even how much time you spend on various topics is going to the result of bias.

The article states that there were some matters in which the textbooks were factually incorrect, not merely omitting the loser's side, but specifically lying in order to promote a specific idealogy.

History is rife with bias, but in most cases, it should be possible to at least agree upon the facts.
posted by Project F at 11:36 PM on April 27, 2008


The problem of low-quality textbooks full of inaccuracies is not a new one. Richard Feynman wrote about his experience on a school board's textbook selection committee, and detailed an experience that was full of lazy adults who didn't do their jobs, and slimy con-men who attempted to win the committee members by providing a few evenings of vice.

I'd love to see a textbook review board that was purposefully staffed with some highly charged partisans, and religious folks (of multiple faiths/lack of faiths).

It'd be fascinating to see if somebody could write books that were deemed to be accurate by all of those contrary parties.

Sadly, I don't think we're going to get decent textbook review unless some rich fellow somewhere decides to fund it.
posted by Project F at 11:43 PM on April 27, 2008


"Mr. Paszkiewicz was recorded saying of Jesus. “He did everything in his power to make sure that you could go to heaven, so much so that he took your sins on his own body, suffered your pains for you, and he’s saying, ‘Please, accept me, believe.’ If you reject that, you belong in hell.”

I think if you're in a class being taught by this man, you're already IN hell.
posted by crazylegs at 11:51 PM on April 27, 2008


Ha ha.

So, Len - I too went to school in the UK, and not only was I forced to say prayer most mornings in assembly, but when 11, I also was made to go to church where I got the whole "Don't believe in God - You'll go to Hell." speech. Things have moved on a bit since then (1980), but you still get denominational schools. The UK isn't as free of taught religion as you say it is.

In fact, I'd go as far as to say that schools in the US should be allowed to have a religious bent. As long as schools are allowed which are not religious, and the core curriculum is taught, then I don't have a problem with prayer or the odd teacher believing and talking about the literal truth of the bible.

On propaganda and the reasons I was annoyed by this story.

1) The 2005 version of this schoolbook had the offending passage, but the later versions don't. Someone (or many people) must have complained about the 2005 issue before this "brave kid".

2) Pick your battles already. If your primary example of right-wing bias is a passage that says "Kids can't pray in schools." when the actual facts of it are that teachers can't lead kids in prayer, then the only people who are going to give a shit about the story are people on the Left. This is a great story for rallying the troops, but don't pretend it's anything more.

Separation of Church and State.

I don't believe the issue here is the separation of church and state. In fact, that whole separation thing doesn't seem to be working too well in the U.S. You can point to the constitution as much as you want, but the rise in religious fundamentalism in the U.S. is proceeding despite what it says there. Because of that, nobody is going to fix this problem by pointing at the constitution and squealing.
posted by seanyboy at 12:01 AM on April 28, 2008 [1 favorite]


I wouldn't get upset if my child's history teacher were, say, teaching a beatific view of Christopher Columbus, that's a common enough historical whitewash of negligible consequence.

Not if you're Native American, who are rather used to being "white" washed out of American history at this point.

Most states have local school board level textbook approval processes, unlike Texas (which means, btw, that Texas has a lot more influence on what your kid uses for a textbook in Minnesota than vice versa); elected state officials are not very important to the process. Among the key lessons here for all rational Americans is to *get out and vote in school board elections!* Most people don't bother or care even when they have kids; well, the people on that board have your kid (or your future doctor/lawyer/pilot) in their hands and it is your business. If everyone excited about the presidential election would go vote against the anti-evolution and proto-fascist types routinely put up for local election by the wacko right, we'd make big changes, because these people need to be told to go back to their KKK meetings and praying to Jeebus to send down His Wrath on America.

Just as the far right has been *infiltrating* -- and that is the right word -- many institutions in our society, such as (ahem) the military and the justice department, so they are doing on much more granular and local levels like school boards, with operatives who are in these positions not just to bring their own perspective, but to make the institutions bend -- even at the cost of any rational basis in truth or facts -- to that perspective as part of an organized national (global, really) movement to take secular society for Jesus and militarism or, usually, the unholy combination of the two.

Evolution should take care of these flaming fools, but alas they are trying to take the rest of us with them in their precious rapture.
posted by fourcheesemac at 1:59 AM on April 28, 2008


BTW, Matthew LaClair, you rock!
posted by fourcheesemac at 2:00 AM on April 28, 2008


Because of that, nobody is going to fix this problem by pointing at the constitution and squealing.

You would suggest armed insurrection, perhaps? Sign me right up. But in the meantime, standing up for the rights guaranteed in the founding document of our nation (not yours, I know) is not "squealing." It's necessary. And when a young kid does it, it's impressive.

Such cynicism, but I can't tell whether you're saying it is "no big deal" or something so evil that these little nibbles at it don't amount to anything.

(BTW, I went to school (A levels) in the UK in the early 1980s -- a public grammar school -- and was never once invited, let alone forced, to pray or go to church as part of anything formally related to my schooling, so I'm not sure what you're talking about there exactly.)
posted by fourcheesemac at 2:25 AM on April 28, 2008


so I'm not sure what you're talking about there exactly
I'm saying that when I was 11, I was forced by my U.K. school to go to a church. I'm not saying that this happened to everyone. But it happened to me & my class at my school. Do you think I'm lying here?

Or are you telling me that the only schools that did the church thing were comprehensives. Because, to use your clever debating tactic, I'm not sure what you're talking about there exactly.

I'm not b.t.w. suggesting armed insurrection. There is an issue here that needs resolving socially. Resolving it legally can go so far, but it's not going to make the problem go away. It's a thumb in the dyke solution. Using the law to stop that which is desired socially causes more and more pressure to build up against the law in question. My solution to all this would be to allow religious schools. This would syphon most of the nuttiness away from the mainstream allowing schools and teachers to get on with what they do best (teach). It's a system that works in the U.K.

There's a weird conflict in logic at play in the comments here. People seem to be saying "Hey, look at this kid here. He can think for himself and as a consequence, he's managed to save kids from the terrible fundies. Because, obviously, kids cannot think for themselves."

My feeling is that kids can think for themselves. (Except this Matt character - He's just parroting what his parents tell him) That they understand bias when they see it. This one kid's making a name for himself by speaking out against bias in books, and that's OK, but there's no need to make a martyr out of him.
posted by seanyboy at 2:50 AM on April 28, 2008


No, I don't think you're "lying", for chrisssake, but I don't think it was uniform in UK public schools either; and I don't think comprehensive schools were much different; my brothers were in a public comprehensive school in London in the same years, and even then the school was nearly half Muslim, and there were no required religious observances or rituals that I (or my staunchly atheist brothers) remember -- no need to get hostile, I'm just trying to figure out what you mean, sheesh! My "clever debating tactics?" Really? I wasn't trying to show you up, just add my experience to the mix. You made it sound like your experience was a standard one in the UK (and you yourself generalized it to the national level); I am saying I was in school in the UK in the same era and saw nothing like what you described. Do you think *I* am lying?

Kids can think for themselves, of course, if we teach them not to fear being punished for doing so, and give them the facts and skills for doing so.

What does that have to do with letting it go when textbooks are full of lies and propaganda? Should we simply expect our kids to be able to see they are being taught bullshit even when it's in a book and the teacher says it's true? Kids can fight for themselves too, but we generally don't let them carry out blood feuds without intervening. Adults do have some responsibility too.

We can discuss these things without going hardcore black and white with me or against me -- among most of us who believe pretty much the same thing about the importance of secular institutions staying that way, I hope.
posted by fourcheesemac at 3:12 AM on April 28, 2008


(And for that matter, what does the UK have to do with this story? As far as I know, the UK is much less caught up in the establishment of religion, seeing as how the state established its own religion in the middle ages, practically, and seeing as how the vast majority of non-Muslim Britons don't go to church regularly or believe in any specific religious doctrine any longer, if surveys are to be believed anyway.)
posted by fourcheesemac at 3:15 AM on April 28, 2008


Good for him...

I'm suggesting Howard Zinn's "A People's History of the United States " as the only accurate history text around....


Wait, you're suggesting Zinn as a bias-free alternative? That's about on the same level as using the Proceedings of the XXI Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union to teach agriculture.
posted by nasreddin at 3:15 AM on April 28, 2008


A final thought: "resolving something legally" and "resolving something socially" are, in my understanding of American governance principles, pretty much the same thing!
posted by fourcheesemac at 3:16 AM on April 28, 2008


The first thing we were taught in GCSE history was the concept of bias. Sources are biased and opinionated, so be aware of that and treat all sources with appropriate suspicion. It doesn't take a genius to continue this line of thought to include the text books and the exam questions.

Exams are an increasingly prevalent feature of school life. Children are well aware of the concept that you must jump through the hoops to pass the exams, regardless of your feelings on the quality of the information you are regurgitating. What this teaches children about our society and it's approach to education is another debate entirely.

School books can be interesting and informative, as the work by Joy Hakim shows. The fact that education is woefully underfunded leads to the question of which book the children should use. The answer is that they shouldn't be limited to one book, but should be given the opportunity to research all sorts of different sources freely.
posted by asok at 3:47 AM on April 28, 2008


what does the UK have to do with this story? My point was in response to a comment by Len. My example was there to cast a bit of context on his "Europe Good / America Bad" commentary. He said
You know, every time the church/state separation in schools thing comes up on Metafilter, I'm absolutely flabbergasted at what American teachers who have a firmly religious mindset are able to get away with in the course of teaching classes that have absolutely nothing to do with religion.
It's such an odd state of affairs to read about if you were educated at a state school in the UK.
Social and Legal pressures are completely different in my mind, and I'm wondering if I've maybe chosen the wrong wording. The Civil Rights Act of 1875 is an example of how I see legal pressure being applied without the social pressure to back it up.

And I'm sorry I got all angry at you.
posted by seanyboy at 4:00 AM on April 28, 2008


"schools in the US should be allowed to have a religious bent."

This is already the case. They're called private schools, and anybody can start one. Just don't ask the rest of us to pay for it.
posted by crazylegs at 4:39 AM on April 28, 2008


OK, no worries seanyboy -- we might be talking past each other.

The law is a social institution; one might well distinguish between public culture and civil society generally and legal institutions within that specifically, but no change in the law ever happens without some sort of social pressure from "outside" the law, in my view of things. There may not be *enough* social pressure -- or there may be too much social counterpressure - to "back up" radical changes inscribed in the law, but the history of progressive legislation concerning civil rights in the US, at least, is that society mostly catches up to the legal institutions that have often led in this area (responding, of course, to intense social pressure -- albeit from justifiably aggrieved minorities, for the most part). The specific (legal and social) commitments of the US constitution and Bill of Rights to protecting minority rights and interests have frequently been used to hold the US accountable to its supposed core principles, and this is another area where that needs to be the case. The anti-establishment clause is clear as a bell in its wording, and in its subsequent history of judicial interpretation, to me. Either the efforts of the Christian and Statist right to infiltrate and destroy the social compact about this is illegal and seditious, or it is a form of civil rights activism that is illegal but justified by some sort of history of persecution of believers in the US, which I am sure is how many Christians I know see things, to my shock and dismay.

I've never seen anyone punished for praying or believing anything they want as an individual in this country -- at least, no Christians. (Muslims and atheists and Wiccans can tell you different, actually. ) The idea that somehow Christians are "under attack" or "persecuted" by secular democracy is -- to me -- an utterly outrageous fallacy and a conscious attempt to align Christian nationalism with other minority rights movements, plus the claim that somehow we are a "majority" Christian nation (whatever that means). Or that we were "founded" as a Christian nation (which is patently, demonstrably untrue).

Christianity is wound so tightly into our social institutions and culture that the idea that somehow Christians are being oppressed is laughable to me, certainly as an atheist.

But it's also dangerous. And most of all, it's disingenuous and a plain grab for political power in the name of religion, not religious freedom in the name of politics.
posted by fourcheesemac at 4:51 AM on April 28, 2008


Project F: "Sadly, I don't think we're going to get decent textbook review unless some rich fellow somewhere decides to fund it."

A good start would probably be Lies My Teacher Told Me by James Loewen. It contains a pretty detailed analysis of a dozen history textbooks and a comparison of their descriptions (or lack thereof) of crucial events. It's a very interesting read, especially for an European like me; the way American history is presented in some of these books seems... odd, to say the least.
posted by PontifexPrimus at 4:52 AM on April 28, 2008


seanyboy wrote: In fact, I'd go as far as to say that schools in the US should be allowed to have a religious bent. As long as schools are allowed which are not religious, and the core curriculum is taught, then I don't have a problem with prayer or the odd teacher believing and talking about the literal truth of the bible.

Spoken like somebody who is okay with Christianity.

Imagine for a moment that not only was your child forced to pray to Vishnu on a daily basis, but that they were also indoctrinated in the religion by their teachers, and that you were forced to pay for this nonsense out of your public taxes.

I think Christian-ish people would have a much easier time seeing the problem with publicly led prayers if they replaced those prayers with Islamic beliefs, or others which were incompatible with their own.
posted by Project F at 7:03 AM on April 28, 2008 [1 favorite]


seanyboy wrote: Pick your battles already. If your primary example of right-wing bias is a passage that says...

That's the primary example, as found by a fairly young student. It raises an obvious question for what other issues are being presented in a heavily skewed manner, but the student is simply unaware because they haven't yet learned where all the lines are drawn.

seanyboy wrote: Someone (or many people) must have complained about the 2005 issue before this "brave kid".

So now you, an anonymous punter on the internet, are insulting the kid personally.

I understand that you're okay with publicly funded schools that indoctrinate children in a specific religion, but the US Constitution isn't okay with that.

I understand that you don't think it's brave to take up wildly unpopular and nerdy fight to get updated textbooks.

I understand that you're annoyed that the blogs picked up his story.

But I can't understand why you resorted to insulting him personally, mocking some praise that you happen to disagree with. You, allegedly a grown man, mocking a teenager because you disagree with the US Constitution and the kid's politics.

Grow the fuck up, seanyboy. Grow the fuck up.
posted by Project F at 7:20 AM on April 28, 2008 [2 favorites]


Seanyboy wrote:
My feeling is that kids can think for themselves. (Except this Matt character - He's just parroting what his parents tell him)


Jesus Christ. I missed this one. Are you really claiming omniscience? You really believe you can know exactly how a 16 year old came to particular opinion, and then dismiss it on the basis of your omniscience?

It's ludicrously insulting to imply that there is no other possible way this kid could've noticed bias, except if he was parroting his parents. It's possible he was, but again, you're being ludicrously rude and arrogant towards a random 16 year old kid who you have never met, never spoke to, nor read an in-depth interview with, and for what reason?

Grow the fuck up seanyboy. Grow the fuck up.
posted by Project F at 7:25 AM on April 28, 2008 [1 favorite]


But I can't understand why you resorted to insulting him personally, mocking some praise that you happen to disagree with. You, allegedly a grown man, mocking a teenager because you disagree with the US Constitution and the kid's politics.

Grow the fuck up, seanyboy. Grow the fuck up.


Wow, melodramatic much?
posted by nasreddin at 7:26 AM on April 28, 2008


Wow, melodramatic much?

Seanyboy is allegedly a 38 year old man and he's lobbing personal insults at a 16 year old kid, because he disagrees with him politically, and doesn't like that the blogs picked up the story.

If that isn't a sign that somebody needs to grow the fuck up, I don't know what is.
posted by Project F at 7:38 AM on April 28, 2008 [3 favorites]


I'm assuming you're the fuckwit that took to emailing me personally.

"Brave Kid" is not a personal insult against the kid, it's an insult against those that are trumpeting his fight. That should be obvious, but hey.

The "parroting what his parents taught him" bit is a throw away line. A parenthetical remark meant to question the assumption that he's thinking for himself. You can ignore it. It's not relevant to my opinions on this matter.

Spoken like somebody who is okay with Christianity.
You've obviously not read all comments made by myself. But anyway - I'm a committed athiest who was forced as a child by my school to pray daily. Don't give me that vishnu line. I'm not going to see the error of my ways by being asked how I'd feel praying to one of your crazy muslim gods.

I understand that you don't think it's brave to take up wildly unpopular and nerdy fight to get updated textbooks.
I never said that. I'm all for taking on wildly unpopular fights and I applaud all those that question common consensus in any forum.

Grow the fuck up, seanyboy
LOL. U R NOOB!

And yes - before you go all crazy on me, I realise that Vishnu is a Hindu God. That was my little joke. You know, because I'm not a self important blowhard that is l33t enough to use the internet to find out somebodies age.
posted by seanyboy at 8:09 AM on April 28, 2008


And I agree with the Kids politics.
You should really learn to read.
posted by seanyboy at 8:11 AM on April 28, 2008


Just realized. You've only been here a coupla days & you're picking fights left and right. And you have a fake name. I think I've just been trolled.
posted by seanyboy at 8:27 AM on April 28, 2008


*kisses ground (again)*

I think I'll head to the pub and let people read this. They never believe me.
posted by chuckdarwin at 9:19 AM on April 28, 2008


seanyboy, why DID you suggest that this student is only parroting his parents' line? do you have some valid information to back up your assertion?

the "brave kid" thing aside -- you DID insult him, by suggesting he's just a tool of his parents' war.

projectF may have overstated the point, but the point still stands: why would you insult the student by belittling his efforts?
posted by CitizenD at 9:20 AM on April 28, 2008


why DID you suggest that this student is only parroting his parents' line
- Because IT'S possible.
- Because, if it's the case, there's AN irony there when placed in the context of "speaking up against authority."
- Because this whole conversation HAS been framed as "one boy against the world" and that's incorrect.
- Because I thought it WAS funny.
- Because you Democrats are tricky THAT way.

And finally, I admit that I did it because Bill O'Reilly bet me at the latest Republican World Domination meeting that I couldn't do it, and there's no way I'm drinking the sacrificial virgins blood again as it gives ME indegestion.

I can't believe you're in here trying to protect the kid from the implication that he got his moral values from his parents. (a) It's not a big deal and (b) I'm absolutely certain he can look after himself.
posted by seanyboy at 9:47 AM on April 28, 2008


oh, clever seanyboy. your mocking, grammatical cleverness is SO clever!

let's take a look at what you wrote:

My feeling is that kids can think for themselves. (Except this Matt character - He's just parroting what his parents tell him) That they understand bias when they see it. This one kid's making a name for himself by speaking out against bias in books, and that's OK, but there's no need to make a martyr out of him.

and then how you justified what you wrote:

- Because IT'S possible.


show me where you said it's possible. oh, you can't? right...because you didn't say that.

- Because, if it's the case, there's AN irony there when placed in the context of "speaking up against authority."

so, if the student is in agreement with his parents, he's just a lackey minion?

- Because this whole conversation HAS been framed as "one boy against the world" and that's incorrect.

...so, we should resolve that by mocking the student? EXCELLENT plan! why didn't i think of that?

- Because I thought it WAS funny.

OMG! it's SO fun to mock people!

- Because you Democrats are tricky THAT way.

uh....what? OH! i get it. you're being clever again! ha! ha! ha!


i don't actually think your comment was important. but your high-horsery stuck in my craw. it seems like what you're really against isn't the student at all -- but the people here who have supported him. and, most importantly, you seem to be jealous of the kid for the attention and praise he's receiving. does seanyboy need a nap?

I can't believe you're in here trying to protect the kid from the implication that he got his moral values from his parents. (a) It's not a big deal and (b) I'm absolutely certain he can look after himself.

you didn't imply that he got his moral values from his parents. you outright said that he's a "character" who's just parroting what his parents tell him. can you be honest, and claim what you've actually said?

the student was mocked and shunned in his school -- and his hometown -- after the first incident (where he tape-recorded his teaching outright prosthletizing (sp?) ). as a result, there was an outpouring of support online, in the hopes that the student would see that his efforts were indeed important and lauded by many. what's happening in this thread today is more of that same online support. we can't all travel to NJ to pat this student on the back, but we can post messages of support that he might read.

why is THAT such a big deal to you?
posted by CitizenD at 10:20 AM on April 28, 2008


Seanyboy: "Don't give me that vishnu line. I'm not going to see the error of my ways by being asked how I'd feel praying to one of your crazy muslim gods."

1. Vishnu is a Hindu god. Islam has only one god, that would be Allah.

2. No matter how ticked you're getting, the "crazy Muslim gods" statement was unnecessary and ignorant.
posted by Liosliath at 10:25 AM on April 28, 2008 [1 favorite]



Seanyboy: "Don't give me that vishnu line. I'm not going to see the error of my ways by being asked how I'd feel praying to one of your crazy muslim gods."

1. Vishnu is a Hindu god. Islam has only one god, that would be Allah.

2. No matter how ticked you're getting, the "crazy Muslim gods" statement was unnecessary and ignorant.


No matter how ticked you're getting, neither getting the joke nor reading the whole comment was unnecessary and ignorant.
posted by nasreddin at 10:46 AM on April 28, 2008


C/D: It's not a big deal to me.

Liosliath: I know who Vishnu is. But you're right about the "crazy Muslim gods" line. I shouldn't have said it, and it wasn't my intention to mock Islam or the God of any of the Ibrahimic traditions.
posted by seanyboy at 10:50 AM on April 28, 2008


but the people here who have supported him. and, most importantly, you seem to be jealous of the kid for the attention and praise he's receiving. does seanyboy need a nap?

What I need is for people to stop following every left wing agenda like it's some sacred word and start thinking about politics in terms of the parties affected and possible solutions to complex problems. What I need is for left wing idiots to look over at the Fundies and realise where they're coming from and why they say and do the things they do. Ninety percent of the people in your country who believe in an all powerful God and who vote conservatively are good people. They believe what they believe, but on the whole it doesn't get in the way of other peoples beliefs. They're just trying to get on in the world. Like every other person. You can disagree with them as much as you want, but stop parodying them. The high-horse antics and downright self congratulatory wankery of the Left makes me want to buy a fucking SUV and set myself up in a big house next to a church in Ohio.

If I sound cynical, then it's because I am. I'm left wing and proud of the fact. The politics I believe in are defined by empathy. "Feed the poor, take care of the sick, fight against bigotry. Listen to the words of others." When I come to Metafilter, I see a veneer of left winginess, but a distinct lack of empathy. You demonise those that disagree with you. You spew vitriol against individuals instead of against policies. You experience the beliefs of others purely in order to rubbish and destroy them. This isn't what I believe in & the fact that it seems to be the Modus Operendii of the new left is deeply disappointing to me.

On a final point. It looks as though the next US government will be Democratic. You should take pride in that and look forward to a day when you can make the world a better place. But instead, you're looking over the majority of your country and plotting a reckoning. And that disgusts me.

So this isn't "seanyboy needs a nap". This is something else. I don't expect you to understand it, and I reckon there's going to be some toothcombing of my words here in order to pick away at my logic. It doesn't bother me personally. But it does bother me because I expect better of all of you. Because you claim to represent what I represent and when I look at it, I see nothing but an abomination of my core beliefs.
posted by seanyboy at 11:14 AM on April 28, 2008 [2 favorites]


it wasn't my intention to mock Islam or the God of any of the Ibrahimic traditions.

Try it sometime, it's fun and easy.
posted by Pope Guilty at 11:29 AM on April 28, 2008


seanyboy, the irony in your screed is priceless.

before you expect better of "all of us," why not raise the expectations for your own discourse? take a look at the comment that started this back-and-forth. where is the "feed the poor, take care of the sick, fight against bigotry. listen to the words of others" there?

your "MY-left-wing-path-is-the-ONLY-true-left-wing-path" thesis is nothing but more of the very thing you're railing against.
posted by CitizenD at 12:07 PM on April 28, 2008


One of the authors of the textbook, James Q. Wilson, also had an op-ed in yesterday's LA Times.
posted by InfidelZombie at 12:08 PM on April 28, 2008


"you're looking over the majority of your country and plotting a reckoning." A Reckoning against those who say that an atheist can't be a patriot be definition? A Reckoning with those who say that the tolerance of some of my best friends and my wife's mere existence causes hurricanes and terrorist bombing. A reckoning with those who would give those most dangerous and unstable 10% power because they tell them what they want to hear? Why would I want a reckoning with those fine folks?
posted by Megafly at 12:57 PM on April 28, 2008 [2 favorites]


James Q. Wilson wrote the U.S. government textbook I used in high school. It was passable.

I must agree with the bulk of his response in the L.A. Times.
posted by mrgrimm at 1:37 PM on April 28, 2008


Religious daily prayer is a legal requirement for all state UK schools:
All maintained schools must provide daily collective worship for all registered pupils (apart from those who have been withdrawn from this by their parents). This is may be provided within daily assembly but the distinction should be made clear.

The head teacher is responsible for arranging the daily collective worship after consulting with the governing body. Daily collective worship must be wholly or mainly of a broadly Christian character. The precise nature will depend on the family background, ages and abilities of the pupils. It is acceptable for schools to split the collective worship sessions over the school year to be 51% Christian and 49% other faiths or interests.
Source: Government TeacherNet website

Most schools ignore this, but the law is there. Just so you know!

I'm British. I had daily Bible readings every morning in my state Primary school (6 to 11) and weekly Christian assemblies with prayer in Secondary school (12 to 18). The whole school went to the local Protestant church at the end of each term. I'm an atheist, as are 30-45% of my fellow-countrymen.
posted by alasdair at 3:28 PM on April 28, 2008


Nasreddin : I'm not in the least ticked at seanyboy. I read not only that comment, but all of his comments in this thread. Though his opinions seem to be at odds with some people, he's well-spoken, and I appreciate that. That's why his Vishnu/Muslim gods comment seemed so jarring, whether it was intended as a joke or not.

However, he very graciously apologized, and I thank him for that.

As for your comment to me, I offer no apology in return.
posted by Liosliath at 3:57 PM on April 28, 2008


you folk who have commented in the last 15 hours or so have ruined this thread and should be ashamed.
posted by caddis at 5:37 PM on April 28, 2008


Scientific thinking vs. Creationist thinking
posted by five fresh fish at 8:07 PM on April 28, 2008 [1 favorite]


Shorter James Wilson LA Times op-ed:
"We stopped lying in the latest edition of our textbook. All our earlier lies are therefore 'inoperative', and you are an ignorant vicious slime for daring to even mention them."
posted by hexatron at 8:44 PM on April 28, 2008


Might not be best of the web but Mr LaClair is the best of the States.
posted by dmt at 7:48 AM on April 29, 2008


I think that if seanyboy has taught us anything, it's that one can save a lot of time by ignoring every single thing that seanyboy says, ever.

I'm going to ignore the everpresent Duty Calls desire to point out the many ways in which seanyboy is clearly lying and just say 'good-bye seanyboy. I hope you grow up someday.'
posted by Project F at 1:34 PM on April 29, 2008


Because you claim to represent what I represent and when I look at it, I see nothing but an abomination of my core beliefs.

Take that back. I do not represent hypocrisy, lies or deceit!
posted by Project F at 1:39 PM on April 29, 2008


seanyboy
Ninety percent of the people in your country who believe in an all powerful God and who vote conservatively are good people.

This may be so. But that is not the issue. I think you are angry that the Left makes fun of the Right. Well, welcome to the real world. Go to some Right wing sites and see if they are any kinder to the Left.

Hint: They're not.

But the main issue is truth versus facts. The truth is, yes, there are lots of conservative Christian folks. Fine. I respect them and their rights to believe what they want. Many do. But we need to call them out when they try to turn a public school classroom into a church and completely fly in the face of what a public education is supposed to be about.
Also the facts - with regards to science - are such that completely ignoring them and giving credence to someone's religious beliefs over these facts is just wrong. We cannot be relative with regards to this. Just because evolution [as an example] cannot answer or satisfy all questions doesn't mean we need to give concessions to those who don't believe in it and just throw it out or replace it with what they believe sans any scientific standards. When someone tries to do this in a classroom we need to stand up and make some noise.
posted by Rashomon at 2:52 PM on April 29, 2008


Ninety percent of the people in your country who believe in an all powerful God and who vote conservatively are good people.

First of all, your number is way high. Most people are greedy, self-interested assholes who don't give a shit about anything that doesn't affect them, their friends or their family negatively.

This is true of both parties, but it's truer of the GOP, many of whom mock Dems for being "bleeding hearts", meaning that they care about people who aren't themselves.

Secondly, it's irrelevant.
posted by Project F at 4:35 PM on April 30, 2008


Good job ignoring me there Project F.
I think that if seanyboy has taught us anything, it's that one can save a lot of time by ignoring every single thing that seanyboy says, ever.
posted by Project F Yesterday [+]
...
[blah, blah, blah] Take that back. I do not represent hypocrisy, lies or deceit!
posted by Project F Yesterday [+]
...
[blah, blah, seanyboy, blah], it's irrelevant.
posted by Project F more than 12 hours ago [+]

I thinks that if you've taught us anything, it's that one can waste a lot of time obsessing about someone you don't know but who you disagree with.
posted by seanyboy at 9:00 AM on May 1, 2008


I thinks that if you've taught us anything, it's that one can waste a lot of time obsessing about someone you don't know but who you disagree with.

seanyboy: it's true. I did waste time by revisiting the thread and reading more of your arrogant vitriol. I should've known better, but my optimistic side kicked in and thought "maybe he's seen the error of his ways".

Thank you for confirming that you will never, in fact, see the error of your ways.
posted by Project F at 4:52 PM on May 1, 2008


UK schools do feature religion, but they keep it well out of the classrooms as Len says, and they do allow kids not to attend religious assemblies. But the church is still established, ffs, so saying that we have a poor separation between church and state is slightly missing the point.
posted by bonaldi at 8:04 PM on May 1, 2008


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