Sunday, July 22, 2012

A Video For Sunday: Humanism

At the lower corner of this blog, I have a red "A" which stands for Atheism.  Yes, I am an atheist, and am proud to be one.  What this means, of course, is that I don't believe in God.  Atheism (like any ideology or -ism) is a label, but the thing about labels is that they can be limiting.  This is especially when that label has to do with what one doesn't believe.  If I had to choose another label to put upon myself, as I am sure many nonbelievers would prefer to put upon themselves, it would be a humanist.

Rather than what one doesn't believe, humanism has to do with what one does believe.  There are a variety of definitions for humanism, but I think I prefer the one from the Merriam-Webster Dictionary:

a doctrine, attitude, or way of life centered on human interests or values; especially: a philosophy that usually rejects supernaturalism and stresses an individual's dignity and worth and capacity for self-realization through reason.
In addition to espousing a belief of the importance of humanity and reason, the label of humanism does more to descredit the notion that nonbelievers (atheists, agnostics, skeptics etc.) are incapable of leading moral and ethical lives because they do not have the threat of consequences via a supernatural power or powers hanging over them. 

To talk about some more about humanism, specifically secular humanism (although there is such a thing as religous humanism) as well as the issues of labeling addressed above, here is a video by Patrician Atheist:

Also, check out websites like the American Humanist Association to learn more about what humanism actually is.

Friday, July 13, 2012

The Importance Of Learning History

Picture from Michael Jones

"If history repeats itself, and the unexpected always happens, how incapable must Man be of learning from experience"
 -George Bernard Shaw

"Those who don't know history are destined to repeat it."
-Edmund Burke

"Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it." 

Friday, July 6, 2012

Meme of the Day

Some sad statistics to consider from

Sorry its size looks so sloppy on my website.  This was the only way I could upload it to have the text big enough to read.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Happy Fourth of July

Below are some videos to share on America's 236th Birthday. 

First, here is a lesson plan that an 8th grade Social Studies teacher from Missouri recorded a few years back.  In it, he says he found a break-up letter on the floor, and decides he is going to read it to the class.  This turns out not to be an actual break-up letter, but a letter he made up to lead the class into a lesson on the Declaration of Independence.  It is a brilliant hook, and one I decided to use whenever I taught the American Revolution to my Social Studies class.

Next, is Danny Glover's recitation of the Frederick Douglas speech, "What to a Slave is the Fourth of July?"  It is far from a patriotic look at America, and it's independence.  But as an American who believes in looking at the truth, it is important we study the dark sides of American history (as well as the more positive sides).  The full text of the speech can be found here with an introduction by The Nation's Dave Zirin.  Also, check out this link to the Zinn Education Project about rethinkig the Fourth of July.

Finally, we have a couple of patriotic anthems.  This first one is definitely NSFW.  Happy Birthday America!  You aren't perfect, but you are my home, and I love you!

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

The Stupidest Thing I've Heard All Day

I'll just give you the name of the headline from Huffington Post first:

Bob Kingsbury, New Hampshire Legislator, Explains Remarks Linking Kindergarten To Higher Crime 


And surprise, he is a Tea Partier with connections to legendary birther, Orly Taitz.  In addition:

Kingsbury has also sponsored legislation to require future state laws to be based on the Magna Carta and said in February that statehood for the District of Columbia could cause New Hampshire's crime rate to rise 25 percent.

So what is Representative Kingsbury basing these remarks on?

Kingsbury discussed with The Huffington Post on Tuesday his research showing a dramatic jump in crime. "The sources I have is I went to the Department of Education and got a list of kindergartens and I went to the safety department and got the crime report," he said. "In general, the towns with a kindergarten have 400 percent more crime than other towns in the same county. In every county the towns and cities with kindergarten had more crime."
Noting as well that some communities experienced a crime jump of 300 percent, he singled out his hometown of Laconia, the largest community in Belknap County. Compared to the other nine communities in the county, Laconia had the highest crime and the only kindergarten program, he said. Kingsbury cited crime reports indicating Laconia had 63 of the county's 70 rapes, 6 out of 9 robberies, 44 out of 47 arsons and 408 out of 506 simple assaults, along with all the county's murders and higher rates of other crimes.

I haven't done the research to corroborate Representative Kingsbury's story, and nor do I intend on doing any.  I'm just going to go ahead and call "bull shit".  Here is some information on the "devastating" effects that all-day Kindergarten has on children.

Monday, July 2, 2012

"The Myth of the Super Teacher" (alternate title: "Teachers Are Human")

 Photo from Wikipedia

Probably anyone and everyone who has ever been a teacher can relate to Roxanna Elden's message in the video below (including myself).  Everyone who enters the teaching profession has an image in their mind of what the job will entail.  Every new teacher thinks they are going to step right in, reach every single student, and change the world.  It doesn't matter how big the classrooms are, or what type of home life these students have.  Every lesson will be perfect, every student will like us and WANT to learn, and will behave properly.  While Michelle Pfeiffer in Dangerous Minds may not come to everyone's minds, they do have that image in their head of the super teacher.  We all tell ourselves "By God, I am going to be that super teacher."

Then, of course, we start teaching, and realize that we are human, and this is not the movies.  The job entails longer hours than you can imagine, lesson plans with potential holes (holes that are often exposed during that first year of teaching), and students who could care less about what a fantastic lesson you have worked hard on (no matter how "interesting" the lesson is).  Oh, and what you have always heard about teacher pay is true.  That paycheck you bring in seems pretty miniscule given the amount of hours you put in and stress that comes out.  There are numerous reasons why nearly half of all teachers leave the profession by their fifth year.

But most of us who do stay in do not give up.  We love what we do, and we still want to make a difference in EVERY student's life.  I don't want education students to think that teaching is a hopeless, thankless profession (although it may feel like that some days).  By all means, it is a wonderful profession, and I am grateful everyday that I chose it.  But experience does bring in a more realistic view of what being a school teacher entails.  Just know that you can be a great teacher, but you are human, and there will be days the job will suck.  I am generally a strong defender of traditional teacher training programs as a whole, but it is true that there are things that NO education course can teach you.

Please enjoy this video!
The Myth of the Super Teacher from EdWriters on Vimeo.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

A Video For Sunday

Here is a beautiful time lapse video of the starts with a guide to the different constilations in the sky.  Enjoy!