Tag Archives: university

Radical religion’s war on education

18 Nov

Today I was listening to the Reasonable Doubts podcast and they had a really interesting segment on the religious right’s attack on education. Here is my summary of what they had to say:

It is a well known fact that on average the more educated a person is the less likely they are to be conservative or religious. (Yes there are highly educated conservative and religious people, but the data shows that these people are anomalies)

Education and exposure to different cultures/people/worldviews has a corrosive effect on religious faith and conservatism. The radical religious right’s response to this fact is to isolate their children from the world with home schooling, while simultaneously working to undermine public education. My non-American readers might be shocked to find out that here in America parents can homeschool their children with little to no qualifications or curriculum standards; in essence they can teach, or not teach, anything they want regardless of their own education level.

Often in the United States you will hear defenders of homeschooling put forth statistics that suggest homeschooled children excel in all areas, especially scholastic aptitude tests. The fact is, all of these statics are bogus and poorly collected. There is an excellent article in the Peabody Journal of Education by Dr. Eric Isenberg titled “What have we learned about homeschooling?” In the article Isenberg examines the quantitative data on homeschooling, how extensive it is, and how it is collected and then goes point by point showing that essentially it is a black hole.

We do not have good data on homeschooling or its effectiveness. Why? Because the religious right fought hard to make sure the government wasn’t allowed to collect such data. They deliberately want to keep it as unclear as possible. If data was accurately collected it would show the appalling low level of education these homeschoolers are receiving.

The conservative religious right has set up a system where homeschooled children can go from their sheltered home “education” straight to private religious fundamentalist “universities” without ever encountering an idea or person who might challenge their faith. These students then graduate from these “schools” and are often hired as government aids to work for conservative officials. This was recently very prominent when Bush was in power. A lot of his aids were from these private religious institutions. He legal defense team was made up of “Liberty” “University” graduates, a “school” 10 minutes from where I went to college. This system and it’s goals of raising up fundamentalist children sheltered from opposing view points has a name and a website, “Generation Joshua.” (There is an interesting NY Times Best Seller book by Michelle Goldberg on this subject titled “Kingdom Coming.”)

Another way these religious fundamentalist schools affect the public is through tax vouchers for private schools. Through tax vouchers, the public has to subsidize families who choose to send their children to private schools instead of public ones. The political spin is that this is about “school choice,” but if you see past the bullshit it’s really about back-door public funding for religious schools. Almost all private schools in the United States are religious. The guys on Reasonable Doubts even pointed out that the even some of the few officially “secular” charter schools are actually very religious in their curriculum while remaining outwardly worldly.

Public education is a blight for the radical religious right. Pat Robertson, infamous televangelist and founder of Regent “University”, had this to say about tax vouchers: “They say vouchers would spell the end of public schools in America. To which we say, so what?” Jerry Falwell (the same as Robertson and also founded his own “school,” “Liberty” “University”) had this to say on the matter: “I hope to live to see the day when, as in the early days of our country, there won’t be any public schools. The churches will have taken them over again and Christians will be running them. What a happy day that will be!” Luckily the fat bastard died before that could happen, but his minions are hard at work trying to advance his “vision.”

These institutions are bastions of conservatism and religion. Here students are taught what to think as opposed to how to think, and their curricula are carefully crafted to be as bias and twisted as possible. “Liberty” “University” even went so far as to ban liberals. The fact is that the radical religious right’s worldview cannot survive in the free market of ideas. When exposed to the sunlight of different cultures, people, points of view, and education in general, it shrivels up and dies. To protect their fragile children from reality, the religious right sets up system whereby students are exposed only to “approved” ideas. I find it hilariously ironic that conservatives like to claim liberals are like Maoists and Stalinists while they’re the ones with thought police institutions with portraits of Jesus on the walls.

I wish I changed my major

13 Nov

Starting college I was a history nut. I loved doing historical reenactments, I loved reading history, I loved historical movies, everything. I remember consciously telling myself that I was going to major in something I love, regardless if it would make me money. I didn’t want to spend the next four years working at something I didn’t care about to get a job in a field I didn’t care about, so I majored in history. While at college I worked really hard. I skipped parties to study and was constantly working on my research papers. I ended up getting a 3.7 (out of 4) for my major related coursework, and a 3.2 for everything else (languages made me struggle).

While in college I hit upon the idea of being an archaeologist. My professors told me I needed to know at least Latin, French, English, and German fluently to be a medieval archaeologist, so I took language classes, much to the detriment of my grade point average. A favorite history professor got me an internship with a local archaeological dig and I spent two semesters getting up super early to go scan a backlog of slides or dig in the red clay earth. It was primarily 1800’s archaeology, which was not at all what I was interested in, but I liked the people and I needed contacts if I was to enter into archaeology as a field after undergrad.

I spent two of my summers at field schools, one at the local archaeological place outside my college, and the second in Newcastle, UK. I spent the summers getting up early and working long days. All of this because I wanted the experience and the contacts. Back at college I worked extensively on my senior thesis, taking it to history conferences around the region and presenting it. I even won a grant to do research at another university’s archives and was selected as a special scholar at a prestigious military school. As one of a handful of selected scholars at that school, I had to double the length of my thesis. All the other students at my college had much shorter thesis requirements, so there wasn’t as much stress on them. Still, I wanted the contacts and experience so I did it.

Then senior year everything changed.

My now ex helped me see that I wasn’t very happy every morning I came back from the dig, covered in dirt, sweaty and aching. “Maybe archaeology isn’t for you” she suggested. It scared me, but I thought she was right. I’m not sure if I was burned out because I disliked 1800’s archaeology so much and I would have been fine if I was working at a castle, but I decided not to be an archaeologist. Suddenly all those mornings getting up extra early, the hours spent in the field stooped over a patch of ground, the hours scanning slides, the money spent sending me overseas for a summer, all of it was for nothing. Yes they were valuable in the experiences they gave me, and the wonderful people I got to meet, but let’s be realistic: It was all for the goal of becoming an archaeologist. Suddenly I didn’t have that goal anymore.

Meanwhile on the history front, I was getting tired really fast. The extra work for that military school’s scholar program was really burning me out on history. My professors kept pushing me to go to gradschool, but I didn’t want to spend the rest of my life in a dark archive looking over dusty old books. I also did not want to teach! Everybody keeps telling me “Oh you could teach!” and I want to hit them. I hate children and I hate the idea of standing up in front of a group of them trying to get them to care about Charlemagne. I became a history major because I loved history, not because I wanted to teach it. Well now I’ve lost the spark and I’m mildly indifferent to it.

At the same time all this was happening, I quit my living history group. I had been doing this hobby since I was twelve and I finally got fed up. My passions were collapsing across the board. Then my girlfriend of three years left me for an older man, my grandmother got pancreatic cancer, I graduated and left my home for four years, along with all my friends, to live with my parents in the conservative/religious deep south where I knew no one. Needless to say, I often contemplated suicide.

I can’t tell you how furious and frustrated I am. I worked hard. I played by the rules. And now it’s all for nothing. I’m stuck in the worst state in the country, in the middle of the worst economic collapse since the great depression, and my degree is worthless. All my hard work is worthless. You see, you can’t do shit with just a BA in history. Maybe if the economy was better and I was in a better state, it might be worth something, but unless you go to gradschool to get a higher degree, or teach, you can’t do shit. I have no applicable skills. I can write research papers and use MS word. Lovely. I don’t have any market specific skills like a computer science major, or a chemistry major might have.

“Oh, but college is not supposed to get you a job afterwards! You go there to learn!” I used to believe this wholeheartedly, but now I call bullshit. You see, college is so ridiculously expensive today, it’s prohibitive. Unless you’re rich, the only way you can get a college education is by taking on so many loans you become an indentured servant for the rest of your life. College has become so expensive it’s now an investment. Nobody but the independently rich go to college with the idea of “just learning.” You spend the money to get an education that will get you a higher paying job. Don’t get me wrong, I love the humanities and I think they are our collective soul. I am in no way saying funding for them should be cut. That would be disastrous. I just wish I majored in something else.

Towards the end of senior year, I really got interested in astronomy and chemistry, thanks to the help of one of the best professors I had. I really wish I majored in something like that. My friend, who was a chemistry major, has been able to find work easily, same with my biology major friend. I’m really fascinated by those subject, yet I hate math. (I know math is pretty important in science) I’m frustrated because at the start of college, I had no way of knowing my interests would dramatically shift right before I graduated. What would have happened had I majored in chemistry? At the time I would never had thought about it. At the start of college I loved history. I was so excited to be out of highschool and able to load up my schedule with all the history classes I could handle.

I really regret it now.

I want so desperately to move out of this state, to a more liberal, less religious part of the country, and then eventually to Canada. I’ve lived in the conservative religious south my entire life and it’s smothering me. I’m tired of constantly being the hated minority. I want to live somewhere that isn’t so repressive. Not to mention I hate the heat. Yet with no skills I find myself applying to make sandwiches, shelve books, or work as an office assistant. None of these are jobs I really want to do, and with a worthless degree I’m essentially starting four years later than everyone else. I feel I’m going to be stuck in South Carolina for years to come, trying to get a job that will give me the skills needed to move. I probably won’t escape and finally be able to start my life until I’m 30. It just makes me want to die…

About to graduate…do I deserve it?

28 Apr

In 17 days I will be graduating with my Bachelor’s degree in History. I’m starting to have second thoughts about everything. What have I learned in four years? Well, not much. I know a bit more about history than I did when I graduated high school, but that’s not saying much since I was obsessed with the subject back then. I already knew a lot compared to other students going in. I guess I’ve learned how to write papers. That’s pretty much it. I’ve learned how to research and write. Is that worth $35,000 a year for 4 years? I’m not sure.

I’ve had an interesting experience. I’ve meet some great people, expanded my views on a lot of things, and got to experiment with new interests. But that’s not what I’m worried about. The social and life experiences were great, I’m just worried about what I know academically. I don’t feel like I deserve a Bachelor’s degree. Yeah, I’ve worked hard over these past 4 years, not going to parties, pulling all nighters on papers, traveling for history conferences, etc, but I don’t feel like I know enough to be given a B.A. I’m worried that everyone else knows more than me in their fields and that I’m still the same as when I graduated high school. I feel like I’m just pretending, and that some day it’s all going to catch up to me and I’ll be exposed for my lack of knowledge. 😦

Don’t use in text citations

1 Feb

Ok, really nerdy post, but one thing I cannot stand is in text citations. These things are HORRIBLE eye sores!

Here you are, reading along, minding my own business, enjoying the flow of the paper, then BAM!!!, an in text citation jumps up, stabs you in the eye, completely breaking your train of thought.

So what can you do to avoid this heinous crime? USE FOOTNOTES!!!!

There, look at that! Nothing to break your flow and slap you in the face. You’re reading along, hum-de-hum, you read a statement, and then there is a small little number at the end of the sentence. It’s simple and says “Hey, don’t mind me, but if you want to know where this information came from, just glance down at your leisure. Have a very pleasant day!” Footnotes are polite. The type of references that you’d be proud to bring home to mother.

Furthermore, in text citations just give you a name, possibly a year, or a page number. To find out where the hell something came from, you have to flip all the way back to the end of the document and search for the full citation. Footnotes don’t do that! They don’t make you go looking! They know you’re reading a paper, not trudging around in the jungle looking for El Dorado! They put the full citation right there at the bottom of the page! If you’re using footnotes, no need to sweat, sit back and have some lemonade, you’re doing things more efficiently.

Endnotes are the  retarded brother of footnotes. Yeah, he might look the same, but you have to flip all the way to the back of the document to find out what you need. More work than you should be forced to do, but at least he doesn’t hit you in the face.

Lastly, footnotes love you so much, they give you a present, they take up page space! Have a paper that you’re writing? Have a page minimum you have to reach? Footnotes will help you! They eat page length up! They are the hungry reference, in text citations is like that girl you only took out on a date once, the one who just quietly picks at her salad with a fork. Footnotes work for you!

Exam time at “Liberty” “University”

14 Dec

So the other day my girlfriend and I decided to go down to Panera bread to get lunch, and the place was swamped with “Liberty” students studying for exams.

I could not help but laugh. What’s the point? Nobody is going to take your degree seriously unless you’re applying for a ministry position. The “university” is not a university. It’s a religious joke school that brainwashes their students.

Higher education depends on constantly asking questions, challanging the status quo, and exploring new ideas. This is not encouraged at “Liberty” “University”. An LU student once told me when asked why they chose LU “I wanted to be told what to believe”. WOW! Really? Well you went to the right place.

There was once a secular speaker that came to Lynchburg College to give a lecture on religion and Atheism, and after the lecture I noticed an entire group of LU students had gathered around their “teachers” who were trying to un-teach everything the lecturer had talked about.
The kids were given no chance to think about the subject matter on their own.

The school even banned democrats! Now I can understand not agreeing with a political party or ideology, but shouldn’t ideas stand on their own merit without the arbitrary intervention of the administration?

So here were all these preppy conservative christian kids with their apple notebooks pretending to be going to a real university, studying for their exams. The one that blew me away the most was the kids who were studying for biology exams. “Liberty” “University” doesn’t even accept the fact of evolution! How can you have biology without evolution!?!?!? These people think the world is 6,000 years old and that man walked with dinosaurs, and they’re trying to teach biology. I’d like to get my hands on their biology book and see what page Noah’s ark is on.

Here, check this excerpt out from their biology department page:

“The biology faculty at Liberty University are committed to academic excellence and to training students to represent Christ in the fields of medicine, scientific research, and teaching…”

So basically, they already have their conclusions in Christ, so whatever the science tells them they must either ignore, distort, or misrepresent.

“However, our faculty are not only concerned about our student’s academic and professional preparation, but are equally concerned about the personal and spiritual well-being of every student.”

Read as “Don’t worry parents, we’ll make sure not to contaminate your children with actual science”

Give me a break, this “school” is a joke.

Heaven is Hell

26 May

As a little kid, did you ever take a plane ride and look out the window onto the clouds, hoping to see angels or perhaps a dead love one? I did, and I’m pretty sure millions of other kids have too.

Growing up, I never really thought of heaven much. I knew that I wanted to go there, but beyond that I didn’t give it much thought. Then I started thinking about all the people I knew who wouldn’t go to heaven, how it would make me really sad if someone I loved was burning forever in hell. How could I be happy in heaven knowing someone I loved was suffering? How could anybody?

I used to think that perhaps if I made a deal with god to trade spaces with someone in hell, he’d see the goodness in that act and we’d both be free to live in heaven. That or maybe if I just asked Jesus to forgive that person even if they didn’t ask for it…..

But what I really found fascinating was the idea of eternity. I was brought up to believe that if you were good and believed in Jesus you would spend eternity in heaven with god, where you would always be happy and feel no pain. Can you imagine eternity? Could you imagine being stuck in one place forever? I’d go crazy! I couldn’t do it, it would eventually become hell for me. The only way I’d be happy would to not exist, to not be conscious of time.

If I had to be conscious of time, I guess I could be happy if I had complete freedom of movement within time and space. I could be there for every event in human (and alien) history. I could go see the moment of creation, spend summers in distant galaxies, explore. Unfortunately, I don’t think my pastor thought this was part of the all-inclusive package.

The heaven that the people at places like “Liberty” “University” speak of would drive me up the wall. An all white gated community, where I am forced to be god’s cheerleader for all eternity. I’d be much more happy not existing.

“Liberty” “University” continues the tyranny

23 May

I must say, this does not surprise me in the least. “Liberty” “University” has banned democrats from their campus, sighting “moral” reasons. Yeah, I’m pretty sure that all the parts about Jesus teaching love and tolerance in the bible were the parts he didn’t want taken literally…..

Rachel Maddow interviewed the president of the now shut down Liberty University Democrats club:

It really must be some kind of dark joke naming the place “Liberty”. You can have all the liberty you want as long as you agree with our narrow minded bigoted positions.

What I find really interesting is that the school recieved a lot of complaints from the parents of some of the students attending about the mere existence of a democrats club. The parents want to send their adult children to an institution that treats them like they are seven, and they want the students to be shielded from people who have different views. How is this supposed to educate them? How are they supposed to interact in the real worl where not everyone is a religious bigot who thinks the world is 6,000 years old? By shutting down this club the school is saying “you can’t be a christian and a democrat at the same time”.  Really?

1. Jesus owned nothing. 2. Jesus argued for the dissolution of the family and the establishment of communes. 3. Jesus loved all people regardless of ethnicity or class. 4. Jesus revolted against the imperial government, established religion and finance capitalism (usury). 5. Jesus taught that we should act as one body, one blood. 6. Jesus taught that his kingdom (ie nation state) is in the heart and not below the feet. 7. Jesus taught that we should fight for Justice and ‘turn the other cheek’ to petty morality. 8. Jesus was a laborer and a teacher. 9. Jesus practiced healing and forgiveness. 10. Jesus taught that you can’t be an imperialist and a disciple at the same time.