More pesky high school students

JISHOU, HUNAN — And I’m not talking about Archie and Jughead, or even Beavis and Butthead. Amy Myers the Bachmann Slayer (and Scourge of the Right Wing) is not the only high school student making national news. Damon Fowler and Zack Kopplin, both of Louisiana, have made some national waves recently, too. Fowler is a 2011 graduate of Bastrop High School in Bastrop, La. Earlier this term, he learned that there would be a school-sanctioned official prayer at his graduation ceremony. He objected, and asked that the prayer be scotched. (FYI, the Supreme Court has held that public school-sponsored prayers are verboten under the First Amendment, which Fowler knows but the school apparently didn’t.) The ACLU followed up with a letter advising the school of the legal requirements and ramifications. School officials agreed to forgo the prayer. As if. In the meantime, the community got wind of Fowler’s objections and the shit hit the fan. Fowler got threats of violence and death. His fellow students turned on him. One of his teachers publicly berated him. His parents kicked him out of the house, and put his possessions (except his PS3) out on the porch. The graduation went on without him, ...

Food for thought

JISHOU, HUNAN — I’ve been reading a great book, Liars for Jesus, about the twisting of historical facts (and just plain lying) to support the notion that the USA was intended to be a Christian Nation. I found the following reference especially interesting, so I’m sharing it with you. First there is a quotation from a constitution (which one, I will reveal later), and an explanation by an author. The subjects are religion and public education. SEC. 4. All persons have a natural and indefeasible right to worship Almighty God according to the dictates of their own consciences. No person shall be compelled to attend, erect, or support any place of worship against his consent, and no preference shall be given by-law to any religious society, nor shall any interference with the rights of conscience be permitted. No religious test shall be required as a qualification for office, nor shall any person be incompetent to be a witness on account of his religious belief; but nothing herein shall be construed to dispense with oaths and affirmations. Religion, morality, and knowledge, however, being essential to good government, it shall be the duty of the legislature to pass suitable laws to protect ...

Nothing to see here. No Rapture here. Now move along. 2

JISHOU, HUNAN — Six pm came and went, and nothing unusual happened, despite Harold Camping’s prophecy of the Rapture today. It is raining, but cats and dogs, not fire and brimstone. No one rose up into Heaven, either. Draw your own conclusions. And enjoy your weekend — maybe it will be rapturous in an entirely different way.

Canary in the cage 14

JISHOU, HUNAN — I hear tell that the Rapture will happen this Saturday. I’m not clear if the prophet, Harold Camping, has worked out the exact time of the event, but since China is 12 hours ahead of Eastern Time, I’ll give you a heads up.

Mike Huckabee, “historian” 3

OK, class. Time for a discussion question. What, if anything, is wrong with this picture? The graphic comes from a website — Learn Our History — touted by potential Fox News commentator and no-longer-a-GOP- presidential-wannabe Mike Huckabee for the edumacation of the youngsters in This Great (Christian) Nation™. Huckabee’s been palling around with revisionist “historian” David Barton, whose whole shtick is to convince people that the Founding Fathers (like Franklin, Reagan and Washington, above) really and truly intended the USA to be a Christian Nation run under Biblical Principles. All that stuff about separation of Church and State is a just a lot of hooey, Barton says. Since the sample videos on Huck’s site are hosted on Youtube, I can’t watch them from here in China. Thankfully. I heard they’re awful. Maybe you can check them out for me, and report back. (500 words, double-spaced, MLA style, due next class) Here’s another critique of the vids, with the cartoons embedded. Just in case you’ve been taken in by Barton and Huck’s sideshow history lessons, Chris Rodda has written a book, Liars for Jesus, that meticulously takes apart every one of Barton’s claims. What scares me is that a lot of ...

As-Salamu Alaykum (السلام عليكم)*

JISHOU, HUNAN — Maybe you heard the news report about a Coptic Church in Alexandria, Egypt, being bombed by Muslim terrorists recently. Did you know that Alexandria’s Muslim community served as “human shields” to protect Copts during their Christmas services last week? “This is not about us and them,” said Dalia Mustafa, a student who attended mass at Virgin Mary Church on Maraashly Street. “We are one. This was an attack on Egypt as a whole, and I am standing with the Copts because the only way things will change in this country is if we come together.” Good advice for us in the United States. A photo slideshow is at Ahram Online, an Egyptian news site. —– * Peace be upon you; hello; goodbye — the equivalent in Hebrew is “shalom“

The Ballad of John Freshwater finally ends

JISHOU, HUNAN — Like the fabled “Song That Never Ends,” the story of John Freshwater, a middle school Ohio science teacher bent on proselytizing his students, seems to have gone on and on and on … The end is this: he will be dismissed from his teaching job at the Mount Vernon public schools. Actually, that’s the same ending as before, but he was entitled to an administrative hearing, which dragged on for almost two years. In a decision released this week, the referee for the hearing agreed with the school district, and said, “Yup, Freshwater is out.” John Freshwater purposely used his classroom to advance his Christian religious views knowing full well or ignoring the fact that those views might conflict with the private beliefs of his students. John Freshwater refused and/or failed to employ objectivity in his instruction of a variety of science subjects and, in so doing, endorsed a particular religious doctrine. By this course of conduct John Freshwater repeatedly violated the Establishment Clause. Without question, the repeated violation of the Constitution of The United States is a “fairly serious matter” and is, therefore, a valid basis for termination of John Freshwater’s contract(s). Further, he repeatedly acted ...

Ah, crap. End of world moved up to May 21, 2011 1

JISHOU, HUNAN — And here I thought it was set for Dec. 21, 2012. I’m going to have to redo my whole schedule now. Details here.

News of the week: new life forms and Noah’s Ark in Kentucky 8

JISHOU, HUNAN — You win some, you lose some. In the nifty cool corner, we have NASA scientists discovering a strain of bacteria that actually likes arsenic so much to incorporate it in their DNA. No word yet on their reactions to old lace. Or elderberry wine. In the dunce-cap corner, we have Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear crowing that the Commonwealth is giving millions of dollars in tax breaks to a Noah’s Ark-themed (as in religious) amusement part. The first bit of news is exciting, because until this week biologists believed all life on Earth is based only on CHONPS (carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, nitrogen, phosphorus and sulfur). Now we know some bacteria can live on CHONAsS. (I can just hear the jokes in high school biology classes now …) Phosphorous and arsenic are neighbors in the periodic table, with similar chemical properties. It’s what makes arsenic (As) poisonous. Our cells grab hold of the arsenic, thinking it’s phosphorus, but, alas, it’s just different enough that it kills us. These bacteria, found in an arsenic-laden lake in California could care less. Arsenic, shmarsenic. Chances are, they were not aboard the Ark with Noah’s kin and all those animals. Genesis says nothing ...

Oh, give me a break! 5

JISHOU, HUNAN — The Muslim haters in the USA are now up in arms about Campbell’s marketing soups that are halal — halal is to Muslims what kosher is to Jews. They believe that the evul Mooslims have infiltrated Campbell’s (and Kellogg’s, it seems) to sell halal food in preparation for some imagined large scale Mooslim takeover of the US of A. Raving lunatic Pamela Geller (of anti-“megamosque” at “Ground Zero” fame) is encouraging a boycott of Campbell’s. Considering she has maybe 100 or so loyal followers — and that’s being generous — I doubt Campbell’s will much care. Apparently, in their conspiracy-plagued minds, Geller, Robert Spencer and other wackjobs, if you connect the dots, somehow offering halal foods to American shoppers somehow translates into aiding and abetting terrorists and an Islamic takeover of the US legal system. I buy halal hotdogs in my local supermarket here in Jishou, mostly to avoid eating yet more pork. (They are labeled “Muslim food,” so maybe they are not officially halal.) So, if we follow the “logic” of Geller, et alia, Jishou will soon be a satellite state of the Taliban, or something. How long has kosher food been sold in the USA? ...

Carnival of the Godless 3

JISHOU, HUNAN — Hello, Carnival readers! Welcome to my little neck of the virtual woods, coming from you live from “Godless” China. I blog here about teaching English as a Second Language, but also about living in the Middle Kingdom, church-state relations, religious hypocrisy, free speech matters relating to students and teachers, science, and pretty much anything else that pops into my head. Please take a look around my space here, in between reading these great submissions to the current edition of Carnival of the Godless. The Postman at “Gone Fishin’: Postcards From God” delivers a heartfelt letter from Gawd to His/Her/Their/Its peeps in “Dear People of the Book.” Gawd has not improved His/Her/Their/Its writing style much in the last 2000 years, since this letter is every bit as confusing and self-contradictory as the Book itself. Perhaps there’s a lesson there for us. (By the way, judging from His/Her/Their/Its blogroll, I think Gawd lives in Kentucky now. This explains a lot about the Bluegrass State’s politics – confusing and self-contradictory. But I digress.) One of Gawd’s best buds was Tomas de Torquemada, the first Inquisitor General of Spain and the last guy you’d invite to your kid’s bar/bat mitzvah. As ...

There’s an app for that? 1

JISHOU, HUNAN — Apparently you can heal the sick and cast out demons with an iPhone. As a Nokia e63 user, I am vaguely jealous.
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