textbooks and their impact on our ideologies

Sunday 14 March 2010

Ah yes, school textbooks.  Where would any of us be without hours and hours of reading and learning from these wonderful books.  Perhaps one of my favorite parts of textbooks was covering them with brown paper bags and drawing mazes on them (and now they have pre-made plastic or even “mesh” covers — the shame).  I even remember keeping my desk so full and organized in 3rd grade that I had no room for some of my textbooks and had to sit on them!

Perhaps the fact that my memories of textbooks are not of their contents is a good thing after reading this article, Texas Conservatives Win Vote on Textbook Standards, though sometimes the more harmful items of learning is actually the indoctrination that you DON’T remember.

Basically, the article talks about how the Texas Board of Education recently voted to approve the state curriculum for the coming decade.  A panel of teachers had proposed curricula in each subject, and then the TX Board of Ed. offered their own amendments to deal with the “liberal bias” they said they found in the curricula of certain subjects, such as history and economics.

This is an interesting subject to me because what it really comes down to is the question, “Who should decide what our children learn in school?”

We all know children are impressionable, and people of different ideologies, be they economic or religious or political or sociological, of course what children to grow up to believe the same things they believe and thus propagate the ideology further.

Two amendments noted in the article that the Tex. BOE made stuck out to me:

“Dr. McLeroy pushed through a change to the teaching of the civil rights movement to ensure that students study the violent philosophy of the Black Panthers in addition to the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s nonviolent approach.”
“… an amendment stressing that Germans and Italians were interned in the United States as well as the Japanese during World War II, to counter the idea that the internment of Japanese was motivated by racism.”

(My note: if you follow the link, you’ll see that 10 times as many Japanese Americans — about 110,000 — were interned than whites, and an act of congress in 1988, signed by Reagan, mentioned “race prejudice” as one of the reason for internment of Japanese Americans.)

I’ll simply leave those for you to ponder as well.

The reason Texas’s decisions matter is because their have stringent textbook rules which ultimately dictate what is printed in textbooks that are then used in schools across the country.  I’ve heard of high school history teachers supplementing textbooks with Howard Zinn‘s (RIP) book, “A People’s History of the United States,” looking at events from another point of view that surely would not go over well with the conservatives on the Texas Board of Education.

I’m all for people getting all the information possible, but we all understand that there is limited amount of time in a school year, so someone has to decide.  Who and how is obviously not an exact science, so I’d be interested to hear your thoughts on the subject.

For me, it just further affirms the need for continuous education as we get older and a never ending quest for the truth, obtaining all the information we can get our hands on — whether it’s in a textbook or not.

Updated: you can check out The Colbert Report’s take on this subject, as well — looks like I broke this one people!
Update 2: Oh, and apparently Jon Stewart on The Daily Show got wind of this, too.

(Another much longer article on Texas’s textbook-making process was in the NY Times last month, too — How Christian Were the Founders? — if this subject particularly interests you?”)


making babies, pt. 2

Monday 4 January 2010

A few weeks ago, I wrote a little blog about what I called “manufacturing babies,” the idea of using surrogate mothers for having a child, purchasing maybe the egg or sperm, or sometimes both.  I cited a NY Times article about some of the ethical quandries of this practice.

Then last week, the NY Times featured the issue in its “Room for Debate” Blog, getting together a few people to talk about the issue.  Read that posting here.

It was interesting to me that all the authors were essentially debating whether there need to be standards on who could have a surrogate child.  After all, there are many things that have to happen for parents to be able to adopt a child, so why should surrogacy be different?

Alas, that is an issue I care not to discuss today (read the blog above to hear some thoughts), but it did get me thinking how there may be many requirements for adoptning, and one day surrogacy, but outside of those processes, anyone with the biological ability can make babies “the old-fashioned way.”  Why is that?

It’s true we have child welfare laws that will take a baby away from those parents deemed unfit, but that may not stop any of the issues that have resulted prior to such an event.  Why is this different?

I am certainly not trying to suggest things like forced sterilization or abortions, but it’s interesting to me how we, as a society, like regulations of some things but not others.  As the NY Times blog noted, adoptions historically were done more with family relations being used (anyone seen Little Orphan Annie?), but that has since given way to other processes.  Also, the blog noted that it is a constitutional right for anyone who should so choose to have a child.  If we agree with that, how do adoption and surrogacy and other forms of obtaining a child fit into that right?

I’m a question poser, to be sure, someone who likes to get the convresation going in a new direction.  How does all this strike you?

(On a side note, the NY Times also linked to an article regaring a judge’s ruling that a surrogate mother is the legal mother of two twins she birthed, even though she is not genetically related to them


perfection (or: blogging a Quaker meeting)

Sunday 23 November 2008

(A preemptive caveat: No, I’m not saying attending a Quaker meeting is to experience perfection.  Read on.)

For the 7-8 months I’ve been in DC over the course of the last 15, I’ve somewhat sporadically attended some Quaker meetings for worship held at the Friends Meeting of Washington.  If you’ve never been to a Quaker meeting for worship, there are both programed and unprogrammed meetings, and FMW is of the unprogrammed kind.  However, that doesn’t mean there is not attempted at structure, at least to a minimalistic point.  The idea for the meeting I’ve attended in DC is that it will run about an hour, with the first 20 minutes as a hoped for centering time for all people where no one really speaks.  After this time, children typically leave for a First Day (Sunday) School, and others continue waiting expectantly for the Spirit to move inside, which may then prompt them to speak to the larger community assembled called a “vocal ministry.”

Depending on the number assembled and movement of the Spirit, there might even be no one who speaks (as I experienced in a meeting I went to in Toledo, Ohio last fall where about 10 of us assembled) but at the meeting in DC, every visit has included at least two or three people giving a vocal ministry.  Today, I can’t say I kept track of speakers, but I think there were about seven or eight in total, which is a substantial total.  And while it may be hoped for that first 20 minutes be silent, vocal ministries began today after about 10, which I think is good, actually, as it gives the children a chance to hear them, too.

Being an unprogrammed meeting, there are no readings or even a topic set forth for meditation (though they do provide printed “queries” that can be a guide), so you never know what one might say.  Today, the first vocal ministry revolved around the idea of striving for but never attaining perfection and a realization that that itself is actually a positive thing, and his vocal ministry gave way to an hour spent meditating upon and hearing vocal ministries regarding the idea of perfection.

The next speaker shared a quote by Robert Browning: “What’s come to perfection perishes.”  Bringing in my own personal thoughts to this vocal ministry, I was turned to contemplate the idea that then possibly what perishes accomplishes perfection.

Many who shared vocal ministries today reaffirmed that, in a sustained way, at least, perfection is unattainable on earth.  However, one of the members who I find quite perceptive of the Spirit also spoke today, and she shared that she does, in fact, believe in perfection on earth, in those fleeting moments where we truly do love unconditionally, which may be easier for a child than an adult, where we love in the way that God loves us and wants us to love God.

She quoted Matthew 19:14: “But Jesus said, ‘Suffer the little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for to such belongeth the kingdom of heaven.’ ”

“When we are truly giving and receiving unconditional love from those around us,” she said (and I agree), “we are truly experiencing the kingdom of heaven here on earth.”

And if it’s possible for fleeting moments now, it then is not a large stretch for one to believe that after our hearts have stopped beating, we might then experience eternal and continuous unconditional love.  Let us all pray that such is so.