30 April 2008

So What Else is New?

I don't get this furore over Dr. Jeremiah Wright. The headline: Pastor of Church Once Attended by Presidential Candidate Talks Crazy. And, I may add, the sun rose this morning. Is this news? Really? Pastor says crazy stuff? What about Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell, or Billy Graham, for god's sake? Preachers have been saying really crazy stuff for as long as I can remember, certainly for as long as I have been listening to them. The new morality is really the old immorality. Nixon (of all people) is appointed by God to lead America. Don't understand the Bible--believe it. Herpes, or AIDS, or the flu, are God's punishment for sin. Homosexuals caused nine eleven. And snakes once walked upright.

See, what we who weren't raised in an unhealthy atmosphere of religiosity don't get is what is the difference between one crazy and another? Religious parents stand idly by and watch their eleven year old daughter die an excruciating (and entirely preventable) death and this is supposed to be okay somehow? How is this different from the mother who locked her kids in a car and pushed them in a lake to drown? At least she had the excuse of postpartum depression or something of the sort--what on earth is these idiots' justification? Or what about those muslims in Pakistan who beat a co-worker to death in front of the police, and then excused it by claiming that the dead man (a Hindu, by the way) was a blasphemer. Forgive me, but as far as I can tell the overly religious will do anything, so long as it is utterly vile and absolutely insane.

So tell me again, why should I be upset about something some pastor said? I don't care who attended his church--the guy is a religious nut. Of course he talks crazy. That's his job.

29 April 2008

Happy Birthday Duke Ellington

Duke Ellington is 109 today, and still going strong. It was probably in 1960, not long after we had moved to Vancouver Washington, that my father dragged me out of bed down to the record player to hear an album he had just brought home. I recognized the piece--but it wasn't the same, somehow. It was the overture to the Nutcracker, but being played by a jazz band of some kind. My father, knowing that I was a fanatic about observing the artist's intentions, not to mention that I was at that time (I was in fourth grade) a Tchaikovsky enthusiast, figured that I would be outraged.

But I wasn't, for some reason. Instead I was fascinated by the pieces--the similarities and differences from the canonical version, so to speak. This wasn't like the usual vulgarization of high art--Tony the Tiger singing about Sugar Frosted Flakes to the tune of Beethoven's fifth or the like--this was more like a dialog between musicians from different eras. The result: I went through the family music collection and listened to all the Duke Ellington I could get my hands on.

There's no real point to this story--it's just how I happened to encounter the music of the greatest twentieth-century American composer. Again, happy birthday, Duke Ellington, wherever you are.

26 April 2008

Books most often not read?

John Lynch (Stranger Fruit) has a book meme up. It's the "the top 106 books most often marked as 'unread' by LibraryThing's users." The books I've read are in italics; books I never finished are struck through.

Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell
Anna Karenina
Crime and Punishment
Catch-22
One Hundred Years of Solitude
Wuthering Heights
The Silmarillion
Life of Pi : a novel
The Name of the Rose
Don Quixote
Moby Dick
Ulysses
Madame Bovary
The Odyssey
Pride and Prejudice
Jane Eyre
The Tale of Two Cities
The Brothers Karamazov
Guns, Germs, and Steel: the fates of human societies
War and Peace
Vanity Fair
The Time Traveler's Wife
The Iliad
Emma
The Blind Assassin
The Kite Runner
Mrs. Dalloway
Great Expectations
American Gods
A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius
Atlas Shrugged
Reading Lolita in Tehran : a memoir in books
Memoirs of a Geisha
Middlesex
Quicksilver
Wicked : the life and times of the wicked witch of the West
The Canterbury tales
The Historian : a novel
A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man
Love in the Time of Cholera
Brave New World
The Fountainhead
Foucault's Pendulum
Middlemarch
Frankenstein
The Count of Monte Cristo
Dracula
A Clockwork Orange
Anansi Boys
The Once and Future King
The Grapes of Wrath
The Poisonwood Bible : a novel
1984
Angels & Demons
The Inferno
The Satanic Verses
Sense and Sensibility
The Picture of Dorian Gray
Mansfield Park
One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest
To the Lighthouse
Tess of the D'Urbervilles
Oliver Twist
Gulliver's Travels
Les Misérables
The Corrections
The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
Dune
The Prince
The Sound and the Fury
Angela's Ashes : a memoir
The God of Small Things
A People's History of the United States : 1492-present
Cryptonomicon
Neverwhere
A Confederacy of Dunces
A Short History of Nearly Everything
Dubliners
The Unbearable Lightness of Being
Beloved
Slaughterhouse-five
The Scarlet Letter
Eats, Shoots & Leaves
The Mists of Avalon
Oryx and Crake : a novel
Collapse : how societies choose to fail or succeed
Cloud Atlas
The Confusion
Lolita
Persuasion
Northanger Abbey
The Catcher in the Rye
On the Road
The Hunchback of Notre Dame
Freakonomics : a rogue economist explores the hidden side of everything
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance : an inquiry into values
The Aeneid
Watership Down
Gravity's Rainbow
The Hobbit
In Cold Blood : a true account of a multiple murder and its consequences
White Teeth
Treasure Island
David Copperfield
The Three Musketeers

51 read and 2 unfinished. There are actually a couple more that I've started but didn't get far enough in to even count them as unfinished--War and Peace for one. But as I only read a small portion of that for school, and from an abridged edition of it to boot, I don't feel like counting it. Several of these are among my personal favorite books--Emma, Great Expectation, and A Clockwork Orange, for example. Although there are some real turds on this list--Atlas Shrugged and In Cold Blood are good examples--there are none that I wish I hadn't read. Even Ayn Rand; at least Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead helped inoculate me against the illness of market fundamentalism, Reaganosis, and Friedmanitis.

(Hat tip to Afarensis.)

20 April 2008

Why do Christians Hate America?

Five Public Opinions asks what seems to me to be a reasonable question: has Council Nedd II stopped molesting children while he's beating his wife yet? At least it's as reasonable as the question Council Nedd, Bishop of the Chesapeake and Northeast for the Episcopal Missionary Church, chooses to ask on his hate site. Wordpress apparently disagrees.

18 April 2008

Today's Editorial

Now this is what I'd like to see in my newspaper--front page, editorial section:

Sanctimonious Monsters

by P. Z. Myers

Yesterday, two great pious leaders of the world met in Washington DC. President Bush has immense temporal power, leading one of the richest countries on the planet with the most potent military force. Pope Benedict is a spiritual leader to a billion people, with immense influence and the responsibility of a long religious legacy. What could they have talked about? Mostly, they seem to have patted each other on the back and congratulated each other on their commitment to superstition....

Bush calls us a nation of prayer — a depressing label that makes us a country of delusions. Worse, he claims that we respect life as sacred, a lie straight from his lips. How can George Bush claim our country does not debase and discard human lives? ...

The great pious Catholic Pope stands before this man, and what does he say? Does he mention that Jesus asked that we do to others as we would have them do to us? Does he remind him that they call their religious figurehead the "Prince of Peace", and that he asked us to turn the other cheek when we were struck, or that he asked that we protect the poor and weak? Does he point out that the central event in their shared faith was the torture and execution of their prophet and god, and that the New Testament isn't about emulating the heroic Romans?

No, of course not. An obscenely wealthy old man heading an organization that protects child abusers and advocates horrendous and ignorant social practices that harm the poor all around the world would look utterly hypocritical even trying to rebuke a war-monger and apologist for torture. So instead he stands there and tells him that they share common principles founded in fear of a nebulous god. ...

There's an evil tableau for you: the callous torturer stands up with blood on his hands and a lie in his teeth, while the priest draped in gilt reassures him of his righteousness. How often has that scene played out in history, I wonder?

17 April 2008

Quotation of the Day

There was a time when many members of the press and many citizens of this country would rend their garments about what they would "tell the children" about sex in the White House. Oddly, they seem to be unconcerned about what to tell the children about torture being devised and approved in the same place. That tells you something about the provincial Village that runs our politics.

14 April 2008

Quotation of the Day

The whole Darwin-to-Hitler link in Stein's wretched little movie is a totally meaningless exercise. It's a line of pure and utter bullshit, and even if we were to accept it as absolute truth, it would be irrelevant. Truth and morality are two different things.

Nothing To Say

The internet is supposed to be back up here, but I'm not confident on anything. Does it matter? Probably not in some cosmic sense, but as far as my personal space is concerned, yes. I like to think that I can communicate whatever thought flits through my brain at any hour of the day or night--it didn't used to be that way, but now I'm used to it, and I want to keep it. Blogging on my laptop is amazing--news from all over the world at my fingertips, and I can join it at any moment and in theory at least be read by anybody else who is connected with this nebulous thing we call the internet. It's like the old ham radio universe, except that people talk about anything and everything, and not just their rig. It's the bulletin-board of the global village, and it's downright amazing--but I'm used to it now, and it's just a goddamn annoyance when I can't get on it.

Earlier today I needed to check a reference in a nearly-century-old book. I actually own a copy of it, and for once it isn't packed away in storage somewhere but is right on my shelves in the library upstairs where I can get at it. But I was comfortable on the davenport where I was, and I was working on my laptop, so I quickly went to Google Books, invoked the book genii, and in seconds had my reference. All I had to do was send out a request to a machine hundreds of miles away, have it look up the book for me, and receive digital copies of the pages I needed right on the screen in front of me. Infinitely simpler than getting up, walking upstairs, pulling the book off the shelf, and physically finding the passage. Something doesn't seem right about that, but that was the way of it, for all that.

Do I have a point? Not really. It's good to be back online, but my connection with the outer world feels increasingly perilous, and it worries me.

12 April 2008

Enforced Silence

For what it's worth the internet keeps going out here, and nobody seems to know why. When the Comcastic people come by, the system magically comes back to life, but then it goes down again as soon as they are gone. Today they came out, listened to the signals with their magic gear, replaced a couple of things, and vanished. Once again the internet is working, but for how long? I don't know, and maybe I never will. I hope to have further material soon, but, given my past track record, I don't advise holding your breath till I surface again.

07 April 2008

Quotation of the Day

A wartime president who has no real allies and whose own military is too small to achieve such lofty goals should begin to scale back his rhetoric so that it has at least a patina of plausibility. By defining victory in Iraq as an outcome that lays "the foundations for peace for generations to come," George W. Bush ensures that defeat is nearly inevitable.

06 April 2008

Fifth Beatle

Neil Aspinall, the fifth Beatle, died recently. We read that Paul McCartney was at his bedside. It seems appropriate and it might even be true, though with the ex-Beatles you never really know. The event prompted one write to ask just how many fifth Beatles there were, anyway. Good question. In a way there was no more a fifth Beatle than there is a fifth gospel, simply because the question is essentially meaningless. Where do you start, exactly?

When the Beatles first came onto the radar in America there were four of them--John, Paul, George, and Ringo, in that order. (At first it was more like Allen Sherman put it, "Ringo is the one with the drums; the others all play with him," but fairly quickly it was John, Paul, George and Ringo.) The little brother of a friend of mine, just learning to talk, quickly learned the litany in the form "John Paul George n Oingr." There was, however, actually a backstory on the Beatles that most of us didn't know, and some of us--me for one--didn't care about.

The original group--The Quarry Men--had been founded by John Lennon (the John of the formula), along with people like Pete Shotton, Colin Hanton, and Eric Griffiths. A buddy named Ivan Vaughn introduced Paul McCartney (the Paul of the list) to John, and Paul eventually brought in a young friend of his named George Harrison (George of the list). Now they weren't the Beatles yet, but at least a sort of argument can be made for the canonical order--John, Paul, and George.

Next, however, came Stu Sutcliffe, an art-school classmate of Lennon's, who couldn't play bass, but had the money to buy one. Sutcliffe is one of the many Fifth Beatles we've heard of, but in point of fact he was more like the fourth, given that there was no regular drummer for the group yet. He was one of the original Beatles, however, in that the group acquired its name during his tenure with the band. The fifth Beatle then would be--all together now--Pete Best.

Pete Best brought with him a fellow named Neil Aspinall--another Fifth Beatle--who drove the band about and made necessary arrangements. He was never a member of the band per se, but he was part of the ensemble, and a very necessary part at that. Along with Mal Evans--a fan who first saw the Beatles perform at the now-legendary Cavern Club--he took care of the Beatles needs long after the band stopped touring. Eventually he became the head of Apple Corps., the Beatles' own record label.

One odd note that crosses my mind--I don't know that I've ever heard Mal Evans called the Fifth Beatle, or the Sixth Beatle, or anything like it, though he was as much a part of the group as anybody else. However--

Next we have their manager, Brian Epstein, who discovered the band while trying to run down a copy of a record they had made backing Tony Sheridan (who although he appeared on their earliest record, has never been a Fifth Beatle as far as I know). Brian Epstein has been described as a Fifth Beatle, which I suppose makes a sort of sense, though he was never really one of the group. He managed them, but he didn't necessarily hang out with them. And then came George Martin, who in a musical sense might be said to be the Fifth Beatle. He produced them, made arrangements for them, played piano (in studio) for them, and in the end even oversaw their musical legacy.

So what about Ringo Starr (the Ringo of the litany)? He's the Fourth Beatle, and yet he only comes in after many of the Fifth Beatles so far enumerated. It's been fashionable to denigrate Ringo Starr as the least talented member of the team--maybe not even the most talented drummer in the Beatles--and yet it's worth remembering that in the early days Ringo was the one everybody remembered. Even the Queen thought he was the Original Beatle (rather than the last to join). I think it was Paul McCartney who observed that it wasn't till Ringo joined the band that things really started to happen for them.

Another candidate for the position of course was disk-jockey Murray the K, who proclaimed himself the Fifth Beatle, but is hard to take seriously. After all, he was far more peripheral in the story than even Alistair Taylor, who to the best of my knowledge no one has ever called the Fifth Beatle.

So what has become of these various Fifth Beatles? Stu Sutcliffe exited first, dying of brain hemorrhage (possibly from a kick to the head) before the Beatles had become truly famous. If he thought he'd be remembered I imagine it would be as an artist, not as a bass-player. Brian Epstein, their manager, died of an accidental drug overdose a few years later. Mal Evans was shot in Los Angeles by the police in 1976 and Murray the K died of cancer in 1982. Pete Best and George Martin are still with us, but now Neil Aspinall has passed on. He joins John Lennon (First Beatle?, murdered 1980) and George Harrison (Third Beatle?, died of cancer 2001) in that Great Dance Hall in the Sky.

Special Rights for Christian Young pt 2

I've amused myself by staggering about the internets, butterfly net in hand, trying to get some sense out of this whole University of California lawsuit thing. A fascinating comment-thread from 2006 turned up here, in which some poor guy signing himself Larry Fafarman gets baited and repeatedly ripped apart by "Mary", "Albatrossity", "Flex", and "Josh", among others. Like a bull in a bullfight Larry gets up again and again and charges the cape, only to miss the mark altogether and go crashing once again into walls of the arena. He is sure that the University of California has discriminated against this Christian school somehow, but he hasn't read the court documents or anything like that. He is quite positive that most biologists have no need for evolutionary theory in their work, but he has no data to support his claim. He gets enraged when asked to provide evidence, and positively asserts that other people who have actually checked out the material must be wrong. Ex cathedra, I guess. I actually started feeling sorry for the guy after a bit, despite his, uh, bullheadedness, he was so badly outgunned in the discussion.

One of Fafarman's repeated points is that "The UC officials did not say that the science itself was bad. If UC wants to win this lawsuit, I think that UC needs to find more fault with the books than that. The main issue here is whether the books may add a religious viewpoint to the standard curriculum." Even though he was corrected several times on this point, he kept on asserting it, as though it were a fact. But it isn't. It's one of the points in contention. The University of Californian says it rejected the Bob Jones University biology textbook because it did not cover the standard course material. At no point did the university claim that it had any objection to an added religious viewpoint. That is what the lawyer for the Christian school is contending. The main issue here is not "whether the books may add a religious viewpoint to the standard curriculum"; if it were, then both sides would be in agreement on this point, since UC has never contested that concept. One of the material issues to be settled, it seems to me, is whether the books in question did in fact cover the standard curriculum, since UC says they didn't and the Christian school says they did. To me that appears to be a no-brainer, at least as far as the Bob Jones biology book is concerned. I don't know what exactly it was teaching, but whatever it was, it was anti-science, not science.

Of the three courses for which documents were given in the complaint the matter seems fairly open and shut for the government course and the English course. These two on their face appear to flunk the a-g standards UC has in place. This is not a matter of religious content; it is a matter of poorly designed courses. The Christian influence on American History course is another matter. UC rejected it as too narrow or too specialized, and that could be open to interpretation. It seems to me that it should have been placed in the (g) category (college prep elective) rather than the (a) category (history), both because of its somewhat specialized focus and because American History was a required prerequisite, and this course hardly qualifies as the required year of non-American history.

And while the UC judged the textbook inadequate for general American history, it's worth noting that here its intended use was for a Christian influence on America course. It's possible that a case could be made for it, though its attributing events to divine providence rather than investigating human causes seems problematical. That's not exactly history as we know it, but rather some kind of theology. It would be better to use a more orthodox treatment as the main textbook, and to use the Bob Jones book as a supplement, if it had to be used at all. But of course I'd have to see the book itself before I could pronounce on it; right now I'm taking the word of experts about what the book says.

05 April 2008

Special Rights for Christian Young

In a previous piece I commented on the gall displayed by certain Christian parents who have demanded that the University of California relax its standards to admit children who did not qualify for admission due to their ignorance of elements of history and science that their parents had deemed inappropriate for them to learn. A federal court has now handed down its decision on the subject, and matters have gone entirely in favor of the University of California.

Background

The University of California has rather stringent entrance requirements, probably because they have considerably more applicants than positions available. Oversimplifying radically the University of California requires:

(a) Two years of History--one year of US history, and one year of non-US history (world history, Chinese history, or the like). "Courses should be empirically based and promote critical thinking and questioning regarding historical events and perspectives."

(b) Four years of English involving both reading and writing. "Reading assignments must include full-length works."

(c) Three years of mathematics, including Elementary Algebra, Geometry, and Advanced Algebra.

(d) Two years of laboratory science (three years are recommended). The required sciences are Biology, Chemistry, and Physics; however one of these may be omitted. Other courses like say Marine Biology or Earth Sciences may qualify, but "it is emphasized that courses in this second category must cover, with sufficient depth and rigor, the essential material in one of the foundational subjects in order to qualify for "d" certification."

(e) Two years of a language other than English (three years are recommended). Classical languages are acceptable.

(f) One year of Art, which may include dance, drama, music, or visual art.

(g) one year of a college prep elective--essentially advanced courses in one or more of the a-f requirements.

These are known as the a-g requirements, and "are intended to ensure that students coming to the University are conversant with accepted educational and scientific content and methods of inquiry at the level required for UC students and typically expected of educated citizens in the competitive workforce." (PDF source) Students may show that they have in fact completed the requirements in several ways. The easiest is by having taken approved courses in high school. If their high school lacks approved courses students may still be admitted by taking courses in the missing subjects at community college or by passing standardized tests.

The University of California certifies college prep classes in both public and private schools. "For a course to be approved as an a-g course, the school must submit a request with the course curriculum, textbook information, and other supplemental materials to the University for approval." The UC website gives examples of courses that were and were not approved along with the reasons. There was an English course (Publishing on the World Wide Web or something like that) that didn't concentrate enough on writing, for example. A virology class whose data was nothing more than a list of diseases. And so on.

Okay now, the Calvary Chapel Christian School submitted a number of courses for a-g approval, and forty-three of them were accepted. A tiny handful were rejected. One English course (Christianity and Morality in American Literature) used only excerpts rather than entire works (see b above). One biology course used an anti-scientific book from Bob Jones University as its primary text (the preface actually admits to giving science a subordinate place in its presentation). Others apparently used similarly defective volumes as their sole or primary textbooks. According to the University of California those same courses would probably have been approved if the substandard volumes had been used as supplementary texts instead.

Some of the Rejected Courses

Christianity's Influence on America would "evaluate the direct relationship between organized Christianity and the ideas about government, society, and culture that came from it," "investigate the movements and forces that developed in response to Christian beliefs," and "discover in depth the Judeo-Christian beliefs and traditions of America". The course outline runs from "Founding of a Nation: Roots in the Reformation" to "New Millennium: ... Post-modernism". Only two texts are used: United States History for Christian Schools and Pilgrims in Their Own Land: 500 Years of Religion in America, though there is a vague reference to "Various primary materials and topic specific handouts." The course was rejected because its focus was too narrow and "The content of the course outline submitted for approval is not consistent with the empirical historical knowledge generally accepted in the collegiate community." The primary text used in the course was assessed as inadequate in its coverage of major components of United States History (it preferred to attribute "historical events to divine providence rather than [to analyze] human action" for one thing) and didn't encourage "historical thinking skills and analytical thinking" (the quotations are from Professors James Given and Gary Nash respectively).

Christianity and Morality in American Literature is a real mess. The description claims it "is an intensive study in textual criticism aimed at elevating the ability of students to engage literary works at the level of the author's beliefs and to examine and effectively communicate the impact of those beliefs on the work and the writing process." I don't believe the author of this passage has a clue about what textual criticism is; it is certainly the wrong approach to examining either an author's beliefs or the impact of those beliefs on his work. "Students will first survey the various prominent forms of American literature...." "The final project will consist of the examination of a significant piece of fiction from an approved list, and an intensive writing (term paper) identifying those processes and themes which inform it." (The approved list contains only two works by American authors--"Something Wicked This Way comes" by Ray Bradbury, and "A Canticle for Leibowitz" by Walter M. Miller. The rest are by British authors--Jane Austen, Chaucer, Tolkein, Bunyan, C. S. Lewis, Bram Stoker, and one French author, Victor Hugo.) The only text used is American Literature: Classics for Christians, which consists entirely of excerpts, "fails to provide substantial readings and ... insists on specific interpretations." (The quotation is from Professor Samuel Otter.) "Such a combination contradicts the emphasis on analytical and critical thinking required..."

The Special Providence: Christianity & the American Republic description starts out unpropitiously with a bogus James Madison quotation about the ten commandments and goes on to outline the familiar Christian America fantasy. The text for the course is a Bob Jones University Press publication, American Government for Christian Schools, about which Professor Mark Petracca said it contains "many factual and empirical assertions that are not generally accepted among political scientists [or] historians and that are nevertheless not substantiated within the text by evidence." The course was rejected as "not consistent with ... empirical historical knowledge" and for having an inadequate textbook.

The Lawsuit

Rather than make any effort towards actually improving their courses, the Calvary Chapel Christian School, along with the Association of Christian Schools International and a handful of students, sued the University of California, claiming religious discrimination. Specifically they deny that the courses are in any way inadequate, but rather insist that they teach the standard material plus a Christian perspective. The only possible reason for the courses' rejection, they claim, is that very Christian perspective. The facts obviously suggest otherwise.

Let me quote Mike Dunford of The Questionable Authority here:

When it comes to the biology courses, their claim that they are teaching the "standard material" with a religious viewpoint added had better be disputed - because they're not. I've got a copy of the Bob Jones University textbook that's used by some of the Christian schools. Biology for Christian Schools does not, in any way, shape, or form teach "standard" biology with religion added. It teaches religion instead of standard biology, and the University of California is absolutely right to refuse to accept courses taught from this book as biology classes.
From the course description I'd have to say that the same is true of the government course, Special Providence: Christianity and the American Republic; this is not standard material, but rather religion disguised as a history of American government. God knows what they're teaching in the English course, Christianity and Morality in American Literature; the course description is so poorly written as to defy interpretation, and on that ground alone the University of California would have been within its rights in not certifying it.

Christianity's Influence on America is harder to evaluate, but I personally find it hard to disagree with the assessment that it is too narrowly conceived to qualify for UC's a-g standards. The lawsuit contends that much more narrowly conceived classes have made it, but they don't given any example that obviously qualifies. Instead they cite courses in Russian History, or the History of India, as being more narrow and specialized than Christianity's influence on America. There I can't help but wonder what world they're living in. Histories of entire nations--nations I may add that are older and more diverse than the United States--are obviously more general than a history of one religion's influence on a single nation. I can't imagine where they left their brains on that one. They don't give a single parallel example, such as (say) Masonry's Influence on America, or (say) Islam's influence on Indonesia. Instead we get Mexican History. Gack.

The basic point they're pushing is that the University of California is engaging in something they call "content discrimination". I would certainly hope so. That's precisely the point of examining courses and textbooks and so on. The University ought to discriminate between reliable, accurate content that reflects the actual state of knowledge, and unreliable, inaccurate content that doesn't. If they fail in this basic task, then they're not doing their job.

Summary Judgment

Both sides in the case demanded at least partial summary judgment. The Christian school claimed that there are no material facts to be decided, that the UC policy is unconstitutional on its face, and therefore the case should be decided in its favor without going to trial. UC on the other hand insisted that as there were material facts to be decided the case should go to trial, but wanted summary judgment on the issue of the constitutionality of their policy. The result was a clean sweep for UC. The judge ruled that UC's policy was constitutional (summary judgment in favor of UC) but that there were material facts to be decided about the application of the policy in the particular classes (no summary judgment in favor of either side, as UC requested). And there the matter stands.

Reactions

The story at Inside Higher Ed called forth some amusing reactions, one of them mine. "denise" wrote that she had had "an opportunity to look through a Bob Jones middle school level biology textbook several years ago; and ... one would have a hard time convincing me that the content is not more than adequate. I found it very rigorous and I have no doubt it supercedes what is offered in most public schools." (I think she meant to say that she had no doubt it surpasses what is offered in most public schools.) Despite having no examples of this to offer us, she is quite sure that UC is guilty of religious discrimination. She also is under the impression that UC denied admission to the complaining students; this is far from the case.

"Ben Thare" is "familiar with ACSI and [knows] that the schools that are accredited by ACSI are usually pretty rigorous." He attributes UC's refusal to recognize substandard courses to "hateful narrow-mindedness and intolerance".

"Albatrossity" steers readers to his review of the BJU biology "textbook" (link). It's definitely worth reading. "Here’s just a taste of the 'adequate' contents of this putative science textbook — 'If the conclusions contradict the Word of God, the conclusions are wrong, no matter how many scientific facts may appear to back them.'” "denise" insisted that the textbook was too adequate; "Albatrossity" responded: "When students are taught that observations and evidence and data can be IGNORED if they contradict the word of God, they are not being taught science."

And then "Ben" chimed in with the usual accusation that science involves just as much faith that there is no creator as religion does that there is. " All evidence pointing to the existence of a creator must be ignored by science, he says, though without suggesting what possible evidence pointing to a creator might be being ignored.

A little further on "denise" again displays her ignorance of the situation by writing "Would UC find it necessary to evaluate lesson plans and classroom objectives to make sure the instructors of these religious schools aren’t supplementing said textbook with creation supplementals and speakers that purposfully contradict the scientific philosophy of the approved book" The answer of course is no since the UC has no problem with such anti-scientific "supplements" so long as the course material is actually mastered.

And I guess I'll conclude this with a comment from "Beth" that really sums up the situation:

I applaud the judge. If a textbook that tells students “If conclusions contradict the Word of God, the conclusions are wrong, no matter how many scientific facts may appear to back them” doesn’t bother you, I hope for the sake of innocent people that you are not allowed on any jury. Using a textbook that tells students to reject evidence, even when there is lots of it, is anti-educational period, but particularly in a science class. The whole idea of science is that your conclusions must be based on evidence, on scientific facts.

Vile Mood

I'm in a particularly vile mood today. I should be feeling better, but I'm not. For three days we've had an internet outage, and yesterday the man from Comcast came out to repair it. Of course the internet returned before he got here, so he tightened up some connections and left, assuring us that the problem was solved, but I'm not convinced. At least I'm connected again, which is some relief, but for how long?

Feeling connected again is good, but I'm still upset over an incident that happened on Thursday. We're perpetually remodeling here, and as a result some stuff is sitting out on the front porch waiting to find places to stay. Sometime on Wednesday night or Thursday morning some jerk stole a handful of items from the porch--a piece of Samsonite luggage, an old 3x5 set of files, and so on. The thing that upset me, however, was that for some reason he carried off a box filled with antique sheet music I had been planning to sell. I've had it for years--one of several boxes I bought back in 1973 or so--mainly from the early 1920s. The pictures were wonderful period pieces, even if the music was for the most part obscure stuff--most of it quite popular in its time, but without staying power. Still, I'd been enjoying myself looking up songs and composers on the web, researching the selling-options, and all that--and now it's gone.

I can't even begin to imagine why somebody took it.

It was still sitting there Wednesday afternoon when I walked up the street to visit my brother. There was a block of wood on top of the box to keep the sheet music from blowing away in the wind, and the mirror I'd been using as a sort of impromptu top was lying beside it. It was dark when I got back, and I don't remember for certain seeing it there at that point, but I'm sure I would have noticed if it had been moved. The next morning when I went out to move the dumpster back off the street it was gone. The block of wood was lying on the porch, and the mirror was leaning, cracked, up against the fence, but the goddamn box of music was gone.

I really never thought somebody would steal something like that.

I don't know why, really; in the years that the family has lived here we've lost a bust of Kennedy, a three-foot-tall airplane trophy, and various porch ornaments. Why not a box of antique sheet music?

I don't know why this has upset me as much as it has. Nobody got hurt; the thief didn't even break into the house; I suppose I shouldn't feel violated, but I do. As my niece Rachel pointed out, it's not even something I cared that deeply about--I enjoyed going through the stuff, but it wasn't personal, or research notes I'd worked on for years, or anything like that. It wasn't something I needed, or even had that strong an emotional connection with.

It's not the money, either--having researched the possibilities online, I figured that unloading it was going to be a pain in the ass. In theory, I suppose, if I could have found a buyer for each and every piece in the box who was willing to pay what appears to be full market value, it might have been worth maybe four or five hundred dollars. But my research shows that this stuff moves very slowly, and sometimes not at all, so that forty or fifty dollars might be more realistic. Maybe even nothing at all. Collectibles are like that at the best of times, and the nineties are over. Still, there were some promising items in the box, and I was actually looking forward to seeing how they were going to go. Maybe it's the loss of the possibility or something.

And I do have more of this stuff. Not just the half-dozen or so pieces that fell out when whoever it was took the box, but another half-box or so in the attic, and I should have another box somewhere, though it hasn't turned up yet. But at the moment I've somehow lost my enthusiasm for the project.
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