GOP Lawmaker Presses For Ten Commandments In Schools

Texas Ten Commandments Resolution
Calls For Prayer, Religious Displays In Schools


Texas state Rep. Phil Stephenson (R) filed a resolution on Monday calling for more “acknowledgement” of Christianity in public schools, encouraging Ten Commandments displays, prayer, and use of the word “God.”

“The overwhelming of majority of voters in the 2010 Republican Party Primary Election voted in favor of the public acknowledgement of God, and the 2012 platform of the Republican Party of Texas affirms ‘that the public acknowledgement of God is undeniable in our history and is vital to our freedom, prosperity, and strength,'” reads the resolution. “Reflecting our history as a religious people, prayers, including the use of the word ‘God,’ at public gatherings and displays of the Ten Commandments in public educational institutions and other government buildings are acknowledgements of the counting and important role of our religious tradition.”

The resolution states that schools and other public institutions should not face “hostility” from government over displays of faith.

“It is clear from their writings that our founding fathers believed devotedly that there was a God, and throughout American history all three branches of government have acknowledged the strong role of religion in our nation’s heritage and in the lives of its citizens,” it reads. “Government should not now or ever demonstrate any hostility to observances of faith by disabling the recognition of our religious heritage.”

Click here to read the full resolution.

In 2005, the Supreme Court issued a split decision on Ten Commandments displays on government property, ruling that framed copies of the commandments in two Kentucky courthouse unconstitutionally favored monotheistic religion, while a Ten Commandments monument erected in Texas in 1961 had a more secular, historical purpose.

“It is true that many Americans find the Commandments in accord with their personal beliefs,” Justice Sandra Day O’Connor said in her concurring opinion in the Kentucky case. “But we do not count heads before enforcing the First Amendment.”

The court issued a more decisive opinion in 1980’s Stone v. Graham, when it ruled that a Kentucky statute requiring public schools to display the Ten Commandments in every classroom was unconstitutional, as the requirement had “no secular legislative purpose.”

What 90% of Schools Don’t Teach

What 90% of Schools Don’t Teach
by Hadi and Ali Partovi

Our economy is faltering and our schools lag in math and science. Yet we’ve overlooked one of the best ways to fix both, until today. Today, launches a short film with spokespeople from Bill Gates to Mark Zuckergberg, from rock stars to NBA all-stars, advocating for students to learn basic coding. Learning to code is the new literacy. It accelerates child development; it stimulates creativity and builds confidence, especially for girls; and it unlocks the best careers in America, with the potential to lift up an entire generation of American youth regardless of race, gender, or socioeconomic background.

At a time when most English majors graduate jobless, computer science majors are twice as likely to land a job. Computers are our job-creation engine, and programmers earn among the highest salaries in America.

Ironically, computer education has declined over the past decade. Fewer schools, fewer teachers, and fewer students engage in this field than 10 years ago. Only 9 states even recognize computer science as a math or science! Only 10% of schools even offer it. This is easy to change, and it’s time to start.

“To grow our middle class, our citizens must have access to the education and training that today’s jobs require.” ~ President Obama, State of the Union, 2013

What’s wrong with this picture?

This is an opportunity to fix the economy. Today 2% of students learn to code. If we grew that to 6%, we’d close the gap between students and jobs, adding $500 billion to our economy, and impacting every industry (almost 70% of these jobs are outside the tech sector).


This is also about the American dream — the idea that you could start a company like Facebook in your college dorm room. Although computer science is the most popular course at universities like Harvard or Stanford, most minorities or low-income students are never even exposed to it.

How do we turn around the economy and fix the American dream?

To start, Americans need to recognize this problem, and the opportunity it represents.

At schools that offer computer programming, parents should urge their children to study it. At schools that don’t, students can learn online for free. Teachers and schools can find creative ways to add this field to the curriculum despite budget challenges. And the 41 states that don’t recognize computer science for graduation credit need to update their requirements for the 21st century. Learning to code can transform a young person’s life, and such an opportunity should be available to everybody, not just the lucky few. features the voices of leaders from every walk of life supporting of this idea: business leaders like Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, Sheryl Sandberg, and Richard Branson; politicians such as Al Gore, Mayor Bloomberg, and Bill Clinton; deans and presidents of Stanford, Harvard, University of Washington, and LA Unified Schools; celebrities such as Bono, Ashton Kutcher, and; athletes such as Chris Bosh; and leading scientists, doctors, and astronauts. These leaders are endorsing an idea — the idea that whether you want to become a doctor, a lawyer, an entrepreneur, or a rock star, you should learn the basics of coding.

What is our biggest obstacle? Fear of the unknown. Most of us never learned computer programming in school; we don’t know how to teach it, and we assume it’s only for the geniuses. We don’t realize that fifth-grade girls are learning to code in low-income public schools, or that iPad apps can teach the basics to a kindergartener. has released a five-minute film to dispel these fears. Coding is easier than you think, more fun than you think, and it can change your world. The film stars Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg,, Chris Bosh, and the founders of Twitter, Dropbox, Zappos, and others, and is directed by Lesley Chilcott (An Inconvenient Truth, Waiting for Superman).

Help turn around the economy and fix the American dream: share this film with your friends, your parents, and your children. Our tests show that students who see this film are moved to learn. We can help students find free courses online, free apps for their phones, or local after-school workshops that teach this essential skill. But first, we need them to know it’s important to their future, and that’s where you can help.

~ Hadi Partovi and Ali Partovi, twin brothers and co-founders,

Here are leaders who agree that more students need to learn to code:

President Bill Clinton
Mike Bloomberg
Bill Gates
Mark Zuckerberg
Sheryl Sandberg
Vice President Al Gore
Ron Conway
Chris Bosh
Ashton Kutcher
Richard Branson
Eric Schmidt
Larry Corey, President, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center
John Hennessy, President, Stanford
Dennis Van Roekel, President, National Education Association
Wendy Kopp, CEO, Teach For America
Steve Ballmer
Marc Andreessen
Reid Hoffman, Chairman & Co-founder, LinkedIn
Susan Wojcicki, SVP, Google
Louise Waters, Superintendent, Leadership Public Schools
Leland Melvin, Associate Administrator for Education, NASA
John Hickenlooper, Governor, State of Colorado
Michael Cohen, President,
Jeff Wilke, SVP,
Esther Wojcicki, Vice Chair, Creative Commons Board of Directors
Drew Houston, Founder & CEO, Dropbox
Tony Hsieh, CEO, Zappos
Jack Dorsey
Harry Lewis, Dean of Harvard College (1995-2003)
Mitch Kapor
Jay Inslee, Governor, Washington State
Fred Wilson Managing Partner, Union Square Ventures
Maria Klawe President, Harvey Mudd College
Mark Surman, Executive Director, Mozilla Foundation
Anne Wojcicki, CEO and Founder, 23andMe
Brad Smith SVP General Counsel, Microsoft
Max Levchin, CEO & Co-founder, Paypal
Dara Khosrowshahi CEO, Expedia, Inc.
Ed Lazowska Chair in Computer Science, UW
Anousheh Ansari Co-founder and Chairwoman, Prodea Systems
Dean Kamen Founder, USFIRST Robotics
Mithra Irani Ramalaey SVP Regional & Site Operations, City Year
Marc Benioff Chairman and CEO,
Cory Booker Mayor, Newark, New Jersey
Dick Costolo CEO, Twitter
Elena Silenok Founder, Clothia
Tim O’Reilly Founder, O’Reilly Media
Gabe Newell Founder and President, Valve
Rob Glaser, Founder, RealNetworks
Lucy Sanders, CEO & Founder, NCWIT
Brad Feld, Managing Director, Foundry Group
Steve Case, Founder, AOL
Dr. John Deasy, Superintendent, LA Unified School District
Chris Stephenson, Founding Executive Director, CSTA
Yishan Wong, CEO, Reddit
Nicholas Negroponte Founder and Chairman MIT Media Lab
Jeff Skoll, Founder, Participant Media
Richard Barth, CEO, KIPP Foundation
Salman Khan, Founder, Khan Academy
Jane Margolis, Senior Researcher & Author, UCLA
Mark Pincus, CEO and Founder, Zynga
Vanessa Hurst, Co-founder, Girl Develop It
Dr. Alan Goodwin, Principal, Walt Whitman High School
Douglas Rushkoff, Author, Program or Be Programmed

18 ordinary English words that Julius Caesar spoke

18 ordinary English words that Julius Caesar spoke
Most people, even those who studied Latin, don’t
that English contains a lot of pure Latin words

By Bruce Price

Latin teachers talk a lot about roots, etymologies, and derivatives. But they often neglect to mention the really exciting news: Every day, we speak a whole bunch of words that Julius Caesar spoke. The same exact words, letter for letter.

There are hundreds of these Latin/English identicals.
Here are some with interesting stories:

1. Alias is Latin for “others.” When crooks showed up with extra names, the police would enter the other names under “alias.” Later, “aliases” was coined, a plural of a plural.

2. Alibi started off as a narrow legal term meaning “other place” or “elsewhere” — this being the best legal defense of all if you’re accused of a crime that happened at a specific time and place. The word proliferated into a handy synonym (both noun and verb) for excuse, explanation, lie.

3. Bonus is the Latin adjective meaning “good.” When workers did a good job, they were graded: bonus. At some point that translated into a tip. Finally, “bonus” came to designate the financial reward itself, and thus a Latin adjective becomes an English noun.

4. Campus is Latin for field or open area. A few centuries ago, every educated person knew Latin, so naturally they adopted this convenient word when universities were built from scratch on open suburban land. Campus was trimmed to become camp (noun and verb).

5. Credo is simply the Latin verb, first-person singular, meaning “I believe.” The same root flowered into credibility, incredible, credence, credit, and now back to the root itself, cred.

6. Dictator, at first, simply meant one who speaks. The same root evolved into dictate, dictation, dicta. Then the Romans used dictator to refer to a magistrate with special emergency powers. Thereafter, bossy leaders were said to act like dictators.

7. Exit must be one of the most common words in all of American life. It’s a law, you have to designate exits. Exit, in Latin, means “it goes out” (actually, he, she, or it). In many Shakespearean plays, when characters leave the stage, you see the word exeunt — “They go out.”

8. Gladiator derives from gladius, the basic fighting knife of the Roman soldier. (A little knife was called a “gladiolus,” as is a plant that resembles it.) Interestingly, the root glad- came not from the Mediterranean but from Gallic and Germanic tribes encountered circa 350 BC. The basic idea is the technological perfection, the smooth finish of the metal. There is even an Old Norse variant that means “smooth, happy.” For the most part, gladiators had brutal lives, so it’s counterintuitive that gladiator and glad are related.

9. Investigator is someone who looks for clues, evidence, footprints. The root is vestigum, Latin for footprint or track, and the source of another, more poetic word, vestige.

10. Iris, in Greek mythology, is the personification of the rainbow and messenger of the gods. Her name was borrowed for the only part of the body that is normally iridescent and can be many colors — blue, green, brown, hazel.

11. Liberator means “one who sets free.” There is a cluster of freedom-related words in Latin, as there is in English: liberty, liberal, liberated. A Jeffersonian liberal is someone passionate about individual liberty.

12. Maximum is Latin for “the largest.” We also have maximized, maxi, max, and others. Oddly, maxima (the feminine form of maximus) designated pithy wisdom and became maxim, as in the Military Maxims of Napoleon.

13. Monitor is related to warning, as in admonition. Sometimes this word is used when dealing with danger, as in monitor lizard and the first Yankee ironclad, the Monitor. Another theme is about being watchful, as in monitoring threats or production, and thus to the most common way of doing that, the computer monitor.

14. Museum is a home for the Muses, three or nine in number. The Greeks believed these goddesses inspired literature, art, and science. (For example, Calliope was the goddess of epic poetry, although later more associated with music.) The Romans evolved the spelling we still have today, and settled on the number nine, which seems to be echoed in the Supreme Court.

15. Panacea is Latin for “cure-all,” and like many Latin words, it’s virtually pure Greek. The common prefix pan- usually means “all” (as in panoramic, pandemic). One lush exception: “Panic” derives from Pan, the satyr-god much associated with abandon and sex, and thought to be the source of irrational fears. There may be no panacea for panic.

16. Podium is a raised platform you stand on to give a speech, not to be confused with “lectern.” Pod (as in pseudopod and podiatrist) designates foot. “Lectern” comes from the Latin word for “read.” A lectern is designed to hold a manuscript so you can lecture from it.

17. Trivia. Latin for road is via, as in Via Cassia. An intersection of three roads was called a trivia. People tended to stand around and talk, thus trivia for gossip.

18. Virus was Latin for poison and other dangerous substances. Oddly, “virile” and such words come from vir, man. Pace, feminists. The similar words go back to different Indo-Aryan roots.

Firing Bad Teachers Has Surprisingly Meager Effects

Firing Bad Teachers Has Surprisingly Meager Effects

By Kevin Drum

Dylan Matthews of the Washington Post has an interview with Thomas Kane today about ways in which we can measure teacher performance in the classroom. This comes at the very end:

Dylan Matthews: Now, the three components you measure predict future performance on achievement tests. But a lot of people dismiss that, even though there’s growing evidence that achievement test scores are correlated with all kinds of important real-life outcomes. Why do these scores matter?

Thomas Kane: So I’m really heartened — even asking that question means you’re aware of that Chetty/Friedman/Rockoff study….What they found was that the teachers who appeared to have high value-added while the students were in their classrooms, their value-added was predictive of students’ income later. I’m optimistic about it but based largely on Raj’s study.

I remember reading this study when it first came out, and I had a very different reaction. Basically, the researchers looked at data on teachers and test scores starting around 1990, and linked it up with the incomes of students later in life. They had a big dataset and they did all the usual controls. Then they estimated the gains to income from firing a terrible teacher (one in the bottom 5 percent) and replacing him with an average teacher. Long story short, once you account for real-world frictions (namely that we can’t perfectly identify the terrible teachers), they estimate that making this change in a single grade level produces an income gain among students of slightly more than 1 percent at age 28.

Now, the first thing to say about this is that a result this small, even if it’s statistically significant, should be treated with extreme caution. There are just a ton of confounding variables that could be at play here, and even a small missing factor could swamp this study’s findings.

But it’s worse than that. Even if you assume these results are correct, they struck me not as optimistic, but as shockingly low. We’re not talking about a small change in teacher quality here. We’re talking about a huge change: an entire year spent with a perfectly acceptable teacher instead of one who’s the worst of the worst. And even at that, it only made a difference of 1 percent in future income. That’s it?

Now, you could argue that the effect would be bigger if we got rid of bad teachers in all the grades. Wouldn’t that make a bigger difference? Sure, except that about half of all students never get any bottom-5-percent teachers in the first place; a little less than half get a bottom-five-percent teacher once in their school careers; and only a handful of the very unluckiest students get one for more than one year. So you’re stuck with the basic result: averaged across all students, the value of firing all the terrible teachers will probably be a future income increase of less than 1 percent. For an average person, that’s a few hundred dollars per year.

Am I the only one who finds that surprisingly meager? I’m all for getting rid of horrible teachers, but if anything, this study makes me put a lower priority on this than I used to—especially considering how difficult it would be to carry out a policy like this. I was surprised that this study got such a euphoric reception when it was published, and I still am.


10 things about being an artist that art teachers don’t tell you

10 things about being an artist that art teachers don’t tell you

What art students need to know is: Can I make a living from being creative?
The answer is more complex than you might think

There are many misconceptions about the art world. Ask someone to describe what it means to be an artist, and they will probably paint a picture of one of two extremes. There is no perceived middle ground, no stability, no security: there are simply those who make it, and those who don’t.

The quintessential artist-failure is dedicated, talented, yet tragically unappreciated. Regrettably, their work acquires value only after their death.

The other extreme is the artist-celebrity. The conceptualists, the YBAs, the Damien Hirsts – these cunning characters are able to sell anything, particularly if it has some kind of biological waste product artfully smeared across it.

If popular opinion is anything to go by, the creative sector is a huge gamble, braved only by reckless, or masochistic, individuals. But if you’re an art student, you need to know if this “make or break” view bears any relation to reality.

I’ve completed three years at art school, and am now an MA student, and as far as I can see – no, it doesn’t. But with all the stereotyping that goes on, it’s tough for students to work out what to expect from a career in the arts. So let’s try to make things a little clearer – and maybe dispel some myths along the way.

Here are 10 honest truths about work, life and leisure in the creative industry.

1. Many artists work freelance. A study by the Arts Council finds that 41% of creative workers are self-employed. Temporary work contracts can make for an interesting and varied career, though periods of unemployment between jobs are a reality for some artists.

2. Freelance artists budget carefully. Being self-employed means you are without pension, holiday pay or maternity benefits. Contingencies such as falling ill or having children require pre-emptive financial planning.

3. Artists self-promote. Many showcase their talents on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and Linked in, as well as on their own websites. Having a good online presence shows employers that you are self-motivated and digitally literate.

4. Artists love socialising. Networking events are the art world’s equivalent to job hunting, but with less misery and more booze. Whether you’re searching for commissions or trying to advance your career, networking gives you the chance to meet industry professionals and expose yourself to new opportunities.

5. Many artists form collectives to publicise and exhibit their work. Kate Rowland, an illustrator from the collective After School Club explains: “Being in After School Club is great for motivation. It allows us to utilise each other’s skills, therefore we have more resources to help one another. It’s kind of like a creative support system. And lots of fun.”

6. It’s all about your portfolio. The visual arts are less grade-centric than other disciplines. An art director at a graphic design company once told me he’d think twice about hiring someone with a first-class degree, as he worried they’d have no time for hobbies outside of work. In his words, not mine, “they might be really boring”. This isn’t to say you shouldn’t aim high – another employer might appreciate a first-class candidate. Rather, you should focus on making your portfolio the best you can possibly make it. A good body of work speaks louder than grades.

7. Some artists supplement their income with a second job. Doing so gives them financial security while they exercise their creative passions. Take a look at some of these prolific “double jobbers”.

8. Many artists take on internships to help kick-start their career. Working for a company can prepare you with essential industry skills and improve your employability. The question of payment is a hot potato – in general, the shorter the internship, the less likely you are to get paid.

9. Job opportunities are growing. There are currently over 1.9 million people working in the creative industries. However, by 2016, the government expects this figure to skyrocket, with an additional 1.3 million new jobs in the private sector alone.

10. The creative sector is characterised by high levels of job satisfaction. As a result, the industry is highly competitive and jobs are sought after. If you have the passion and the motivation to stay ahead of the game, then a creative career can be an exciting and rewarding experience.

8 Hilarious Instances Of Plagiarism

8 hilarious instances of plagiarism
By Lauren Hansen

Look, plagiarism is bad. Do not, no matter how tempting, copy another person’s work and present it as your own. If the personal shame isn’t enough, then take into consideration that in the digital age, when so much content is archived and readily available, you are almost bound to get caught. But plagiarism does happen despite these risks, so let’s at least use it as a lesson of how not to conduct ourselves, as well as an excuse for a good chuckle at life’s little ironies. Read on:

1. Shia LaBeouf shows everyone how not to be a man
Shia LaBeouf, the blockbuster-turned-art-house actor, was to make his Broadway debut this spring in the production of Orphans. Instead, just a month shy of previews, the 26-year-old bowed out, citing “creative differences,” and took to Twitter to post a series of exchanges between him and his co-stars, Alec Baldwin and Tom Sturridge, as well as the play’s director. One tweet included a photo of an email the actor sent in apology. In it he explains what he learned from his father about how to be a man: “A man can tell you he was wrong. That he did wrong. That he planned to. He can tell you when he is lost. He can apologize, even if sometimes it’s just to put an end to the bickering.” It’s a nice sentiment, but unfortunately, it was plucked word for word from a 2009 Esquire essay called “How to Be a Man.”

2. Website mocking Guy Fieri somehow fails
It’s easy to pick on Guy Fieri, the Food Network’s over-the-top, spiky-haired host. Ever since The New York Times ripped apart his palatial Times Square restaurant last November, the Welcome-To-Flavortown chef has become a go-to target on Twitter. So when web developer Bryan Mytko bought the domain name, it seemed like the jokes would write themselves. The site featured a menu of overloaded food items and descriptions that played up Guy’s extreme in-your-face persona: “Honky-Tonky Double Barrel Meat Loaded Blast ($14.50): A Sammy Hagar lookalike pushes your face into a leather bag filled with oil and if you eat the whole thing, you get a 13-pound burger.” It’s hilarious, but sadly, not original. Mytko allegedly took his inspirationfrom a series of Twitter jokes that erupted after the Times review. Case in point:

Mytko was allegedly confronted over email, and soon
took to Twitter to give credit where credit was due.

3. An education minister (allegedly) cheats her way to the top
At first there were the rumors that Germany’s Education Minister Annette Schavan plagiarized parts of her dissertation. Then allegations shifted to her work not meeting academic standards. Soon these viral doubts began to harden, leading Schavan’s alma mater to conduct an internal analysis of her 1980 doctoral thesis. A committee voted 12 to 2 to declare her work “invalid and to revoke her doctor title.” Considering her prominent role in the field she allegedly disgraced, it’s likely the education minister will be forced to step down. Meanwhile, Schavan will reportedly challenge the revocation of her dissertation in court. A lawyer for Schavan claimed, “There was no cheating involved.”

4. A student-athlete robs his intellectual peers
It’s no secret that most student-athletes at top-tier NCAA schools use the former part of that title loosely, at best. While coaches, professors, and fans are willing to accept this reality for the sake of the game, some students really take that scholastic flexibility to extremes. Case in point: University of North Carolina wide receiver Erik Highsmith, who was caught committing plagiarism on a blog post he had to write as part of a communications class fulfillment. Worse yet, his post on the subject of chickens was pilfered from an education website written by 11-year-olds.

5. A young writer steals from the best
Chick Lit is a cliché-filled genre filled with beach-friendly books that are silly, entertaining, and meant to fade from your memory just as fast as that tan. So it may seem surprising that someone would go so far as to copy their uninspired contents. But in 2006, one-time rising novelist Kaavya Viswanathan admitted she “unintentionally copied passages” from author Megan McCafferty’s books about a smart New Jersey teen and her misadventures in high school and at Columbia University. A dedicated Harvard Crimson reporter was the one to spot the undeniable similiarities between McCafferty’s series and Viswanathan’s book How Opal Got Kissed, Got Wild, and Got a Life — about an ambitious New Jersey teen who aspires to get into Harvard. One college student wrapped the dumbfounding situation up nicely: “I have read the McCafferty books and they are in that vein of unavoidable, awesomely bad, Y.A. chick lit that one usually ends up burning through on an idle Sunday evening or ten. They are good. But they are not worth plagiarizing.” Amen.

6. A romance writer taps the ever-sexy black-footed ferrets
Speaking of dubious literary genres, romance novels have also been plagued by plagiarism. In 2005, nature writer Paul Tolme went to South Dakota to write an article about black-footed ferrets. And it was this definitively un-sexy story that found its way into a book by best-selling romance writer Cassie Edwards. Edwards’ particular niche is historical romances starring broad-chested, washboard-stomached Native Americans and lustful pioneer women. In the book Shadow Bear, after the title character and his full-bodied frontierswoman consummate their forbidden love, they get into an inexplicable discussion about, you guessed it, black-footed ferrets. The bizarrely informed chat about the size, weight, and mating habits of the creatures stands out as “clunky and awkward even by the standards of romance novels,” writes the victim in The Daily Beast, “because Edwards didn’t write it. I did.” Luckily, Tolme had a sense of humor about it all. “I had to laugh,” he says. “To see my textbook descriptions of ferrets in a bodice-ripper, as dialogue between a hunky American Indian and a lustful pioneer woman who several pages later have sex on a mossy riverbank, is the height of absurdity.”

7. The anti-plagiarism plagiarist
In 2007, Southern Illinois University was so beset by high-profile plagiarism scandals that officials decided to do something about it. They released a 17-page report on the issue that included a “lengthy” definition on what the term covers. The problem? Their 139-word definition was nearly identical to the one released by Indiana University just two years earlier.

8. Little-known newspaper intern plagiarizes
from the little-known New York Times

Hailey Mac Arthur was a second-year student at the University of Florida College of Journalism when she interned for the Colorado Springs Gazette. Despite being a lowly intern, the budding reporter filled her fair share of copy for the small town journal. Unfortunately, much of that reportage wasn’t her own. As the editor of the Gazette revealed in an editorial, Arthur substantially borrowed from, if not copied outright, none other than The New York Times. She may have been caught, disgraced, and dismissed from her position, but, you know, at least she set her writing aspirations high.

Is Yoga the New Satanism?

Yoga School Program Brings Separation Of
Church And State Law Suit In Encinitas, California

SAN DIEGO — An attorney representing a family bent out of shape over a public school yoga program in the beach city of Encinitas filed a lawsuit Wednesday to stop the district-wide classes.

In the lawsuit filed in San Diego Superior Court, attorney Dean Broyles argued that the twice weekly, 30-minute classes are inherently religious, in violation of the separation between church and state.

The plaintiffs are Stephen and Jennifer Sedlock and their children, who are students in the Encinitas Union School District.

“EUSD’s Ashtanga yoga program represents a serious breach of the public trust,” Broyles said. “Compliance with the clear requirements of law is not optional or discretionary. This is frankly the clearest case of the state trampling on the religious freedom rights of citizens that I have personally witnessed in my 18 years of practice as a constitutional attorney.”

Superintendent Timothy B. Baird said he had not seen the lawsuit and could not directly comment on it, but he defended the district’s decision to integrate yoga into its curriculum this year.

The district is believed to be the first in the country to have full-time yoga teachers at every one of its schools. The lessons are funded by a $533,000, three-year grant from the Jois Foundation, a nonprofit group that promotes Asthanga yoga. Since the district started the classes at its nine schools in January, Baird said teachers and parents have noticed students are calmer, using the breathing practices to release stress before tests.

“We’re not teaching religion,” he said. “We teach a very mainstream physical fitness program that happens to incorporate yoga into it. It’s part of our overall wellness program. The vast majority of students and parents support it.”

Baird said the lawsuit would not deter the district from offering the classes.

Broyles said his clients took legal action after the district refused to take their complaints into account. He said the Sedlocks are not seeking monetary damages but are asking the court to intervene and suspend the program.

The lawsuit notes Harvard-educated religious studies professor Candy Gunther Brown found the district’s program is pervasively religious, having its roots in Hindu, Buddhist, Taoist and metaphysical beliefs and practices.

While the lawsuit names only one family, dozens of parents feel the same way and oppose the program, Broyles said.

Children who have opted out of the program have been harassed and bullied, the plaintiffs allege. The children who opt out also are missing out on 60 of the 100 weekly minutes of physical activity required by the state, since they usually sit and read during the yoga lessons, the plaintiffs say.

Yoga is now taught at public schools from the rural mountains of West Virginia to the bustling streets of Brooklyn as a way to ease stress in today’s pressure-packed world where even kindergartners say they feel tense about keeping up with their busy schedules. But most classes are part of an after-school program, or are offered only at a few schools or by some teachers in a district.

The Jois Foundation says it believes the program will become a national model to help schools teach students life skills.


Is Yoga the New Satanism?
by Brad Adams

Enraged Christian parents in Southern California are suing their local school district for offering free voluntary yoga classes. This reminds me a lot of Pat Robertson’s famous video telling Christians to fear yoga because it’s praying to Hindu gods. I imagine it’s all tied in somehow. The Vatican itself has even declared yoga, along with Zen and Transcendental Meditation as potentially degenerating into a “cult of the body.”

People in America are very committed to their religion. Perhaps, religion to some is like a wife/husband or girl/boyfriend. You can only have one of them! If you are a Christian and you do yoga, you are cheating on God!

The Japanese, on the other hand, are very religiously promiscuous. They’re like Polyamorists when it comes to belief. Lots of people in Japan go to Buddhist temples on Buddhist holidays, Shinto shrines on the Shinto holidays and maybe even occasionally to Christian churches on the Christian holidays like Christmas or Easter. Lots of non-Christian Japanese people have church weddings, often with foreigners pretending to be preachers. It’s no big deal.

Having been steeped in Japanese culture for so long it’s sometimes hard for me to quite get a grip on how some of my fellow Americans feel about this kind of stuff. But I get a lot of Christians asking if they can do Zen practice without giving up their Christian faith. I always say yes. There’s no conflict I can see between believing in Jesus and your Lord the Savior and doing Zazen (seated meditation) Lots of Christians do Zazen, just like Thomas Merton did. There are no matters of required belief involved in Zen practice. So there is no conflict. There are many Christian forms of silent meditation practice that are remarkably similar to Zazen, although these aren’t practiced widely in contemporary American churches.

The Christians in San Diego are saying that yoga is a form of Hinduism. One could make that argument, however, the word “yoga” means “yoke” and comes from a Hindu concept regarding yoking oneself to God. By God, they mean Vishnu or Brahman or some of the many other names they have for God and not necessarily Jehovah. On the other hand, the word yoga has a huge number of meanings. It’s even used in the Buddhist tradition as in Yogacara, the “way of yoga,” which isn’t Hindu at all. Nor does it involve doing downward “facing dog” or the “gorilla pose” that the above article mentions.

This brings up a whole other point. What we call yoga in the West generally means the stretches and poses of the Hatha Yoga system rather than the more religious types of yoga. A case can be made that what we now know as Hatha Yoga is really an Indian version of some of the gymnastic poses and stretches they received when they were a British colony. Most yoga taught in the West is extremely secularized. Often the teachers don’t know or care much about the supposed spiritual aspects of the practice.

I think the issue of whether or not meditation is a religious practice is actually a hotter matter than yoga’s supposed Hindu origins. Nobody’s really worried about stretches. Though I have seen some argue that yoga poses are actually forms of worship, which seems to be an opinion
of a very small percentage of people. Where folks really get their panties in a bunch is when it comes to meditating.

When I first got into Zen, I was dating a girl whose mom was a fundamentalist Christian. She was concerned that by opening up my mind in meditation that I might allow demons to enter my soul and control me. It was kind of funny because Zazen was usually so boring that I kind of wished demons would have temporarily tried to take control of my mind. Anything to relieve the tedium!

Lots of meditation teachers these days try to secularize things and much of what I’ve seen promoted as secular mindfulness practice is really just straight-up Buddhism. I’ve toyed with the idea of presenting things that way myself. In the earliest drafts of my forthcoming book, I attempted to eliminate the words “Zen” and “Buddhist” as well as their various derivatives. But it felt deceptive to do so. I’d be lying if I tried to say I didn’t get these ideas from my Buddhist teachers and my Buddhist training. So I went ahead and said I was a Zen Buddhist, even though I think the term is a bit of a misnomer.

I think a lot of the concern Americans express over matters like this is based on that idea I mentioned earlier, that one must be true to one’s religion. We’re really scared of mixing things up. But that kind of purity never really existed. What we know now as Christianity is basically a Jewish messianic cult mixed up with a lot of Greek philosophy. Contemporary Buddhism is certainly not pure either. It has dashes of Hinduism, the Bon religion of Tibet, Taoism and these days even some Christian notions thrown into the mix.

Having said this, I do get the idea of being wary of mixing things up. For instance, I am not a fan of the way Zen is often seen as a kind of Japanese form of psychotherapy by many Americans. I think we have to be careful about this.

But perhaps the difference for me is that I see no need to go from being careful to being actually fearful of it.

So chill out down there in San Diego! Worry about ComicCon instead! That’s where the real devil worshipers hang out!

Teachers Can’t Get No Satisfaction, Says Survey

Teacher Survey Shows Record Low Job Satisfaction In 2012

by Joy Resmovits

As school districts continued to cut budgets, increase class sizes, and implement teacher performance evaluations, teachers’ job satisfaction plummeted in 2012, reaching an all-time low, according to a survey released Thursday.

“We’ve seen a continuous decline in teacher satisfaction,” said Dana Markow, vice president of youth and education research for pollster Harris Interactive, which conducted the poll for the MetLife Survey of the American Teacher.

Teachers’ job satisfaction has declined 23 percentage points in the five years since 2008, according to the long-running survey of educators and principals. Only 39 percent of teachers reported they were very satisfied, the least since 1987, the survey showed. The percentage of teachers who said they were very satisfied dropped five percentage points in 2012.

“This news is disappointing but sadly, there are no surprises in these survey results,” said Dennis Van Roekel, president of the National Education Association, the nation’s largest teachers’ union. “Teacher job satisfaction will continue to free fall as long as school budgets are slashed.”

The least satisfied teachers are those who work in schools that have slashed budgets, and who have less time for collaboration with peers and professional development than teachers at other schools. The poll found that 86 percent of teachers and 78 percent of principals reported their schools face budgeting problems, and 73 percent of teachers and 72 percent of principals said it’s hard to engage their communities to improve public schools.

The survey comes as states are implementing education reform policies favored by the Obama administration, raising teacher stress as they try to improve student achievement benchmarks. The changes, including teacher evaluations that stress students’ standardized test performance, curbs on tenure and Common Core learning standards, were passed by state legislatures in previous years, but beginning to take effect now. President Barack Obama proposed a new teacher satisfaction initiative in his 2012 State of the Union address, but failed to deliver on it.

“When teacher dissatisfaction is at a 25-year high, school leaders have to stop ignoring the red flags and start listening to and working with teachers to figure out what they and their students need to succeed,” said Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers union. “How many more surveys and polls do we need before we give teachers the tools, resources and support to help their kids, especially with today’s greater challenges and accountability?”

The survey found that teachers had quibbles with the common core learning standards adopted by most states that are aimed at getting teachers to focus on depth and critical thinking. The poll found that 62 percent of teachers and 46 percent of principals said their schools used the standards a great deal, and 90 percent of principals and 93 percent of teachers said they were confident or very confident that teachers in their schools have the ability to meet the mostly higher standards. But teachers and principals were less positive about the overall effects of the switch, saying they weren’t sure the standards would help students in the long run. Only 17 percent of teachers and 22 percent of principals said they were very confident that the common core would increase student achievement, and 20 percent of teachers and 24 percent of principals thought the standards would prepare students for college or careers.

Ben Schulze, a second grade teacher in Nashville, Tenn., said he expects “that year three [of common core teaching] will be a real breakthrough” for his students. So far, challenges include finding materials and lessons aligned to the standards, he said. “Some methods that we used to teach in second grade we no longer teach,” he said. “Overall, I don’t really understand what all the fuss is about. Common core has brought change, but I don’t think it’s the catastrophe some think, and I also don’t think it will be the huge change in American education that the authors believe it will be.”

The survey’s common core findings worry Stephanie Hirsh, director of Learning Forward, a non-profit teacher development group. “They think they know it, they view it as challenging, and maybe because they don’t have confidence, they don’t believe it’s really going to get better results — so perhaps they’re not willing to accept the challenge of going about implementing it,” Hirsh said of teachers. “More teachers need to get a deeper understanding of common core.”

These doubts mirror those expressed in another survey. This month’s edition of Whiteboard Advisors Education Insider survey, which takes the pulse of influential educators in Washington circles, found that most insiders don’t think the assessments associated with the common core will be ready on time — and many think that states will stop participating.

The annual MetLife Survey of the American Teacher was conducted by telephone among 1,000 U.S. public school teachers of grades K through 12, and 500 U.S. school principals in public schools, grades K through 12, from Oct. 5 to Nov. 11.

Are We Teaching Citizens or Automatons?

Are We Teaching Citizens or Automatons?

by Steven Mazie

Since the standards-based model of education overtook American public schools a generation ago, the answer to this question has been simple: prepare students for college and get them ready to be productive participants in the workforce. The new Common Core Standards Initiative — already adopted by 46 states and the District of Columbia to guide curricula in their public schools — is no exception:

The standards are designed to be robust and relevant to the real world, reflecting the knowledge and skills that our young people need for success in college and careers. With American students fully prepared for the future, our communities will be best positioned to compete successfully in the global economy.

College and careers. Careers and college. The Common Core communicates its consequentialist mission consistently throughout its materials, and, truth be told, there is something to admire in its standards’ relatively open approach in contrast to the byzantine pedagogical straight jackets they are replacing. The new standards constitute a well-intended attempt to address an inequity-laden public educational system. They seem to stem from sound, research-based analyses of what it takes to build academic skills in young people.

There are a couple of “c”s missing, however, and their absence brings me, as an educator, some discontent. Of course we want to prepare our children for college and we want to give them tools for successful careers. But it isn’t clear that the Common Core is adequately ambitious or forward thinking, and there is little in the standards to prepare students for citizenship, for creative interactions with ideas, or for contemplating the conundrums of life in the 21st century.

To be fair, when I say little, I don’t mean nothing. The English Language Arts standards, for example, cite works by Thoreau, Paine, and Orwell as examples of 11th and 12th grade texts. That’s encouraging. And they prescribe student debates and discussions under the “Speaking and Listening” standards. More good news. That said, though, the Common Core puts an orientation toward good citizenship and life-navigation skills on the rear burner, well behind lessons preparing students for assessments testing discrete, discipline-based skills.

What is the impact of the standards movement on the soul of the learner? A friend of mine who teaches art at an elementary school in Brooklyn has noticed her students request permission and seek validation before making any move.
Here is what she told me:

They’re always asking every step of the way if what they’re doing is OK. “Can my dog have two legs?” “Could I paint a panda that is purple?” Of course you can! They’re so trained to think that there is only one right answer. I have to tell them it would be very uninteresting to me if you all made the exact same thing.

Old school public education reformers put creativity, citizenship and habits of social interaction front and center. For John Dewey, “the development within the young of the attitudes and dispositions necessary to the continuous and progressive life of a society cannot take place by direct conveyance of beliefs, emotions, and knowledge.” Fostering the skills of young citizens in a democracy doesn’t happen by accident. This process, Dewey writes in Democracy and Education (1916),

takes place through the intermediary of the environment…It is truly educative in its effect in the degree in which an individual shares or participates in some conjoint activity. By doing his share in the associated activity, the individual appropriates the purpose which actuates it, becomes familiar with its methods and subject matters, acquires needed skill, and is saturated with its emotional spirit.

This spirit is what I find to be missing from the Common Core, and what makes me melancholy about the whole enterprise. With its individualistic emphasis and results-oriented approach, students will work their way from Kindergarten through high school graduation with plenty of practice finding evidence in “information-based texts,” and preparing for standardized assessments (still in the works) to identify which students are learning and which teachers are teaching. But I worry the rising generations will have precious little experience creating knowledge in concert with others in creative and interactive projects, testing their intuitions against challenging new theories, exploring the peripheries rather than just the core. I worry they won’t have much fun. I worry they won’t have fully developed civic tools and temperaments to interact productively and meaningfully with others once they have won those coveted spots in colleges and careers.

Nothing in the new standards precludes, exactly, the richer, deeper, more interactive and more progressive teaching techniques and curricula that many educators favor. But with data-driven teacher evaluations forming the basis of the recent push for greater corporate-style accountability, it is easy to predict how this will go. More time and energy devoted to test prep, less and less to cultivating the emotional spirit that comes when students are actively engaged in communities of inquiry. “A progressive society counts individual variations as precious,” Dewey writes, “since it finds in them the means of its own growth. Hence a democratic society must, in consistency with its ideal, allow for intellectual freedom and the play of diverse gifts and interests in its educational measures.”

Those gifts and interests bring more benefits: intellectual resources to help navigate life’s difficult moments. In an amiable ramble in the Stone earlier this month, “Stormy Weather: Blues in Winter,” Avital Ronnell presents a lovely response to her friends who “used to say to me that it was the study itself of philosophy that brought me down”:

[U]pon reflection, I have to think it’s the other way round. I consider philosophy my survival kit. In any case philosophy does the groundwork and comes face to face with my basic repertory of distress: forlornness, the shakes, and other signs of world-weary discomfort.

One shouldn’t have to have Jacques Derrida as a teacher (as Ronnell did) to develop a minimal survival kit to navigate life’s inevitable complexities, disappointments and crises. This too, along with a full-bodied civic education, belongs in the core. As long as our public schools see children only as pre-collegiate, proto-capitalist participants in the global economy, there is little hope the Common Core will have much to say about the core problems of human existence.

Human intelligence is declining according to Stanford geneticist

Human intelligence is declining according to Stanford geneticist

Ever can’t help but think you’re surrounded by idiots? A leading scientist at Stanford University thinks he has the answer, and the bad news is things aren’t likely to get any better.

Dr. Gerald Crabtree, a geneticist at Stanford, has published a study that he conducted to try and identify the progression of modern man’s intelligence. As it turns out, however, Dr. Crabtree’s research led him to believe that the collective mind of mankind has been on more or a less a downhill trajectory for quite some time.

According to his research, published in two parts starting with last year’s ‘Our fragile intellect. Part I,’ Dr. Crabtree thinks unavoidable changes in the genetic make-up coupled with modern technological advances has left humans, well, kind of stupid. He has recently published his follow-up analysis, and in it explains that of the roughly 5,000 genes he considered the basis for human intelligence, a number of mutations over the years has forced modern man to be only a portion as bright as his ancestors.

“New developments in genetics, anthropology and neurobiology predict that a very large number of genes underlie our intellectual and emotional abilities, making these abilities genetically surprisingly fragile,” he writes in part one of his research. “Analysis of human mutation rates and the number of genes required for human intellectual and emotional fitness indicates that we are almost certainly losing these abilities,” he adds in his latest report.

From there, the doctor goes on to explain that general mutations over the last few thousand years have left mankind increasingly unable to cope with certain situations that perhaps our ancestors would be more adapted to.

“I would wager that if an average citizen from Athens of 1000 BC were to appear suddenly among us, he or she would be among the brightest and most intellectually alive of our colleagues and companions, with a good memory, a broad range of ideas, and a clear-sighted view of important issues. Furthermore, I would guess that he or she would be among the most emotionally stable of our friends and colleagues. I would also make this wager for the ancient inhabitants of Africa, Asia, India or the Americas, of perhaps 2000–6000 years ago. The basis for my wager comes from new developments in genetics, anthropology, and neurobiology that make a clear prediction that our intellectual and emotional abilities are genetically surprisingly fragile.”

According to the doctor, humans were at their most intelligent when “every individual was exposed to nature’s raw selective mechanisms on a daily basis.” Under those conditions, adaption, he argued, was much more of a matter than fight or flight. Rather, says the scientists, it was a sink or swim situation for generations upon generations.

“We, as a species, are surprisingly intellectually fragile and perhaps reached a peak 2,000 to 6,000 years ago,” he writes. “If selection is only slightly relaxed, one would still conclude that nearly all of us are compromised compared to our ancient ancestors of 3,000 to 6,000 years ago.”

That doesn’t mean it’s all downhill, though. Dr. Crabtree says, “although our genomes are fragile, our society is robust almost entirely by virtue of education, which allow strengths to be rapidly distributed to all members.”

“We have a long time to solve it. People 300 years ago had no idea where we’d be scientifically now,” he says. “We’ll be able to deal with this problem with a range of humane and ethical solutions.”