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7 Most Absurd Things America’s Kids Are Learning Thanks to the Conservative Gutting of Public Education

16 Mar

Kids learn that gun control is a gateway to tyranny and that science is unchristian.

Conservatives are masters at using distortion and subterfuge to sell people on things they would never buy if properly labeled. Nowhere is this more evident than in the arena of “school choice” — a conservative euphemism for “gutting public education from the inside out.”

Photo Credit: VladisChern via Shutterstock.com

According to its major proponents, like the late Milton “Pinochet es mi amigo” Friedman, “school choice gives parents the freedom to choose their children’s education, while encouraging healthy competition among schools to better serve families’ needs.” Sounds lovely! But, it turns out, there are plenty of well-documented problems with school choice, especially when it comes to the school voucher system, which provides families with public funds to send their children to private — often religious — schools.

Voucher programs in particular have been proven to be largely ineffective; they weaken the public school system, and fail to address inequality, which may be why their supporters, like the Koch Brothers, Americans for Prosperity and Dick Morris, love them. Through their concerted efforts, vouchers are on the rise: In 2013, 15 states started or expanded their voucher programs.

Though supported with public funds, private schools engaged in voucher programs lack the accountability and oversight applicable to public schools, so they’re not subject to the whole separation of church and state thing that forms the backbone of of American democracy. Given that, it seems fair to wonder: What kinds of lessons are our tax dollars supporting at these schools spared the scrutiny of Big Government and the burdens of the Constitution?

To find the answer, I dug into the catalog of one of the biggest publishers used by religious voucher schools: a company called A Beka Book. A Beka Book is one of the three most widely used Protestant fundamentalist textbook publishers in the country, along with Bob Jones University Publishing, published in Greenville South Carolina, and Accelerated Christian Education, published in Lewisville, Texas. Forty-three percent of the religous voucher schools that responded to a 2003 Palm Beach Post survey based their curricula on either A Beka or Bob Jones. A Beka Book estimates that 9,000 schools use its books in the classroom.

Founded by Arlin and Rebekah (Beka) Horton in 1972, A Beka Book provides “excellence in education from a Christian perspective.” Since 1977, A Beka Book has operated out of the unaccredited Arlin-founded Pensacola Christian College (PCC) in Florida. Among other rules, PCC has a zero tolerance policy for “optical intercourse” or staring too intently into the eyes of a member of the opposite sex (also known as “making eye babies”).

Though the publisher won’t reveal its finances, over the years, sales from A Beka Book have paid for PCC’s construction projects ($300 million) and annual scholarships ($2 million). Though the publisher used to enjoy a tax-exempt status, that privilege was revoked in 1995 because the company was (surprise!) found to be a profit-making entity. In 1998, A Beka Book paid the IRS an estimated $44.5 million to “remove any question as to our Christian responsibility in the matter of back taxes.”

The Hortons are as rigorous intellectually as they are ethically and fiscally. Here are seven invaluable lessons children learn from their A Beka Book texts, thanks in part to your tax dollars.

1. Mathematics: The Devil’s Playground

The publishing company boasts that, “Unlike the ‘modern math’ theorists, who believe that mathematics is a creation of man and thus arbitrary and relative, A Beka Book texts teach that the laws of mathematics are a creation of God and thus absolute.”

The great news for people like me who don’t really enjoy math is that A Beka Book provides “traditional mathematics texts that are not burdened with modern theories such as set theory.“ It’s unclear why the branch of mathematical logic that studies sets and is considered to be a foundational system for mathematics is so anathema to God. I assume focusing on the “union of sets” encourages too much premarital coupling and promiscuity.

2. Critical Thinking: There’s a Mnemonic Device For That

A Beka Book’s Health in Christian Perspective textbook makes it extremely clear that there is one and only one “Christian World View.” In that view, abortion—defined as “the killing of babies before birth”— for example, is a sin. But A Beka Book doesn’t just tell students what to think, it empowers them to think for themselves by employing the all-important “Biblical Discernment” method.

Like so many of  Beka’s critical thinking tools, this one comes in the form of a mnemonic device: “Use the DISCERN method,” Beka instructs, “to determine whether abortion is biblical.” The method allows students to make an informed godly choice around any issue, not just abortion. Once they’ve figured out whether something is biblical or not, they can engage in it and praise it, or refrain from doing it and condemn it. Here’s how DISCERN works:

  • Determine your choices

  • Inquire of God through prayer

  • Search the scriptures

  • Consider godly counsel.

  • Eliminate worldly thinking.

  • Recognize God’s leading.

  • Never compromise the truth.

This handy mnemonic is great for moralizing and judging on the run!

3. Science: Yahweh or the Highway

Health in Christian Perspective also explains that,

“A non-Christian world view is any one that is based on the belief that there is something more reliable than the bible. The belief may come from church traditions scientific conclusions, or various theories. The most important teachings to be found in a  Christian World View are… God made the world and everything in it; The world has fallen into a tragic state because of sin; and God is working to redeem this world to Himself.”

Science that contradicts these notions, the people at A Beka Book explain, is just plain wrong. “These three teachings should influence your interpretation of any facts you study,” they note. “And if you are serious about being a Christian, they must color your view of scientific thinking.”

Also crucial is the instruction not to stray from God’s path by using science to help people. “Others may be curious about the world of nature simply because they want to improve the lives of other humans. Although Christians should also be interested in that, they should mainly be interested in loving God through the study of nature.” I wonder if the Hortons want their doctors to prioritize loving God over helping their patients?

4. Guns: Our Only Protection from Nazism and Globalism

Beka’s United States History—Heritage of Freedom In Christian Perspective reminds us that the men who founded this great nation would totally oppose background checks: “The founding fathers… understood that unarmed citizens would not be able to stand against a tyrannical government.” Gun control, according to this text, is simply a “gateway to tyranny.” The book’s exhaustive analysis of world history backs up this brilliant assertion: “A study of Hitler’s, Stalin’s and Mao’s ideas on disarming their citizens shows… they were well aware of the concept that control thrives when people are unarmed.”

As an added bonus, guns are also a way for America to fight against creeping… globalism: “Armed citizens could also play a major role in thwarting Globalism, the idea to bring the world together under ‘one global government.’ making the constitution null and void.” This really speaks to America’s youth, who are nothing if not extremely concerned about globalism.

5. The Death Penalty: The Sanctity of Life Manifested

America: Land I Love In Christian Perspective laments that the death penalty, and thus the sanctity of life, have become less hip. Back in the good old days, “because people believed in the sanctity of human life, most states practiced capital punishment.”

A Beka Book knows what God was thinking when he killed people for crimes like prostitution, bearing false witness, and not crying out while being raped (if you are betrothed): “Most people believed God instituted capital punishment to discourage murder and to teach mankind the value of human life.”

Of course, “most people” doesn’t include people who opposed the death penalty. Like Jesus Christ.

6. STDs: What Happens When you Disobey God

Beka’s Health In Christian Perspective text also teaches that sexually transmitted diseases are caused by sacrilegious behavior: “Disobedience to God’s Word in the area of sexual purity can also lead to disease.” And statistically speaking, A Beka Book tells us, it is almost impossible to contract diseases from a spouse:

“Some infections, known as… STDs,  are almost always spread by direct bodily contact during illicit sexual relations (sexual relations outside God’s institution of marriage). People who live according to God’s standards of waiting until marriage to have sexual relations are very unlikely to acquire venereal diseases.”

There is no correlation, in the Beka world view, between “sex education” and preventing STDs, because such diseases aren’t caused by “a lack of scientific information or ‘sex education’ but a lack of morality and righteousness.” While A Beka Book neither believes in nor provides any “sex education,” they do offer a lifesaving “Personal Checkup” checklist, encouraging students to check boxes for things like, “I wash my hands thoroughly on a regular basis” and “I obey biblical principles regarding morality, self-control, attitude, and anxiety.”

“Unchecked boxes” the book warns, “identify conditions of risk.”

7. Homosexuality: Cultural Decay

Homosexuality is listed under United States History—Heritage of Freedom In Christian Perspective’s  “Cultural Decay” section: “Traditional American family values have dramatically declined….When [the family] comes under attack, all of society suffers.”

Though it’s not clear how, the media have emboldened homosexuality by showing violence and attacking fathers and husbands: “The media has increasingly belittled fathers and husbands, portrayed blatant violence, and laughed at immorality. One result has been the increased acceptance of homosexuality.”

In other words: Every time there is violence on the screen, or a man is mocked by a feminist, or a heathen cracks up over sin, a homosexual is recruited and a family is attacked. But you already knew that.

This is but a mere sampling of A Beka’s righteous lessons. Check back soon for more.

Morning Jew: Vatican Fashion competition, Racist self-defecators & RIP Harold Ramis

15 Mar

If it’s Friday, it’s Morning Jew! This week Comedians Katie Halper and Heather Gold (home sick with a cold) look at the headlines and ask the age old question: Nu? Are they good for the Jews? On today’s Morning Jew we (1) talk about the Nazi Pope‘s boyfriend and fashion style, and fantasize about a Pretty Woman/ Pope Benedict mash-up. (2) Explore the surprising connection between racist teabaggers like Ted Nugent and paranoid Jews. And we say goodbye to the irreplaceable mensch and Ghost Buster Harold Ramis and explain how Obama referenced Caddy Shack in his tribute to him. And, of course, we bring you our “I can’t believe they’re not Jewish” and “Name that Jew” of the week.

Morning Jew

15 Mar

This week comics Heather Gold (@heathr) and Katie Halper (@kthalps) look at new anti-gay Jim Crow style laws, crypto-Jews in New Mexico (Spain offers citizenship to Sephardi Jews in an interesting 500 year old “oops I made a mistake”) and delight in Olympic figure skater and commentator Johnny Weir’s new Jewish husband and the sobbing from his mishpocheh around their wedding. And as always they finding out if it was good for the Jews. Plus they debut a new regular feature: mishpocheh messages. Send us your messages from your family.

True Detective’s Rust Cohle Eviscerates Matthew McConaughey

14 Mar

Watch Rust Cohle respond to Matthew McConaughey with utter Rustian contempt. The only thing that I could think of when I watched Matthew McConaughey’s self-congratulating, god-thanking Oscars speech was how much Rust Cohle would hate it. I tried to block it out so I could enjoy True Detective in which McConaughey is brilliant. But I couldn’t. So instead, I thought I would have Rust Cohle explain to Matt why his speech was so ridiculously aggrandizing and delusional. So, here is what Rost has to say about it… in his righteous own words

Morning Jew: Voicemails from Bubby, Woody Allen & Abe Foxman 2/14/14

13 Mar

On this week’s Morning Jew, comedians Katie Halper & Heather Gold analyze a voicemail from a grandmother worried her gay grandchild will go to Russia for The Olympics, read Woody Allen’s letter in Woody’s voice, discuss the retirement of the ADL’s Abe Foxman. Plus we have a huge announcement about who will be replacing him. It’s not who you think. As always, we determine whether the news is good or bad for the Jews. Enjoy! And Happy Valentines Day!

The Senate thinks they’ve done enough to stop military rape

10 Mar
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image via Kristen Gillibrand / Via servicewomen.org

In case you’re disappointed that Kirsten Gillibrand’s Military Justice Improvement Act got filibustered yesterday, I have great news: the senate, according to senators, has already done enough to stop military rape and the commanders who are unable to stop the epidemic of sexual assault are totes trust-worthy! Phew!   We have been covering the Military Justice Improvement Act (MJIA), which would move the decision to prosecute cases of sexual assault from the chain of command to an independent prosecutor, for some time now. And Yesterday we urged readers to call their senators to push them to vote that it go forward. Sadly, the bill, sponsored by Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) was blocked by the senate. What makes this particularly frustrating is that the bill received more votes for it (55) than against it (45). But it fell five votes shy of the 60 votes needed to override a fillibuster. And so, on March 6, 2014, the a bill that would have dared to challenge the status quo and actually advocate for survivors of sexual assault, was shut down by a procedural vote that stopped it from even moving to the senate floor.

The need for the MJIA is painfully obvious. As I wrote yesterday,

This bill is extremely important and would challenge the status quo culture of rape and impunity ravaging our armed forces…. the MJIA is a very sensible bill that would move the decision to prosecute out of the hands of the Chain of Command and into the hands of an independent military prosecutor. Given that over a quarter of people sexually assaulted are assaulted by someone in the chain of command, the current system, which requires survivors to report their assault to their superior within said chain of command, is counterproductive an dangerous. The military is creating a system in which rape survivors must report their rapes to people who are friends with the rapists, or the rapists themselves. This obviously inhibits reporting. Logic tells us this. And so does the fact that 62% of those who did report perceived some retaliation for doing so.

The senate voted to let a competing bill, the Victims Protection Act, move forward to a vote. This bill, sponsored by Claire McCaskill (D-MO), one of the only three women to vote against the MJIA, would make some modest reforms but would keep decision-making in response to a report of violence within the chain of command.

The statements of the senators opposing the MJIA reveal blind obedience of the army, expectations that defy logic and the historical record, and a glaring and infuriating disregard for the people who are raped and assaulted in the armed forces. The fact that these statements and votes against the MJIA were made on the same day it was revealed that the top Army prosecutor for sexual assault cases has been suspended for sexual assault, makes this even more disturbing.

Senator Jim Inhofe (R-OK) actually said (out loud!) that enough has been done about the whole military rape thing:

We have been working on the problem of sexual assault, and the reality is that Congress has been aggressive in instituting reforms to tackle sexual assault in the military…These reforms have strengthened the protections and the care of the victims while preserving the rights of the accused. These historic reforms are vital to ensuring a sound, effective, and fair military justice system.

Senator John McCain (R-AZ) explained he trusts the commanders, even though they are part of the culture and system which which fails to punish rapists but inhibits, intimidates and re-traumatizes rape victims:

 Will we hold those commanders responsible for everything that happens under their command, or will we take that responsibility and shift it to a lawyer? That’s what this is really all about…I trust these commanders. I trust them.

McCain may not care about the victims but he really doesn’t want to hurt the commander’s feelings. So sensitive.

The always lovely Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) was eager to criticize Gillibrand on a personal level and attribute the bill, which has received by partisan support from people including RAND PAUL AND TED CRUZ, to a liberal agenda conspiracy:

What Senator Gillibrand is doing is way off base. It will not get us to the promised land of having a more victim friendly system to report sexual assaults…. This is about liberal people [like TED CRUZ AND RAND PAUL?] wanting to gut the military justice system– social engineering run amok. I want to help victims, but I also want a fair trial… It is only 3 percent who make these decisions. They are our wing commanders, our squadron commanders, our fleet commanders, our brigade commanders the people we entrust and hold accountable for fighting and winning the war.

We have had some bad commanders. However, to those who command the military, I have confidence in you. You will take this system to a new level. You have to up your game, but I am not going to fire you. Thank you for commanding the finest military in the world. I will do nothing to say you are morally bankrupt, because I don’t believe that.

In case you missed it, the people who support the MJIA are not concerned with empowering survivors of sexual assault, according to Graham. They just hate the army and consider each and every commander morally bankrupt. They’re not just liberal… they’re unamerican.

What is so amazing about this debate is that it did not fall neatly along partisan lines, as mentioned above,. I never thought I’d write the following words, but Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) made an excellent case for the MJIA, highlighting the logic of the bill and the absurdity and cruelty of opposing it.

the definition of “insanity” is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. We have known that sexual assault in the military has been a problem decade after decade. I think it is time we tried something new….
To me it is as simple as this: Should you have to report your assault to your boss? This is what we are talking about. What if your boss goes drinking with the person who assaulted you, who is friends with them? Wouldn’t we want the person you complained to completely outside the chain of command? Wouldn’t we want to have lawyers involved whose specialty is this type of situation?
Yesterday, the United States Senate voted that the men and women serving in our armed forces should be forced to report their sexual assaults to their bosses, to the friends of their assaulters or even their very assaulters.

Related:

Watch now: Senate to vote on military sexual assault bill

GOP Congressman says Senator Gillibrand’s bill is for attention, not about military sexual assault
An infographic and a way to tweet against rape in the military now!
Senator Gillibrand’s attempt to improve military sexual assault protocol blocked
Air Force chief in charge of sexual assault prevention arrested for sexual assault
Is the military labeling rape survivors as “crazy” to get rid of them?

Watch now: Senate to vote on military sexual assault bill

7 Mar

Today, after much delay and opposition, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand’s Military Justice Improvement Act (MJIA) will be finally be debated and voted on by the Senate. This bill is extremely important and would challenge the status quo culture of rape and impunity ravaging our armed forces. This seems like an obvious solution. But sadly, it has been, and still is, an uphill battle.

As I write this blog post, the Senate is debating the MJIA. As we’ve covered before, the MJIA is a very sensible bill that would move the decision to prosecute out of the hands of the Chain of Command and into the hands of an independent military prosecutor. Given that over a quarter of people sexually assaulted are assaulted by someone in the chain of command, the current system, which requires survivors to report their assault to their superior within said chain of command, is counterproductive an dangerous. The military is creating a system in which rape survivors must report their rapes to people who are friends with the rapists, or the rapists themselves. This obviously inhibits reporting. Logic tells us this. And so does the fact that 62% of those who did report perceived some retaliation for doing so.

You can watch the vote at 2PM on CSPAN2. Follow along on Twitter using #passMJIA and make some noise in support of this important bill.

Related:

GOP Congressman says Senator Gillibrand’s bill is for attention, not about military sexual assault
An infographic and a way to tweet against rape in the military now!
Senator Gillibrand’s attempt to improve military sexual assault protocol blocked
Air Force chief in charge of sexual assault prevention arrested for sexual assault
Is the military labeling rape survivors as “crazy” to get rid of them?

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Because I know how to prioritize & Love True Detective

24 Feb

Because I know how to prioritize & Love True Detective

This is my first installation of my very bad screen shot something or other of True Detective. But, I have a lot more coming. Don’t worry.

Obama is just as racist as Ted Nugent, according to statutory rapist, self-defecating, draft dodger Nugent

23 Feb

ImageSo, it only took statutory rapist, self-defecating, draft dodger Ted Nugent a month to find the quote he thinks vindicates him for having called his president a subhuman mongrel. Drumroll please…. “So Obama called blacks mongrels on the View. Well well well” tweeted a comma-shy Nugent. So, what’s the deal? Did President Obama indeed call “blacks” mongrels? Well, it turns out he did, indeed, say, “We are sort of a mongrel people…. I mean we’re all kinds of mixed up.” So, now the question becomes, did Obama call “blacks” mongrels? Yes and no. He was referring to African Americans initially, but Obama explicitly said the same applied to white people: “That’s actually true of white people as well, but we just know more about it.” But let’s, for argument’s sake, say Obama had really been speaking exclusively about Black people. Would that legitimize Ted Nugent’s use of the word. Not at all. First of all, there is the whole question of the identity of the speaker. But I’m not going to focus on this because I’m sure anyone dense or dishonest enough to think this is a gotcha moment for Obama is incapable of or unwilling to recognize the difference between a Black person using the N word, and a non-Black person using it; the difference between a gay man using the f word and a straight person using it etc.

What is undeniable and not up for debate is the fact that Obama and Nugent meant profoundly different things when they used the mongrel. Ted Nugent is a proud Obama-hater, who vowed that he would be dead or in jail if Obama won re-election. (I thought you were a man of your word, Ted.) When he called Obama “mongrel” he was being overtly and unmistakably critical (for argument’s sake, I’ll use the word “critical” as opposed to hateful, racist, derogatory, offensive etc). How do we know? Well, besides his record of Obama-victory-based death or prison threats (or teases, to me), the immediate context of the quote makes Nugent’s perspective crystal clear: “I have obviously failed to galvanize and prod, if not shame enough Americans to be ever vigilant not to let a Chicago communist raised communist educated communist nurtured subhuman mongrel like the ACORN community organizer gangster Barack Hussein Obama to weasel his way into the top office of authority in the United States of America.” So, he’s lamenting that Obama has not be voted out (or worse), calling him a gangster and, here’s the big kicker, subhuman. There’s an unspoken rule which governs the world that says that any word directly preceded by “subhuman” is not being used in a nice way. Now, compare this to Barack Obama’s use of the word. The only way for Obama’s use of the word to be at all comparable, would be if Obama had openly stated his opposition to African Americans previously or at the same point. If he had lamented being unable to galvanize people against African Americans and kick them out of the country. This is even more far fetched when we take into account that Obama was talking about white people, too. Now, for Nugent to have any leg to stand on, Obama would have had to have expressed a hatred of black people and white people and actually all people, since almost all people are mixes. Please note, Obama does not use the word “subhuman” or any other Hitlerian nomenclature in his appearance on the View. So there’s that, too.

I’m performing Fri 2/21 in Laughing Liberally!

21 Feb

Screen Shot 2014-02-21 at 5.22.02 PMJoin us for a night of laughter from the left as NYC’s top progressive performers and pundits deliver comedy and commentary with political punch.

Featuring: John Fugelsang Katie Halper Scott Blakeman Frank Conniff Ken Schultz and Julianna Forlano

FREE admission. Great bar and menu. An audience of like-minded lefties.

Doors at 7:30pm

@ Jimmy’s No. 43 (43 east 7th)

We’ll be joined by our friends at Downtown East for Progress, who will share information about their current campaigns related to affordable healthcare, immigration reform, gun control and climate change.

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