Idaho and Kentucky are treading on dangerous ground with passing bills for Bible study in regular classes (Idaho) or electives (Kentucky) in public schools. I first learned of this from Education Week in an article written by Jackie Zubrzycki entitled “Bible Study in Public Schools Sought in New State Laws“. In theory, the Idaho law says that the Bible will only be used as source material for classes in history, literature and the arts rather than for proselytizing while the Kentucky law will only make the class (called “Bible Literacy”) an elective. There’s mixed reactions to this. Legally, the Bible can be used as source material but only “when presented objectively as part of a secular program of education” according to the 1963 Supreme Court ruling concerning the use of the Christian Bible in public schools. However, each state has raised concerns about how far these bills will allow Biblical teaching. In Idaho, an early copy of the bill was going to allow the use of the Bible in science classes (and was thankfully killed off) and the only way the current version would pass is if other holy books could be used as references as well. In Kentucky, the Anti-Defamation League said they wouldn’t support the bill unless teachers were well-trained in teaching the Bible. While Education Week’s article is a good starting point and yes, I highly recommend reading it for the details, I had to know more about each state’s plans for their Bible studies.
The website Idaho Ed News discusses what recently happened with the Bible in School bill in the House Education Committee in the article “House Debates Bible-in-Schools Bill; Vote Slated For Thursday“, which was written on Wednesday March 26th, 2016. It was a hotly debated bill, so much that Chairman Reed DeMordaunt had to call the committee to recess until the next morning for a final vote. The key text of the bill is this:
“The use of religious texts, including the Bible, is expressly permitted to be used in Idaho public schools for reference purposes to further the study of literature, comparative religion, English and foreign languages, United States and world history, comparative government, law, philosophy, ethics, world geography, archaeology, music, sociology and other topics of study where an understanding of religious texts, including the Bible, may be useful or relevant.”
This bill has been causing controversy because it mentions that other texts can be used but only in a “nonsectarian” way and the bill’s sponsor, Republican Cheryl Nuxoll believes the Bible is nonsectarian. The article then provides Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary definition of nonsectarian, which is “not having a sectarian character: not affiliated with or restricted to a particular religious group.” The head of the Idaho ACLU shares concerns of dissenters that using the Bible or any religious text could violate the separation of church and state.
Unfortunately this cliffhanger is currently where the Idaho bill is. Thursday has passed and there is no more current information on the state of this.
In an article posted on WSAZ Channel 3’s website as recently as Friday March 18th 2016 called “Kentucky Bible Literacy Bill Moves Forward; Draws Mixed Reaction From Community“, we have considerably more information. First we learn that the bill was created by Democratic senator Robin Webb as a way to study the Bible for literature/literacy purposes. Webb explained that “The Bible is part of our historical context both internationally, the world civilization, and certainly in these United States. I remember what it looked like when I had it as literature and it was just like the dissection and discussion of any other book.” Then we learn that this class would be an elective rather than a required part of the curriculum. Finally, we learn that the bill could allow “Bible Literacy” to students in ninth grade and above.
The bill is meant to be informative rather than a way to convert students, as it contains language such as it would “…give students knowledge of biblical content, characters, poetry, and narratives that are prerequisites to understanding contemporary society and culture, including literature, art, music, mores, oratory, and public policy” but the course would follow “all federal and state guidelines in maintaining religious neutrality and accommodating the diverse religious views, traditions, and perspectives of students in the school” and “would not endorse, favor, or promote, or disfavor or show hostility toward any particular religion or nonreligious faith or religious perspective.”
If you read comments from some of the supporters of this bill, you wouldn’t know it’s just meant for education and not a sneaky way of pushing Christianity in public schools. This comment by a man named Chris Hall says “I think it wouldn’t be a bad thing to be in schools because we’ve taken too much of the morals out of the schools. It would improve their principles and their way of thinking.”
You’re probably wondering what Newsgirl would say about this. Well, I’m not against using the Bible in context of history, literature, and art. In my college British Literature One course, the majority of the readings were based on religion, specifically forms of Christianity. Of course, our instructor also said that many stories were partially Christian-based and partially secular because not all of the original audiences were Christian. Are these high school students going to learn that? See, I understand referencing the Bible for various classes, but not if the Bible is the only book used. By this I mean a) that it’s only the Christian Bible as opposed to all sorts of religious texts as appropriate and b) that the only textbook is the Bible. These bills in Idaho and Kentucky seem dangerously close to being a way to convert students to Christianity and no, I am not okay with that.
Have you ever been involved on a heated hot topic debate on a social network website and saw someone write “Well, you only work at a deli” or “Look at their profile. They’re self-employed/ unemployed!” to prove superiority? I have, I think it’s ridiculous, and I have on occasion defended people that I otherwise disagree with against those comments. Degrading someone based on their employment or lack of employment is low in addition to not making a compelling rebuttal about the topic of conversation.
Just today I saw this in action on Facebook. The original post was from Occupy Democrats, a very left-leaning political news organization, concerning Iowa Republicans passing a bill to allow toddlers to use guns. This is going to be problematic when toddlers with guns start shooting people, not knowing the damage guns can do. For that reason, there are many outraged comments posted on this story’s Facebook page. Most of them are “You have got to be kidding me!” but some are more emotionally-charged. The one that I am focusing on is this one:
As you can tell from this original post, “Sandy Brumer Sidoti” is not impressed with this law. Her post sets off a storm of angry responses, some directed at her and others addressing the stupidity of the Iowa lawmakers.
I don’t support this “Americo Magalhaes'” use of profanity and lack of a true argument, I will tell you that right now. I also don’t support “Connor Do” attacking him based on his reported self-employment. Unless we commenters are intimately familiar with Americo Magalhaes and know what he does for self-employment and if it is legitimate or not, we are in no place to judge it as being less than traditional employment. Furthermore, by degrading self-employment in an already emotionally-charged thread, this is only escalating the name-calling and hatred. A better response, oddly demonstrated earlier by the same Connor Do that is insulting Americo Magalhaes, would be:
Insulting people about their employment, their intelligence, their appearance, and so forth is problematic because it hurts them and encourages them to strike back. The topic then devolves into name-calling and immature “I know you are but what am I?” replies. Nobody leaves the debate looking superior. Arguing based on what a person said never guarantees an end to the debate, but it is less likely to escalate the debate either.
In a separate incident, I was in a debate with a user on Facebook who held views that I thought were unfortunate. We were debating her views when a new person wrote “Well, your profile says you work at a deli so you’re obviously stupid!” I responded “What does this woman working in a deli have to do with the topic? It’s honest work for honest pay and has nothing to do with this discussion. Now argue with what she says, not where she works!”
I am not perfect when a discussion gets heated and there have been occasions when I have called people stupid or ridiculous. I freely admit to it. However, I will never degrade people based on where they work. We’re not all fortunate enough to have a prestigious, highly-respected position. It doesn’t even matter in all conversations. I’m learning that “superiority” in a debate comes from being the person with solid arguments, not the person who can shoot off a string of insults. If we want to come out on top, let’s stick to debating our opponent’s arguments.
Insider Higher Ed is my go-to source for news on all things higher education. While my focus is on trigger warnings/content warnings and censorship on the university campus, I also have been following race relations in higher education.
On February 17 2016, Inside Higher Ed published a column entitled “Can I Mentor African-American Faculty? “. This white man is writing because he is an experienced professor who wants to mentor a tenure-track black woman but since he knows he wouldn’t understand her racial background experiences, he’s not sure that he can effectively serve as her mentor. The answer in short is that yes he can mentor her but he needs to think of it more as coaching than mentoring and he should choose one area (not race-related) that he can best serve her. This leads to the idea that instead of him being her only mentor, he could help her in his area of expertise while introducing her to other faculty members who can form a mentor network for her.
I agree with the overarching idea of the response because I firmly believe that intra-racial team members can still find common ground that relates more to the nature of the job duties and how the newbie instructor can gain necessary experience and have success in their career. I consider race/ethnicity “superficial” in that it might come up during the newbie’s career but it doesn’t have to be the first thing mentors focus on. I said as much in my Facebook response to the link.
In comes a social justice warrior (SJW). This man doesn’t know my race/ethnicity and experiences with all that or that I’m not perfect with race relations but I will call out blatant bigotry and hate speech, but he decides to tell me about my privilege and how I should express myself.
“I think you should not speak to any other experience other than your own.” Let’s think about this for a second. I used the word “personally” to mark that my statements were my own. How much more speaking to my own experiences can I get? Don’t even get me started on race privilege! I thought it over and decided that I was done quietly accepting SJWs taking a conversation that was awkwardly worded but clearly one person’s opinion and blowing it up for whatever purpose they have. I responded with the following:
I am clearly done with SJWs. I mentioned Tumblr because it’s where SJWs are encouraged and headquartered, plus that was where I had the most negative experiences with them. If I had an unpopular opinion on Tumblr, I had to list my atypical qualities just to prove to the SJWs that I was “oppressed” and therefore deserved to contribute to the discussion. It wore on me until I had to leave Tumblr in order to maintain a shred of sanity and self-confidence. I refuse to engage with SJWs on any other website.
A bit of context about the title of this blog post. “Superior work” can refer to any assignment or project by any person of any age, but here I am focusing on how it plays out first in K-12 grades and then in college. There are differences, especially in the end goals of the projects. I will be using a mix of research and personal experience to inform this post.
Think back to when you were a student of any age. Do you remember if your teacher finished explaining a project by saying “Here are some student examples of the best work”? How did you feel as your teacher pointed out how the superior work differed from the standard work? If you felt like there was no way you could match or compete with those works, you were and are not alone. A study published in the magazine Psychological Science and described in Education Week looked at how young adults and college-aged adults responded to seeing “superior” student work. Let’s just say they were not fans of it. If the students thought the superior work was normal, they were more likely to feel dejected about their own attempt and lose the motivation to do well. It’s sad that showing student work can be harmful because even I believe that’s an unintended consequence.
In K-12 I was another student hearing “This is what the best student work looks like” and hating my own work. I remember in first grade I liked my art teacher but he had a few students that were his go-tos for superior work. The one guy eventually got accepted into a prestigious art school, which says a lot about his art abilities. In fourth and fifth grade there was a boy who was a literal math genius. He was taking high school math classes and of course our math teachers pointed out how smart he was. While part of his academic success was based on him coming from a culture that valued intelligence and success, he was freakishly smart. Us losers were expected to at least aspire to be him. I finally got a chance to shine (to a point) in high school from 9th to 12th grade when I was known for my English skills. It was not publicly announced that I could write and everyone should follow my lead, but it was admittedly nice being recognized for my skills through notes on my homework.
My undergraduate career in college was finally when I was publicly recognized as producing superior work in my English classes. I enjoyed the attention, I did, but I wondered how my fellow students were handling it. I knew that I would major in English and work at the Writing Studio while they had other goals and were only in English 101 and 102 because it was required for everyone. I would’ve hated being told “Here’s an example of quality English writing” after being told the same thing my entire academic life when my work was not considered superior.
One thing I wished the study went more in depth on was how being shown examples of superior student work is different in K-12 versus college. My theory is that it hurts more in K-12 because you don’t know how to handle potential dejection as well and may be more likely to lose interest in school as a whole. College is different because most students want to be there and are more willing to learn from “superior” work without taking it (so) personal. Also, in college we might be motivated to make said superior work even better. The researchers who conducted this study as well as future researchers of success in academia should definitely look into this further.
In the meantime, my question for all of you is, have you been shown examples of superior student work in your various classes? How did you react to it? Do you believe this method is more helpful or hurtful?
I have mentioned the former Sunnyside Superette’s demise in at least one post and I may have mentioned that the former owner Peter McGinley had a horrible attitude towards competitors (Sheetz) and former customers. In my town you don’t talk bad about family-run businesses, especially those that have to compete with West Virginia University-owned businesses. The older residents make sure of it. That’s why I have turned to blogging about it. Where Sunnyside Superette is concerned, I admit that I get a spark of energy every time I find out that McGinley is pulling another low stunt even after he claimed that he was hurting about being put out of business but he was over holding grudges. I knew he wouldn’t accept his fate graciously and it gives me a sense of joy to write “I told you so!” At the same time, I approached any previous writings about Sunnyside Superette with caution, knowing that if I wrote anything negative it would either be ignored or torn to shreds. If you check the Sunnyside Superette Facebook page you’ll see that the store has received nothing but praise and former college students will say that they have fond memories of shopping at or working at the Sunnyside Superette. Nobody believes that the owner is a world-class jerk.
Today I come bearing photographic evidence. At least one of these signs has been on the empty building since late January but today is the first time I saw it in person.
All criticism that Peter McGinley used to express was geared towards Sheetz, so I was at first surprised by the vitriol McGinley directed towards West Virginia University and President Gee. I got over the initial shock quickly in favor of some more substantial thoughts. First, I am beginning to think that not only does Peter McGinley still hold multiple grudges, he isn’t sure who to be most angry with (whether it’s Sheetz or West Virginia University). I’m not saying it’s that McGinley has been lying about thinking Sheetz is an evil corporation because he’s been angry at both entities since WVU approved the public-private partnership with Sheetz, but if he is still posting angry signs then it would at least boost his credibility to pick one, the other, or both. Second, McGingley needs to knock off his bad attitude and stop posting angry signs. He was the one who chose to close Sunnyside Superette and hating on the other businesses is not going to bring his back.