Historians back Cronon against Wisconsin witch hunt

March 31, 2011

Just the news, folks.  Just the news.

The Organization of American Historians Speaks Out on Academic Freedom and Defends OAH Member and University of Wisconsin–Madison Professor William Cronon

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 30, 2011

For more information, contact:
Katherine M. Finley, Executive Director
Organization of American Historians
112 N. Bryan Avenue, Bloomington, IN 47401
ph 812.855.7311; fax 812.855.0696

The Executive Committee of the Organization of American Historians (OAH), led by President Alice Kessler-Harris, R. Gordon Hoxie Professor of History at Columbia University, issued the following statement on March 30, 2011, supporting academic freedom and deploring the recent efforts of Wisconsin politicians to intimidate OAH member and professor William Cronon:

The Executive Committee of the Organization of American Historians deplores the efforts of Republican party operatives in the state of Wisconsin to intimidate Professor William Cronon, a distinguished and respected member of our organization and currently the president-elect of our sister association, the American Historical Association. As a professional historian, Professor Cronon has used his extensive knowledge of American history to provide a historical context for recent events in Wisconsin. Requiring him to provide his e-mail correspondence, as the Republican party of Wisconsin has now done, will inevitably have a chilling effect on the capacity of all academics to engage in wide public debate. The timing and character of the Freedom of Information Act request for Professor Cronon’s e-mail correspondence leave no doubt that the purpose of this request is to use the authority of the state to prevent William Cronon from freely exercising his rights as a citizen and as a public employee.

Cronon, a professor of environmental and U.S. western history at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, has come under fire from the Wisconsin Republican party. A longtime member of the OAH and a former member of its executive board, Cronon is the incoming president of the American Historical Association. He has been thrust into the spotlight for his March 15, 2011, blog post and for a subsequent op-ed piece in the New York Times, critical of the Wisconsin legislature and Governor Scott Walker. The OAH Executive Committee believes that the action of the Wisconsin Republican party in requesting e-mails sent by Professor Cronon will have a negative impact on academics who engage in wide public debate.

For Further Reading

American Historical Association, “AHA Deplores Effort to Intimidate William Cronon,” online posting, March 27, 2011, AHA Today http://blog.historians.org/news/1293/aha-council-deplores-recent-intimidation-efforts-aimed-at-cronon.

William Cronon, “Who’s Really Behind Recent Republican Legislation in Wisconsin and Elsewhere? (Hint: It Didn’t Start Here),” online posting, March 15, 2011, Scholar as Citizen, http://scholarcitizen.williamcronon.net/2011/03/15/alec/.

William Cronon, “Wisconsin’s Radical Break,” New York Times, March 21, 2011, http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/22/opinion/22cronon.html.

William Cronon, “Abusing Open Records to Attack Academic Freedom,” online posting, March 24, 2011, Scholar as Citizen, http://scholarcitizen.williamcronon.net/2011/03/24/open-records-attack-on-academic-freedom/.

Posted: Mar. 30, 2011


Surely ALEC wouldn’t be purging e-mails that are now evidence, would they?

March 26, 2011

You could write a soap opera about this stuff.

You remember Wisconsin?  Remember the teachers, cops, firefighters and other public employee unions?

Of course.  And it’s still a mess.  Gov. Scott  “Ahab” Walker signed into law a bill that would have the effect of abrogating union contracts without any bargaining, but the skullduggery used to sneak the bill through the Wisconsin legislature opened the door to charges that Wisconsin open meetings laws were violated, and a judge has stayed the implementation of the law.

In the meantime, a Wisconsin historian stepped up to lend historical perspective to the whole affair.  He thought he was turning on some lights, but Wisconsin Republicans have treated it like great heat.

[Off-topic note:  Some creatures are negatively photo-tropic, which means they avoid light.  You know, like the way the cockroaches in your first New York apartment scattered when you’d turn on the light.]

So, just as Virginia Attorney General and Chief Inquisitor and Witch Hunter Ken Cucinelli tried with those pesky scientists who keep finding the global temperature rising, Wisconsin Republican legislators have turned on the historian.  Here’s how the  New York Times‘ editorial, “A Shabby Crusade in Wisconsin,”  described it:

The historian, William Cronon, is the Frederick Jackson Turner and Vilas research professor of history, geography and environmental studies at the University of Wisconsin, and was recently elected president of the American Historical Association. Earlier this month, he was asked to write an Op-Ed article for The Times on the historical context of Gov. Scott Walker’s effort to strip public-employee unions of bargaining rights. While researching the subject, he posted on his blog several critical observations about the powerful network of conservatives working to undermine union rights and disenfranchise Democratic voters in many states.

In particular, he pointed to the American Legislative Exchange Council, a conservative group backed by business interests that circulates draft legislation in every state capital, much of it similar to the Wisconsin law, and all of it unmatched by the left. Two days later, the state Republican Party filed a freedom-of-information request with the university, demanding all of his e-mails containing the words “Republican,” “Scott Walker,” “union,” “rally,” and other such incendiary terms. (The Op-Ed article appeared five days after that.)

American Legislative Exchange Council.  ALEC, in K Street lobbyist parlance.

But, Dear Reader, do you see the potential problem here for Republicans in Wisconsin?  They have based their request on a Wisconsin law that prohibits private use of state-supplied e-mail — no politicking, no religious proselytizing.

What about all those ALEC e-mails to Wisconsin Republican legislators?  Sure, they’re more than fair-game for such a witch hunt, too.  And, since it’s the state Republican Party, and not a state or other public official making the FOIA request, surely that means the Republicans would not mind a similar request to cover contacts legislators had with the Wisconsin Republican Party, to the National Republican Party, or even ALEC itself.

Fair is fair, right?

ALEC generally has better lawyers than state legislators, and so we’d expect a group like that to recognize they could be in trouble.

Of course, purging of e-mails now would be a crime, a Watergate-style cover-up, destruction of evidence and obstruction of justice — after it’s become clear that there could be court action and claims of violation of law.

Jean Detjen provided links to the stories of the attacks on the distinguished Prof. Cronon over the last couple of days.  In a Facebook exchange, I noted that ALEC is fair game for such a witch hunt fishing expedition FOIA inquiry, too.

Don’t look now, Ms. Detjen said — but the ALEC site is down.

Server Error

The server encountered an internal error and was unable to complete your request.

JRun closed connection.

[Here’s a general link — try it, and let me know when the site is back up, if Paul Weyrich and the other ALEC-ians don’t skip to Brazil.]

Surely ALEC wouldn’t be illegally purging e-mails to Wisconsin, New York, Ohio, Texas, Idaho, Washington, California, Arizona, Florida, Kentucky, Louisiana and Florida legislators, would it?

Update:  As of this evening, March 26, 2011, the ALEC site is back up.  Why was it down?

The NYT editorial closed with this:

The party refuses to say why it wants the messages; Mr. Cronon believes it is hoping to find that he is supporting the recall of Republican state senators, which would be against university policy and which he denies. This is a clear attempt to punish a critic and make other academics think twice before using the freedom of the American university to conduct legitimate research.

Professors are not just ordinary state employees. As J. Harvie Wilkinson III, a conservative federal judge on the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, noted in a similar case, state university faculty members are “employed professionally to test ideas and propose solutions, to deepen knowledge and refresh perspectives.” A political fishing expedition through a professor’s files would make it substantially harder to conduct research and communicate openly with colleagues. And it makes the Republican Party appear both vengeful and ridiculous.

Well, yeah, Wisconsin’s Republicans wouldn’t want to be caught stifling discussion, nor taking revenge on a whistle-blower — because certainly if Cronon’s e-mails are discoverable with an FOIA request, he is a Wisconsin state employee.  “Whew,” the Wisconsin Republicans might wheeze:  Wisconsin has no specific whistleblower protection.  Ah, the plot thickens:  There are general laws that would appear, to me, a no-longer-practicing-in-that-area lawyer, to offer some protections for any employee engaged in general political speech, or in speech protecting the employee’s rights, or in speech designed to shed light on a wrongful or wrongfully executed official act — that is, Cronon’s evidence showing the unsavory and potentially illegal links of legislators to businessmen and business groups, and the potential conspiracy issues of ALEC’s nationally-directed efforts to use state legislators to gut union laws.

I wish Ahab would just get Jesus and quit thickening the plot.

More, resources, links from Jean Detjen and others:

Obviously, big tip of the old scrub brush to Jean Detjen, in Wisconsin.


Ohio news: No creationist right to burn crosses on junior high science students

December 1, 2010

Oops!  Update and correction, from NCSE, applies equally here:

Update and correction (December 1, 2010): The case is apparently not officially settled after all. What was approved was not the overall proposed settlement, but the terms of the settlement as it concerns Zachary Dennis (a minor) — the “James Doe” of the suit — and it was approved not by the judge presiding over the case, Gregory L. Frost of the Federal District Court for the Southern District of Ohio, but by Licking County Probate Judge Robert Hoover, acting in his role as Juvenile Court Judge for the county. The settlement still needs to be approved by Judge Frost.

John Freshwater’s side finally agreed to a settlement in the suit against him and the local school district prompted by his using an electrical device, a small Tesla coil testing device, to burn crosses on the arms of students.  Thus mostly ends one of the more bizarre stories of creationism and misguided religion in a public school classroom.

Here is the entire story in all its anticlimactic wonder, from the Mount Vernon (Ohio) News:

Judge approves settlement in civil lawsuit

NEWARK — Licking County Probate Judge Robert Hoover on Nov. 23 approved a settlement agreement with regard to the civil lawsuit filed on behalf of Zachary Dennis against suspended Mount Vernon Middle School teacher John Freshwater.

The lawsuit was originally filed in the U.S District Court on June 13, 2008, and included as defendants the Mount Vernon City Schools Board of Education and various school employees. The suit alleged that Freshwater violated the constitutional rights of Zachary Dennis and those of his parents, Stephen and Jennifer Dennis, by, among other things, displaying religious items in his classroom, by teaching intelligent design and by expressing his own religious beliefs to students in the classroom.

The board’s portion of the lawsuit was resolved on or about Aug. 26, 2009, and Freshwater was the sole remaining defendant.

With Judge Hoover’s ruling last Tuesday, the suit against Freshwater was officially settled. The settlement of $475,000 to the Dennis family includes $25,000 for attorney fees, $150,000 each to Stephen and Jennifer, and $150,000 to be used for an annuity for Zachary.

At Panda’s Thumb, Richard B. Hoppe’s complete covering of the case notes that we still await the decision of the referee in the proceeding of John Freshwater’s appeal of his firing, and school board action on that recommendation.

At length, then, officially, it’s a bad idea for a creationist science teacher to burn crosses on the arms of supposedly-willing students using a Tesla coil, in any configuration. Yet to be determined:  May a school board fire a teacher who does that anyway?

More:


What about the crazy, militant Christians?

September 9, 2010

Pastor Joe Leavell, recently a frequent bather in Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub, reports on the crazy — it doesn’t involve burning anybody’s scripture, but it’s pretty offensive.

Not sure if you heard about the first army chaplain to have been killed since the 70s, but he was killed on Aug. 30th in Afghanistan. Several pastors I know knew him as a personal dear friend – a true American hero who loved God, loved the troops he served, and gave his life going above and beyond to be with them.

Guess who will be there protesting his funeral? Westboro Baptist Church – protesting the funeral of a Baptist chaplain! The only way it ties in to this discussion is the “should factor”, but I’m sorry – I just had to voice that this sort of stuff is so disgraceful and makes me so upset – especially when our soldiers are dying to give them the freedom to protest at their funerals! :-( For shame!

Here’s the news article:
kktv.com/military/headlines/102406419.html

At KKTV’s site the story is very short; here it is the complete article:

Posted: 9:54 PM Sep 7, 2010
Reporter: KKTV News
Email Address: news@kktv.com

A controversial Baptist Church group from Kansas says they’ll be in Southern Colorado to protest at a funeral for an army chaplain who was killed in Afghanistan.

Captain Dale Goetz died August 30 in Afghanistan. He’s the first army chaplain to die in combat since 1970.

A funeral has been set for Thursday at Fort Carson, and that’s where the Westboro Baptist Church says they’ll be as well to protest.

Members of the church have repeatedly protested the acceptance of homosexuals by picketing at the funerals of fallen soldiers.

It’s very controversial move.

11 News is asking what do you think about the planned demonstration? We’d like to hear from you. Just comment on this story on the 11 news Facebook page or here on kktv.com.

Time Magazine’s blog carries more details of Pastor Goetz’s life and an interesting tribute to the value of military chaplains in war.

He [Goetz] acknowledged that Muslim concerns over what they perceive as a degenerate Western culture can drive some Muslims toward terror. “As Americans we repudiate the practice of the terrorist,” he said. “Though I disagree with their practice, I do understand their complaints against western society.” Goetz wondered if Americans are devoted to something so much that they would willingly die for it. “Our love for freedom is worth dying for,” he concluded, “and many have gone before us to preserve this freedom.”

Read more: http://swampland.blogs.time.com/2010/09/03/army-chaplain-dale-goetz-rip/#ixzz0z25p1eqN

(South Dakota will fly flags at half-staff today, September 9,  in Goetz’s honor. See also the post at Urban Grounds.)

Early in the U.S. involvement in World War II Americans had to put up with those factions who had argued that the U.S. should intervene on Germany’s side in Europe.  But I don’t recall that the pro-Germany groups kept up their protests much after Germany declared war on the U.S.  In the long arc of the history of our wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, America’s longest-ever wars, does a sense of history and honor smack the crazies in Christian pulpits in the head to make them think?

Our Constitution’s strength proves itself over and over, as courts have ruled that Westboro Baptist has the right to make these protests.  Their continued exercise of that right is a testament against the lack of a national education system and against the virtue of religion in the failure of common decency of the tiny band of protesters.  Al Queada draws strength from the protests of the Westboro crew, and al Quaeda draws recruits from the actions of the Florida band who plans to burn scriptures.

Walt Kelly’s Pogo observed, “We has met the enemy, and he is us.”

Update: You couldn’t make this stuff up if you tried:  The Westboro Baptist group is angry that their burning of a Qur’an many months ago didn’t get them more attention.  I am reminded that James Earl Ray and Timothy McVeigh both expressed disappointment that their work didn’t get more attention and sympathetic action, too.


MomsRising Healthcare Truth Squad

August 22, 2009

I get e-mail.  In all the discouraging folderol on the health care debate, it’s nice to know that a few people are carrying the torch for democracy and good republican government like these ladies.

Red caped mothers and others in Baltimore, before the U.S.S. Constellation, campaigning to dispel false rumors about health care reform, on August 19, 2009.  Image from MomsRising.com

Red caped mothers and others in Baltimore, before the U.S.S. Constellation, campaigning to dispel false rumors about health care reform, on August 19, 2009. Image from MomsRising.com

Watch for the ladies in red capes.  Barney Frank won’t ask what planet they spend their time on, I’ll wager.

Note links to more information, or to join in their merriment, in the letter.

Faster than a toddler crawling toward an uncovered electrical outlet and more powerful than a teenager’s social networking skills, moms across the country have been fanning out to dispel the unfounded rumors, misconceptions, and lies about healthcare reform.

MomsRising Healthcare Truth Squad members, dressed in red capes, have been distributing powerful truth flyers across the nation to passersby to educate them about what healthcare reform will really do, and about how it will help to ensure the economic security of families across the country.

“I must admit that I don’t normally wear a cape in public, but it was oddly empowering.  We knew we were having an impact on the larger conversation about healthcare when a news camera starting following us around. I definitely recommend life as a superhero,” say Donna, a cape wearing SuperMom for Healthcare.

*Let’s give our caped myth-busting moms some “online backup” by Truth Tagging friends with healthcare reform myths & facts today–it’s a virtual distribution of the same facts that the MomsRising Healthcare Truth Squad members are handing out in-person:

http://momsrising.democracyinaction.org/o/1768/tellafriend.jsp?tell_a_friend_KEY=4728

It’s going to take thousands of super heroines speaking up in order to get the healthcare debate back on track. We can’t all be out on the streets in capes, so please take a moment now to spread the word and bust some myths via email to friends and family by clicking the link above.

Why’s this so important to moms right now? Over 46 million people in our nation don’t have any healthcare coverage at all, including millions of children. Not only are families struggling with getting children the healthcare coverage they need for a healthy start, but 7 out of 10 women are either uninsured, underinsured, or are in significant debt due to healthcare costs. In fact, a leading cause of bankruptcy is healthcare costs — and over 70% of those who do go bankrupt due to healthcare costs had insurance at the start of their illness. Clearly we need to fix our broken healthcare system!

Don’t forget to help put some more truth into the mix of the national dialogue on healthcare reform right now:

http://momsrising.democracyinaction.org/o/1768/tellafriend.jsp?tell_a_friend_KEY=4728

Onward!
–Kristin, Joan, Donna, Ashley, Julia, Dionna, Katie, Anita, Sarah, Mary, and the entire MomsRising Team

P.S.  We’ve been hearing so much positive feedback about our caped crusading moms that it might be time to lead a giant march of moms on the National Capitol Mall.  Tell us what you think: http://www.momsrising.org/blog/bust-a-myth-tag-a-friend-with-the-truth-about-healthcare/

P.P.S.  Want to get more involved with the MomsRising Healthcare Truth Squad members? Click here: http://momsrising.democracyinaction.org/o/1768/t/9251/signUp.jsp?key=4284

P.P.P.S. When you go to the Truth Squad Tag page, you can also see a video of our MomsRising Healthcare Truth Squad in action wearing capes! http://momsrising.democracyinaction.org/o/1768/tellafriend.jsp?tell_a_friend_KEY=4727

Here’s the video:


The article the British Chiropractic Association hopes you will not read

July 31, 2009

Science-based Medicine carried this article yesterday, and several other blogs have joined in.  Below is the article Simon Singh wrote for which he is being sued for libel by the professional association for British chiropractors.  It’s a good cause, so I’ll stretch it another little while.

Science-based Medicine introduced the article with this:

Last year Simon Singh wrote a piece for the Guardian that was critical of the modern practice of chiropractic. The core of his complaint was that chiropractors provide services and make claims that are not adequately backed by evidence – they are not evidence-based practitioners. In response to his criticism the British Chiropractic Association (BCA) sued Simon personally for libel. They refused offers to publish a rebuttal to his criticism, or to provide the evidence Simon said was lacking. After they were further criticized for this, the BCA eventually produced an anemic list of studies purported to support the questionable treatments, but really just demonstrating the truth of Simon’s criticism (as I discuss at length here).

In England suing for libel is an effective strategy for silencing critics. The burden of proof is on the one accused (guilty until proven innnocent) and the costs are ruinous. Simon has persisted, however, at great personal expense.

This is an issue of vital importance to science-based medicine. A very necessary feature of science is public debate and criticism – absolute transparency.This is also not an isolated incident. Some in the alternative medicine community are attempting to assert that criticism is unprofessional, and they have used accusations of both unprofessionalism and libel as a method of silencing criticism of their claims and practices. This has happened to David Colquhoun and Ben Goldacre, and others less prominent but who have communicated to me directly attempts at silencing their criticism.

This behavior is intolerable and is itself unprofessional, an assault on academic freedom and free speech, and anathema to science as science is dependent upon open and vigorous critical debate.

What those who will attempt to silence their critics through this type of bullying must understand is that such attempts will only result in the magnification of the criticism by several orders of magnitude. That is why we are reproducing Simon Singh’s original article (with a couple of minor alterations) on this site and many others. Enjoy.

Here it is:

Beware the spinal trap

Some practitioners claim it is a cure-all but research suggests chiropractic therapy can be lethal

Simon Singh
The Guardian, Original version published Saturday April 19 2008
Edited version published July 29, 2009

You might be surprised to know that the founder of chiropractic therapy, Daniel David Palmer, wrote that “99% of all diseases are caused by displaced vertebrae”. In the 1860s, Palmer began to develop his theory that the spine was involved in almost every illness because the spinal cord connects the brain to the rest of the body. Therefore any misalignment could cause a problem in distant parts of the body.

In fact, Palmer’s first chiropractic intervention supposedly cured a man who had been profoundly deaf for 17 years. His second treatment was equally strange, because he claimed that he treated a patient with heart trouble by correcting a displaced vertebra.

You might think that modern chiropractors restrict themselves to treating back problems, but in fact some still possess quite wacky ideas. The fundamentalists argue that they can cure anything, including helping treat children with colic, sleeping and feeding problems, frequent ear infections, asthma and prolonged crying – even though there is not a jot of evidence.

I can confidently label these assertions as utter nonsense because I have co-authored a book about alternative medicine with the world’s first professor of complementary medicine, Edzard Ernst. He learned chiropractic techniques himself and used them as a doctor. This is when he began to see the need for some critical evaluation. Among other projects, he examined the evidence from 70 trials exploring the benefits of chiropractic therapy in conditions unrelated to the back. He found no evidence to suggest that chiropractors could treat any such conditions.

But what about chiropractic in the context of treating back problems? Manipulating the spine can cure some problems, but results are mixed. To be fair, conventional approaches, such as physiotherapy, also struggle to treat back problems with any consistency. Nevertheless, conventional therapy is still preferable because of the serious dangers associated with chiropractic.

In 2001, a systematic review of five studies revealed that roughly half of all chiropractic patients experience temporary adverse effects, such as pain, numbness, stiffness, dizziness and headaches. These are relatively minor effects, but the frequency is very high, and this has to be weighed against the limited benefit offered by chiropractors.

More worryingly, the hallmark technique of the chiropractor, known as high-velocity, low-amplitude thrust, carries much more significant risks. This involves pushing joints beyond their natural range of motion by applying a short, sharp force. Although this is a safe procedure for most patients, others can suffer dislocations and fractures.

Worse still, manipulation of the neck can damage the vertebral arteries, which supply blood to the brain. So-called vertebral dissection can ultimately cut off the blood supply, which in turn can lead to a stroke and even death. Because there is usually a delay between the vertebral dissection and the blockage of blood to the brain, the link between chiropractic and strokes went unnoticed for many years. Recently, however, it has been possible to identify cases where spinal manipulation has certainly been the cause of vertebral dissection.

Laurie Mathiason was a 20-year-old Canadian waitress who visited a chiropractor 21 times between 1997 and 1998 to relieve her low-back pain. On her penultimate visit she complained of stiffness in her neck. That evening she began dropping plates at the restaurant, so she returned to the chiropractor. As the chiropractor manipulated her neck, Mathiason began to cry, her eyes started to roll, she foamed at the mouth and her body began to convulse. She was rushed to hospital, slipped into a coma and died three days later. At the inquest, the coroner declared: “Laurie died of a ruptured vertebral artery, which occurred in association with a chiropractic manipulation of the neck.”

This case is not unique. In Canada alone there have been several other women who have died after receiving chiropractic therapy, and Edzard Ernst has identified about 700 cases of serious complications among the medical literature. This should be a major concern for health officials, particularly as under-reporting will mean that the actual number of cases is much higher.

If spinal manipulation were a drug with such serious adverse effects and so little demonstrable benefit, then it would almost certainly have been taken off the market.


Simon Singh is a science writer in London and the co-author, with Edzard Ernst, of Trick or Treatment? Alternative Medicine on Trial. This is an edited version of an article published in The Guardian for which Singh is being personally sued for libel by the British Chiropractic Association.

Other venues:

Related material:


Creationist hypocrisy. Film at 11:00

April 22, 2009

Under the ironic headline, “Why is critical evaluation of Darwinism not allowed in the public square?” Wintery Knight‘s blog has a bold, typically inaccurate defense of the bullying tactics of ID advocates.

But critical evaluation?  Just try to post a comment critical of intelligent design.

Why are ID advocates almost to a person such supreme hypocrites, and unintentional clowns?  Is there a law that says one must be a noob to be an ID advocate?

____________________

Update, May 3: Here’s my challenge to you, dear reader:  See if you can post a comment at all at Wintery Knight’s rant. Post a copy of your comments here, too, and let’s count to see whether this fellow is just one more supreme, Pharisaical hypocrite, or just an incompetent blogger.


Evolution and state science standards in Florida

April 22, 2009

WJCT TV and FM in Jacksonville, Florida, has a televised discussion on evolution in the state science standards set for April 23.  It’s set for 8 p.m. — Eastern Time, I’m guessing.

From the station’s blog (quoted entirely):

tri-brand-logo4

First Coast Forum – Schools, Science, and the State  – Thursday, April 23rd at 8pm on 89.9 FM and WJCT TV

The Florida Board of Education recently revised its science standards to require the teaching of evolution. The state legislature has met twice since then, and both times lawmakers have proposed bills requiring a “critical analysis” of this scientific theory. The latest bill— sponsored by Jacksonville Senator Steven Wise—didn’t get far in this year’s session, but this controversial debate is likely to continue. Senator Wise says it’s important to expose students to other ideas such as intelligent design. Critics argue that challenging evolution could open a door for religious doctrine in science classes.

What should our students learn and who should decide? We’ll discuss these issues with local lawmakers, religious experts, teachers, and parents on our next First Coast Forum Schools, Science, and the State, April 23rd at 8pm only on WJCT.

Panelists:

  • Steve Goyer – pastor representing OneJax
  • Dr. Marianne Barnes, UNF Education Professor
  • Stan Jordan, Duval County School Board, former state legislator
  • Rachel Raneri, Duval County District School Advisory Council Chair
  • David Campbell, Orange Park Ridgeview H.S. teacher
  • Quinton White, JU
  • Paul Hooker of the Presbytery of St. Augustine

Viewers can participate in First Coast Forum
Email questions and comments to firstcoastforum@wjct.org or by calling (904) 358-6347 during the program.


Should teachers blog?

January 21, 2009

Teachers are public employees (most of us).  Should we blog about education and teaching?

Interestingly, there is a good case to be made that public employees have more First Amendment protection than private employees (should teachers in KIPP, charter and parochial schools blog?).

Larry Solum at Legal Theory highlights Paul Secunda’s article:

Paul M. Secunda (Marquette University – Law School) has posted Blogging While (Publicly) Employed: Some First Amendment Implications (University of Louisville Law Review, Vol. 47, No. 4, 2009) on SSRN.

I’ll wager most teachers are not common users of SSRN, so let’s steal Solum’s posting of the abstract of the article, too:

While private-sector employees do not have First Amendment free speech protection for their blogging activities relating to the workplace, public employees may enjoy some measure of protection depending on the nature of their blogging activity. The essential difference between these types of employment stems from the presence of state action in the public employment context. Although a government employee does not have the same protection from governmental speech infringement as citizens do under the First Amendment, a long line of cases under Pickering v. Bd. of Education have established a modicum of protection, especially when the public employee blogging is off-duty and the blog post does not concern work-related matters.

Describing the legal protection for such public employee bloggers is an important project as many employers recently have ratcheted up their efforts to limit or ban employee blogging activities while blogging by employees simultaneously continues to expand. It should therefore not be surprising that the act of being fired for blogging about one’s employer has even led to a term being coined: “dooced.” So the specific question that this essay addresses is: do dooced employees have any First Amendment protection in the workplace? But the larger issue examined by implication, and the one addressed by this Symposium, is the continuing impact of technology on First Amendment free speech rights at the beginning of the 21st Century.

This contribution to the Symposium proceeds in three parts. It first examines the predicament of private-sector employees who choose to blog about their workplaces. The second section then lays out the potential First Amendment free speech implications for public employees who engage in the same types of activities. Finally, the third section briefly considers a potential future trend in this context from Kentucky involving government employers banning employee access to all blogs while at work.

I’ve been wondering where are the cases of student blogs dealing with serious First Amendment issues.  I think we’re overdue for more litigation in that area.


Separation of church and hate

November 18, 2008

Florida protest, photo found at Quark Soup

Florida protest, photo found at Quark Soup

We’re in the middle of grading; I confess I do not know what this protest is about (Proposition 2?  What is that?).

The line is priceless, regardless.

Who is going to order the bumperstickers?

Found the photo at Quark Soup.


Ian Hamilton’s blog is back; “Stone of Destiny” is on the screen

October 15, 2008

We need good news from any quarter:  Ian Hamilton’s blog is back in action.  You remember Hamilton, one of the more recent heroes in the saga of the Stone of Destiny.

Maybe just in time, too.  Charles Martin Smith’s movie of Ian Hamilton’s story, “Stone of Destiny,” is just recently released, with dates booked in the UK and Canada.  You may have to call your local theatre in the U.S. to ask that they book the film.

Poster for Charles Martin Smiths Stone of Destiny, based on Ian Hamiltons story.

Poster for Charles Martin Smith's "Stone of Destiny," based on Ian Hamilton's story.

Hamilton captured the Stone of Destiny, the Stone of Scone, from Westminster Abbey on Christmas Day, 1950.  The Stone is the traditional seat of power for the throne of Scotland, and its presence in London was a source of irritation to Scot nationalists.

The Stone of Scone is reputed to be the stone upon which Jacob slept when he dreamed of ladders to heaven (see Genesis 28).

You cannot make this stuff up.  This is great history.

Resources:


Should a teacher let students know her voting preferences?

October 14, 2008

Law professor Stanley Fish tackled the issues around teachers wearing campaign buttons in the classroom, at his blog with the New York Times.

Fish says teachers don’t have a free speech right to wear buttons supporting their favorite candidates.

My point is made for me by William Van Alstyne, past President of the AAUP and one of the world’s leading authorities on the first amendment. In a letter to current president Nelson, Van Alstyne corrects his view that faculty “have a first amendment right” to wear campaign buttons. “I have no doubt at all,” he declares, “that a university rule disallowing faculty members from exhibiting politically-partisan buttons in the classroom is not only not forbidden by the first amendment; rather, it is a perfectly well-justified policy that would easily be sustained against a faculty member who disregards the policy.”

Right! It’s no big deal. It’s a policy matter, not a moral or philosophical matter, and as long as the policy is reasonably related to the institution’s purposes, it raises no constitutional issues at all. On Oct. 10, the United Federation of Teachers filed suit to reverse the button ban, claiming that the free speech rights of teachers had been violated. If that’s their case, they’ll lose.

I think he’s right — check out his post, and tell us what you think.


Ready for Banned Books Week?

August 30, 2008

We celebrate Banned Books Week September 27 through October 4 this year. Well, maybe it’s more accurate to say we celebrate the books that get banned, and the idea that freedom and liberty require that we not ban books.

Banned Books Week image from Tattered Cover Book Store in Denver

Banned Books Week image from Tattered Cover Book Store in Denver

Banned Books Week has been noted every year since 1982 in a long-running campaign from the American Library Association. Why?

Because ideas matter.  The right to express ideas, and the right to be able to read ideas, are at the foundation of our liberties.

Again in 2007, books most frequently targeted for banning include And Tango Makes Three, a delightful children’s story about two penguins taking care of an orphaned egg (too much like homosexuality), and Mark Twain’s powerful, essentially-American novel that makes the case against racism, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (ironically, because complainants claim to find the book racist).

People who ask that these books be pulled from the shelves often fail to recognize the irony — why should we ban a book about caring for orphans, or the book that makes the case against racism?

The Tattered Cover Book Store in Denver sponsors an annual Banned Books Week essay contest for Colorado teens, in conjunction with the Colorado Freedom of Expression Foundation.

How will your school and local public library commemorate Banned Books Week?  Which banned books will you read, and urge others to read?

Which banned books are on your reading lists for classroom use? Does that strike a little too close to home?  Then you need to get informed, and get active.


900,000

August 14, 2008

Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub passed the 900,000 clicks mark about 8 a.m. Central Time.

Thanks to readers.

Dear Readers, leave more comments! Anonymous visitors, you know who you are.  Exercise your right to free speech, here, at Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub.

As people like Emma Goldman were prevented from speaking, societies formed to protect the right to free speech. A pamphlet created by Alden Freeman alerted people to the fight for free speech. It contains a tongue-in-cheek New York Times account of his attempt to hold a meeting where Emma Goldman could speak freely and without police restriction.

"As people like Emma Goldman were prevented from speaking, societies formed to protect the right to free speech. A pamphlet created by Alden Freeman alerted people to the fight for free speech. It contains a tongue-in-cheek New York Times account of his attempt to hold a meeting where Emma Goldman could speak freely and without police restriction."

From UC Berkeley’s Digital Library, The Emma Goldman Papers, “The Fight for Free Speech.”  Curriculum and lesson plans for high school and middle school classes.


Irony: Celebrate Solzhenitsyn, not his ideas

August 5, 2008

In the old, old movie, from the H. G. Wells story, “Things to Come,” the forces of scientific good (led by Raymond Massey) use a gas to knock out warring parties, to stop the shooting, and to give the good guys a chance to disarm disputants and set things right.

1936 movie poster for Things to Come - WikiMedia image

1936 movie poster for "Things to Come" - WikiMedia image

That was fictional. The “Gas of Peace” doesn’t exist.

The sniping will continue about P. Z. Myers’ complaint that some Catholics grossly over reacted when they threatened death to a fellow who didn’t swallow his wafer at communion, and then kept the wafer (not a hostage — the wafer has been returned), and a lot of the sniping will come from Rod Dreher at the Dallas Morning News.

Did anyone else note the irony of Dreher’s comments commending the ideas of the late Alexander Solzhenitsyn, who campaigned his entire life against authoritative oppression of freedom and enforcement of ideas against all good and common sense, while at the same time railing against Myers’ similar campaign?

Santayana’s Ghost needs to do more active haunting. We can’t excuse tyranny from a church, nor tyranny from any government in the United States of America, either. Freedom typically works better when the freedom to offend is greater than the privilege of being free from being offended. Why doesn’t Dreher see that?

More resources:


%d bloggers like this: