Colorado Springs Learns a Lesson

You want services, you gots to pay for them (h/t):

This tax-averse city is about to learn what it looks and feels like when budget cuts slash services most Americans consider part of the urban fabric.
More than a third of the streetlights in Colorado Springs will go dark Monday. The police helicopters are for sale on the Internet. The city is dumping firefighting jobs, a vice team, burglary investigators, beat cops — dozens of police and fire positions will go unfilled.
The parks department removed trash cans last week, replacing them with signs urging users to pack out their own litter.
Neighbors are encouraged to bring their own lawn mowers to local green spaces, because parks workers will mow them only once every two weeks. If that.

Water cutbacks mean most parks will be dead, brown turf by July; the flower and fertilizer budget is zero.

City recreation centers, indoor and outdoor pools, and a handful of museums will close for good March 31 unless they find private funding to stay open. Buses no longer run on evenings and weekends. The city won’t pay for any street paving, relying instead on a regional authority that can meet only about 10 percent of the need.
“I guess we’re going to find out what the tolerance level is for people,” said businessman Chuck Fowler, who is helping lead a private task force brainstorming for city budget fixes. “It’s a new day.”
Some residents are less sanguine, arguing that cuts to bus services, drug enforcement and treatment and job development are attacks on basic needs for the working class.

I wonder how many of those “some residents” have voted against every fucking tax increase?

Combatting IDiots in the School Board

Spencer, Iowa kids are going to get the science education they need, thanks to folks who ensured the school board didn’t get snookered by shysters.  And the lessons learned there can apply to anyone whose district is facing an invasion of IDiots:

The defeat of this “religious liberty” policy does harbor potential lessons for others trying to fight these anti-science actions in local school districts. First, college faculty members should not underestimate the power of their opinions on these issues even in school districts where these faculty members do not live.
Yes, some school board members might resent outsiders, but others welcome expertise and attention from respected institutions. This is especially the case if advice is given with courtesy and tact. The school board must be convinced that the aim is to further good science education rather than to impose some ideological hegemony on a small school district. One should try to contact school board members, and see how open they are to outside advice before dismissing any interaction as a lost cause.
Good coordinated actions by coalitions are extremely important. Although I am an incompatibilist in terms of religion and science (i.e., I don’t think that religion and science are philosophically compatible), the fact remains that many religious people do support evolution, science education, and the separation of religion and government. When a common goal is to keep creationism out of schools, and good science education in schools, then the practical thing to do is to work together with interfaith alliances.
Finally, vigilance and rapid action are always important. This means having shoes on the ground — a ready group of educators, scientists, and other allies ready to write letters, draft petitions, and even travel (in our case, about 3-4 hours) in person to places where we could make a difference.

 Good advice, all.  Keep it handy just in case DIsco comes dancing into town…

(Tip o’ the shot glass to the Panda’s Thumb)

Texas Schools Admit Abstinence-Only is Bullshit

Looks like someone woke up and smelled the reality, eh?

Texas currently has the third-highest teen birth rate in the country and “the highest rate of repeat teen births.” It also leads the nation in the amount of government money it spends on abstinence-only education. But some school districts in the state are now shifting away from that approach, admitting that it isn’t working:

“We mainly did it because of our pregnancy rate,” said Whitney Self, lead teacher for health and physical education at the Hays Consolidated Independent School District. “We don’t think abstinence-only is working.” […]

Let’s hope other school districts show as much sense. The teenagers of Texas deserve better than the misinformation they’ve been getting.

War on Xmas Stupidity Begins

Or maybe we should consider it a continuation, because these idiots never really stop fighting their silly little war:

The Texas State Board of Education is currently considering a proposal that would ensure sixth-grade students learn about at least one religious holiday from each of the five major world religions. Currently, students learn about more Christian and Jewish holidays, and Hinduism is excluded. The new proposal would replace Christmas and Rosh Hashanah with Diwali. “It’s outrageous that the war on Christmas continues in our state and in our nation,” said Jonathan Saenz, a lobbyist for the conservative Free Market Foundation.

[snip]

Sixth-grade social studies in Texas “is focused on world geography and cultures,” and Hinduism is the third-largest world religion, following Christianity and Islam. However, one Republican activist serving as an “expert” advising the board said that including more Christian and Jewish holidays “simply acknowledges with accuracy the religious culture of America as it actually exists that these holidays have been awarded their place in the culture by the people themselves.” [emphasis added]

These people are such ginormous fucktards that they don’t even know what “international” means.

For those worried about poor neglected Christianity and Judaism, bear in mind that the kiddies are still expected to learn about Easter and Yom Kippur. Something tells me the students will walk out of class thoroughly Judeo-Christianized, even if they have also learned the shocking truth that a) America isn’t the entire world and b) there are other religions that lots of people believe in. Shocking, but true.

Need to Know

Summers in Seattle are short and fickle, so I’ve been squeezing every last drop I can out of this one. My adventures have taught me how much I need to know.

Learning is one of those endeavors without end. If you stop at a taste, you may believe you’ve been sated – I know people like that, people who nibbled at knowledge and then wandered away in favor of something easier. Maybe it’s because they were force-fed rather than allowed to develop an appetite. Perhaps they came to believe learning was too hard, or they weren’t good at it, or some other bollocks. If they’re lucky, later in life, they’ll get a second chance at the buffet and realize they’ve been starving all along. Maybe they’ll realize how much they need to know.

Maybe they’ll wander down to Ballard Locks and see a man with a telescope.

Wait a second, you say – a telescope at boat locks? In broad daylight? That’s one of the things I love the most about this city, the incongruity of enlightenment, lodged in the most unexpected places. My friend and I headed down to watch the boats travel between Lake Union and Puget Sound, and stumbled into an astronomy lesson. A gentleman had his telescope set up on the lawn across from the visitor’s center, pointed at the sun. He had a passel of people there waiting for their chance to have a close look. And while they sat and stared in awe at solar prominences and the mottled texture of the sun’s surface (yes, it really does look like an orange peel), he gave a little lesson on our nearest star. All for free.

For the first time in my life, I got to view the Sun through a telescope. It looked something like this:

The filigree arches of those prominences will remain etched in my mind forever. There’s nothing quite like seeing it for yourself. And it’ll probably make you want to learn all about the Sun. Just don’t go pointing a telescope toward it without learning about the proper filters, first.

This summer began with my first view of the Moon through a 24-inch telescope at Lowell Observatory. You’ve seen plenty of photos of the Moon. Head on down to your nearest observatory and see it for yourself. It fair takes your breath away.

I’ve spent the summer reading science books. I’ve read up on biology, geology, biogeography, anthropology, and just about everything else I could get my hands on. You’d think I’d be stuffed full o’ knowledge by now. The think about knowing is, the more you know, the more you need. The more you learn, the more you want to learn. At least, if you allow yourself to have fun. And if you take field trips. Field trips are fun.

The more I learn about the world, the more it fascinates me. I don’t take the Earth for granted anymore. I don’t even take my fuchsias for granted now. After reading up on evo devo and evolutionary biology in general, each bloom, each new leaf, looks like a miracle. Even the flaws are fascinating. And I need to know more.

You all probably understand that. You’re Elitist Bastards, after all, or you wouldn’t be here reading this. You’ve felt the need to know.

I’m going to take you two steps further.

First, challenge yourself to learn about something you never had any interest in before. For me, that was biology. For you, it may be chemistry, or political science, or something really arcane like lapidary. Pick a topic and run with it. Learn all you can. See if you don’t discover that a little knowledge means you’re left with a burning need to know.

Second, challenge others. I don’t mean in-your-face challenge. I mean take your knowledge and throw it out there for people to grab hold of. Astronomers, set your telescope up in a public park. Chemists, do some sidewalk demos. Whatever your talent, whatever your area of expertise, even if it’s something as arcane as dorodango. Take it public.

Some religions fish for souls. We shall fish for minds. And I’ll bet you we can hook quite a few. People need to know.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to know how the Cascades formed, what waterfalls really are, and there’s all that Arizona geology I need to know more about…

Right-Wing Fucktards Axe Lincoln

Work continues apace as shit-for-brains rabid right fundies take a wrecking ball to the Texas curriculum. The latest:

According to a draft of the proposed new textbook standards, “biographies of George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, and Stephen F. Austin have been removed from the early grades.” At the same time, Peter Marshall wants more teaching of Christianity’s role “in America’s past“:

Marshall…also recommends that school children get a better understanding of the motivational role the Bible and the Christian faith played in the settling of the original colonies. […]

“In light of the overwhelming historical evidence of the influence of the Christian faith in the founding of America, it is simply not up to acceptable academic standards that throughout the social studies (curriculum standards) I could only find one reference to the role of religion in America’s past,” Marshall said in his review.

Actual education professionals in Texas appeared dismayed at Marshall and Barton’s assessment.

I imagine they did. I also imagine they wish they were merely having a nightmare rather than living one.

If my Texas readers know of any way to counter this crap, please do let us know. It’s gotten ridiculously far out of hand.