Oklahoma is going to allow “God did it” as scholastic answers

Gus Blackwell, the Republican state representative who introduced the bill, insists that his legislation has nothing to do with religion; it simply encourages scientific exploration. “I proposed this bill because there are teachers and students who may be afraid of going against what they see in their textbooks,” says Blackwell, who previously spent 20 yearsworking for the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma. “A student has the freedom to write a paper that points out that highly complex life may not be explained by chance mutations.”

HB 1674 goes further than a companion bill under consideration in the state Senate by explicitly protecting students, teachers, and schools from being penalized for subscribing to alternative theories. It does, however, say that children may still be tested on widely accepted theories such as anthropogenic climate change. “Students can’t say because I don’t believe in this, I don’t want to learn it,” Blackwell says. “They have to learn it in order to look at the weaknesses.” (here)

So… They can answer tests about the material presented in class with “God did it.”

This country is stoo-pid.

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Of course, Jim

Jim writes,

There are actually Christians who put a premium on ignorance- but only when it comes to study of the Bible- not for any other field of inquiry.   I guess they’ve never read ‘Study to show yourself an approved workman…’

via An Observation on Learning | Zwinglius Redivivus.

We tend to call these fundamentalists. These are the people who discourage any thinking, learning, or otherwise serious engagement of Scripture because of some silly notion of a slippery slope.

You’ve met the types – only the bible. That’s the only library they need.

You know, like the trolls that dot the biblioblogosphere.

Or where I came from.

Oh Arkansas, you do surprise me every now and then….

These classes would also be electives; they would not be required curriculum. There are many people who believe that such a class is a good idea, provided that it’s in a non-religious format; a study of the history of the books of the Bible and correlating those to events discussed in other historical texts, perhaps studying different translations and discussing those differences, and other avenues of study that don’t include preaching.

via Arkansas Legislature Wants Academic Study Of The Bible In Public Schools | Addicting Info.

This would be great, if this was a sincere move. The SBL, I believe has something along these lines as an advocacy program.

Wonder if West Virginia would do something like this?

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Petitions, Adjuncts and Supporting Higher Education

Someone posted on facebook the other day about the load of emails s/he is receiving from helpful and loving souls about pursuing academic degrees and work. Why, they ask, especially since the field is so difficult to break into? I’m not sure about that argument. I am sure, however, that we are living in an increasing anti-intellectual society that is turning on professional teachers as if they were the superstition peddlers of the last century.

That may have no bearing, but I wanted to draw attention to the fact that while work in the intellectual field is difficult to come by, adjuncts are growing in numbers, which is a segway into the meat of this post.

In the last decade or so, we’ve seen the rise of adjuncts as colleges and other institutions of higher learning attempt to divest themselves of those who are tenured or who struggle to keep up with the rising demand of higher education. Given that tenure seems to mean little anymore, whether you are adjunct or not may be a moot point. What is not a moot point, however, is the need for qualified instructors. The qualifications for such an instructor does in fact include education, but so too a full belly, just like a student needs a full belly to learn. Therefore, to provide for the influx of new students and other reasons, colleges have turned to adjuncts.

And the number of adjuncts are growing.

Across the nation, colleges have undergone similar shifts in whom they employ to teach students. About 70 percent of the instructional faculty at all colleges is off the tenure track, whether as part-timers or full-timers, a proportion that has crept higher over the past decade.

Change has occurred more rapidly on some campuses, particularly at regionally oriented public institutions and mid-tier private universities like Saint Joseph’s.

Community colleges have traditionally relied heavily on nontenure-track faculty, with 85 percent of their instructors in 2010 not eligible for tenure, according to the most recent federal data available. But the trend has been increasingly evident at four-year institutions, where nearly 64 percent of the instructional faculty isn’t eligible for tenure.

In the President’s education plan are points intended to help teachers, students, and focus on community colleges. What would be nice is if the President could also include something in the plan that will be delivered to Congress about adjuncts who are growing in numbers. If you want your children properly educated, you are going to have to support the educators.

Therefore, someone has put together a petition that, honestly, should be directed to asking the president instead to include these demands in his educational packages instead of just saying the demands will be delivered to the President. After all, the President ran on an educational platform somewhat.

Adjuncts teaching college students have more than doubled since 1970. Today, they teach well over 60% of classes nationwide, yet they are paid shamefully little in comparison to their tenure or tenure track counterparts. They have no chance for advancement, they have no continuity with their semester-to-semester schedule, and they have no say on anything pertaining to their university or college. Moreover, because they are compensated so unequally, they need to hold several teaching positions in order to support themselves, making their workload unfeasible. If you want a better education for your children, then you must demand better pay and status for the majority of the faculty teaching in today’s institutions of higher education across the country. Demand better salaries for the underpaid and undervalued adjuncts, the contingency labor force that teaches most of the imperative core classes your children need in order to succeed in today’s competitive academic climate.

Sign the petition here.

The Le Donne Questions

The impassable Anthony Le Donne is asking a series of questions… First.. what can academics do once Christian fundamentalists have won the day? Second… what resources might come in handy as a ministry tool?

Seriously, read the post -

The Jesus Blog: What more can be done for academics burned by Christian fundamentalists?.

My first answer, I think, is to provide a support group of sorts. I have not been exiled as an academic – I’m not an academic yet – but I’ve been exiled as a believer by fundies. A support group helps. Emails, calls – other resource help.

Resources…. Whew… That is a big one. I think books like the one written by Richard T. Hughes is a place to start. How do you maintain faith when everyone is telling you you no longer believe…

I dunno… but I think that these questions deserve some careful consideration.

Oh, and let me plug my second book here, by Energion, that will tell the story of several people you may know that have moved from fear to faith.

 

Good news? The SBL Jobs Study

This:

Key Findings

1.    The decade under consideration experienced significant fluctuation in the number of job advertisements. Sharp decline marked 2008 to 2009 (-45.8%) and ad numbers in 2010 were just below ad levels for 2001 (494 and 511 respectively).

2.    In 2008 81.6% of positions listed were tenure track, but this figure decreased to 51.1% in 2009 and 61.0% in 2010. These findings may indicate that the job market for the 2009 academic year fundamentally changed, not only shrinking but apparently reconfiguring with a greater emphasis on non-tenure-track employment.

3.    Hiring for new positions and vacancies accounted for 85.1% of position listings.

4.    For ads posted with SBL and AAR from 2001 through 2010, the three most important skills or experiences desired or required by employers were (in order) holding a Ph.D., prior teaching experience, and interdisciplinary teaching or research.

5.    Data may suggest that demand for Ph.D. and M.A. instruction has increased with little correlative effect on the demand for B.A., M.Div., and Th.D. or D.Min. instruction.

6.    Jobs posted with the organizations were almost exclusively full-time rather than part-time.

7.    Fields of study for positions themselves were diverse but populated three major categories. Positions dealing with modern religions and their histories, including comparative and world religions, accounted for 31.6% of ads. Positions in biblical studies and related disciplines —including Ancient Near Eastern languages and literatures, Second Temple Judaism, and early Christianity —accounted for 29.0% of ads. Positions in theology, philosophy, philosophy of religion, and ethics accounted for 21.9% of ads.

8.    Positions in Islam were the major driver for the growth of positions dealing with modern religions and their histories between 2008 and 2009, increasing fourfold and accounting for 32.9% of such positions in that period.

9.    New Testament and early Christianity positions drove the rebound for positions focused on biblical studies, accounting for 39.5% of such positions in 2010.

10. Positions in theology have led growth among positions in theology, philosophy, philosophy of religion, and ethics, doubling from 2008 to 2010 and accounting for 61.0% of such positions in that period.

11. Not-for-profit, as opposed to public, institutions prevail in terms of the total number of positions.

12. Most jobs at public institutions represent institutions with Master’s and Doctorate programs. Similarly, most jobs at public institutions represent institutions with student enrollment figures of at least 10,000.

13. A majority of positions (64.3%) indicated that hires would teach undergraduate students, while 43.5% of positions indicated that hires would teach Master’s students and 27.0% of positions indicated that hires would teach doctoral students.

14. Positions at Special Focus institutions and Doctorate-granting institutions report the lowest course load at 5.0 and 5.1 courses per annum. Associate institutions report 5.4 courses per annum, while Baccalaureate institutions report 5.9 courses per annum. Master’s institutions reported the highest course load at 6.7 courses per annum.

15. Most hires would teach three to six courses per annum: 77.6% of not-for-profit institution ads and 77.2% of public institution ads indicated that hires would teach three to six courses per annum. Not-for-profit institutions, however, more frequently indicated a higher course load: 66.5% of not-for-profit institution ads indicated that hires would teach five to eight courses per annum, which compares with 51.8% of public institutions ads.

16. Institutions located in 28 countries posted ads with the organizations from 2001 through 2010, representing six of the seven continents. The overwhelming majority of institutions posting job ads with the organizations are located within the United States (90.2%). Five countries posted at least twenty ads from 2001 through 2010: United States, Canada, United Kingdom, New Zealand, and The Netherlands.

I briefly looked, but I didn’t see much on terminations or turn-over — those exiting the industry…

Cedarville University dispenses with Academic Integrity

Less than a year after Cedarville University hired theologian Michael Pahl, administrators relieved the associate professor of his teaching duties.

The issue at stake? A historical Adam and Eve, a debate that dates back to Augustine and has recently cropped up at evangelical schools such as Calvin College and Reformed Theological Seminary. But what appears new in Cedarville’s situation is the trustees’ requirement that faculty hold particular beliefs for particular reasons.

Pahl affirms the Ohio school’s doctrinal statement (recently augmented by trustees via theological white papers) regarding human origins, but his beliefs are based on a literary reading of Genesis 1 and 2.

“I hold to a historical Adam and Eve, though not on exegetical grounds,” Pahl wrote in his defense to trustees, which CT obtained. “My reasons are more theological in nature …. [T]he doctrinal statement does not mandate specific exegesis of specific biblical passages.”

via Crisis of Faith Statements | Christianity Today.

This is the common theme, it seems. First, it was Peter Enns, then Le Donne, then Rollston and now Michael Pahl.

See what Jim has to say.

And, be kind. Buy his books.

And visit his website here.

Follow him on Twitter here.

Read what Dr. Pahl has to say at his blog.

More Homeschooling fun… The History of Gilgamesh and the Myth of Noah’s Ark

The Deluge tablet, carved in stone, of the Gil...

The Deluge tablet, carved in stone, of the Gilgamesh epic in Akkadian, circa 2nd millennium BC. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Yeah, that’ll get me in some trouble…

So, last night, as we ate our dinner, the children and I were discussing Gilgamesh and Utnapishtim. The previous night, we had discussed Hammurabi and his Ten Commandments Law. Well, last night, we started to discuss the difference between history, fiction, and myth while attempting to understand that sometimes we tell stories not for ourselves but against others. The Jews who composed the Torah, especially the narrative portions, did this very well, so much so that I would say they were inspired.

I was able to help them draw comparisons between Gilgamesh and Noah, although they got stuck on the myth part. They still believe myths are about gods and goddess raging in the skies, making animals and rainbows. No, I told them. The best way to understand a myth is a story told in our words about something we do not understand. For example, the Theology.

I tried to get them to understand that stories are shared by people, and sometimes, we take stories from others to explain something important to us. I didn’t get to the point of the new creation story in Noah’s narrative, as I didn’t think they could handle the massive amount of information already.

But, why is it that we can so easily suggest Gilgamesh is a myth but take Noah as literal fact? Why? Because we have a fuzzy understanding of how stories work, and we are wholly anti-Semitic when it comes to reading the Jewish Scriptures. We insist these authors are modern day white male historians trained at Harvard, and not Jews in Babylon building the Jewish identity.

What is truth? Truth is never a matter of fact. Facts are great, but they are hardly “truth.” Myth may be truer than historical fact. Chew on that for a while…

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Homeschooling – Exposing the Differences in Genesis 1 and Genesis 2-3

So, we are homeschooling our children for a few weeks during the move and vacation, etc… Today’s assignment (yesterday was to read about religion in Rome) is to read both Creation stories (Genesis 1-2.4 and 2.5-3), detailing five differences, followed by two sentences describing what the differences mean to the them.

The fact is, is that my third and fifth grader will have a better theological grasp of the stories by the end of today than Young Earth Creationists.

Why? Because by comparing the details of the story, we will explore what the different authors wanted to say about Creation(s), and how they see it as applying to them (theology). Yes, there are wrong answers. For instance, if they come back and say that they are the same, just one is expanded, not only will they be grounded, I will deny them their college education, and quite possibly break their toys. Seriously, if they, I will explain to them that if they have any respect at all for Scripture, they will see the differences and appreciate them for what the original authors and redactor is trying to tell us about the way they see God, Creation, Humanity, and the relationships exiting between those realities.

Thoughts?