2008 Reasons to Elect a Progressive
Vote Democrat 2008
Al Gore for President in 2008
Dennis Kucinich for President in 2008
Bill Moyers for President in 2008
Barack Obama for President in 2008
- Education is the bedrock family value of progressive political philosophy. It is the expression of our love
for our children, and of our belief that if we invest in their minds, our society will reap the benefits for
generations to come. Progressives believe in coming together to give all our children the best educational
- For the 250 million dollars of public money that the Bush administration spent by the end of 2004 on
public relations efforts designed to gain political support for its policies, the federal government could have
instead started a full scholarship program for room, board, and a whopping stipend to boot, at $40,000 a year
for four years, for 1,500 of America's best college students.
Unfortunately, the Republicans in the White House have preferred to spend money on creating a false
appearance of success instead of on helping students learn to achieve genuine success. (Source: House
Committee on Government Reform, January, 2005)
- One of the most basic requirements for being successful in school is actually showing up for school.
Overcoming poor school attendance isn't just a matter of parental discipline, however. Often, it's a matter of
health. Every now and then, children become to sick to attend school.
Every child will catch a bad cold every now and then. Some children, however, have more chronic health
problems. These children miss school often, and have difficulty reaching the academic potential. The
consequences can affect them for the rest of their lives.
Collectively, American children with asthma miss 14
million days of school every year because of their condition. If fewer children had asthma, fewer
children would have chronic school attendance problems, and more children would be successful in school.
How, though, can childhood asthma be reduced?
We can start by reducing highway traffic. A study by the University of Southern California found that children who live within
1,500 feet of highways and busy roads are more likely to have reduced lung function of the sort that
contributes to asthma. A likely reason for this pattern is the massive air pollution caused by the many cars
traveling on those highways.
So, if we want children to be more successful in school, one of the things that we can do is to reduce the air
pollution on America's highways. For years, progressives have been urging measures that would do just that.
Right wingers have been busy blocking those measures from being put into effect. (Sources: Reuters, January
25, 2007; Asthma's Impact on Children and Adolescents, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)
- Right wingers seek to abandon the common resolve to educate our children, leaving our schools
vulnerable to the unpredictability of market forces that ensure that some children will lose opportunity in
order to provide better resources for others. While the progressive system of public education seeks to bring
people together for the common good of our children, the chaotic right wing system seeks to pit community
against community, and family against family.
- Electing a progressive President in 2008 is the educated thing to do. That's not just my opinion. I've got
That proof comes from the 2006-2007 Smartest State
rankings from Morgan Quitno Press. These rankings were based on factors such high school graduation
rate, school attendance rate, student-to-teacher ratio, performance on reading, writing and mathematics
proficiency tests, and financial support for schools. The smart states, those that were found to have the most
support for education and highest performance in education, got higher rankings, reflected in a low number.
Vermont, for example, is the smartest state in
the union, with a ranking of 1. Arizona, on the
other hand, was found to be the least smart state in the country, with a rank of 50.
I took this data from Morgan Quitno and compared it with the data from the most recent national election -
the 2004 presidential election. That election forced voters to choose between confirmed right winger George
W. Bush and Democratic Senator John Kerry.
John Kerry was far from a perfect progressive candidate. Kerry lost the confidence of many progressive
Democrats by refusing to take strong progressive stands on issues like the Iraq War, civil liberties, and
torture. Kerry's attempt at mushy moderation cost him the election. Nonetheless, John Kerry was clearly the
more progressive of the two major presidential candidates. Based on the Electoral College victory of
Kerry or Bush, every state in the USA was classified as red or blue: Red for more right wing, and blue for
I wanted to know how right wing red states fared against progressive blue states in Morgan Quitno Smart
State rankings. Which group of states had a better record of education on the whole, right wing or
progressive? The results were very clear:
Average progressive blue state Smart State ranking: 19
Average right wing red state Smart State ranking: 29.19
Parents, whether you consider yourself progressive or right wing, the intelligent thing to do is to pay
attention to these numbers, and vote accordingly. The results of the 2006-2007 Morgan Quitno Smart State
survey indicate that progressive states do a much better job at providing children with a solid education than
right wing states do. Where right wing ideology is stronger, educational performance tends to be weak.
Where progressive ideology is stronger, educational performance tends to be more successful.
So, in 2008, you could allow your vote to be swayed by silly politicial issues such the drive to amend the
Constitution in order to ban flag burning, or you could do the smart thing, and promote educational
opportunities for your children by voting for the more progressive candidate for President. (Source: Morgan Quitno Press Education State Rankings, 2006-2007)
- Let the right wing religious moralists howl, but the facts have spoken. On the average worldwide, high
rates of sexual promiscuity are not linked with high rates of sexually-transmitted diseases. This is just
one of the many fascinating findings of a study newly published in the Lancet, conducted by Professor Kaye Wellings of the
London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicines.
It seems likely that factors other than sexual promiscuity, such as patterns of sexual partnership and use of
contraceptives that can prevent transmission of sexually-transmitted diseases, are more causally-related to
high rates of STDs. So, the right wing religious programs to discourage sexual activity and withhold
information about contraceptives may actually be placing more young Americans at risk for contracting
sexually-transmitted diseases. The relatively progressive programs to encourage careful consideration about
the onset of sexual activity and to provide information about contraceptive options, on the other hand, seem to
fit the facts about how to best keep sexually-transmitted diseases under control.
The study also found that people are not having sex at younger ages now than they were ten years ago. The
age of average onset of sexual activity also seems to be pretty much the same worldwide, in spite of
differences in adult anger at adolescent sexual activity.
We progressives have long understood that high-handed attempts to control people's sexuality don't work,
and can actually put people at greater risk of the negative consequences of sexual activity. It's the progressive,
open, informed approach to helping people manage their sexual lives that will keep the most people safe.
Right wing tactics of sexual suppression make some people feel righteous, but they are impotent in the face of
the dynamics of real world sex.
(Source: Associated Press, November 1, 2006)
- We consider it worthwhile to note the advice Mark Twain's gave in a speech in 1900 for what to do with proposals to save money by cutting education programs: "Every time you stop a school, you will have to build a jail. What you gain at one end you lose at the other. It's like feeding a dog on his own tail. It won't fatten the dog." Education programs are investments that pay off with great benefit, if we can but have some patience. When the investments are not made, the children who suffer their absence will try to steal what scraps they can get around the margins, resulting, if not in actual crime, in criminally-poor decisions that we all, as citizens in a democracy, will have to deal with.
- When it comes to providing the money required to make his No Child Left Behind law work, George W.
Bush and the Republicans in Congress have left America's schools far, far behind. The Republicans in federal
government have refused to provide 70.9 billion dollars in funding for schools that is legally required by the
No Child Left Behind legislation.
Just imagine what America's schools could do with 70.9 billion dollars in funds for educational programs.
You'll have to keep on imagining, if America elects another right wing President in 2008. (Source: Christian
Science Monitor, March 21, 2007)
- With its imposition of standardized testing as a defining force that shapes the curricula of public school
education, the No Child Left Behind law has led many teachers to report that schoolwork has become
excessively focused on rote memorization. With the emphasis on standardized instruction, skills like critical
thinking and creativity are receiving less emphasis.
Documentary filmmaker Lerone Wilson, who created the PBS documentary No Child Left Behind,
says of the law, "My fear is that No Child Left Behind is pushing great teachers like these either to solely
teach test-taking techniques or textbook-based information, or to get out of teaching altogether."
Progressives recognize the need to rework laws like No Child Left Behind, so that education remains a
personal experience for public school children. Right wingers, on the other hand, advocate for more testing,
in order to automate the educational process, as if students can be treated like widgets produced in a factory.
(Source: Detroit Free Press, March 21, 2007)
- Right wingers keep on telling American communities that they are failing to educate children under their
own authority in public schools. They say that public schools don't work.
If public schools are failing, then how come high school graduation rates have increased? Since World
War II, the proportion of high school graduates among Americans aged 25 or older has increased from 34
percent to 74 percent. (Source, Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, December 21, 2006)
- Right wing politicians are so upset about the implications of scientific studies into global warming that
they've attacked science itself, saying that scientists are just attention hounds trying to get people frightened
about global warming so that the scientists can get more money to conduct their research. According to recent
research, however, it appears that climate scientists have actually been erring on the side of diminishing the
dangers associated with global warming.
It turns out that the rate at which Antarctic ice is melting is at the higher end of scientists' predictions. If
anything, scientists underestimated the speed with which Antarctic ice would break up and fall into the ocean.
Scientists have been appropriately cautious. It's right wing politicians who have been coming up with wild
claims about global warming.
We need to have a President who will not attack scientists when their studies fail to fit a political agenda.
The integrity of America's educational system depends upon it. (Source: Reuters, March 23, 2007)
- Frederick Douglass was a man who was forced to break the rules of society in order to obtain an
education. So, when he gained his freedom, Douglass spent a great deal of his life promoting investment in
schools and programs to provide all children with the opportunity to learn. "It is easier to build strong
children than to repair broken men," Douglass said.
True progressives still remember the wisdom of Frederick Douglass. Progressives have strong family
values, like investing in the development of children as a community so that all have the opportunity to
Right wingers dismiss the importance of such collective investment, suggesting that education should be
left to market forces, with some people bereft of education and opportunity as a cautionary example to others.
Right wingers oppose genuine education, trying to warp teachings on cultural and scientific matters to fit an
outdated, repressive model of society. While progressives worry about too little education, right wingers
warn about the dangers of too much education.
Frederick Douglass cautioned against such ideological fear of education, stating that, "A little learning,
indeed, may be a dangerous thing, but the want of learning is a calamity to any people."
In 2008, we need to stand by the ideas of Frederick Douglass and, for the sake of the integrity of education
in the United States, elect a genuine progressive as President of the United States.
- I love reading research results that are published on Fridays, because you know the results aren't what the
people in charge wanted them to be. Unexpected, unwanted, empirical truths are among the most important
truths for us to learn of.
So when I tell you that the Bush Administration's Department of Health and Human Services waited until
a Friday to released the results of a research study it commissioned on the effects of abstinence-only
education, what do you think the results of that study were?
In controlled experiments in four locations, those students who were randomly assigned to receive
abstinence-only sex education were no more likely to actually abstain from sexual activity, had no fewer sex
partners, had the same age of a first sexual experience and had no difference in the use of contraception than
those children who were randomly assigned to not receive abstinence-only sex education.
In other words, abstinence-only sex education does not accomplish what conservatives and their
Republican allies in government say it does. We ought to have this kind of news front and center in the policy
debate, not shoved off to be forgotten on a Friday. (Source: Impacts of Four Title V, Section 510 Abstinence
Education Programs, Mathematica Policy Research, April 2007)
- Since 1995, a group called Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility has been conducting
surveys of scientists working in the federal government. The surveys measure perceptions of the scientific
integrity of governmental processes and adequacy of resources. From 1995 onward, the surveys have been
completed with no problems, and no interference. This year, that has all changed.
In 2005, the Bush Administration ordered scientists within the federal government to keep their mouths
shut. The Bush Administration toldscientists not to complete a survey designed to assess the scientific integrity
and adequacy of resources in the US Fish and Wildlife Service. Bush Administration officials said to scientists
that they may not complete the survey, even on their own time, unless the survey's 42 questions are reviewed,
and approved or edited, by the Bush Administration beforehand.
Essentially, the Bush Administration has declared the power to seize the surveys and edit their questions
until the survey design is more likely to create a favorable impression of scientific integrity in the Fish and
Wildlife Service. Apparently, the people in the Bush White House do not appreciate the irony of skewing the
design a study about the integrity of governmental research processes. (Source: Public Employees for
Environmental Responsibility, 2005)
When news of censorship of scientific research at the United States Fish and Wildlife Service came up in
early 2005, there was some question about just what the Bush Administration was trying to cover up. The
survey at the Fish and Wildlife Service dealt with issues of nature-related research. There was no need for
Republicans from the White House to censor scientists for national security reasons - unless you count
sturgeon and wood ducks as a vital front in the "war on terror".
Well, on February 9, 2005, the results of the survey were released. It turns out that huge numbers of
government scientists defied the orders from the Bush Administration to remain silent and completed the
survey anyway. With the results in, it became clear why the Bush Administration tried to prevent government
scientists from participating in the ethics survey.
Each one of these results counts as a reason to elect a progressive President in 2008:
- 44 percent of government scientists at the Fish and Wildlife Service reported that they have "been directed,
for non-scientific reasons" to avoid making any scientific findings that would indicate that species of
American wildlife are in need of protection under the Endangered Species Act.
- One out of every five scientists at the Fish and Wildlife Service indicated that they had been forced by the
Bush Administration to "inappropriately exclude or alter technical information from a USFWS scientific
document" - changing the reporting on official studies in order to favor Bush Administration
- 56 percent of government scientists taking part in the survey reported direct involvement in cases
where "commercial interests have inappropriately induced the reversal or withdrawal of scientific conclusions
or decisions through political intervention".
- 42 percent of the Fish and Wildlife Service scientists reported that they were unable to express "concerns
about the biological needs of species and habitats without fear of retaliation".
- 70 percent of staff scientists and 89 percent of scientific managers had direct knowledge of instances where
officials appointed by President George W. Bush interfered with scientific determinations of whether species
merited protection under the law.
- Half of all scientific staff at the Fish and Wildlife Service reported that morale among at the Service is
poor or extremely poor. Only one half of one percent of the scientific staff described morale as
- One scientist, in a statement attached to the survey, said, "We are not allowed to be honest and forthright,
we are expected to rubber stamp everything. I have 20 years of federal service in this and this is the worst it
has ever been."
- Another biologist wrote that Bush Administration officials from the Department of the Interior, "have
forced changes in Service documents, and worse, they have forced upper-level managers to say things that are
incorrect& It's one thing for the Department to dismiss our recommendations, it's quite another to be forced
to say something that is counter our best professional judgment."
- The manager of another scientific division within the Fish and Wildlife Service stated that "There is a
culture of fear of retaliation," and that managers "fear loss of jobs or funding for their programs" if they
deliver scientific results that support protection of a plant or animal under the Endangered Species
The results of this survey confirmed what had long been suspected: That the Bush Administration is
forcing government scientists to warp or conceal their findings in order to favor the interests of corporations
that have made large donations to the Bush/Cheney campaigns. The fact that the Bush Administration ordered
its scientists not to take part in the survey, and has threatened those scientists who did take part with
disciplinary action suggests that top officials in the Bush Administration knew of the widespread practice of
distortion of government science, and purposefully attempted to keep information about this distortion from
the American public.
It's not just because many wildlife species are in trouble under the Bush Administration's pro-pollution
policies that we ought to care about the Republicans' twisting of scientific results at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife
Service. Given the Bush Administration's history, there is good reason to believe that scientific results are
being similarly distorted throughout the entire government.
When the government forces scientists to change their findings to fit what the nation's leaders believe as a
matter of political faith, our entire nation is dragged back to the Dark Ages, when the authority of the Church
forced Gallileo to pretend that the Earth is at the center of the Universe, and does not revolve around the Sun.
When the Bush Administration transforms government scientists into mere puppets of its will, America is
taken back to the brutish and bloody mentality of medieval days, when the truth was determined according to
who had the biggest sword.
It is not merely the intellectual independence of scientists that is at stake. Human lives are on the line.
When we cannot trust the government to provide us with objective science, we cannot trust that our homes are
safe from pollution, we cannot trust that the drugs that we take are safe, and we cannot trust that the agenda of
religious zealots is being properly restrained from public life. The government that lies to us about whether
wildlife needs endangered species protection is the the same government that deceives us in order to convince
us to go to war.
When the most powerful government ever to exist on Earth lies, the consequences are dire. It isn't just
American wildlife that is in danger of going extinct. Under the power of the Bush Administration, truth itself
is becoming an endangered species. (Source: Union of Concerned Scientists, February, 2005)
- Some fearful people contend that research into some areas ought not to be conducted, out of fear of what might be discovered. Those with more wisdom understand the difference between information and action. It is not knowledge that truly causes problems to occur, but lack of full knowledge or bad intention. Besides, as Issac Asimov wrote, "If knowledge can create problems, it is not through ignorance that we can solve them."
- Unlike conservatives, who rely on the stability of old ideas, progressives look forward to the discovery of new ideas. It's an attitude that has shaped the progressive aspect of the American character since long before Mark Twain wrote, in Eve's Diary, "If there wasn't anything to find out, it would be dull. Even trying to find out and not finding out is just as interesting as trying to find out and finding out; and I don't know but more so."
We are not content. We want to know more. Don't let the conservatives hold us back in this quest. It is the fire that brings enlightenment to education.
- Another observation from Mark Twain about what makes conservatives nervous about education: In the world of free ideas, there is no aristocracy. There is no inherent right for any source to declare truth because of its greater social power. Twain wrote, "In the laboratory there are no fustian ranks, no brummagem aristocracies; the domain of Science is a republic, and all its citizens are brothers and equals." Instead, ideas must prove themselves on their own merits. Science in general, and education more broadly, is democratic, and therefore a challenge to those who promote hereditary power and arbitrary concentration of authority. (Source: Mark Twain, Three Thousand Years among the Microbes)
- Progressives take Betrand Russell's thoughts to heart when he writes, "Passive acceptance of the teacher's wisdom is easy to most boys and girls. It involves no effort of independent thought, and seems rational because the teacher knows more than his pupils; it is moreover the way to win the favour of the teacher unless he is a very exceptional man. Yet the habit of passive acceptance is a disastrous one in later life. It causes man to seek and to accept a leader, and to accept as a leader whoever is established in that position." We progressives seek a system of education that encourages students to learn through a process of respectful challenging of the information and ideas that are provided by their teachers. We seek education in the art of productive questioning of authority.
- It's rude to say it, but I'm going to say it anyway. The Republican candidates for president in 2008 have a
If you need a reason to vote progressive in 2008, consider what the conservative alternative offers. In
their first presidential campaign debate, Republican party candidates were asked whether they believed in
evolution. Not one, not two, but three presidential candidates failed to raise their hands. Republican Senator Sam Brownback,
Republican Representative Tom Tancredo and Republican Governor Mike Huckabee each proclaimed a
lack of belief in evolution.
There are so many pieces of evidence that have been
carefully assembled in support of evolution that we should be worried about one of three thinking
problems among presidential candidates who say they don't believe in evolution:
1) Ignorance. Perhaps these candidates for president are declaring their beliefs about the universe in front
of a national audience without really having looked into the subject first. That's not practicing safe politics.
2) Failure to understand. There are a lot of pretty accessible readings in evolution that lay out the case very well. If despite this
these presidential candidates just don't get it, what other complicated matters in governance will go right over
their pretty little heads?
3) Pandering. Perhaps Huckabee, Brownback and Tancredo really do believe in evolution, but they're
lying because they know that some parts of the population will support them for repudiating it. We've had
more than six years of a president who is willing to look reality in the face and spit in it. We can't afford four
Ignorance. Failure of understanding. Pandering. We can't take this conservative presidency any longer.
(Source: USA Today, May 4, 2007)
- During the 2004 elections, the standard line of Democratic politicians was that the No Child Left Behind law pushed by President Bush to overhaul public education in America was a good law, but that President Bush had not bothered to provide the money that he promised for it, even as it increased education costs for states and local school districts. This week, a new bipartisan report on the No Child Left Behind law from the National Conference of State Legislatures demolishes the credibility of this argument.
A panel of Democrats and Republicans has concluded that No Child Left Behind is not only underfunded, but that it's also a load of garbage too. Well, to be fair, the panel's report did not use the word "garbage" to describe No Child Left Behind. Instead, they referred to No Child Left Behind as flawed, convoluted and unconstitutional.
I was particularly interested in one sentence from the report: "Under N.C.L.B. [No Child Left Behind], the federal government's role has become excessively intrusive in the day-to-day operations of public education." You see, there's even something for Republicans to complain about with No Child Left Behind. Republicans claim that they just hate, hate, hate big government - and according to this report, the Republican Party's own educational plan has made the federal government "excessively intrusive". I'll translate that phrase for Young Republicans: It means BIG.
Reacting to the report, a representative from the Bush Administration announced that "we will not reverse course". That kind of response has become sadly typical of the Republican Party aparatus. When the evidence comes in, and it's found that a Bush policy doesn't work, is dangerous, or is against the law, the Republican leadership refuses to consider any alternative to his original plans. That stubborn refusal to pay attention to the facts in itself shows that Republican orthodoxy has a very bad attitude when it comes to education.
- If you want to see an example of the consequences of a lack of curiosity interest in the application of
knowledge, look at the field of conservative presidential contenders. Republican Governor Mike Huckabee,
after he indicated he didn't believe in evolution in a presidential debate, showed surprise that anyone would
really care. Said Huckabee, "I'm not sure what in the world that has to do with being president of the United
Mike Huckabee needs to take out his brain for a jog more often. If Huckabee doesn't believe in evolution,
then as president he should stop that wasteful, wasteful spending on research about drug-resistant bacteria.
He should also stop epidemiologists from wasting taxpayer money on bird flu as a health threat. Since
Huckabee doesn't believe in evolution, why worry about organisms taking on new forms as a result of
changes in ecologies? Also, why bother with funding for HIV-infected people in the US and Africa to give
them AIDS cocktails. The cocktails are specifically designed to counter evolutionary adaptation of various
strains of HIV. If Huckabee doesn't believe in evolution, why would he bother dispensing drugs that account
for evolutionary dynamics within a human body?
Of course, it's also possible that Mike Huckabee doesn't have an idea what he means when he says he
doesn't believe in evolution. Given the importance of health policy and the centrality of the theory of
evolution to current medical science, that alternative possibility is frightening, too. (Source: USA Today, May 4 2007)
- In 1898, Mark Twain wrote down in one of his notebooks a decent explanation of why conservatives so thoroughly oppose decent education. Education reminds them of how far behind their own ideas have become. Twain wrote, "The radical of one century is the conservative of the next. The radical invents the views. When he has worn them out the conservative adopts them."
Let's invent a few new ideas through the 2008 presidential election, so that the conservatives can get around to adopting them in the 22nd century.
- You get an idea of the kind of educational policy Republican presidential candidate James Gilmore would
put into place by the following comments Gilmore made about the educational legacy of Jerry Falwell last
"Dr. Falwell was a valued supporter of mine for many years and I was an admirer of his
good works. The educational institution he founded, Liberty University, has become a major employer in
Virginia and is well regarded by educators from throughout the country."
Jerry Falwell's Liberty University is well regarded by educators from throughout the country? Well, I
suppose that's true. There may be an educator in Alaska, an educator in New Mexico, and an educator in
Florida that have positive regard for Liberty University, and that would mean that yes, indeed, Liberty
University is well regarded by educators from throughout the country.
That's not a very useful measure, though, is it? The reality of bigfoot is probably well regarded by
educators from throughout the country, the flat earth hypothesis is well regarded by educators from
throughout the country, and Mein Kampf is well regarded by educators from throughout the country.
Educators supporting crazy ideas an be, geographically, from around the country, and still not at all
representative of their profession. It is possible to cite a minority of kooky educators to support any crackpot
theory or organization. Unlike James Gilmore, progressives understand that this sort of endorsement is not a
sound foundation for educational policy. That's why, in 2008, we need to elect a progressive President.
(Source: Gilmore for President, May 15, 2007)
- Hillary Clinton is promoting dramatically-expanded pre-kindergarten education for America's children.
Senator Clinton says that if she is elected President, she will support a federal program to match state
spending on pre-kindergarten schooling dollar for dollar.
The program doesn't quite go all the way to universal pre-K education in the United States - state
participation in the program would be voluntary. However, it's a step in the right direction. Parents who have
the money to afford it already are sending their children to pre-kindergarten schools, so that they can be
prepared to make the most out of elementary school.
Progressives believe that all children ought to start out with equal opportunities in education. That's why
progressives support funding for pre-kindergarten programs in public schools for all children across the USA.
(Source: New York Times, May 21, 2007)
- To religious leaders who preached a passive acceptance of the teachings of authority, Helen Keller responded, "I do not want the peace which passeth understanding, I want the understanding which bringeth peace." Progressives seek an education that surpasses rote memorization of facts and orthodox ideas.
- "This process has been drug out a long time."
If you are a schoolteacher or a grammatically-aware parent, you'll wince when you hear that statement.
The proper past tense of "drag" is "dragged." Was the statement made by a middle schooler? No, it was made
by the President, referring with disdain to the persistent investigations of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales'
We've had two terms of a President who has never been disciplined or interested enough to master the use
of English above an eighth-grade level, and who considers matters of ethics to be really boring. Two terms is
enough. Let's find ourselves a President who takes care in her or his expression, and who gives more attention
to ethical rigor than to clearing brush. (Sources: Associated Press, June 11 2007; Merriam-Webster Dictionary)
- Right wing politicians play a difficult juggling game with religion and science, relying on both to justify
their policies, but trying not to explicitly mention the two mutually-exclusive frames at the same time. Every
now and then, however, they goof up, and bring the systems of religion and science together, resulting in
An example of this was recently provided by Republican presidential candidate Sam Brownback. While
campaigning in Fort Dodge, Iowa, Brownback declared, "America is a faith-based experiment as a nation."
What exactly is a faith-based experiment?
Faith is not a scientific concept. Faith is religious trust, given in spite of the lack of direct evidence that
something is true.
An experiment is not a religious activity. An experiment is a rigorously defined set of procedures set up to
determine a model of reality based upon direct evidence.
Faith is not only absent to experiments, it is antithetical to experimentation. The phrase "faith-based
experiment" is an oxymoron.
According to standard Christian doctrine, God isn't supposed to conduct experiments. For one thing, God
is not supposed to need experiments to determine the truth. He's omniscient, after all. For another thing, God
is supposed to have a predetermined plan for the world. Otherwise, prophecy would be understood as
When Sam Brownback stated that America is a "faith-based experiment", he didn't just demonstrate his
ignorance of American history and law. Brownback also demonstrated a profound misunderstanding of both
religion and science.
In 2008, we need to elect a President who understands the difference between science and religion, and
doesn't try to mix the two in the sloppy way that Sam Brownback and his right wing colleagues often do.
(Source: Fort Dodge Messenger, June 20, 2007)
- H. G. Wells observed, "Human history becomes more and more a race between education and catastrophe." Progressives are on the side of education. (Source: Routledge Dictionary of Quotations)
- Yesterday, one of our readers wrote an article on the Irregular Times Diaries entitled Ron Paul AWOL on
the Environment. The author of this article points out that Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul doesn't
even identify the environment as an important issue in his campaign, much less come up with realistic
solutions to the many environmental problems we face.
In response to that article, a supporter of Ron Paul cited something called The Global Warming Petition,
"We urge the United States government to reject the global warming agreement that was written in Kyoto,
Japan in December, 1997, and any other similar proposals. The proposed limits on greenhouse gases would
harm the environment, hinder the advance of science and technology, and damage the health and welfare of
There is no convincing scientific evidence that human release of carbon dioxide, methane, or other
greenhouse gasses is causing or will, in the foreseeable future, cause catastrophic heating of the Earth's
atmosphere and disruption of the Earth's climate. Moreover, there is substantial scientific evidence that
increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide produce many beneficial effects upon the natural plant and animal
environments of the Earth."
"This petition has, so far, gathered over 17,000 signatures of scientists," the Ron Paul supporter said.
17,000 signatures from scientists rejecting the mainstream scientific consensus on global warming? Well,
no, not really. The petition might have over 17,000 signatures, but it does not have over 17,000 signatures from
Take, for example, signer H. Scott Gingrich, for example. He's not a scientist. He doesn't have an advanced
degree. The only thing he has published is a book review on Amazon.com.
Or, consider Alan Caruba, who works in public relations, and does not have any scientific credentials.
After Caruba graduated from college, he went into the Army, and then started working as a journalist.
The Global Warming Petition categorizes people as "scientists" even if they only have a bachelor's degree
in liberal arts with a major in a scientific field, which in some colleges could include psychology. Having an
undergraduate major in science does not make a person a scientist. Advanced degrees and professional
experience make a person a scientist. I graduated college with a major in Anthropology, but I don't pretend
that degree qualifies me to be called an anthropologist.
What if the 17,000 signatures were all from genuine scientists? Would that show a strong level of
professional disagreement among scientists? No, it would show a weak level of amateurish disagreement
among scientists. Most scientists are specialists, with areas of expertise and not much special knowledge about
many other areas of scientific research.
A geologist who specializes in studies basalt does not really have the special knowledge necessary to
understand global climate change? Neither does a chemist who specializes in analyzing the content of dietary
Into this category falls petition signer Stanley A Gall, MD. Dr. Gall is a professor of Obstetrics,
Gynecology and Women's Health, as well as Public Health and Information Sciences at the University of
Louisville. He has done research into immunology and infectious disease in obstetrics and gynecology, so he
might fairly be called a scientist. What, however, about studying infectious disease or the use of "information
science" in public health qualifies Dr. Gall to make professional declarations about climate science?
Furthermore, the fact that someone has a scientific degree does not make that person a scientist. If a person
with a PhD in biology is working as a waiter in a restaurant, is that person really a scientist qualified to make
up-to-date professional evaluations of the state of climatological research?
Besides, even if 17,000 scientists really did sign the Global Warming Petition, that would be just a drop in
the bucket. The American Community Survey of 2003, which found over four million people working just in
the United States as scientists or engineers. The Global Warming Petition accepted signatures from people all
around the world.
Beyond all other concerns, the Global Warming Petition is profoundly out of date. It was drafted in 1998,
and most of its signatures were obtained within a year of that time. Scientific American magazine describes its
own investigation of the petition as follows:
"Scientific American took a random sample of 30 of the 1,400 signatories claiming to hold a Ph.D. in a
climate-related science. Of the 26 we were able to identify in various databases, 11 said they still agreed with
the petitionÑone was an active climate researcher, two others had relevant expertise, and eight signed based
on an informal evaluation. Six said they would not sign the petition today, three did not remember any such
petition, one had died, and five did not answer repeated messages. Crudely extrapolating, the petition
supporters include a core of about 200 climate researchersÐa respectable number, though rather a small
fraction of the climatological community."
The fundamental distortion of the Global Warming Petition is the suggestion that science determines
which ideas are credible through the popular consensus of all scientists. That just isn't how science works.
Scientists who seek to advance their ideas don't do so through petitions. They do so by publishing articles
describing their research, and having those articles reviewed by scientific colleagues who specialize in areas
related to the research topic. In the establishment of scientific consensus, not all scientists have equal input.
Those scientists who actually know something about the subject have more weight.
The Global Warming Petition evades the scientific system for the debate of ideas because its purpose is
not to serve the advancement of science. It is a petition, a political document, because its purpose is to serve
the advancement of a political agenda. That agenda is anti-progressive and anti-science. (Sources: 2003
American Community Survey, Source Watch, Scientific American, 2005, University Of Louisville Public
Health Preparedness Faculty Biographies)
- Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff says that we all need to be worried that Al Quaeda is
about to attack and kill us. Why? Does he have any evidence that such an attack is on the way?
No, the White House says that there is no evidence to indicate any specific credible terrorist threat against
the United States of America.
That doesn't matter to Secretary Chertoff. He says that he summoned a "gut feeling" to see what terrorists
might be up to, and has concluded that "summertime seems to be appealing to them." He might as well have
checked with an 8-ball or tarot cards to predict a terrorist attack.
America needs to end the regime of Homeland Insecurity that squawks about coming dangers on the basis
of nothing more than the way that someone's guts feel. We need a President who understands that national
security ought to be investigated with experts' brains, not our other internal organs. (Sources: Reuters, July 11,
2007; Chicago Tribune, July 11, 2007)
- The Surgeon General of the United States is a position which is supposed to rise above ideology and
political partisanship to make unbiased determinations based on science regarding the public health. Yet
former Surgeon General Richard Carmona testified to Congress that the Bush administration:
- Told him to understate the harmful effects of second-hand smoking
- Ordered him to mention George W. Bush three times on every page of his speeches
- Ordered him to make speeches in favor of Republican political candidates
- Told him to avoid attending the Special Olympics because the organization has been supported by the
- Forbid him from discussing stem cell research
- Forbid him from discussing emergency contraception
- Forbid him from discussing sex education
- Forbid him from discussing health in prisons
- Forbid him from discussing mental health
If expert public health information made the Republicans or their patrons in business and religion look
bad, it was to be shoved under the carpet. The Surgeon General was asked to pursue Republican purposes, not
public health interests. The time is past due for American government to return to a policy of truth. (Source:
New York Times, July 11, 2007)
- In the wake of outgoing Surgeon General Richard Carmona's revelations about the way that the Bush
White House has pushed to make medical decisions subject to Republican political ideology, the Senate is
considering George W. Bush's new nominee for Surgeon General, James Holsinger. The trouble is, Holsinger
looks set to repeat the very same problems that Carmona has just identified.
The defining paper of James Holsinger's career is entitled "Pathophysiology of Male Homosexuality". The
paper deals with a medical subject - the physical impact of male homosexual sex. But, is it a genuine medical
paper? Yes and no.
The paper uses medical terminology and formatting. However, the paper is ideological, not scientific, in
its orientation. The paper was written for a church that commissioned Holsinger to produce a document that
would justify a religious belief that discrimination against gays is justified.
Holsinger didn't enter into his work with an open mind. He was hired to come up with medical reasons to
justify discrimination against men who have sex with other men, and he set about to accomplish that
James Holsinger has made his name by twisting science in order to serve ideology. The right wingers in
government seem to think that's just what America needs from its Surgeon General. We need to elect a
progressive President in 2008 so that the next time America needs a new Surgeon General, we get a
professional not a political hack. (Source: Wired, July 12, 2007)
- Years ago, just before the 2000 presidential election, a Southern Republican activist told me that he would
be voting for George W. Bush even though he knew that Bush lacked much in the way of intellectual
capacity. "Intellect can be dangerous in a leader," he told me.
I was reminded of this right wing reaction against intelligence when I read the New York Times
yesterday, which reported on the anti-intellectual attitudes of the new government of French President
Nicholas Sarkozy. Finance Minister Christine Lagarde told the National Assembly of the Sarkozy's policy
when it comes to intellect: "France is a country that thinks. There is hardly an ideology that we haven't turned
into a theory. We have in our libraries enough to talk about for centuries to come. This is why I would like to
tell you: Enough thinking already."
Enough thinking? We hear in the United States know the terrible consequences of having national
leadership that emphasizes hunches and faith-based initiatives over disciplined thinking. George W. Bush is
an excellent example of what happens to a person when they decide that they've had enough with thinking.
America will be rid of the Bush presidency in a year and a half, but what then? Frighteningly, President
Bush's prospective Republican successors seem to embrace the rejection of thinking that Bush and Sarkozy
have in common.
Consider Fred Thompson, a Bush supporter who seems to think that Nicholas Sarkozy's right wing
campaign against thinking makes him a model President. Recently, Fred Thompson wrote,
"Maybe it's time to rethink the 'boycott France' movement that got so much attention a few years ago.
Americans once toasted General Lafayette, and his son George Washington Lafayette. I think this would be a
good time to toast Monsieur Sarkozy."
Fred Thompson seems to believe that France's skepticism over the lack of proof for a need to start a war in
Iraq was good reason for a boycott against the country. Now that France has a new government that is asking
its citizens to stop thinking, Fred Thompson is in love with the French, and asks us to buy French products in
order to support the anti-thinking crowd in Paris.
"A French president who openly admires America is an embarrassment to those who view us as the
country bumpkin cousins of the sophisticated Europeans," Fred Thompson sneers. Yes, I admit, it is
embarrassing for me to watch the French abandon their aspirations to intellectual sophistication in order to
pursue the anti-intellectual bumpkin politics of the American Republican Party.
Our libraries are not too full of books. We do not think too much. Intellect is not a threat. It is our most
valuable resource. In 2008, we need a President who understands that. (New York Times, July 22, 2007;
National Review Online, May 10, 2007)
- Parents, do not pay to send your children to Eastern Illinois University.
Why not? Well, I think we should expect that the people who provide college education ought to show
some intelligence and wisdom themselves. The administrators at Eastern Illinois University have proven
incapable of that.
When the Eastern Illinois University post office found a messy package with tape on it, addressed to the
admissions office, lacking a return address, and with misspellings on it, they contacted campus police.
Huddling with university administration officials, the campus police made the decision to call the bomb
Why, when getting a messy package, would Eastern Illinois University call the bomb squad? Well, the
right wing has convinced many Americans that, whenever a person finds something a bit unusual, it's
reasonable for that person to assume that the object is a bomb. The right wingers have people believing that
terrorist attacks are so common that everyone needs to be vigilant, because Osama Bin Laden just might be
hatching a plot to target the town of Charleston, Illinois by sending a bomb in the mail with too much tape on
Of course, the package was not a bomb. It was, as one might assume of a package addressed to a
university's office of admissions, an application for admissions.
So, the administration of Eastern Illinois University then demonstrated its lack of intelligence and wisdom
once more. They declared that they would consider the applicant for admission as a student at the university.
Apparently, at Eastern Illinois University, they think that it's reasonable to conclude that a sloppy package
with misspellings and without a return address is an bomb set to go off at any moment, but it's not reasonable
to conclude that the package is from a student without the education and self-discipline required to be
successful in college.
America needs to move away from this weird combination of hypervigilance about security and absence
of vigilance about educational standards. We need to elect a progressive President who values teaching over
tall tales about terrorists lurking in the postal system. (Source: New York Times, July 22, 2007)
- t started back in 2003, when President George W. Bush got a report from the Pentagon that warned that
climate change was a greater threat to national security than terrorism. Bush tried to cover up the report.
Then in 2005, Hurricane Katrina hit, and soon after, a scientific study linked global warming and hurricane
intensity. Republicans criticized the study. By the spring of 2006, scientists had responded to those criticisms,
strengthened their analysis, and found that, even when skeptics criticisms of the study were taken into
account, there was a still a strong link between global warming and hurricane intensity.
So, skeptics came forward with more criticisms. They questioned whether the number of powerful hurricanes
might have appeared to have increased over the years, as global temperatures have increased, simply because
technology has enabled us to find and describe hurricanes more accurately in recent years.
What did the scientists do? They didn t dismiss the new criticisms. They sought to examine the criticisms
through statistical analysis, to see if they had merit. They assumed that the critics were right, and adjusted
their analysis to include the presumption that as many as five hurricanes per year had been missed before the
development of satellite tracking technology. They found that, even if those hurricanes really had been
missed, the association between global warming and hurricane strength remains.
That s how science works. It s open to criticism, and it becomes stronger because it incorporates criticism
into its findings in order to get a better model of reality. Progressives support the integrity of the scientific
process, opposing Republican efforts to use government power to distort scientific analysis for political
We need science to be truly open so that we can understand the threats we face as they really are, not as the
Republicans wish the threats would be. Both because of what science reveals to us and for the sake of science
itself, we need to elect a progressive President in 2008. (Source: Scientific American, July 30, 2007)
- Right wing libertarians like Ron Paul claim that the federal government has no business involving itself in the education of children. Long ago, the philosopher Diogenes knew better, asserting that, "The foundation of every state is the education of its youth." Diogenes also called upon people to challenge assumptions and the authority that imposes them. He knew that education and true independence come together.
Another ancient philosopher, Epictetus, agreed with Diogenes, writing, "Only the educated are free." Will America forget this ancient wisdom, to walk into the arms of Ron Paul, who only speaks of saving money?
- As President, George W. Bush has been an enemy to science trying to control it and distort it in order to
promote his radical right wing politics. In 2008, we need to try to change that attitude in the White House, but
just knowing what George W. Bush has done wrong is not enough. After all, in the 2008 presidential
campaign, George W. Bush is not a candidate. We need to know how the candidates who are running for
President in 2008 propose to develop a science policy.
Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards has made a clear his rejection of the Bush attitude toward
science. Edwards promotes a restoration of the open, honest promotion of scientific integrity that was White
House policy before Bush. Edwards explains, "We need to encourage science, and do it honestly and openly.
It's unfortunate the Bush administration hasn't shared that view. The censorship and suppression of science on
climate change, on air pollution, on stem cell research - all to advance a political agenda - is wrong. Policy
should be science driven; science shouldn't be politics driven."
John Edwards is showing his open attitude toward science even in the course of his campaign. He made the
above comment in an interview with the writer of A Blog Around The Clock, a science blog written by a
scientist who specializes in the study of chronobiology.
It's an interesting interview, and I'll be discussing more of what John Edwards had to say about science in
the days to come. (Source: A Blog Around The Clock, July 9, 2007)
- The more I look at Rudolph Giuliani's 12 Commitments to the American People, the more clear it
becomes to me that Giuliani doesn't understand the reality of rural education in America.
One of Giuliani's 12 Commitments reads, "I will provide access to a quality education to every child in
America by giving real school choice to parents."
What Rudolph Giuliani doesn't understand is that, for many families, there is no possibility whatsoever of
school choice. In big cities and wealthy suburbs, there are many private schools available, but in rural
communities, there often are not any private schools around to serve as alternatives to public school.
For other rural communities, there is no realistic private school choice for most residents because the local
private school is operated with an extremist cultural agenda that alienates most families in the area. In the
rural area of Western Wayne County, New York served by North Rose-Wolcott High School, for example, the
only private school available is the Sunnyside Christian Academy, which has a strident religious message that
makes many residents uncomfortable. If Giuliani's choice agenda goes forward, the religious fringe
community in the area will benefit, but everyone else will lose out.
When school choice programs take resources away from public schools in order to support private schools
that do not provide the kind of education that most community members regard as appropriate, they actually
end up reducing the amount of choice available within mainstream schools. Rudy Giuliani just doesn't
understand that, because he's out of touch with the educational realities of the world outside of Manhattan.
- Right wingers like to depict the progressive cause of environmentalism as only concerned with the
welfare of animals like the spotted owl, but in doing so, they forget that human beings are animals too, and
suffer like other animals suffer when the environment is unhealthy. Environmentalists like non-human
animals, sure, but they also care about the welfare of human children.
The connection is made clear this month, August 2007, as children are directly suffering the consequences
of a crippling heat wave across the American South and Midwest that has been going on almost all summer,
and is now interfering with the education of school children.
Across the South, schools are being opened for only half the time they normally would be, because the
afternoon heat makes it unsafe for children to be inside school buildings that cannot be kept adequately cool.
Half a school day means less educational time for children.
As climate warming continues, the ability of students to effectively establish themselves in society will
continue to suffer from the impact of reduced educational time at school, unless adjustments are made. Such
adjustments are being discussed. In a very human piece of evidence for climate change, school districts in the
American South are planning to adjust their calendars for the school year, placing more school days in cooler
months, and less school days in warmer months. (Source: Washington Post, August 22, 2007)
- An article authored by Kristen Underhill, Paul Montgomery, and Don Operario and published in the
August 4 2007 edition of the British Medical Journal reviews 13 studies of abstinence-only sex education in the
United States. The ultimate outcome of interest to the article's authors is vulnerability to HIV, but the actual
observed outcomes varied from study to study, and included "incidence of HIV, sexually transmitted
infection, pregnancy... incidence or frequency of unprotected vaginal, anal, or oral sex; incidence or frequency
of any vaginal, anal, or oral sex; number of partners; condom use; sexual initiation." Although the outcomes of
the review are relevant to HIV infection, they are not only limited to HIV in their relevance. The authors find
no evidence to support the claim that abstinence-only sex education is effective in reducing adverse sexual
It's not like this is the first study to find no effect of abstinence-only education. We've seen this conclusion
in other studies before. The ineffectiveness of the approach is not surprising, considering the use of
misinformation by its practitioners. And yet the same people who worked hard to cover up sex abuse in the
church continue to insist that hiding information about sexuality will work, this time for sure. Republican
presidential candidates like Mike Huckabee insists that handing out Bibles in school is more effective than
revealing the existence of these handy little things called condoms. And the current occupant of the White
House, George W. Bush, continues to submit budgets funding abstinence-only sex education to the tune of
$200 million a year.
Until the conservative politicians currently in charge of government turn their focus to programs that
actually accomplish the desired outcome, we should turn our support away from those conservative
politicians. (Sources: British Medical Journal August 4 2007; The American Prospect March 29 2007)
- For people looking to get more of an insight into the presidential campaign of John Edwards, there's a
solid description of a meeting that John Edwards had with voters in Merrimack, New Hampshire, from the
blog Blue Mass Group (Merrimack is just a few miles from the Massachusetts border).
I was particularly struck by the response John Edwards gave to a question about the No Child Left Behind
Act, which many educators say has created an educational system which punishes schools that do not push
students to perform well on standardized tests to the detriment of non-test subject matters and learning styles.
Edwards made his point by saying, "You don't fatten a pig by weighing it more often."
I've never heard that particular critique of the No Child Left Behind Act, but it makes clear sense. Shaping
education according to standardized test performance won't necessarily improve systems of education, but it
will teach a generation of students (and teachers) that learning is important mainly because there are tests that
need to be passed.
America needs more imagination than that. That's why, as John Edwards reminds us, it's important to elect
a progressive President in 2008 who will ask Congress to reform the No Child Left Behind Act. (Source:
- The next time I visit Chillicothe, in southern Ohio, IÕll just have to dip a bit south to visit Petersburg, KentuckyÕs brand spanking new Creation Museum. Curator Ken Ham promises that this Creation Museum will contain just loads of scientific evidence that proves the veracity of fundamentalist Christian creationism. Keep in mind as you read below that this is a guy who is in the mainstream of fundamentalist Christian creationism. HamÕs radio show, "Answers É with Ken Ham," is broadcast on over 700 radio stations across the nation. The Right and Righteous Reverend Jerry Falwell exults about HamÕs efforts that "When that museum is finished, itÕs going to be CincinnatiÕs No. 1 tourist attraction. ItÕs going to be a mini-Disney World!"
Among the "facts" Mr. Ham purports to prove:
- That "not even one instance of evolution has ever been confirmed."
- That the Grand Canyon was formed in days or weeks by a really, really, really big flood.
- That dinosaurs are "missionary lizards", put on Earth to help spread the word of fundamentalist Christianity.
- That a pair of Tyrannosaurus Rex dinosaurs were on NoahÕs ark.
- That dinosaurs survived to the time of Jesus.
Ham says these things all must be true, because they directly follow from what the Bible says. And, after all, "if you canÕt trust the Bible on biology, geology and astronomy, how can you trust it on morality and salvation?"
That's a very good question.
- For teachers and others in the know about education, Chris Dodd has picked up a particularly important
statement of support. Jonathan Kozol praises the plan for educational reform proposed by the Dodd for
President campaign. Kozol states, "Chris Dodd, a lifelong warrior on behalf of children, has by far the best,
most ambitious and enlightened education plan of the Democratic presidential candidates. I applaud him for
Kozol's praise for educational reform programs doesn't come easy. As the author of books like Savage
Inequalities and Shame of the Nation, Kozol is harshly critical of educational reform programs that are not
well-conceived, such as the No Child Left Behind Act. Kozol's praise for Senator Dodd's proposal for
renewing American education is thus worthy of note.
The Dodd Plan for education is as follows:
- End corporate subsidies for banks and increase competition for lower interest rates on student loans by
requiring banks to compete in a federally run auction to offer federal student loans.
- Partner with states to subsidize in-state tuition at public community colleges for students earning credit
towards an associate's degree.
- Increase the amount of the Pell Grant by $100 each year
- Publish a tuition inflation index and a list of colleges and universities whose tuition exceeds it every
- Extend new protections to private student loans in order to improve transparency, prevent unfair and
deceptive private lending practices and eliminate conflicts of interest
- Create a Pre-K Incentive Fund that matches state funds in providing free preschool to 4-year-olds from
families with incomes below $50,000
- Reform the No Child Left Behind Act by easing burdens on students, teachers and administrators without
dismantling the fundamental underpinnings of the law
- Pay the cost of national board certification for any teacher who commits to teach in a high need school for
five years and provide them with a salary supplement of $10,000 a year
- Fund the creation of a set of model K-12 American education standards to be adopted voluntarily by states in
exchange for additional resources and increased flexibility under the No Child Left Behind Act
- Support schools that wish to lengthen their school day to extend student learning opportunities
- Make $25 billion available for the construction of new schools and the modernization of existing
- Fund the infrastructure necessary to create individualized graduation plans for every student
- Offer all public schools a chance to supplement their curriculum with advanced or specialized courses
- create a Council on Education Philanthropy to evaluate how private and public dollars can best be leveraged
to ensure that American students graduate from high school ready to compete in the global economy
No other presidential candidate has an educational plan this progressive and this detailed. It's something
of substance to take into account when considering the Dodd for President campaign. (Source:
- The No Child Left Behind Act is an attack on progressive, holistic education that replaces well-rounded
liberal arts curricula with the push to teach students to achieve on standardized tests. The failure of No Child
Left Behind has been profound, but its right wing defenders insist that the sacrifices have been worth it, and
that the benefits would be shown in improved standardized test scores.
In many states, the response to No Child Left Behind's requirements was to dumb down standardized
tests, but not every test was vulnerable to such pressure. The SAT test, for example, measures the academic
competence of students who are leaving K-12 educational programs for college, and so the people who make it
have no motivation to lower the difficulty of the test in order to produce a false appearance of
During the 1990s, before the passage of No Child Left Behind, SAT scores were on the rise. Now that the
No Child Left Behind Act has had a chance to impact the education of students across America, SAT scores are
in decline. This year, scores on the reading, math and writing sections all fell.
Even by the questionable measure accepted by supporters of No Child Left Behind, standardized testing,
the No Child Left Behind Act is hindering the educational achievement of American students. In 2008, we need
to elect a President who will support a return to a more progressive mode of education for American children.
(Source: New York Newsday, August 29, 2007)
- The next President of the United States will have the power to set national educational policy, and the
stakes of the educational policy set by the White House are only going to get higher. The number of K-12
students in the United States is expected to grow by between five and six million by the time of the
presidential election in 2012. (Source: U.S. National Center for Education Statistics)
- Just a few minutes ago, in the Democratic presidential debate sponsored by New Hampshire Public Radio,
John Edwards and Barack Obama said that they support the education of their own children about the
existence of same-sex marriage. They pointed out that children need to know about the discrimination that
same-sex couples face, and expressed their belief that same-sex couples have the right to live in dignity just
like opposite-sex couples.
Edwards and Obama are right. My son, at the age of five, already had two friends from different families
with parents who were of the same sex. It's not a big deal for him. As far as he's concerned, what matters is
what games his friends want to play, not what kind of sex their parents have, or whether they're of the same
It's too bad that the Republicans won't grow up to the same level of maturity as my six year-old son, and
get on to the more important business of America. (Source: New Hampshire Public Radio, September 26,
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Julie L. Gerberding was asked to testify before the
U.S. Senate on October 22, 2007 regarding the impact of climate change on health and infectious disease and
submit a written report on the same topic. Gerberding prepared 14 pages of specific, detailed, referenced
remarks for the Senate. The White House deleted Gerberding's specific references to the scientific literature
on the subject, reducing Gerberding's written report to a generalist 4 pages. As a colleague of Gerberding's put
it, the employment of scientific findings to inform policy has yet again been "eviscerated" by the Bush White
House.(Source: Washington Post October 23 2007)
- The more I look at Ron Paul's record in the U.S. House of Representatives, the more baffled I become.
Time and time again, Ron Paul opposes solid, sensible legislation that Americans ought to be able to unite
Take math and science education. In spite of the clear need for the United States to strengthen instruction
of science and math in K-12 schools and our universities, Ron Paul's legislative record indicates that he's
against doing so. For example, on April 27, 2007, Ron Paul was one of only twenty two members of the House
to vote against H.R. 362, the 10,000 Teachers, 10 Million Minds Science and Math Scholarship Act.
The 10,000 Teachers, 10 Million Minds Science and Math Scholarship Act is not controversial. That's why
389 members of the House, including many Republicans, voted for it. The legislation will, if passed by the
Senate, establish teacher education programs and scholarships at the National Science Foundation and
Department of Education. It would cost an average of 132 million dollars per year over the next five years.
That's not a lot of spending, considering the immense size of the total federal budget and additional military
Yet, Ron Paul stands against it - against improving science and math education. Ron Paul's opposition to
improving the teaching of math and science doesn't make any sense, intellectually or politically. How could
we trust Ron Paul to effectively run the White House when he promotes an agenda of scientific ignorance and
Ron Paul's libertarian supporters claim to be in favor of an enlightened political philosophy. However, I
can't count any political philosophy that favors withholding funds from education as enlightened. (Source:
Library of Congress)
- David Vitter, United States Senator from Louisiana, has tried to insert an earmark of 100,000 dollars for a
radical right wing religious organization into Senate legislation.
The earmark would establish government funding for the Louisiana Family Forum, a Christian
organization with the following mission: "To persuasively present biblical principles in the centers of
influence on issues affecting the family through research, communication and networking."
Most outrageously, the 100,000 dollars Vitter wants to give the Louisiana Family Forum would be
provided "to develop a plan to promote better science education". Of course, the Lousiana Family Forum is not
a scientific organization. It is a religious organization that believes that science education ought to be forced to
comply with religious teaching. The Lousiana Family Forum supports the unsubstantiated Creationist
religious doctrine as a substitute for science education. David Vitter might as well have supported federal
funds to support instruction to geography students that the Earth is flat.
It isn't the business of the federal government to fund the efforts of religious groups to promote their
beliefs. In fact, the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America explicitly forbids
Congress to do anything that would contribute to the establishment of religion.
Right wing senators like David Vitter don't seem to care about that. They care less about their oath to
uphold and defend the Constitution than their personal allegiance to a particularly form of Christianity.
Progressives don't try to use government money to help extremist groups push their religion on other
Americans. So, if you don't want to see more of David Vitter's kind of big government religion, vote
progressive in 2008. (Source: People for the American Way, October 17, 2007)
- Supporters of the Republican presidential candidates are loathe to admit that their candidates don't
support math and science education. Present them with evidence, such as their opposition to a bill in Congress
that supports math and science education, and they'll make excuses. They'll offer abstract ideological excuses
for their candidates' hostility to science and math education. Then, they'll try to ignore the fact that their
candidates have failed to offer any alternatives.
These excuses fall flat when science and math legislation comes along in Congress, however, that has such
a broad base of support that Democrats and Republicans alike call for its passage into law. Such a piece of
legislation, H.R.5358, the Science and Mathematics Education for Competitiveness Act, was proposed in May
The Science and Mathematics Education for Competitiveness Act would have provided systematic support
to education in fields of science, math, engineering and technology all the way through the graduate level. By
funding scholarships and grants, teacher training, and assessments of the quality of university science, math
and technical education, the legislation was an important step in reinvigorating science and math education for
students of all ages.
It wasn't just Democrats in Congress who supported the bill. Many Republicans, like Sherwood Boehlert,
Michael T. McCaul, and Joe Schwarz, added their co-sponsorship to the legislation as well.
However, one month after the Science and Mathematics Education for Competitiveness Act was
introduced to the floor of the House of Representatives, all action on the legislation ceased. Why? Although
the bill was bipartisan, many members of Congress didn't think that improving supporting math, science,
engineering and technology education was worth bothering with. They didn't cosponsor the legislation, and
didn't give it any support. They allowed it to be forgotten.
Among those who refused to support the Science and Mathematics Education for Competitiveness Act
were the three Republican presidential candidates from the House of Representatives: Tom Tancredo, Duncan
Hunter, and Ron Paul.
The Science and Mathematics Education for Competitiveness Act isn't the only legislation for science and
math education that these three politicians have worked against. Duncan Hunter, Ron Paul, and Tom Tancredo
are consistently involved in the effort to dumb down America by allowing math and science education to go
underfunded. (Source: Library of Congress)
- CNN reports that tax money is being spent at the rate of $200,000 per minute by the United States in Iraq.
$200,000 is a lot of money. It is enough to pay for a full four years of tuition, room, board and books at an
Ivy League institution. One Ivy League education for a brilliant kid who by accident of birth doesn't have the
money to pay for it.
One Ivy League education lost per minute. One thousand, four hundred and forty four Ivy League
educations lost every day. Ten thousand and eighty Ivy League educations lost every week. Five Hundred and
Twenty Five thousand, Six Hundred Ivy League educations lost every year.
Lost because George W. Bush, the Republican Party, and a large number of pro-war Democrats rushed into
a war of choice that has not accomplished the goals set out at its inception. Why would we trust such
politicians ever, ever again? (Source: CNN November 2, 2007)
- Progressives support increasing teacher salaries in order to motivate the most qualified teachers to remain
in the profession, and to motivate more highly qualified students to become teachers. Right wing politicians
like to depict this position as outside of the American mainstream. They like to claim that what most
Americans want is just to have their taxes cut.
The facts contradict these right wing claims. A recent Phi Delta Kappa/Gallup poll found that 88 percent
of the American public supports raising salaries to address the teacher recruitment and retention challenge.
On pay raises for teachers, the progressive position is the mainstream position. (Source: National Education Association)
- According to a recent poll, 27 percent of Americans say that they have not read a book within the last year.
Some might say that this apathy toward books as an expression of an inherently wise free market.
Progressives disagree, and regard the high rate of alliteracy as a threat to the informed and educated citizenry
that a democracy requires. (Source: Harper's Magazine, November 2007)
- In 2007, President George W. Bush presented a budget that proposed cutting $100 million dollars for Head
Start pre-school educational programs. The consequences aren't just financial. The future success of 30,000
children who will have to be eliminated from Head Start programs if Bush's budget cut gets through Congress
is at risk. (Source: National Education
- People who advocate saving money by skimping on teacher salaries miss an essential point: Finding new
teachers to replace the teachers who leave because of inadequate compensation for their difficult jobs costs an
awful lot of money. Recent research indicates that the cost of recruiting and training new teachers because of
high rates of turnover is seven billion dollars every year. (Source: National Commission on Teaching and
- George W. Bush and his Republican followers love to talk about the value of good hard work. They hate
people just sitting around unemployed, they say. Their message to Americans having hard times is: Get a job!
It's an odd thing, then, that Republicans actually oppose programs that help people get work. In the
federal budget the Republicans have proposed for 2008, the funding for vocational and technical education
programs is cut in half.
Those programs help give students the skills that will make them valuable to employers, keeping the
economy strong. The programs encourage and enable people to get a job, just like Republicans say everybody
Republicans may talk about the value of hard work, but they don't back up their talk with action. They
show the low regard they have for working people in the funding cuts they hurl at the pro-work programs in
the federal budget. (Source: National Education Association)
- In a letter to the editor of Harper's Magazine, Mike Rose of Los Angeles puts the accomplishments of
public education into perspective, writing, "When people bemoan the amount we spend on public
education, they fail to consider the fact that we are asking our schools to solve social and economic problems
we cannot, or will not, solve by other means."
Right wing politicians try to erode the quality of education, but progressives have made it work, for the
betterment not just of students, but of society as a whole. (Source: Harper's Magazine, November 2007)
- When people talk about "the war in Iraq", there's one front that they rarely think about. Before the conflict
between the United States and Iraq, Iraqis were known for their high level of education. Since the American
invasion of Iraq, however, an anti-education agenda has been undertaken, often with bloody results.
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization reports that, as of the spring of 2007,
280 academics had been targeted and killed since the invasion of 2003. These killings were not just incidental
to the general violence, but have been assassinations that took part in what UNESCO calls "a campaign of
liquidation" against teachers and thinkers in Iraq.
Under the American occupation, radicals who regard learning as something offensive have been running
out of control. It's the responsibility of occupying military forces to prevent such violence. The blood of these
academics is on our hands. (Source: Associated Press, November 9, 2007)
- In the 2004-2005 school year, the latest year the U.S. Census Bureau has information for, there were
75,200,000 public school students in the United States. The census bureau also found that, during that school
year in the United States, it cost an average $8,701 per student per year to give a child a public school
education. So, we can arrive at a rough figure of $654,315,200,000 for an annual cost of educating America's
public school students.
654.3 billion dollars seems like a large amount, but it's miniscule compared to the amount that is being
spent on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan: $2.4 trillion dollars. For the cost of 2.4 trillion dollars, the federal
government could have made grants of more than $31,000 per student to every public school in the country.
That amount could have been spent on improving the public education available to American children. Thanks
to war, that opportunity has now been lost.
In 2008, we need to elect a progressive President who will choose to invest in education instead of wasting
money on war. (Sources: Public Education Finances Report, US Census Bureau, 2004-2005; Statistical Abstract
of the United States, 2007)
- The right wing's animosity toward investment in quality public education was expressed in the blind question of its hero, Ronald Reagan: "Why should we subsidize intellectual curiosity?"
We should subsidize intellectual curiosity because it was intellectual curiosity that enabled humanity to establish control over fire. Clothes, language, houses, medicine - in short, everything that separates us from the other animals - was created because of intellectual curiosity.
The alternative to intellectual curiosity is anti-intellectual indifference. That's why progressives believe that the federal government should subsidize intellectual curiosity, and that's why we should never allow another politician who idolizes Ronald Reagan to become President. (Source: Routledge Dictionary of Quotations)
- Sometimes, the value of a progressive organization is relatively abstract, such as in the protection of free
speech. Other times, it is starkly concrete, as in the case of current work of the American Civil Liberties Union
of Hawai'i, which is acting on behalf of the children of homeless families. The ACLU of Hawai'i, in
partnership with Lawyers for Equal Justice, is working to make sure that these children are given equal access
to public education, as is required by the Constitution. The organization explains,
"As we meet with homeless families and social service providers across the state, the number of
children who have been or are being denied access to basic public education continues to grow. The State's
blatant violations of federal law have harmed children statewide and must be immediately corrected," said
William Durham of LEJ. "Congress has given the State funds to fulfill an important national mandate. There
is no excuse for the State's negligence every day that goes by results in more children being denied an
education." The latest round of legal actions includes requests to bar the State from carrying out specific
practices that violate federal law such as denying homeless children entrance to school because they lack
certain documentation, which has led to children missing school for days and weeks at a time. The State has
also failed to provide transportation, which forces families of extremely limited means to fend for themselves
and results in children being consistently tardy or absent from school.
Thanks to the ACLU in Hawaii. When the rights of the least powerful are protected, the rights of the rest
of us become stronger as a result. (Source: American Civil Liberties Union of Hawai'i, November 6, 2007)
- Not everyone can go to college. Attending college takes a lot of planning, and a lot of money. However,
under the plans promoted by three Democratic candidates for President in 2008, all interested Americans
would be able to go to community college.
Barack Obama and Chris Dodd propose plans that would pay completely for community college
education. John Edwards has a plan that would pay for the tuition and books for the first year of community
These plans would extend the educational opportunity of America's most economically vulnerable young
adults. They would also enrich our country, by making the American workforce more capable of innovation
and creation of wealth.
The community college vision offered by the Republican presidential candidates is less ambitious: If you
want to go, you figure out how to get the money. (Source: Des Moines Register, November 20, 2007)
- John McCain got a lot of Republican applause for complaining that a study of grizzly bear genetics is
bankrupting the U.S. federal government.
Scientific studies are responsible for the federal budget deficit? What kind of idiot does John McCain take
Science is not to blame for the record breaking growth of the federal budget deficit under the Republican
government. War is.
John McCain knows that, and he ought to be ashamed for making science the scapegoat of his own fiscally
irresponsible pro-war policies. (Source: CNN, November 28, 2007)
- If you don't vote for a progressive at the top of a political ticket, you'll get unreality further down the line. For an example of this, look to Texas, where Republican Governor Rick Perry appointed creationist Don McElroy to head the Texas school board. McElroy, who opposed adoption of a biology science textbook in Texas because he said it wasn't critical enough toward education, has indicated his intention to mandate the inclusion of anti-evolution sentiments (including the old canard about the existence of missing links) in future Texas high school curricula. Aw, but who will get hurt by the religiously-driven politicization of science education? Just a few million schoolkids, that's all. (Source: Dallas Morning News August 23 2007)
- No Child Left Behind: That was the promise of George W. Bush's education package.
Testing, the very measure that President Bush said would vindicate the program, shows that the promise of the No Child Left Behind Act has not been met.
The Program for International Student Assessment tests 15 year-old students in 30 different countries, including the United States, assessing skills in math and science. The results, as described in the headline of a newspaper article by the Associated Press: "US teens lag behind in science and math".
Lagging sure sounds like being left behind. The test finds that American students are not performing as well in science and math as students in other countries around the world. There's no sign of improvement among American students on the test since the No Child Left Behind Act was passed. (Source: Associated Press, December 4, 2007)
- Right wing politicians claim that the only way that children can grow up to be virtuous is if the truth about sex is concealed from them until they are able to discover it on their own as adults. Progressives, however, trust children enough to teach them about sex as they develop, to the extent that their psychological development makes appropriate. Through ongoing open discussions about sex, progressives seek to help children make healthy decisions by showing that they are trusted.
Even back in the 1930s, this progressive alternative to censorship of sex education was endorsed by Bertrand Russell, who wrote, "There is no excuse for deceiving children. And when, as must happen in conventional families, they find that their parents have lied, they lose confidence in them and feel justified in lying to them." (Source: Bertand Russell, Our Sexual Ethics)
- If you don't vote for progressives, you get regressives. Take the state of Texas, where regressive politicians have been elected in especially high proportions. The regressives in office ousted Christine Castillo, the Texas Education Agency Director of Science. Why? Because she forwarded an e-mail to others which contained references to an upcoming speech noting the importance of evolution education. Lizette Reynolds, a former Bush appointee to the U.S. Department of Education, got the fire-Castillo ball rolling with a blistering notice to Castillo's superiors:
This is highly inappropriate. I believe this is an offense that calls for termination or, at the very least, reassignment of responsibilities. This is something that the State Board, the Governor's Office and members of the Legislature would be extremely upset to see because it assumes this is a subject that the agency supports.
The TEA's consequent memo regarding the Castillo affair wrote that by forwarding the e-mail announcement of a speech on evolution education, Castillo "implies that TEA endorses the speaker's position on a subject on which the agency must remain neutral."
Well, why wouldn't the Texas Education Agency support education on the subject of evolution? And why would the Director of Science for the TEA be neutral about the existence of evolution? Evolution is science so thoroughly settled that it has spawned multiple departments at Texas state universities, not to mention dozens of chemical, agricultural and medical industries employing Texans.
The answer is that despite the settled state of evolution in the scientific, professional and industrial communities, evolution is not a settled matter in Texas state politics, where backward-looking, fact-ignoring regressives are in charge. And whose fault is that? Well, who voted these people into office? If you want a realistic approach to science education, you need to elect a progressive instead. (Sources: Austin American-Statesman November 29 2007; New York Times December 3 2007)
- Education is the foundation of freedom. Even a person who is able to make decisions without coercion cannot be counted as free so long as those decisions are made without free access to information and ideas. That's what makes the right wing effort to undermine public education in the United States so dangerous.
It was with this connection between education and liberty that President Rutherford B. Hayes said, in his inaugural address that, "Universal suffrage should rest upon universal education. To this end, liberal and permanent provision should be made for the support of free schools by the State governments, and, if need be, supplemented by legitimate aid from national authority."
How sad it is that Republicans today don't think of education in the way that Republican President Hayes once did. (Source: Inaugural Address, Rutherford B. Hayes, March 5, 1877)
- President Hayes also understood that education was the most sustainable foundation for economic development, saying of efforts to restore the economic integrity of the South after the Civil War, that, "at the basis of all prosperity, for that as well as for every other part of the country, lies the improvement of the intellectual and moral condition of the people."
These words, from 130 years ago, represent an ideal in America that has still not been reached. Let us take a step closer to that ideal in 2008, by choosing a progressive candidate for President. (Source: Inaugural Address, Rutherford B. Hayes, March 5, 1877)
- In 2005, Kei Koizumi, a budget expert at the American Association for the Advancement of Science, released a report that analyzed changes in the funding for essential science programs in President Bush's proposed 2006 budget. That analysis showed cuts in the Department of Energy's Office of Science, federal environmental research and design, the U.S. Geological Survey, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Environmental Protection Agency, science within the Department of AgricultureÉ and on and on and on. Some programs, like the Advanced Technology Program at the National Institute of Standards and Technology, would have be completely eliminated, if Bush had his way.
Koizumi commented, "We expected a tight 2006 budget, but it's striking how much the budget retreats from federal investments in science and technology in important areas."
It turns out that much of the decrease in funding for serious scientific research comes as a result of George W. Bush's little obsession with establishing a Moon Colony and sending people to walk around on Mars in order to determine that the planet is, in fact, red. Don't get me wrong - going to the Moon and Mars sounds exciting, but in practice, the scientific justification of the huge cost of the journey amounts to little more than a "neato" factor. The amount of important science that would have been cut so that George W. Bush could play President Moonbeam is shameful.
Of course, it's ultimately unfair to pit Flash Gordon space lovers against Earthbound scientists. Both groups could get plenty of funding if it weren't for George W. Bush's decision to spend money on things like deploying a super deluxe nuclear missile defense system for billions upon billions of dollars - in spite of the fact that no such thing has truly been invented yet.
George W. Bush's complete lack of respect for the benefits of honest scientific rigor is a perfect match for his tendency to become easily distracted by sparkly budget items like a Moon Colony or missile defense, but both become particularly creepy when they're combined with Bush's affinity for fundamentalist beliefs. For mature minds, genuine science holds plenty of fascination. In 2008, we need to elect a President grown up enough to abandon his pre-scientific view of the world, in which a combination of gee-whiz excitement and gut feelings are presumed to be an adequate replacement for critical thinking and patient investment in the pursuit of knowledge.
- I spent four days straight offline this year, visiting people in Idaho and Washington. They aren't TV watchers, radio listeners, newspaper readers or internet subscribers, so I had no access to any news outside the personal gossip of the happenings of friends and relations. This was somewhat of a shock, since I'm used to buffeting myself with news and other data from multiple sources many times a day.
From time to time, I've heard a friend or two exclaim in delight that they have cut themselves off from news, expressed as a difficult but character-building achievement that will lead to some sort of moral improvement. The idea, at least as I've heard it, is that exposure to the media is soul-corrupting, while self-imposed isolation from information about the rest of the world is cleansing.
After I experienced the same situation myself, I suppose I can reflect on it a smidge. Did I feel cleansed? Did I feel purified? Did I feel superior? Heck, no. With the current government in place, I feel profoundly worried. Some people, when they're worried, prefer to just stop thinking about the problems that worry them. They prefer to retreat into the easy fog of ignorance.
As for myself, I don't find myself feeling much sympathy for that attitude. Information is not corruption. Ignorance does not purify us. If we're going to get on in the world, we need to educate ourselves about what's going on, not shut ourselves away and pretend that we're getting more enlightened the less we engage with the world.
- Some remarkable advances in science have occurred under the Bush administration. Take, for example, the arrival of the Cassini probe at Titan, providing all sorts of new information about a world rich in hydrocarbons and with a thick atmosphere. Oh, but the Bush administration really ought not take credit for that. After all, the Cassini probe was funded and launched during the Clinton years.
What does the Bush administration have to show for itself in the realm of space science? Only a grand speech during an election year about sending people to the Moon and MarsÉ a speech which did not result in adequate funding. In the wake of his big inspirational speech about space voyages, George W. Bush has let the Moon and Mars trips quietly drift off into oblivion, giving him a big old goose egg in the sky when it comes to space science achievements. We're on a rocket to nowhere. (Sources: CBS News October 27, 2004; CNN January 14, 2004)