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March 28, 2012

Tennessee Republicans trying to block sharter schools from hiring immigrants

It's a round-about attack on Muslims creating their own charter schools that teach their own culture and history. But I'm positive that these same Republicans would have no problem with a Christian charter school using the Bible, teaching biblical ideas of history, and Creationism. The first amendment gives us all the freedom to practice whatever religion we want. No matter what these legislators think. Conservative Group Authors Xenophobic Bill in Tennessee To Limit Foreign Teachers | ThinkProgress
A conservative group in Tennessee is pushing the state legislature to pass a xenophobic bill that would place limits on the number of foreigners that the state’s charter schools can hire, in a thinly veiled attack on the Muslim community. The Putting Tennessee First Act says that the state’s chartering authority may not approve schools where more than 3.5 percent of their staff is made up of immigrants, even if they are legal residents of the United States. The Tennessean has more: The Tennessee Eagle Forum, which drafted the bill, is affiliated with the Eagle Forum, a national organization that wants to reduce the number of visas available to foreign-born workers and opposes the use of textbooks that it sees as favorable to Islam. The Eagle Forum is a national group run by anti-Equal Rights Amendment activist Phyllis Schlafly, who has called feminism the most “destructive force in our society today.”

On the rise of the dystopian YA novel

One of the primary functions of science-fiction is to vaccinate us against the future. To prepare us to answer the moral and ethical challenges that will bloom from what we sow today. The early 2000s saw America doing a lot of horrible stuff both abroad and at home and I can't help but feel that the dystopian fiction boom is reflective of that. Suzanne Collins’s “The Hunger Games,” review : The New Yorker
Dystopian novels for middle-grade and young-adult readers (M.G. and Y.A., respectively, in publishing-industry lingo) have been around for decades. Readers of a certain age may remember having their young minds blown by William Sleator’s “House of Stairs,” the story of five teen-agers imprisoned in a seemingly infinite M. C. Escher-style network of staircases that ultimately turns out to be a gigantic Skinner box designed to condition their behavior. John Christopher’s “The White Mountains,” in which alien overlords install mind-control caps on the heads of all those over the age of thirteen, tore through my own sixth-grade classroom like a wicked strain of the flu. Depending on the anxieties and preoccupations of its time, a dystopian Y.A. novel might speculate about the aftermath of nuclear war (Robert C. O’Brien’s “Z for Zachariah”) or the drawbacks of engineering a too harmonious social order (Lois Lowry’s “The Giver”) or the consequences of resource exhaustion (Saci Lloyd’s “The Carbon Diaries 2015”). And, of course, most American schoolchildren are at some point also assigned to read one of the twentieth century’s dystopian classics for adults, such as “Brave New World” or “1984.” The youth-centered versions of dystopia part company with their adult predecessors in some important respects. For one thing, the grownup ones are grimmer. In an essay for the 2003 collection “Utopian and Dystopian Writing for Children and Young Adults,” the British academic Kay Sambell argues that “the narrative closure of the protagonist’s final defeat and failure is absolutely crucial to the admonitory impulse of the classic adult dystopia.” The adult dystopia extrapolates from aspects of the present to show readers how terrible things will become if our deplorable behavior continues unchecked. The more utterly the protagonist is crushed, the more urgent and forceful the message. Because authors of children’s fiction are “reluctant to depict the extinction of hope within their stories,” Sambell writes, they equivocate when it comes to delivering a moral. Yes, our errors and delusions may lead to catastrophe, but if—as usually happens in dystopian novels for children—a new, better way of life can be assembled from the ruins would the apocalypse really be such a bad thing? Sambell’s observation implies that dystopian stories for adults and children have essentially the same purpose—to warn us about the dangers of some current trend. That’s certainly true of books like “1984” and “Brave New World”; they detail the consequences of political authoritarianism and feckless hedonism. This is what will happen if we don’t turn back now, they scold, and scolding makes sense when your readers have a shot at getting their hands on the wheel.

March 27, 2012

NYC Dept of Education wants to ban the word "dinosaur" from standardized tests

NYC Dept of Education wants to ban the word "dinosaur" from standardized tests
Their justification? The word "dinosaur" calls to mind other no-no words, like "evolution" (also on the proposed list of forbidden words), which could offend test-takers who might not necessarily believe in evolution. Or... dinosaurs? The fear, according to this report from CBS New York, is that certain words and topics could make students "feel unpleasant" while they're taking city-issued tests. Other words on the prospective ban-list include: "Halloween" (suggests paganism), "birthday" (insensitive to Jehovah's Witnesses, who don't celebrate birthdays), "dancing" (but not "ballet," which the city has evidently made an exception for), "video games" and "rap music."

Probably shoulda mentioned this earlier, but another ebook giveaway is afoot!

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