Corporal Punishment In Schools - Redux

Monday, June 28, 2010
Legality of corporal punishment in the United ...Image via Wikipedia
It is bad enough that schools consider corporal punishment a viable form of discipline but, where is the outrage by the parents?

Apparently, Memphis thinks if you spare the rod you spoil the child. Let's check-in with Maureen Downey over at on. "Why would Memphis or any school system reinstate corporal punishment?"

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Getting Involved - Community Organizing

Sunday, June 27, 2010
I Am A Community Organizer (168x243)Image by baratunde via Flickr
Community organizing is a process where people who live in proximity to each other come together into an organization that acts in their shared self-interest.

The key action here is to, "come together into an organization". In other words to organize around something you need a group. If you are not already part of a group, then this is where you need to start.    

As for the shared self-interest part, this is either a atheist, free-thought, humanist, secular or similar group.

While this is all certainly new to me I have learned a lot in a short time. To be sure though, I am certainly no expert.  However, I got a chance last night at my Meetup group's movie night (We saw, "The God Who Wasn't There"). During a great free flow conversation after the movie we got around to discussing individual and group goals. Note: This was only our 7th meeting.

Individual goals ranged from spreading awareness to combating lies and misconceptions to community activism. Group goals largely focused on building the group membership and letting people know we are here.

Fortunately, most of the individual and group goals intersect. Here a few early ideas on how we can achieve our goals:
  • Potluck Movie Night or a Movie Hosted at a Theater
  • Entertainment to build membership - Meet for coffee after Music in the Park... or a BBQ at the beach...
  • Billboards/Bus Ads
  • Adopt a highway
  • Speakers - Atheist, Secular, Constitutional
So to recap you need to belong to a group with a shared interest. Once you are part of a group with a shared interest you can start talking about goals and work towards them.

Now get out there and get involved.
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Happy Fathers Day

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Where Are The Strings?

Friday, June 18, 2010
337/365: The Big MoneyImage by DavidDMuir via Flickr
Monday's online edition of the Wallstreet Journal reported that some schools have resorted to accepting donation from church's to make for severe budget shortfalls. Being a school employee myself I am keenly aware of how bad school budgets are. We have lost more than 15% of our staff in the last 12 months due to budget cuts and supplies are being cut beyond the bare minimum. However, how does anyone think accepting donations from religious organizations is a good thing? You don't generally get something for nothing from religious groups. You have to stand up and just say No 2 Religion!

Below is the article from the WSJ with bold added by me for emphasis.

A School Prays for Help
Towns Tap Businesses, Churches to Shore Up Budgets

LAKELAND, Fla.—When his budget for pencils, paper, and other essential supplies was cut by a third this school year, the principal of Combee Elementary School worried children would suffer.

Then, a local church stepped in and "adopted" the school. The First Baptist Church at the Mall stocked a resource room with $5,000 worth of supplies. It now caters spaghetti dinners at evening school events, buys sneakers for poor students, and sends in math and English tutors.

The principal is delighted. So are church pastors. "We have inroads into public schools that we had not had before," says Pastor Dave McClamma. "By befriending the students, we have the opportunity to visit homes to talk to parents about Jesus Christ."

Short on money for everything from math workbooks to microscope slides, public schools across the nation are seeking corporate and charitable sponsors, promising them marketing opportunities and access to students in exchange for desperately needed donations.

The dash for private funding has raised concerns. The Oklahoma Senate last month voted down a bill that would have allowed advertising on school buses, a move supporters said would prevent teacher layoffs. "Do we want our school buses to look like Dale Jr. (NASCAR racer Dale Earnhardt Jr.) is driving them?" says state Sen. Steve Russell, an Oklahoma City Republican who opposed the bill. "What's next? How about Starbucks on the side of our M1 tanks?"

In Florida, meanwhile, alliances between churches and schools are igniting debate about church-state boundaries. "I have great concerns about churches who see public schools as, well, what shall I say, church membership," says Harry Parrott, a retired Baptist minister who runs a local chapter of Americans United for Separation of Church and State.

Combee Elementary School is one of many schools seeking private help amid the orange groves of central Florida's Polk County, which has an unemployment rate of 12.1% and the fifth-highest rate of suburban poverty in the nation, according to the Brookings Institution, a Washington D.C. think tank.

Nearby Frostproof Elementary asks local businesses to sponsor classrooms, in return for promotion on the school marquee. Among those that stepped in is Rogers & Walker Gun Shop, which earned billing for donations totaling $300 to two classes.

At Sikes Elementary, principal Ann Tankson hands out fliers urging families to flock to "McTeacher's Night" at the local McDonald's, where volunteer teachers flip burgers as "celebrity employees." The franchise gives a portion of proceeds to the school.

"You do what you have to do," she says.

Public agencies across the spectrum, not just schools, are doing what they have to do. Already hit by a fall in sales and income taxes over the past two years, local governments now are wrestling with a drop in property-tax collections as home values are adjusted to reflect the downturn.

The police department in tiny Bayport, Minn., sought donations from a pet-food company to buy and feed its first trained police dog, a black-lab mix named Keylo. The public library system in El Paso, Texas, recently formed a nonprofit foundation to raise corporate funds to buy children's books and Spanish-language literature. Costa Mesa, Calif., is hunting for businesses to sponsor dog-poop bag dispensers.

Short of funds to provide homeless services, the Florida Department of Children and Families recently gave nearly $260,000 to the First Baptist Church Leesburg, an hour from Orlando, to buy and renovate the old Big Bass Motel in Leesburg. The church will open it this month as a shelter for homeless families. Residents will be required to attend church, though it doesn't have to be First Baptist, says Chester Wood, director of the inn.

Such alliances "are forcing a kind of essential re-examining of the public-private compact," says Mark Muro, a public policy analyst at the Brookings Institution. "We're going to be seeing more and more of this in the next year or two—and we're going to be seeing some experiments."

Public schools are making some of the boldest moves. Traditionally, private donations—including foundation grants and money raised at bake sales—have amounted to just 1% of K-12 funding nationally, according to the Education Commission of the States, a nonprofit think tank. The money generally has been spent on extras like new computers or playground upgrades.

Now, it's for essentials. "They're asking for simple things: books for the classroom, art supplies, paper," says Sean McGraw, executive director of a nonprofit foundation that supports public schools in wealthy Douglas County, Colo.

Bake sales no longer cut it. Manatee County, Fla., just received a $20,000 check from a local cucumber grower, Falkner Farms, which wants to sponsor and name an elementary-school engineering program. District officials are reviewing the deal as they continue to solicit sponsors for other courses.

The San Diego Unified School District is seriously considering opening its middle- and high-school cafeterias and gyms to corporate advertising, a move that could bring in $30,000 to $50,000 a year per school, says Bernie Rhinerson, chief district relations officer.

"We wouldn't put tobacco or anything objectionable to young minds," Mr. Rhinerson says.

But he can see Nike advertising in the gym. "That $30,000 could buy a part-time music teacher, a resource teacher, or books for the library," Mr. Rhinerson says.

North of San Diego, administrators in the Vista Unified School District are already reaching out to private-sector sponsors. Dentist John Coleman runs periodic promotions offering free teeth-whitening for patients who write a $150 check to a magnet school across the street from his office. The school sends home fliers advertising the deal; teachers talk it up among friends. The dentist says he's raised $5,000 for school science programs while bringing in more than enough new patients to make it worth his while.

This summer, the Houston Independent School District plans to launch a commercial online radio station in partnership with a private firm, RFC Media. The station, accessible from the district website, will play rock and rhythm-and-blues, air school news and sports highlights, and include five minutes of commercials each hour from a local supermarket chain, a furniture store and other sponsors. RFC Media, which has long experience in Houston radio, expects the district's share of the profit to top $300,000 the first year.

Some parents say they're grateful when the private sector steps up. "If a minor-league baseball park can have commercial sponsors, why shouldn't a high school, if it alleviates the tax burden and helps balance the budget?" says Dick Lee, a mortgage broker whose three children attend public schools in Newton, Mass. That district is considering selling naming rights to the theater, gym, swimming pool and athletic fields at its newest high school.

Other parents feel the alliances go too far. In Nashville, parent Mortimer Davenport is irked at a deal approved this spring by Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools. In return for $150,000 in cash and in-kind donations, the Tennessee Credit Union will open a bank branch in Antioch High School's cafeteria that will be run by students and staff and serve the school. The high school's business program has also been renamed, "The Tennessee Credit Union Academy of Business and Finance."

Mr. Davenport isn't crazy about having teens handle other peoples' money. And the deal with the credit union disturbs him.

"If a business is willing to pump money into a public-school system, they should just give it to the school to buy things it needs," says Mr. Davenport, whose daughter is a senior at Antioch High.

The school district says the bank branch will allow young people to get hands-on business experience.

Some educators and parents worry that schools in affluent areas have an advantage in finding private donors, exacerbating inequities in the classroom. They also fret that if schools are too successful at raising donations, lawmakers will cut their public funding even more deeply. "Legislators will begin to factor in outside donations when setting school budgets," says Arnold Fege of the Public Education Network, which represents school-advocacy groups.

In Polk County, situated between Tampa and Orlando, educators say they must run after every available dollar. Declining property-tax revenue has forced the school district to strip $76 million, or nearly 10%, from its budget over the past two years, even though the student population has grown, says Superintendent Gail McKinzie.

At Combee Elementary, funding for basic school supplies is down 33%, says principal Steve Comparato. In recent months, he's received donations from a local fertilizer company and a grocery chain. But Combee's most active sponsor is First Baptist Church at the Mall, a 9,000-member congregation that uses golf carts to shuttle worshippers from its palm-tree-filled parking lot to its main chapel, which used to be a Sam's Club.

Last fall, a school staffer who worships at the church told pastors about the school's plight. In a visit to Combee shortly thereafter, Mr. McClamma, the church's senior associate pastor of evangelism and missions, offered to start by opening a "resource room" stocked with supplies.

"I said, 'Amen,'" recalls Mr. Comparato. "This was like a prayer answered."

While Combee gained resources, the church gained access to families. At Christmas, the school connected the church with parents who said they wouldn't mind being visited at home by First Baptist. The church brought gifts, food and the gospel. Of about 30 families visited over two weekends in December, 13 "came to the Lord," says Mr. McClamma, a 58-year-old motorcycle buff who drives a black sports-utility vehicle with the bumper sticker "Christ First."

Mr. McClamma says adopting Combee goes far beyond providing resources like school supplies. "The purpose is to show them the church cares, and that there is hope, and hope is found in Jesus Christ."

"If they want to come in and help, who am I to say no?" says Mr. Comparato, the principal.

He says he would welcome congregations of any faith as sponsors, but adds of his students, "My personal conviction is that I hope through this they'll know Jesus and they'll get saved."

Asked if the principal's comments indicated he was promoting one particular religion, Ms. McKinzie, the Polk County superintendent, says, "He personally can hope anything he wants, as long as he offers programs at the school for parents who don't believe in the Baptist faith or anything at all."

Loretta Deal, a Combee parent, says she's not a churchgoer, but she appreciates the help from First Baptist, particularly after the church brought her gift certificates at Christmas. Ms. Deal, who is disabled from a stroke, says the church encouraged her to come to their church but she felt comfortable refusing. "Yes, they did, but I have never been a churchgoing person," she says.

On a recent muggy afternoon at the school, the lanky, 57-year-old principal strode down outdoor walkways painted with cougar paws (for the Combee mascot) with two pastors from First Baptist.

"Can I have a word of prayer with you?" asked Pastor McClamma. The principal, his assistant and the two pastors from First Baptist stood in a circle outdoors, outside the main office. Pastor McClamma asked for "Combee Elementary, Lord, just to excel."
As he walked through classrooms, Pastor McClamma jotted down notes of what the school was short on.

"How are y'all on the colored pencils? Need some of these?" he asked the principal, holding up pencils. "If you're getting low on supplies, let me know."

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Lifelong Learning

Thursday, June 17, 2010
Democratic Party logoImage via Wikipedia
One of the things I have enjoyed about my position as Political Action Coordinator (PAC) for my union is the training. I consider myself a lifelong learner. I enjoy learning new things and I enjoy learning more about what I already learned.

The first learning opportunity I received was from the California Democratic Party. In November 2009 I attended, Learn to Win 2010 Campaign Training in San Luis Obispo. The training focused on grass-roots organizing with emphasis on tools for success in Field Skills, Online Strategy, Finance Law, Using New Technology and Campaign Messaging.

Although, I do not think I am ready to run a campaign, the training left me with more than basic knowledge about how to run one. I certainly learned enough to be a strong campaign volunteer or staffer. However, what I really gained was insight into how to get involved and get others involved.

If you are in California, I urge you to attend this training if you are at all interested in becoming part of or learning more about political campaigns. If you are not in California, I suggest you contact your state or local democratic party to see if they are offering training like this.

One of the things I hope to do with this training is not only provide better working conditions and healthcare in my union but also use it to bring about progressive change in California and keep religion out of schools and government.

It is time to end the apathy and get involved.
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A Closer Look at Textbooks Needs A Closer Look

Wednesday, June 16, 2010
Epic FailImage via Wikipedia
In a New American article, Raven Clabough says,
"In light of the recent controversy surrounding the Texas Board of Education, and what may be an improvement on the information taught to America’s youth, I suddenly became curious about the “facts” found in the textbooks in my own state of residence: Florida."  
And he doesn't like what he found. While I think some points maybe valid most are simply Discovery Institute talking points.

One of my favorite comments was from Soulf2:
Discovery Institute reference fail
Wow, referencing the Discovery Institute without even looking into why they are not taken seriously is a major fail point for Raven Clabough. Anytime you want to know why the alt to evolution is not presented, just look it up on the talkorigins web site.
Every creationist claim is quoted, sourced, and cited.

As for the general history books... WTF? Are you serious? No single book is going to go into extensive details unless that is it's focus topic. If it did, student text books would be MUCH longer and impossible to cover over such a short time span. Also, opinion pieces should not be inserted into history books, save that for philosophy. However, we are lucky that most students are then able later to take topic oriented classes later (after the base history has been established).
And now for the actual article. Bold added by me for emphasis.
A Closer Look at Textbooks
Written by Raven Clabough  - Friday, 28 May 2010

In the debate over textbook content, the two major points of contention always seem to be the teaching of evolution, and American history overall. Students are schooled to believe that evolution is a fact, not a theory, and that America is a democracy, when it is in fact a Constitutional Republic, and that the Constitution is a living document that evolves over time.

Perhaps most disturbing is the absolute rewriting of history and blatant falsities that are being presented to the influential young minds in some textbooks, including concepts like “FDR saved America from depression” and “Woodrow Wilson was a progressive hero.” 

In light of the recent controversy surrounding the Texas Board of Education, and what may be an improvement on the information taught to America’s youth, I suddenly became curious about the “facts” found in the textbooks in my own state of residence: Florida.  

On evolution, Florida’s Holt Science and Technology textbook for eighth graders indicates: “Scientists observe that species have changed over time. They also observe that the inherited characteristics in populations change over time. Scientists think that as populations change over time, new species form. Thus, newer species descend from older species. The process in which populations gradually change over time is called evolution.” When discussing the evidence for evolution, the textbook refers to fossils and fossil records, case studies of whales, and DNA. Of course, there is an entire section dedicated to the greatness that was Charles Darwin, and much of the speculative language disappears. However, the textbook does refer to Darwin’s hypothesis on natural selection as a theory. 

The problem with the Holt Science textbook, however, is that even though it was copyrighted as recently as 2006, there is no mention of the alternative discoveries that dispute the theory of evolution. In 2001, the Discovery Institute launched a list of hundreds of scientists who dissent from Darwin’s Theory of Evolution. According to the Institute, “During recent decades, new scientific evidence from many scientific disciplines such as cosmology, physics, biology, “artificial intelligence” research, and others have caused scientists to begin questioning Darwinism’s central tenet of natural selection and studying the evidence supporting it in greater detail.” The letter of dissent states, “We are skeptical of claims for the ability of random mutation and natural selection to account for the complexity of life. Careful examination of the evidence for Darwinian theory should be encouraged.” 

Of the reasons for the dissent, the Center for Science and Culture indicated that Darwin’s theory of “microevolution,” changes within existing species, is uncontroversial and supported by a plethora of evidence, but that his theory of “macroevolution,” large-scale changes over geological time, was “controversial right from the start.” The Center states, “In the first few decades of the twentieth century, skepticism over this aspect of evolution was so strong that Darwin’s theory went into eclipse.” Dissenting scientists argue that the genetic mutations necessary to account for the theory of “macroevolution” would produce mostly harmful effects, not positive effects like the development of the human eye. 

Now, I do not pretend to thoroughly comprehend evolutionary theory, but one thing seems certain. Evidence uncovered after Darwin’s death has created a divide between scientists who do and do not subscribe to the theory of macroevolution, and that it is certainly worth mentioning in the Science textbooks. According to the Center for Science and Culture, “Since the controversy over microevolution and macroevolution is at the heart of Darwin’s theory, and since evolutionary theory is so influential in modern biology, it is a disservice to students for biology curricula to ignore the controversy entirely … it is inaccurate to give students the impression that the controversy has been resolved and that all scientists have reached a consensus on the issue”. 

It seems fair to say, unfortunately, that political correctness plays too much of a role in the content of school textbooks. In fact, according to a Rasmussen poll, 55 percent of parents believe that to be the case. If a science textbook even suggests that Darwin’s theory of evolution may be false, the writers are charged with supporting creationism. To avoid that clash, they simply leave out contradictory data. 

In the same Rasmussen poll, a mere 31 percent of parents believed history textbooks portray American History accurately.  On Glenn Beck’s May 25 episode, he furiously discussed how history is being rewritten to be politically correct.  He pointed to a Virginia State McDonald Publishing History textbook that discussed the Declaration of Independence and said, “The declaration expanded these ideas that all men are created equal and they are endowed … with certain unalienable rights.” The words “by their Creator” were removed and replaced by ellipses. 

Fortunately, Florida’s McDougal Littell Creating America eight grade textbook does not attempt to remove God’s role from the founding of American independence from British rule.   

Where the textbook falls short, unfortunately, is in the discussion of FDR’s presidency. The book accurately asserts that “the New Deal did not end the Depression” and even states that the New Deal did forever change the U.S. government. However, in the half-page mention of the Japanese internment camps, little focus is given to the overall and blatant injustice of the internment program. The program is summed up as follows:

In the days and weeks after Pearl Harbor, several newspapers declared Japanese Americans to be a security threat.  President Roosevelt eventually responded to the growing anti-Japanese hysteria.  In February 1942, he signed an order that allowed for the removal of Japanese and Japanese Americans from the Pacific Coast.  This action came to be known as the Japanese-American internment.  More than 110,000 men, women, and children were rounded up.  They had to sell their homes and possessions and leave their jobs.  These citizens were placed in internment camps, areas where they were kept under guard.  In these camps, families lived in single rooms with little privacy.  About two-thirds of the people interned were Nisei, Japanese Americans born in the United States.

And that’s it. There is no mention of what happened to the Japanese after the war, no real focus of what life was like in these internment camps, and no discussion of how most of these citizens did not have their properties restored to them upon their release. 

Likewise, the textbook does not mention the other prejudiced practices under FDR, including the imposition of restrictions on Italian and Germans living in the United States. According to the German American Internee Coalition, FDR “interned at least 11,000 persons of German ancestry” even though the law stated only “enemy aliens” could be interned. Under FDR, the Department of Justice (DOJ) “instituted very limited due process protections for those arrested.” Also under FDR, “pursuant to the Alien Enemies Act, DOJ created a network of prohibited zones and restricted areas.  Enemy aliens were forbidden to enter or remain in certain areas and their movements severely restricted in others.... Pursuant to Presidential Executive Order 9066, the military could restrict the liberties of citizens and aliens, as it deemed necessary.” 

Yet none of that information appears in the McDougal Littell textbook. Nor does the textbook discuss FDR’s creation of the Office of War Information, which virtually regulated all information in print, inhibiting freedom of press and speech. 

The issue with leaving out such pertinent information is that it lulls American students into a false sense of security about their government. To know history is to avoid repeating it. People who accuse governments’ critics of being “conspiracy theorists” are unaware that much of what people say could “never happen in America” already has. 

For these reasons, and many more, it is certainly no wonder the Texas Board of Education felt compelled to investigate the content of the textbooks. It should even prompt other states to take similar actions of scrutinizing textbooks to examine what is being left out or glossed over.  
Note: There are many more articles like this at the New American. While the site does not claim to be a mouthpiece for the religious right, it is quite obvious they are.
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At Least Some States Get It Right

Monday, June 14, 2010
Tomlinson Middle School New Science LabImage via Wikipedia
Unless you have been under a rock or lost in a jungle you have most likely heard about the Texas Textbook fiasco.  Well at least some state are getting right. According to Omaha World-Herald staff wrtter, Joe Dejk Nebraska and several other states are not introducing Intelligent Design into state science standards.

Although advocates of intelligent design enjoyed fleeting success the past decade in Kansas, they have not found Nebraska science classrooms so welcoming.

Three members of the Nebraska Board of Education say they're not aware of any effort by board members or the public to include intelligent design in Nebraska's new science standards.

Nebraska's 253 school districts would have to adopt the state standards, or more rigorous ones, or risk losing accreditation.
The standards take on added importance this year because education officials will use them to design for the first time a statewide science test. That test will be piloted at some schools next spring and implemented at all public schools in 2012.

Nebraska's proposed standards would continue to refer to evolution as theory. California's standards, among the nation's most detailed, do not qualify evolution as a theory. Oklahoma's standards, on the other hand, make no mention of either intelligent design or evolution, but children are taught “biological change over time.”

In Iowa, evolution also is included in state standards.
The Iowa Core, adopted by Iowa lawmakers in 2008, requires high school students to “understand and apply knowledge of biological evolution.”

Iowa high schools must adopt the Iowa Core by 2012; elementary schools by 2014.

... a 2005 federal court ruling that found a Dover, Pa., school board violated the U.S. Constitution when it approved teaching intelligent design alongside evolution.
Although Kansas' standards no longer refer to intelligent design, an introduction to the standards includes a reminder to teachers not to “ridicule, belittle or embarrass a student for expressing an alternative view or belief.”

The National Science Teachers Association opposes mandating the teaching of intelligent design. The association endorses teaching evolution, viewing it “as a major unifying concept.”
Read the entire article here: Standards keep focus on evolution

Getting Involved

Sunday, June 13, 2010
yellow dog democratImage by popofatticus via Flickr
There is a lot of talk on various blogs about getting involved. But what does getting involved mean? Although, I think getting involved means something different for everyone, what ever it means to you, just get involved.

For me, getting involved meant becoming active in my union. Instead of jumping in both feet first I started out as webmaster for my chapter and after about six months I attended the Chapter Public Relations Officer academy. Chapter Public Relations Officer (CPRO) seemed like the next logical step because it was basically what I was doing as webmaster. Additionally, the position was open on my chapter's executive board.

Last year I was recommended to the Regional Representative for the position of Political Action Coordinator (PAC). I readily accepted the position because it was time to put my mouth where my politics were; progressively to left. I have, for the most part always voted democrat, and for the last 15-20 years I have voted exclusively democrat and more progressively with each election. Without doubt I am a yellow dog democrat

The advantage of getting involved with my union was familiarity. I knew the people, I knew the subject and I knew the politics. Well at least I thought I knew the people, the subject and the politics.

Most of the people are like minded liberals of varying degrees. However, it surprised me to find so many religious conservatives in the union. I also found out the subject was much deeper than I thought. At least the politics were mostly what I suspected - progressively liberal.

Overall, I am still getting my feet wet as my region's PAC but I have enjoyed what I have done so far and I am looking forward to the coming months working up to the November election.

Now get out there and get involved.
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Hey Martin, Where Have You Been?

Saturday, June 12, 2010
#2 On Explore (With a Point & Shoot)Image by goingslo via Flickr
Busy. Crazy busy!

Last year I accepted a position with my union (CSEA) as Political Action Coordinator for my region (San Luis Obispo county). I knew accepting the position would entail extra work eventually. Well eventually came. Since the last week of April I have attended a legislative conference, training for a grass roots group and a fund raiser for an endorsed candidate. In between these events I worked with a team from my region to stage a rally to protest cuts to California education. Oh and of course I had all of my regular work and family life going on.

I have always been interested in politics but I was never willing to get involved because most politics get me rather upset. However, since starting this blog I have been able to temper by anger over religion through posts. Now I am hoping to do the same with politics. This is not to say this is going to become a political blog but I feel as though atheism, education and politics have become inextricably intertwined.

 Starting with post I am going to be posting more about politics in addition to atheism and education.
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