Today in terrifying: How Scientologists Are Sneaking Their Way into Schools to Spread Their Propaganda [#quickhit: link]

Not sure which scares me the most: Scientologists or flesh-eating snake-rat-mice-spiders.

By its own estimate, Foundation for a Drug Free World, an education non-profit, has visited at least 20 percent of New York City’s schools, public and private. That’s over 14,000 children, it says, mainly in disadvantaged schools in outer boroughs. Drug Free World has won accolades from the City Council and the state Senate and been featured by over a dozen local publications, including the Daily News.

But in two recent presentations witnessed by a City Limits reporter, the organization—which is connected to the Church of Scientology—presented information on the dangers of drug abuse that had little basis in fact and could be traced to the works of Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard.

On Alternet.

The Hidden Curriculum in Evangelism: Patriarchy

This isn’t an issue that I’ve read a great deal about. Certainly in Britain (and perhaps the rest of Europe), there is not a lot of evangelism on campus. Below is a guest post on feminismandreligion.com about the real interests behind such a movement on campus: patriarchy and the subordination of women. It’s ironic, then, that it seems to be thriving in supposed “seats of learning”.

A good evangelist, especially in college ministries, acts as if there is no agenda to his or her evangelism. It’s very, “Do you want a cup of coffee? How are your classes going?” with a lot of understanding head nodding. The goal is to stay cool and not seem threatening (even though eternal damnation is at stake). A good evangelist then finds the opportunity to advance on whatever personal problem the interlocutor divulges, and the solution from the evangelist remains constant: “You need to accept Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior.”

A ‘good evangelist’ does not believe this interaction is an agenda at all, as evidenced by new slogans popping up in evangelist circles. There is “Jesus without Religion,”“I am Second,”“H20,”“Freedom Churches,” etc. All of these evangelist slogans attempt to portray “real” Christianity as something other than doctrine, simply a relationship with God, a freeing experience, a nonthreatening choice.

There are of course problems with this position. Some are obvious and practical; the printing press was invented in the 15th century, so bible-only, church-free Christianity is only possible on the backs of technology and literacy education, not Jesus. Other problems are theoretical; I argue that the bible is fundamentally a doctrinal set of rules, so doctrine-free religion is an oxymoron. Finally, some problems are ideological; there is complex ideology to evangelism, but one to frequently go unnoticed is its heavily patriarchal agenda.

When I use the term ‘patriarchy’, I do not only mean that men are the ones to take on leadership roles. I also mean that in a patriarchal system, women are subordinated and oppressed both knowingly and unknowingly, through economics, politics, and cultural discourse. I also do not use the term neutrally, as if patriarchy and matriarchy are equal systems that can be implemented either/or, unproblematically. When I use the term ‘patriarchy’, I am referring to a system that advances men’s interests to the detriment of both women and men as individuals, and also nation-states and the environment.

The fashion of today’s evangelism is this low-key, “come as you are” vibe, often with “hipster” inflections in order to appeal to a mainstream demographic while appearing outside of the mainstream. The film God’s Not Dead, and most college ministries, market Christianity in fashionable ways that make it “feel” nonthreatening and fun, with their focus on camping trips, sports, and coffee shop conversations.

Rest: The Hidden Curriculum in Evangelism: Patriarchy by Erin Lord Kunz.

The new school detention, where kids make the rules and a prison pipeline ends

Destiny (picture)

Photograph: Picture Partners / Alamy

Destiny was in eighth grade when, in the middle of an altercation with another student, she grabbed a teacher’s jacket and threw it out of a classroom window.

She was enrolled at the Lyons Community School in Brooklyn, New York, where almost every kid is black or Latino and living in poverty. Only 5% are meeting standards in math and reading.

New federal data shows that across the United States, schools with demographics like these tend to respond to bad behavior with aggressive force. Principals put students as young as four years old into isolation rooms or suspension, kicking them off campus for days or even weeks at a time. School-based police officers – in New York City there are more of them than there are school psychologists or social workers – sometimes respond to offenses as trivial as talking back to a teacher with physical restraints or even arrest.

But Destiny was not isolated, suspended or arrested. She wasn’t even sent to detention. Instead, wearing gold hoop earrings and a t-shirt with a big pink heart, she appeared, a little jittery, before a “justice panel” of four teenage peers. They listened to Destiny’s side of the story (she didn’t know the jacket belonged to the teacher, she said) and determined her punishment: a face-to-face apology to the teacher, two days of community service cleaning up her classroom during lunch, and a follow-up conference with the peer panel to discuss what she had learned from the incident.

On Comment is free

“[…] What does offend me is the fact that we think it’s acceptable…

[…] What does offend me is the fact that we think it’s acceptable to use someone’s level of education and their perceived social class as insults.

These comments – comments making assumptions about socioeconomic status, comments telling me that choosing the wrong words, the “common” words, devalues my writing – are incredibly classist. They operate on the assumption that only writers of a certain social class have any kind of merit. They perpetuate the idea that only people who speak the right way, work the right jobs, and live in the right parts of town are worth listening to and taking seriously. These comments lay bare what every poor person already knows and what deeply entrenched social systems and cultural ideas tell us every day: the poor don’t matter.

- No, I won’t stop swearing, The Belle Jar.

FYI: me either.

“But frankly, I am plumb tired of doing that…

But frankly, I am plumb tired of doing that. You can look it up on the internet for yourself. To enter that discussion is to jump down an endless rabbit hole of contention to which there is no bottom, in which your racial privilege and angst are the perpetual centre of gravity. There is no relationship of love in the darkness of that debate, no way to make you understand, no reason for me to stay. So let’s make a deal, WILWP. You don’t ask me to explain history’s connection to the present, and I won’t ask you to reimburse generations of poverty created by slavery and indentured servitude, head taxes, internment, and discriminatory education and employment practices. You don’t ask me when you can stop feeling guilty, and I don’t ask you when I’m going to get back those conversations I didn’t have with my grandparents because my family decided that I would have a better chance at life in Canada speaking English instead of an obscure Chinese village dialect. You don’t ask me what your place is in the “struggle for racial equality,” and I don’t tell you that you directly benefit from oppression that has resulted in my personal trauma. To borrow a phrase from the Daria theme song, “Excuse me, you’re standing on my neck.

- Dear Well-Intentioned Liberal White People

Sunday feminist roundup (5th January 2014)

It’s a relatively short one because I’ve been doing a lot of quick hits lately. Here’s what else I’ve been reading.

Dressing for the occasion (dress codes imposed on girls)

Excellent post. On aworldworthchanging:

Clothing policies are everywhere. Whether they are rooted in tradition, are for practical purposes or to give off a particular impression, many workplaces have a specific uniform, you are expected to not wear white to a wedding (unless you’re the bride), black is for funerals and you shouldn’t turn up to an important meeting with your CEO in trainers.

However, what happens when a clothing policy becomes oppressive and offensive?

I recently discovered that the sixth form my sister attends have introduced a new ‘clothing policy’. The sixth form is situated in an all boy’s secondary school and it turns out there had been repeated instances of boys making lewd and suggestive sexual remarks towards the sixth form girls. As a result, the headteacher informed the girls that they were no longer allowed to wear shorts as, presumably, he believed this would decrease the comments and solve the problem. The girls were not happy, a petition was started and, alongside highlighting other issues the students had with the sixth form, this was ignored.

I honestly didn’t even know where to start. My initial reaction was anger that an educational institute were choosing to ‘blame the victim’ instead of educating (I know, I’m not missing the irony either) the boys to view girls as more than just sexual objects that it was ok to shout lewd and suggestive remarks at. I am almost certain I can guess the headteacher’s thought process… “Well, boys will be boys.” And this is where I got stuck. This is why I haven’t yet written an angry letter to either the headteacher or the local paper. This is why I’ve been mulling this around in my head for the last couple of months not exactly knowing how to proceed.

For this is a much bigger issue.

Let me explain. [Rest.]

Children learn sexism at school – so that's where we should begin to fight it

On theguardian:

High-profile cases in Rochdale and recent reports into gangs suggest that the sort of girls who are harrassed and abused are weak and friendless, girls whose chaotic homes lives leave them vulnerable. Yet, while law-abiding parents are reading these stories as if they are missives from Mars, harassment and sexism has become an everyday reality for their daughters.

What is new and most worrying about today’s report from the biggest girls’ youth organisation in the country, Girlguiding UK, is how prevalent sexism still is among children. While it is still fair to say that those at the margins of society are suffering the most egregious injustices – girls dragged into gangs and made to feel that rape is “normal”, refugees sold for sex to pay for their fare – here is a report that is difficult to explain away as marginal. Nearly 1,300 girls, some as young as seven, took part in the survey, and come from every part of the country and each social class.

Nearly three-quarters of the girls aged 13 and over admitted to suffering sexual harassment; 75% of girls aged 11-21 say sexism affects their confidence and future aspirations. Even more shocking, perhaps, is the fact that much of the harassment – from sexual jokes or taunts, to unwanted sexual attention, touching or images that made them uncomfortable – happens at school; the last place in the world many parents, sick with fear over the new dangers of the internet or the increased sexualisation of music videos, would look. [Rest.]

Related:

Dpt. Business, Innovation and Skills blew its budget, and now the entire higher education sector will have to pay

Wonderful to wake up to this on a Saturday morning when you have a full weekend of higher-education related work ahead of you.

If this wasn’t so potentially catastrophic, it would be hilarious, right? No? Anyone? Of course, no one saw this coming (the deficit that could accrue from student loans). No, everyone in the business that thought that idea was golden. (Do I need the #sarcasm hashtag there? Probably not.)

From commentisfree:

No one is going to be happy with the news coming out of the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS). Not students, not private higher education providers, not researchers, not the thinktanks, and certainly not the Russell group of 24 elite UK universities, which have previously been inured from the more deleterious effects of the higher education reforms introduced by the coalition government.

The news that the department has spectacularly mismanaged its budget affects everyone in the sector. BIS must locate emergency savings of £570m in 2014-15 – the next financial year – and £860m the year after (from an operational budget of £13bn). Research, funding for undergraduate study and student support budgets are expected to take most of the hit in the second year to make up for the fact that ministers allowed undergraduate recruitment at private providers and established universities to run out of control – meaning government expenditure on student loans has been far higher than expected.

On Monday, we learned that the department had written to more than 20 private providers begging them to halt current recruitment to lower level higher education qualifications. Universities and colleges are also implicated after numbers controls were relaxed for the most recent undergraduate application cycle. With enrolments buoyant the knock-on funding impact will now be felt in the current recruitment cycle and beyond. The Higher Education Funding Council for England – responsible for funding established universities – should now anticipate a further £50m cut in 2014-15.

The planned abolition of the National Studentship Programme is to be brought forward a year in order to save £75m – pending the approval of the deputy prime minister, as this programme was one of the policies that carried him and most of his MPs into the 2010 vote for higher tuition feesalongside the Conservatives). [Rest: commentisfree]

Teaching Gender in the Classroom

Good stuff here (FWSABlog):

Another year, and another new batch of undergraduates to welcome to the world of Gender Studies. For the third consecutive year I am leading seminars for the introductory Approaches to Gender in English Literature module at Swansea University. This year, once again, the syllabus has been revamped, and the first year students now have to submit a 500-word cultural analysis after Christmas – they have to put the theory into practice, and apply what they have learned on the course to something in the “real” world beyond academia. This can be in terms of films, sport, events in the news, games, music videos, and anything and everything in-between. On that note, in the first seminar of the term, once everyone in the seminar group had introduced themselves and we’d discussed what the function of a seminar is in comparison to a lecture, I decided to use the majority of the class to get the students thinking about gender in contemporary society, and why it is important to study gender today. As anticipated, this gave me the opportunity to emphasise that the module is not called ‘Feminism in English Literature’ or ‘Women in English Literature’ but Gender – a recurring misconception that I have realised needs facing at the beginning of the course. [Rest.]

Why 27% of Scottish students think "no means yes"

[...] it is hard to envisage any analysis that would provide any reassurance: either a proportion of boys far higher than one-in-four is thinking along these lines, or some Scottish girls have so little self-esteem and self-confidence that they too buy into the pernicious belief that ‘no does not always mean no’.

This isn’t just about poor sex education; it’s all caught up in pervasive negative and objectifying attitudes to women and girls and our dangerous rape culture.

From feministing.com:

A recent study of 1,000 students published by the Scottish Government reveals that 27% of Scottish teens believe that when a girl says no she doesn’t really mean it. The finding highlights that the problem with sex education curricula isn’t restricted to simply the US.

One of the criticisms launched against the Scottish Government is its framing of sex education that centers on pregnancy and the spread of STDs and fails to teach healthy and informed sexual behavior, primarily the concept of consent. The Scotsman‘s Saturday Op-Ed flags a “sea change” in Scottish society regarding the criminal justice system’s ability to address cases of rape and sexual assault. Among the many problems highlighted in this is teens’ understanding of sexual consent: “it is hard to envisage any analysis that would provide any reassurance: either a proportion of boys far higher than one-in-four is thinking along these lines, or some Scottish girls have so little self-esteem and self-confidence that they too buy into the pernicious belief that ‘no does not always mean no’.” Again, there is a fundamental similarity to US sex education pedagogical approaches, which is also complicated by conservative dogma that has led to incorporating abstinence-only messaging and creationism into sex education courses at the secondary education level.

Additionally, the survey found that a third of teenagers are unaware about the dangers of sharing needles and almost 20% do not realize that using a condom can help them avoid STDs:

The results show that while sex education in schools is reaching the majority, many are still ignorant of the health risks associated with drug use and unprotected intercourse. [Rest]

Related:

The lack of education on healthy, pleasurable sexuality and the growing prevalence of pornography are distorting young people's attitudes to sex…

The point about sex education speaks for itself really but further down this piece this is also an interesting discussion about lad culture. For example:

These self-appointed lads would have you believe that they are just a bunch of harmless blokes who appreciate a beer and a shag. Instead, they are men (and sometimes women) who joke about sexual violence and label women sluts. Lad culture does not celebrate sex – it hates sex, it hates women and most of all, it hates female sexuality.

– Erin Lane, the F-Word.

On the fword:

It’s only now, with the benefit of hindsight, that I fully appreciate my mother’s attempts to educate me about sex as a child. As I grew up and progressed through puberty and adolescence, I began to notice a huge difference in her views about sex and the attitudes of my peers. At the time, my mother’s positive messages about gender and sexuality – that your first period should be a celebration and that sex should be fun – seemed quaint, outdated and a bit embarrassing. There is a popular belief that the young generation are more ‘sexualised’ than ever before. And yet, as I grow older, I have become increasingly convinced that young people are in fact becoming more and more prudish about their bodies and sex.

At secondary school, it soon became clear what sex was really about: tits, porn, sluts, thongs and blowjobs. We all knew that boys wanted sex but actually doing it was sure to destroy your reputation. The only formal sex education we received taught us that sex would leave us diseased, dead or pregnant. Nobody told us that sex was fun or pleasurable or that it could be a wonderful bonding experience. We quickly learned that it was dangerous, degrading, terrifying, forbidden and tempting.

Even after leaving school and attending university, I found that young men’s attitudes to sex were still shockingly regressive. Normal male discourse at university involved constant sexual bravado and very sexist humour. I don’t mean innocent, Carry On-style innuendo; I mean dehumanising, degrading jokes in which women exist to be raped, violated and objectified.

[Rest: thefword]

Today in stating the bleeding obvious: the government risks making university education the preserve of a rich elite

Yes, absolutely no one saw this coming. At no point did anyone ever say that it was clearly the intention of the tories to make higher education the preserve of the elite again. No one.

The former Apprentice contestant Katie Hopkins recently told Cherwell, the Oxford university newspaper, that if she were an admissions tutor for the university she wouldn’t “want a Tyrone in her tutor group” when she could have a “Cecil”. In a brilliant retort, a young student called Tyrone wrote an open letter to her pointing out that while he was the only Tyrone in Oxford, there were no “Cecils” at all.

Of course the wider point is still true – despite years of progress, there are still too few pupils from comprehensive state schools and low income backgrounds that get into our top universities. Labour made efforts to address this in government – the proportion of 18 year olds from the bottom socio-economic groups going to university increased during our time in office. Although more still needed to be done, the gap was narrowing. This government risks making it wider.

Link: NewStatesman.

Sunday feminist roundup (28th July 2013)

And here’s what else I’ve been reading. Yes, they’re mostly from the New Statesman; I’m not sure how that happened.

Working Mothers Blamed For Low Literacy Rates

More working-mother/ mothering-in-general shaming from the US. Because that never gets old. Bust:

In today’s feature of “How did these people get elected?” news, Governor Phil Bryant from Mississippi is blaming America’s troubled education system on working mothers.

Education is a hot topic in today’s political sphere, and while almost everyone can agree that our system needs to be reformed, how to do so and the causes of our failing education system are highly contested. On June 4th, The Washington Post, The Annie E. Casey Foundation, the GLR Campaign and the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation in Arkansas sponsored a panel on education focusing on the importance of children acquiring adequate reading levels by the time they finish third grade. This panel featured other elected officials who discussed reading proficiency and ways to improve America’s educational outcomes. [Rest.]

Related:

The dark side of home schooling: America’s Christian right tried to train up ‘culture warriors’

Terrifying. And, needless to say, this “schooling” is at least partially about teaching women to be subservient and secondary.

Several decades ago, political activists on the religious right began to put together an “ideology machine”. Home schooling was a big part of the plan. The idea was to breed and “train up” an army of culture warriors. We now are faced with the consequences of their actions, some of which are quite disturbing.

According to the Department of Education, the home schooling student population doubled in between 1999 and 2007, to 1.5 million students, and there is reason to think the growth has continued. Though families opt to home school for many different reasons, a large part of the growth has come from Christian fundamentalist sects. Children in that first wave are now old enough to talk about their experiences. In many cases, what they have to say is quite alarming.

When he was growing up in California, Ryan Lee Stollar was a stellar home schooling student. His oratory skills at got him invited to home schooling conferences around the country, where he debated public policy and spread the word about the “virtues” of an authentically Christian home school education.

[...]

“The Christian home school subculture isn’t a children-first movement. It is, for all intents and purposes, an ideology-first movement. There is a massive, well-oiled machine of ideology that is churning out soldiers for the culture war. Home schooling is both the breeding ground – literally, when you consider the Quiverfull concept – and the training ground for this machinery. I say this as someone who was raised in that world.”

[...]

Much of fundamentalist home schooling is driven by deeply sexist and patriarchal ideology. The Quiverfull movement teaches that women need to submit to their husbands and have as many babies as they possibly can. The effects of these ideas on children are devastating, as a glance at HA’s blogs show. “The story of being home schooled was a story of being told to sit down and shut up. ‘An ideal woman is quiet and submissive,’ I was told time and time again,” writes Phoebe. “The silence and submission I was pushed into was ultimately a place of loneliness, bitterness and almost crippling insecurity.”

[Rest, commentisfree]

Related:

Graduate pay gap: Same degrees. Same jobs. But, for women, still not the same pay

Equality campaigners demanded urgent action today to tackle the gender pay gap after a new study showing female graduates can expect to earn thousands of pounds a year less than their male counterparts. Women who had just received their degree were more consistently at the lower end of the salary range, taking home pay of between £15-17,999 and £21-23,999.

Men by contrast were more likely to earn salaries of £24,000 or more. Women studying law – the worst affected degree subject – can anticipate starting on £20,000 a year whereas men graduating in the same discipline command an annual salary of £28,000. The gap remained stubbornly high even when graduates had studied the same subject, achieved an identical Ucas score or attended the same institution, according to the study by the Warwick Institute for Employment Research on behalf of the Higher Education Careers Services Unit (Hecsu).It found the problem was replicated across nearly all chosen career paths except the not-for-profit sector.

[Rest: independent]

More for #IWD13.

#InternationalWomensDay: school is ‘the new front line of feminism’

Between studying for her GCSEs and practising the viola, Lili Evans made some new “feminist bracelets” to celebrate International Women’s Day on Friday. Before leaving for school she will also email and tweet to fellow members of #twitteryouthfeministarmy, or TYFA for short, the social media group aiming to spread the word of feminism to girls as young as nine.

Started with some friends, the idea behind the teenage Twitter campaign was to “call out sexism on the internet”, says Evans, 15 from south London. “Twitter is where all the cool feminists are,” she says.

Surveys and anecdotal evidence may suggest that few young women identify with the word feminism, fearing it sits at odds with a desire to wear make-up or heels. Yet there are increasing signs of an interest in gender equality issues among these same young women who are turning to social media such as blogs, Twitter and Facebook to reach out to fellow activists or just to share experiences and seek advice about what can be done.

Laura Bates, the founder of the #everydaysexism campaign, says that 10% of the more than 20,000 entries detailing harassment come from children under 16, with many more from schools and colleges. Campaign group UK Feminista has been so inundated with requests to speak to schools around the country that it has now launched a two-year programme of workshops and campaigns in school. Called Generation F: Young feminists in action, the project comes as the government considers a cross party bid to introduce sex and relationship education to schools, which is not compulsory.

Kat Banyard, the founder of UK Feminista, describes school as “the new front line of feminism”.

[Rest: guardian]

More for #IWD13.