I Love You but You Didn’t Do the Reading

Jesus on dinosaurs, teachers on strike…it was another busy week here at ILYBYGTH International. Here are a few stories that caught our eye. Thanks to everyone who sent in stories and tips…

“Jesus Rode a Dinosaur:” Christian conference seeks to help youth pastors do a better job talking about science, at RNS. HT: GB.

jesus rode a dinosaur

Where your Templeton money is going…

Could it work? Arne Duncan calls for a school boycott to change gun laws. At TP.

The wrong answer to school shootings: Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick at CNN.

The latest on teacher strikes:

President Carter gently mocks Trump at Liberty commencement, at RNS.

Proof: AZ changed science standards to make room for creationism, at 12NEWS.

Science missionaries confront hostile creationist locals, at BioLogos.

Christian college administrators tend to censor student newspapers, at IHE.

Why do conservatives hate public schools? One conservative’s argument at AP.


What’s Wrong with Safer Schools?

For anyone who thinks Dan Patrick has a solution to school shootings, I have a two-hundred-year-old solution to urban poverty to sell you. As-is.

NYC manual 2 diagrams alphabet wheel

The solution to urban poverty, 1820 style…

You may have seen it by now: In the aftermath to the latest horrific school shooting, Texas’s Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick has suggested tightening up school architecture. As Patrick put it,

We may have to look at the design of our schools looking forward, and retrofitting schools that are already built and what I mean by that is there are too many entrances and too many exits. . . . There aren’t enough people to put a guard at every entrance and exit.

Let’s be clear: There’s nothing wrong with thinking about school architecture and changing doors. What IS wrong is diverting attention from a real problem by directing conversations toward secondary considerations. In this case, we need to talk about school cultures that coerce and alienate students. We need to talk about gun laws that put deadly weapons in the hands of angry boys.

Along the way, we might ALSO talk about entrances, but it can’t be our main focus. In this case, IMHO, Dan Patrick is trying to wiggle out of a difficult political position by diverting attention from the real problems.

And, as I’m finding in my current research, this sort of diversionary tactic is the oldest trick in the school-reform book. Two hundred years ago, city planners in places such as Philadelphia, Boston, and New York faced a difficult dilemma. They had crowds of children in their streets from low-income families. The families couldn’t afford to send them to school so the children were growing up without being able to read or write.

What could be done? From London, Joseph Lancaster promised a solution. He described his system for educating poor children in meticulous detail. With the right school architecture and equipment, he promised, cities could eliminate the problem of poverty in just a few short years.

It didn’t work.

Just like Lt. Gov. Patrick’s plans to block doors and windows, Lancaster’s supposed solution treated minor symptoms in order to ignore the underlying cause. The right reading strategy is a good thing, but it is not a cure for urban poverty.

This Can’t Be For Real…

I get it, I really do. I think arming teachers is a terrible idea, but I understand that lots of people disagree with me. When it comes to ideas like the ones we’re seeing this morning, though, we can’t possibly disagree. Does anyone really think this is a good idea? More important, the kerfuffle might tell us something about how schools work in the real world.

mini bats pa school district

The superintendent explains his plan…

Here’s what we know: Some school districts in Pennsylvania have approved plans to arm their teachers…with miniature baseball bats. You know, the kind you got as a kid when you went to a Brewers game, then left on your desk in your bedroom until finally someone threw it out or something.

The head of the local teachers’ union defended the move. As he put it,

This is a tool to have in the event we have nothing else. . . . Part of the formula now is to fight back. . . . The theory behind the attack option is to create noise, distract, or defend against an active shooter. For a classroom or office setting, this translates to books, staplers, chairs, fire extinguishers, etc. being used as defensible tools.

It gets even weirder. Another district in my area doesn’t give teachers sports memorabilia, but it does provide each classroom with…wait for it…buckets of rocks. When an alert SAGLRROILYBYGTH informed me of this plan, I thought it was a joke. But it seems real. Superintendent David Helsel told Reuters he planned to put buckets of rocks in every classroom. As he explained,

We didn’t want our students to be helpless victims. . . . River stones were my idea. I thought they would be more effective than throwing books or book bags or staplers.

Can they be serious? Is there any support out there for these sorts of preposterous plans?

It seems merely wacky, but this story tells us something about the way public schools often work in practice. There will be a controversial idea—evolution, sex ed, or, as in this case, arming teachers. District leaders will want to be seen taking action, but they also want to avoid controversy at all costs. The result? Half measures that veer sharply into the ridiculous.

The School Headline We Won’t See

Don’t get me wrong: I’m all for the brave Parkland students who have done so much in the past few weeks to push for change. I’m as distressed as my friends when I hear conservative politicians belittling their activism. But whatever our political views on student activism, we’re likely to believe something about schools that just isn’t true. In spite of what all of us might think if we just read the papers, America’s schools are safe and getting safer. Why don’t we hear more about it?

school safety

Where are the cheers?

Here’s what we know: The National Center for Education released its new report today about school safety. By any measure, schools today are much safer places than they’ve been since 1992. Crime reports from schools are down, security measures are improved, staffs are better trained in safety measures, and students report less crime.

Why won’t we hear more culture-war blather about this news? Here’s my guess: Whether you’re a conservative, a progressive, or other, you want people to think that schools are dangerous places.

Let’s look at the conservative side first. Throughout the twentieth century, as I argued in my book about the history of educational conservatism, conservatives told one another that schools—especially public schools—had gone to the dogs. For example, as Reagan’s second Ed Secretary memorably lamented, by any “index of cultural indicators,” schools had failed catastrophically.

It wasn’t only Bill Bennett who worried. Religious conservatives also warned that public schools had

grown into jungles where, of no surprise to Christian educators, the old Satanic nature ‘as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour’ (I Peter 5:8).  Students do well to stay alive, much less learn. . .

In most cases, if conservatives hate something, progressives will love it. But that hasn’t been the case with public schools. From the left, critics charge that public schools are abusive places, especially to students from minority backgrounds. In one recent case from Maryland, for example, activists note that African American students

are subject to daily abuse and humiliation. . . . [from] a decades-long pattern of resistance to change and the creation of a hostile environment for children of color.

Conservatives don’t agree with progressives about much. When it comes to school safety, however, both sides agree that public schools are dangerous and getting worse. Both sides, it seems, won’t allow themselves to be troubled by inconvenient truths.

I Love You but You Didn’t Do the Reading

Welcome to your weekly round-up of ILYBYGTH-themed stories from around the interwebs. Thanks to everyone who sent in tips.

Nun in the huddle! Sister Jean and March Madness, at NYT. HT: DW.

calvin reading

My kind of Calvinism…

White evangelicalism—the church of the “slave state,” at Forbes. [Editor’s note: The original Forbes article was taken down as “way out of bounds,” but the text is still available at this new link. Thanks to alert reader for pointing it out.]

Don’t have your copy of Fundamentalist U yet?

Campus cults and “passion plays:” “War on Cops” author Heather MacDonald talks with “What’s Happened to the University” author Frank Furedi at CJ.

What do college students think about free speech on campus? New poll numbers at KF.

What does Queen Betsy think? A tough interview at 60 Minutes.

Creationist Ken Ham praises the Oklahoma university that welcomed his lecture—see his op-ed at KHB.

The view from Greenville: An instructor at Bob Jones U explains why he voted Trump, at HNN.

Dripping Wax: Professor Amy Wax suspended from teaching mandatory class after latest disparaging racial remarks. At IHE.

Is the Museum of the Bible just an evangelical missionary outfit “masquerad[ing] as an educational institution”? That’s the charge at R&P.

Teacher pay and underpay: Check your state at Vox.

Students who walk out should be punished. So says Daniel Willingham. HT: XX

Too close for comfort? Ben Carson’s aide chummy with secretive religious charity, at the Guardian. HT: LC.

These Twelve Teachers Terrify Me

Me, I don’t think more guns in school are a good idea. But if we were to go ahead with such a plan, we have to find a better way to figure out who our gun-toters will be. A recent Gallup poll offers a frightening scenario.

The poll finds that teachers overall don’t want guns. Nearly three-quarters (73%) of polled teachers oppose the idea. A significant majority (58%) think it will make schools less safe.gallup on teachers with guns

The scary result is different. Some teachers (18%) said they’d be willing to carry guns at work. Of those, two-thirds told pollsters they were “very confident” that “with special training [they] could handle a gun effectively in a live shooting situation at [their] school.”gallup on teachers with guns 2

Am I crazy? Or are these twelve-out-of-a-hundred teachers who think they know just what to do with a deadly weapon the LAST people who should be packing heat in school? Have we forgotten the lessons of Farva?

Guns and Bibles

School needs more of both.  At least according to Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott.

In their continuing series of year-end quotations from conservatives, the Texas Freedom Network Insider publicized this gem from Abbott’s Facebook page:

Source: Greg Abbott

Source: Greg Abbott

For those of us who are trying to understand the intellectual world of educational conservatism, Abbott’s plea is a good place to start.  The give-and-take of comments that accompanied this eye-catching poster sums up lots of the perennial debate in school culture wars.

As one back-and-forth had it,

Person 1: Satan is having a POW-WOW in our country right now….the Anti-Christ is alive and well! WAKE UP AMERICA!!!

Person 2: Good they should not be taught in school. Bible is mythology and learn to shoot at a gun range.

Abbott’s call for more Bibles and more guns in schools may seem shocking to progressives like me, but it seems many conservatives want both.  Especially after each school shooting, we hear calls for more armed guards to protect the innocent.  And of course there is never any lack of tumult for increasing the use of Bibles with America’s public school students.

Here’s a question for all you readers out there: For those agree with Abbott’s call for more Bibles and guns in schools, which should come first?  That is, if you had to pick, which would improve schools more, guns or Bibles?

And for those who are shocked with Abbott’s post, here’s a very different question: what are you more scared of, more Bibles or more guns in public schools?


Violence at Liberty University

It has become an all-too-familiar report from college campuses.  Virginia Tech, Northern Illinois, Santa Monica College…the list gets depressingly long.

Most recently, the conservative evangelical world has been shocked by news of a student shot dead near the campus of Liberty University.  One Liberty junior told the Christian Post, “This is the last place I would ever imagine something like this would happen.”

The incident seems to have resulted from a physical confrontation between a sledgehammer-wielding student and a gun-wielding police officer, according to a report in the Washington Post.  This does not seem to fit the profile of a gun-wielding young person taking out as many fellow students as possible before turning the gun on himself.

Nevertheless, the fact that it happened at conservative bastion Liberty University has raised some eyebrows.  Some critics assumed at first that this violence must have resulted from Liberty’s ballyhooed decision to allow students to carry concealed firearms.  As President Jerry Falwell Jr. said at the time that policy was implemented, “I think it’ll continue to create a higher level of security on campus than what was found at Virginia Tech.”  Liberty also recently famously courted a student who had gotten into trouble in high school for packing heat.

It seemed at first that Liberty’s gun chickens had come home to roost.  But to be fair, the recent student death at Liberty did not result from gun-packing students.  Nevertheless, many in the conservative evangelical community hold Liberty to a higher standard.  Not only should students eschew mass murder as has happened on less religious campuses, but the campus of Liberty should be safer in every way.

Liberty, after all, was founded to be different than the sorts of secular, pluralistic colleges that have seen the worst campus shootings.

Perhaps as Liberty moves closer to mainstream pluralist colleges in terms of sporting victories (see here, too) and student rules, it will move closer to mainstream colleges in the depressing statistic of student shootings, too.