Your Daily Mindjob
This is my personal blog where I'll offer up some political straight talk as well as thoughts on technology and pop culture. That should give me plenty to talk about. The world can give you one heck of a mindjob. Think like me and get your daily dose.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Bible Babble In Schools? A Literary Take

Headline News reported on a story pertaining to teaching the Bible in Tennessee schools. Organizations like the ACLU have a concern that this is an attempt to inject religion into our public schools. As illustrated by a commenter on Facebook, this assertion is not far from the truth as the comment clearly leaned toward the desire to inject God into every day life. While the course is an elective, you just never know how it will be implemented. Even as an elective, funding for such a course still comes from taxpayer dollars. Any way you slice it, there appears to be an immersion between church and state, two things that should remain separate in our education system.

This issue is a complex one and when discussed, typically becomes an argument between believers and non-believers. That is a lesson in futility I choose not to entertain in this post. I won't waste my time highlighting who is the more rational member in this discussion. I already know which one is. I'll approach this debate from another direction.

High school courses are meant to lay the foundation for what you become in life. Whether you decide to dive head first into the job market or continue on to higher education, that foundation should provide you with the necessary skills to continue on either path. High school courses should be geared towards college and the work force. Courses like math, english, literature, and science should be at the forefront of our children's minds in high school. They are our future and unless they get a solid footing in these subjects, they will find it incredibly difficult to compete in todays job market. A class examining the Bible regardless of the intent will offer no added benefit in this regard.

If a course on the Bible should be taught, there is only one way it should be approached. A teacher well versed in literature should offer a curriculum which revolves around the literary analysis of the writing in the Bible, not a Faith based course praising the existence of a higher power. All the symbolism and literary style that went into writing the Bible is well known to theologians. If anything, a literary approach to the Bible would erode away at the evangelical movement, not accentuate it. In my own experience, very few who take the Bible literally have the patience to listen to me ramble on about writing styles present in religious texts such as the Bible. From a literature perspective, the Bible is nothing more than a collection of short stories. From just such a standpoint, familiarizing yourself with these stories is no different than acquainting yourself with the works of Henry David Thoreau or Robert Frost. Granted, Thoreau and Frost blow the Bible out of the water in terms of literary depth, but it's still literature. Those of us who do not take literature literally to the same extent evangelicals do the Bible take no issue with writings of many different backgrounds. Ah, but that's assuming people behind the movement pushing the Bible into our education system want a literature course, not a Bible study class, something that should be left in church.

So where does that leave me on this subject?

Save the Bible analysis until college. I took a course covering the Old Testament in college because in addition to a six credit philosophy requirement, I also had to knock out six credits of theology. It was a Catholic university, after all. That knowledge has fallen on deaf ears when discussed among religious zealots like evangelical Christians. That knowledge means absolutely nothing to them, yet as someone who is fond of literature, the twists and turns of how the Bible was written remains interesting from both historical and cultural perspectives. From a scholarly standpoint, even the most shrewd Atheist should respect the text even as a non-believer.

Whether you're someone who wants more Jesus in your life or a literary aficionado raring to acquire knowledge that allows you to criticize religion, a course like this will be of some benefit, but only if taught as a literature course, not something Faith-based designed to spread the "Good Word." Still, this is not something that should be taught to young minds preparing for college and the real world. Religious studies really require a certain level of critical thinking, something our young minds in high school should acquire first and use at the college level to expand those horizons.

My final say: Keep it in church, in private schools with religious affiliations, and at the college level. Want to take a useful elective in high school? How about a foreign language? Music? Theatre? Even a computer class would serve you better than an entire course about the Bible.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Show me right wingers aren't indoctrinated crazy people

One subject that is often present in the disgusting political debate of late is the notion that our opposition has been indoctrinated or brainwashed. When you see this kind of approach, back away slowly and leave the discussion. The person you're talking to has no intention of finding resolution. They want to be right. They want to be heard. They want to argue.

If you take a look at the tent hanging over each political ideology, you'll notice the one covering the Left is much larger than that which covers the Right. While the political spectrum is agreeably much more diverse, it's clear to me that lines have been drawn. What's even more striking is how those on one side of the line believe in all of the same things while variation rules on the other side.

That leads me to one very direct conclusion.

There are very few independent thinkers on the Right.

Pick any major issue plaguing our country at the moment, whether it is a fiscal or social problem. Now run down the list of everything that is stereotypically considered Republican. Now tell me how many Republicans or "true" Conservatives you've talked to who deviate from the stereotypical stance.

Likely none.

Let's run down the list.

On social issues like gay marriage and abortion, unless you consider yourself a Libertarian, there's a damn good chance you're going to be against both come Hell or high water. Why can't we find Republicans in great numbers who differ on these two major issues? No independent thought.

On health care reform, global warming and climate change, the environment, gun rights, animal rights, creationism vs evolution, and use of military force, if you're a Republican, it seems like there is only one acceptable answer with regard to any of these issues. No? Find me some Republicans who deviate from the herd mentality. Yeah. Find me some. I dare you.

Declaring yourself an Independent does not make you an independent thinker. It just makes you someone who doesn't want the label of a political party, yet you still follow rank and file opposition to anything left of center. It does not make you an independent thinker by claiming you're immune to Liberal indoctrination. Prove me wrong. Show me where you deviate from the issues I've listed only moments ago.

The ones who deviate from the batshit crazy people are more likely to be Libertarians and moderates.

Make the same comparison to those sitting on the Left.

On health care reform, there are differing opinions on whether we should have a single payer system or a public option. On climate change, there are people who insist we go completely green while others recognize various necessary evils. With regard to gun laws, the Left has people who are completely against guns altogether and others who understand we need to regulate, but not ban firearms. On the environment, you have people on the Left who strap themselves to trees and people who simply go out and plant more trees. On gay marriage, some on the Left are very socially conservative and many others openly accept homosexuals and desire to grant them the same right to misery in marriage the rest of us have been given. On abortion, there are both pro-life and pro-choice folks.

The Left is a much more diverse population which suggests some level of independent thought, not indoctrination. On the Right, there is a finite list of must-haves that few deviate from. That suggests sociological factors which lead to a herd mentality. There are clear signs as to whether or not you sound like one of the batshit crazy Conservatives. Deny your insanity if you must, but you aren't going to be able to dispute my accusation that you've been indoctrinated if everything you believe in is the same as every other Republican or conservative standing next to you at a town hall meeting or commenting on your blog.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

On Distracted Driving Legislation

The legislation related to "Distracted Driving" currently sits in committee. I'm primarily writing this post to first voice my opposition to such legislation, but also to make it clear both Democrats and Republicans are cosponsoring the proposed legislation.

While I understand the risk for having an accident has been shown to be increased while texting or talking on a cell phone, I, like many others, find serious faults in the rationale of the group spearheading the movement. One cannot use drunk driving as a direct comparison to advance the cause. A call on a cell phone may impair, but not always. Alcohol most definitely will impair someone's ability. Proponents speaking out on national television also assume that a vehicle is a deadly weapon when, in a legal sense, a vehicle really isn't viewed as a deadly weapon until AFTER something has happened.

Another problem with this push rests in enforcement of the law. Targeting cell phone use, while admittedly a difficult task by officers, is still a form of selective enforcement. Those eating, singing to music, audiobooks, or podcasts, fiddling with the radio, mp3 player, GPS, child, or any other distraction in the vehicle will not be included, yet all will increase the risk of having an accident. The inevitable question to ask is "Where does it end?"

A third problem with this push involves enforcement via GPS. An idea has been proposed to allow GPS based systems to prevent drivers from making or receiving calls while driving. While this will indeed cut down on phone usage while driving, the rights of passengers to make a call or text falls under question. This GPS system would undoubtedly prevent anyone else in the vehicle from making a call or sending a text message. They aren't driving. They can behave as distracted as they please. Having a passenger make the call or send the text is a responsible alternative. You also infringe on the freedoms of a passenger whose phone call or text probably has very little to do with matters of conveyance.

Proponents of limiting mobile phone use while driving claim no phone call is worth someone's life. I would argue that there have been times when I needed to contact someone who was driving over matters of both life and death as well as patient care. I've also had circumstances where an immediate decision was required and I did not have the information necessary to make that decision without the input from a third party who was on the road. While not life or death, it was a situation requiring an urgent answer that could not wait until the person stopped driving. It leaves me wondering if there are calls that should be allowed. We cannot legislate or enforce anything of that scale.

Lastly, as an advocate of technological advancement, legislation like this will impede development of communication technologies as we know it. The drive for better mobile networks, interactive electronics, and technological integration into our lives in part, comes from those devices we use in our vehicles.

Now don't get me wrong. I don't condone unsafe driving behavior. I am willing to support legislation prohibiting texting while driving. Calling is a whole different can of worms. Texting just hasn't taken hold like it has in other countries. That being said, I'd love to find some stats on driving and mobile phone use in England, for example, where texting caught on faster than it did here. Where do you think I learned to text in the first place?

The second point to make I direct towards conservatives who assume that this is some sort of liberal attempt to cram something down our throats. There are Republicans cosponsoring the legislation sitting in committee.

Senate: Distracted Driving Act of 2009
Sen. John Rockefeller [D-WV]
Robert Casey [D-PA]
Kay Hutchison [R-TX]
Amy Klobuchar [D-MN]
Frank Lautenberg [D-NJ]
Bill Nelson [D-FL]
Charles Schumer [D-NY]
John Thune [R-SD]
David Vitter [R-LA]
Mark Warner [D-VA]

House: Distracted Driving Act of 2009
Rep. Eliot Engel [D-NY17]
Jean Schmidt [R-OH2]