aTypical Joe: a gay New Yorker living in the rural South
Tuesday, March 29, 2005
Teaching in the age of belief
Last night on the Newshour they had a segment on creation conflict in schools. The video and the transcript are available on the web, very well done and worth watching. But what I carried with me today were these student comments:
STUDENT: I believe that God created the Earth and put life on this Earth. I don’t really believe in the whole evolution theory…
STUDENT: I believe that God also made us. I just think it’s a lot easier to believe then the big bang theory, or any of the other theories about apes.
STUDENT: I believe God molded man from the dust and he breathed life into it, and I believe we came out with two legs and thumbs and the thought capacity better then any other animal.
I thought that what we are supposed to be doing is teaching students, not catering to their beliefs.
I went to Catholic schools through high school. I learned religion and I learned science. Even today this doesn’t seem to be an issue in Catholic schools. My guess is they’ve dealt with this eons ago, in a different time, and have come down on the side of education.
It makes me wonder again, is this undermining of science an unintended consequence of the separation of church and state?
At a party recently I had a conversation with a Georgia Military College biology teacher. A Brit who’s the son-in-law of the Commandant, he spoke of the problems teaching biology here. For example some students flat out refuse to even listen in class. He believes the problem is Constitutional and boiled it down to this: the lack of religious education in school. He believes religion should be taught in school. All religion. World religion. Christian, Muslim, Hindu, you name it.
And what of faith? Catholics hold faith in high regard. There’s plenty that the believer is not expected to understand or explain but rather to accept as a part of one’s faith. How does that square with the fundamentalist adoption of Intelligent Design and the need to have their beliefs taught as fact in schools? Have they no faith?
With certainty in place of faith, it strikes me as reasonable for them to try in every way they can to get it taught. It’s what they believe. If science is undermined, what does it matter to them? They don’t believe it. I don’t blame them. (I do blame the Discovery Institute: “From the science, we argue that you can tell that intelligence played a role. But we don’t think from the science you can tell the nature or the identity of the designer.” huh? That’s science?)
But America is with them; only a third of Americans believe in evolution. Now that’s a shame.
The scope of the copyright crisis
A few weeks ago I finally got around to listening to The Comedy of the Commons, a September 23 speech by Lawrence Lessig for the SDForum Distinguished Speaker Series. There’s much to laud about the speech and I urge you to listen to it (available free through ITConversations.com), but worth highlighting is his description of the dramatic expansion of copyright in our time:
Traditionally copyright rewtrictions in the United States were extremely limited. The traditional rule was an opt-in rule meaning if you wanted to get the benefit of copyright protection you had to raise your hand and say I want it...by registering your work, by marking your work and then subsequently by renewing the copyright after an initial term so our estimates are that over 60% of published works during the 19th and 20th century never entered the copyright system at allÃ¢â‚¬Â¦and of the work that did enter the copyright system between 85% and 95%, depending on the type of work, never had their copyright term renewed. So from 1909 to 1976 the term was 28 years plus 28 years, you had to renew it after 28 years and 85 to 95% never went through that renewal. So that means before 1978 the average copyright term, if you take that renewal into consideration, was never more than 32 years, and the expected copyright termÃ¢â‚¬Â¦was never more than 16 years. So it’s a relatively short restriction across the full range of worksÃ¢â‚¬Â¦
This law has radically changed. Not in small ways, in radical ways. We, in 1976 passed a law which took effect in 1978 which totally inverted the tradition that had guided the United States for 186 years of the republic. Copyright now became automaticÃ¢â‚¬Â¦and it extends to all works whether you register it or renew it. It became an opt-out regime rather than an opt-in regimeÃ¢â‚¬Â¦everything is copyrighted automatically and for a term which now is life of the author plus 70 years, or for corporate works 95 years, which means the copyright term has gone from an expected term of 16 years to an expected term of 95 years in 30 years. Or an average term of 32 years to an average term of 95 years in 30 years. It’s been a radical increase in the scope and duration of this copyright covering all works whether or not it is needed for the commercial incentives that drive copyright.
LATimes media critic David Shaw says bloggers are not journalists:
Are bloggers entitled to the same constitutional protection as traditional print and broadcast journalists?
Given the explosive growth of the blogosphere, some judge is bound to rule on the question one day soon, and when he does, I hope he says the nation’s estimated 8 million bloggers are not entitled to the same constitutional protection as traditional journalists - essentially newspaper, magazine, radio and television reporters and editors.
Shaw seems to believe that the First Amendment and its subsidiary protections belong to the credentialed employees of the established corporate press and not to the great unwashed. I suggest that he-or one of the four experienced editors who touched his copy-research the history of the First Amendment. They’ll learn that the Founders wrote it precisely to protect Tom, Dick, and Matt and the wide-eyed pamphleteers and the partisan press of the time. The professional press, which Shaw believes so essential in protecting society, didn’t even exist until the late 19th century.
If blogs err, Shaw has my permission to shame them. If they libel him, he has my blessing to sue. I suspect that the more he treats blogs like the press the more he will come to realize that they are the press, and that the petty attempt he’s made with his column to commandeer the First Amendment for the corporate media will only wreak the damage to society and the press that he so fears.
I’m left confused. I side with Shafer more than Shaw. But I’ve taken the position that bloggers are not journalists and don’t need the special protection of press shield laws here, here, here and here. I would prefer instead legal recognition and full First Amendment protection of bloggers as bloggers. Congress carved out of cable law a spot for Public Access Television, how about something like that?
I’ve never liked that the First Amendment has been effectively taken from the individual and handed over to the corporate media, so I should naturally be on the side of bloggers as journalists. What I don’t like is the abusive manipulation I see from the use of anonymous sources (neither does Jack Shafer) and I don’t like the idea of its spread to bloggers.