Tuesday, September 4, 2012

First Day, Big Day, B.Ed off and running

First day was a big day. Really didn't sleep more than 1 or 2 hours last night. Kind of got sucked into getting stuff organised and whatnot. Not the best habit, but I don't pull the all nighters all that often these days. First two classes, 8:30 am - 12:20 pm very interesting, profs seem very accommodating, approachable and whatnot. Signed up for one of my bigger presentations in the first spot. There were some others I was really interested in, but they got taken. Another one already had one guy but he didn't show, so I was a little dubious about having a partner that didn't show, so ended up going with the first slot, the topic being "Designing Instruction" and have a partner I will have to work with. I'm not sure which person she was, but I think I met everyone in the class so I guess I'll find out as we have a meeting in the library tomorrow. I know her name is Hailey. We have to present on September 13th.

I also have another partner work, some homework, but it's very small, but it's due for Thursday's class. We will meet tomorrow at 3:30 in the Education Library. We have to skim a document and answer some questions about it.

From my Curriculum and Instruction in English, it was a fairly casual over view of some issues and things we would cover, so I didn't take many notes. We did a "person search" ice breaker activity which was interesting. Everyone had a sheet with questions that they had to use to find and meet other people. I was pretty much the most in demand guy and people were lined up to get my signature next to questions, because I had biked to school, I didn't own a phone, and had taught in another country, all of which were people they were supposed to find. It was very active time, everyone mingling and talking. It was a good way to meet people, and everyone seems to know my name now.

In both classes I took notes on the ipad using my new keyboard. I think it will work out well. Then it was errand time after those two classes were done. Went to get my student loan documents signed by the financial awards office, to the bookstore to pick up some books I needed, to the bank to get a void cheque that I needed for the student  loan stuff, then to the post office to finish that student loan process. It's sent off, so hopefully I'll get the money soon. After that I went down to the multicultural office to inquire about some stuff regarding Eunju's landing, and free English class. She has two appointments, one with is just about landing, they suggested she come in the day after she arrive. It should just be an hour, but they'll help her with any documents she needs and stuff like that. That's on Monday. Then she can rest, and explore for a week, and then an English level test early the next week. I'm going to go with her the first day, introduce her and show her where it is and all. After that I rushed back to campus for my evening 5:00-9:00 class. Interesting class, it was long, but talking about social sciences, philosophy, and things was really something I enjoyed. I was really happy to find out that some high schools now teach philosophy elective courses. That's really awesome!

Eunju tried to skype me in the middle of the class. I had to turn it off and go offline as fast as I could. I'm going to have to try to remember to log out before classes in the future. Of course it won't be much of a problem, because my lovely wife will be here on the weekend! Today was the 4th, our anniversary day for me in Canada. It was yesterday for Eunju. It was a bit sad to not be together, but I figure I'm working on making a brighter future for us so we can have many many happy anniversaries in the future.

Finally, near the end of the evening class it started raining, thunder and lightning. Biked home in the rain. Took a shower. Had a few egg rolls, figure I deserve the treat, though I only ate two. Even with the rain, I was pretty happy with the day, although this is going to move very fast and be very busy so I'm going to have to stay on top of it all!

So a few of the themes that stuck with me from today's classes. Being a teacher means you have a public image to uphold, you are never really not a teacher in the society at large, so it's important to be aware of how you carry yourself, even when not at work. Regarding legal issues (Ed. Law) the advice was if you have some possible legal run in, don't try to explain yourself, or justify things, shut up, and get legal advice before responding with too much information. There was so much more, and a whoe ton of discussion in the evening Social Sciences class, but those are just a few I can remember. There will be no exam in this course ;). We talked about qualities of good vs bad teachers in brainstorming groups. I have some homework, to familiarise myself with a document on the Professional Advisory on Sexual Abuse.

In my evening class I was one of three Trevors in the class. Wow, three of us. There were also two Sara's, and a few other pairs of people with the same names. All those Trevors in the same class. Could it be that I've reached a milestone, or magic stop in the Trevor Quest. All things considered, I'm excited about this next leg in the journey.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Female teachers in Trouble?


Wow, of the 27 teachers profiled profiled in a photo gallery after this story 25 of them are females. (So including this main story I guess it's 6 our of 28, and if you are wondering why I said 27 when there are 33 pictures, a few of the teachers have multiple pics.) What is going on with women teachers?

I did notice some differences. The two men in these stories tended to be going after very young students at the elementary school age, while except for some exceptions, most of the female teachers tended to be in the middle school and high school age groups. Is it that with the stereotype or traditional idea of the male as the one to worry about that the females don't expect to get caught? Are the males better able to not get caught? Is some of the puzzle that teen age boys are more likely to initiate that kind of contact, and that a certain percentage of the female teachers were not smart, professional, ethical, or sane enough to have a clear line of boundaries?

Is the teaching profession somehow attracting female teachers who are not emotionally stable? Is it reflective of female victims of sexual abuse themselves who are attracted to younger boys that would not have the same threatening power over them as adult males would? Is it about feeling in control, or the need to feel in control due to past victimisation? Do the teachers somehow rationalise the behaviour as not being criminal because, at least in high school student cases, the victims proximity to the age of consent? How many of them showed true remorse? How many of them thought it was alright and justified or rationalised it?  It would seem to me in general, outside of education, the statistics of sexual abuse, rape, and other sex crimes seem to be much higher among males. Is this simply not true? I still think it's true that it happens much more often with males as the offender. If that's true, what is it about the teaching profession that, (if this site is an accurate reflection of the real stats, which admittedly it may not be, I haven't actually done any research) would flip this upside down? Does it have to do with the nature of the job, the close relationships a teacher forges with students.

Is it simply a matter that there are many more female teachers than male teachers out there? I think I had about equal male to female teacher ratios in my junior and high school days, but perhaps I'm remembering wrong, and being as I graduated in '91 perhaps things have changed a lot. I also wonder that almost every case, I think every case here, involves American schools. Did the reporter only focus on American schools? I wonder what the stats might be for my own country, Canada? Is it a case that these stories of female offender teachers is just 'better' more sensational news? I wonder if anybody here actually knows any real stats on this? As a final note, this isn't meant to be a judgement on women teachers, and I haven't seen any actual research, I'm just wondering out loud with my reaction of going through the photo slideshow and seeing all women except the two guys, who as I did note, seem to be the ones that diddled really young children, though there were a few of the females who did go pretty low, like 11 and around that area. I admit these are just a lot of questions, and I don't have any good answers, but I am truly curious. Any comments, insights, stats, or reflections out there?

I'll leave you with an on topic but old video from Van Halen to accompany your ruminations.


Monday, August 6, 2012

T-Bay, Veggie inspired diets, Zappa, missing Eunju

Been eating mostly vegetarian, actually pretty close to vegan since arriving Thunder Bay, though I bought some Feta yesterday. I poop a lot now, so googled that, most said it was normal body adjusting, but also was a link to the documentary "Forks Over Knives"that my cousin Sean Fergus Reiligh told me about, which also spurred him to switch to Vegan. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Forks_over_Knives

  I'm downloading it now and will watch. However I've also found a critique of the documentary based on some of the scientific claims, which actually does agree with some of the stuff in the documentary, and generally thinks the idea of focusing on diet and preventative over surgery when possible is a good idea, but goes into a very extremely in depth play by play review of the documentary, I've read maybe 30 minutes, and I'm only a tiny ways in, so it's almost more the size of a thesis, and contains lots of links to wartime diet and stuff. Anyway, I'm looking forward to watching the documentary, and reading the rest of the science review which you can find here http://rawfoodsos.com/2011/09/22/forks-over-knives-is-the-science-legit-a-review-and-critique/ and generally trying to eat healthier than I was. Eunju said she thought my stomach looked a bit thinner, and no doubt eating all these veggies rather than a Whopper a week has got to be better for me just on eliminating processed stuff.

Oh and Harvey's Veggie Burger is good, I'm craving, bought some veggie "chicken" but I opened it and it's smelly, so I balked at eating it without being able to cook it.

In this temporary dorm I have no way of cooking anything, that combined with wanting to watch my budget is another factor in why the died shift, though I was planning on going veggie or my phrase veggie "inspired" diet anyway. I will try it if I can fry it because I've eaten their mexican veggie ground round and love it, as well as their veggie meatballs in the past which I'm not sure if they still produce. Here's there website and some pics  http://www.yvesveggie.com/ I've had some other veggie "meat" products in the past that were simply awful and not even close to the tastes I love, such as meatballs and hamburger meat. I honestly love that taste, but want to eat healthier, so I'm glad there is a middle way for me.

I can say it's a lot easier to find this stuff in Canada than in Korea, as vegetarianism and the likes are almost non existent phenomena there, other than buddhist monks, tho a lot of their meals have smaller portions of meat, till you get to the Korean galbi (BBQ meat joints) which are all meat. Anyway, I'm not for or against, just interested in educating myself, and the skeptic in me always wants to make sure I view many different sources of information, not doing so is basically like getting all your news from one source, I've heard Zappa would watch hundreds of different news programs from different sources, political viewpoints, and countries, and I do tend to agree it gives a better all around view. I'm not sure where I heard that, I googled for images and couldn't find a pic of him with several tv's simultaneously, maybe I read an interview or am mis-remembering stuff. For good measure I'll add a quote from Zappa about watching news.

“I like to watch the news, because I don't like people very much and when you watch the news ... if you ever had an idea that people were really terrible, you could watch the news and know that you're right.

 Frank Zappa

I should probably devote an entire blog to Zappa someday, for now a tiny mention is all, but a little Zappa is better than no Zappa, right.

So guess I should give my shout out links to skepticism blogs too, so here's one of my favorites from Brian Dunning http://skeptoid.com/blog/ Actually I have spent much more time with his podcast than his blog, as I used to listen to or sometimes read the transcripts of his podcast on my commute to work http://skeptoid.com/blog/category/skeptoid-podcast/

So, I didn't go too far into it, but yeah, I'm living in a new place. Moved back to Canada. First flew to Vancouver and visited some friends which was great. Had some of my last real hamburgers, for awhile at least. Had my Wendy's fix I'd been craving. Then I flew back home to PEI in time for my cousin Tara's wedding. It was nice I could get back in time. Unfortunately I missed my other cousin Garth's wedding as I'd already booked my Van flight, and it happened too soon for that. I did get them a small gift though, and seen them before they left. After a week and a half of more in PEI I decided to come her to Thunder Bay earlier as I heard there was a scarcity of available apartments for students. Since I've been here, I've bought a bike, seen deer while biking, didn't see bears yet, which I mention because I saw a notice about Bear sightings near campus and what to do in the event of seeing them, and mostly spent a whole lot of time on the internet searching for apartments, and making phone calls. I've only seen a few places so far. I went to one place yesterday. It's a bit farther away than I want to be but I really think I'd get along well with the landlord. His wife passed somewhat recently, and he's converting the basement into an apartment. He still plays hockey twice a week, and has this old, old, old milk truck from when he used to deliver that's been converted into a little camper. I don't think he uses it that much as he also has a full sized RV in the yard. The little camper does have a bit of a hippy vibe, but he's doing the conversion himself, so that's more of a kind of guy who can build things like my dad and uncles, and the hockey means he's sporty, so in a way I think he's kind of like me. I don't really fit into any one category, I like some hippy dippy stuff, but also like exercising and often wear sports type Reebok T-shirts cause I really like the dry fit stuff, more comfortable. I like to read, love reading science type stuff, and a fantasy novel reading dude, but don't mind wearing a suit or thinking about business minded stuff. Anyway, off topic. I also looked as some rooms but decided I'm gonna be willing to pay more and get my own apartment. I really miss Eunju, and if I get a room and have to share stuff with other people it's going to be a lot harder to have a place where she can come and stay when she gets her permanent residency. It's really hard on her being alone, the fact we are still waiting for her visa, and then seeing me being happy to be back in Canada. It plays upon her fears at times. Other times she is more happy and positive. Needles to say, I love her very much and miss her heaps, even though I don't show it as much as she does or in the same way.

Yesterday, I stumbled upon an Italian Festival while trying to track down a landlord which owns an Italian Food store and other businesses. A guy in the street told me they would probably be there. I enjoyed the vibe of the festival, but it was a bit lonely being there alone and not knowing anybody. I was really thinking on how lucky I always was to have my wife with me to do things together when we were together. There was a big inflatable thing for people to have competitions where they knock each other off podiums in the middle of the ring that I guess must have been based on American Gladiators Joust game.

Still the fact that I am married and will see her in the future for me is better than being completely single, but I know it's harder for her.

I did have some good conversations with people I met there. One older woman was standing next to me and there was a guy on stage that sounded pretty much exactly like Sinatra singing Sinatra. I commented about how much he really sounded the part, and we had a nice conversation. Then I finally met one of the landlords and spoke briefly. She remembered my voice and details I'd told her about Eunju being in Korea and me about to go to school at Lakehead, so that's pretty good. Then I met another woman who had a table with her husbands 'caretto' that he carved himself. It took him seven years do carve it, and the detail was amazing. It was really beautiful. By the way a caretto is basically a traditional Italian carriage for horses. Her husband immigrated to Canada years ago from Sicily, I think. We talked for about an hour. I mentioned how the caretto (his was not full size, but had pictures of full sized ones from Sicily) gave me a similar feeling as the colorfully colored Jeepneys I saw in the Phillipines. My iphone died, so I couldn't take a picture, but she has my email and is supposed to send me a picture. The festival is still going today, so I might go take one myself. For now I'll post some pics of caretto and jeepney I found online. I found elaborate caretto and also some plain ones.

It made me wonder about similarities in Italian and Spanish cultures, since Philippines used to be a Spanish colony I think, and if there is any link. It also made me venture to guess that our English word "car" may derive from the spanish word "caretto". At any rate, I love the detail, color and life in both. In addition to learning about the caretto, it turns out that Heather, the woman at the caretto table is good friends with the owners of the Italian grocery that own the business and promised to put in a good word for me.

Wow this is pretty long, I originally started with a post on facebook just about the veggie / knives over forks / my own recent diet changes and then copied over to here and went much more into other things. I feel good that I've got a good meaty (pun intended) blog entry up; it had been quite a while since my last post.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

My email to a famous blogger I respect

Dear "Mystery blogger - I'll post the identity if I am given permission later, as well as a reply should I get one and the permission to go with it",

Fair warning up front, this is pretty long, so I apologize in advance, as I assume you are a very busy person.

I've been reading your articles and blogs for awhile and I like your perspective and ideas. I am curious about your thoughts about being a teacher and being vocal as an atheist. I have been teaching ESL in Korea for nine years, and although I don't really try to hide my (lack of) belief, I am pretty careful and vague during class, especially since I'm being paid to teach a language, not atheism. However, I sometimes catch myself thinking, why should I have to worry about this. In an ideal world atheism should be a perfectly reasonable topic for discussion. Now in September I will return to Canada to do a Bachelor of Education and am considering starting a student secular group at my university but am not sure whether I want to take the leap to being a conscious activist of sorts, or just focus more on my studies and other interests such as music and sports. I was inspired by your article "about states that it's hard to be an atheist in - again, I'll post this link later, if I have permission" to ask your opinions and reflections on this matter. 

Here is a bit of background. Before I applied to do a Bachelor of Education I had begun a distance program to complete my Masters of Adult Education at St. FX University ( http://www.stfx.ca/ ) in Nova Scotia, Canada. There was a three week on campus orientation of sorts, and although I really enjoyed most of it, and found the professors in general to be really great and wonderful, and foreward thinking in many respects, with some professors I came up with some resistance (to differing degrees) from some of the professors to having atheism as a central topic. I wasn't outright completely forbidden from studying this from all professors. One professor, who wasn't my advisor was particularly aggressive towards my interest in atheism and verbally gave it to me to the point of my being in tears. I don't cry often or easily these days, but it got to me. The woman who was my advisor was less harsh, but still gave me a somewhat curt warning to "show respect" when I started questioning some aspects of religion in what I thought was not in a hateful but academic way. It surprised me to hear this in an academic institution. It surprised me  in particular with the professor who had me in tears. She seemed to be very unorthodox, she was a feminist, used art and poetry as mediums for lectures and academic exploration, so I was really caught off guard when she laid in to me. I have always thought that there are similarities (not that they are the same, but they share some common goals and problems) between the atheist movement and other movements that seek out equality. I think of other movements as role models. One of the other students was black and her area of interest for her thesis (or ideas, we were only beginning and fleshing out some possible ideas) was exploring how she as an educator could acknowledge "Finding her voice as a Black Educator, not submitting to self censorship, while not attacking other voices, or making them feel unduly threatened or guilty for merely being white" That's hugely paraphrased and maybe a little off, my memory is fuzzy, but what I remember turning the little lightbulb on in my brain was the idea of self censorship vs. openly identifying as an atheist. And I realize the similarities break down, but that was what got me interested in a possible area of study. Do atheists self censor, are they afraid to openly identify. I had made it a point during the three weeks to vocally identify, not in an overly threatening way, sort of as an experiment, but more so because I was genuinely interested in other students ideas and input on my ideas, as well as my instructors. I started thinking about some similarities and differences between the situations different groups find themselves in, such as atheist, sexual orientation, skin color they happened to be born with. I noticed a slight difference in situations between me as a 'white foreigner' living in Korea and some of my Western born or raised, but of Korean heritage foreigners when interacting with the locals. I thought about how I sometimes get stared at on the subway, or how occasionally taxis won't stop for me. Then I thought about my Kyopo (Korean word for Korean's raised in another country) friends, and how they didn't get starred at, how they could blend in and not be noticed, until they started speaking English or acting in ways that were more in line with Western culture. And I thought wow, that's sort of a similar situation, or similar dynamics as an atheist, or someone with a non-straight sexual orientation finds themselves in. They have a choice to say, hey here I am and I am such and such, where as a person with a visual disability, or different color of skin doesn't have the choice to either "come out" or not. Anyway, I'm kind of getting on a tangent, to get back on topic. One of the areas of study within Adult Education was "Social Movement Learning" and how education often happens in a non formal way, but happens all the same. So I figured that I could study "Atheism as a Social Movement" as I thought it indeed was one. My advisor pretty much flat out said something along the lines of "I don't think Atheism qualifies as a Social Movement" and when I tried to change direction on my ideas of thesis I still felt like I was facing more resistance to my area of interest than a lot of the other students. I was told there is no research on atheism in Adult Education literature, so I'd have nothing to study. That didn't completely make sense to me. I mean there is feminist and queer theory in Adult Education, research from a "Black perspective" for lack of a better term, and I thought. Somebody must have been the first at some point in Adult Ed history to introduce these sub fields and bring research that was not strictly "Adult Ed" into that discipline. So I was confused. As I read books on Philosophy in Adult Education, I saw many things that I mentioned religion as a possible area of conflict within education, stuff from John Dewey and could see some possible ideas in Freire's Pedagody of the Oppressed. My advisor had edited and compiled an Encyclopedia of Adult Education, and was very intelligent. Why didn't she see this as a possible area of study. I was confused. To be fair, she didn't totally forbid me from using atheist sources or working it into my research, but told me that out of a Reading list I was making that needed I think 50 titles that to include more than three sources that touched on what I was really interested in would be 'getting me off track'. I felt like I was being steered away from researching what I was truly interested in. I suppose I could have fought it more, and maybe even convinced her that I had a valid topic to research, as she was a reasonable person, but in the end, I just sort of gave up and didn't want to feel like I was fighting something that I felt should have been obvious, at least not with my advisors. I could have asked for a different advisor. I could have done a lot of things. Well it doesn't really matter because all that's too late, and perhaps it was not just the time for that to be dealt with in Adult Ed or perhaps I was not meant to be the person. That doesn't mean I've completely given up. It would also be unfair to blame it all on the professors or department or field of Adult Ed. There were many other factors that played as important a role. Although it's true I kind of wanted to get out of ESL and I was being steered towards doing research more in ESL since that's where I was working, and had altered my tentative thesis ideas to be more along exploring the ethics and questions involved in whether or not to disclose 'strong' ideas or beliefs as a teacher in the ESL classroom, I still felt I was getting off track in terms of what I was really interested in. But as I hinted to, there were other factors. Once I left the on campus orientation with discussions with other students and faculty I found I missed that and felt that I didn't really want to do a distance learning degree, at least not if I felt I was compromising what I really wanted to study. Also it was said that this independent research degree could be completed in 2-5 years. I was thinking 5, but was informed that the majority of students took closer to 4, and I wasn't sure I wanted to study for that long, unless I had a real solid passion for what I was studying. I also was planning on returning to Canada soon, and would find it hard to do research on ESL in Korea (my advisor suggested doing a self study of sorts) and that doing a Masters degree in the direction I was going wasn't really in my heart. 

In the end I decided to do a B.Ed back home. Of course I'd love to study something more strictly secular like the Pitzer program you mentioned somewhere, but other practical factors also were on my mind. My wife is Korean, and often immigrants find it difficult to find work right away in new countries and I figured studying towards a Masters or PH.D would put a lot of stress on us, trying to move and start a life in Canada with me being a poor un-earning student for a long period of time. I figured doing a one year add on to my BA would be more practical and get me in the work force and I could still be involved in secular groups or activism outside of work. Something the professor that made me cry had said to me has kind of stuck in my mind. This is paraphrasing but "All I hear from you is atheism this, atheism that, you are obsessed, I'm interested in it myself but it in NOT adult education, there has been no research, and you will have no career options if you pursue this obsession, what are you going to be, a professional atheist?" Afterwards, when by myself, I kind of got a bit stubborn and thought to myself, watch me, maybe I will become a professional atheist. So I kind of at that point felt that I wanted to make it a point to become more active and outspoken. I started a blog. Actually I started the blog as a place to keep ideas I was researching, but after dropping out I decided to make it more about atheism, secularism and humanism. I don't get a lot of hits, almost nobody reads my blog, but that's ok. It out there 'published' on the internet publicly, and that's enough for me symbolically, and who knows maybe if I got involved in secular groups and stuff, I'd be more visible, and it might get more traffic. Regardless, it's not important, traffic or not. What's important is I feel good about making a conscious effort to not be silent. 

This brings me full circle to where I began, the question of being vocal as a teacher. I still wonder, so many questions, will it jeopardize my chances of getting a job once I complete my B.Ed degree. Should I be vocal publicly as an atheist, write columns in newspapers if I am also working as a teacher. Will it make religious students feel threatened? Will it help atheist students to feel represented. Will I get in trouble with my employers. Are these valid areas of research to some degree that I can explore when I'm doing my Bachelor of Education or should I just avoid it, and look at this degree as a practical way to employment and keep that side of me completely separate from me as an educator? Can I do that even? If I decide to get involved in or start a secular group (from what I can tell there isn't one at the school yet, and maybe none in the town non university affiliated) when I go to study should I make it as a campus group or something out in the community separate from the University? This is not my hometown and I'll likely only be there for one year. If I decide to start something like that, what one would be most likely to survive, and do the most good after I leave, a student group or a group in the wider community? I'm guessing starting both would be over ambitious as I still have to study and whatnot. There are some promising things I've read, Daniel Dennett talked about how in Quebec there is a provision or something that all high school students must me taught 'facts about religions' or at least the religions that are major players in the province, so that all students understand about religions different from themselves, as an attempt to curb religiously motivated prejudice. I don't remember if that also included non religious groups as one of the groups of study, but if they do that might be something I could research, as well as research into whether or not other provinces should follow suit. 

As I said, I really like your articles and value your opinion and experience. I would be really grateful if I you ever have time to give me a reply, even if it is a short one. I assume you are a very busy person, and will totally understand if you don't get back to me. I am after all a stranger sending an unsolicited email, and I can imagine since your blogs are well read you likely get lots of emails. I will be posting the contents of this email to my blog (not including any direct mention of you in other paragraphs, until I get permission) as well, but I won't mention that it is a letter to you specifically, unless I get your permission, at which point I will edit it to include that fact. I will merely mention it's an email I sent to a well known blogger and that I'll reveal the mystery blogger in question if I get permission. (Hmmm, an idea just crossed my mind, perhaps I could send a similar email to other writers I admire and respect. Thoughts or advice? Has receiving this email been bothersome? I hope not, but if you did find it so, I'll rethink sending a similar one out to others. If so, sorry that you were that guinnea pig) Also if you do find the time to answer this embarrassingly long letter, I would like, with your permission, to also post your reply, some quotes from your reply, or a link to your blog if you happen to feel the inclination to make this topic a subject of one of your own blog entries. I also give you full permission to quote any or all of this in your blog or other articles if you so wish. 

Here are some of my blog entries that are related in some way to the above questions I asked.

On Atheism as a Social Movement - http://trevorsquest.blogspot.kr/2012/05/atheism-is-social-movement.html

On the Dan Dennett thing I mentioned regarding teaching about religion in schools - http://trevorsquest.blogspot.kr/2012/05/httpwhyevolutionistrue.html

About Secular Studies - http://trevorsquest.blogspot.kr/2012/04/secular-studies.html

About having a dialogue with my brother who is a minister, not quite as related but maybe indirectly to the 'self censorship' idea

On atheist ministers, because it also deals with the choice to speak up or be quiet, in a profession that is even more hard to do so than that of teachers -  http://trevorsquest.blogspot.kr/2012/06/more-on-atheist-ministers-from-greta.html 

About Alom Shaha, a vocal Muslim Athiest - http://trevorsquest.blogspot.kr/2012/04/shahas-article-muslim-atheist.html

Indirectly about one way to maybe be a 'professional atheist' - to be a secular provider of funerals, this is also a reply to your own post on Humanist Funerals - http://trevorsquest.blogspot.kr/2012/03/humanist-funerals.html

And finally, one I wrote about why I quit my masters, and thinking about possible alternatives, this was before I decided to apply to B.Ed programs, but was considering it - http://trevorsquest.blogspot.kr/2011/10/exit-plans-future-home-comings-and.html


Trevor Clements

Monday, June 11, 2012

More on Atheist Ministers from Greta Christina

My last post was dealing with The Clergy Project, especially focusing on Jerry DeWitt, a minister who became an atheist and left the ministry, joined the Clergy Project which is a support group online for ministers in this situation, and is the director of Recovering From Religion. Now I've come across another article on the same subject, this time from Greta Christina, who always inspires me with her articles. I really like the way she writes about issues such as these. Here's the article in question, I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I did. Even if you are not an atheist but a religious follower, or leader, it may be interesting.


If you like this article, check out her blog


Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Some Recovering From Religion Videos: Jerry Dewitt, Thinking Atheist Podcast, etc.,

A whole collection of extremely interesting talks and stories from the video section of the recovering from religion website. Highlights, former pentecostal minister Jerry Dewitt and The Thinking Atheist Podcast on the same subject "Pastors who don't believe.


Monday, May 28, 2012

Dan Dennett on Atheism Denial


Really interesting talk by Dan Dennett. Especially interesting to me is (well all of it, but . ..) the part about Quebec's new curriculum that maintains that all students must be taught about religion from a comparative religion standpoint, being taught not to believe in one religion or another, but to be taught simple facts about different religions, and how that goes a long way to promoting tolerance among different groups. The other really interesting point to me was his call to move away from the Don't ask, Don't Tell model of dealing with religious discussions, to the Don't ask, Tell model, and his reasoning behind that. I won't get into it myself, you'll have to listen yourself if it interests you. I also really love Dan's very gentle, humorous, and profound approach. I hope I can learn more about this, and perhaps even learn more about this Quebec curriculum and court case and all more when I go to study my Bachelor of Education. I really got to read more of Dan Dennett's books. I've only read Breaking the Spell, no others, though I've watched many of his lectures and debates, and read some of his articles here and there. I'd really love to get a chance to meet him and have a chat someday, or study under him.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Atheism is a Social Movement!

Another really great article about atheism from Alternet. And I'm not surprised, but after reading it, and typing up my own blog response and discussing my own experience a bit, realized that it was written by Greta Christina. I really like what she has to say, every time I read an article by her, I am inspired and given lots to think about, and given hope.


Really interesting article, particularly to me because I felt I wasn't supported in researching the angle of atheism as a social movement when I was doing my Adult Education Masters, and in some cases harshly criticized. Some questioned whether or not atheism was a social movement, others almost took it for granted it was not, some were more open to the idea, but were not my advisor. My advisor was more middle of the road, but I still felt like I was being steered away from it. It's not the only reason, but one of the major reasons why I walked away from that program at a loss of almost $1500, or more like $4000-$5000 if I also counted the money I spent to fly from Korea and partake in the foundation program on campus. I still value the time I spent there and still thought it was a fairly progressive approach to education in a lot of ways, but unfortunately, I felt it failed me in supporting my atheist agenda (tongue somewhat in cheek). That's not the whole story of course, it was also partly because I decided that I was not as enthusiastic about doing distance learning, partly that I found out it would likely take me a few more years to finish than I at first believed, and perhaps partly because I was too much a coward to stick to my guns and fight to study what I felt was a genuine, rich and important topic of study. It's not simply to attack all the professors either. They were great and I really regret sometimes that I'm not going to be working with them. It is however, hopefully, an intellectual challenge, an open letter of sorts, to take notice that atheism is a social movement, and that it is not hopeless to herd these cats into action. So this article really rang a bell inside for me and the experience I had with my short foray into Adult education, because this article on several occasions, explicitly names atheism as a social movement, and gives real world examples of atheism activism.

Also the story of the Cancer society turning down the half a million dollar donation from an atheist group because they were atheist, and apparently too controversial hits close to home for me because two of my aunts have been dealing with or battling cancer, and our money can help find a cure just as well as money from other groups. The third aspect that's really interesting to me where it touches on the rise of student secular groups organizing and becoming political. It talked about high school groups, and the backlash they have sometimes faced, and also mentions groups in universities. Both of these have relevance to my immediate future, one because I'm going back to university and hope to attend some meetings of a secular group, and may in fact have to start a group if one doesn't exist, and secondly because I'm doing a bachelors of education and will be a teacher in a high school or possibly middle school after I graduate, and wonder how this issue may come up in work as a teacher. Finally I like it because it points out many ways in which atheists can be agents for positive change in society, raising money for charity, and stepping up to help give support to people who are being harassed. It helps to dispel myths that some carry that atheists have no morals and do not care about anybody or anything. It's simply not true. We are passionate and care very strongly about truth, justice, compassion and love, just like any other segment of the population.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Shaha's article, a Muslim atheist

I just read an interesting letter on Facebook from a Islamic atheist about why he is vocal about his atheism, particularly about the circumstances that allow him to be more safely and comfortably out. His parents are both dead. Well it's a bit unclear as to whether his dad is actually dead or just not a part of his life at all. At any rate, check it out. His name is Alom Shaha and though I saw this posted on Facebook it is actually from New Humanist magazine. Here's the article.


I think its an interesting point of view that people like me who didn't grow up in a particularly religious atmosphere or culture can learn something new from. Even though I didn't grow up in an Islamist culture, I too have sometimes seen myself tend to not be vocal about my atheistic beliefs, partly out of some habit of not upsetting people, so I can relate even though I come from a very different experience. It still resonates. I also found his discussion of whether or not being called 'brave' is accurate, helful or harmful. Hopefully I get a chance to pick up and read the book he's published. I'm particularly interested since he's a science teacher and I'm soon to go back to get my B.Ed, though not as a science teacher. Of course I have a big interest in science. I've been a bit worried if being vocal about my atheism will cause me any problems as a teacher. Of course I have been teaching English here in Korea for nine years now, but am quite careful with my treatment of this subject in class. I don't want to be too preachy, since my job  is to teach language, not to be an atheist missionary. I'm curious about other atheist teachers' experiences, philosophies, and thoughts about whether or not to disclose on the job, how much, and in what way. Any comments?

Monday, April 9, 2012

Secular studies?

I've been spending some time on CFI's forums these days. It's a secular website and organization. CFI stands for Center for Inquiry. http://www.centerforinquiry.net/

I joined because I felt I wanted to belong to a community of other like minded individuals. That is one thing the churches have going for them, they have a community that is organized, that they can belong to.
There is a post I've been following a bit lately that started with a poll.
Should the secular movement push for colleges to offer degrees in Secularism?
The first member to post said "The study of Secularism would be where political science, public policy, and religious studies meet. I’ll update this thread with my ideas shortly, feel free to discuss"
A bit down the forum I weighed in with some responses. The boxes are quotes from other members, I've left out their names, and after that is my reply. Also everything below in italics is not my words, but other members replies. Also note, this is just a few snippets, I haven't copied every single post in the thread, only the comments I replied to as a way of a bit of context for my responses. 
Someone going to school to study Theology would most likely believe to some degree that the documents and religious institutions they study hold some holy power, this is however a completely one sided opinion, perhaps even more so than someone presupposing that government and religion should be separate.
So far as I know, secular colleges and universities do not offer degrees in theology. (Maybe I’m just under-informed on this point.) So when you speak of “someone going to school to study theology,” you must be speaking of theological seminaries. Why should a theological seminary offer a degree in secularism? That makes no sense to me.
As for secular institutions of higher education, “secular studies” encompasses the entire curriculum, including the study of religion, which is studied in a non-doctrinal fashion. So in secular institutions, a degree in secularism makes no sense.
In sum, I don’t see how this proposal makes sense for any institution.
My reply . . .
I just had an hour long telephone conversation with my brother who is a minister, and from that conversation I could say that even in a seminary there might be some open minded individuals who think it is important to have some knowledge of how the other side thinks. I don’t know if a whole degree in those institutions would be realistic, but perhaps some courses might fit into their path in some way. If society becomes more and more secular and secularist become more outspoken and political, then there might be very practical reasons for those entering seminary to study it. It may help them to figure out where their religious institutions and vocations will fit in an ever changing world, so it might be a stretch, but I wouldn’t say it would be completely unthinkable.

Part of one of the later replies to the thread was "IMO, it’s not really worthwhile; university students that are majoring in the hard sciences and philosophy are effectively “learning secularism” as it is - as long as their professors are good at their jobs."
Here's my response to that . . .
I think there is truth in that, most of my profs were pretty good at their jobs, though I was already an atheist. I still think it’s possible that having, at least a course if not an entire degree, that is specifically named secularism would be useful. If some of these classes are as you say effectively teaching secularism, rather than ask “Why call a course or degree Secularism” ask “Why not?” I’m not claiming there might not be good arguments against it, but I think perhaps naming it could do well in promoting more understanding and respect for it. I also think the bent would be a little bit different that a degree aimed at teaching hard sciences and philosophy, and I think it would have some slightly more specialized goals. In the above category, learning about secularism is merely a by product, whereas if the course was named for secularism it would be put more front and center. It might study secular social movements, political movements, philosophical stances and yes of course the influence of hard sciences and philosophy. I think though, having that name would probably propel the research in slightly different directions, and if many people were studying this that it would go in directions that we can’t fully predict (though we can make some good guestimates I imagine) where such a field might go, how it might branch off in the future. Speaking of branching off, perhaps it’s simply one of the next logical branches that are to inevitably come from such degrees as hard sciences, philosophy, and I’d add religious studies.
I also think that it makes secularism in general more visible, and less misunderstood, to be vocal, politely vocal perhaps (though I’m reminded of a Hitchens article about when rudeness is in fact called for). In the past I have had some times where I was tempted to self censor my self, or keep my atheism under wraps, or at least sugarcoat it with a label that is going to be easier for religious people to swallow. Other times I’ve made no secret about it. Personally, I don’t usually go out of my way to bring it up, but also try to be truthful and honest about what I really think and believe if asked. I think that is part of the problem, self censorship, or being too quiet about it, out of the fear of upsetting someone, or simply to avoid conflict. Sure there are some situations where that might be the best route, but I wouldn’t say it is anywhere near universal.
I look to the whole queer movement, and how their movement to come out of the closet, and be proud of what they are, how that has done a lot to make the world, or at least parts of the world, more accepting and less judgmental. I just today read something on someone’s blog about how a gay teen challenged his mother who was very anti gay and managed to change her mind about spreading hate towards gays. If he’d just shut up about it, and kept it a secret knowing how his homophobic parents would have reacted, he’d never have had a chance to change her mind. (I wasn’t able to post the link, somehow I got blocked, but it was called (A Teen’s Brave Response to “I’m Christian, Unless You’re Gay”) and it was on a blog called “single dad laughing” the april 2, 2012 post if you are interested in reading it. I sometimes wonder if the reason there are no courses, or very few to my knowledge or degrees that explicitly label themselves as secularism studies or something similar, is perhaps a result of a habit of avoiding calling what it is, when it comes to secularism, maybe even a subconscious self censorship that even secularists themselves don’t really recognize. It’s just a thought, but I think it’s a thought that such a degree or course might be able to research. It might turn out to be completely wrong, but isn’t it premature to say that without researching it first?
These days it’s become much more accepted, would shows like ‘Will and Grace’ have been possible thirty years ago for instance, and enjoyed by both gay and straight people. I know there is still loads of homophopia, but I also think there is a lot more straight people who are willing to stand up and say that gays are normal, natural and should have all the rights as anyone, and not be feared. Maybe it seems trivial to talk about mere sitcoms, but that existence hasn’t come about in a vacuum, there has also been a lot of political advocates of gay rights, and people doing ‘queer theory’ research in university. Another example might be the feminism movement. They have their courses that are specifically named Feminist theories, and feminist critiques and research. I think that has helped their struggle to bring understanding and equality to the world. And yes, there are still lots of misogynists around, but I do think they have had a positive impact from being vocal, visible, and outspoken not only in the general population and politics, but in academia as well. I think a good argument could be made that secularism might also benefit from taking that approach, and doing it explicitly.
Readers (if anybody is actually reading this lol) what are your thoughts on the matter?

Also, if anyone wants to see the post on CFI's forums for context, you can find it here - http://www.centerforinquiry.net/forums/viewthread/6244/

Edit and Update: Found some such degrees do in fact exist

Saturday, April 7, 2012

I've been putting something off

Quite some time ago my brother asked me about my thoughts on religion. He knows I'm a non believer, it's not secret. He is a new minister, having recently finished his Masters of divinity. Back then he wasn't a full time minister. He wanted to know what I think about religion, what I dislike, like etc. I told him I'd write something and get back to him. I wrote about half of what I'd outlined in one late night, and never got around to finishing it, partly due to being busy, forgetful, and yes, a little bit anxious. I've been avoiding my atheist confessional.

I have a dilemma. I don't usually go out of my way to tell religious people what I believe (Adult Education Foundations time was an uncharacteristic experiment in being very vocal, but that's because I wanted to get ideas from other people I might have used in my study) but I don't try to make it a secret either. I strive for honesty while still being polite and respectful. I need to clarify something. I don't equate being respectful with not allowing myself to disagree with someone's beliefs. I believe it's possible to show respect to a person without necessarily having respect for what they believe. However, I find people react a lot more strongly when the topic is religion. If I totally respected what religious people believed then I'd likely join them in that belief.

I like to think of the British style of debate that I see on programs like Intelligence Squared, where an atheist and a believer can debate each other, be sometimes very critical of each others opinions, but argue with reason and logic and avoid ad hominem attacks. It's the exact opposite of the kind of debate shouting louder than the guy or girl you disagree with match that you'll see on Fox TV. Atheists are sometimes accused of being 'Militant' or 'Disrespectful', but usually all we are doing is saying what we believe to be rational and moral. Sometimes we are reacting to what we find offensive. It sometimes gets lost, that if religious people have the right to be offended and upset by people criticizing their beliefs, atheists have an equal right to be offended if religious people assume that we don't have the right to be offended about some religious beliefs and actions. Anyway, I digress.

Back to my main point. My dilemma. I want to be honest and not avoid having a dialogue with my brother about this. However I worry that what I write, my honest opinions and feelings about religion, something to which he has devoted his life and career to, might upset him. He's my brother. My relationship with him, since I love him very much, is more important than convincing him that I'm right, he's wrong. However, he asked. I believe in truthful and honest debate, and I think that perhaps the times when it's hardest to be true to what you believe in may in fact be the most rewarding times to do just that. To be honest, I don't believe he is the type to take it too much to heart permanently, but I don't want to screw this up. He's my brother and I want to keep it that way. Also recently, my brother and his wife just had a baby girl. Perhaps being a new parent, although making them very happy, might also be a little stressful. Maybe some time to adjust would be good before dropping a bomb. I haven't even met their beautiful daughter yet.

Anyway, it's been so long, I'm not even sure if my brother still remembers, but I don't feel quite right just not ever replying. I thought about finding some people I trust to read what I've written and see if it comes off overly caustic. I worry that he thinks I've forgotten about it or am just avoiding it. I haven't forgotten. I think perhaps I'll call him and tell him I haven't forgotten and let him know some of the reasons why I haven't gotten to it.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Accepted to B.Ed

So it is official, I've been accepted to do my Bachelors of Education. I'm looking forward to studying again and am optimistic about this move. I missed being a university student, living in that environment. I'll be living in Thunder Bay, Ontario. Heard it's hellish cold in the winter and overrun with black flies in the summer. I'll deal. I've heard that a lot of the program involves writing reflections. I think that is something I can get into. I haven't got much else to say about it right now, a bit tired.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Humanist Funerals

Read this alternet post by Greta Christina that turned up on my Facebook wall and really liked it

When It's Not God's Plan: 8 Things to Say to Grieving Nonbelievers

The article was written by Greta Christina, who has a pretty cool blog. And if you liked her article, here are some other ones she's written on Alternet, and if you googled I'm sure you could find her blog easy enough.

And here was my own comment about her article. As seems to be a re-occuring theme, my blog posts are copied from other posts or emails I've sent other places and modified slightly with intros, outros, or extra tidbits.

Really liked this article. At my grandfather's funeral the preacher, who had never met my grandfather personally to the best of my knowledge, spent a lot of time preaching and proselytizing during the funeral. I felt like he robbed me of a comforting day to see my grandfather off. He kept saying things like how happy my grandfather would be if we accepted Jesus and such things. I honestly wanted to punch him in the face, but then that would just ruin the funeral even more. It was painful, as my grandfather was the most peaceful and non judgemental people I've ever known. He also never, to my memory, ever preached or talked about God at all. He might have been a believer, he might have been an atheist, or an agnostic, but he never really spoke about it, at least never in my presence, and as I lived next door, I spent as much, if not more time growing up at my grandparents house. So to have this man who didn't know him preaching in his name, and trying to manipulate people into joining the flock felt like an insult to the memory of my grandfather. I'd even wrote a song about it, and my cousin Sean helped me record it. I think I've lost the recording, but the line I remember was 'An Underhay (the preacher's name) would never know what it meant to see him smile'. To this day it still bothers me a bit when I think of it. Although, over time, I've become less angry. He was probably doing what he thought was right at the time. But at the time it really hurt, and even some of the religious people at the funeral commented how he was out of line. I just feel like a funeral should be a place that tries to be comforting to the family and friends who loved the person, and should respect that it's an the wrong place to preach, at least the type of fire and brimstone stuff he was preaching, telling folks if they don't convert they will go to hell. Anyway, this article seems to have brought up old memories, and I found it really practical and hopeful. I really hope that when I pass away I can have a humanist funeral that is true to my own life, that can still be comforting to any and all who loved me, regardless of whether or not they are believers or atheists like me.