Saturday, October 25, 2008

What we can learn from the U of L debacle

On Thursday, former University of Louisville Education Dean Robert Felner pled not guilty to stealing millions from U of L and University of Rhode Island. According to the Louisville-Courier Journal, Felner was indicted with 10 counts of mail fraud, money-laundering, conspiracy and income-tax evasion. The indictment charged Felner with " fraudulently obtaining nearly $2.3 million in grant money from University of Louisville and University of Rhode Island." Now that's a lot of dough.

It seems that university officials are always complaining that they don't have enough money. Now we understand why.

When $2.3 million goes missing from two universities unnoticed, it makes one wonder what other areas are being mismanaged. Apparently University of Rhode Island didn't miss the $1.7 million that Felner used to lavish on himself. In fact, they were "shocked" to learn he embezzled so much. Neither did it seem that U of L missed the $576,000 that was supposed to be spent on education.

The real lesson here is that university budgets could probably be cut a whole lot more without sacrificing the education that's supposed to be going on in the classroom. It is time to shine the light on our universities, their programs and how billions of our tax money is being spent. It's past time for university presidents to take responsibility and to stop passing the buck. As the U of L debacle clearly demonstrates, when university leaders are irresponsible, the buck may end up in the hands of thieves.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Darwinists who don't want to debate

If you thought the scientific community was a place of free and open discussion, you'd better think again. Northern Kentucky University recently announced a mock trial involving a fictional public high school teacher who is fired for teaching creationism in a biology class. The program is part of a series the university is sponsoring on controversial issues. But there are some people who don't want the debate to happen at all.

According to Inside Higher Ed, NKU University president James C. Votruba has received hundreds of e-mails asking him to call off the debate. It isn't the conservatives who are complaining, says the article, "scientists are." “Evolution is science and creationism is faith,” Vortuba told the online education magazine, but, he added, that's no reason to be afraid of a debate on the issue.

But there are those in the scientific community who think otherwise, and their voices seem to be growing louder by the day. “What this really is is an attempt to contrive a debate between science and superstition in which the superstition side gets to pretend they have equal status. [sic] And, of course, science issues are not settled in a courtroom, ever,” said PZ Myers, a biologist at the University of Minnesota at Morris, whose weblog Pharyngula, purports to be a watchdog on anti-evolution activity.

Myers is just one of many voices that in recent years have tried to shout down any debate about issues involving human development and origins on the grounds that any debate would give undeserved credibility to the anti-Darwinist side. The dogmatic tone Myers strikes is one being heard increasingly among those who hold to Darwinism, the reigning paradigm in the scientific community.

Earlier this year, advocates of Darwinism strongly opposed a bill passed by the Louisiana State Legislature that advocated objectivity, logical analysis, and critical thinking skills in the discussion of science and other controversial issues in state schools, claiming that the measure was a thinly veiled attempt to impose creationism in the classroom.

When you are reduced to arguing that objectivity is a creationist plot, you'd better start revising your public relations strategy. And when you have to abandon the very principles that you advocate on every other occasion in order to protect your beliefs, it's probably time for an intellectual gut check.

Tolerance and diversity are the academic watchwords when it comes to views that challenge other dominant paradigms, so why are they abandoned so quickly when it comes to discussion of controversial issues like evolution?

Why is there such a fear of debate?

"Within the larger scientific community, the issue is settled, but in the public policy arena, it’s not a settled issue,” Mark Neikirk, executive director of the university’s Scripps Howard Center for Civic Engagement, told Inside Higher Ed. Scripps Howard, along with the university’s law school, is sponsoring the event. “In the real world, there is a public policy debate over how to handle this topic. Many Americans believe in intelligent design. Many Americans believe it should be taught."

Advocates of Darwinism are understandably frustrated. Despite the fact that they have had control of the nation's science education for decades, a majority of Americans still hold to some form of creationism, or at least intelligent design, a broader theory that would include creationism but also includes those who belief in some form of evolution guided by a designer.

Maybe one of the reasons there are so many people in this country who maintain a suspicion of Darwin's theory is the behavior of those who are its most ardent advocates. If the evidence for Darwinism is as airtight as its advocates claim, then why are they so opposed to the discussion of the issue in an academic forum?

In other words, their failure to convince the larger public may turn out to be their own fault.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Suffer the children

by Richard Nelson

One of my favorite shows when I growing up was The Wonder Years. Its about an endearing kid and his friends entering adolescence and trying to figure out life in the late 1960’s. Kids are still trying to make sense of things these days including their school experience which, if its anything like in the show, can be confusing. Notably, Ben Stein plays a science teacher whose monotone lectures make kids think of anything but science.

It’s even tougher to be a kid these days, mostly because of what young people are being taught about life and their sexuality. If only it were a problem of boredom where Ben Stein-like characters drone on about the birds and the bees, but that’s not the case. Kids today are increasingly being swept into the cultural whirlwind of sexual anarchy where too many adults have lost their moral bearings.

Case in point: Dr. Norman Spack, a pediatric endocrinologist at Boston Children's Hospital. Last year, Spack opened a clinic for preadolescent children convinced they are transgendered. As part of his treatment, Spack administers hormone-blocking drugs that delay the onset of puberty-- the first step necessary for a sex-change operation when they are older. Spack told the Boston Globe last March, “All I know is that when I see preadolescents, they have been dressing in the underwear of the other sex for years. These kids are almost certainly transgendered. They're a unique population of patients.”

Sorry Dr. Spack, but who is the adult here? When little Johnny comes in for a checkup wearing a dress and women’s jewelry, has it ever occurred to anybody, including his parents, that he should be told to wear pants and stop playing with Barbies? Kids are confused today. We get that. But most preadolescents can’t decide yet if they want to be human. So why in the world would they be allowed to make such permanent life-changing decisions?

The shipwreck perpetrated on young people by Spack is so beyond what Kevin Arnold faced in The Wonder Years. It’s beyond what any generation ever had to face. Our modern culture, which is well on the way to approving transgender rights, bears quite a bit of the responsibility. When society embraces the idea that sexual identity is as interchangeable as a nine-volt battery, we shouldn’t be so shocked that 11 and 12 year old boys want to dress in girls underwear. After all, if adults can do it, why can’t they?

About a decade ago, a real effort was made to teach school children that sexual abstinence is best until marriage. The idea, which has been implemented in schools all across Kentucky, is now being viciously attacked by groups like Planned Parenthood who believe abstinence education is more dangerous than giving ninth and tenth graders condoms and birth control pills. One affiliate recently launched a website called which targets middle school and high school students with provocative and vulgar messages about sex.

When kids aren’t being taught how to engage in sexual disorders, they’re being employed in causes that promote them. Earlier this year, California’s Gay-Straight Alliance Network (GSA) rallied middle and high school students to support gay marriage during the so called Freedom to Marry Week. Schools were encouraged to feature mock gay-weddings and host a movie night with gay-themed films--things every parent expects their public schools to be involved with.
There are 650 GSA’s in California (22 in Kentucky) and many are now recruiting young students to defeat the amendment that would kill something that every child would greatly benefit from: traditional marriage.

The Wonder Years--both the TV show and the preadolescent years of innocence, have long passed. But that doesn’t mean that kids who are trying to make sense of life these days, still couldn’t use a little help from adults who know better.

The Corns Appointment: The wrong message at the wrong time

"This is the wrong message to send at the wrong time," said Martin Cothran in response to today's announcement by the Kentucky Department of Education that the author of the decision that resulted in the Kentucky Education Reform Act has been appointed to the #2 state schools post.

State Education Commissioner Jon Draud appointed Ray Corns, the former Franklin County judge who authored the Rose vs. Council for Better Education decision of 1988, to the post of associate commissioner of the Kentucky Department of Education’s Office of Legal, Legislative and Communications Services.

"The Rose decision was one of the most political decisions ever made by a state court," said Cothran, senior policy analyst for the group, "and went well beyond the call for equal funding by requiring the state legislature to completely turn Kentucky's schools upside down in the interest of a misguided egalitarianism."

"Why, at a time when we are trying to fix problems that his court had a hand in creating, are we appointing a member of that court to a position of prominence?" Cothran said the decision didn't fix what it was supposed to fix--inequalities in the state's education system--and it created new problems for which the state is now trying to find solutions through a task force that the Department of Education has had to convene.