Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Manitoba Public School Trustee Candidate Supports All Sorts Of Stuff!

Michael Coren interviews Candace Maxymowich on Arena. (source)
Something happened a couple of weeks ago in Manitoba and I totally missed it.

Winnipeg school trustee candidate takes anti-abortion, pro-abstinence stance

The intertubes in and around the Winnipeg region were nearly clogged by tweets and stories about Candace Maxymowich, the young woman who wants to become a public school trustee in the Louis Riel district because she actually did the right thing: told us all the wacky things she believes.
She gets one gigantic gold star from me for letting us all know what they are getting if they elect her. I wish more politicians would be less weaselly and more upfront and honest like her. For this alone, I applaud her.

In fact, I have no problem with Candace and I'm thrilled to see someone this young so passionate about politics and community involvement! I just cannot agree with pretty much all of her personal political views. Really, all her views I've heard so far epitomize the opposite of what I would consider a good candidate. That said, I wonder if the electorate in her district publicly or secretly agree with her. Does she know something we don't? Could dismally low voter turnout lead to her ultimate victory?

Anyway, some people have been giving Candace a hard time about this -- Michael Coren has eagerly pointed this out with fervent gusto on his dreadful television program -- but it seems like the majority of level-headed people out there have rightfully reacted in a number of ways: denial, fear, anger, frustration, criticism. Here's my personal favourite.
Please, do elaborate, please.

In addition to supporting an abstinence-only sexual education program, she is also anti-choice -- which sounds like the sort of horrendous poverty-inducing and life-destroying (mostly for women) cocktail that US Republicans are fond of down south.

Speaking of US Republicans.. no, wait a minute.
What a role model. Well, at least she's not asking to bring Creationism in to be taught alongside real science. Then she would be practically identical ideologically to the school board folks down in Texas.

Ah well.

The follow up questions to her creationism tweets were typed by those who simply could not fathom she could ever want this taught alongside real science in a real science class. Well, let this brief story put them to rest.
Controversial Louis Riel School Division trustee candidate Candace Maxymowich called Sunday for creationism to be taught in public school science class alongside evolution.
The above story also talks about how Candace opposes Bill 18. This bill is designed to allow students to start Gay Straight Alliance (GSA) clubs and more broadly to attempt to address bullying to gay students -- which has lead to suicides.

On her Facebook Page, she links to this LifeSiteNews story which criticizes the Canadian Teachers Association for honouring a Manitoba teacher  who refused to take down a a small card he hung up in his classroom. It was a little card he got that proclaimed his own support for LGTBQ. Some parents screamed it was inappropriate for grade five children to see.
According to the CTF, Wohlgemut participated in a training session at the Rainbow Resource Centre in Winnipeg and upon finishing the course was given an "ally" training certificate which he put up in his classroom.

The card features a rainbow and the words “As an Ally, I support lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, two-spirit, intersex, queer and questioning individuals, families and communities.”

“It’s a small card, just 4x6 inches… it’s kind of a declaration of what you believe and what you’re working towards,” Wohlgemut explained.

Several parents asked him to take the card down, but he refused. Parents took their concern to the school board, which ordered him to remove it.
Apparently, supporting people who are LGBT is too offensive for children. However, to many -- if not society as a whole -- this is now no more odd than supporting people who are in heterosexual or single parent situations, but the anti-LGBT groups went wild.

Now, wait a minute, isn't Candace herself now proclaiming that she should be entitled to her own beliefs and political opinions without people going nuts? Yeah, the two cases seems strangely related somehow, don't they?

Honestly, I feel like breaking out my US Republican fundamentalist Christian BINGO card. I think with the free middle square I would totally win.

Hold on, she's even got something to say about The War On Christmas.

BINGO! What do I win? Please tell me it's chocolate!

She does have some prominent supporters. Radio personality Charles Adler even weighed in on this.
How about because some traditional beliefs are more wrong and potentially dangerous than others? Many are just plain silly but some can have real negative effects on people and societies.

There are some who believe this is just a big media campaign, and it did indeed work. Nick Martin over at the Winnipeg Free Press wrote an illuminating opinion piece about the whole thing, Rare coverage for a school board candidate --- is it all planned?

Is it quite a media firestorm, indeed. Just the sort of thing to get the word out to a potential anti-evolution, anti-abortion, conservative (mostly Christian) voter base. Whether this was intentional is a question that remains a unanswered.

Martin's post adds a few other gems that were missed in my account above. It's a relief I already got my Bingo above because here are a couple of other squares I could have filled in.

'Republican' privatization and fiscal conservatism:
In that interview, Maxymowich said she wants the private sector to run school breakfast programs. While she did not know how much teachers are paid, Maxymowich said she would consider reducing the number of teachers on the payroll as a way of keeping down taxes. She called on trustees to donate their stipends back to the community, as she promised to do.
But never fear. Maxymowich assures us she would never let a little thing like her (most likely strongly held faith-based) personal beliefs intrude into her work as a school Trustee. 
Well, thank goodness for that then. And you know, her influence as a single school trustee is probably pretty limited. So, this probably isn't really such a big deal. Still, what a trustee cannot accomplish through sheer power of authority can be nevertheless nudged with simply being an influence. With any tools available one may perhaps guide things along in small ways everyday. If I were in this district, I would still pay very close attention.

Even though, as I understand it, the curriculum is set by the provincial government, Trustees do seem to be the ones on the ground to allocate financial resources to implement education goals. I wonder how much this sort of thing could influence the implementation of sex ed courses and science education.

Martin shares my concerns.
Maxymowich believes that abstinence is the only acceptable part of sex ed in schools. Sexual education, it needs to be pointed out, is only a portion of the family life curriculum, like all curricula a massive document. However, Maxymowich would not push abstinence-only if elected, even though she told her campaign fundraiser last month that you should never waiver from your personal values.
Martin goes on to echo what I've encountered a lot while researching for this post. People are looking for elaboration from Candace about her ideas. I'm on her Twitter and likely subscribe to her Facebook. I can't wait to hear more.

That said, in a recent post on her Facebook page she reported that she's received death threats. That is completely unacceptable no matter how frustrating her views. Not only is it intimidating for the receiver but it also undermines and degrades those who are against her opinions. There are also some unnecessarily vile misogynist attacks which she is reportedly getting. Can we all behave like decent human beings while criticizing and ridiculing her opinions, please?

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Canada's Christine Shellska Is New Atheist Alliance International President

 Christine Shellska (source)
Atheist Alliance International is a super organization that helped construct the Kasese Humanist Primary School at its original railroad location -- they even sent four volunteers to help! -- and has been a principal supporter ever since. Without their help, we would have never been able to get the funds raised to help buy the land for the new permanent site, bring electricity to the existing building or begin construction on new classrooms in Rukoki.

So, I've had the pleasure of working with Tanya Smith and Stuart Bechman. Now I look forward to working with Christine Shellska! She's the new Atheist Alliance International President.
Christine is currently a PhD candidate (ABD) at the University of Calgary, Department of Communication and Culture, Faculty of Arts. Her research involves studying the rhetorical means by which the intelligent design movement translates religious claims into a form that convinces many to believe it is scientific discourse. She is active in several secular organizations, and in 2011, she prepared a successful application to represent the university’s students, staff and faculty who identify as non-religious, bringing together local, national and international secular groups to endorse the establishment of a Secular Humanist Liaison position at the University of Calgary’s Faith and Spirituality Centre (formerly Multi-Faith Chaplaincy). She also runs a small business, offering a repertoire of specialized graphic design services, and extensive experience in marketing, advertising, corporate communications, and public relations. Christine sees atheism as a site of political engagement; she believes that many of the threats to environmental sustainability, global peace, and social justice stem from irrationalism and superstition, and that reason and compassion are the requisite tools to promote a reality-based understanding of our world, and to counter ignorance, fear and hatred.  Christine joined the AAI Board in May 2012 and served as the Secular World Board Liaison from 2012-2013.
Nice to have a Canadian AAI president! Congratulations, Christine!

Christine is also a co-host on the excellent Canadian podcast Legion of Reason, where I heard this announcement.

Monday, 18 August 2014

Egypt Vows To "Confront Atheism"

Representatives from the Orwellian sounding Ministries of Culture and Endowments meet to discuss their joint campaign against “religious extremism” (source)
So Saudi Arabia Egypt is moving forward with its special government program by the (Orwellian Sounding) Ministry of Endowments and Culture to rid the country of extremism... no wait, atheism.

Ministry of Endowments vows to confront extremism, atheism

Well, so much for minor little things like freedom of conscience. You know, the basic human right to belief or non-belief. They are pushing out some kind of hazy, ill-defined (in English media at least) protocol which will promote groupthink conformity religious purity consolidate "belonging to the country." That doesn't sound the slightest bit discriminatory or xenophobic. No not a smidgen.
The newly agreed protocol aims to “spread true Islam”, away from extremism or atheism, the endowment ministry said in a statement.
All of this is to
... communicate the tolerant values of Islam which extremists have tried to distort in recent years, especially to the youth, whether it is in schools, youth and culture centres, fields or factories.
It seems that, up to now, the government strategy to spread true Islam and communicate the tolerant values of Islam seems to have been arresting atheists.
Ishaq Ibrahim, a researcher at the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, said “atheism is not a crime in the law”.

He added that openly atheist Egyptians have been arrested and tried for contempt of religion but said that this has no legal basis, asking: “Is it the role of the Ministry of Youth to fight atheism?”
Then there is this interesting English construction. See if you can parse it.
The two agreed on tackling national issues that are agreed upon and avoid disputed issues that the nation cannot “endure” at this difficult stage via lectures and seminars.
I think this means the government will be sheltering the people and the country from disputed issues that are just too hard for the nation to endure. You know, like atheism and those who question Islam too much.

All of this isn't a really big surprise. I referred to an article in Al Monitor which showed a distressed looking young man sitting on a fence with a fiery holocaust in the background with the title Egypt campaigns against atheism. This was all about the Ministry of Youth fighting atheism with ridiculous sounding government programmesSo I think we can all see a train coming down the tracks here. This doesn't make it any better though. Sort of makes it worse.

Let's not forget Alber Saber who managed to get the hell out of Egypt before they got him for good.