Anti-gay student loses lawsuit

A federal judge in Augusta, Georgia has dismissed the lawsuit filed by Jennifer Keeton against Augusta State University. Keeton, who claims her Christian beliefs prohibit her from dealing with gay patients in a supportive manner, has challenged her dismissal from the school’s graduate counseling program following her refusal to accept remediation. Augusta State officials hold that professional standards and the school’s accreditation require that counselors be trained to deal with patients nonjudgmentally. (In essence, First, do no harm.)

In his decision, Judge J. Randall Hall ruled that the school did not violate Keeton’s religious rights and backed its assertion that it has a legitimate interest in enforceing professional standards in its program.

Inside Higher Ed reports:

Judge Hall’s ruling largely refused to engage in debate about the morality of being gay or of the value of religious freedom. He framed the issue as an academic one.

He said that the issues should be considered this way: “Baldly stated in outline, they amount to no more than this: a student enrolled in a professional graduate program was required to complete a course of remediation after being cited for purported professional deficiencies by educators in her chosen field of study; she refused to do so and was dismissed from the program.”

Given Keeton’s suit, he said it was important to examine the reasons for the university’s requirements. He concluded that these reasons were legitimate and not motivated by religious views.

“The counselor program’s charge is to train and prepare students to become licensed professional counselors, and to this end ASU faculty and officials have incorporated into the program professional codes of conduct applicable to practicing counselors. Indeed, adoption of the professional codes and the concomitant remediation mechanism were measures animated in large part by the desire to obtain and maintain the counselor program’s professional accreditation — an important designation that assures students, employers, and the public that its curriculum meets professional standards. The legitimate sweep of the program’s policies therefore cannot be doubted.”

The judge noted that Keeton was free to believe whatever she wants about gay people, and that the department was focused, legitimately, on how she would treat clients in the future.

“Keeton’s conflation of personal and professional values, or at least her difficulty in discerning the difference, appears to have been rooted in her opinion that the immorality of homosexual relations is a matter of objective and absolute moral truth,” the judge wrote. “The policies which govern the ethical conduct of counselors, however, with their focus on client welfare and self-determination, make clear that the counselor’s professional environs are not intended to be a crucible for counselors to test metaphysical or moral propositions. Plato’s Academy or a seminary the counselor program is not; that Keeton’s opinions were couched in absolute or ontological terms does not give her constitutional license to make it otherwise.”

Read more.

Senate reaches deal to keep student loan rates at 3.4%

From Inside Higher Ed:

WASHINGTON — With less than a week remaining until the interest rate on federally subsidized student loans is set to double, Senate leaders said Tuesday afternoon that they had agreed on a compromise to keep the rate at 3.4 percent for another year.

The $6 billion extension would be paid for in part by changing eligibility rules for subsidized loans, which are awarded based on financial need and on which the government pays the interest while borrowers are enrolled in college. Once students had been pursuing a bachelor’s degree for more than six years, or an associate degree for more than three, they would no longer be eligible to take out additional subsidized loans — a change that would save about $1.2 billion. The remainder of the cost would reportedly be covered by changes to pension laws, and the student loan measure might be combined with a federal transportation bill that also has a July 1 deadline for renewal.

Read more.

Math is hard, even for scientists

I ran across this brief and had to share it. We worry a lot about attacks on science from outside (Hey, at least I do, BG), but this story hints strongly that there’s an enemy within. Come on, biologistas, do the math!

From Inside Higher Ed:

New research by professors at the University of Bristol suggests that biologists may be avoiding scientific papers that have extensive mathematical detail, Times Higher Education reported. The Bristol researchers studied the number of citations to 600 evolutionary biology papers published in 1998. They found that the most “maths-heavy” papers were cited by others half as much as other papers. Each additional math equation appears to reduce the odds of a paper being cited. Tim Fawcett, a co-author of the paper, told Times Higher Education, “I think this is potentially something that could be a problem for all areas of science where there is a tight link between the theoretical mathematical models and experiment.”

See article.:

Original Chain Gang Elementary

Someone once said that every writer is still trying to win that third-grade fight. 

This is a picture of my school in 1964, when I was in third grade—same as Nick Gray in Chain Gang Elementary. My brother Rich added the ominous clouds, though this is how I remember it in winter. (Missouri winters are bleak—one reason I live in Georgia now.)  I had originally considered using the picture for the cover of my novel but decided against it.  Too soon, I guess.

My first grade picture

The town of Houstonia had a population of 235, and the school district was so small that grades 1-12 were all housed in one building, and in grade school, two classes shared each room—and teacher. Third graders sat on one side of the room, fourth graders on the other. My other brother, Dave, was three years ahead of me, and he would warn me about terrible teachers to come.

Houstonia’s school system consolidated with the Hughesville district to form Northwest R-V for the 1964-65 school year and each grade got its own classroom. Junior high and high school shifted over to Hughesville. Kindergarten was added. Even after consoidation, the high school didn’t offer chemistry until Alan McCurdy’s father insisted that it be taught. Alan and my sister Valerie were the only two students who took the class—valedictorian and salutatorian, as it turned out. No surprise.

We lived on a farm a mile and half outside Houstonia and rode the bus to school. The bullying on the bus was persistent and vicious, some of which centered on the fact that my father had tried to integrate the school. (George Wallace carried the precinct in 1968.) The fact we were last on and first off made the daily rides a little less hellish. Not being one to willingly back down, I ended up in a lot of conflicts. One of my classmates claimed I got in twenty fights on the playground on the first day of school. I think she got that confused with the Battle Royale I was involved in one summer at 4-H Camp.

Our farm went bust in the late 1960s and my parents, who both already had college degrees, decided to attend graduate school at the University of Missouri. We moved  from Houstonia to Columbia after I finished eighth grade.

The day we left the farm was the happiest day of my life.

Rich school, poor school

The “Rich School, Poor School” debate continues on an alternative San Fransico news website. Responding to a recent article in the New York Times about “Million-dollar PTAs” (see previous post), Dana Woldow writes in BeyondChron:

Can parents really pick up the slack in public education funding, and should they have to?

Traditionally, PTAs have been more about family enrichment programs than raising money. The National PTA says it “provides parents and families with a powerful voice to speak on behalf of every child while providing the best tools for parents to help their children be successful students.” Among the programs PTAs at various SF elementary schools sponsor are back to school events, new family welcome events, speakers on topics like bullying or appropriate ways to help children with schoolwork, community-building events like school beautification, a school wide math or science or literacy night, or a talent show or musical performance.

PTAs are supposed to follow a “three to one” rule for fundraising – hold three non fundraising programs for every fundraising event. Fundraisers might include a raffle, a silent auction, or a “thon” – walkathon, readathon, spellathon. Some schools also send out a cash appeal letter asking parents to just write a check. Each of these efforts drive more revenue than the old fashioned bake sale or car wash fundraising of 20 or 30 years ago.

The NY Times article also described the discrepancy between schools with wealthier parents who can support such mega fundraising, and those in poorer communities, where little to no money is raised; that situation, too, exists in San Francisco. Public schools with many middle class SF families fundraise half a million dollars a year to pay for both basics and enrichments, while other low income schools, which may still be using the bake sale/car wash fundraising model, can barely raise a few hundred to pay for some basics and no enrichment.

Dana goes on to give an overview of the grim situation California is in and discusses Edmatchsfa new initiative that helps spread the fundraising burden to corporations, and a new program the California is sponsoring innovate program called the School Smarts Parent Academy, which looks like something other state parent-teacher organizations should pick up on.

The article is worth reading in its entirety. Read more.


Ha, ha! Models doing math

Hey girls, you can star in a video about science!

The European Union is trying to attract women into technology fields, but its “Science–It’s a Girl Thing” campaign is catching flak after this video was posted on YouTubeIt was pulled after just a day due to (withering, I hope) criticism. The video is going viral, and as for a cure, its makers haven’t a clue.

Inside Higher Ed has more.

Also, check out my previous post on gender stereotypes in math and science.