Tuesday, May 13, 2008

And then I introduce them to Harvey... and he's bigger and grander than anything they offer me.

My middle daughter who is a 7th Grader just brought home a "Dear parents" letter from her science teacher which concluded with the following paragraph--

"Finally, I know that astronomy teaches on some subjects that may be considered sensitive. We will be discussing the formation of the universe and the big bang theory. If you are uncomfortable with your student learning about this please sign and return the bottom portion of the page. I will give your child an alternative assignment and they will not be held responsible for the material on the test."

We checked the district webpage and could find nothing on science curriculum so we're still trying to find out if this was the district or just the teacher heading off on his own tangent. Either way we're alternating between bemused suggestions to each other of funny replies ("As pastafarians we believe the world was created by the noodly appendages of the Flying Spaghetti Monster and would like our daughter to opt OUT of your big ban propoganda") to complaints to the district.

What do you guys think?


Freida Bee said...

Here in Austin, the curriculum is directly accessible to all. The ISD posts the IPGs, through their website and the TEA posts the TEKS.

Oh, here they are for the state of Washington. They're called EALRs there.

They mandate what material the teachers are required to cover.

The letter could have read, "We'd like to teach your children science, but know that some of you would prefer to teach them...." Oh, nevermind.

Freida Bee said...

Go to those on-line GLE's.

Arkonbey said...

Rather than evoke the FSM (May he be forever al dente), perhaps a snarky note along the lines of:

"Why, of course our child will be take part in your course section on the formation of the universe. This is because she is not a drooling idiot and would prefer to increase, rather than decrease, her intelligence."

What do you think the 'alternative assignment' would be?

ladybug said...

This is dumb, sounds to me the teach is inviting controversy... although perhaps the teacher has had run-ins w/the fundie folks before....and maybe the principal didn't back him up? He cooked this up in concert w/the principal as a result? Dunno, hard to say..

Why alert helicopter-type fundie parents to this? Just teach the gosh darned science, and if someone has a prob, deal w/it on a case by case basis.

I'd say something..."so everytime I have a problem w/what a teacher does in the classroom, my kid can just do an alternative assignment to get out of it right? Great, got it.."

PS Ironic that this wouldn't happen in a Catholic school, cuz "evolution" isn't a threat to them...

no_slappz said...


To get the full picture of taxes paid by any company you must go to the company's SEC statements.

There is a tax section on Exxon's 10-K which shows all the payments.

In short: $106 billion for ALL taxes paid in 2007.

Don Snabulus said...

I'd say you should choose a more important battle than this case.

You need to take into account any consequences the action would take on your TOTALLY AWESOME 7th grader.

Small minded people in a small minded town can take a toll on a young person with a big heart.

Like Ladybug said, there may be a more complicated back story here. Maybe you can discuss what the deal is with the teacher. They may be as disgusted as you are with having to deal with this crap.

With FSM we dine using Exxon tax money,


Dean Wormer said...


I checked the state standards. Thanks for the advice.

Unfortunately it appears that here in Oregon they've wimped out on this question.

While they specifically highlight the fact that only scientifically recognized theories of a non-religious nature can be taught they don't seem to say anything about this weird case of allowing students to opt out. Along those lines the big bang isn't mentioned in state standards.


I like your response better than the stuff we were thinking about writing.

As for the alternate assignment I imagine it's some sort of report on a planet or something since they're studying astronomy at the moment.

I've have had some other problems with this teacher as he also coached this same daughter in basketball and was kind of an ass.


I'm sure there's some sort of reasoning behind it but he is a new teacher. This is his first year.

PS Ironic that this wouldn't happen in a Catholic school, cuz "evolution" isn't a threat to them...

THAT is an excellent point.


Since you brought the discussion of Exxon over here from Monkey's place I'll just ask you again what that 106 billion includes. My assumption is that it includes FICA and other payroll taxes which are actually payed by the employee of the corporation and not the corporation itself.

Until you can provide proof to the contrary I'll stick with the 30 billion of taxes on 400 billion dollars of income or 13% tax rate on Exxon in 2007.

BTW: they also paid over 35 billion in dividends in 2007.

Like I said over at Monkey's: soak the fuckers.


How this teacher will react is on our radar screeen because even though the school year is almost over I have another kid entering that school next year as you know.

We're going to do some gentle checking.

Dean Wormer said...

no slapz-

Actually, after checking Exxon's 10-K I see the 106 billion was listed as "excise and other taxes."

In other words it was mostly taxes on gas that Exxon collected at the pump and forwarded to the government. Much like the payroll taxes I keep harping on.

Thus the 30 billion in taxes reported on their income statement is the accurate number.

Please let's try and keep some intellectual honesty in these discussions.

Dave The Angry Rhode Islander said...

I think there's no need for snarkiness - We need to remind our school boards and politicians that in school, science is taught. Religion, superstition and faith can be taught at home and church. Separation of the two is one of the founding principles of our country and people in school boards are continually ignoring this concept.

Science is not some vague, weirdly conceived notion, unlike a lot of the things religion would teach us. As long as scientific principles are adhered to, it can and should be taught as the most informed theory on how something works. Theory is not merely some idea - there are many elements that go into theories, such as verifiable experiments, research, observation, and the work of scientists through the years. Religious beliefs use none of these components and should not have any place in academia.

Jess Wundrun said...

Maybe the teacher is just collecting the names to hold them up for ridicule.

I wish.

Maybe the teacher will send a follow-up letter that says if you sign up for the alternative all advanced placement classes are now beyond your child's reach, given that you prohibit critical thinking at home.

I also wish.

Maybe the teacher will assign a class on sex education and the efficacy of condoms and other forms of birth control as an alternative. Okay, it may seem off the subject but it's no more tangential than "Let there be light".

I wish.

If that came home with my child I would complain.

But alas, the FSM is the alpha and the semolina!

mwb said...

Are you saying your kids are learning by following the wisdom of the good book?

More seriously, I clearly graduated at the right time between the waves of nuts trying to attack science in the classroom.

no_slappz said...

dean wormer,

Exxon, as I stated, generated revenue of $404 billion in 2007. Out of that total, the company paid $106 billion in taxes.

Of the $106 billion, Exxon paid income taxes of $30 billion, it paid sales taxes of $32 billion other taxes (excise, etc) of $44 billion.

Do you understand that the $404 billion of revenue is reduced by $32 billion of sales taxes and $44 billion of other taxes BEFORE the calculations for incomes taxes begin?

Exxon paid $76 billion ($32 billion of sales taxes and $44 billion of other taxes) out of the $404 billion to governments around the world for the priviledge of doing business in their jurisdictions.

Thus, operating revenue was really about $328 billion. Out of that, Exxon paid $199 billion to actually purchase crude oil.

The cost of Sales, General and Administration -- employee paychecks and more -- was $15 billion.

Operating profit was $70 billion. Income taxes were $30 billion. Net profit was $40 billion. The income tax rate was 43%.

Anyway, there was nothing dishonest about giving the full picture on taxes paid by Exxon.

However, based on your objection to including ALL relevant tax figures, it seems you have your own form of accounting. But if we work with your concepts, then INCOME tax is also just another tax that is forwarded to a government after it has been collected from customers at the gas pump.

Swinebread said...

Hey no slappz, this is post about Dean’s daughter and school science, not about being an apologist for Exxon. If you disagree with dean then post your rebuttal on your site so we can ignore it. Thanks

For the record I’d like something along the lines of what arkonbey said.

Overdroid said...

It's obvious to me from reading all of this that Exxon is behind the teaching of intelligent design. I propose that anyone who doesn't want their children to learn proper science should go all the way with this idea. Said children should not be allowed to use computers, internal combustion engines, electricity, or antibiotics. Also, there should be an option at church services so that people can listen to an alternate sermon about thermodynamics.

Dr. Zaius said...

I think that you should speak to the faculty in person. Go straight down to the principal's office. Bring Harvey with you. ;o)

BAC said...

This is clearly pandering to the fundies. Now if they decide to teach intelligent design instead of evolution, call me. I know people who know people ...


Dean Wormer said...


I agree with everything you wrote. It's interesting but when I re-read the paragraph a couple of times the whole thing hinges on the word "sensitive."

Teaching actual science isn't sensitive.


I'll keep you in mind should this get any weirder. Right now it just looks like they're trying to skate a thin line.

We're just trying to figure out if we want to make a stink about even that.

Having said that I'm trying to figure out where this came from. Even if it's just the teacher I have to worry because it is a small school and my youngest will be that same class in a couple of years. I don't want to "poison the well" so to speak.


I would bet there isn't a school in the country that hasn't had to deal with this crap in one form or another.


Thanks! Arkonbey did have the best snark going in that suggestion.


Also, there should be an option at church services so that people can listen to an alternate sermon about thermodynamics.

Ha! That's an excellent idea for a counter-proposal.


I would but Harvey doesn't like schools. He had a bad experience while he was a bunny.

anita said...

despite that i find the very fact that the teacher had the audacity to send such a letter to parents, i tend to agree with don snabulus. why create a scene that would potentially embarrass your awesome kid when you can use it as an object lesson in how cowardly, personally and intellectually, adults can, and will, be.

Dean Wormer said...


I think that's the best approach. We've used the letter as a discussion point for all three of our kids. That in and of itself has made it worth it.