July 19, 2007

Losing it

More good news for advocates of abstinence programs: a five-year study cited by the New York Times found that 49% of teenagers who had, er, benefited from abstinence education had never had sex—while 55% hadn’t had sex in the past year. Sadly, the equivalent statistics for teenagers who hadn’t had abstinence education were 49% and 56%—and the study also found no difference in the age at which each group first had sex. Although there was the odd outlier:

Through a combination of less sex and more contraception, pregnancy and birth rates among American teenagers as a whole have been falling since about 1991. Texas, however, has seen the smallest decline despite receiving almost $17 million in the name of virginity.

Small wonder that many states are reconsidering the millions of taxpayer dollars they have squandered on the religious right’s sex-obsessed agenda. The Times reports that 11 state health departments rejected abstinence education so far this year, while legislatures in Colorado, Iowa and Washington have passed laws that could take it out of public schools for good.

More here. Oh, and here.

Posted by Stephen at 12:01 AM in Education | Health | Religion + cults | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

June 28, 2007

Losing Focus

Although I’ve written about the activities of the Exclusive Brethren sect in Australia and New Zealand, I hadn’t realized how well-established it is in Britain, too. There, as in Australia and New Zealand, the sect is targeting kids: the Brethren’s Focus Learning Trust already runs 37 private schools, and is now angling to back one of Tony Blair’s flagship city academies.

Britain’s clueless minister for schools, Lord Adonis*—who before his baffling enoblement was plain Andrew Adonis, an equally clueless newspaper reporter—has made it clear that he won’t rule out such a move. Which is hardly surprising, given his embrace of creationists and other religious nuts. And Ofsted, Britain’s alleged schools watchdog, just loves Focus Learning. As the Telegraph notes, in 2005 Ofsted praised the trust for providing “good support to its schools” and a “generally good” quality of teaching. In a country where “teaching standards” is an oxymoron, that’s high praise.

Pity, then, that Adonis and Ofsted didn’t do their homework. Perhaps they would have picked up on the Exclusive Brethren’s lengthy record of child abuse, money laundering, and political meddling.

But then again, perhaps they wouldn’t.

[*Adonis may yet lose his job as a result of Gordon Brown’s Cabinet reshuffle, so there is hope.]

Posted by Stephen at 6:49 PM in Education | Politics | Religion + cults | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

June 20, 2007

Euro-creationism and human rights

The Council of Europe—which oversees human rights in the European Union’s member countries—will vote next week on a proposal to defend the teaching of evolution, and keep creationism and intelligent design out of science classes in EU state schools. A report for the Council’s Parliamentary Assembly notes that the campaign against evolution has its roots “in forms of religious extremism,” and that “Today, creationists of all faiths are trying to get their ideas accepted in Europe. If we are not careful, creationism could become a threat to human rights.”

This isn’t trivial: the Council of Europe governs human rights for more than 800 million people in 47 countries, and has the European Court of Human Rights at its disposal. And although it isn’t binding, the proposed resolution—which says member states should “firmly oppose the teaching of creationism as a scientific discipline on an equal footing with the theory of evolution by natural selection”—could effectively pull the rug from under Europe’s religious crazies.

Of course, the resolution first has to pass. Stay tuned.

Posted by Stephen at 5:51 PM in Education | Evolution | Humanity | Politics | Religion + cults | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

May 24, 2007

Degrees of suffering

Brits can now get a master’s degree in sport and Christian outreach, an educational endeavor that Richard Dawkins compares to “some kind of Monty Python sketch.”

He’s obviously going to hell—just like 95% of Britons, apparently.

Posted by Stephen at 6:12 PM in Education | Religion + cults | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

May 17, 2007

Gentle Wind goes back to school

The mind-control cult known as the Gentle Wind Project is at it again, although now it’s targeting kids. Reno, Nevada-based KOLO-TV reports that a teacher at Mendive Middle School in Sparks, NV, “uses some materials from the program to help her students calm down,” and that the school’s principal is “aware of the teacher’s methods… but so far, [the teacher] hasn’t crossed any lines.”

That’s an interesting take on one of the nastiest little cults to take root in the U.S.—one that relocated to Nevada after it was shut down in its home state of Maine.

KOLO doesn’t name the teacher involved, but I’m guessing it’s Cecilia “Cece” Koester, whose involvement with Gentle Wind dates back two decades, and who variously describes herself as an “educator,” “educational consultant” and “international author.” Koester is well-known for foisting Gentle Wind’s quackery on kids—she even wrote a book on her “brain gym” work. Her specialty is children with “severe and profound physical and emotional challenges,” according to a now-defunct Gentle Wind Web site that Koester and her partner operated in Hawaii. In other words, targeting desperate parents, and taking them for every penny.

Time for Mendive parents to get in touch with principal Juliana Annand, and ask her what action she is taking to protect their kids from a cult whose activities have ranged from fraud to sex abuse. Annand can be reached via jannand@washoe.k12.nv.us or on (775) 353-5990.

Posted by Stephen at 3:45 PM in Education | Religion + cults | Permalink | TrackBack (0)