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The Culture Chick

Ask me anything   original print and radio news, stories, and opinion by a kspc volunteer, pitzer college student and former kpfa intern

See post above for story on Dumpster Diving. I mention this awesome graphic in the story.

weird-mcgee:

I’ve heard a lot of healthy middle class white kids extol the virtues of skipping. I’ve yet to see a guide to skipping that deals with any of this shit.

— 8 months ago with 2315 notes
#Dumpster Diving  #dumpstering  #race  #class  #ability  #religion  #ableism  #mental health  #class privilege  #white privilege 
Student Challenges Separation of Church and State 
A response to this NPR story:
 

16 year-old atheist, Jessica Ahlquist “sued the city of Cranston, R.I., over a banner hanging in the auditorium of her high school, Cranston High School West.” The banner is titled “School Prayer,” begins with “Our heavenly father,” and ends with “Amen”. The prayer “urges students to work hard, be good people and achieve in sports.” I fully support Ahlquist’s efforts.
Unfortunately, the majority of Ahlquist’s community is supportive of the banner and against her. She has received death threats on the Internet, students bully her in person and online, and a community member has printed the banner onto t-shirts and is selling them to support the banner. Because of these threats and intimidation policemen escorted Ahlquist to school for a while.
I’m surprised that no one has complained about the banner before. I have no problem with schools teaching and discussing religion in English and social studies courses but this banner is clearly endorsing the idea of religion and a belief in God. It clearly endorses the belief in God since it says “Our heavenly father,” and is attempting to speak for all members of the school. Schools cannot and should not endorse or encourage any religious or political ideology.
One great point the NPR article makes is that “Rhode Island was founded upon the principles of religious freedom and separation of church and state.” For those who do not know the history behind Rhode Island, it became a haven for prosecuted religious minorities after its founding by theologian Roger Williams, a believer in religious freedom and separation of church and state.
On another note, NPR pointed out that Ahlquist’s state representative, Democrat Peter Palumbo, has criticized Ahlquist and her actions. Speaking to a local radio station he said, “What an evil little thing. Poor thing. And it’s not her fault. She’s being … trained to be like that.” I have a couple issues Palumbo’s opinions. First whether he is calling Ahlquist or her actions “an evil little thing,” I think it is very extreme and inappropriate for an elected official to label a 16 year-old individual or her actions as “evil.” Hitler and rapists are evil, not Ahlquist and her beliefs. Palumbo’s statement is quite offensive but even more so, ineffective and immature.
I also take offense to Palumbo’s belief that Ahlquist was “trained to be like that.” Palumbo believes Ahlquist was taught, trained, or indoctrinated, presumably by her parents, the media, or authors to be an atheist and to believe in the separation of church and state. Essentially, he is saying that 16 year-olds do not have the intellectual ability to form and understand their own independent values and beliefs (well actually no ones values and beliefs are “their own” or original. They are influenced and built on the beliefs of others). This method, attributing the actions and beliefs of teenagers you disagree with to the “fact” that they must have been brainwashed or indoctrinated, has been seen before. For example, Arizona state attorney Tom Horne believes that Tucson middle and high school students enrolled in Mexican-American ethnic studies courses have been propagandized and brainwashed (he used these words in different tenses) into believing they are oppressed and engaging in protest and civil disobedience to protect their courses. 
I hope Ahlquist wins her battle, that students stop bullying her, and that more people can come to understand why this banner violates the separation of church and state.

Student Challenges Separation of Church and State 

A response to this NPR story:

16 year-old atheist, Jessica Ahlquist “sued the city of Cranston, R.I., over a banner hanging in the auditorium of her high school, Cranston High School West.” The banner is titled “School Prayer,” begins with “Our heavenly father,” and ends with “Amen”. The prayer “urges students to work hard, be good people and achieve in sports.” I fully support Ahlquist’s efforts.

Unfortunately, the majority of Ahlquist’s community is supportive of the banner and against her. She has received death threats on the Internet, students bully her in person and online, and a community member has printed the banner onto t-shirts and is selling them to support the banner. Because of these threats and intimidation policemen escorted Ahlquist to school for a while.

I’m surprised that no one has complained about the banner before. I have no problem with schools teaching and discussing religion in English and social studies courses but this banner is clearly endorsing the idea of religion and a belief in God. It clearly endorses the belief in God since it says “Our heavenly father,” and is attempting to speak for all members of the school. Schools cannot and should not endorse or encourage any religious or political ideology.

One great point the NPR article makes is that “Rhode Island was founded upon the principles of religious freedom and separation of church and state.” For those who do not know the history behind Rhode Island, it became a haven for prosecuted religious minorities after its founding by theologian Roger Williams, a believer in religious freedom and separation of church and state.

On another note, NPR pointed out that Ahlquist’s state representative, Democrat Peter Palumbo, has criticized Ahlquist and her actions. Speaking to a local radio station he said, “What an evil little thing. Poor thing. And it’s not her fault. She’s being … trained to be like that.” I have a couple issues Palumbo’s opinions. First whether he is calling Ahlquist or her actions “an evil little thing,” I think it is very extreme and inappropriate for an elected official to label a 16 year-old individual or her actions as “evil.” Hitler and rapists are evil, not Ahlquist and her beliefs. Palumbo’s statement is quite offensive but even more so, ineffective and immature.

I also take offense to Palumbo’s belief that Ahlquist was “trained to be like that.” Palumbo believes Ahlquist was taught, trained, or indoctrinated, presumably by her parents, the media, or authors to be an atheist and to believe in the separation of church and state. Essentially, he is saying that 16 year-olds do not have the intellectual ability to form and understand their own independent values and beliefs (well actually no ones values and beliefs are “their own” or original. They are influenced and built on the beliefs of others). This method, attributing the actions and beliefs of teenagers you disagree with to the “fact” that they must have been brainwashed or indoctrinated, has been seen before. For example, Arizona state attorney Tom Horne believes that Tucson middle and high school students enrolled in Mexican-American ethnic studies courses have been propagandized and brainwashed (he used these words in different tenses) into believing they are oppressed and engaging in protest and civil disobedience to protect their courses.

I hope Ahlquist wins her battle, that students stop bullying her, and that more people can come to understand why this banner violates the separation of church and state.

— 2 years ago with 1 note
#education  #school  #religion  #politics  #separation of church and state 
Violating the Separation of Church and State?

In response to this NPR story: "Worshipers Kicked Out of N.Y. School on Principle"

I am non-religious and strongly believe in the separation of church and state. But I do not see how these church groups are infringing on this separation. Who’s rights or freedom are the violating or infringing on? 

They aren’t there during the day when the kids are there–that would be inappropriate because the churchgoers could try to influence the kids and the services would probably interfere with learning. However, the churches are simply using the space. They would use the space if it was a warehouse or grocery store. They simply want a cheap place to worship. Opinions?

— 2 years ago
#New York  #Politics  #Religion  #Separation of Church and State  #school 
Texas Governor’s ‘Response’ Excludes Non-Christians (7-13-11)

Note: Published in the Highland Park Patch on 7/13/11

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Texas Governor’s ‘Response’ Excludes Non-Christians

Texas governor and possible Republican presidential candidate Rick Perry recently announced that August 6 would be a “day of prayer and fasting for our nation’s challenges.” He invited governors and citizens to “participate in The Response, a non-denominational, apolitical, Christian prayer meeting hosted by the American Family Association at Reliant Stadium in Houston.” 

Challenges currently facing our country, as described by Perry and The Response’s website, include economic troubles, natural disasters and the fight against terrorism. Other challenges include the belief that “the youth of America are in grave peril…socially, and, most of all, morally” and that “our culture” is in decline “in the context of the demise of families.”

Based on the descriptions of and reasons for Perry’s day of prayer, I believe, like many others, that this event excludes non-believers, non-Christians, social liberals and those who do not adhere to the American Family Association’s (AFA) statement of faith, which The Response has adopted. LGBT individuals will certainly not feel welcomed as the AFA actively campaigns against homosexuality. In addition, some statements by Perry and The Response website, are ethnocentric and express that our nation “must” turn towards prayer and to Jesus Christ.                                                          

Perry explains that “The Response is a non-denominal, apolitical Christian prayer meeting” and that “People of all ages, races, backgrounds and Christian denominations will be in attendance.” 

I do not understand how it is appropriate for a governor who represents people of all faiths to plan and host an explicitly Christian event. I recognize that many government officials hold religious events, but they differ from Perry’s because they take turns celebrating multiple religions (For example, one might host a Christmas dinner, a Passover Seder and a dinner to break the fast for Ramadan) or are open to all religions (which is still exclusive towards non-believers) like the National Day of Prayer.

Perry rejects the idea that his event is exclusive, telling the New York Times “It is Christian-centered, yes, but I have invited and welcome people of all faiths to attend.” 

Many people, myself included, do enjoy attending cultural events from other religions and even occasionally attending a ceremony or service that is part of another religion. But I can’t imagine how non-Christians would feel comfortable attending a Christian prayer event where they will hear how believing in Jesus can save you and your country; to an event that explains that “as a nation, we must come together and call upon Jesus to guide us through unprecedented struggles, and thank Him for the blessings of freedom we so richly enjoy.” 

This event and governor Perry are telling American citizens that “we must… call upon Jesus.” Government officials should not tell their constituents that they must call upon, and therefore believe in, any particular prophet or religion. Yet this is exactly what this event, and Rick Perry are saying.

To further my argument, Eric Bearse, spokesman for The Response, said that “anyone who comes to this solemn assembly, regardless of their faith tradition or background, will feel the love, grace and warmth of Jesus Christ in that assembly hall, in that arena. And that’s what we want to convey, that there’s acceptance and that there’s love and that there’s hope if people will seek out the living Christ.” 

So essentially, Bearse believes that this event has the capability to convert non-Christians (As non-Christians will somehow be able to “feel….Jesus Christ”) and that non-Christians should and can seek out Christ.

Lastly, I would like to point out an extremely ethnocentric statement on The Response’s website: “The ancient paths of great men were blazed in prayer – the humility of the truly great men of history was revealed in their recognition of the power and might of Jesus to save all who call on His great name.” 

What was just said is that the great men of history (couldn’t the statement have said the great men and women or people?) all prayed-an inaccurate and exclusive statement as many great people were non-religious. Even worse, the statement goes on to say that the “truly great men” weren’t just religious, they were Christian. This statement essentially says that one can only be a truly great person if they are Christian.

I am looking forward to seeing how The Response will unfold on August 6. From The Response’s multimedia, social media-linked, and visually attractive website, Perry is clearly trying to appeal to teenagers and young adults, and make The Response seem like a hip, must-attend social event. He expects a large audience as he has booked a 71,500-seat stadium. Perry has attempted to gain legitimacy for his event by listing politicians, religious organizations and clergymen as endorsers and by inviting all US governors to attend. 

So far only governor Sam Brownback of Kansas will be in attendance. While we will see the turnout and success of The Response, only time will tell if the event will be successful in its goal of asking Christ to help America fix its economy, win the war against terrorism, prevent and heal from natural disasters and revive our declining morals and tradition of the American family.

— 2 years ago
#Ricky Perry  #Religion  #Politics  #Texas  #Separation of Church and State 
Studying Non-Believers (Oct. 2011)

Note: Published in the Claremont Port Side Oct. 2011 issue 

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Studying Non-Believers

Last May, the New York Times and other news outlets proclaimed that “Pitzer College in California Adds Major in Secularism.” While the bold new program made waves across the country, few people outside the 5Cs actually know the real purpose of the program and what specifically students will be studying.

According to Pitzer’s website, the new secular studies program is “an interdisciplinary program focusing on manifestations of the secular in societies and cultures, past and present.” Students will study different forms of secularism, ask why people are secular, debate the virtues and challenges of secularity, and among other things, seek to understand its impact and significance. Secular studies is not about bashing religion or debating the existence of God, Pitzer sociology professor and program creator Phil Zuckerman assured.

Secular studies is a field group, and thus is neither an official major nor a department. Instead, like all newly proposed majors or departments at Pitzer, secular studies is included in a category of academic programs called “field group B.” Although Zuckerman has outlined the requirements for a major in secular studies, students must apply for a “special major” for any academic program listed under “field group B.” After four years, if secular studies is successful, it will become an official major.

Zuckerman thinks that an academic program in secular studies is long overdue at Pitzer. Secularity is a growing trend in many countries and is present in places as diverse as Canada, Sweden and Kazakhstan. Pitzer’s secular studies program will add to a growing number of intellectual programs and organizations studying secularity.

A major in secularism would include four core courses – “Sociology of Secularity,” “Skepticism, Secularism, and Critiques of Religion,” “The Secular Life” and “Anxiety in the Age of Reason” – as well as five elective courses. Electives draw from courses in sociology, history, philosophy, religious studies, psychology, international and intercultural studies, and the sciences. More classes will be added as this program, and the subsequent major, continue to evolve.

While only one student from Pitzer is currently majoring in the program, several 5C students have expressed interest. Kiley Lawrence SC ‘14 is majoring in Biophysics with a self-designed minor in secular studies through Scripps.

The secular studies major “is broadening religious studies to be more inclusive; to investigate more ideas of God,” explained Lawrence. “Science gives us facts and hypotheses, while the concepts central to secular studies allow for accep- tance of those ideas.”

According to Zuckerman, so far there have been no accusations of “religion-bashing.” It is widely agreed upon that secularity is a topic worth exploring, but there is some disagreement as to whether it merits its own academic field or should be included under an established field like religion, sociology, or history.

“[I believe] that establishing a separate major in secular studies would expose students to too constrained (or circumscribed) a range of views on religion and secularism,” explained Pitzer professor of history and anthropology Daniel Segal.

Barry Kosmin, the director of Trinity College’s secular institute is also against secularism being studied as its own major. Kosmin told The Huffington Post that he would prefer “to see secularism examined within other fields.” Others are concerned that students will not be attracted to the major because it does not offer clear job opportunities.

While these arguments do apply to the real world, they fail to take into account the nature of any major at a liberal arts college, such as Pitzer, which focuses on educating the entire self. A degree in secularism, like all other degrees in the social science, can lead to a diverse array of careers such as teaching, practicing law, community activism, writing or working at a nonprofit. Furthermore, many students chose a major based on what they are passionate about, not about what will give them the best job.

While secular studies is neither an official major nor a department, most people agree that it is exciting and significant that Pitzer is now providing students with the opportunity to study secularism.

— 2 years ago with 1 note
#Religion  #Pitzer College  #Education  #College 
Islamophobia in Yorba Linda

Note: Written for the Orange Peel, Pitzer College’s newspaper on 5/21/2011.

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Islamophobia in Yorba Linda 

Pitzer students were rightfully distraught after viewing a video sent out on student-talk of protestors verbally attacking Muslim families attending a fundraising dinner in Yorba Linda, California for ICNA Relief, a Muslim social services organization. The demonstrators chanted for the families to “go back home” and screamed, “we don’t want you here.” They labeled the families “terrorists” and asserted that the men beat and molest their wives. While some protestors showed up to specifically protest against Siraj Wahhaj and Amir Abdel Malik Ali***, two controversial Imams whom ICNA Relief invited to speak at the event, most of the demonstrators’ words captured in this footage were clearly aimed at all Muslim-Americans. Putting aside what one may feel about the invitation of these Imams, this event illustrates the growing trend of  “Islamophobia,” or the prejudice, fear, and hate of Islam and Muslims in our country. 

The fundraising dinner on February 13th, hosted by the Southern California branch of ICNA Relief at a Yorba Linda facility, was meant to raise funds for local social justice projects such as women’s housing, hunger prevention, and funeral and burial assistance. According to the event’s poster, the Imams Wahhaj and Ali were to speak about “our responsibility towards our neighbors–an Islamic perspective.” As stated earlier, the demonstrators in this video do not just have a problem with these two speakers; they have a problem with the entire religion of Islam and the fact that there are Muslims in America. Protestors came from as far away as Corona and the San Fernando Valley, and members from ACT! For America, an “Islamofacism” awareness organization, The California Coalition for Immigration Reform (CCIR), and a local Tea Party group, were represented in the crowd. The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), a group which tracks both far-left and far-right hate groups, lists the CCIR as an anti-immigration hate group. Also in attendance was Pamela Geller, author of the blog “Atlas Shrugs” and co-creator of the organization Stop Islamization of America (SIOA).

The SPLC lists Geller as a “hate-monger” and SIOA as a hate group. Geller believes Obama is a Muslim born outside of the United States and claims Supreme Court Justice Kagan, who is Jewish, supports Nazi ideology. Geller appeared alongside former Speaker of the House Newt Gringrich and Dutch politician and Islamaphobe Geert Wilders at a rally against the building of the Cordoba House, or Park 51, an Islamic community center near Ground Zero. In the Netherlands, Wilders wishes to ban the Koran, instill a tax on women who wear a hijab, and end all Muslim immigration to his country.

An examination of the hateful words of the protestors reveals classic xenophobic rhetoric as well as factual errors. At different points in American history, Jewish, Catholic, and Asian immigrants would have heard groups of Americans chanting at them to “go back home” and expressing that same “we don’t want you here” message. This rhetoric can also be heard today at rallies against both documented and undocumented immigrants from Mexico. When protestors yell, “go back home” at Muslim-Americans, they are implying that they do not believe Islam has a place in America and therefore Muslim-Americans should return to the country of their ancestors.

Who are these protestors, most of whom are descendants of Europeans, to tell Muslim-Americans to return “home”, when their own religion and ancestors are not native to the Americas? Who gets to decide what is “American” and what isn’t? Finally, when protestors label the attendees as “terrorists” and wife beaters, they are flawed in correlating practicing Islam with supporting terrorism, being a terrorist, and supporting or engaging in domestic violence. 

The greater debate about Islam is America is often hateful, hypocritical, and one-sided. To understand the growth and scope of hate and fear against Islam, one must be aware that virtually every time a new mosque, or an expansion to an existing mosque, is proposed in the United States, there are protests (A notable example is the opposition to an expansion of the Murfreesboro, Tennessee Islamic Center).

An example of hypocrisy is the fact that several Fox News anchors criticized Imam Faisal Rauf, the Imam planning Park 51, for the fact that one of his foundations (but not Park 51) is partly funded by Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal. However, these anchors failed to point out that bin Talal is personal friends with Rupert Murdoch and that his Kingdom Holding Company is the second largest owner of News Corps, Fox’s parent company. Lastly, Americans must question why there isn’t more mainstream coverage about the work of progressive Muslims such as NYU chaplain Imam Khalid Latif, feminist Amina Wadud, and Eboo Patel, founder of the Interfaith Youth Core.

Yes, there are radical Muslims and Imams in the United States, just like there are radical leaders and followers of all religions. The government and media will denounce acts of extremism based on any faith. However, it is only the Islamic religion that is treated as “guilty before proven innocent.” That is, Muslim people and organizations must prove themselves moderate and are preemptively investigated by talk shows and organizations for personal and financial ties to terror. A self-described liberal student once told me that he is weary of Muslim Americans until they prove to him that they are moderate.

The best way for individuals to combat any fears or misunderstandings about Islam or Muslim Americans is to talk to and learn about American Muslims. Read articles or talk to a Muslim friend about what the hijab represents to her and why she chooses to wear it. Attend an interfaith event or listen to lectures posted online by Imam Latif. Anti-Semitism and anti-Catholicism are cast on the wrong side of history. Islamophobia will be too. What side of history do you want to be on?

***

            Siraj Wahhaj is sometimes viewed as controversial because he was an “unindicted co-conspirator” in the 1993 World Trade Center bombings. On the other hand, he attended a Ramadan dinner hosted by former Secretary of State Madeline Albright, was the first Muslim to give an invocation (opening prayer) at the United States House of Representatives, and has been heavily involved with anti-drug activism.

            The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), a group which tracks both far-left and far-right hate groups, and which understands that critiquing and/or being against Israel or Zionism does not make one an Anti-Semite, lists Amir Abdel Malik Ali as a someone who crosses “the line into denigration of Jews as a group.”

— 2 years ago with 1 note
#Islam  #Islamophobia  #Religion 
Unprecedented Abortion Restrictions in South Dakota

Note: Written for the Orange Peel, Pitzer College’s newspaper on 4/9/11

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Unprecedented Abortion Restrictions in South Dakota

            With the passing of HB 1217, South Dakota becomes the state with the most restrictive abortion laws in the nation. In addition to already being told their abortion “will terminate the life of a whole, separate, unique living human being,” women are now required to attend a consultation with a crisis pregnancy center (CPC) and must wait 3 days to have an abortion after their initial request. This new law even applies to rape and incest victims; the only exception is for women requiring abortions because of health complications. Opponents of this law say it violates the principles of the separation of church and state and women’s privacy and decisions.

            CPC’s present themselves as clinics delivering unbiased, factual information from licensed professionals about pregnancy and abortion. However, by visiting their websites, you can tell they are clearly pro-life and often religious organizations. An example of a CPC a woman might visit before receiving an abortion is the Alpha Center in Sioux City. According to its website, “the purpose of the Alpha Center is to share the great commission to every woman and couple who walks through our doors. For in the end, only what’s done for Christ will last.” The website also claims “that abortion increases risks for breast cancer, infertility, and depression.”

         Allen and Leslee Unruh, the founders of the Alpha Center, are perfectly aware that the American Psychological Association’s  (APA) findings go against these “facts” on their website. However, the Unruh’s believe that the APA is purposefully spreading lies to the public. Michelle Goldberg of The Daily Beast makes the frightening observation that “South Dakota’s government is thus directing women to centers that treat mainstream medical opinion as a liberal conspiracy.”

            Another problem with the HB 1217 is the three-day waiting period. Because there are only two clinics providing abortion in the entire state of South Dakota, many women must already drive long distances to have this procedure. Now, they will need to either find a place to stay while waiting to receive their abortion or drive back home and later back again to the clinic. Either way, the waiting period increases the financial costs, logistical burdens, and most likely the anxiety levels of women seeking abortions.

             Most Republicans argue for individual liberties and responsibility, and against government interference into private lives. I therefore find it ironic that when it comes to one of the most private areas in women’s lives (sexual choices, health choices, her womb, etc.), some Republicans argue that the government has the right and need to interfere into women’s lives and “help” them make a decision. Fortunately, both Planned Parenthood and the ACLU are planning to sue over HB 1217. They will most likely succeed as other restrictive South Dakota abortion laws have already been turned over by courts and rejected by voter referendums.

Sources:

New York Times, The Daily Beast, NPR

— 2 years ago with 2 notes
#Abortion  #Health  #Women's Rights  #Politics  #Religion