Dover, PA

by Jon Mandle on December 7, 2005

Last week’s New Yorker (Dec.5, 2005) had a very good article on the trial concerning “intelligent design” in the high school of Dover, PA. (It’s not online, but a Q&A with the author, Margaret Talbot, is.) It included lots of interesting original reporting, including the following:

The night after the board approved the evolution disclaimer, Brad Neal, a social-studies teacher at the high school, had an e-mail exchange with [assistant superintendent Mike] Baksa. “In light of last night’s apparent change from a ‘standards-driven’ school district to the ‘living-word-driven’ school district … I would like some direction in how to adapt our judicial-branch unit,” Neal wrote. “It is apparent that the Supreme Court of the United States has it all wrong. Is there some supplemental text that we can use to set our students straight as to the ‘real’ law of the land? We will be entering this unit within the next month and are concerned that we would be polluting our students’ minds if we continue to use our curriculum as currently written in accordance with [state] standards.”

Neal’s message was sarcastic, but Baksa’s reply was not. “Brad, all kidding aside, be careful what you ask for,” he wrote back. I’ve been given a copy of ‘The Myth of Separation,’ by David Barton, to review from board members. Social studies curriculum is next year. Feel free to borrow my copy to get an idea where the board is coming from.”

Fortunately, those are now ex-board members.

Hear no evil …

by Henry on December 7, 2005

From Jefferson Morley’s “World Opinion Round-Up”:http://blogs.washingtonpost.com/worldopinionroundup/2005/12/killing_the_mes.html at the _Post_.

bq. Has the United States government decided that Americans don’t care about what the world thinks of their country? You might get that impression from the State Department’s Web site. Last week the department stopped posting surveys of how the international press is covering significant developments in U.S. foreign policy. Based on reporting from U.S. embassies around the world, the surveys quoted newspaper and broadcast reports in just about every language. … No more. The Web address of the Office of Media Reaction — “usinfo.state.gov/products/medreac.htm”:usinfo.state.gov/products/medreac.htm — now yields a “page not found” error. The archive of past surveys is also unavailable. The page states, “The USINFO website is undergoing significant design changes.” There’s a link to the surveys from the main State Department press page, but it’s dead. The changes involve more than just the “design,” according to a State Department official who spoke on the condition he not be identified. “The USINFO.state.gov Web site is directed, by law, at foreign audiences. It doesn’t make sense for us to put up what foreign newspapers are saying,” he said.

NYU Grad Students Petition

by Henry on December 7, 2005

Judith Butler, Fredric Jameson and a bunch of other prominent lit-crit types have organized a “group letter”:http://new.petitiononline.com/tosexton/petition.html to John Sexton, president of NYU, protesting at NYU’s appalling behaviour towards graduate students on strike. So far they’ve gotten over 5,000 signatures. Go give them some more.

Update: I hadn’t realised until I read “Michael Bérubé”:http://www.michaelberube.com/index.php/weblog/in_other_sokal_related_news/ that Alan Sokal too has written to Sexton in protest. Nice to see old antagonists uniting in a good cause.

Bloguests

by Eszter Hargittai on December 7, 2005

Dan Drezner, Eszter Hargittai and Sean Carroll at WGN

As soon as Milt Rosenberg mentioned the word “bloguest” (“blogguest”?) he recanted. But that did not stop us from bringing it up a few more times during his show. As Henry kindly mentioned yesterday, I was on Milt Rosenberg’s Extension 720 radio show last night with Dan Drezner (blog) and Sean Carroll (group blog). It was fun. I don’t think they make it available online in archives so I am afraid it is not possible to listen to it at this point.

We discussed all sorts of topics starting with an explanation of what blogs are to blogs and politics, the role of blogs in academia and the risks of blogging about certain issues. At times the conversation went a bit off topic (e.g. when Milt asked Sean whether there are multiple universes), but for the most part we talked about blogs and blogging.

Some of the call-in questions had to do with how people can find certain types of content (e.g. blogs on particular topics). Needless to say I see this linking in nicely with my research on user skill differences. There are lots of users out there who don’t know that much about how one finds various types of content or how one navigates certain online services (e.g. RSS feeds). It is too easy to assume evryone is as savvy as you are, but that is often the wrong assumption.

Thanks to Milt for hosting us and providing interesting questions. Thanks also to Maggie Berndt, producer of the show, for all her work on it.

I have posted some pictures taken during the commercial breaks and after the show.