I was sent an essay that I had to re-read just because of its stunning demonstration of why allowing religious schooling of children is really just a violation of the child's right to a decent education.  I found this randomly and am compelled to post it.  The title says "English 10" on it, so I'm assuming it was written at a sophomore level in HS.  My own observations follow. 

Animal Farm

    In the book Animal Farm by George Orwell, Mr.Jones' prize boar, Old Major,attempted to educate his the animals about there life on Manor Farm.  But, Old Major not only distorted the truth for the animals, he also taught things which clearly oppose the fundamental Christian principles.  Old Major told the animals that they were better then men, because animals were smart and could support themselves, while he said men were unintelligent and had to rely on animals to support their needs.
    In the Bible, in the third beatitude, "Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth, "by teaching the animals to be proud that they where better then men, Old Major set out to convince the animals of the evils of men by slandering the human race, elaborating man's faults, and calling him terrible names.  The eighth commandment, "Thou shall bear false witness against thy neighbor, "clearly shows why Old Major is wrong in his teaching the animals that humankind is totally bad.  Old Major tried to make the animals see that a revolution was the only way for them to attain perfect happiness for themselves.
    The This was incorrect however, because Jesus taught his his followers to love one another as he did and pray for those who  persecuted them.  Old Major not only failed to bring peace to Manor Farm, But he accomplished the exact opposite of the by teaching the animals his philosophy.  Although Old Major, the prize boar of Mr.Jones in George Orwell's book Animal Farm tried to teach the farm animals about life, he neglected to correctly inform them of reality and taught a philosophy that was contrary.

For reference, all typos and wording are exactly as they appeared on the paper.  I was surprised to not see a single mention of communism, allegory or any of the other words which are most often used to describe Orwell's work.  The lack of literary analysis and sophisticated interpretation of the text is rather shocking to me - not to brag, but anyone in my sophomore class could have (and may well have) produced a better analysis of Animal Farm, even an analysis contrasted with Christian theological principles.  I won't go into the logical fallacies and such for fear of being outright cruel, but suffice to say writing like this highlights why religious education is simply abhorrent from the perspective of a child's right to a decent education.

Dawkins frequently mentions that we should not use the term "Christian child" or similar, that instead we should favor "a child of Christian parents."  He points out that the inability of a child to decide on or even fully comprehend the nature of the universe does not allow them to be truly religious in any sense - they simply believe what they are told.  If the child's mind is not challenged to inquire beyond the narrow scope of one religious worldview, they stay in what I would argue is an inferior level of knowledge and ability.  As per my initial argument, I would further argue that this is cruel and against the child's best interest. 

Over most of the world, parents are given a large amount of latitude when it comes to the education and development of their child.  This results in what could probably be described as a healthy variation of parenting techniques - but there are some outliers like the situation above which are side-effects so serious that I begin to question whether or not this sort of leniency is truly humane.  We remove children from the custody of their parents for physical and emotional abuse, but what of the abuses of the mind?  If a parent does not allow their child to attend an educational institution which will give them basic skills, is that intellectual abuse?  Developmental abuse, perhaps? 

The problem with this sort of abuse is that the perpetrators and the victim alike would choose this sort of thing freely if confronted with alternatives in most cases.  Unlike the more enforced sorts of abuse, this is something that is arguably a choice made by all parties involved.  However, I would argue that it's not really a full choice on the child's part, since they were probably brought up in such a manner that the result was presented as inevitable.  This changes the situation from abuse to something of a sad, quiet tragedy.  How many inquiring minds are starved every year by the inadequate offerings of an antiquated worldview?  How many more interesting conversations and acquaintences might I have had if children were all allowed to become what they could be?  It is useless to speculate on things of this nature, because whatever might have been is already lost in ignorance.

Disclaimers:  I realize that this essay is perhaps not indicative across the board of the writing ability produced by religious education.  If the author of this essay ever finds this post - I apologise, but it kinda had to be said. 

Yay for China!

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The Chinese government has announced that it plans to shift more of its executions over to lethal injection rather than firing squad.  This is apparently a humanitarian move that will allow clean and humane executions of people committing serious crimes as defined by China's 1997 Criminal Law, including the heinous acts of being a pimp (Article 240), bribery (383) or killing a panda bear (21).  Amendments from 2001 would allow this new and more humane process to be applied to people belonging to a terrorist organization regardless of crimes committed.  Precedent from 2003 applies capital punishment to people breaking quarantine of highly contagious diseases. 

These just and necessary applications of the death penalty are a healthy feature of China's legal system.  As PM Hu Jintao said some time back:

"Any crime which the law regards as serious should certainly receive serious penalties, and any crime which is punishable by the death penalty according to the law, should certainly receive the death penalty. This will ensure the healthy progress of strike hard."
It's probably a good thing that they're worrying about the humanitarian ramifications of spatting someone's brains all over the wall - after all, the convicted have probably committed relatively light crimes and shouldn't be subjected to too much suffering.

All satire aside, I think the process of arriving at the death penalty might need some more attention before we worry overmuch about little things like how much it hurts.  Also, isn't the only advantage of injection vs. firing squad that it's less traumatic on the executioners - and the janitors?   I of course have no personal experience, but it seems that the potential for pain in a point-blank headshot is pretty minimal, limited to the however-many milliseconds it takes the bullet to create a grey matter slushie where there was previously a brain.  By contrast, lethal injection at least has the pain of an IV and the (increasingly examined) potential that it actually hurts like shit to get the second load of chemicals pumped into you.  I'm too lazy to find evidence on that one, but google is your friend - I know it's out there if you look. 

I've borrowed heavily from this report by Amnesty International.

Shame on those who paid, as well

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A Washington Post article made me blink a bit today.  Even if I don't sympathize with the RIAA's position on downloading and filesharing, I can at least understand their logic.  However, I really don't get why they insist on alienating their paying customers.  If I buy a CD, my potential spending on that set of songs is pretty much tapped out - I've got the content and I'm not going to need to buy it again.  However, it seems they're dead set on laying down some ass-covering precedents.

It's not even sensible to argue that the act of copying from a CD to digital format deprives the companies of money, because the guy obviously bought the CD already.  This blind denial of consumer rights to purchased property is another step down a path parallel to DRM.  Although denying things like the ability to copy a purchased CD to a computer may make LEGAL sense, the court of public opinion will see it as nonsensical - and the RIAA really doesn't need any more help looking like a group of jackasses in that respect.


I am officially no longer pissed off about the writers strike.  I'm not idealistic enough to think that loud noises about going independent and giving the finger to the major distributors will actually result in the current order being overturned, but I am rather pleased that this debate has become more mainstream.  Although the studios are currently downplaying the profits available through internet distribution, and I believe that any independent studio will be hard-pressed to initially monetize this distribution channel, the opportunity still exists for some groundwork to be done.  The industry needs a proof-of-concept for the internet as a viable and profitable channel for content, and I've frankly never seen a set of circumstances more conducive to exactly that.

In the best-case scenario, one of the smaller companies formed as a result of this movement (the serial feature film in the Guardian article is intriguing) would stand out as a model for other writers dissatisfied with their working environment under the current major players.  The concept of an alternative to the status quo for writers would force the studios to play ball.  The writers strike as it stands is only extending this far because the studios know the writers aren't working and can't hold out forever.  If there existed a feasible alternative for writers outside of studio control, the writers would immediately gain enough bargaining power to hold their own.  

The studios will persist, almost certainly, but it's highly likely that this trend could force a weakening of their stance and give greater force to the demands of the artists creating the content.  I, for one, would love to see a media world where the skills of good writers were valued as much as those of good actors.  I'll be watching this eagerly to see where it heads from here.