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Democracy

Attorney argues why Louisiana law requiring the 10 Commandments in classrooms is un-American

He says that it's unconstitutional is only the beginning of the problem.

The U.S. Constitution prohibits the establishment of religion.

On June 19, 2024, Louisiana governor Jeff Landry signed a new law requiring that the Ten Commandments be displayed, in “large, easily readable font,” in every public school classroom from kindergarten to state-funded universities. The move prompted an outcry from Americans citing the first amendment clause that the government "shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof."

Defenders of the law contend that the Ten Commandments are not solely religious in nature, and the language of the law refers to them as "foundational documents of our state and national government.” But the ACLU and other civil rights organizations immediately announced that they would fight the law in the courts. A similar law in Kentucky was struck down as unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1980.

Author and attorney Andrew Seidel took to X to argue why the law is not only unconstitutional, but un-American.


Seidel begins by sharing that the first commandment in the specified text that the law requires be posted in classrooms states, "I AM the Lord thy God. Thou shalt have no other gods before me."

"The point of this bill is to give the false impression that America is a Christian nation," Seidel wrote in his thread. "That's Christian Nationalism."

Seidel says that the first commandment directly conflicts with the founding principles of the United States.

"No law—and this would be a law—can tell an American to worship a god, let alone which god. Americans are free to be godless (as a growing number are), or, if they wish, to worship every god from every holy book."

He pointed to the law's sponsor, Rep. Dodie Horton, stating in her explanation of why she proposed the bill: “I'm not concerned with an atheist. I'm not concerned with a Muslim. I’m concerned with our children looking and seeing what God’s law is."

In addition to the establishment of religion as a constitutional problem, Seidel shared that the Louisiana law uses an edited version of the Ten Commandments in the text that the state specifies.

Seidel explained that there are various translations and interpretations of the Ten Commandments, and that such differences have been the basis of different schisms within Christianity itself, not to mention "as James Madison put it, the 'torrents of blood' that have been spilled, trying to impose a state-sanctioned version of religious truth."

"That's what Louisiana is doing here," Seidel wrote. "Imposing it's version of religious truth on kids in public schools. It's gross."

Seidel then explained the issue with Louisiana's editing of the King James Version of the Ten Commandments, paring it down and removing certain phrases.

"If the state can rewrite one religion’s holy book, it can rewrite yours. Louisiana does not have this power. Nor does it have the power to impose that religious edict on a captive audience of your children."

"This is the worst kind of big government conservatives claim to oppose," Seidel added. "More to the point, this is one reason we have the separation of church and state, and it’s precisely how that separation protects everyone and helps ensure the foundational value of religious freedom. It not only prevents the state from weighing in on religious disagreements, scriptural discrepancies, and theological debates, but also refuses to empower the state to force its preferred scripture or religious doctrine onto we the people."

Imagine if a state legislature with Muslim or Hindu or Buddhist-majority decided that an excerpt from one of those faith's holy books prohibiting the worship of any other deities was required to be posted in every public school classroom. The same people who are pushing for and praising this law probably wouldn't stand for it.

Opponents of the Louisiana law argue the idea that the U.S. was founded on the principles found in the Ten Commandments is negated as soon as you put the first commandment up against the first amendment. The U.S. was largely founded on the principle of religious freedom. The first amendment prohibits the government from telling the people what to believe or whom or how to worship. The first commandment specifically states whom the people must worship, and the second, third and fourth commandment specify how they should worship and there therefore incompatible as government-sanctioned messages.

Virtually no one is arguing that all of the Ten Commandments are bad. Not killing, lying or stealing are standard moral codes for the vast majority of humanity, regardless of religious background. But the others are very much asserting Judeo-Christian religious beliefs, and Seidel says for the government to require that assertion in classrooms is blatantly unconstitutional and un-American as well.

You can find Andrew Seidel's books, "The Founding Myth: Why Christian Nationalism is Un-American" and "American Crusade: How the Supreme Court Is Weaponizing Religious Freedom" on Amazon.

As a participant in the Amazon Associates affiliate program, Upworthy may earn proceeds from items purchased that are linked to this article, at no additional cost to you.

Jessica Skube can't believe that they changed the 'Alphabet Song.'

The oldest published version of the melody to the “Alphabet Song” was in 1761. However, because it’s the same melody as “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” and “Baa Baa Black Sheep,” it's hard to trace it to its original composer.

The “Alphabet Song” is so deeply entrenched in American culture that it almost seems sacrilegious to change a piece of music that’s one of the first most of us ever learned. But after all these years, some educators are altering the classic melody so that there is a variation when the letters L-M-N-O-P are sung.

This change shocked popular TikTokker Jessica Skube, who documents life raising 7 children with her 2.6 million followers. Nearly 10 million people have watched her video revealing the significant change, and it’s received over 56,000 comments since first being published in late 2020.


"You guys, I have huge, huge, huge, huge, huge news,” Skube told her followers. "I have a fifth grader, a fifth grader, a fourth grader, a third grader, a third grader, a first grader, and a preschooler and I just got news that the ‘Alphabet Song’ is changing."

She then sang the updated version of the song.

@jesssfamofficial

Just to add to your 2020 🤯😱 because distance learning wasn’t enough!!! @ms_frazzled #abcsong #lmno #wtf #momsoftiktok

The big reason for the change is that people learning English, whether young kids or those who speak it as a second language, often get confused because L-M-N-O-P can sound like one letter, “elemenopee." So, the new version breaks up that part of the alphabet, making the letters easier to understand. There has been a "surge" in the number of students learning English as a second language over the past decade, so it only makes sense to alter the song to help them learn the fundamentals of the language.

It’s believed that this new version of the song was first created by a website called Dream English in 2012.


This article originally appeared on 9.27.23

Florida teacher Yolanda Turner engaged 8th grade students in a dance-off.

We've said it before and we'll say it again: Teachers deserve all the kudos, high fives, raises, accolades, prizes and thanks for everything they do. Even if they just stuck to academics alone, they'd be worth far more than they get, but so many teachers go above and beyond to teach the whole child, from balancing equations to building character qualities.

One way dedicated educators do that is by developing relationships and building rapport with their students. And one surefire way to build rapport is to dance with them.

A viral video shared by an assistant principal at Sumner High School & Academy in Riverview, Florida shows a group of students gathered around one student as he challenges a teacher to a dance-off.


"Our 8th grade Stingrays having a well deserved exam dance break," wrote assistant principal Natalie McClain. "Of course our teachers are ending 2022 with a win."

The teacher, Ms. Yolanda Turner, took the challenge—and the students went wild.

Watch:

The student really thought he had her, didn't he? It looked as if his soul left his body when he tapped her shoulders and then realized what he'd done. But to her credit, she took it in stride and took him out with her dance moves.

"The music was on, all the kids were pumped," Turner told Fox 13. "So it was like, let's have a dance challenge. So I'm like, okay, all right, so everybody's having fun. And I said, 'I'm going to tap in. I'm going to tap into the dance.'"

"I really try to emphasize for kids to be their authentic selves and to really never be afraid to express who they are no matter who's watching," she told the outlet.

This dance-off video is a prime example of how schools can be places of joyful connection in addition to academic achievement. Gaining students' respect doesn't require being a stuffy authoritarian hard nose, and students generally respond better to teachers they genuinely care for. Meeting them where they are is one of the best ways to reach kids and creating experiences that include for silliness and fun is one of the best ways to keep them engaged.

Plus, who doesn't need to blow off a little steam in between exams? What a lovely example of striking a balance between academic rigor and modeling healthy stress relief. Well done, Ms. Turner.


This article originally appeared on 12.28,22

Internet

Carl Sagan's future 'celebration of ignorance' prediction from 1995 was spookily spot on

"I have a foreboding of America in my children’s or grandchildren’s time…"

Images courtesy of NASA and Amazon

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Cosmologist and science educator Carl Sagan made a name for himself in popular culture as the host of the TV show "Cosmos" and the author of more than a dozen books bridging the gap between the scientific complexities of the world and the people who live in it. Intelligent and eloquent, he had a way of making science palatable for the average person, always advocating healthy scepticism and the scientific method to seek answers to questions about our world.

But Sagan also possessed a keen understanding of the broad array of human experience, which was part of what made him such a beloved communicator. He wrote about peace and justice and kindness in addition to science. He did not shun spirituality, as some sceptics do, but said he found science to be "a profound source of spirituality." He acknowledged that there's so much we don't know but was adamant about defending what we do.

Now, a quote from Sagan's 1995 book, "The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark," has people talking about his uncanny ability to peek into the future. His predictions didn't come through supernatural means, of course, but rather through his powers of observation and his understanding of human nature. Still pretty spooky, though.


He wrote:

I have a foreboding of America in my children’s or grandchildren’s time–when the United States is a service and information economy; when nearly all of the manufacturing industries have slipped away to other countries; when awesome technological powers are in the hands of a very few, and no one representing the public interest can even grasp the issues; when the people have lost the ability to set their own agendas or knowledgeably question those in authority; with our critical faculties in decline, unable to distinguish between what feels good and what’s true, we slide almost without noticing, back into superstition and darkness.

And when the dumbing down of America is most evident in the slow decay of substantive content in the enormously influential media, the 30-second sound bites now down to 10 seconds or less, lowest-common-denominator programming, credulous presentations on pseudoscience and superstition, but especially a kind of celebration of ignorance.”

His words seem downright prophetic in an era where the least qualified people rise to the highest levels of power more and more often, people glom onto outlier voices that contradict broad scientific consensus on everything from climate change to public health, and social media sound bites fuel more and more extreme views devoid of nuance and complexity.

And the most frustrating part is that the people who get wrapped up in quacky conspiracy theories or take on radical stances based on illogical rhetoric don't see their own ignorance. They're told they're the ones thinking critically, they're the ones who are knowledgeable simply because they're questioning authority (as opposed to the "ability to…knowledgeably question those in authority" Sagan refers to, which is not the same thing).

“When we are self-indulgent and uncritical, when we confuse hopes and facts, we slide into pseudoscience and superstition," Sagan wrote. We watched this play out in the U.S. during the pandemic. We see it daily in our politics at either end of the spectrum. We witness it in social discourse, especially online. One thing Sagan didn't foresee was how ignorance, pseudoscience and superstition would be rewarded in today's world by algorithms that determine what we see in our social media feeds, creating a vicious cycle that can feel impossible to reverse sometimes.

However, Sagan also offered a hopeful reminder that people who fall prey to peddlers who push "alternative facts" for their own gain are simply human, with the same desire to understand our world that we all share. He warned against being critical without also being kind, to remember that being human doesn't come with an instruction manual or an innate understanding of how everything works.

“In the way that scepticism is sometimes applied to issues of public concern, there is a tendency to belittle, to condescend, to ignore the fact that, deluded or not, supporters of superstition and pseudoscience are human beings with real feelings, who, like the sceptics, are trying to figure out how the world works and what our role in it might be," he wrote. "Their motives are in many cases consonant with science. If their culture has not given them all the tools they need to pursue this great quest, let us temper our criticism with kindness. None of us comes fully equipped.”

Discerning truth from falsehood, fact from fiction, science from pseudoscience isn't always simple, and neither is the challenge of educating a populace to hone that ability. Taking a cue from Sagan, we can approach education with rigorous scientific standards but also with curiosity and wonder as well as kindness and humility. If he was right about the direction the U.S. was heading 30 years ago, perhaps he was right about the need for understanding what led to that direction and the tools needed to right the ship.

You can find much more in Sagan's "The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark" here.