Partisan education debates limit opportunities for next generation of Kansans

In our search for interesting, challenging and critical perspectives on contemporary humanism, we occasionally find articles published via other venues that we think humanistfreedoms.com readers may enjoy. The following article was located on Kansas Reflector. Steve Lopes is a Lawrence resident who taught technology in a suburban Boston high school and other tech schools for 15 years. He was a union organizer for Kansas-NEA for 30 years and over the past 10 years has advised progressive groups and Democrats in Douglas, Johnson and Wyandotte counties.


By Steve Lopes


As a former teacher, I strongly oppose the use of CRT in public school classrooms – but I’m not talking about critical race theory.

Steve Lopes
Steve Lopes

I’m talking about Crappy Rejection Teaching, the concerted effort of self-serving political forces to deny our students a quality objective education. Crappy Rejection Teaching has a long history of misleading students and coercing teachers to avert truth in favor of selective political agendas.

This CRT is an intentional effort by adults with weird personal agendas, usually based on dubious sources, to promote their prejudiced views at the expense of our children’s future success. They are forcing this generation, our future leaders, to accept a dumbed down curriculum and limited opportunities. We have a responsibility for teaching our children facts and truth, however uncomfortable.

This current assault on quality public education is just the latest in ongoing efforts by the ignorance lobby to promote their personal beliefs as valid, and therefore imperative for everyone.

Secular humanism

My first experience with a CRT-like assault was as a suburban Boston high school teacher in the 1970s, when our district was accused of promoting secular humanism. My teacher colleagues scratched their heads in disbelief. What is this stuff? The leader of our local teachers’ union suggested a way to respond.

We forgave our accusers and thanked them for bringing this to our attention, and after further investigation, several of us accepted this secular humanism as a meaningful personal belief.

Creationism

In the 1980s, as a field organizer for Kansas NEA, I frequently represented members facing challenges for teaching objectionable stuff. In one district, a local pastor who denied evolution, urged the school board to promote the teaching of Creationism. The biology teacher presented an evidence-based defense of evolution that persuaded the board to retain the science curriculum.

Intelligent design​

In 1999, there was a concerted effort to force the Kansas State Board of Education to include intelligent design in school science standards. In response, educators statewide organized Kansas Citizens for Science to demand evidence-based standards.

In 2005, the anti-science majority on the state board held bogus hearings during which KCFS exposed the flawed logic of intelligent design. These hearings were documented in the film “Kansas vs. Darwin.”

Additionally, KCFS efforts led to the subsequent election of a majority of board members who endorsed the scientific method.

Banning books

On Nov. 10, 2021, this Associated Press headline appeared: “Kansas District Orders 29 Books Removed From Circulation.” The Goddard school district had placed holds on this lengthy list of books in their school libraries based on a single parent objection to “language he found offensive.” The district ultimately reinstated the books.

The history of book banning to restrict learning goes back to the origin of books and continues to this day.

Now, the critical race theory scare tactics have arrived in Kansas.

Partisans have been diverting the public’s attention from developing and implementing effective solutions that address real education challenges in favor of unfounded propaganda. Recently seven local school board candidates running against the teaching of critical race theory were elected in Kansas communities.

With the state and national GOP leveraging dubious science to energize their base, the anticipated Democratic Party response has been … limited to nonexistent.

The kids are all right

How do we respond to this craziness in the absence of a countervailing force? We must ask the group with the most to lose from this craziness: our children.

I have a proposal based on my faith in Gen Z (those born between 1997 and 2012).

This generation, which will suffer most from this disinformation campaign, should rise and say: “STOP” on behalf of themselves and our future.

Activists at public schools and colleges could form interest groups — perhaps with names like: “Teach Us the Truth About History” — and demand evidence-based curricula in their classrooms.

If you’re a young person who agrees with this assessment, let the adults in your life know that the actions of extremists are damaging their future opportunities. Spread the word, not out of partisanship but because we all deserve to know the truth about our country and its past.

Americans have stood up to Crappy Rejection Teaching in the past. We can do it again.


Citations, References And Other Reading

  1. Featured Photo Courtesy ofhttps://s4be.cochrane.org/blog/2014/04/29/the-evidence-based-medicine-pyramid/
  2. https://kansasreflector.com/author/stevelopes/
  3. https://evidencebased.education/
  4. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Evidence-based_education
  5. https://www.winginstitute.org/evidence-based-education

The views, opinions and analyses expressed in the articles on Humanist Freedoms are those of the contributor(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of the publishers.

Alex Coghe: Humanist and Realist at the Center of the Approach

In our search for interesting, challenging and critical perspectives on contemporary humanism, we occasionally find articles published via other venues that we think humanistfreedoms.com readers may enjoy. The following article was located on photojournalist and photography coach Alex Coghe’s website.


By Alex Coghe

I read absurd stuff proposed on the internet.

Photographers that define themselves educators recommending to go full auto with their cameras. To each his own but then don’t come and talk to me about good photography.

Always it amazes me how many people I meet that don’t know how use their cameras manually. Let me say a thing: you are not going to take consistently great images on auto mode. If you want to express your inner voice you can’t think to rely on the compromise that your camera decides.

Now I have to clarify a thing, before being misunderstood. There are times and situation that using auto settings can be OK, but I would not recommend that all the time. And this is the reason why you should know – before anything – how to photograph in full manual.

As you know I am a photo coach and I teach to photographers from any part of the world. Many beginners coming to me have the idea to keep the ISO as low as possible and so many pretending to make street photography use most of the time Aperture priority… and I see them failing when it comes to make quick shots.

I believe that one of the greatest lessons that Joel Meyerowitz has given us is that in the street lifting the camera, aiming and shooting at the last moment is saving for street photography. I have adopted that idea completely and even a photographer like Daido Moriyama has taught us about the same.

Humanistic and realist photography requires a spontaneous-oriented approach and I have to make sure that everything is focused on that result. If I wait too long, I reveal myself. And my intention to take a picture of you. You can still have a photo but it will be a forced and most likely a not spontaneous one.

As anyone who follows me knows, my photographic attention is human-oriented. In all its facets and dimensions. I believe that photographers of my type do psychological rather than photographic work most of the time.

Carmen – 2021

Now, in the case of this portrait of Carmen, my wife, my intention to cut and focus on her eyes has prevailed. I was not looking for the beautiful portrait but the portrait with a meaning. In getting so close I wanted to make the image that I was going to gather an expressive intensity and not so much think about the compositional and aesthetic aspect.

To probe the soul and the emotions of those in front of me, through the lens and my gaze.

Emotional.

Humanist and realist.


Citations, References And Other Reading

  1. Featured Photo Courtesy ofhttps://alexcoghe.com/portfolio/project-one-z9zrg
  2. https://alexcoghe.com/journal/humanist-and-realist-at-the-center-of-the-approach

The views, opinions and analyses expressed in the articles on Humanist Freedoms are those of the contributor(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of the publishers.

Ryan Hewett: H+ Exhibit

In our search for interesting, challenging and critical perspectives on contemporary humanism, we occasionally find articles published via other venues that we think humanistfreedoms.com readers may enjoy. The following press release was located on the UTA Artis Space website and is shared with HumanistFreedoms.com readers as a service. See that site for some fascinating images.

OPENING RECEPTION: Tuesday, December 7, 6-8PM 
(Beverly Hills, CA – December 2, 2021) UTA Artist Space and Unit London are excited to announce a solo exhibition of new works by South African artist Ryan Hewett, on view at UTA Artist Space in Los Angeles from December 7 – 18, 2021.

A natural progression from his previous exhibitions, Hewett’s latest solo show is entitled H+. Standing for human advancement, H+ explores the ideas and philosophies of trans-humanism. As a social and ideological movement, trans-humanism is devoted to advocating the research and development of human advancement technologies. H+ seeks to represent visually how these technologies might augment human sensory reception, emotional ability and cognitive capacity, leading to radical improvements in human health and extended lifespans. In line with these concepts, Hewett’s exhibition presents a series of hybridized portraits, figurative works and landscapes that hover on the boundary between the human and what the artist defines as the humanoid. In this sense, H+ uncovers the juxtaposition between the natural environment we live in and a possible futuristic society.

On a formal level, H+ demonstrates Hewett’s progressing artistic practice, which is equally hybrid in nature, combining textured and fluid brushwork with taut geometric shapes and lines. Certain pieces, such as H1, H2, and H3, are born completely from his imagination. However, in some instances, Hewett turns to archives of images and photographic aids for inspiration, using many different references from multiple sources to create his artworks. As a result, each piece becomes an amalgam or a composite that unfolds intuitively onto the canvas without preconceived ideas or planning. It seems that the artist’s own artistic process mirrors the concepts that have inspired H+. Hewett’s fluid and unpredictable imagination fuses with the use of tangible photographic sources. Free and expressive brushstrokes contrast with rigid forms. In this sense, H+ blends the natural, organic and the unplanned with something altogether more detailed, orderly and meticulous.

In juxtaposing these natural forms with geometric contours and straight lines, Hewett symbolizes a trans-humanist outlook, which seeks to advance human life through technological means. At times, his futuristic and imagined characters are inserted into the natural world, with organic forms, such as clouded skies or fluid congregations of expressive brushwork, appearing as the backdrops of these artworks. At others, these figures sit in front of tightly wrought geometric backgrounds. As such, Hewett seeks to underline the harmony that could exist between the technological and the organic. Equally, H+ emphasizes that we ultimately cannot know what the future holds and how this concept of trans-humanism might unfold in our day-to-day lives. In this sense, Hewett’s exhibition begins to explore how the natural world could balance against man-made technologies and how human beings might be able to live with humanoids.

“Ryan is one of the most sought-after artists working right now, especially here in Los Angeles where he has many dedicated collectors. We are incredibly excited to work with Unit London to show Ryan’s newest paintings; it is a rare opportunity for us to see the extraordinary, innate talent he possesses,” said Arthur Lewis, UTA Fine Arts Creative Director. 

ABOUT RYAN HEWETT
Born in 1979 and described by critic and curator Edward Lucie-Smith as ‘one of South Africa’s most distinguished painters today’, Ryan Hewett is renowned for his brooding and evocative paintings. Yet his portraits are not about capturing an external likeness of a subject, but rather creating a portal to the inner journey of self-exploration. In so doing, the artist relies principally on the intuitive processes of memory and imagination.

Using a variety of oil painting techniques, from brushes to knives, Hewett’s extensive knowledge draws on renowned movements within art history. His structured forms and psychedelic colors allude to Cubist portraits and Surrealist landscapes, while his body-length portraits recall Renaissance medical diagrams of the human anatomy.

Hewett has exhibited extensively in art fairs, group and solo exhibitions in major cities around the world. His most recent institutional exhibition took place at The Goss Michael Foundation in Dallas in 2019. His work can be found in various international private and public collections, including the Goss Michael Foundation, Fine Art Centre, Taiwan, The Recharge Foundation, Emergentes Art Foundation and the Dean Collection, to name a few.

ABOUT UTA ARTIST SPACE
UTA Artist Space is an exhibition venue designed by Ai Weiwei in the heart of Beverly Hills that is committed to showcasing art by globally recognized talent. Since its establishment in 2016, UTA Artist Space has presented notable exhibitions with interdisciplinary artists and creatives, including Derrick Adams, Myrtis Bedolla of Galerie Myrtis, Jake and Dinos Chapman, Essence Harden, Larry Clark, Petra Cortright, Conrad Egyir, Amanda Hunt, Mariane Ibrahim, Arcmanoro Niles, The Carpenter’s Workshop Gallery, The Haas Brothers, and Ai Weiwei, among others. UTAArtistSpace.com.

ABOUT UNIT LONDON
Since the brand’s inception in 2013, Unit London has established a global artistic platform for the world’s most distinctive emerging talent. In an often opaque and impenetrable art world, Unit London seeks to identify, cultivate, and expose works of art on a purely meritocratic basis. The gallery has successfully launched and advanced the careers of numerous important contemporary artists and remains a bastion of equity, innovation, and sustainability. Unit London prides itself on being an open and transparent institution whose purpose is to expand and diversify contemporary art audiences. In its reluctance to simply follow the traditional gallery formula, Unit London has become synonymous with the pioneering use of social media and digital marketing. The gallery endeavors to act as an orator and mediator: telling the story of today’s most gifted artists, whilst bridging the gap between the physical and virtual spheres of the art world; connecting people with the art they love.

COVID-19 SAFETY 
All visitors will have to acknowledge both the health and safety guidelines and their health status before they visit. All visitors must wear a mask at all times. Masks and hand sanitizer will be available on site for guest usage. Guests must practice social distancing. There is ample signage throughout the space including arrows on the floor that tell guests which way foot traffic is flowing. Restrooms will be closed to guests and the Artist Space will be deep cleaned on a regular schedule following the close of business each day.

Citations, References And Other Reading

  1. Featured Photo Courtesy of: http://utaartistspace.com/

The views, opinions and analyses expressed in the articles on Humanist Freedoms are those of the contributor(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of the publishers.

Mubarak Bala – Nigerian Humanist Held Prisoner Since April 2020

By: Lynda Tilley

In April 2020, Humanists worldwide were shocked to learn of the arrest of Mubarak Bala, President of the Humanist Association of Nigeria. Mubarak is well known in Africa and was active on social media, which is where most African Humanists “meet”. It’s safer that way, as in each of our countries we are judged for turning our backs on religion and in several countries we face the death sentence for being openly Irreligious.

It was a post Mubarak made on Facebook, speaking out against Prophet Muhammed that led to his arrest. It was seen to be “blasphemous”, and “blasphemy” is considered a crime in Nigeria – punishable for up to 2 years under Customary Law (which is practiced throughout all Nigerian States) and by death under Shari’a Law (any State has the power to establish their own courts under Shari’a Law, especially if the accused is Muslim.)

Mubarak’s father’s role in his arrest

Mubarak first made news in 2014 when his father, Muhammed Bala, forcibly had him drugged and admitted to a mental ward for denouncing Islam and declaring he was an Atheist. (Atheism is viewed as a ‘mental illness’ by some.)  But thanks to the worldwide Humanist community and a hospital strike, he was discharged.

His father is a ‘respected’ Islamic scholar and his son’s Atheism supposedly brought unforgivable “shame and dishonour” on his family. It is widely accepted amongst African Humanists and those close to Mubarak personally, that his father is behind his recent arrest and prolonged imprisonment – despite him being a devout and ‘respected’ follower of the so called “Religion of Peace”. 

Nigeria’s Constitution guarantees “the rights of “freedom of thought, expression & religion” so the fact that “blasphemy” is considered a crime, violates International Human Rights terms, which are protected by all major Human Rights agreements, which Nigeria is signatory to.

Continued Human Rights abuses

For the first 5 months after his arrest, aside from being told that he’d been transferred to the Muslim State of Kano, (a State renowned for its practice of Shar’ia Law) nobody knew exactly where he was, or even if he were still alive.  

His wife, Amina Ahmed, had just given birth to their first child, a son, 6 weeks prior to his disappearance and was distraught – pleading publically in national media for “Proof of Life”. Dr Leo Igwe, personal friend of Mubarak’s and also a renowned Nigerian Human Rights Advocate and founder of the Humanist Association of Nigeria, spearheaded the campaign to raise awareness for Mubarak’s plight and Humanists around the world gave Nigeria their support.

A person must be charged within 24 hours of their arrest, or otherwise released, but (as was found out much later) Mubarak was only formally detained the following month, and without legal counsel or appearing in court was formally charged under Customary Law for 10 “public disturbances caused in relation to 5 Facebook posts” which falls under Nigeria’s ‘Cybercrimes Act’.

Mubarak’s legal team were denied any contact with him until almost 6 months after his arrest, when only 1 lawyer was allowed to briefly see him – to date this is the only meeting he’s been allowed with his lawyer in the 19 months he’s been held.

In the interim, his lawyers filed a petition to enforce his Fundamental Rights, which according to the law, is a matter of urgency and must be heard within 7 days – it was heard after 164 days and it was determined that he was being illegally detained which was a gross violation of his Human Rights.

In view of this, the Abuja Federal High Court (which is in the predominantly Christian Kaduna State, operating under Customary Law) ordered his immediate release in December 2020. To date, this order of the High Court has been ignored.

African Humanist groups unite to support Nigeria

In the interim, Humanists around the world have continued their support and African Humanists have joined together online to support Nigeria, all who had never ‘met’ before. The ironic thing is that by silencing one Humanist, so many more have spoken out and are now united in a way they were never before.

We have individual Humanists as well as groups from South Africa, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Malawi, Ghana, Uganda, Tanzania and Kenya who have now all connected and are in almost daily contact – sharing the trials we face in each of our countries, discussing things which relate to us all – like Human Rights, overhauling Africa’s outdated school education system and introducing Critical Thinking and a more Science based approach to learning and working towards a Secular Africa where religion plays no part in our schools or governments. 

We are gaining strength from each other and some countries are speaking to each other for the first time – all thanks to Mubarak Bala, yet he doesn’t even know it !

Mubarak’s lawyers filed a 2nd Fundamental Rights Petition in January this year, (to be held urgently within 7 days, by law) – 11 months have since passed. Court dates are set and then typically postponed 2 to 3 times with reasons like “the judge is in ill health” being given. 

The next court date is in December, and Mubarak has not attended any of them so far.

He has a chronic condition and since the day of his arrest, has been denied his daily chronic medication and access to a Doctor, even when he was very sick a few months ago. He was told he was “faking it to try and escape”.

This is in violation of the United Nations “Minimum Rules For Prisoners Act” but despite requests and his lawyers following the legal process to request this, nothing has yet been done.  

Despite not being allowed visitors, it was hoped that he would be allowed to see his wife and son before the end of the year, but that was refused. His son turns 2 early next year and he is growing up without even knowing his father and being raised alone by his strong yet heartbroken mother, who has been in her own personal prison almost 2 years now, too.

In September, 4 Human Rights lawyers wrote a letter to Nigeria’s President Buhari and published it in national newspapers, giving the facts of the case and asked, once again, for him to be transferred to a prison in Abuja, Kaduna State (where he stands a better chance of having a fair trial), to treat the second Fundamental Rights case as the emergency that it is and to restore his rights as guaranteed in the Nigerian Constitution.

To date, there has been no response. 

Those who hold him are reportedly pleased that (especially since he is an avid reader and writer) Mubarak is denied reading and writing material and “has been silenced and can no longer poison people’s minds with evil lies from the West”. 

His supporters, upon learning this, along with his wife, decided to publish a series of quotes taken from his speeches, interviews, newspaper articles and writing when he was still a free man – so that his words and his truths are never silenced and to show that by silencing his voice, many others have lent theirs in its place.

Please help us to keep Mubarak’s case in the spotlight !

A quote is posted each day on our Facebook campaign page and is forwarded worldwide from there – some have been printed in newsletters as far away as New Zealand, as his silenced voice now reaches around the world !

It’s been 19 months since his arrest but we will never give up on him. We ask the worldwide Humanist community to please continue their support – our African governments take much more notice when there is international interest in a case like this and we need to show them that Mubarak will never be forgotten.

Our Facebook page (no membership necessary, it’s open to all) is “Free Mubarak Bala” and Humanists International website, which publishes regular updates, can be viewed here.

We’re in the process of launching a website in Mubarak’s name, to reach a wider global audience and it has the input of Humanists from across Africa. This will hopefully be live sometime in December – to be announced on our Facebook page.

Please visit, “like” and share the above, publish or re post articles about his case, put pressure on your own governments by writing to them to request his release and let fellow Humanists in your communities know of his plight – every single action, no matter how small, will help to put unwelcome pressure on Nigeria and to eventually secure his release !


Citations, References And Other Reading

  1. Featured Photo Courtesy of www.musingsfromafrica.com
  2. https://www.freebalamubarak.org/
  3. https://humanists.international/case-of-concern/mubarak-bala/
  4. https://m.facebook.com/Free-Mubarak-Bala-101783545589066/
  5. http://saharareporters.com/2021/09/23/lawyers-write-buhari-over-17-month-illegal-detention-outspoken-atheist-bala-alleged
  6. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leo_Igwe
  7. https://nigerian-constitution.com/

The views, opinions and analyses expressed in the articles on Humanist Freedoms are those of the contributor(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of the publishers.