A Close-up View of Secular Humanism with Michelle Iturrate’s How: A Day in the Life of a Young Humanist

article review picIt’s not easy to teach the concept of right and wrong to children and, as secular parents we know this can present an even greater obstacle.  The trick is to offer young people knowledge and time to experiment with what we know to be true.  Iturrate’s beautifully written “How..” does just that.

Instead of answering her son’s question of “how should I live my life?” with a definitive “this is how..”, the mother in this beautifully illustrated story replies “You get to decide.”

This starts the son on a journey of self-discovery that secular parents can appreciate: one where children are in control and we are there to guide them.

Along with beautifully illustrated images, the narrator of this story (a little boy out on a short hike through the woods) decides that unleashing his inner “naughty” is the perfect choice for life–know any kiddos like that?

It’s only at the end of the hike that he realizes the true consequences of his choices.article image of woods

Michelle Iturrate’s How: A Day in the Life of Secular Humanist is a great picture book for young readers.  It opens the door for conversations between parents and children about the most fundamental aspects of secular living in a religious world.  It also helps children answer questions like what do we believe? How are our  beliefs different?  And, how can I get ready to be a grown up?

This book belongs on the secular child’s bookshelf :-)

You can see more images of Michelle Iturrate’s “How” and purchase information here.



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The Secular Parents Episode 6: Homeschooling–The Freethinking Way!

If you are a parent interested in homeschooling, then you will not want to miss this episode!

As an educator, and a parent of children who are in public school, I had TONS of questions about homeschooling, secular parents and their kiddos.  Episode 6 of The Secular Parents was a (secular) homeschooling bonanza!

Instead of having guests on the show, I interviewed the other two cohosts, Karen and Rayven; both ladies have been homeschooling their children for years.

Major issues surrounding homeschooling were discussed, including:

* socialization and secular kids

* indoctrination and home-schooled children

* resources for homeschooling parents and children

* measuring learning for children

* ways to build bridges with public schools

* secular homeschooling and black families

* networking with other homeschooling families, and so much more!

One major discussion surrounded the negativity that many secular homeschooling parents receive from other secular parents…I couldn’t believe it.  Even in the secular community, myths about homeschooling persist.

This episode of The Secular Parents is the first step toward changing the perception of secular homeschooling.  Click below to start watching–or, just listen in the background while you surf the net :-)

**podcasts are coming soon; our apologies for the video quality!

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Hey Giuliani: Loving America Means Criticizing It

I probably don’t “really” love my country, according to Mayor Rudy Giuliani–but then again, by his definition, you probably don’t either.

I don’t say the pledge regularly (or at all really); I’m rarely in the vicinity of a flag, and though I know the National Anthem, I can’t tell you the last time I actually sang it.

And yet I, and many like me, are fiercely patriotic: we vote, we keep ourselves informed about what’s happening in our country.  We stand up for those principles that make America a great place to live.

But don’t tell that to Guiliani.

He was quoted recently by Politico crawling into the caramel-hued skin of our PONTUS.  This gave him the authority to say that “I do not believe, and I know this is a horrible thing to say, but I do not believe the president loves America.”

And what gives Giuliani this authority you ask?  It’s how HE was raised–it’s that simple. He told a gathering of right-leaning business execs that

“He doesn’t love you. And he doesn’t love me. He wasn’t brought up the way you were brought up and I was brought up through love of this country.”

Giuliani does raise some questions here.  But not about Obama.  He reminds us that there’s no rhetoric like personal rhetoric.  And with the Pre-presidential race swinging into gear, get ready for a truckload of it in the coming months.  The formula goes something like this:

Step #1 Isolate your target–make him different.

Step #2  Align yourself with your target audience; you are like them.

Step #3 Remind them that with their help, you can get rid of that “other” and make everything right again.

Americans love their country AND criticize its negative underbelly; this is nothing new.  Presidents long past (Jefferson, Madison, Kennedy, etc.)”critically” loved our country.

As for President Obama’s love of the country–and all of us who WEREN’T raised like Giuliani–I can only say that it speaks for itself.  Yes, our president is critical of the country that he loves so much.  He routinely reminds us that this country “isn’t a Christian country” and that “we can do more” for the middle class.

What better way to make it a “more perfect union” than to figure out it’s problems and make them better?

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HBCUs Have Nothing to Fear From Obama’s Education Reforms

Separate but equal didn’t work when whites tried to stop the integration of public schools in the 50s and 60s, and it doesn’t seem to be working for Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) as they struggle to maintain enrollment, funding—and purpose in the 21st century.

It would be irresponsible to dismiss HBCUs as archaic and unnecessary institutions.  At a time when blacks were denied quality education, HBCUs provided a bridge to black leadership and black professionalism; we wouldn’t as successful as we are–in many ways–without the aid of HBCUs.

In 2015 however, the ability for a black student to be successful is largely determined by black students themselves.  Statistics show that black student enrollment in colleges and universities is the highest it’s ever been historically, the majority of black people are middle-class, and while there are still vestiges of racism (especially in the area of police brutality), black students are great thinkers and contributors to society.

Unfortunately, the statistics on HBCUs paint a dim picture for their continued effectiveness:

• HBCUs enroll 9 percent of black undergraduates and award 16 percent of the bachelor’s degrees earned by black Americans.
• Among Black students, the percentage enrolled at HBCUs has fallen over time, from 18 percent in 1976 to 9 percent in 2011
In a survey of the nation’s top HBCUs, only Spellman, Howard, Hampton and Morehouse had graduation rates (within 6 years) that were over 50% for a bachelor’s degree as of 2014.

So, not more than 25% of black people choose to enroll in HBCUs, and of those who do, most take longer than the 6 years to graduate with a degree–if they graduate at all.  And while the statistics can (and do) go on, they show that a restructuring of the HBCU model is necessary.

Instead of saying “away with the HBCU” we should be saying “where is the HBCU 2.o version”?

When President Obama unveiled his plan for education reforms earlier this year, it was shocking to see the near total outcry from Historically Black Colleges and Universities.  Charges of institutionalized racism and unfair treatment where lobbed at a reform which will effect ALL post secondary two and four year institutions–not just the black ones.

But this isn’t racism: this is an opportunity for HBCUs to revamp a once successful model into a 21st century powerhouse of learning for African Americans.  HBCUs must see reform as an opportunity to focus on the classical educational model of hard work for deserved success; this is what made made Booker T. Washington, Thurgood Marshall,  Oprah Winfrey so many others so proud to attach their names to these (once) monumental schools of learning.

According to an article by Donovan Ramsey, Obama’s reforms are essentially “a consumer report of sorts that will assign grades to two- and four-year institutions for their performance as it relates to access, affordability, and outcomes.”

Critics of Obama’s initiative, such as Michael L. Lomax, the president of the United Negro College Fund, believe that this puts HBCUs at a disadvantage because “Harvard has a $36 billion endowment and enrolls academically elite students…Dillard has a $49 million endowment and…[enrolls] many students who are not as academically prepared for college as their more advantaged peers.”

While this may be a fair criticism, the question isn’t how much money do you have in your endowment?  The question is how do you help students become academically prepared for success?

HBCUs: You’ve had decades to solve the problem of academically-struggling black students: what have you been spending your endowment on?

Arguing that “our students are too stupid to perform on the same level as white students” is degrading, disrespectful, and ultimately, it is a lazy approach to dealing with the real problem of the education gap in America.

Black students need to work twice as hard to be successful in college IF they come from a disadvantaged background.  This is a fact I learned the hard way when I realized that my urban school education left many gaps.  I did not resign myself to being “stupid”, and Truman State University did not treat me as such.  I got reading lists from English professors, I stayed in math tutoring late, I was in the writing center where I could get quality help from students working on Masters and PhDs.

The President of Morehouse College, Dr. John Wilson

I didn’t party as much as I wanted to, and I didn’t go out and “enjoy” the college experience like people say you should; I took that time to make myself a learned woman—and it was time well spent.

So why then is my opinion, which is shared by Morehouse President John Wilson, in the minority?  Wilson acknowledges the possibility of problems, but sees reform as a win.

He says that “as long as the federal government makes like comparisons it can only be a benefit to HBCUs, but the notion that no information is better than imperfect information is flawed.”

Wilson is right, and Obama has taken note of this in his plan:

“The ratings system as proposed includes a number of metrics. First, it would factor in a college’s average net cost—the total annual cost of attending the school for a beginning full-time student, before any aid. Then, it would account for student-completion rates, the percentage of students who receive Pell Grants, and outcomes like graduates’ earnings and loan-repayment rates. Based on that information, the Department of Education would assign each institution a rating of “high,” “low,” or “mid performing.”

The White House also recognizes that this plan must “evolve.”  This is only the first blueprint in a design that will surely grow to fit the needs of parents and students.

This is also time for HBCUs to evolve as well.  Instead of looking at reform as a supremacist attempt to undermine black students, we can all see this as the first step on a long road to creating a system of higher learning that works equally–for ALL of us.

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The Secular Parents E04: Secular Parenting Myths BUSTED!!!

Episode 4 of the The Secular Parents, Secular Parenting Myths, brought insight into the myths that secular parents and their children endure.  Of particular interest was guest Liz Loethen, Karen’s adult daughter :-) Now in college, Liz was able to offer unique insight into how secular parenting myths affect secular children as they age.

We were also joined by Rayven, who reminded us of the consequences of “coming out of the closet” as secular  as a military parent who moves around frequently.

Some myths discussed were:

* Secularism and altruism: are secularist organizations as “charitable” as faith-based ones?

* Do secularists really need to “stay in the closet” in order to be safe?

* Is it true that secular children aren’t allowed to celebrate holidays?

* Why is there a connection between secularism and immorality, Satanism, and unethical behavior?

Start watching now–or listen while you surf in the net background!

**podcasts are coming soon!

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