Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Reading Between the Lines - "Ex-Gay Ministries"

Readers make certain assumptions when reading an article. For newspapers and magazines, unless the article clearly states that it is an opinion piece or an editorial, they assume that the information is unbiased, fair, accurate, and inclusive. They assume that the experts cited are truly experts in their field. Of course, those at GLAAD know that this is not always so and in no case have I found this more evident than in the articles I have been reading about the ex-gay movement from the ex-gay ministries’ position.
The articles at the Christianpost.com website attempt to create the appearance of being fair and, even to a certain extent, scientific. Where claims based on faith are dubious, surely science will provide the answer.
In the article entitled “‘Ex-Gay’ Remarks Draw Fire” by Lillian Kwon, posted on the Christianpost.com website (June 20, 2007), the vocabulary reveals the biased, unfair, inaccurate, and non-inclusive stance of the writer. Even the placement of quotation marks reflects the biased view of the reporter. The title refers to comments made by Alan Chambers, the head of Exodus International (quoted in the article as being “the nation’s largest evangelical referral ministry on homosexual issues”). In the LA Times, he said that he had never met an ex-gay. While Kwon’s article does not clearly state “he’s wrong”, it does fill the rest of its paragraphs saying that this man is wrong for various reasons.
The seemingly honest vocabulary honestly scares me. Even calling this matter a “homosexual issue” where issue can easily mean problem, undermines the professionalism of the article. However, “issues” is just the first instance. She then goes on to quote Stephen Bennett extensively, labeling him as president of his “pro-family” (my quotes, not hers) group Stephen Bennett Ministries. Pro-family, as if homosexuality were somehow anti-family. Kwon then quotes Bennett saying that Exodus International is the “largest information and referral ministry in the world on homosexual issues” and that he was shocked that they could make such “irresponsible and false statements”. Reading it over again, I see that Lillian Kwon opened up her article by poorly paraphrasing from Bennett.
Other examples of biased language use include the following: saying that anyone is “engaging in homosexuality”, using quotes around “survived” when someone said that they had survived the ex-gay experience, using no quotes when mentioning “homosexual conversion”, treating “gay tolerance” as a disease by saying that it has reached record marks, and saying that “less than a majority of Americans say homosexual relations are morally wrong.” She writes, “less than a majority”, not writing the statistic the other way around as we normally would – namely, that a majority believe that homosexual relations are morally correct. This is one amongst the many “scientific” airs put on by this article.
Lillian Kwon also uses hearsay and quotes other articles out of context. The worst case of this is when she cites the June 25th article by Michael Kinsley in Time magazine (a pro gay rights article I might add, entitled “The Quiet Gay Revolution”), and uses the one paragraph in it that could be taken out of context and used in a negative manner, “Kids grow up today with gay friends, gay parents, gay parents of friends and gay friends of parents…Kids are also exposed constantly to an entertainment culture in which gays are not merely accepted but in some ways dominant.” Kinsley meant this in a positive light, later writing of the positive role of Ellen Degeneres in television. Kwon took the quote and changed it into something more akin to “Geez, their dominating culture now. We have to stop it.”
More pseudo-science is related to the unwary reader as words like “genetic predisposition” are thrown in. Matt Barber, of Concerned Women for America (who once compared allowing gay marriage to another Hurricane Katrina in his column “Gay Marriage – It’s Alive”), said that there was no evidence that people are born homosexual. He’s the expert?
The last eight paragraphs compare homosexuality to alcoholism and, with one quote per paragraph, manage to call it a sin or temptation five times, even going so far as to relate it to cocaine addiction and bulimia by quoting one poor soul who had suffered from each of those afflictions as well being homosexual.
I didn’t necessarily expect a well-balanced article about ex-gay ministries on the Christianpost.com site, but it is always surprising at what extremely biased misinformation is passed off as fair and accurate reporting.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

My Head is Filled with Strange Attractors

Now larger than many grasshoppers stacked on eachother's exoskeletons, I'm reading four books, two of which are delighting me to no end with their interconnectivity - Heidegger's "Being and Time" and a collection of essays (not Heidegger's) entitled "Chaos and Order: Complex Dynamics in Literature and Science." Of course, it wasn't random happenstance that led me to buy these books. My head is filled with strange attractors.
In other words, I (heart) chaos and I am quite fond of Being. Now for the turbulence that sparks creation - But Time and Order are mere consequences. In fact, they might not even exist at all.

Pick a sitting rock and Let's Discuss.

--Christine Rosakranse

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Definition (Being and Time)

It's not Heidegger's fault, I say. This question of Being started before reading his work, but now the reasoning takes on a new vocabulary. Which what why? At the end of a long and rainy day, I can only question, "What is your product, machine?" I have many answers, but what is the answer?
So if I need an answer, I read a book. I've only just started reading "Being and Time", so luckily I am still in the "forming the question of Being" phase.
And, evidently, somewhat circular reasoning (back and forth) is acceptable in these more rarefied echelons of thought.
One problem I find though is the physical evidence versus the soul, as far as prejudice is concerned, but let me hold on a second to that thought. First the question, I suppose, and then the answer. No good to be too divergent at the beginning, unless all is chaos. And then that would be perfect. After all, am I divergent? And collective, as well?

--Christine Rosakranse

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

My Father’s Flowers

Time freezes in an image. In the case of my father’s flowers, their visual essence is captured by my camera. Sound is not an issue, but for the breeze as it caresses the leaves and this is so soft as to be ghostly. It is rarely remembered when compared to the passion of the image.
My father has a fondness for daylilies. I must admit that so do I. In Upstate New York, an abundance of orange flowers overwhelms the otherwise green landscape. This sunrise hue punctuates gardens throughout the Tristate area, at least during the summer months. However, my father’s garden holds yellow, pink and crimson varieties with dark centers and curly petals, as well as the more persistent orange blooms. Not the average daylily. And therein rests the fascination.
I ask my father whether he breeds new varieties, thinking that perhaps some breed he has created is catalogued somewhere. He says no, but that the bees do it themselves. While I do enjoy the hybridization process that growers all over the world undergo, I enjoy also knowing that nature will continue as it always has, and that life is still evolving under its own recourse.

to read why the bees are dying: http://www.hcn.org/servlets/hcn.Article?article_id=16891&gclid=CKuSmMHfnY0CFRlsTAodWhae3w
(The Silence of Bees)

Monday, July 9, 2007

The Teaching Experience

Education is: everything. Anything known must be learned, though sometimes this basic tenet is forgotten. The power any one person may have to create change stems directly from their knowledge, which acts as a limitation for those without it and a freedom for those who do have a larger store of knowledge. The greatest need for education, therefore, lies where there is the greatest need for change. In New York City, the low-income neighborhoods represent this "high-need." The cycle that keeps the children of low-income families from becoming high achievers or going to college is one that must stop. The only way out of this loop is through education.
I began tutoring Mathematics (Algebra, Geometry, and Calculus) at North Miami Beach High School to fellow students (a mix of middle and low-income groups) and continued my education at MIT to earn a B.Sc. in Mathematics with a minor in Spanish. Teaching undergraduate classes at MIT in Number Theory, instructing test preparation skills and High School level math for the GRE, SAT, and LSAT for the Princeton Review (including low-income students through special programs) and becoming an Adjunct Professor at the New College of California while matriculating for my MA in Poetics and MFA in Writing and Poetics placed me further down the path to education. On this path, I began to realize the need for well-trained teachers in every field of education, especially math and science. These two subjects were always the ones I heard students complain about. I've even had some adult students say, "It's all Greek to me." Some of the SAT students coming in were unfamiliar with the basic rules of algebra that belonged to skill sets two grades below their level. Helping them to understand was both difficult and delightful, once they discovered they could do math. They would find out that, indeed, it was not a foreign language to them. In San Francisco, I also volunteered as an Assistant Instructor for Lyric House, a program designed for the students at high-need elementary schools to help develop there creativity and communication skills by writing their own lyrics and performing their songs. In this way, with music, the young students were able to share their emotions and struggles with a greater audience in a therapeutic and educational way.
Lyric House was a wonderful experience because it brought the point home that sometimes an alternative approach is needed, something outside the textbook. One of the most necessary skills an educator can have is the ability to modify teaching methodologies to each specific student. Some students are more visual, some more kinesthetic, while some are most comfortable with audio stimulus. Realizing this and being able to use an individual student's optimal learning strategy is key to effective teaching. I am able to do this while working with a student on the individual level, such as private tutoring for the Princeton Review. If a student is not able to understand a basic mathematical concept from the textbook explanation it was my job to word it in such a way that they could grasp the concept, be it with a diagrammatic approach or with a story-like explanation. This is especially needed for such an apparently "abstract" subject, like math. How does one relate the beauty of math to a student? I am always thinking of better ways to approach education and would love the opportunity to learn more about what makes a teacher great.

Sunday, July 1, 2007

"one teacher in 10"

It takes a book like “one teacher in 10” to reanimate my book report writing brain cells, but the necessity of its message is truly remarkable. A great deal of what we choose to do in life is dependent on our level of anxiety. Sometimes we are able to overcome this anxiety if a certain feeling of righteousness or need prevails, if the “must” overwhelms the “can’t”. In the case of whether or not to reveal one’s sexual orientation, anxiety often runs the life of those who have borne witness to crimes and prejudice against their lesbian, gar, bisexual and transgender peers. If revealing your sexual orientation opens up the possibility to being tied to a fence and left to die, then many reactions may surface. One, we choose to continue hiding for fear. Two, we choose to continue hiding for convenience, perhaps to mask fear, saying, “I don’t need to. It would just complicate things.” Three, we become outraged and come out as a statement.
Sometimes another choice rises, which is to not place yourself in a situation where the subject is broached. However, the fact of being queer is so central to identity that only a handful of occupations arise that do not involve revelations of orientation. Being a hermit, for example, would allow one to make the question quite moot.
In the case of a future LGBT educator, however, the choice to become a teacher often involves the decision of how to deal with their sexual orientation. In some cases, in some regions, the choice of coming out to the principal and staff is a difficult one to make, let alone coming out to students and parents. In some cases, it seems impossible and even dangerous. Some teachers wait until they get tenure. Some never out themselves.
The fact that some potential teachers refuse to become educators because they fear coming out or being “discovered” is only one of the problems of living in a society where social norms overwhelm basic rights. However, when coupled with the dearth of qualified professionals to teach our children, especially in math and science, this source of anxiety is detrimental to an entire nation of youth for more varied and complex reasons than most think.
The book “one teacher in 10” sheds light on the LGBT struggle in the school system, whether in coming out or going further in order for a teacher to create a LGBT club at their school. The essays are written by teachers at every level of administration and in every subject. It speaks of their passion and dedication, providing an enlightening example to any educator that needs support. It’s a necessary book for teachers, parents, gay and straight. It’s a book that will help to make our educational system more just and complete.
There are simpler things to do in life than to educate the youth of today, though nothing as satisfying. Any teacher reading this collection of essays will find the strength and support to make their school safer and more understanding of the equality of all people.