Letter to city council regarding 2020-627

To the City Council,

The state legislature has taken away the school board’s authority to safeguard our sales tax dollars going to the charter school industry. (ref 3) It is up to the city council to be diligent when voting on ordinances that are giving our sales tax dollars to the charter school industry. I urge the city council to vote no on 2020-627 as the money appears to be aimed at enriching real estate investors.

If the city council had not prevented us from voting on the sales tax referendum in 2019, our referendum would not have fallen under HB 7097 passed in 2020 which took away the school board’s ability to protect our sales tax dollars going to the charter school industry in addition to forcing us to give our sales tax dollars to charter schools on a per student formula instead of a needs basis.

Superintendent Greene (in an email I received in response to my inquiry) confirmed that in the event a charter school closes, our sales tax money (except for the money sitting in the bank) will be forfeited to the real estate investor. It is up to the city council to protect our sales tax dollars going to the charter school industry because the state legislature has taken away the school board’s authority.  

The City of Jacksonville’s Office of Economic Development and the Office of General Counsel negotiated the bond application (2020-627) with the Jacksonville Alliance for KIPP Schools. Based on the bill summary, they indicate that they will provide oversight and administration. 

The bond is outside the purview of the Duval County School Board. The city council needs to ascertain the legitimacy of the claim that KIPP’s “affiliates” and “any successor” and “McDuff QALICB2, Inc”  qualify as an educational institution for purposes of the bond. McDuff QALICB2, Inc and JAKS appear to me to be real estate investors.

A recent audit revealed that Kipp paid $850,000 in rent to JAKS in that audit year. (ref 6) This bond is being done partly to give money to Chartrand and Baker. (ref 1) Jason Gabriel’s office in 2019 interpreted “shall” to mean “doesn’t have to” in order to help the charter school industry including Chartrand and Baker or so it appeared to me. The city council and the school board need to be skeptical of the Office of General Counsel opinions when it comes to the profit motivated charter school industry.

I assume the bond will be repaid with lease payments funded by our sales tax dollars.. I continue to wonder if the voters understood that Jason Fischer co-sponsored HB 7097 which took away the school board’s ability to protect our sales tax dollars going to charter schools when they voted for him in the last election.

Please see references below which back up my fact claims. 

Begin forwarded message from school board member in response to my inquiry about the authority of the citizen oversight committee:

Hi Susan,

For you reference, the SB policy outlining the role and responsibilities of the Oversight Committee can be found here: https://dcps.duvalschools.org/site/handlers/filedownload.ashx?moduleinstanceid=12486&dataid=70317&FileName=Chapter%209%20-%20School%20Community%20Relations%20and%20Interlocal%20Agreements.pdf

 Policy 9.66

Please note that the Oversight Committee does not have the authority to approve or deny plans. They provide monitoring and oversight and then report findings back to the SB.

Charter schools may use their funds for any/all allowable uses defined in FL Statute. This is the same statute that Charters have already been using to guide Capital funds; this should be a familiar process for Charter schools.

As is current practice, the state essentially circumvents the local school board to provide direct oversight of the Charter school system and this process will not be an exception. If there is misuse this would be reported like any other discrepancy in spending of capital funds through the District to the State DOE.

I hope this is helpful.

———- Forwarded message ———

From: Susan
Date: Tue, Nov 24, 2020 at 1:39 PM
Subject: Has the state legislature left the local elected school board with any options to protect our sales tax money going to charter schools?
To: Senator Gibson <gibson.audrey.web@flsenate.gov>, <BEAN.AARON.WEB@flsenate.gov>, <clay.yarborough@myfloridahouse.gov>, <cord.byrd@myfloridahouse.gov>, <jason.fischer@myfloridahouse.gov>, <tracie.davis@myfloridahouse.gov>, <wyman.duggan@myfloridahouse.gov>, <angie.nixon@yahoo.com>

To the Duval Legislative Delegation,

I urge you to please pass a bill to provide protections for our sales tax dollars in the event the charter school receiving our sales tax dollars should close.

Are there any options for the local school board to put restrictions on the money going to charter schools? A charter school and its affiliates are seeking a bond which I assume they plan to repay with our sales tax money so this is an urgent question. Link to the ordinance that the city council will soon be voting on:  https://jaxcityc.legistar.com/LegislationDetail.aspx?ID=4663688&GUID=5172AF95-34C2-4EA5-B3CD-67405B8D9A31

1. Under state law, would the school board be allowed to require clawback provisions to recoup our sales tax dollars if the charter school closes or the building is sold?
2. The Oversight Committee must monitor the expenditures but do they have any authority to withhold funding? The Oversight Committee was an extra layer of protection that was included on our ballot. Our Duval ballot included the words:

“with expenditures based upon the Surtax Capital Outlay Plan, and monitored by an independent citizens committee”

References

1. Excerpt from an email I received from a city official regarding 2020-627:
Yes, the loans in (ii) and (iii) repay loans from Chartrand and Baker. 

2. Florida Statute 1013.62(4) A charter school’s governing body may use charter school capital outlay funds for the following purposes:
(a) Purchase of real property.
(b) Construction of school facilities.
(c) Purchase, lease-purchase, or lease of permanent or relocatable school facilities.
(d) Purchase of vehicles to transport students to and from the charter school.
(e) Renovation, repair, and maintenance of school facilities that the charter school owns or is purchasing through a lease-purchase or long-term lease of 5 years or longer.
(f) Payment of the cost of premiums for property and casualty insurance necessary to insure the school facilities.
(g) Purchase, lease-purchase, or lease of driver’s education vehicles; motor vehicles used for the maintenance or operation of plants and equipment; security vehicles; or vehicles used in storing or distributing materials and equipment.
(h) Purchase, lease-purchase, or lease of computer and device hardware and operating system software necessary for gaining access to or enhancing the use of electronic and digital instructional content and resources; and enterprise resource software applications that are classified as capital assets in accordance with definitions of the Governmental Accounting Standards Board, have a useful life of at least 5 years, and are used to support schoolwide administration or state-mandated reporting requirements. Enterprise resource software may be acquired by annual license fees, maintenance fees, or lease agreement.
(i) …

3. The legislature forced us to give our sales tax dollars to charter schools on a per student basis with HB 7097.  It begins on line 1291:
https://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2020/7097/BillText/er/PDF
Quote from the bill HB 7097 beginning at line 1332:

Surtax revenues shared with charter schools shall be expended by the charter school in a manner consistent with the allowable uses set forth in s. 1013.62(4). All revenues and expenditures shall be accounted for in a charter school’s monthly or quarterly financial statement pursuant to s. 1002.33(9). The eligibility of a charter school to receive funds under this subsection shall be determined in accordance with s. 1013.62(1). If a school’s charter is not renewed or is terminated and the school is dissolved under the provisions of law under which the school was organized, any unencumbered funds received under this subsection shall revert to the sponsor. [inadequate clawback provisions for encumbered funds]

4. Florida statute 1013.62(1) (a) To be eligible to receive capital outlay funds, a charter school must:
1.a. Have been in operation for 2 or more years;
b. Be governed by a governing board established in the state for 2 or more years which operates both charter schools and conversion charter schools within the state;
c. Be an expanded feeder chain of a charter school within the same school district that is currently receiving charter school capital outlay funds;
d. Have been accredited by a regional accrediting association as defined by State Board of Education rule; or
e. Serve students in facilities that are provided by a business partner for a charter school-in-the-workplace pursuant to s. 1002.33(15)(b).
2. Have an annual audit that does not reveal any of the financial emergency conditions provided in s. 218.503(1) for the most recent fiscal year for which such audit results are available.
3. Have satisfactory student achievement based on state accountability standards applicable to the charter school.
4. Have received final approval from its sponsor pursuant to s. 1002.33 for operation during that fiscal year.
5. …

5. The bond is getting money to repay Chartrand and Baker for the money they loaned Kipp AND to build a new charter school on Golfair.  I am indeed making the assumption that this bond is going to be repaid with our sales tax money based on the way the ownership of previous buildings were structured and the wording in 2020-627. I believe the following

  • 1. the bond money will go to repay Chartrand and Baker and to build a new charter school
  • 2. the building will be owned by a real estate investor
  • 3. KIPP will use our sales tax money to rent the space from the real estate investor

Here is the link to the 990 for  MCDUFF QALICB 2 https://projects.propublica.org/nonprofits/organizations/474726810/202040239349301004/full The reason I call them a real estate investor is because they describe themselves on their form 990 as follows: “Briefly describe the organization’s mission or most significant activities: HOLD, DEVELOP AND MAINTAIN, AND RETAIN FINANCING AS NEEDED FOR THE REAL ESTATE…”

Here is the link to KIPP where they say they expect to pay $1,163,370 in rent to JAKS and McDuff QALICB 2 in 2020: https://www.kippjax.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/12/FY-2020-Budget-KIPP-Jacksonville-Schools.pdf

Here is the link to KIPP 2019 audit: https://www.kippjax.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/12/KIPP-JACKSONVILLE-K-8-SCHOOL-FINAL-2019_AUDIT.pdf Especially interesting is page 25 and 26.

6. Link to KIPP audit:

Can the school board do these things to protect our sales tax dollars?

1) The School Board needs to make it clear that the Sales Surtax Oversight Committee has the same authority over charter school expenditures as it does over the district’s expenditures as stipulated in the referendum that the voters approved..
2) The School Board needs to require Charter schools to provide detailed documentation for how they plan to spend our sales tax dollars similar to the documentation required of the district run schools.
3) Money should not be distributed to the charter school until the planned expenditure is approved by the Oversight Committee. IF the charter school does qualify for the distributions per Florida Statute 1013.62(1) and HB 7097, then the money must be held in a capital reserve fund until the Oversight Committee is convinced that the proposed expenditure is an allowable use.

Excerpt from the wording on our ballot:

… and share with charter schools, for their allowable uses, shall the Duval County School Board be authorized to levy a 15-year half-cent sales surtax, with expenditures based upon the Surtax Capital Outlay Plan, and monitored by an independent citizens committee

Forward from school board member addressing my above concerns:

For you reference, the SB policy outlining the role and responsibilities of the Oversight Committee can be found here: https://dcps.duvalschools.org/site/handlers/filedownload.ashx?moduleinstanceid=12486&dataid=70317&FileName=Chapter%209%20-%20School%20Community%20Relations%20and%20Interlocal%20Agreements.pdf

 Policy 9.66

Please note that the Oversight Committee does not have the authority to approve or deny plans. They provide monitoring and oversight and then report findings back to the SB.

Charter schools may use their funds for any/all allowable uses defined in FL Statute. This is the same statute that Charters have already been using to guide Capital funds; this should be a familiar process for Charter schools.

As is current practice, the state essentially circumvents the local school board to provide direct oversight of the Charter school system and this process will not be an exception. If there is misuse this would be reported like any other discrepancy in spending of capital funds through the District to the State DOE.

I hope this is helpful

Duval Sales Tax Money going to Charter Schools

I spoke to the Duval Legislative Delegation during the public comment period yesterday. I spoke at the 1 hour and 2 minute mark:
https://jaxcityc.granicus.com/player/clip/2647?view_id=5&redirect=true&fbclid=IwAR0uANNZA8Osl-JHRwOlPCGy3-uXf-xBJ_N2JFUvMoFAQblG_d-9CdwYLQk

I asked them to please pass a bill to provide protections for our sales tax dollars in the event the charter school receiving our sales tax dollars should close.

But what options does the local school board have now to put restrictions on the money going to charter schools? ​A charter school and its affiliates are seeking a bond which I assume they plan to repay with our sales tax money so this is an urgent question. Link to the ordinance that the city council will soon be voting on:  https://jaxcityc.legistar.com/LegislationDetail.aspx?ID=4663688&GUID=5172AF95-34C2-4EA5-B3CD-67405B8D9A31

I sent a follow up email to the Duval Legislative Delegation:

1. Under state law, would the school board be allowed to require clawback provisions to recoup our sales tax dollars if the charter school closes or the building is sold?

2. The Oversight Committee must monitor the expenditures but do they have any authority to withhold funding? The Oversight Committee was an extra layer of protection that was included on our ballot. Our Duval ballot included the words: 

with expenditures based upon the Surtax Capital Outlay Plan, and monitored by an independent citizens committee

References


1013.62(4)​ A charter school’s governing body may use charter school capital outlay funds for the following purposes:
(a) Purchase of real property.
(b) Construction of school facilities.
(c) Purchase, lease-purchase, or lease of permanent or relocatable school facilities.
(d) Purchase of vehicles to transport students to and from the charter school.
(e) Renovation, repair, and maintenance of school facilities that the charter school owns or is purchasing through a lease-purchase or long-term lease of 5 years or longer.
(f) Payment of the cost of premiums for property and casualty insurance necessary to insure the school facilities.
(g) Purchase, lease-purchase, or lease of driver’s education vehicles; motor vehicles used for the maintenance or operation of plants and equipment; security vehicles; or vehicles used in storing or distributing materials and equipment.
(h) Purchase, lease-purchase, or lease of computer and device hardware and operating system software necessary for gaining access to or enhancing the use of electronic and digital instructional content and resources; and enterprise resource software applications that are classified as capital assets in accordance with definitions of the Governmental Accounting Standards Board, have a useful life of at least 5 years, and are used to support schoolwide administration or state-mandated reporting requirements. Enterprise resource software may be acquired by annual license fees, maintenance fees, or lease agreement.
(i) Payment of the cost of the opening day collection for the library media center of a new school. Conversion charter schools may use capital outlay funds received through the reduction in the administrative fee provided in s. 1002.33(20) for renovation, repair, and maintenance of school facilities that are owned by the sponsor.

The legislature forced us to give our sales tax dollars to charter schools on a per student basis with HB 7097.  It begins on line 1291:
https://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2020/7097/BillText/er/PDF
Quote from the bill HB 7097 beginning at line 1332:
Surtax revenues shared with charter schools shall be expended by the charter school in a manner consistent with the allowable uses set forth in s. 1013.62(4). All revenues and expenditures shall be accounted for in a charter school’s monthly or quarterly financial statement pursuant to s. 1002.33(9). The eligibility of a charter school to receive funds under this subsection shall be determined in accordance with s. 1013.62(1). If a school’s charter is not renewed or is terminated and the school is dissolved under the provisions of law under which the school was organized, any unencumbered funds received under this subsection shall revert​ to the sponsor. [inadequate clawback provisions for encumbered funds]


1013.62(1) (a) To be eligible to receive capital outlay funds, a charter school must:
1.
a. Have been in operation for 2 or more years;
b. Be governed by a governing board established in the state for 2 or more years which operates both charter schools and conversion charter schools within the state;
c. Be an expanded feeder chain of a charter school within the same school district that is currently receiving charter school capital outlay funds;
d. Have been accredited by a regional accrediting association as defined by State Board of Education rule; or
e. Serve students in facilities that are provided by a business partner for a charter school-in-the-workplace pursuant to s. 1002.33(15)(b).
2. Have an annual audit that does not reveal any of the financial emergency conditions provided in s. 218.503(1) for the most recent fiscal year for which such audit results are available.
3. Have satisfactory student achievement based on state accountability standards applicable to the charter school.
4. Have received final approval from its sponsor pursuant to s. 1002.33 for operation during that fiscal year.

Clawback provisions to protect our sales tax dollars

Since the state legislators who voted yes on HB 7097 were re-elected, I am not hopeful that they will pass legislation that will allow us to recoup our sales tax money from charter schools that close. The only clawback provision is for unencumbered funds.

Our window of opportunity to allow the school board to have adequate clawback provisions was to pass the sales tax referendum in 2019. All of the city council knew that and the majority blocked us from being able to pass the referendum in 2019.

Matt Carlucci fought hard for us but he was unable to sway the majority who appear to be indebted to the people profiting from taxpayer funds flowing to the charter school industry.


The city council members, who barred us from voting on the school board’s referendum in 2019, need to take responsibility for allowing the referendum to fall under HB 7097 passed by the state legislature in early 2020 forcing us to give part of our sales tax money to charter schools without adequate clawback provisions in the event the charter school should close. The 2019 version of the sales tax referendum had adequate clawback provisions.

KIPP charter school has applied for a bond to get funds to repay Chartrand and Baker loans. Chartrand donated to Rory Diamond’s nonprofit. Rory Diamond was one of the ones that fought the hardest to prevent us from voting on the referendum in 2019. Connect the dots? Is it wrong to assume Diamond was rewarded for getting Chartrand millions of our sales tax dollars?

Article about Chartrand and Diamond:
https://www.actionnewsjax.com/news/local/k9s-warriors-dedicates-new-resource-center/P7HTVV63L5BKVKJOYPRKV7VKLM/
Keep in mind that the science doesn’t support the claim that these expensive dogs are the best treatment for PTSD.

Begin forwarded message I sent to everyone on the city council:

Subject: 2020-627

I hope all the city council members will have the answers to these questions before they vote on 2020-627.

  1. Does JAKS and McDuff QALICB have any business other than owning and renting real and tangible property? Do they qualify for getting money via this bond? They are not an educational organization. They are a rental company. If I’m wrong, would you please tell me why they are not merely a rental company if their only revenue is lease payments.
  2. Who are the investors/owners of JAKS and McDuff? Who profits from the rent revenue?
  3. I understand that the loan (created by this bond) will be repaid by the rent received from KIPP. Does KIPP plan to make those lease payments with our sales tax money?
  4. Has the school district said a new charter elementary school is needed near 813 Golfair Boulevard?

I am worried that this isn’t an efficient use of our sales tax money when we want the schools over 50 years old to be renovated or rebuilt. I understand the state legislators have tied the hands of our local school board with HB 7097 and other bills but the city council needs to allow the school district’s attorneys to determine if they have the ability to get our sales tax money back if the building proposed by this ordinance is sold or no longer used as a charter school.

According to the audit (see link below), the current KIPP charter school pays rent. They don’t own the buildings. The rental company is the organization that rents the building to KIPP charter school. The audit states that the rent is $850,000 per year paid to JAKS.

Link to audit:
https://www.kippjax.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/12/KIPP-JACKSONVILLE-K-8-SCHOOL-FINAL-2019_AUDIT.pdf

The city council members, who prevented the voters from voting on the school board’s referendum in 2019, need to take responsibility for allowing the referendum to fall under HB 7097 passed by the state legislature in early 2020 forcing us to give part of our sales tax money to charter schools without adequate clawback provisions in the event the charter school should close.

Is race a social construct?

During a recent 1A episode, they were talking about Kamala’s experience at the majority black Howard University. What are your thoughts on schools that are predominantly black or predominately white?

Certainly de jure segregation (segregation that is enforced by law) is wrong. However, de facto segregation (segregation that occurs without laws but because of other factors) is only wrong in some circumstances?

In my view, even if all schools are equally and adequately funded, there are still reasons that our public school policies should encourage diversity. And by public school policies, I mean the public funding of education.

One value of diversity is that stereotypes are broken down when we interact with people that are different from us. Or at least that’s the hypothesis. Another value in diversity is that more perspectives are brought to light.

If neighborhoods aren’t integrated then it’s difficult for the neighborhood schools to be integrated. Magnet schools were created (at least in Jacksonville, Florida) to stop the court ordered forced busing. The idea was that people would voluntarily bus themselves to attend the magnet school in a de facto segregated neighborhood. In my view, magnet, charter, and voucher funded private schools should all be required to be at least 20% black and at least 20% white. I also question the value of schools segregated by gender so I am opposed to publicly funded same-sex schools.

How do we achieve diversity? How do we eliminate laws and customs that use skin color as a reason to deprive people of benefits that others receive? If we make laws based on the color of someone’s skin, are we perpetuating the myth of race? If we aren’t proactive in reducing racism, will it continue?

Pluralism is represented by the ideal of the United States as a “salad bowl”: a great mixture of different cultures where each culture retains its own identity and yet adds to the flavor of the whole. Assimilation describes the process by which a minority individual or group gives up its own identity by taking on the characteristics of the dominant culture. But can’t there be a little of both? 

One non-liberal commentator, Dinesh D’Souza, appeared on Fox News to question whether Kamala Harris could truly claim she was African-American (or perhaps Dinesh said Black).

23 and Me tells me I’m 1% African. What percentage would you need to be in order to label yourself African-American? What does it mean to label yourself African-American or Black if it has nothing to do with your DNA?

I posted this question in a Facebook group: “How dark does your skin need to be to be considered Black?” One person responded: “Please do not introduce ‘colorism’ into the conversation of who is and is not Black.” I was confused by the comment. Obviously there is a deficit in my understanding of the meaning of the word “Black.”

I have read that race is a social construct and that no coherent, fixed definition of race actually exists. But people are different colors.

People should be allowed to label themselves. That’s one of the reasons I was fascinated by Rachel Dolezal. I read her book and watched a movie about her. I still don’t understand why people were critical of her for labeling herself Black (or was it African-American?). If they liked the way she was running the local chapter of the NAACP, why did it matter that both her parents were white?

I just finished reading “How to be an Antiracist.” He talks about the problem with assimilation. However, I’m still thinking that some assimilation is a good thing. If we want to be successful, then don’t we need to speak the language of the dominant culture in the community where we live?

References:
https://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2013/05/what-we-mean-when-we-say-race-is-a-social-construct/275872/

https://opentextbc.ca/introsociology2eopenstax/chapter/intergroup-relationships/

Is race a social construct?

During a recent 1A episode, they were talking about Kamala’s experience at the majority black Howard University. What are your thoughts on schools that are predominantly black or predominately white?

Certainly de jure segregation (segregation that is enforced by law) is wrong. However, de facto segregation (segregation that occurs without laws but because of other factors) is only wrong in some circumstances.

Even if all schools are equally and adequately funded, there are still reasons that our public school policies should encourage diversity. And by public school policies, I mean the public funding of education.

One value of diversity is that stereotypes are broken down when we interact with people that are different from us. Or at least that’s the hypothesis. Another value in diversity is that more perspectives are brought to light.

If neighborhoods aren’t integrated then it’s difficult for the neighborhood schools to be integrated. Magnet schools were created (at least in Jacksonville, Florida) to stop the court ordered forced busing. The idea was that people would voluntarily bus themselves to attend the magnet school in a de facto segregated neighborhood. In my view, magnet, charter, and voucher funded private schools should all be required to be at least 20% black and at least 20% white.

 

How do we achieve diversity and not use skin color to deprive people of benefits that others receive? Why does something like skin color have any meaning at all? And if we make laws based on the color of someone’s skin, are we perpetuating the myth of race? If we aren’t pro-active in reducing racism, will it continue? Or are we making it worse by continually talking about it?

How do we achieve diversity and not use skin color to deprive people of benefits that others receive? Why does something like skin color have any meaning at all? And if we make laws based on the color of someone’s skin, are we perpetuating the myth of race? If we aren’t pro-active in reducing racism, will it continue? Or are we making it worse by continually talking about it?

I’d like to learn more about the concepts of assimilation vs pluralism. Pluralism is represented by the ideal of the United States as a “salad bowl”: a great mixture of different cultures where each culture retains its own identity and yet adds to the flavor of the whole. Assimilation describes the process by which a minority individual or group gives up its own identity by taking on the characteristics of the dominant culture.  But can’t there be a little of both?
 

References:

  1. https://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2013/05/what-we-mean-when-we-say-race-is-a-social-construct/275872/
  2. https://opentextbc.ca/introsociology2eopenstax/chapter/intergroup-relationships/

Topic questions for the discussion of: How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi

1. Can we agree on the definition of racist?

Location: 307 A racist idea is any idea that suggests one racial group is inferior or superior to another racial group in any way
Page 9: A racist endorses the racial hierarchy.
page 13: Racist is one who is supporting a racist policy through their actions or inaction or expressing a racist idea
Location: 274 A racist policy is any measure that produces or sustains racial inequity between racial groups.
Page 10: A racist is manipulated by racist ideas to see racial groups as problems…. This is the consistent function of racist ideas—and of any kind of bigotry more broadly: to manipulate us into seeing people as the problem, instead of the policies that ensnare them.
Location: 284 When someone discriminates against a person in a racial group, they are carrying out a policy or taking advantage of the lack of a protective policy.

2. If racial discrimination is defined as considering race when making a decision, then racial discrimination is not inherently racist. Do you agree?

Location: 290 (page 18-19) The defining question is whether the discrimination is creating equity or inequity. If discrimination is creating equity, then it is antiracist. If discrimination is creating inequity, then it is racist.

3. If people feel the word “racist” is an insult, is it better to say “that idea is racist” rather than calling someone a racist?

Kindle location 148 (page 9) : The White Supremacist Richard Spencer said “‘Racist’ isn’t a descriptive word. It’s a pejorative word. It is the equivalent of saying, ‘I don’t like you.’ ”
Kindle Location: 159 The attempt to turn this usefully descriptive term into an almost unusable slur is, of course, designed to freeze us into inaction.
Page 10 We can be a racist one minute and an antiracist the next.

4. Can we agree on the definition of an antiracist

Page 9: An antiracist endorses racial equality. An antiracist locates the roots of problems in power and policies. An antiracist confronts racial inequities.
Location: 175 (page 10) The movement from racist to antiracist requires understanding and snubbing racism based on biology, ethnicity, body, culture, behavior, color, space, and class.
Page 13 An antiracist is one who is supporting an antiracist policy through actions or expressing an antiracist idea.
Location: 842 To be antiracist is to focus on ending the racism that shapes the mirages, not to ignore the mirages that shape peoples’ lives.

5. Was his big message that we need to focus on changing racist policy?

Location: 285 (page 18) Only an exclusive few have the power to make policy. Focusing on “racial discrimination” takes our eyes off the central agents of racism: racist policy and racist policymakers, or what I call racist power.

6. Is it important to have clearly defined words? Is the conversation harmed when people use the words socialism and capitalism but mean different things?

Crony-capitalism
Regulated capitalism
Democratic Socialism
Socialism (all means of production owned by government, sometimes called Communism)

Location: 2,529 In doing so, these conservative defenders are defining capitalism. They define capitalism as the freedom to exploit people into economic ruin; the freedom to assassinate unions; the freedom to prey on unprotected consumers,
Location: 2,535 Liberals who are “capitalist to the bone,” as U.S. senator Elizabeth Warren identifies herself, present a different definition of capitalism. … When Senator Warren and others define capitalism in this way—as markets and market rules and competition and benefits from winning—they are disentangling capitalism from theft and racism and sexism and imperialism. If that’s their capitalism, I can see how they can remain capitalist to the bone.
Location: 2,551 Humanity needs honest definitions of capitalism and racism based in the actual living history

7. What is your understanding of intersectionality based on this book or other readings?

Location: 176 And beyond that, it means standing ready to fight at racism’s intersections with other bigotries.
Location: 3,016 My journey to being an antiracist first recognized the intersectionality of my ethnic racism, and then my bodily racism, and then my cultural racism, and then my color racism, and then my class racism, and, when I entered graduate school, my gender racism and queer racism.

8. Do you agree that it’s important that we define the kind of people we want to be?

Location: 261 (page 17) Definitions anchor us in principles. This is not a light point: If we don’t do the basic work of defining the kind of people we want to be in language that is stable and consistent, we can’t work toward stable, consistent goals.

9. What should be the punishment for running from the police?

Location: 882 they knew the criminal-justice system was guilty, too. Guilty for freeing the White cops who beat Rodney King in 1991

10. What if he phrased it “we could have prevented the assault if we had _____ but why should we?”

Location: 1,191 Black people are apparently responsible for calming the fears of violent cops in the way women are supposedly responsible for calming the sexual desires of male rapists. If we don’t, then we are blamed for our own assaults, our own deaths

11. Slavery is wrong whether you’re enslaving your own people or not. What was his point in this quote?

Location: 922 Africans involved in the slave trade did not believe they were selling their own people—they were usually selling people as different to them as the Europeans waiting on the coast.

12. Does it bother you when someone asks you “Where are you from?’

Location: 978 The face of ethnic racism bares itself in the form of a persistent question: “Where are you from?”

13. Is it because of the lack of money or the abundance of time and energy that unemployed people commit more crimes than employed people?

Location: 1,231 “Communities with a higher share of long-term unemployed workers also tend to have higher rates of crime and violence.”

14. He makes a distinction between segregation and voluntarily separating based on common goals or gender or race or religion. He made a point that all groups need to be adequately funded. But isn’t there a value in diversity?

Freedom of association.
Power dynamics

Location: 1,358 I just loved being surrounded by all those Black people—or was it all that culture?—
Location: 2,752 When integrationists use segregation and separation interchangeably, they are using the vocabulary of Jim Crow.

15. There are advantages to assimilating or at least being able to appear more like the dominate group at least on occasion, yes?

Page 81 Cultural Racist: One who is creating a cultural standard and imposing a cultural hierarchy among racial groups
Location: 1,315 We did not care if older or richer or Whiter Americans despised our nonstandard dress like our nonstandard Ebonics.
Location: 1,877 Paradoxically, some tanning White people look down on bleaching Black people,
Location: 1,873 In India, “fairness” creams topped $200 million in 2014.
Page 83: Myrdal standardized the general (White) culture, then judged African American culture as distorted or pathological from that standard. Whoever makes the culture standard makes the cultural hierarchy. The act of making a cultural standard and hierarchy is what creates cultural racism.

16. He inserts this quote by John McWhorter and then also quotes the chair of the National Political Congress of Black Women as saying “You can’t listen to all that language and filth without it affecting you.” BUT he seems to be saying that they are dishonoring a certain type of culture. And he doesn’t like it. Is that how you read it?

Location: 1,374 “By reinforcing the stereotypes that long hindered blacks, and by teaching young blacks that a thuggish adversarial stance is the properly ‘authentic’ response to a presumptively racist society, rap retards black success,” linguist John McWhorter once claimed.
Location: 1,398 AT FIFTEEN, I was an intuitive believer in multiculturalism…I opposed racist ideas that belittled the cultures of urban Black people, of hip-hop…
Location: 1,423 To be antiracist is to see all cultures in all their differences as on the same level, as equals

17. Has the book made you more aware of policies that might be considered racist?

Location: 1,464 But policies determine the success of groups. And it is racist power that creates the policies that cause racial inequities.

18. How else can we test student’s success without tests?

Location: 1,567 She wasn’t making us smarter so we’d ace the test—she was teaching us how to take the test.

19. This book has me thinking a lot about racial diversity and if we should require charter, magnet, and voucher funded private schools to have a certain level of diversity.

Location: 1,613 Through these initiatives and many, many others, education reformers banged the drum of the “achievement gap” to get attention and funding for their equalizing efforts.
Location: 1,615 What if different environments lead to different kinds of achievement rather than different levels of achievement?
Location: 1,669 The truth is, I wanted to flee misbehaving Black folk.
Location: 2,690 The reality: A large percentage of—perhaps most—Black Americans live in majority-Black neighborhoods,
Location: 2,745 They desired to separate, not from Whites but from White racism.
Location: 2,752 When integrationists use segregation and separation interchangeably, they are using the vocabulary of Jim Crow.
Location: 2,755 Plessy v. Ferguson decision. Separate but equal covered up the segregationist policies that diverted resources toward exclusively White spaces.
Location: 2,772 What really made the schools unequal were the dramatically unequal resources provided to them, not the mere fact of racial separation.
Location: 2,807 what if the scoring gap closed because, as Black students integrated White schools, more students received the same education and test prep?

20. How much do you think voter suppression is based on racism?

Location: 1,938 Palm Beach County used confusing ballots that caused about nineteen thousand spoiled ballots and perhaps three thousand Gore voters to mistakenly vote for Pat Buchanan.

21. Were you impressed by Malcolm X’s transformation?

Location: 2,003 On September 22, 1964, Malcolm made no mistake about his conversion. “I totally reject Elijah Muhammad’s racist philosophy, which he has labeled ‘Islam’ only to fool and misuse gullible people,
Location: 2,007 Black people can be racist toward White people. The NOI’s White-devil idea is a classic example. Whenever someone classifies people of European descent as biologically, culturally, or behaviorally inferior, whenever someone says there is something wrong with White people as a group, someone is articulating a racist idea.
Location: 2,017 To be antiracist is to never mistake the antiracist hate of White racism for the racist hate of White people.

22. Do you think anyone that wants to glorify Confederate soldiers is a racist?

Location: 2,069 They wave Confederate flags and defend Confederate monuments, even though the Confederacy started a civil war that ended with more than five hundred thousand White American lives lost—more than every other American war combined.

23. Do you agree that saying Black people don’t have power encourages Black people with power to not work to eliminate racist policies? Or is that not how you understood him?

Page 130- When Black people…concentrate their hatred on everyday White people, they are not fighting racist power or racist policymakers. In losing focus on racist power, they fail to challenge racist policies.
Location: 2,194 Black voices critical of White racism defended themselves from these charges by saying, “Black people can’t be racist, because Black people don’t have power.”

24. How do you feel about inheritance tax? Is it a fair way to level the playing field for the new generation?

Location: 2,418 Goldwater and his ideological descendants said little to nothing about rich White people who depended on the welfare of inheritances, tax cuts, government contracts,

25. We’ve talked about people protesting Murray’s talks when we’ve discussed other books.

Location: 2,909 In 1994 political scientist Charles Murray made sure Americans knew the percentage of Black children born into single-parent households “has now reached 68 percent.” Murray blamed the “welfare system.”
This article from the Southern Poverty Law Center discusses this even further:
https://www.splcenter.org/fighting-hate/extremist-files/individual/charles-murray

26. I was curious about Gunnar Myrdal, who was mentioned on page 83, so I googled him. Here is a quote from an article I found:

Seventy years later, the public conversation on race continues to rely on an approach grounded more in wishful thinking than in hard fact. Myrdal’s assertion that black Americans’ inferior status was principally caused by whites’ discrimination; and that if Americans wanted to correct this problem, they simply needed to cease discriminating… Americans were a morally conscious people who sought to correct their discrimination against black Americans to meet their egalitarian ideals. Americans, the couple explained, welcomed criticism of their race problem because they aspired to be a better people.

Link to article: https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2015/04/are-americans-champions-of-racial-equality/389826/

27. Are these things good to do sometimes?

Location: 68 He rarely if ever put on a happy mask, faked a calmer voice, hid his opinion, or avoided making a scene.

 

Are magnet, charter, and vouchers accomplishing the goals that they were created to achieve?

Here is a quote from How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X Kendi:

When integrationists use segregation and separation interchangeably, they are using the vocabulary of Jim Crow.

In 1896 The US Supreme Court (SCOTUS) in Plessy v. Ferguson said separate but equal was OK. ¹ I think Ibram X Kendi would say that they actually meant segregated since the separation was mandated.  However, the Supreme Court and the policy makers did not do anything to make sure racially segregated public schools were equal to one another. That led to the Supreme Court ruling, in Brown v. Board of Education in 1954, that said segregated public schools were now illegal.

However, the problem was that the Supreme Court and the policy makers made no effort to make sure all publicly funded schools were equal.  In Swann v. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education, SCOTUS ruled that busing was an appropriate remedy for the problem of racial imbalance in schools, even when the imbalance resulted from the selection of students based on geographic proximity to the school rather than from deliberate assignment based on race.

Another blow to equal schools came in 1973 with the SCOTUS opinion in Antonio Independent School district v. Rodriquez. ² The court had the opportunity to rule that all schools won’t be equal if they aren’t properly funded, but they didn’t rule that way. They allowed schools in poorer neighborhoods to receive less funding than schools in richer neighborhoods. They concluded that busing was the answer not adequately funding each neighborhood school.

No one liked forced busing so the hybrid method of voluntary busing (magnet and charters and vouchers) was created. But we need to require that those publicly funded schools outside one’s neighborhood are racially diverse.

Magnet schools were formed to allow Jacksonville to get out of the Federal rules requiring busing to achieve racial diversity. ³ Quote from this article:

The CSA established “a desegregative goal of at least 20% black students and 45% white students” … The Board was required, with community input, to implement and aggressively promote magnet programs as incentives to attract white students to these schools. … The Board was also required to commit $60,000,000 for the “renovation, substantial rehabilitation, or replacement of core city schools.”

Another excerpt from How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X Kendi:

The courts have reinforced the legitimacy of integrated White spaces that hoard public resources … To be an antiracist is to champion resource equity by challenging the racist policies that produce resource inequity. … What really made the schools unequal were the dramatically unequal resources provided to them.

Kendi goes on to say that one of the goals of desegregation should be to help the different races get along, to overcome any innate bias against one another, to try to eradicate the hate embedded in the White Supremacists rhetoric.

This was one of the questions JPEF asked the candidates running for a school board position during the forum/debate (Ref 4) :

Do you think magnet and charter schools should be required to have a certain level of racial diversity? If yes, how can that be accomplished?

This is how I would answer but I’m not running:

Magnet schools were formed to allow Jacksonville to get out of the Federal rules requiring busing to achieve racial diversity.  We need to require all charter schools, magnet schools, and private schools that receive voucher money to reflect the racial diversity of the city. Each of those schools (charter, magnet, and voucher funded private schools) need to aggressively recruit students so they can achieve a certain level of racial diversity. Each school should be at least 20% black and at least 20% white. If the school has a magnet program but is predominately attracting kids from the neighborhood, then it isn’t a magnet school.

The law that once required kids to only go to schools in their neighborhood has been abandoned.  Kids can go to any school in the district if they can provide their own transportation but priority is given to the kids in the neighborhood.

Every neighborhood school should have programs in the arts, music, debate, etc. Every neighborhood school should be great! And every neighborhood school should be adequately funded. And every neighborhood school and magnet school should make it a priority to teach what it means to be “a responsible and respectful person, for the purposes of encouraging tolerance of diversity in a pluralistic society and for nurturing and protecting democratic values” per Florida Statute 1003.42 (2)(g). (Ref 5)

I  hope the Florida legislature will pass something similar to SB 184 (Ref 6) next legislative session so that charter schools and private schools receiving voucher money will also have to teach the course required by 1003.42 (2)(g). (Ref 5)

There should be an exception to the racial diversity requirement for magnet schools for kids with special needs since those schools accept kids based on a disability.

If magnet schools and charter schools and vouchers were created to address the desire to ban segregation, then don’t we need guidelines to make sure those schools are racially diverse? If the goal of those “choices” has changed, what are the new goals? How do we determine if they are meeting those new goals?

Quote from a powerful speech by Martin Luther King, Jr (Ref 7):

All segregation statutes are unjust because segregation distorts the soul and damages the personality. It gives the segregator a false sense of superiority and the segregated a false sense of inferiority. Hence segregation is not only politically, economically and sociologically unsound, it is morally wrong and sinful.

Neighborhood schools can’t be considered equal if neighborhood schools in poorer neighborhoods aren’t adequately funded. As we are trying to learn how to correct the long term negative ramifications of segregation, I hope we don’t destroy the neighborhood school as the privatization movement seems determined to do. (Ref 9) . We need to be clear about our goals so that our actions work to achieve that goal.

Because most public schools are the hubs of their communities, not only for educational engagement but also for civic activity, they are a sacred public trust where Americans become socialized and develop their sense of belonging, identity and purpose. In essence, public schools hold immense symbolic capital. (Ref 8)

It’s difficult to achieve racial diversity in a neighborhood school unless the boundaries are drawn to create racial diversity. The TU Editorial Board opinion piece about scatter housing offers an idea, but would that truly achieve racial diversity? (Ref 10) Or would that just create another avenue for the rich to use taxpayer money to fund their private investments as the charter school movement has done? (Ref 11) What about having zoning restrictions requiring each school zone to have a combination of expensive, moderate, and low income housing?

Ref 1. Link to article about the case:
https://www.history.com/topics/black-history/plessy-v-ferguson

Ref 2. Link to article about Antonio Independent School district v. Rodriquez:
https://www.law.cornell.edu/supremecourt/text/411/1

Ref 3. Link to lawsuit creating magnet schools in Duval County:
https://caselaw.findlaw.com/us-11th-circuit/1136224.html

Reference 14 in that article reads:
“Magnet schools, as generally understood, are public schools designed to promote integration by voluntarily drawing students away from their neighborhoods and private schools …”

Ref 4. Link to Duval County School Board Candidate debates sponsored by JPEF:
https://www.jaxpef.org/advocacy-center/school-board-elections

Ref 5. Link to Florida Statute 1003.42 (2)(g)
http://www.leg.state.fl.us/statutes/index.cfm?App_mode=Display_Statute&URL=1000-1099/1003/Sections/1003.42.html

Ref 6. Link to 2020-SB 184
https://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2020/184/BillText/Filed/PDF

Ref 7. Link to Martin Luther King, Jr speech:
https://www.africa.upenn.edu/Articles_Gen/Letter_Birmingham.html

Ref 8. Link to the tolerance.org quote:
https://www.tolerance.org/magazine/fall-2019/black-students-and-educators-at-confederatenamed-schools

Ref 9. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/answer-sheet/wp/2018/05/30/what-and-who-is-fueling-the-movement-to-privatize-public-education-and-why-you-should-care/

Ref 10.  https://www.jacksonville.com/opinion/20200716/scattered-housing

Ref 11. https://medium.com/in-the-public-interest/charter-schools-are-a-hot-real-estate-market-and-thats-bad-for-students-153fe8554bb4

 

 

Nonsense on Stilts

Topic questions:
1. Is there a fight between religion and science for power in this country?
2. How much is someone’s credibility harmed when they get something wrong?
3. How do you define science?
4. Based on this quote, do you think there is a battle between philosophy and religion?
5. Does it make you mad when people try to use science to advocate for racist or sexist policies?
6. How do you deal with your own bias and the bias of the researchers when evaluating an article?
7. Let’s discuss this quote.
Kindle Location: 1,461 (page 74)
Everyone has a right to be irrational, but rampant irrationality in a society can be highly wasteful and destructive…
8. How much does this bother you? Someone makes a weird claim and then asks you to dispute it?
9. Should you bother debating people that believe in weird things like the flat earth?
10. Let’s discuss this quote.
Kindle Location: 2,588 (page 131)
I argue that it is still a moral duty of all citizens, and of intellectuals in particular, to intervene in public discourse. In this I am squarely on Chomsky’s side. Be that as it may, Richard Posner’s points [academics being swayed by monetary reward and the push to entertainment] well taken.
11. Let’s discuss free speech and what should be done about the news media, the government, twitter, facebook spreading lies.
12. Should the taxpayers fund research?
13. How much does it pain you when you find out someone you held in high esteem has a blemish?
14. Let’s talk about scientism
15. Did you like the handy checklist to help you toward a path of being a virtuous skeptic?

The  above questions, for discussion for the book group meeting the first Sunday in July 2020 to discuss Nonsense on Stilts by Massimo Pigliucci, were motivated by the below quotes.

****Kindle Location: 58 (page 1)
“The foundation of morality is to . . . give up pretending to believe that for which there is no evidence, and repeating unintelligible propositions about this beyond the possibilities of knowledge”  said Thomas Henry Huxley

**Kindle Location: 82 (page 2)
[Popper said] theories that are “unfalsifiable” are unscientific

*Kindle Location: 508  (page 26)
The idea is that when some physicists tell us that “in principle” all knowledge of the world is reducible to physics, one is within one’s rights to ask what principle, exactly, they are referring to. Fodor contends that if one were to call the epistemic bluff, the physicists would have no idea where to begin to provide a reduction of sociology, economics, psychology, biology, and other sciences to fundamental physics. There is, it seems, no known “principle” that would guide anyone in pursuing such a quest—a far more fundamental issue than the one imposed by merely practical limits of time and calculation.

***Kindle Location: 523 to 529 (page 26-27)
Cartwright suggests that theories are statements about how things (or particles, or fields) would behave according to idealized models of reality. … Cartwright distinguishes between two ways of thinking about laws: “fundamental” laws are meant to describe the true, deep structure of the universe. “Phenomenological” laws, by contrast, are useful for making empirical predictions, and work well enough for that purpose, but strictly speaking are false.

*Kindle Location: 555 (page 28)
[Is] comparing different sciences even a meaningful enterprise

****Kindle Location: 603 (page 30)
But the point remains: even the queen of the sciences [particle physics] sometimes gets things wrong over a period of many years,

***Kindle Location: 651(page 33)
Psychology and evolutionary biology—unlike particle physics—deal with complex layers of causality.

****Kindle Location: 677 (page 34)
Does this mean that we shouldn’t trust psychology, medicine, and possibly other sciences? No, because of three considerations: [1. We are aware of the limitations of the experiments 2. Science in the long run is self-correcting 3. There is no other alternative]

****Kindle Location: 709 (page 36)
[Science is] systematic observations and the construction and testing of hypotheses. Kindle Location: 736 (page 37)
intelligent use of observational evidence can be science … there is more than one way to do science, depending on the nature of the questions and the methods typical of the field.

***Kindle Location: 764  (page 38)
… while it is relatively straightforward to figure out what happened after the fact, it is mightily difficult to predict what will happen and when. … asymmetry of causal determination

*Kindle Location: 880-886 (page 45)
Photons behave as particles if you use one slit, but switch to a wavelike behavior if you use two slits … Physicists typically say that the double-slit experiment is a demonstration of the dual nature of light: wave and particle, depending on the circumstances. … Photons are characterized by a “wave function,” a mathematical construct that tells you what the probability of finding the photon in a particular location is. When you actually make the measurement…this action collapses the wave function to a single value…

*Kindle Location: 914 (page 47 and 48)
string theory, supported by Brian Greene at the NYU event and beautifully explained in his book The Elegant Universe. … Kindle Location 938:  at the moment at least, string theory does not seem to make any empirically testable predictions that both differ from those of other competing theories

*Kindle Location: 921 (page 47)
Quantum mechanics does a beautiful job predicting how matter will behave in the very microscopic world, at the scale of quarks, electrons, photons, and the like. Relativity, on the other hand, works very nicely when it is a question of describing the very macroscopic world—the behavior of systems like planets, galaxies, and so forth. …

****Kindle Location: 968 (page 49)
Philosophy has often been the placeholder for areas of intellectual inquiry that have subsequently moved to the domain of science

***Kindle Location: 981(page 50)
Just because we are curious animals, there is no assurance that nature behaves in a way that will allow us to get answers to every mystery that happens to intrigue us.

***Kindle Location: 988 (page 50)
Paraphrased:  Unicorns are logically possible, empirically possible, but not empirically realized. String theory is logically possible but we don’t know if they are empirically possible. Extraterrestrial intelligence is logically possible and empirically possible, but not empirically realized.

*Kindle Location: 990
Strings and multiple universes are certainly logical possibilities, since they are features of mathematical theories (assuming that the math doesn’t contain mistakes). What we don’t know is whether they are also empirically possible

**Kindle Location: 1,026 (page 52)
This means that we need to ask about the conceptual underpinning of the SETI program: what makes it more than the simple hope that we will find someone

****Kindle Location: 1,165 (page 59)
is evolutionary psychology a legitimate branch of evolutionary biology, or is it more nearly a pseudoscience,… [He says that it is uncontroversial that behaviors and cognitive traits can evolve over time BUT is there sufficient evidence that natural selection has shaped any particular human behavioral pattern?]

***Kindle Location: 1,174 (page 59)
Telltale signs of pseudoscience:
                the glorification of mysteries, the appeal to myths, a cavalier approach to evidence, an appeal to irrefutable hypotheses, an emphasis on probably spurious similarities, explanation by scenario (“story-telling”), “literary” rather than empirically based interpretations of facts, extreme resistance to revising one’s positions, a tendency to shift the burden of proof, and sympathy for a theory just because it’s new or daring.

***Kindle Location: 1,255 and 1296 (page 63-65)
As biologist Jaren Diamond puts it…evolutionary biology is in fact a historical science…
Diamond says that if one sees the same general pattern occurring in different places and times in human history, one can examine the similarities and differences among these natural experiments to infer something about the underlying causes.

**Kindle Location: 1,328  (page 67)
As a biologist, Diamond knows very well that many human diseases evolve in parallel with the domestication of animals and with the development of large populations, especially when grouped in small areas

****Kindle Location: 1,343 (page 68)
A colleague of mine teaches introductory philosophy courses in which she tries to get across the consequences of inequality of resources—a small version of the same sort of causal factors Diamond is after at a much larger scale.

**Kindle Location: 1,407 (page 71)
Peter Turchin, a theoretical ecologist complains that there are more than two hundred explanations proposed for the collapse of the Roman empire … A central concept advanced by Turchin is that history is characterized by regular and predictable patterns, from which we can learn and that we can predict.

****Kindle Location: 1,461 (page 74)
Everyone has a right to be irrational, but rampant irrationality in a society can be highly wasteful and destructive… [Massimo offers this as one example:]  Their attitude was that antiretroviral drugs, which have been medically tested and shown to be effective against HIV, are poisons deliberately marketed by Western pharmaceutical companies. Moreover, according to the pair—and contrary to almost the entire medical-research profession—there is no evidence that HIV causes AIDS;

****Kindle Location: 1,507 (page 77)
Science is a human activity, and human beings can legitimately hold different opinions about empirical evidence.

****Kindle Location: 1,518 (page 77)
Big Pharma is indeed far from spotless, and the practices of international pharmaceutical companies have been under fire for years even in the West. The search for profit at all costs often translates into literally inventing medical “conditions” out of thin air

*Kindle Location: 1,557 (page 79)
Science and religion are rather fuzzy concepts. …. this book is in great part devoted to exploring how “science” itself is a family of loosely related practices, not a monolithic thing.

*Kindle Location: 1,748 (page 89)
Philosophers have long since abandoned the idea that knowledge about the world can be gathered by just thinking about it,

****Kindle Location: 1,836 (page 93)
It is a logical fallacy to shift the burden of proof from the person who makes the extraordinary claim (to whom such burden logically belongs) to the person who simply asks for the evidence before accepting the belief.

***Page 98—A few logical fallacies:
Appeals to authority
Affirming the consequence (such as the universe is so large that there must be other civilizations out there)
Bandwagon appeal
Conspiratorial appeal (the government knows, but they will not tell us)
Salvational appeal (wishful thinking?)

****Kindle Location: 1,950 (page 99)
[Regarding conspiratorial appeal]: Unfortunately, governments all over the world, including that of the United States, do have a poor record in leveling with their people, despite much talk about democracy and freedom. But again, while this is reasonable ground for skepticism about what a government says (or does not say), one needs positive evidence before scientists can seriously consider a new phenomenon.

****Kindle Location: 2,145 (page 109)
Colleagues like Richard Dawkins are adamant that one should not “lower” oneself to that level, because this legitimizes and gives a platform to pseudoscientists [this was in response to debating flat earthers, etc]

****Kindle Location: 2,235 (page 113)
… it should be obvious that not all alternative positions are equally deserving of public attention; by presenting all opinions as equivalent and saying, “you decide,” reporters may mislead their audiences. … If the news media are to truly inform the public, they cannot simply present competing ideas as equally valid but must do the hard work of investigating them, to help the public filter the few golden nuggets from the ocean of nonsense that will otherwise overwhelm intelligent social discourse.

****Kindle Location: 2,267 (page 115)
[He discusses think tanks that let their bias mar their opinions] The Cato Institute, it should be added, is funded in part by the Exxon-Mobil Corporation, not exactly a neutral player in discussions about energy production and use. … Of course, the suspicion of bias is not enough to condemn but the alert level on one’s baloney detector should go up …

****Kindle Location: 2,313 (page 117)
But evidence of bias, as we will see when talking more in depth about “think tanks,” is a useful warning sign

*Kindle Location: 2,322 (page 118)
What the Bleep Do We Know?, released in 2004 and, at almost $11 million and counting, one of the highest grossing “documentaries”

***Kindle Location: 2,524 (page 128)
political activist Noam Chomsky in his classic article “The Responsibility of Intellectuals” wrote “Intellectuals are in a position to expose the lies of governments…It is the responsibility of intellectuals to speak the truth and to expose lies”

**Kindle Location: 2,546
[Of course, public intellectuals might not get it right. Chomsky offers Martin Heidegger as an example.] Heidegger was elected rector of the University of Freiburg in Germany in 1933 under the auspices of Hitler’s regime. … Heidegger in his inaugural address went on to say that “German students are seeking leaders through whom they want to elevate their own purpose so that it becomes a grounded, knowing truth … The much-lauded ‘academic freedom’ will be expelled from the German university.”

****Kindle Location: 2,588 (page 131)
I argue that it is still a moral duty of all citizens, and of intellectuals in particular, to intervene in public discourse. In this I am squarely on Chomsky’s side. Be that as it may, Richard Posner’s points [academics being swayed by monetary reward and the push to entertainment] well taken.

****Kindle Location: 2,607 (page 132)
We come next to Posner’s concept of “solidarity value.” …The idea is that many, perhaps most, people don’t actually want to be informed, and even less so challenged in their beliefs and worldview. Rather, they want to see a champion defending their preconceived view of the world, a sort of ideological knight in shining armor. Blatantly partisan outlets such as Fox News (on the right), MSNBC (on the left), and the countless evangelical Christian radio stations are obvious examples…

****Kindle Location: 2,637 (page 134)
The phrase originated with Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, who wrote the dissenting opinion in Abrams v. United States, an infamous case argued before the Supreme Court in 1919. The case was a test of a law passed the year before, which made criticism of the US government a criminal offense. The law was upheld, and the statute not invalidated until Brandenburg v. Ohio, during the Vietnam War.

****Kindle Location: 2,646 (page 134)
You see, for the best ideas to win the competition the judges must be, well, competent. But the judges here are a public that is generally badly informed and undereducated with respect to the relevant issues.

****Kindle Location: 2,725 (page 138)
Paraphrased: Just because someone is born with different abilities, it doesn’t mean they should be assigned different status as human beings.

***Kindle Location: 2,727 (page 138)
Instrumentalism is the idea that learning is to be encouraged if it is aimed at addressing practical concerns … Instrumentalism makes less and less sense the more a society develops above the level of direct struggle for life.

*Kindle Location: 2,757 (page 140)
The other current pits absolutism against relativism, particularly when it comes to moral problems. The fear here is that if, as postmodernist Michel Foucault put it, there is no truly universal truth…

*Kindle Location: 2,860 (page 145)
“Punctuated equilibria” ….long periods of time during which organisms do not appear to change punctuated by relatively sudden spikes of morphological change …This tension between stasis and fast change, according to Eldredge and Gould, is a real feature of evolution, not an artifact of missing data, and ought to be considered in expanding the classical theory of evolution—which has often been described instead as a theory of gradual change.

****Kindle Location: 2,870 (page 146)
While Sagan took on global warming and nuclear war, Gould concentrated on racism and the relationship between science and religion. … Gould and Richard Lewontin were very critical of what he perceived as attempts to give scientific credence to racist ideologies.

****Kindle Location: 2,891 (page 147)
We are different from each other for a variety of reasons …but all of us should be treated the same when it comes to the law.

****Kindle Location: 2,908 (page 147-148)
people who understand religious texts to be taken metaphorically, and therefore not to be read as science textbooks, are not the ones who are fueling the science-religion cultural war to begin with.

****Kindle Location: 2,959 (page 150)
“advocacy think thanks” … often (though not always) to blatantly blur the lines between research and advocacy.

****Kindle Location: 2,993 (page 152)
Science progresses; ideologies tend to linger unchanged (and often unquestioned).

*Kindle Location: 3,000 (page 152)
Remarkably, even the Cato Institute finally had to admit, with predictable reservations, that climate change is real. In 2016 it published Lukewarming: The New Climate Science That Changes Everything by P. J. Michaels and P. C. Knappenberger. Wait another decade or two and they’ll finally get on board with real science. . . .

*Kindle Location: 3,019 (page 153-154)
In 2002 CEI won a lawsuit against the FDA [which then allowed drug companies to do less testing]. Congress responded by writing the Pediatric Rule into law. … Finally, though the list could be much, much longer, in 2017 the CEI boasted of having influenced President Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris Accord on climate change, potentially one of the most disastrous political choices by a US administration in recent memory.

***Kindle Location: 3,209
Deduction allows one to arrive at guaranteed conclusions if the premises are true and the structure of the argument is valid.

***Kindle Location: 3,219 (Page 164)
Induction is the process of generalizing from a number of observations (more sense data) to broader instances. …The idea is that induction is always fallible, and its conclusions are at best probabilistic. Deduction yields foolproof conclusions if the premises are true.

****Kindle Location: 3,226 (page 165)
This is why scientific theories are always tentative: because they are based on a combination of deduction and induction (and a few other ingredients), and the inductive component is always open to revision.

*Kindle Location: 3,418
The tone was set by Augustine (354–430 CE), who argued that philosophy (including natural philosophy, i.e., science) should be encouraged only as a handmaiden to religion. … The burning at the stake of Giordano Bruno, in the 1600’s, was a stark reminder of this.

****Kindle Location: 3,538 (page 181)
Francis Bacon was done with the model of science as handmaiden to either philosophy or religion and wrote that the new science was relevant to humankind mostly because “knowledge is power.”

****Kindle Location: 3,543 (page 182)
Bacon tells us that before one can do serious science, one must overcome a series of “idols” affecting the mind (the word derives from the Greek for “phantoms,” i.e., sources of deception):
1. Prejudices associated with living in a given time and place in history 2. Language can set its own traps against clear thinking 3.  Grand views of the universe 4. Overreliance on faulty sensorial experience and wishful thinking

***Kindle Location: 3,616 (page 185)
the more probable the scientific statement is considered to be (because of evidence in its favor), the higher the burden of proof on the skeptics who doubt it.

****Kindle Location: 3,635 (page 186)
The fourth item on Descartes’s list of his “method” to establish scientific knowledge:  the constant reexamination of the current status of the puzzle to make sure we are still on the right trajectory. … Scientific knowledge is more like a web than an edifice built on foundations.

****Kindle Location: 3,713 (page 190)
all of this simply goes to exemplify the general point that personal character has little to do with scientific (or, for that matter, artistic) genius.
[He is talking about Newton but might we want to discuss it as it relates to all geniuses we admire or hate?]

***Kindle Location: 3,862 (page 197)
David Hume was among the first to take this approach, wondering, for example, about our concept of causality (his analysis, still surprisingly challenging today, was not very encouraging, as he concluded that we do not really know what we mean when we talk about “causes”).

****Kindle Location: 3,948 (page 202)
“Postmodernism” and “deconstructionism” are the most common terms (and the two are not exactly equivalent), although for the purposes of this chapter I will refer to them under the umbrella of “constructivism,” in reference to the basic idea they all share: that scientific knowledge (or any knowledge, for that matter) is socially constructed, with little or no input from outside of human conventions.

***Kindle Location: 3,988 (page 204)
Occam’s razor, the epistemological rule (named after the fourteenth-century philosopher William of Occam) that one should not invoke more explanatory principles than are strictly required by the evidence.

***Kindle Location: 3,994 (page 204)
Epistemology is the field of philosophy that deals with how we acquire (or fail to acquire) knowledge and thereby arrive at truth.

****Kindle Location: 4,024 (page 206)
That is why scientific findings should always be considered tentative, open to revision if new evidence comes about. … “Epistemic limitations” are the limits imposed on human knowledge by our biological characteristics. While philosophers since Kant have understood that such a view is forever inaccessible to human beings, many scientists continue to behave as if science somehow, magically, allows us to transcend the problem and gain access to the Truth. That is what a scientistic attitude is all about. The ancient Greek philosophers called it hubris.

***Kindle Location: 4,102 (page 210)
It is painfully clear that science depends on an assumption of honesty on the part of its practitioners.

***Kindle Location: 4,151 (page 213-215)
The eugenic movement reached its peak in the USA during the 1920s, when its ideas got the ear of politicians at the local and national level (including, for example, Presidents Coolidge and Hoover), as well as the financial support of magnates like George Eastman (founder of Kodak) and John D. Rockefeller Jr. … For instance, the intellectual and progressive magazine the Nation invited prominent eugenicist Herbert Jennings to write an article for its “What I Believe” series, meant to showcase highly respectable intellectuals’ views on issues of the day. … Eugenics eventually met its demise largely, it can be argued, because of the atrocities of Nazism…

**Kindle Location: 4,212 (page 215)
Although we know how to splice foreign DNA into a cell, we are a long way from being able to effectively and reliably fix human genetic diseases by repairing mutant genes or replacing them with functional parts off the shelf, as if we were in an auto mechanic’s shop.

***Kindle Location: 4,242 (page 217)
Every new technology does pose risks, sometimes unknown ones (until they occur). Moreover, there are good, rational reasons to maintain at least a moderate level of distrust of large biotechnology firms, especially when it comes to labor practices, if not environmental impact, given both their past record and their obvious profit motives.

***Kindle Location: 4,302 (page 220)
Science remains by far the most effective way of gaining knowledge (and power, as Francis Bacon famously pointed out) over the natural world and improving the human condition.

****Kindle Location: 4,608 (page 236)
Scientific knowledge (in the objective sense discussed above) is provisional, and each successive theory, each newly established conceptual framework (or paradigm) represents our best understanding of some aspects of nature at a given point in time.

****Kindle Location: 4,634 (page 237)
Accordingly, when science blunders as it did while flirting with eugenics, both scientists and science critics play a legitimate role in correcting it…

****Kindle Location: 4,643 (page 238)
There cannot be such a thing as a lone scientist ….  unless they communicate their findings to a larger group of other scientists (and science critics) and expose their work to both technical and ideological peer review, they are not actually doing science, according to Longino.

***Kindle Location: 4,676 (page 239)
Ronald Giere calls “perspectivism.” … Giere begins by acknowledging that it is true both that science objectively expands our knowledge of the world and that science is a subjective activity because scientists cannot escape their limited access to the world as human beings—that is, they do not have access to a detached, all-encompassing, God’s-eye view

****Kindle Location: 4,821 (page 246)
Susan Haack said “What I meant by ‘scientism’ [is] a kind of over-enthusiastic and uncritically deferential attitude towards science, an inability to see or an unwillingness to acknowledge its fallibility, its limitations, and its potential dangers.”

*Kindle Location: 4,839 (page 247)
obvious examples of this troublesome attitude:  Sam Harris argues that science can determine human values, with no help from moral philosophy,

***Kindle Location: 4,871 (page 249)
Susan Haack’s “six signs,” which represent an excellent framework for understanding the phenomenon of scientism.
Paraphrased (only 1, 2, 5 and 6 made sense to me)

  1. Using the words science, scientific, etc honorifically as epistemic praise
  2. Adopting the terminology of the sciences when not doing real science
  3. A preoccupation with demarcation (Massimo takes issue with this one on page 250 but still concludes: That said, I do not endorse a strict demarcation between science and nonscience, or science and pseudoscience either.
  4. A corresponding preoccupation with identifying the scientific method (Massimo takes issue with the one on page 251 as he concludes: there is a recognizable scientific methodology that is clearly superior to any other way of acquiring knowledge or understanding )
  5. Looking to the sciences for answers to questions beyond their scope
  6. Denying or denigrating the legitimacy or the worth of other kinds of inquiry besides the scientific or the value of other human activities

***Kindle Location: 4,981 (page 254)
The science versus scientism discussion, then, is an exercise in demarcation, similar to the science-pseudoscience debate that has concerned us for much of this journey.

**Kindle Location: 5,015 (page 256)
yes, science is crucial in order to further our understanding of the world in which we live,

****Kindle Location: 5,050 (page 258)
Epistemology is the branch of philosophy that studies knowledge and provides the criteria for evidential warrant—it tells us when it is in fact rational to believe or disbelieve a given notion.

****Kindle Location: 5,186 (page 264)
Turns out that a good number of “skeptics” are actually committed to specific political causes, including, but not limited to, libertarianism. …it becomes a problem when it is used as a filter to inform one’s allegedly critical thinking.

***Kindle Location: 5,205 (page 265)
Peer review … is a first step toward improving the quality of what we publish

****Kindle Location: 5,206 (page 265)
handy checklist for aspiring virtuous skeptics

  1. Did I carefully consider my opponent’s arguments and not dismiss them out of hand?
  2. Did I interpret what my opponent said in the most charitable way possible before mounting a response?
  3. Did I seriously entertain the possibility that I may be wrong? Or am I too blinded by my own preconceptions?
  4. Am I an expert on this matter? If not, did I consult experts, or did I just conjure my own unfounded opinion out of thin air?
  5. Did I check the reliability of my sources, or just google whatever was convenient to throw at my opponent?
  6. Having done my research, do I actually know what I’m talking about, or am I simply repeating someone else’s opinion?

**Kindle Location: 5,438 (page 277)
reason and emotions are both essential components of being human and that they need to be brought into balance for a human being to function properly.

***Kindle Location: 5,497 (page 280)
The five kinds of evidence that a novice can use to determine whether someone is a trustworthy expert are

  1. an examination of the arguments presented by the expert and his rival(s);
  2. evidence of agreement by other experts;
  3. independent evidence that the expert is, indeed, an expert;
  4. an investigation into what biases the expert may have concerning the question at hand; and
  5. the track record of the expert

****Kindle Location: 5,564 (page 283)
The question is not whether there is bias (there always is), but how much, where it comes from, and how one can become aware of and correct it.

City Council needs to pass an ordinance requiring a nose/mouth covering

The city council needs to pass an ordinance requiring a nose/mouth covering when entering any enclosed place open to the public similar to what President Trump required of the West Wing White House staff in May after some of the staff tested positive for Covid-19.

The ordinance would make the word “should” mean “must” when it comes to the CDC guidelines for Jacksonville regarding face masks. People are interpreting “should” to mean “not required.” Strong people should care about their neighbors.
CDC guidelines:

  • Everyone should wear a cloth face cover when they have to go out in public, for example to the grocery store or to pick up other necessities.
    • Cloth face coverings should not be placed on young children under age 2, anyone who has trouble breathing, or is unconscious, incapacitated or otherwise unable to remove the mask without assistance.

“We continue to caution that reducing the likelihood of additional outbreaks will require individuals and business owners to be vigilant with personal protection, wearing masks and practicing proper hygiene, and instituting strong workplace safety measures,” Dr. David Rubin, director of PolicyLab at CHOP and a professor of pediatrics at the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine, said.

Health professionals, including Dr. Larry Feinman, chief medical officer for 18 HCA hospitals in west Florida, pushed for a mask requirement. Feinman said he is more “terrified” to walk through a Publix grocery store than through any of the 15 COVID-19 units in the chain’s hospitals.

“I’m begging you to mandate masking,” Feinmann said. “It is effective.”

Dr. Ulyee Choe, director of the Florida Department of Health, said recent studies are “showing the masks are effective” in fighting the virus.

Most people (even Mayor Curry) now agree that if everyone wears a mask in public buildings, then the spread of the novel coronavirus will be lowered.

What about this compromise?

Ask the city council to pass an ordinance requiring masks (until a safe and effective vaccine is available) while inside an enclosed building open to the public with the below caveat.

The following establishments could be exempted if they agree to post the following warning at all entrances

“Covid-19 can cause hospitalization and death. It is highly contagious. The CDC has advised that if everyone would wear a mask, then the risk of contracting Covid-19 would be reduced. We do *not* require masks so enter at your own risk. We assume no liability if you contract Covid-19 from being exposed to the virus in our building.”

These types of businesses can be exempt from mandatory masks if they’ll post the sign in huge letters at every entry point:

Restaurants, Bars, Churches, Political Rallies, Concerts, Theaters

Under this compromise, the people who don’t feel they are vulnerable to a severe case can go to restaurants, etc. And those of us who fear having a severe reaction if exposed to the virus can go to grocery stores being assured that everyone will be wearing a mask.

It seems like a great compromise, yes?

Link to article about West Wing requirements in May:https://www.webmd.com/connect-to-care/vaping/news/20200619/masks-no-longer-required-in-west-wing
Link to article with David Rubin quote:https://www.cbsnews.com/news/coronavirus-florida-next-epicenter-pandemic/
Link to article with Doctors Feinmann and Choe quotes:
https://www.tampabay.com/news/health/2020/06/18/pinellas-county-inches-closer-to-requiring-face-masks/

Link to CDC : https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prevent-getting-sick/prevention.html