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"What did you do to piss god off so much he killed your child?"

My mother-in-law carried those words to her grave. Her second child died a few days after birth from a heart defect. That was how her church consoled her. They were as kind as the delivery doctor, a man known throughout the state as a top-notch pediatric heart expert but who could not bring himself to help the child he delivered because the parents were too poor to pay for services.

Because that's how doctors in god-fearing Nebraska treated poor kids.

Because it's easy to use guilt and pain as a hammer to smash someone you don't see as religious enough.

More below the squiggle.

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Welfare.

My father considers it a dirty word. TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families) and SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) and WIC (Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children) allow low-income or no-income families to feed and clothe their children and themselves. Why is that so terrible, to help those in need?

I had no idea how despicable my father thought government assistance recipients were until my husband told him about being raised on welfare. I’m certain that we had spoken of this before (my husband and I have been married 17 years. It’s not like we’ve never mentioned it), but this time my father listened. And became absolutely furious.

He was visiting, a rare event due to distance and his job as a long-haul trucker. He was talking about how the “church” needed to take care of the poor, that it was not the government’s job, and his tax dollars should not go to help the lazy welfare queens. He acknowledged Fox News, Wingnut Daily, and some unknown random minister as references. My husband brought up that he had been raised on welfare, and that the church his family attended when he was a child did not have the funding to care for their congregation members. The church consisted of basically two families, and all were poor themselves. There was no bank account filled with collection plate funds to help those in need.

And my father was so disgusted he disowned my husband for it (my father's word, not mine).

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It’s an uphill battle for girls who like science.  This was expressed too clearly during a JPL presentation at my local library this past Saturday.

I and my husband attended the program, mainly because the presenter (no, I do not remember his name) promised new pictures from Curiosity (these pictures did not materialize, and I was disappointed).  The presentation targeted a general audience, and the presenter was an ex-science teacher with an amiable style and infectious laughter.  His enthusiasm for his subject was obvious.

There were several people at the event, and two children, one boy, one girl, with their respective parents, sat in front.  Both were excited to be there.  Both eagerly raised their hands when the presenter asked questions.  Both did not correctly answer every question they thought they knew the answer to.  And that is where the similarities ended.

The presenter called on the boy far more frequently than the girl.  He claimed to call on whoever raised their hand first, but that was not the case.  He applauded the boy and heaped praised on him for answering simple questions.  He even got the audience to clap for him.  He called the boy bright.  When the girl answered questions, he thanked her for the answer and continued.  He never applauded her answers, and tended to shy away from her by the end of the talk because she was giving more sophisticated answers than the boy.

How?  One question in particular clearly pointed out the difference.  When the presenter asked how one might be able to tell whether this certain picture was taken on Earth or on Mars, the girl answered first and pointed out that grass grew in the picture, so it must be Earth.  The presenter semi-stammered and said that was correct, but not the answer most people gave.  The boy piped up and said the rock was not red, and the man congratulated him on the answer.  

And so it went.  The little girl persevered but was only thanked for her answers, while the boy was applauded for his--to the point that, by the end of the presentation, he made a "Well everyone knows that" remark to the little girl that made me wince and made his dad lean over to speak to him, hopefully about attitude.  We left before the audience asked questions, mainly because I was fuming at the little girl’s treatment.  I immediately regretted not speaking up after her answers and telling her that she did a good job—and I should have.  That might have clued the presenter to the fact he treated the two differently.  I might have gotten some applause for her, since she, too, deserved it.  Don’t get me wrong—it was wonderful to see the boy excited about the subject.  It's wonderful to see any child excited about science. All I wanted was the presenter to encourage the girl in the same manner that he encouraged the boy.

If a little girl can’t even be treated the same as a little boy in a generalized presentation on outer space, how can they expect to find acceptance in the sciences when they become older?  Remember, the presenter once taught high school science—and I wonder if he treated those boys and girls in the same manner as he treated the two children in his audience on Saturday.

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After reading this diary by Hunter about a state legislator in Texas trying to make it legal for only Hanukah and Christmas scenes in Texas schools, and listening to the arguments this past week about bringing God back into schools through prayer (because, if the shooters had to pray in schools, they somehow would be taught morality), I felt sick. Why? I know what it’s like (to a much lesser degree than Muslims and other non-Christians) to feel the sting of prejudice for religious practices not in line with the majority of those around me.

I grew up in a small community in Wyoming. Other places in the state nicknamed it “Little Utah” because of the large Mormon population. My parents moved there when I was three, looking for a place other than “overpopulated” California to lay down roots. We had no idea that Mormonism was such a heavy influence in the area—while my mother had difficulty finding a church that was not LDS and finally settled on a Baptist congregation, it did not really register how many Mormons were living in the area until I entered kindergarten.

The first day of school was fun for me, other than the fact that the kids kept asking me what Ward I was in. I kept asking what a Ward was. I had no idea. I surely asked my parents when I got home, but it was not until much later I really understood LDS church divisions. The next day I eagerly returned to school, ready to play with my new friends, and found each little child unwilling to speak to me. A couple told me that their parents told them to stay away from me because I wasn’t Mormon.

That set the stage for my entire K-12 schooling.

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Mon Jul 23, 2012 at 05:42 PM PDT

Of Librarians and Dodos

by shiobe

After reading Bobbosphere’s excellent article on teachers and the impact of low wages, increased workloads and ineffective unions, I could not help but ponder my library system’s own turn to full-time temps to fill vacant spots rather than hiring full-time permanent employees.

This move has been years in the making.  After the dismal years of 2008 and 2009, when property taxes took a giant hit, our system suffered since our budget comes from property tax. When librarians left, their positions remained vacant—there was no money to hire another to take their place.  Tough economic times made working in a public library tough as well.

When small increases in budget came, our system did not hire permanent, full-time librarians. Upper management decided that temps were needed.  They came cheaper than a permanent librarian, and had the added benefit that they could be dismissed at a moment’s notice due to their “at will” status.  So temps were hired.  Temps were strung along for several years at times, even though the Union agreement stated that temps could only work up to one year, then must either be released or made permanent.  Some managed to promote to full-time status, but many, after becoming comfortable in their jobs since their temp contract had been renewed, received their Dear John letter giving them a day’s notice that their job was terminated.

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Tue Feb 07, 2012 at 12:25 PM PST

We were too poor to save my mother

by shiobe

1993. October. My mother phoned me to tell me she had breast cancer. I was devastated. My family was poor, had no insurance and could not afford the $15,000 initial surgery. She had put off checking that lump she knew was there because we could not afford the doctor’s visit, and when she finally went, we were informed that she needed a mastectomy and the surgery would not be performed unless we had the money.

I grew up in Wyoming. Backwoods Wyoming. There was no Planned Parenthood. There was no charity hospital. There were no services to help a poor woman with a devastating diagnosis. If we did not have the money—tough. Deal with it.

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