A few generations ago, American families could send their daughters to private, all-girl finishing schools, where they learned how to sit properly and nab husbands. Today, Florida families have the option of sending their daughters to all-girl public schools, where girls get perfume for doing tasks correctly, and educators are taught that girls "struggle with abstract thinking," "use relationships as weapons," and prefer to read about "emotional agonies" over spaceship how-to books, according to a Title IX complaint filed last week by the American Civil Liberties Union.
The ACLU alleges that the Hillsborough County public school district—which includes Tampa, has more than 202,000 students and a $2.8 billion budget, and operates both single-sex classrooms in coed public schools and single-sex magnet schools—is implementing teaching methods that discriminate on the basis of sex. Galen Sherwin, staff attorney at the ACLU Women's Rights Project, says these methods may soon spread to other parts of Florida.
The ACLU filed its complaint one day after Republican Gov. Rick Scott signed into law a little-noticed bill that requires school districts that establish same-gender programs to mandate that educators participate in special training. Sherwin says that without federal or state intervention to ensure training programs do not promote sex stereotypes, it's likely that other schools will follow Hillsborough's model. (A spokesperson for the Florida Department of Education says that she can't comment on the complaint, but noted that, according to the law's language, the school districts are in charge of training.)
So what does the Hillsborough program look like? According to the complaint, "trainings relied heavily on stereotypical emotional differences between boys and girls," such as the idea that "girls do not like to take risks and believe success is from hard work," while boys "show love through aggression." The complaint lists techniques employed in classrooms across the district: One teacher gave each girl a dab of perfume on her wrist for doing a task correctly, teachers comforted girls when they made a mistake, and teachers "spoke in a firmer and more authoritative and loud voice with the boys." Boys were also instructed to do jumping jacks before math and were allowed to bring their electronics to school if they behaved.
According to the complaint, the teachings also rely on the controversial idea that schools should be tailored based on innate biological differences between male and female brains—for example, that girls struggle with abstract thinking as it relates to math. "The assumption that such differences are innate or 'hardwired' is invalid," noted Scientific American in 2009. "Experiences change our brains."
Gender-based educational programs are not unique to Florida. The ACLU has filed complaints against school districts in other states, including West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Idaho. The National Association for Single Sex Public Education, which supports these kinds of programs, notes, "We understand that some girls would rather play football rather than play with Barbies," and "girls in single-sex educational settings are more likely to take classes in math, science, and information technology." Sherwin, from the ACLU, says she doesn't see anything wrong with single-sex schools that don't use different teaching methods for boys and girls. But she adds, "Whenever you make sex the most salient category for grouping children, it certainly sends a message about sex difference."
Steve Hegarty, a spokesman for Hillsborough schools, says that that no one is assigned or zoned to same-sex programs. "You have to apply, if you think it would be a good fit for your son and daughter," he says. He wouldn't comment specifically on the complaint, but notes that in Florida at least, parents are enthusiastic about the programs: "They seem to be really popular."
Update, May 19, 2014: On Monday, the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri denied the stay of execution request of Russell Bucklew.
Next week, Missouri is scheduled to execute Russell Bucklew, who has a serious health condition, with a lethal drug whose source is being kept secret from the public. On Friday, Bucklew's attorneys filed a motion requesting that a videographer be allowed to tape the execution in order to preserve evidence. Bucklew has tumors partially blocking his airway, and attorneys allege that there is "a very significant risk" that he will die "a torturous death" in violation of the Eighth Amendment, which bars cruel and unusual punishment.
According to the motion:
Mr. Bucklew seeks this Order so he can preserve vital evidence of the events occurring during his execution. His head, neck, throat and brain are filled with clumps of weak, malformed blood vessels that could rupture, causing coughing, choking and suffocation, or impairing the circulation of the lethal drug, causing a prolonged and excruciating execution while he struggles for air. Mr. Bucklew seeks to document these events.
Dr. Joel B. Zivot, a professor of Anesthesiology and Surgery at the Emory University School of Medicine who examined Bucklew, filed an affidavit noting that, "To my knowledge, Missouri's execution protocol provides no contingency for a failed execution, or a situation in which the prisoner starts gasping for air or experiences hemorrhaging."
Missouri sentenced Bucklew to death for kidnapping and raping his ex-girlfriend and murdering her partner. Bucklew's execution arrives less than a month after Oklahoma horribly botched the execution of Clayton D. Lockett, leaving him twitching in pain and partially conscious. (About 15 minutes into that execution, officials closed the blinds, so witnesses couldn't see.) Like Oklahoma, Missouri is using a secretly-acquired drug cocktail. On Thursday, the Guardian, the Associated Press, and three Missouri newspapers filed a lawsuit arguing that the public has a right to information about the drugs Missouri is using for its executions. The Guardiannotes that the state publicized where it obtained its lethal injection drugs until last year, when, like other death penalty states, Missouri faced a shortage of lethal injection drugs in wake of European restrictions.
In Missouri, Bucklew's attorneys also want to videotape the execution in case Bucklew survives and needs evidence to oppose another execution attempt. "Until the botched execution in Oklahoma of Mr. Lockett, the possibility of a prisoner surviving an execution seemed perhaps remote. Now, the possibility of a failed execution is plain," the motion reads.
In a little-noticed 2012 interview, Rep. Steve Daines (R-Mont.), the front-runner in Montana's open 2014 Senate race, expressed support for teaching creationism in public schools.
In an interview that aired on November 2, 2012, Sally Mauk, news director for Montana Public Radio, asked Daines, who was then running for Montana's lone House seat, whether public schools should teach creationism. Daines responded, "What the schools should teach is, as it relates to biology and science is that they have, um, there's evolution theory, there's creation theory, and so forth. I think we should teach students to think critically, and teach students that there are evolutionary theories, there's intelligent-design theories, and allow the students to make up their minds. But I think those kinds of decisions should be decided at the local school board level." He added, "Personally I'd like to teach my kids both sides of the equation there and let them come up to their own conclusion on it." Here's a recording of the exchange:
Daines did not respond to multiple requests for comment. Lauren Passalacqua, a spokeswoman for Democratic Sen. John Walsh—who was appointed in February by Montana Gov. Steve Bullock to replace longtime Democratic Sen. Max Baucus and could potentially face Daines in the general election—says, "Sen. Walsh respects everyone's right to practice their faith but believes public school is a place for science, not religion."
The radio interview wasn't the first time Daines dabbled in creationism. On July 31, 2012, Don Pogreba, a Montana high school teacher who blogs about politics, reported that Daines was scheduled to attend a breakfast fundraiser for his campaign at the Creation Museum in Petersburg, Kentucky—an establishment that says it "brings the pages of the Bible to life." Visitors to the Kentucky museum learn about what the world looked like "6,000 years into the past"—at "the dawn of history"—and can see "children play and dinosaurs roam near Eden's Rivers." A notice for the event was reportedly posted on Daines' campaign website. A few days later, Alex Sakariassen, a reporter for the Missoula Independent, asked Daines' campaign why the congressman was holding a campaign event at the controversial museum. Zach Lahn, Daines' campaign manager at the time, replied that "all location details and speaker invitations have been made by [Daines] supporters," not the campaign itself. After the Independent published a story about the event, the announcement for the fundraiser disappeared from the Daines campaign's website. And a spokeswoman for the Kentucky museum says the fundraiser never took place there.
On the campaign trail, Daines points to his executive experience at a Bozeman-based tech firm, RightNow Technologies, as evidence he's a pragmatic businessman focused on economic issues. Greg Gianforte, a longtime Daines ally and donor who founded RightNow and sold it in 2012 for more than $1.8 billion, also has a history of supporting creationism. In 2009, his charity, the Gianforte Family Foundation, helped fund the $1.5 million creationist dinosaur museum in Glendive, Montana. According to the Billings Gazette, Gianforte's foundation made "the largest donation for a specific exhibit," funding a display featuring Tyranosaurus rex and Acrocanthosaurus. In the years since that museum opened, Gianforte has become one of Daines' campaign backers; he sued the Montana Democratic Party in 2012 for allegedly making false claims about Daines and RightNow, he contributed the maximum $5,200 to Daines' campaign in 2013, and the two men appeared together publicly as recently as March 2014, at a Yellowstone County Republicans dinner. (Gianforte did not respond to multiple requests for comment.)
The Glendive museum's website contends that "the wonders of God's creation are prostituted for evolutionism." The museum promises to tell visitors whether "the dinosaurs die[d] out 65 million years ago" or "co-exist[ed] with man and diminish[ed] within the last five thousand years." (Spoiler alert: The museum sides with the latter.) Otis Kline, president of the Foundation Advancing Creation Truth, which runs the museum, says that he knows Daines, but hadn't "seen him for quite some time." Kline would not say whether Daines had donated to or supported the Glendive museum.
Although it may give pause to some scientists and educators, Daines' advocacy for "teaching the controversy" won't necessarily hurt him in the polls. A Pew Research Center poll conducted last year found that 33 percent of US adults say they do not believe in evolution. Of the 60 percent who indicated that "humans have evolved over time," a little less than half said that a "supreme being guided evolution."
When I was a kid, I wasn't allowed to eat cookies for breakfast. So instead, I became a granola junkie, eating bowls of the stuff topped with honey and yogurt. As it turns out, I might have been better off eating cookies—granolas have more sugar than any other kind of cereal, according to a report released Thursday by the Environmental Working Group, a health research and advocacy organization.
EWG analyzed more than 1,500 cereals, including 181 brands marketed to children, and determined that "most pack in so much sugar that someone eating an average serving of a typical children's cereal would consume more than 10 pounds of sugar a year from that source alone." Excess sugar intake has been linked to obesity and diabetes, as well as numerous other health problems.
Using the report, we compared Chips Ahoy cookies—which clock in at about 11 grams of sugar per three cookies—against a single serving of certain cereal brands. These servings aren't large, often hovering around a cup, which for me, a smallish lady, is a very puny breakfast indeed. Here's what we found:
Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear filed an appeal last week in federal court defending his state's ban on same-sex marriage, after a federal judge invalidated a portion of the law earlier this year. In the appeal, the state argues that legalizing interracial marriage in 1967 made sense because those unions made babies, but gay couples should not be allowed those same rights. Why? Because that would harm Kentucky's birth rate.
"Kentucky's marriage laws are rationally related to the state's interest of preserving the traditional man-woman marriage model," the appeal reads. According to the state, the case for legalizing same-sex marriage in Kentucky is different from Loving v. Virginia—the landmark 1967 Supreme Court case that invalidated state laws banning interracial marriage—because "man-man and woman-woman couples cannot procreate" and Kentucky has an interest in encouraging procreation in the name of promoting "long-term economic stability through stable birth rates."
The state claims that marriage benefits cost the state money, and stable birth rates offset that cost. However, the appeal does not cite any research supporting this, nor does it provide any evidence that legalizing same-sex marriage decreases the birth rate. The appeal does not mention the economic impact of same-sex couples having children through alternative means, such as artificial insemination, nor does it address the costs to the state of allowing infertile heterosexual men or women to get married, allowing straight couples who don't want children to get married, or housing foster children. (In 2012, Kentucky had almost 7,000 children in foster care, according to the latest government data.)
"The argument is ridiculous," says Greg Bourke, one of the plaintiffs in the case, who has been with his husband for 32 years (they married in Canada a decade ago) and has two adopted children. "This argument is not only offensive to same-sex couples, but is equally insulting to opposite-sex couples who are unable to have children, choose not to have children, or are beyond childbearing years." James Trussell, a Princeton University economics and public affairs professor who has co-authored more than 350 scientific publications, primarily in the areas of reproductive health and demographic methodology, says that the state's argument "sounds like nonsense." (Beshear's office declined to comment on the case.)
This is hardly the first time that states have tried to cite procreation as a reason that same-sex marriage shouldn't be legalized. Earlier this year, after Utah's ban was knocked down in federal court, Republican Gov. Gary Herbert's appeal also cited birth rates as a reason to defend the state's ban, arguing that states that have legalized same-sex marriage, like Massachusetts, have low birth rates. The Utah appeal conceded, however, that those statistics "do not prove a causal link between same-sex marriage and declining birthrates, [but] they do create cause for concern."
In February, a federal judge ruled that Kentucky must recognize legal same-sex marriages performed outside of the state. Gov. Beshear, a Democrat, was forced to hire outside counsel to defend the state's ban after state Attorney General Jack Conway, a fellow Democrat, refused to defend the ban, calling it discrimination. (Earlier this year, Attorney General Eric Holder said that state attorneys general are not obligated to defend laws they believe to be discriminatory.) After the Supreme Court struck down a key section of the Defense of Marriage Act last year, state laws banning same-sex marriage began falling like dominoes. Camilla Taylor, marriage project director at Lambda Legal, which advocates on behalf of LGBT clients, says that since that decision, every judge that has considered the constitutionality of marriage bans—14 in all—has rejected procreation-related arguments.
"Kentucky already has a problem with perception throughout the country of being backward and ultra-conservative," notes Bourke, the plaintiff in the case. "Here was an opportunity for a Democratic governor to make a progressive move, and he chose to bow to political pressure instead."