Sunday, October 22, 2017
THREE POEMS BY CARMINE GIORDANO
From out here
the earth is a
and the daily fray
lost in the
all this absence
the mind aware
wonders of itself
as a bird might
on the shell
of its egg
or a child just wet
from the womb
* * *
Sorry to inform you
the message said
of his death after
illness sorry this news
and sorry that the
memory searches for
some goodness past
the scar of hurt from him
when we might have
grieved his passing
found ourselves bereft
missing a friend not
rehearsing old noise
trying to speak of
those who die
nothing but the good
* * *
At the end of the tv
talk stops all art
all cuts all close ups
the music - stops
just the thing that
is there is there
the tree branch
the swim up stream
what we see
Hundreds of years ago, most learning happened at home. Parents taught their children or, if their families could afford it, private tutors did the job. The Puritans were the first in this country to point out the need for some kind of public education. They established schools to teach not just the essentials-reading, writing and math- but also to reinforce their core values.
After the American Revolution, Thomas Jefferson argued that the newly independent nation needed an educational system, and he suggested that tax dollars be used to fund it. His pleas were ignored, however, and the idea for a public school system languished for nearly a century.
By the 1840's, a few public schools had popped up around the country in the communities that could afford them. However, that smattering of schools wasn't good enough for education crusaders Horace Mann of Massachusetts and Henry Barnard of Connecticut. They began calling for free, compulsory school for every child in the nation.
Massachusetts passed the first compulsory school laws in 1852. New York followed the next year, and by 1918, all American children were required to attend at least elementary school.
Next came the movement to create equal schooling for all American children, no matter what their race. At the turn of the 20th century, schools in the South, and many in the North, were segregated. The 1896 Supreme Court ruling, Plessy v. Ferguson upheld the legality of segregation. Finally, in 1954, the Supreme Court overturned its ruling with the landmark case, Brown v. Board of Education, and public schools became open to people of all races.
How Public Schools Work
Public schools are operated at the state level through departments of education, and locally by school districts and publicly elected or appointed school boards. Approximately 15,000 different school districts operate in the United States, and most are run by counties. Because there is very little federal oversight, curricula in one state can differ from those in other states.
Students generally go to the public school in the district in which they live; however, with the growth of charter and magnet schools, students are now being offered more options. Public schools generally accept everyone who wants to go there, regardless of their income or skill level.
Here are a few quick statistics about public schools:
Number of children enrolled in public elementary and secondary schools (2007-08): 49.6 million
Estimated public elementary and secondary schools (2005-06): 97,000
Number of charter schools (2005): 3,519
Number of students enrolled in charter schools (2004-05): 887,000
Number of teachers employed in public elementary and secondary schools (2007-08): 3.2 million
Average expenditure per pupil (2007-08): $9,969
Who Pays for Public Schools?
Spending on elementary and secondary school students has risen dramatically throughout the past several decades. Back in 1959, schools spent only $2,101 per student. In the 2007-08 school year, by comparison, schools will have spent nearly $10,000 per student. The projected annual total spending on public elementary and secondary schools for the 2007-2008 year is $489.4 billion.
Property taxes pay for most of the cost of public schools. Although public schools get a very small percentage of their funding from donations and parent and student fundraising efforts, by far the greatest proportion of the money comes from state and local governments. The federal government contributes less than 10 percent of the cost.
Public School Challenges
Because public schools accept everyone in a given geographical area, they must contend with problems such as violence, high dropout rates, overcrowding, and even poor teacher retention. Here is a breakdown of just a few of the issues that plague public schools:
A 2002-03 study found that only about 70 percent of eligible high school seniors graduate from high school each year. This translates into about 1.2 million high school dropouts annually. Dropout rates are highest among minority students. The five states with the highest graduation rates are (source: NCHEMS Information Center): New Jersey - 91.3 percent, Utah - 85.1 percent, North Dakota - 84.7 percent, Iowa - 84.5 percent, and Nebraska - 83.8 percent.
And the five states with the lowest graduation rates are (source: NCHEMS Information Center): Nevada - 50.7 percent, South Carolina - 52.1 percent, Georgia - 54.1 percent. Florida - 55 percent, and Mississippi - 60.3 percent.
Most of the dropouts say they leave school because the work is too difficult, or too boring. Some states are considering raising the legal dropout age to attack the problem. Others are proposing to give dropouts the opportunity to complete their high school education at community colleges with their peers. Other strategies include increasing parental involvement and helping students feel more engaged and challenged while in high school.
School violence is on the rise in this country. You can get an idea of what acts of violence are being perpetrated on school grounds by looking at the Indicators of School Crime and Safety, 2004-2005 report, Here are a few statistics from the 2004-05 school year published in that report: 28 school-associated violent deaths occurred (21 homicides, 7 suicides), 863,000 thefts were reported, 583,000 violent crimes were committed (including sexual assault and aggravated assault), and 25 percent of children in grades 9-12 were offered drugs on school property
Strategies for combating school violence include instituting safety policies and emergency procedures at each school, creating an environment in which students feel comfortable reporting incidents, and establishing and enforcing clear rules of student conduct.
By 2010, there will be an estimated 2.2 million teacher vacancies in this country, and not enough people to fill them. Attracting and retaining teachers is hardest in poorer urban areas (where new teachers stick around for an average of only five years), and in subjects such as math, science and foreign languages. Low salaries, poor working conditions, and a lack of on-the-job training and support are cited as the main reasons for the high turnover rates.
In an effort to attract and retain good teachers, many school districts have started incentive programs. Some offer better pay to teachers willing to work in high-poverty areas or in hard-to-staff subjects. Others pay for performance, giving bonuses to teachers whose students show measurable academic gains. Still, others give perks such as signing bonuses, mortgage subsidies, and flexible work schedules. Some schools offer mentoring programs, which both encourage new teachers and help them meet the challenges of their new job.
No Child Left Behind
President George W. Bush
In 1983, a report entitled A Nation at Risk made waves in the educational community when it suggested that other countries were far outperforming American schools. As a result, many parents and educators demanded school reforms and greater accountability.
In 2002, President George W. Bush signed the No Child Left Behind Act, a controversial measure that was designed to increase public school accountability. It requires schools to test students in reading and math each year in order to identify poorly performing schools. Schools that fail must allow students to transfer to better performing schools. Failing schools have to make improvements by hiring new teachers and/or changing curricula, or they risk being taken over by the state.
Supporters of the Act say that it holds schools accountable for their performance, and gives parents greater choice when their schools aren’t living up to standards. Opponents say the No Child Left Behind Act forces schools to “teach to the test,” focusing primarily on the core subjects of reading and math at the expense of other areas of study.
While some kids are packing up their duffel bags and getting ready to ship off to summer camp, others are heading back to school. Many schools are moving to a year-round program, following the philosophy that the long summer break in the traditional school year gives kids too much time away from learning and puts them at an educational disadvantage.
Even though they're structured differently than nine-month schools, year-round programs don't actually give kids more time in the classroom. They run for 180 days, just like traditional school programs, only the school year is shifted. Year-round schools that are on a single-track stay open all year, but instead of having a summer break, they have several three- or four- week breaks scattered throughout the school year. Multi-track schools work on a shift basis in order to accommodate greater numbers of students. Children are assigned to different "tracks," which are staggered so that some children are on vacation while others are in school.
Currently, there are 3,000 year-round schools in the U.S., of which the majority are public schools. Proponents argue that students in year-round schools score higher academically, but opponents say the practice disrupts children's summers and costs communities extra money.
Charter and Magnet Schools
For much of the 20th century, parents really had only two choices, either send their children to the public school in their district, or pay for private school. Today, however, the growth of charter and magnet schools has increased the number of publicly funded educational opportunities available to students.
The term “charter” is believed to have come from a New England teacher named Ray Budde, who suggested in the 1970's that local school boards give teachers “charters,” with which to try different teaching approaches. In the late 1980's, the city of Philadelphia began experimenting with a charter school model inside its existing public schools.
The first charter school opened in Minnesota in 1992. That same year, California passed its own charter school law. By 2003, 40 states had charter laws on the books. In 2005, the national Charter School Program had issued almost $217 million in grants for charter schools. Today, there are more than 3,000 charter schools across the nation, serving nearly 900,000 students.
Typically, parents, community leaders, teachers, or school districts submit a proposal to create a charter school. Once the charter is approved by the local school board or state board of education, the U.S. Department of Education provides grants to pay for the school planning and implementation.
Although publicly funded, charter schools have far more autonomy than do other public schools. They can tailor their programs to the needs of the community, rather than adhering to state or national guidelines. Also, they can teach in more innovative ways than traditional public schools. Although charter schools technically accept every student within their area of coverage, they sometimes will hold a lottery if the number of interested students exceeds the available slots.
Each school outlines its mission, program, goals, students, and assessment methods in its “charter.” Most charters are granted for a period of three-to-five years. During that period, the school has to prove to the school board or board of education that it has achieved academic results. If not, the charter can be revoked. Between 1991 and 2004, about 400 charter schools were forced to close.
Magnet schools were designed to encourage racial integration by incorporating students from different communities within the same area. These schools are usually regulated to make sure they have a good balance of students from all ethnic backgrounds.
Magnet schools often focus on a particular area or skill set, such as gifted and talented, math or science. Principals are given greater control over curricula than are principals in traditional public schools. Magnet schools also can be more selective, accepting or rejecting students on the basis of academic ability and/or behavior.
Magnet schools are funded by federal and state grants, local school boards, corporate contributions, and sometimes tuition. As of 2001-2002, there were 3,100 magnet schools in the United States.
Saturday, October 21, 2017
Meaning: One who gives a gift but later takes it back
Origin: "Indian giver" derives from the alleged practice of American Indians of taking back gifts from white settlers. It is more likely that the settlers wrongly interpreted the Indians' loans to them as gifts. This term, which is certainly American, may have been coined to denigrate of the native race. Historians would now agree that, where deceit was concerned, it was the settlers who were the front runners. It is not uncommon, and it could be argued that it is customary, for the conquering race to attempt to justify their invasion by dismissing the conquered as dishonest and stupid.
The phrase is quite early in the history of the U.S.A. Thomas Hutchinson described the term as proverbial as early as 1765, in his The History of the Province of Massachusetts Bay: "An Indian gift is a proverbial expression, signifying a present for which an equivalent return is expected."
Prior to that in England the word Indian was used disparagingly to denote those English people who had spent time in India and, as such, were considered infra-dig. Eliza Haywood's, The History of Miss Betsy Thoughtless, 1751, describes such a person as "this young Indian".
Friday, October 20, 2017
The issue of religious freedom has played a significant role in the history of the United States and the remainder of North America. Europeans came to America to escape religious oppression and forced beliefs by such state-affiliated Christian churches as the Roman Catholic Church and the Church of England. That civil unrest fueled the desire of America’s forefathers to establish the organization of a country in which the separation of church and state, and the freedom to practice one’s faith without fear of persecution, was guaranteed. That guarantee was enshrined in the First Amendment to the Constitution (text) as, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof..."
The splintering of Christianity resulted in more than 900 denominations of that faith currently existing in the United States, of which the vast majority of Americans are members. The U.S. was the first western nation to be founded predominately by Protestants and not Roman Catholics. That fact alone expresses America’s willingness to experiment with the novel and a defiance of tradition. Its history includes the emergence of utopian experiments, religious fanaticism, and opening the door to such exotic religions as Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, and Taoism. Such has been the winding road of religious evolution in America.
Religion Among Native Americans
For untold generations before Europeans came to America, native peoples celebrated the bounty given to them by the Great Spirit. Across America, such Indian tribes as the Algonquians, the Iroquois, Sioux, and the Seminoles worshiped the Great Spirit, who could be found in animals as well as inanimate objects. Elaborate rituals and such dances as the Sundance, Round, Snake, Crow, Ghost and others were developed and led by such native leaders as Wodiziwob, Wovoka, Black Elk, Big Foot, Sitting Bull, and others. As white colonists drove Indians onto reservations, the fervency of their religious practices increased, even as Christian missionaries made inroads that influenced their spirituality.
Religious persecution and iron-fisted rule by state-affiliated Christianity in Europe began to loosen its hold in the 16th Century when, for the sake of debate, Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses on the door of the Castle Church in Wittenburg, Germany.
King Henry VIII founded the Church of England, owing to disagreements regarding papal authority. In later attempts to free themselves from the tie of the state governmental system imposed by the Church of England (Anglican Church), such denominations as the Reformed-Presbyterian churches and the European Free Church were formed.
Those religious parents gave birth to the next wave of Christian denominations. Reforms were brought by the Puritans to the American colonies. Such calls to “purify" the Anglican Church led to the birthing of the Baptists and Congregationalists in America. As later cries for reform and renewal took place, further splintering occurred among the Methodists, Pentecostals, Fundamentalists and Adventists, each bearing a diminished resemblance to their original parents.
The Evangelical Movement
Evangelism has played an integral part in the history of religion in America, from colonial times to the present, while its methods of dissemination have changed dramatically. Spreading the “Good News" during colonial times was accomplished through books printed by the Puritans on the press brought to Boston in 1638, or carried across the Atlantic on ships loaded with colonists. During the Great Awakening of the 1740's, white Protestant evangelists proselytized to black Americans. The Methodists were most successful, owing to their belief in a “near" rather than “distant" god, self help, liberation of sin through conversion, and their lively preaching and singing methods of worship during evangelical revivals. During the 19th century, Methodists held camp meetings in the frontier states.
Evangelism turned to elaborate crusades in the 20th century when such preachers as Billy Sunday attempted to convince nonbelievers that they should "jump ship" from their ancestral Christian denominations. Tent revivals, broadcast by radio and television, were dynamic with charismatic preachers who captured the attention of millions of people.
"Televangelists" (television preachers) of the 1950's through the late 1980's brought a personality-based form of worship to the small screen, until scandals involving Jim Bakker, Jimmy Swaggart, Pat Robertson and Oral Roberts, provoked widespread distrust of them. While they were relegated to cable TV networks, evangelistic websites slowly began to crop up on the Internet during the early 1990s. Because of the anonymous nature of that interactive communication tool, people felt more comfortable sharing their personal beliefs and faith over the Internet with a large audience, or with one unknown person. Media evangelists incorporated multimedia presentations with sound, the written word, movies and video technologies.
Major Protestant Denominations In Colonial America
Although they crossed the Atlantic to be free of a state-sponsored religion, settlers' everyday lives were extensively shaped by their religious beliefs and practices. The First Amendment to the Constitution (narrative), which is called the “Establishment Clause," states, “Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof." Also, the relationship between religion and politics was established in Article VI of the First Amendment that states, “No religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States." The definition of the separation of church and state found in the U.S. Constitution has caused more disagreement than any other in the nation’s history. To prevent a return to a centralized, overbearing government, the Bill of Rights was added to the Constitution, without which ratification by Virginia and New York would not have occurred.
To fully understand the impact of the spread of Christian denominations in America, it is important to look at them and their origins individually. Listed below is a brief summary of those denominations, beginning with a proto-denomination, the Puritans.
Puritans The Puritans came to the New England colonies to escape religious persecution. The Puritans later gave birth to the Baptists and the Congregationalists. Led by John Winthrop, 900 Puritan colonists landed in Massachusetts Bay. Managing to endure the hardships of pioneer life and accustomed to caring for each other’s needs, they prospered, and their numbers grew from 17,800 in 1640 to 106,000 in 1700. Their attempt to “purify" the Church of England and their own lives was based on the teachings of John Calvin. Using the New Testament as their model, they believed that each congregation and each person individually was responsible to God. Their belief that their destiny was predetermined, their self-imposed isolation, and religious exclusivity, would later lead to witch hunts beginning in 1688. The expulsion of Roger Williams in 1636 and Anne Hutchinson in 1638 was caused by their neighbors' fear of "evil" in their midst. The Puritans also were responsible for the first free schooling in America and established the first American college, Harvard College, in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Congregationalists Based on the Calvinist (Reformed) tradition and strictly opposed to external authorities, Congregationalists came to New England and established the Plymouth Colony in 1620. As part of the Separatist movement, Congregationalists broke from the Anglican Church and established independent congregations in which God was the absolute authority. Prone to splintering, those congregations experienced a great number of local schisms during the first Great Awakening in the 1740's. During the 1800s, membership declined as their Methodist and Baptist cousins continued to gain strength. Unitarianism developed as an offshoot of Congregationalism, initially due to disagreement over the reality of the Trinity. Over the years, their resistance to dependence and external secular and clerical authority has lessened. Many Congregationalist churches have subsequently merged with other churches from the Reformed tradition. Today their membership in the U.S. is slightly more than 120,000 members.
Methodists The tap root of Methodism was a group of Oxford University students, amongst whom were its founders, John and Charles Wesley. Begun within the Anglican Church, Methodists were not fleeing religious persecution from the Church of England when they came to the Mid-Atlantic colonies in the 1730's and ‘40's. When Francis Asbury arrived in 1771, Methodism comprised 1,160 members served by 10 preachers in Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, and Virginia. Asbury promoted circuit riding and thus increased American Methodism to 214,000 by the time of his death in 1816. Together with Philip William Otterbein, Reformed Church pastor; Methodist preacher Jacob Albright, and Martin Boehm, Asbury created the Methodist Episcopal Church in 1784, and became one of its first bishops. One of the more liberal Christian denominations, the United Methodist Church has become the second-largest Protestant denomination in America with 8.6 million members.
Lutherans In no other American Christian denomination did national origin play such an important role in its history as the Lutheran Church. Members came from Germany, Sweden, Denmark, Finland, and Norway. The Lutherans settled on the East Coast and American Midwest, and celebrated worship services in their native tongues. From their first foothold in 1619, Lutherans began to establish a sum total of 150 synods. In the late 19th century, they began to merge as the Americanization process eliminated the language barriers that had previously kept them separate. After many previous mergers, three of the larger Lutheran bodies came together in 1988 to become the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), which currently counts more than half of the Lutheran membership in the U.S. A more conservative branch is the Missouri Synod.
Presbyterians Bearing little resemblance to the liturgy, structure, and tradition associated with the Roman Catholic Church, the Presbyterian and Reformed churches share a common origin in the teachings of John Calvin and the 16th century Swiss Reformation. By definition, the Presbyterian denomination is anchored in an active, representational leadership style for both ministers and lay members. Presbyterians mostly came from England, Scotland, and Ireland. With an elected body of elders (or presbyters) that work with the congregation’s ordained minister, their belief structure and practices are centered around the Bible and “the sovereignty of God." Presbyterians make up one of the largest branches of Protestant Christianity today.
Quakers Founded in 1647 by English preacher George Fox, the Society of Friends emphasized a direct relationship with God. One’s conscience, not the Bible, was the ultimate authority on morals and actions. William Penn, whose writings about freedom of conscience (while imprisoned in England) formed the basis of religious understanding for Quakers around the world. Penn established what would later be called Pennsylvania, an American religious sanctuary in the late 17th century. He believed in religious toleration, fair trade with Native Americans, and equal rights for women. Quakers did not have a clergy or dedicated church buildings, and therefore held their meetings in which participants deliberated silently on issues and spoke up when “the Spirit moved them." Dressed in plain clothes, Quakers preferred a simple life over one enjoyed by the aristocracy of England and the burgeoning merchant class in the colonies. They also shared an abhorrence of violence.
Major Liturgical Denominations in the Colonies
The oldest Christian churches: Roman Catholicism, Anglicanism, and Eastern Orthodoxy, have left their unique stamp on the history of religion in America. Called "liturgical" for their adherence to an elaborate, set form of ritualistic worship practices, most of those churches observe seven sacraments throughout their members’ lives, whereas later Christian denominations usually celebrated only two. They practice an allegiance to certain creeds or doctrines that originated in the early centuries of the Christian church, and profess a succession of leadership from the founding of the Christian church at Pentecost.
Roman Catholicism Even though it was not the first to arrive in the colonies, Roman Catholicism ranks as the largest Christian tradition in the U.S. with 25.6 million members, or 23 percent of the population. Arriving with the Spanish in what is now Florida in 1513, and in the southwest and on the Pacific coast when Junipero Serra began to build missions in California, they received additional members when a group of colonists settled in Maryland in 1634. Roman Catholics had at one time held tightly to their cultural roots, but later joined the rest of American society. The American church has continued its allegiance to the pope, even though many of its members disagree with him on such issues as birth control, abortion, and women in the priesthood.
Anglicanism The Church of England (later the Episcopal Church in the U.S.) was first planted on American soil at the ill-fated Roanoke colony in Virginia, when their first services were held on August 13, 1687. Since that landing, they grew and experienced numerous schisms, especially in the 1970s when changes in their attitudes towards sexuality, women’s admission to the priesthood, and their Book of Common Prayer, aroused controversy. Their worship services are similar in some ways to those of Roman Catholicism, and their clergy orders are the same: bishops, priests, and deacons. They espouse an inclusive policy toward membership.
Eastern Orthodoxy. Orthodoxy in America consists of more than a dozen church bodies whose national origin is reflected by their names, such as the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese, Romanian Orthodox Episcopate of America, and the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia. Eastern Orthodox beliefs are based on holy tradition, or doctrines from early Christianity, and the Bible. The decrees of church councils and the writings of early church fathers establish the authority of church beliefs. Their clergy consist of bishops, priests, and deacons. Their worship services are the most elaborate of all Christian traditions.
The Rise and Fall of Utopian Communities
Utopian communities were established in America as places where adherents could achieve a perfect religious, political and social system. The first community was established by a group of Dutch Mennonites in 1663 near what is now Lewes, Delaware. Between 1663 and the American Revolution, approximately 20 communities were established. Some communal living arrangements were established for religious purposes, and often to withdraw from society. The great Harmonist Society, Christians who came from Germany during the late 1700's and 1800's, fled religious persecution, then flourished in Pennsylvania and Indiana. Other such utopian communities were established by the Amish and the Shakers.
Throughout its history, the U.S. has been fertile ground for such communal living arrangements, and provided an alternative to the mainstream culture, while still reflecting some of that culture’s fundamental values. By far, the most successful in U.S. history has been the Mormons, whose leader, Joseph Smith, established Mormon communities in Ohio, Missouri, and Illinois. He produced the Book of Mormon and other religious texts, established missionary work around the world, and participated in temple construction, among other things in his brief 39 years.
During the 1960's and 70's, those seeking self-fulfillment and personal growth joined utopian communities, many with Eastern religious masters. The majority of such communities provided an alternative lifestyle that exemplified some of the best attributes that America's original forefathers sought to provide. While most are benign, some utopian-styled communities, such as Branch Davidians in Waco, Texas; Charles Manson’s creation of “Helter Skelter;" and the Jim Jones ill-fated settlement in Jonestown, Guyana, inflicted a disastrous impact on its members.
Ever-Changing Tide of 20th-Century Religious Followings
As the fragmentation of Christian denominations accelerated, persons living in the 20th century experienced the ebb and flow of religious conservatism and liberalism. While technology raced to the moon and beyond, the following major events occurred during that fast-paced era: Fundamentalism gave rise to Pentecostal and Charismatic movements; the State of Israel was established; the Civil Rights movement endured trials and tribulation; the Sixties counterculture dabbled in Eastern religions and the Jesus Movement; and the New Age movements searched for personal enlightenment.
The rise of fundamentalism occurred in reaction to liberal and progressive views of Americans in the mid-19th century, biblical higher criticism, and the influx of non-Protestant immigrants at the beginning of the last century. Fundamentalists became known for their desire to emphasize a strictly literal interpretation of the Bible, and time-honored cultural patterns. Distinctive roles for men and women, parents and children, clergy and laity, were defined by readings from the Bible.
Most famously known for their stand against Charles Darwin’s theory of natural selection taught in public schools, the Fundamentalist movement also takes credit for birthing the Christian Right in Jerry Falwell’s Moral Majority, the rise of Pentecostalism and the Charismatic movements' style of worship of speaking in tongues.
Israel Attains Statehood
After centuries of persecution, the Jewish people carved out a piece of Palestine on May 14, 1948, that became home. According to historians, President Harry S. Truman offered his country’s recognition of Israel’s statehood for the sake of those who had suffered in the Nazi concentration camps, as well as the American Jewish population. Truman’s decision went against a tide of strong opposition as represented by highly respected Secretary of State George C. Marshall, who feared retaliation from Muslim Arab countries. America’s continued support of Israel has faced much criticism and support over the years, the latter notably among American evangelical churches.
Black leaders of the Civil Rights Movement
Forced to take positions of influence in their local churches during America’s Reconstruction era, the Bible Belt’s black ministers emerged before the public, beginning in the 1950s after Rosa Parks refused to sit at the back of a public transit bus. During the next 20 years, such impassioned leaders as Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X created more change in the public and private sectors than had been seen before. Congregations from African-American Southern churches swelled and created a sustained presence on the American religious scene.
Spiritual Hunger of the Sixties and Seventies
Young people of the 1960's and 1970's lived during tumultuous times, witnessing the shooting of President Kennedy, fighting the Vietnam War, and the assassinations of such civil rights leaders as Martin Luther King Jr. In their rebellion against the "establishment," those Baby Boomers and somewhat older confederates participated in the Free Speech movement, experimentation with psychedelic drugs promulgated by former Harvard professor Timothy Leary, and explored such great world religions as Hinduism, Buddhism and Islam. Communes, run by eastern religious teachers, promised personal enlightenment and an escape from the complexity of modern society. Transcendental Meditation (TM) swept through America as young and old attempted to cope with society’s changing times. Beginning in 1965, the Jesus Movement swept the nation, offering inner transformation and a sense of togetherness not found in the drug culture where some 2,000 “hippies" had sought it.
The New Age Movement
Buried in the psychic mysticism of the 1800's, the New Age movement emerged with clairvoyants and psychics giving advice on past and future lives, beginning in 1968. Having once identified with the wave of Eastern spiritual masters, New Agers began to look for answers in spirituality and the occult during the 1970's. Loosely organized in general, but also containing some highly structured groups and some authoritarian ones, the movement’s vision was one of universal transformation. The movement saw itself as part of a New Age with God as the universal bonding agent for all persons. Many different methods for a personal transformation weakened the efficacy of the movement as a whole, and by the 1980s, the movement had peaked. Hopes of imminent change in the social order faded by the 1990s. Those associated with New Age groups provided the basis for a full spiritual life with religious study and literature, learning experiences, and programs oriented towards spiritual practices and self-discipline. Scientology is the fastest-growing manifestation of the movement.
America continues to be a haven for those seeking religious freedom. Some 3,000 religious groups currently exist in the country. The residue from the New Age movement’s focus on a world view and lifestyle continue to benefit the relaxation of social divisions throughout the world in the new millennium. The fragmentation of Christian denominations has slowed, with a renewed interest in cooperation and ecumenism among many of those denominations. No longer considered a melting pot, the largely Protestant population is being exposed to the world’s “great religions" and multiple ethnic groups with Buddhist neighborhoods, Indian business owners, and Muslim colleagues. A growing antipathy toward the latter among some Americans stems from the infamous attack by terrorists on U.S. targets on September 11, 2001.
A Quote About The History of Religion In America By John Adams
We have now, it Seems a National Bible Society, to propagate King James's Bible, through all Nations. Would it not be better to apply these pious Subscriptions, to purify Christendom from the Corruptions of Christianity; than to propagate those Corruptions in Europe Asia, Africa and America! ... Conclude not from all this, that I have renounced the Christian religion, or that I agree with Dupuis in all his Sentiments. Far from it. I see in every Page, Something to recommend Christianity in its Purity and Something to discredit its Corruptions. ... The Ten Commandments and the Sermon on the Mount contain my Religion.
‑ Letter to Thomas Jefferson, November 4, 1816
Thursday, October 19, 2017
Uranus, The Blue Planet
by Charles Q. Choi
The butt of solar system jokes ("your anis"), Uranus is also a spectacular blue planet still hiding many scientific secrets.
British astronomer William Herschel discovered Uranus accidentally on March 13, 1781, with his telescope while surveying all stars down to those about 10 times dimmer than can be seen by the naked eye. One "star" seemed different, and within a year Uranus was shown to follow a planetary orbit.
Sir William Herschel
Uranus’ tilt essentially has the planet orbiting the Sun on its side, the axis of its spin is nearly pointing at the Sun.
Uranus is the seventh planet from the sun and the first to be discovered by scientists. Although Uranus is visible to the naked eye, it was long mistaken as a star because of the planet's dimness and slow orbit. The planet is also notable for its dramatic tilt, which causes its axis to point nearly directly at the sun.
Earth and Uranus
Uranus was named after the Greek sky deity Ouranos, the earliest of the lords of the heavens. It is the only planet to be named after a Greek god rather than a Roman one. Before the name was settled on, many names had been proposed for the new planet, including Hypercronius ("above Saturn"), Minerva (the Roman goddess of wisdom), and Herschel, after its discoverer. To flatter King George III of England, Herschel himself offered Georgium Sidus ("The Georgian Planet") as a name, but that idea was unpopular outside of England and George's native Hanover. German astronomer Johann Bode, who detailed Uranus' orbit, gave the planet its ultimate name. Bode argued that as Saturn was the father of Jupiter, the new planet should be named for the father of Saturn. Bode's colleague, Martin Klaproth, supported his choice and named his newly discovered element "uranium."
Perturbations in Uranus' orbit ultimately helped astronomers precisely locate Neptune in the mid-19th century.
Uranus is blue-green in color, the result of methane in its mostly hydrogen-helium atmosphere. The planet is often dubbed an ice giant, since 80 percent or more of its mass is made up of a fluid mix of water, methane, and ammonia ices.
Unlike the other planets of the solar system, Uranus is tilted so far that it essentially orbits the sun on its side, with the axis of its spin nearly pointing at the star. This unusual orientation might be due to a collision with a planet-size body, or several small bodies, soon after it was formed.
This unusual tilt gives rise to extreme seasons roughly 20 years long, meaning that for nearly a quarter of the Uranian year, equal to 84 Earth-years, the sun shines directly over each pole, leaving the other half of the planet to experience a long, dark, cold winter.
Uranus has the coldest atmosphere of any of the planets in the solar system, even though it is not the most distant from the sun. That's because Uranus has little to no internal heat to supplement the heat of the sun.
The magnetic poles of most planets are typically lined up with the axis along which it rotates, but Uranus' magnetic field is tilted, with its magnetic axis tipped over nearly 60 degrees from the planet's axis of rotation. According to Norman F. Ness, et al., in an article in the journal Science in 1986, this leads to a strangely lopsided magnetic field for Uranus, with the strength of the field at the northern hemisphere's surface being up to more than 10 times that of the strength at the southern hemisphere's surface, affecting the formation of the auroras. A 2017 study suggested the lopsided nature of Uranus' magnetic field may also lead it to flicker on and off every time the planet rotates (about every 17.24 hours).
Uranus' parameters, according to NASA:
Average distance from the sun: 1,783,939,400 miles (2,870,972,200 kilometers). By comparison: 19.191 times that of Earth
Perihelion (closest approach to the sun): 1,699,800,000 miles (2,735,560,000 km). By comparison: 18.60 times that of Earth
Aphelion (farthest distance from sun): 1,868,080,000 miles (3,006,390,000 km). By comparison: 19.76 times that of Earth
Composition and Structure
Atmospheric composition (by volume): 82.5 percent hydrogen, 15.2 percent helium, 2.3 percent methane
Magnetic field: Magnetic pole tilt compared to rotational axis: 58.6 degrees
Composition: About 80 percent of the composition of Uranus is, by mass, thought to be made up of a hot dense fluid of icy materials — water, methane and ammonia — above a small rocky core.
Internal structure: Mantle of water, ammonia and methane ices; core of iron and magnesium-silicate.
Orbit and Rotation
Axial tilt: 97.77 degrees, compared to Earth's 23.5 degrees
Seasonal cycle & length: Approximately 21 years per season
Orbital period: Approximately 84 Earth years
The extreme axial tilt Uranus experiences can give rise to unusual weather. As sunlight reaches some areas for the first time in years, it heats up the atmosphere, triggering gigantic springtime storms roughly the size of North America, according to NASA.
Ironically, when Voyager 2 first imaged Uranus in 1986 at the height of summer in its south, it saw a bland-looking sphere with only about 10 or so visible clouds, leading to it to be dubbed "the most boring planet," writes astronomer Heidi Hammel in The Ice Giant Systems of Uranus and Neptune," a chapter in "Solar System Update" (Springer, 2007). It took decades later, when advanced telescopes such as Hubble came into play and the seasons changed, to see extreme weather on Uranus, where fast-moving winds can reach speeds of up to 560 miles (900 kilometers) per hour.
In 2014, astronomers got their first glimpse at summer storms raging on Uranus. Strangely, these massive storms took place seven years after the planet reached its closest approach to the sun, and it remains a mystery why the giant storms were so late.
Other unusual weather on Uranus includes diamond rain, which is thought to fall thousands of miles below the surfaces of icy giant planets such as Uranus and Neptune. Carbon and hydrogen are thought to compress under extreme heat and pressure deep in the atmospheres of these planets to form diamonds, which are then thought to sink downward, eventually settling around the cores of those worlds.
The Rings of Uranus
The rings of Uranus were the first to be seen after Saturn's. They were a significant discovery, because it helped astronomers understand that rings are a common feature of planets, not merely a peculiarity of Saturn.
Uranus possesses two sets of rings. The inner system of rings consists mostly of narrow, dark rings, while an outer system of two more-distant rings, discovered by the Hubble Space Telescope, are brightly colored, one red, one blue. Scientists have now identified 13 known rings around Uranus.
A 2016 study suggested the rings of Uranus, Saturn and Neptune may be the remnants of Pluto-like dwarf planets that strayed too close to the giant worlds long ago.
Uranus has 27 known moons. Instead of being named after figures from Greek or Roman mythology, its first four moons were named after magical spirits in English literature, such as William Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream and Alexander Pope's The Rape of the Lock. Since then, astronomers have continued this tradition, drawing names for the moons from the works of Shakespeare or Pope.
Oberon and Titania are the largest Uranian moons, and were the first to be discovered, by Herschel in 1787. William Lassell, who was the first to see a moon orbiting Neptune, discovered the next two, Ariel and Umbriel. Then nearly a century passed before Miranda was found in 1948.
Then, Voyager 2 visited the Uranian system in 1986 and found an additional 10, all just 16 to 96 miles (26-154 km) in diameter - Juliet, Puck, Cordelia, Ophelia, Bianca, Desdemona, Portia, Rosalind, Cressida and Belinda - and each roughly made half of water ice and half of rock. Since then, astronomers using the Hubble Space Telescope and ground-based observatories have raised the total to 27 known moons, and spotting these was tricky. They are as little as 8 to 10 miles (12 to 16 km) across, blacker than asphalt, and nearly 3 billion miles (4.8 billion km) away.
Between Cordelia, Ophelia and Miranda is a swarm of eight small satellites crowded together so tightly that astronomers don't yet understand how the little moons have managed to avoid crashing into each other. Anomalies in Uranus' rings lead scientists suspect there might still be more moons, closer to Uranus than any known.
In addition to moons, Uranus may also have a collection of Trojan asteroids - objects that share the same orbit as the planet - in a special region known as a Lagrange point. The first was discovered in 2013, despite claims that the planet's Langrange point would be too unstable to host such bodies.
Research and Exploration
ASA's Voyager 2 was the first and as yet only spacecraft to visit Uranus. It discovered 10 previously unknown moons, and investigated its unusually tilted magnetic field.
In 2011, the Planetary Science Decadal Survey recommended NASA consider a mission to the icy planet. In 2017, NASA suggested a number of potential future missions to Uranus in support of the forthcoming Planetary Science Decadal Survey, including flybys, orbiters and even a spacecraft to dive into Uranus' atmosphere.
Charles Q. Choi is a contributing writer for Space.com and Live Science. He covers all things human origins and astronomy as well as physics, animals and general science topics. Charles has a Master of Arts degree from the University of Missouri-Columbia, School of Journalism and a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of South Florida. He has visited every continent on Earth, drinking rancid yak butter tea in Lhasa, snorkeling with sea lions in the Galapagos and even climbing an iceberg in Antarctica.