April 2016

How Librarians Are Like Humanists

Lindsay Roylance Anderson, who spoke to us in March, is a librarian in the Murray Library system. She believes that Humanists and Librarians are natural allies. Librarians are interested in the same moral principles that the Humanists are and a Librarian’s job is liberal by nature.

The library provides a variety of community information, including access to multiple scientific journals, especially the peer reviewed ones which use the scientific method as platform for opinion. Relying on science-based evidence maintains our intellectual honesty.

Libraries also present challenging books to maintain intellectual freedom. For instance, And Tango Makes Three is a true story about two male penguins who put a rock in their nest in the zoo. The zookeepers saw this and placed an extra extra egg in that nest. They had an extra egg because penguins usually lay two eggs but raise one chick. The penguins hatched the egg and raised the chick. As heartwarming as the story is, it was controversial that the library had it on the shelves. And yet, the library kept it there.

Ms. Anderson, who runs the teen reading group, wants to make reading fun the way Bill Nye, the science guy, makes science fun. She wants to get children excited about reading early. Getting attached to reading when young is easier and stays with one longer.

A library, with it’s story time events, can help with early literacy skills which are:

  1. Print Motivation: Achieving a positive association with books and the written word.
  2. Print Awareness: Understanding that words on a page represent spoken language.
  3. Phonological Awareness: Ability to identify and manipulate units of oral language (like rhymes and that parts of words can be used in other words).
  4. Letter Knowledge: Recognize and know sounds.
  5. Vocabulary: Children who are read to have access to a larger number of words.
  6. Narrative Skills: Ability to tell your own story.

A Library also gives juveniles a place to go in the afternoon and evening where they can talk to an adult who likes them. Most delinquent behavior occurs between 3:00 and 7:00 PM.

At the turn of the 19th century, Anne Carroll Moore provided a place for the street children of NY to come to the library and read. Prior to this anyone under 14 years old could not come into the library.

Summer reading programs help kids maintain the1.5 levels of reading skills they can lose if they do not read over the summer break.

The Murray Library is now partnering with the Utah Food Bank to feed children at the library. Jennifer Fay started this program at the Kearns Library.

Ms. Anderson noted that there is a connection between jail and reading. 85% of all juveniles who interface with the juvenile court system are functionally illiterate. More than 60% of inmates in US prisons are functionally illiterate. Penal institution records show that only16% of inmates reoffend if they get literacy help but 70% reoffend if they don’t get help when they are functionally illiterate.

We All Need Friends. Your local library is no exception. You can help your library by:

  1. Getting a library card and using it. Ms. Anderson decides what books to buy by what is being checked out.
  2. Telling the library staff how you think the library can improve.
  3. Voting yes on library funding questions. The funding problem is ever present. If a library asks for money, that means it is desperate. The Murray Library system is particularly vulnerable as it is independent of both Salt Lake City and County funding streams.
  4. Donating books to the library.

—Lauren Florence, MD


Chapter Happenings

A small but energetic group of five Humanists of Utah gathered at Kafeneio Coffeehouse on Easter Sunday, March 27th for a lively discussion about humanist philosophy. We covered the progression of humanism as an ethical worldview from before Greek and Roman times through the current century in the West, and even dabbled in some Eastern ideas of secularism from predominantly Hindu cultures.

April Discussion Group Announcement

Please join us on Sunday, April 24th at Kafeneio Coffeehouse (258 W 3300 S) at 1:30 p.m. for our next monthly discussion group – this month’s topic will be Humanist Politics. Bring your thoughts and questions about what causes humanists care about politically and join us for a rational, reason-based dialogue about political ideologies the world over, and how humanism influences political movements.

May 12th Panel Discussion

For our Second Thursday monthly meeting in May, we’ve invited various local organizations to share perspectives on their work with and on behalf of gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and queer individuals and communities in Utah. Join us for a panel discussion and question and answer session the month before our local Salt Lake City Pride Festival, to learn how you can become more involved in the just cause of equality for all! Panel discussion will begin at 7:00 sharp in Eliot Hall at the First Unitarian Church of Salt Lake City (569 S 1300 E). Come early for the best seats, and stay afterward for refreshments and conversation!

—Elaine Stehl
elaine@humanistsofutah.org.


President’s Report

More Feds, Not Less

Of course there are areas where I think the federal government is too large or intrusive. But when it comes to federal lands, be they parks, monuments, wilderness areas, waterways, beaches, national forests or BLM lands, I say more government oversight and control not less. Plus, I think more federal money should be allocated to maintain them properly, rather than the usual inadequate funding that comes from the U.S. Congress. And while our Government hating politicians and angry citizens want to disarm BLM and other federal employees, I say the opposite. In the light of “Bundy Clan” type of armed stand-offs and armed takeovers of federal lands and facilities, I feel the U.S. government should make sure that our agencies can protect themselves and the lands in a fashion that can deter those who would take up arms and force federal employees off federal property, and threaten violence if they don’t get what they want. Plus, I hope that the penalties for these actions are heavy, which I think they are from what I have read.

As we discuss these issues of federal lands, our reaction or at least my reaction to their claims of ownership or right to use these lands free is that “THESE LANDS BELONG TO ALL AMERICANS!” To say this is becoming somewhat hackneyed, but it is the biggest truth, if you will, that they won’t face.

In the end I personally consider them traitors not patriots as they claim to be. And, I would ask them, “patriots of what?”

I am a citizen of the United States of America, not Utah or any other state. I am a resident of Utah, but without the approval of any Utah official I can change residence to any other state I choose. I am a veteran of the U.S. Air Force, not the Utah Air Force. When I served, I wasn’t just serving Utah, I was serving the entire nation. Well…enough of that.

I want to suggest we have a discussion or two or even a forum about a subject that has come up a number of times in the years I have been a member of Humanists of Utah. The subject is more or less civility. That and the words we use when, for instance, we are discussing issues with individuals with differing views, assertions, and demands. When do we compromise, confront, or even agree? I think it is always a subject worth discussing now and then.

Civil dialogue is always preferable, but we shouldn’t be afraid to say that the battle for say universal human rights is a battle, a fight against those who would deny them to certain “groups” of people. Plus, I feel that the denier of universal rights deserve the denigration they receive.

I’ve always enjoyed discussion groups and now that our HoU discussion group is back I hope you will join us.

 

—Robert Lane

President, HoU


DIS-respecting Religious Nonsense

By Susan Jacoby

(Excerpted from The Age of American Unreason)

Misguided objectivity, particularly with regard to religion, ignores the willed ignorance that is one of the defining characteristics of fundamentalism. One of the most powerful taboos in American life concerns speaking ill of anyone else’s faith – an injunction rooted in confusion over the difference between freedom of religion and granting religion immunity from the critical scrutiny applied to other social institutions. Both the Constitution and the pragmatic realities of living in a pluralistic society enjoin us to respect our fellow citizens’ right to believe whatever they want– as long as their belief, in Thomas Jefferson’s phrase, “neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg”. But many Americans have misinterpreted this sensible laissez faire principle to mean that respect must be accorded the beliefs themselves. This mindless tolerance, which places observable scientific facts, subject to proof, on the same level as unprovable supernatural fantasy, has played a major role in the resurgence of both anti-intellectualism and antirationalism. Millions of Americans are perfectly free, under the Constitution, to believe that the Lord of Hosts is coming one day to murder millions of others who do not consider him the Messiah, but the rest of the public ought to exercise its freedom to identify such beliefs as dangerous fallacies that really do pick pockets and break legs.

Reprinted from PIQUE

Newsletter of the Secular Humanist Society
of New York, April 2016