Fellowship of Freethought is pleased to announce the 2017 Camp Quest Texas Scholarship program! In support of our mission to promote fellowship, critical thinking and the appreciation of scientific knowledge, FoF will pay the registration fees for two campers in 2017.
If you aren’t familiar with Camp Quest, please take time to visit their website and learn about this fantastic summer camp for the children of atheists, freethinkers, secular humanists, and humanists. If you are looking for a way to support the freethinking community, Camp Quest has many rewarding opportunities for you.
Scholarship applicants should complete this form and submit a short essay by March 26th on the following topic:
Describe an occasion when you changed your mind. What made you change your mind? How were you impacted? Were others impacted by this change?
The Board of Directors will appoint a committee of non-board members to choose the winning essays. The families of the committee are not eligible to receive scholarships. The essays will be anonymous. The committee will not be given any information which could identify the author of the essay.
Because Camp Quest camperships are limited and fill up fast, campers must register early in order to secure a spot. Visit http://campquesttexas.org/ often and sign up for the mailing list to receive information about the Camp Quest registration process. Fellowship of Freethought will reimburse scholarship winners for the registration fee and pay Camp Quest directly for the remaining amount due.
The deadline to apply for the scholarship will be March 26th and the winners will be announced March 31st. If you have any questions, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Fellowship of Freethought Dallas
Being an atheist is one of the easiest things in the world to do, but becoming an atheist is fraught with challenges thanks to our society and the times we live in. Is it really worth the struggle? There can be so much more to living as an atheist than simply not believing in a god, and finding those benefits will help you answer with a resounding yes.
Join us at the Gathering and Potluck on Sunday, October 16, as Daniel Jackson shares his thoughts on how to really live life as if there is no God.
Sunday, October 16, 2016
11:00 AM to 2:00 PM
Churchill Recreation Center
6906 Churchill Way, Dallas, TX (map)
11:00 am – Coffee and Mingling
11:30 am – Program Begins
12:30 pm – Potluck Lunch
There’s a very special party happening in Dallas on November 19th and tickets are selling out fast. Don’t be left behind!
GET YOUR TICKETS NOW at https://fofdallas.org/300live/
The Fellowship of Freethought Dallas has partnered with host Seth Andrews to celebrate episode #300 of The Thinking Atheist radio podcast with a one-day conference and a “live audience” broadcast at the DoubleTree by Hilton Dallas-Richardson. This is an event you don’t want to miss! Joining Seth for the live broadcast as well as their own presentations and performances are:
- David Smalley: host of Dogma Debate
- Sarah Haider: co-founder of Ex-Muslims of North America
- Aron Ra: President of Atheist Alliance of America
- Matt Dillahunty: host of The Atheist Experience & Atheist Debates (Matt’s doing a skepticism-themed “magic” show!)
- Shelley Segal: a popular atheist recording artist and performer
This is a fantastic opportunity to meet and support Atheist activists, but it doesn’t stop there. Bring canned food to donate to the North Texas Food Bank and let’s do some good this holiday season for goodness sake.
LIMITED SEATING. GET YOUR TICKETS NOW. https://fofdallas.org/300live/
Fellowship of Freethought is a proud sponsor of Camp Quest Texas. We have a long history of fundraising for supplies and camperships, and our tradition continues as we bring you an exclusive peek at the programming for Camp Quest Texas 2016!
Our gathering on March 20th will focus on the purpose, goals, and vision for Camp Quest and what they offer to secular children and their parents. We will have information for potential volunteers as well as fundraising to help send even more campers this year than last! Please remember to RSVP on Meetup for adult as well as children’s programming.
Remember, however, that Camp Quest Registration OPENS MARCH 1st and fills up quickly!
For general information on Camp Quest, as well as volunteer and scholarship opportunities, you can also visit the national Camp Quest Website.
Camp Quest is a place for fun, friends, and freethought for kids ages 8-17. Our camps provide a traditional sleepaway summer camp experience with a wide range of activities including sports, crafts, games, swimming, and campfires. In addition to our traditional summer camp activities, Camp Quest offers educational activities focused on critical thinking, ethics, scientific inquiry, philosophy, and comparative religion.
Camp Quest is open to all children and teenagers within the age range, but it is particularly geared towards building a community for children from atheist, agnostic, humanist and other freethinking families. Our goal is to provide a place where children can explore their developing worldviews, ask questions, and make friends in an environment that is supportive of critical thinking and skepticism.
AN UPDATE ON CQTX CAMPERSHIP: In working with Camp Quest Texas, we’ve been able to extend the application period for FoF camperships to March 26th. In addition, we will be able to provide additional camperships as well! So, If you’ve already registered for camp, why not fill out an application?
To apply for a campership, complete the application form atwww.fofdallas.org, and return via email to email@example.com. To be eligible, campers’ families must be FoF members, meet all Camp Quest Texas participation requirements, and be registered with CQTX. Please complete one application form for each camper being considered.
The new deadline to submit applications is March 26th, and awarded campers will be notified by March 31st. Don’t forget, your campers must be registered with Camp Quest Texas and have paid the $100 registration fee. FoF will pay all remaining fees for the awarded campers.
See you at Camp Quest Texas!
For more details on Camp Quest Texas, visit the CQTX website:http://campquesttexas.org
The day was destined to be awful, as any day is that begins at 1:40 in the morning. My son was having a tonic clonic seizure. His eyes rolled back into his head and his tiny body jerked spasmodically as I tried not to scream and cry. The 911 operator on the other end of the line with my husband informs us that we can’t hold him, because it could cause injury, and that the paramedics are on their way. By the time they arrive, he is asleep in what is referred to as “postictal rest”. He is okay, breathing and they recommend that we just take him in to the doctor tomorrow. We try and fail to return to sleep, our bodies tense with adrenaline and fresh nightmare fuel.
When morning finally rolled around, we discuss groggily our plans for the day, and a friend had offered us some free passes to a monster truck show. Bob has no interest, bordering on negative interest, in going, so he encourages me to just cancel and stay home with the baby. I explain to him that if I don’t go, I’m just going to stay home and worry about Eli, but that if I can get out, maybe I won’t be so obsessed with how he’s doing. I invite my friend and her daughter, and we decide to have a night out, since it’s free. I trust Bob to take Eli to the hospital if he has another episode.
We got passes from my friend, but I needed to pick them up across town. My fellow Dallas Metroplexians will note that “across town” generally means “pack a lunch and gas up, you’ll be out all day”. So I tried to leave early, but as I was getting dressed, I noticed that with all of his drama this morning, Eli hadn’t eaten, and the front of my shirt was soaked. For people who haven’t ever been around a nursing mother, basically your boobs don’t stop working, and if the baby isn’t eating, they get swollen, sore, and start leaking. I had to use my pump so I didn’t end up looking like a wet cow, and finally got on the road almost an hour after I had planned to.
The traffic was horrible, and when I say that, I mean “backed up 5 miles on 635” levels of horrible. After fighting through the sea of cars, I exit the toll road near my friend’s house, and find that the toll exit ramp has been closed. They aren’t letting any cars through, but there’s nowhere to turn around. I end up sitting there for 10 minutes, and my gas light comes on. “No problem” I think, “I have AAA and $18 in my wallet. We’re good.” Finally I arrive and pick up my friend and her daughter.
We drive to the venue (Arlington Stadium, home of the Cowboys), and begin looking for a place to park. I realize we are probably going to have to pay for parking, which I figure will eat up some of the $18. Then we see our first parking sign… “$30 Cash or Credit / No In-Out”. My stomach sinks as we circle in an ever widening spiral, looking for cheaper parking. We finally come across some, almost a mile away from the venue, and it’s $25, and empty. I pull in to turn around, convinced we will have to go home. I swallow my pride and explain our situation: We have 2 excited 4 year olds in the back seat, we got these free tickets, but we can’t afford to park. We manage to get a parking spot and begin the long walk to the stadium, which has a no bags or purses policy. Angela and I dig through our bags and put everything we absolutely need into our pockets and head out.
Well, everything we needed except the tickets. Those, I left in the Jeep, which I realized when we were a
little over halfway in our trek. I run back to get the tickets, hot and exasperated, and so close to just calling it quits. The four of us make our way into the stadium and find our entrance to the pit party, which is a chance to go down to the floor of the stadium and see the monster trucks up close. For anyone who has never been down to the club part of the stadium, it involves a ramp similar to what you would see in a parking garage, that doubles back on itself 12 times. It’s a lot of walking, and we finally reach the floor of the stadium, it’s huge and dirty and filled with alarmingly large trucks. The crowd down at the pit is thick, stifling, and loud. My daughter Lena adjusts fairly well, but Angela’s daughter Luka is having a harder time. She begins to cry, at first just seeming overwhelmed, but then honestly distressed and it becomes evident that we need to make our way up to our seats.
Our seats are on the 400 level mezzanine, which is oft referred to as the “nosebleed” seats. When Angela realizes this, she admits to a paralyzing fear of heights and she is concerned that she might be unable to get to our seats. I do my best to reassure her and we finally manage to get up a series of stairs to our seats, which are indeed high and steep enough to give even my solid constitution a bit of vertigo.
The show begins in an hour. Angela and I do our best to entertain the girls in the meantime, which is difficult with two very active four year olds. After the long wait, the show begins with a bang. Literally, without preamble, there are fireworks that resonate throughout the huge stadium. Impressive, and incredibly loud, they scare the pants off of our children, who immediately cover their ears and cower as the trucks roar into the stadium. Luka again begins to show signs of distress and Angela and I give each other worried looks as we contemplate how long before we have to abandon the idea and head home.
We manage to stay through the show and make our way down the long mass of people to try to find our parking lot again. We get some bad advice from a parking attendant and end up walking more than a mile in the opposite direction, before a confused looking police officer asked us where we were headed. When told that we were looking for Blue Lot 15, he shook his head and said “You’re definitely going the very wrong way, you need to turn around and go to the other side of the stadium”. Thanks to Angela’s good memory and sense of direction, we finally find the Jeep again, get the girls packed in and ready to go. Our plan for the rest of the evening was simple… get the girls fed and get them home. At this point it was around 10pm, and at least 2 hours past their latest possible bedtime, so we decided that Steak and Shake would be a great place to go. Cheap, quick, and with free kids meals on weekends, it would be the most affordable and convenient.
We arrive at Steak and Shake to find that approximately 1,395 people had the same idea. We are told the wait would be at least 30 minutes, but we agree to wait it out and finally get seated. Our waitress doesn’t take our order for another 20 minutes, and then when she takes our order, she forgets to enter it into the computer system, and at a little after midnight, we finally get our food. Exhausted, and ready for bed, we strap the girls into their carseats and head home.
It sounds like the worst day out ever. Every little thing that could have gone wrong seems to have done so. Except that it didn’t. There’s another part to this story, and I want to tell it all.
My amazing friend Amanda got us tickets to see Monster Jam, which I have wanted to see since I was
little. She had multiple tickets and so I contacted my friend Angela to see if her daughter might like to join us, and if maybe she’d like to come. Angela was thrilled, and told me that she’s wanted to see Monster Jam since she was a little girl and had never had an opportunity. I made arrangements to pick up her and her daughter, and we decided to make it a mommy and me girls night out.. with monster trucks! Without Amanda’s amazing act of kindness we would never have had this opportunity.
Earlier in the day, after Eli’s seizure, I was shaken and worried and I realized that if I allowed myself to stay at home all weekend I would go crazy with worry. I desperately needed to get out of the house or I would become a complete shut in for days, even weeks. I asked my husband if he would be willing to stay home and watch Eli, with the understanding that if anything went wrong he was to take our son immediately to the hospital and call me. Without my husband’s loyalty as a father and understanding as a spouse, I surely would have canceled the entire trip and stayed home.
After looking for parking for a long time, we pulled into the cheapest lot we could find and explained our situation, and a lovely young woman holding her son heard our story and stepped forward and said she’d pay for our parking. We were overwhelmed with gratitude and I gave her some free movie passes I had in my purse from work in return. If we hadn’t been in the right place at the right time with the right people, we would have had to turn around right then and go home. This lady with her gesture of kindness and generosity made our entire evening possible.
When I left my tickets in the Jeep, I had to turn around and run back to get them, leaving Angela with my daughter and hers to keep walking to the stadium, so the little ones didn’t have to make the trip twice. After arriving back at the Jeep winded and frustrated, one of the parking supervisors offered to call over a transport cart to get me back to the girls. The large golf cart arrived, and sped me back to where Angela and the girls were, and the driver told them to hop on, and that he’d give us a ride the rest of the way to the stadium. All of us, already exhausted, whooped with glee as our cart sped past the car and foot traffic and dropped us off right at the gate. Without this driver’s amazing act of kindness, our event might have started on a sour note.
We got to take pictures with the star of the show, Grave Digger, the 30 year legacy Monster Truck of all Monster Trucks, and the girls were very excited. We made it down to the pit party and got to see the trucks up close. Angela’s daughter Luka became visibly shaken at the size of the crowd and the trucks, and my daughter Lena told her that they should collect rocks and play. The two of them ended up in a quiet corner of the pit party playing with a cornhole game until we got the notice we had to leave. We took a few pictures of the girls with the big trucks, and without Lena and Luka’s amazing friendship, we might have decided to go home at that point.
The girls both needed to use the restroom, so on our way out, we saw an open restroom sign which happened to be the Dallas Cowboys’ locker room. We got to go in and see where the NFL football players keep their stuff and took selfies in the locker room and laughed that our butts were sitting on the same toilets as professional football players’ butts.
Up in our seats, finally, we noted that our tickets were square in the middle of the stadium, so our view was perfect. Our seats were so high up we were able to see everything, not one inch of the stadium was out of our view. The largest jumbotron in the world helped keep our daughters entertained as they interviewed the drivers and helped us pick which truck we wanted to cheer for, and explained the scoring system. Angela noted that if they had used a similar scoring system for the Triwizard tournament in Harry Potter the whole Goblet of Fire would have gone very differently. She gets so excited about being at the show that she actually tears up a bit after the fireworks following the national anthem.
The show is spectacular, the drivers are amazing and Angela is so anxious to see a truck do a flip that when El Toro Loco comes out and nears the flip ramp, we both tense up and jump out of our seats. He does the flip, lands it, and drives to the center where he does donuts until he flips over and breaks both gigantic horns off of his truck, and then proceeds to take one and give it to a kid in the audience. We cheer for our favorite trucks as they make their way through the finals, boo at the judges who make some questionable calls. Lena goes absolutely crazy when the speakers begin to blare “We Will Rock You” by Queen, which is currently her favorite song in the world. The girls are hungry and exhausted but having a great time.
Despite the long walk back to the Jeep, the air is crisp and windy and not quite cold enough to be unpleasant once we have walked for a while. Angela let’s out a whoop signaling that she has finished her 10,000 steps on her fitbit since we left her house, and we finally make it back to the parking lot.
We made our way to Steak and Shake, where the hostess announced to the long waiting line that there would be at least a 30 minute wait for a table. Immediately, the people in line gave up the wait and said they would go someplace else, leaving only our party and one other, and we were seated for almost 30 minutes before the waitress came by our table. In the meantime, a couple was sitting opposite us and the lady was glaring at us with a huge scowl on her face. It took a few minutes to realize that when we had been seated, Lena and Luka wanted to sit together in one half of the booth, leaving Angela and I to sit together. I was wearing a rainbow shirt and Angela is rocking her freshly dyed pink rockabilly hair. I leaned over and whispered to Angela “I think she thinks we’re gay.” We proceed to laugh and make faces at her (and each other) while we keep the children entertained as best we could.
The waitress comes out and apologizes profusely that she forgot to put our order in to the system, but that she’ll get us some milkshakes while we wait, on the house. We order a couple of milkshakes and share (much to the dismay of our scowling bigot neighbor). Our burgers were delicious and when we go to the counter to pay, the manager discounts our meal so we end up paying $6 to feed all four of us. It’s well after midnight when we get home with the kids and carry their sleeping forms to their beds and tuck in ourselves.
Our night was amazing, and wonderful. We had a great time and I’d like to thank all of the people that made our night something spectacular.
Both of these stories are true. The same night happened to us all and we had several moments that could have made the evening a nightmare. I shared the insane dichotomous evening with my favorite people and made a memory with my daughter and her best friend that will last a lifetime. She won’t remember running late, or almost running out of gas, or searching for parking. She’ll remember riding on a golf cart, the big bull monster truck, and singing “We will rock you” at the top of her lungs with her best friend.
How we choose to face adversity makes our memories positive or negative ones. We can’t allow setbacks to overshadow the amazing things that others can do for us, and how circumstances can come together to make something wonderful. Acknowledge that every event and action put us in a position to meet wonderful people and give us opportunities to show kindness, generosity, and friendship to others. Go out, and through the negatives, make your story a beautiful one with the people you love.
The start of the school year always begins with some dress code craziness. Stories are lighting up my Facebook feed about elementary students violating zero tolerance rules against “violent figures” by bringing a Wonder Woman lunchbox to school, and students wearing leggings and large t-shirts being sent home to change. This year, a close friend had her 15-year-old son pulled out of class to shave his sideburns in the nurse’s office before he could go back to class.
Today it happened to me. I have been a teacher for 8 years, and this is my first year of substitute teaching. When I “retired” at the end of last year, I decided to celebrate my newfound freedom as a stay at home mom and get my hair dyed for my birthday. My friend designed and dyed my hair with a beautiful blend of teal, blue, and emerald-green. The results were really amazing and I was so proud of my hair. It was shocking at first but over time I got used to it and it just became a part of my identity.
Fast forward to the beginning of the school year. I attended substitute teacher training, being careful to wear a headscarf to cover my offensive locks, but it kept slipping and was far more distracting to me to keep it on and make sure that I didn’t look like an idiot. I was so self-conscious that I was barely able to focus on the training and during the lunch break I was so happy to rip the sweaty, itchy, uncomfortable headband off and give my head a chance to breathe.
On the first day I got called in to substitute, one of my teacher friends was going to be out for surgery and she called me in and asked me to go over the scientific method. I had a great idea on how to use my headscarf as a mystery problem (I normally use a mystery box with something like a feather duster in it). To learn the tools of observational science, students were asked to gather as much data as possible to solve the problem of “Why is Mrs. Carr wearing a headscarf?” Students came up with a stunning array of possibilities: maybe I had alopecia, or cancer, or a terrible head wound. They asked if I had been treated for head lice, or had dandruff, or had changed my religion, or maybe I was Voldemort. They thought I had become fashion conscious and offered feedback on how I had the scarf tied. Two of the classes had more than 20 possible reasons I was wearing it. Their curiosity was intense and they were excited to know and inquire about it. My hypothesis is this, if I had come into the same class with my blue hair, would my students have had that many questions about it? The headscarf was a mystery, hiding something that they wondered about, and obviously put thought into, which can be nothing but distracting. If they had come into the room and seen my blue hair, would that have been as distracting, or would the response have been “Oh, blue hair, cool.” Or “Crazy hair, I hate it” and then gone about their lesson?
Last week I was having a very severe migraine headache before school and I took off my scarf while I made copies and when I got back to my classroom an administrator was waiting for me. I was told that I needed to “fix the problem” and that I had to cover it, get rid of it, or go home. My hair was very professionally styled into a tight french braid bun and it was far from the messy and lazy ponytails that I tended to sport when teaching full-time. I was left embarrassed, frustrated and angry that my chosen style was so awful that they would rather have a class without a teacher than a teacher with my hair. I can only imagine that students feel similarly, that we believe their style is so bad that it trumps the importance of their education and that we are justified in interrupting their education to deal with it. Are our dress codes so important, or our education so unimportant, that this should ever be the case?
The list of rules for students (and even more so for teachers) is immense. The student handbook for my campus alone is 42 pages long. I will not challenge that many of those rules are in place for a reason, either to make the school day run more smoothly, or to ensure the students’ safety. The presence of these important rules highlights the flaw in having draconian, unnecessary, or sexist dress codes. If students don’t see the value in these rules, then they are more likely to ignore or fight against the rules that are in place for a clear reason.
Despite copious research, I could find no scientific studies to support that any hair color has any negative
impact on student learning, behavior, or memory retention. Likewise there were no studies to support sleeveless shirt restrictions or facial hair restrictions. Without clear data to support these rules, can we continue to alienate our students without a reason? Having rules that serve no demonstrable purpose undermines the rules that really matter and damages our relationship with students in the process.
If short skirts really caused young men to go insane with hormones, is it not hypocritical for schools to allow their cheerleaders to walk around in skirts far shorter than dress code generally allows?
As adults creating school policies, we need to be able to distinguish between policies put in place for clear, evidence based reasons, and policies put in place for outdated, personal aesthetic reasons. Our personal dislike of a style or fashion choice should not be reason enough to see it banned from the campuses. In speaking with other teachers, I heard some of them say that “slutty clothes should definitely be banned”. I’m shocked by the inherent sexualization of our teens and their clothing choices.
Our children, especially our teens, are in a very vital and vulnerable step in their journey to adulthood. Their freedom of self-expression should be an important key to development of their identity, and instead of reaching out and allowing it, we are hell-bent on giving them reasons not to listen to us. We are taking students out of class and labeling them as troublemakers for the length of their sideburns and the width of their shoulder straps. We are wasting the precious time and resources of our teachers and administrators enforcing hair dye and skirt inches.
“We are teaching our children to become responsible adults”, comes the cry of the dress code police. Responsibility is about more than having a boring hair color and shopping for less fashionable clothes. If I cannot teach a class and keep their attention, if my hair color is so distracting that my students cannot learn, then my hair color is not the problem, my teaching is.
We cannot afford to take our focus off of the purpose we have as educators. That purpose is not to burden the students with restrictions, but to encourage personal growth, both academically and psychologically. It is too damaging to our cause to draw what appear to be arbitrary distinctions about what is fashionably acceptable. It creates a divide between the “enforcers” and the “troublemakers” that is unnecessary.
We are always looking for more ways to communicate effectively with our students. We are looking for ways to connect, to be part of their conversation, to open up dialogue with them about things. In order to do that we need to listen to them. Ask any reasonable group of high school students if there are problems with the dress code and what they think they are, and you will get an earful. This feedback is not coming from the troubled teens who want to be disruptive, it is coming from respectable young people who are polite and brilliant.
I am not advocating the abolition of the dress code, but rather that we revisit existing dress codes and consider critically what is actually harming the school or the learning environment. Work to identify what the real distractions are in the classroom, and talk to the teachers and students to get feedback on what to do about them. Allow a team or committee to review and research the current rules and reasons why they are in place.
In the end, what we teach our children is so much more important than what we teach them to wear. Respect for diversity and treating all people with dignity, not judging people for their appearance: these things are easier to teach when people are allowed to look different. If we want to be on the cutting edge of new discoveries in education, let us be the exemplar. Let us allow our children to speak and be heard, and be unique and be seen.
- Sikivu Hutchinson and Secular Diversity
- FoF’s 5 Year Anniversary with a note by Zachary Moore and Alix Jules
- “Building A Cultural Foundation For Atheism” (Guest column by Lydia Allan of Dogma Debate)
- February Gathering preview
- Support and Volunteer Opportunities
- Upcoming Events
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