Kari, Grant, Tori… and Mike Brown

Thursday night, I was surprised by a tweet from Mythbusters’ Kari Byron:

What did that mean? Mythbusters is a show that I watch with my boys, and we love the mix of science and fun from the show. Was the show over?

Eventually, subsequent tweets and a race through the latest episode on the DVR showed that Kari, Grant, and Tori were leaving the show, and that the show would revert to its original lineup of Adam and Jamie.

But why? Did Kari, Grant, and Tori ask for a raise that the Discovery Channel rejected? Did Adam and Jamie want to change the show? Were Kari, Grant, and Tori tired of being second-fiddle in the show and wanted to make their own show? Was it something else?

I couldn’t find an answer to this question – the involved individuals were tight-lipped as far as I could see from articles and tweets online. Of course, online commenters were speculating that the Discovery Channel was too cheap, or that Kari, Grant, and Tori were getting bored or greedy, etc. In other words, in the absence of solid information, people were making assumptions.

I’ve been seeing that a lot this week, in a case that is significantly more important than the casting changes on a science education show: the death of Michael Brown at the hands of Officer Darren Wilson.
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America’s Best Idea – for Kids

One of the United States’ great legacies for the world is our National Parks. Starting with the founding of Yellowstone National Park, in 1872, National Parks have become one of the most important ways that natural treasures and important cultural sites have been protected and preserved for us and the generations to follow us.

Our family has really enjoyed using the sites protected by the National Park Service, both on trips and locally in St. Louis. Some of these sites are very accessible to children and really tap into their senses of awe and wonder about the world. But other sites, like National Battlefields and historical sites like Presidential homes, are not so relatable for children.

Fortunately, there is a great program for children at many of these parks: the Junior Ranger program. About half of the 401 areas owned or administered by the National Park Service provide these gateways for children to interact with and understand the National Parks and the legacies they protect.
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Planes, Trains, Rental Cars, and a Cruise Ship: Our Trip to Alaska

We look a lovely long summer trip to Alaska. We flew to Anchorage and rented a car for the first week. During that leg, we saw Anchorage, Homer, Talkeetna, and lots of beauty in between. After a train ride to Seward, we spent a day there before boarding Royal Caribbean‘s Radiance of the Seas for the second leg of the trip. On the ship, we cruised for a week to Vancouver, seeing glaciers, Juneau, Icy Strait, Skagway, and Ketchikan along the way. Finally, we spent a day exploring Vancouver before heading back to the Midwest.

This trip was very similar in structure to a trip we took with my parents in 2004: both started with driving around on our own for a week followed by a week on a cruise ship. But we saw a few different towns, spent more time in Anchorage, Talkeetna, Seward, and Vancouver to see more of the cities. Most importantly, this time we took along the children and Jenny’s mom, “Oma”.
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“Doubt” by Jennifer Michael Hecht

Doubt: A History: The Great Doubters and Their Legacy of Innovation from Socrates and Jesus to Thomas Jefferson and Emily DickinsonDoubt: A History: The Great Doubters and Their Legacy of Innovation from Socrates and Jesus to Thomas Jefferson and Emily Dickinson by Jennifer Michael Hecht

This is a very interesting book that reveals how much more there is to the history of doubt and atheism than we talk about in most of our daily lives. I would recommend it for anyone who wants to have an understanding of the historical and philosophical background of what it means to be a free-thinker, a doubter, a secularist, or a skeptic.
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Little Things: On the Right Track

D waved me down. I stopped the lawnmower and walked over to my 7-year-old to see what was going on. To my surprise, he and his 5-year-old brother were in their pajamas. J was out for the evening, and I had to mow the lawn, so I left them in the house with the TV. I had figured that I was going to have to come in to wrest them away from the TV when I was done with the lawn, but here they were.

“We watched our two shows and then turned off the TV, just like Mommy told us.”

“And you got your jammies on by yourself. You should go brush your teeth, and I’ll come in when I’m done with this last part of the lawn.”

“We already did. We’re ready for bed.”

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Harry Potter and the Lessons of Consent

A few weeks ago, one of the other Grounded Parents writers posted an interesting article to the backchannel: 4 Ways Parents Teach Kids that Consent Doesn’t Matter.

Paige Lucas-Stannard points out that there are some very basic and common ways that well-meaning parents teach children that consent doesn’t matter, including continuing tickling after they ask us to stop, contradicting their feelings, and forcing them to give people hugs and kisses. I think Lucas-Stannard has some good points which largely resonated with me; I had been worried myself about the lessons I might have been inadvertently teaching my boys when I kept tickling them after they asked me to stop, and I remember disliking being required to kiss visiting family and friends before my bedtimes when I was a kid.
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They Want Invocations? Let’s Give Them Invocations!

Last week, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled in the case of Greece v Galloway that it was constitutional for a town council to begin its meetings with prayer, even if the prayer was almost always from one religion. This really wasn’t a surprise given who is on the bench, but it changes the standard from prohibiting endorsement to prohibiting coercion (a change which already prompted some groups to push the bounds by promising to give Christian-only prayers).
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Knowing vs Teaching

I know how to ride a bike. I don’t mean to brag, but really, I know how to ride a bike.

Although I’ve known how to ride a bike for years, I barely remember how my parents taught me how to ride. The only bit I remember is jumping on my new no-training-wheel bike and riding away from the store with my mother holding on to the back keeping me upright, and then finding out that my mother had let go at some point. So, I remember that first moment of riding without training wheels or an adult’s assistance, but I don’t remember the work (if any) that came before and after that point.

This doesn’t matter much for my bike-riding anymore, of course, but now D’s trying to figure out how to ride a bike without training wheels. And I don’t really know what to tell him. I know how to do it myself, but I don’t always know how to help my child learn.
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Revealing the Big Secret

The boys hadn’t really been asking about sex, but sometimes it would come up indirectly.

For example, “sexy” is a banned word at D’s school, and during his kindergarten year, he asked me what it meant. “Ummm… It means you’re so good looking that someone wants to kiss you.” My response didn’t fully answer the question, but it was close enough for his purposes, so he didn’t really ask the natural follow-up of what “sex” itself is.

There was also the time a couple years ago when I was having a really bad sneezing fit due to Spring tree pollen, and one of the boys asked me what was wrong. Perhaps my response of “Trees are trying to make babies with my face” wasn’t my best moment for enshrinement in the Parenting Hall of Fame, but then we talked a little about the sex life of plants. They didn’t really transfer it to people.

There have been a couple of times recently when D and M have both asked “What is sex?” when we weren’t in a position to give a good answer (with a group, etc.), so we had had to brush them off with “we’ll talk about it later.” And, of course, there have been a few times in which a more sophisticated and observant person would have realized that it was a bad time to have burst into Mommy and Daddy’s room…
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Stephen Fry Presents “That’s Humanism”

I love Stephen Fry. From his comedy work with Hugh Laurie to his hilarious British quiz show to his forceful debating in the service of secularism, he’s someone I very much respect.

He’s also one of the world’s leading living Humanists. But what’s a Humanist?

Fortunately, Fry and the British Humanist Association have teamed up to create a series of four short animated videos to explain what Humanism is and how is applies to our lives. They cover science and knowledge (“How do we know what is true”), death and the afterlife (“What should we think about death?”), secular ethics (“What makes something right or wrong?”), and the meaning of life (“How can I be happy?”).

These are obviously big questions that can’t be fully answered in three-minute videos, but these might be good resources for explaining Humanism to friends and family who are unfamiliar with the concepts.
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