Student Freethought Leaders Speak Out (Dec 14 show)
Posted: 14 December 2007 08:24 PM   [ Ignore ]
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Student Freethought Leaders Speak Out
December 14th, 2007
CFI supports a growing network of campus groups on about 200 campuses throughout North America and around the world. While this is a much smaller number than its “cultural competitors,” with groups like Campus Crusade for Christ having an annual operating budget of $380 million, Center for Inquiry’s campus groups are able to have an increasing impact through the dedication and vision of its student leaders.
In this conversation with D.J. Grothe, eight student leaders of CFI campus groups explore questions of mission and focus, as well as obstacles they face as they seek to advance science and secularism at the high school and college levels. They debate various strategies for outreach, and detail their successes, including events they have organized and faculty supporters they have discovered. They talk about the problem of how to present themselves to their wider learning community and how welcoming they should be of students who don’t share their worldview. They also emphasize the importance of open-ended free inquiry, and how they see their goals as continuous with the university itself.

http://www.campusfreethought.org/

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Posted: 15 December 2007 08:12 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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It’s always a pleasure to hear eloquent and thoughtful young people talk about substantive issues. Maybe it’s just the contrast to the morons I tend to meet on an average day but my impression was instantly that the participants in DJ’s discussion were all bound for greatness.
And their ideas and strategies sound well thought out and feasible, especially the approach to broaden the subject, to be inclusive, and not to bandy about their atheism too much as to not to deter folks who would otherwise be approachable.

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Posted: 17 December 2007 01:25 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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Guess which forum member you heard on that episode?

moreover - 15 December 2007 08:12 AM

It’s always a pleasure to hear eloquent and thoughtful young people talk about substantive issues. Maybe it’s just the contrast to the morons

It’s not.

I tend to meet on an average day but my impression was instantly that the participants in DJ’s discussion were all bound for greatness.

Thank you. Richard Dawkins said something like that to me.

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Posted: 17 December 2007 06:57 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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I guess the tall skinny guy with the blazing red shirt?
No, seriously, these guys and girls had ideas, determination, strategic sense, eloquence. Let’s hope they don’t end up in law school only to bail out corporate scum in later life.

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Posted: 18 December 2007 06:52 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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I enjoyed the round table discussion and hearing from a variety of voices.  I hope the leadership transition issues can be remedied. Free thought is a beneficial movement on campuses where this degree of critical thinking is still in the minority.  Would there be legal issues with alumni assisting these campus organizations?

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Posted: 18 December 2007 08:02 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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Turnover is indeed the crux for any student organization. Typically, alumni can be of help but to what extent will depend on that university’s statutes, and they can never help to provide ‘bodies on the ground’. You simply require a certain number of actual students signed up or the status is revoked.
That said, on one list here in Boulder/Denver we had an activist atheist soliciting for the creation of an atheist/humanist chapter at the University of Colorado. He offered to help financing any nascent group, provided he could identify students willing to pull something off.
Of course few people will not want to depend on a single donor to keep things running but that’s not really the case: once a group gets established, some funds will flow from the student activities budget, but providing some cash to get things going may be tremendously helpful. Spending a hundred dollars at a print shop is not something every student can do.
My take: follow this gentleman’s example. Put your money where your mouth is. Pay for a speaker to come to campus and use the event to recruit for a new campus group, as one example. If no airfare is involved, all the cheaper. Of course you can also do this through CFI on Campus
http://www.campusfreethought.org

As one participant said: it’s a lot harder on high school campuses (and a parent may not want to push is where their own kids go to school because of repercussions).

That said, there is a national organization that tries to do just that. Whether they’re particularly active or “in good standing” with our host organization I don’t know, the Secular Student Alliance http://www.secularstudents.org/node/115
They write:

We are an educational nonprofit whose purpose is to educate high school and college students around the country about the value of scientific reason and the intellectual basis of secularism in its atheistic and humanistic manifestations.

We offer students and their organizations a variety of resources, including but not limited to leadership training and support, guest speakers, discounted literature and conference tickets, and thought provoking online articles and opinions.

In general: reaching young people is key - ideally even pre-teens - with the reminder that arbitrary religions have nothing to back up their outlandish claims, and that leading an ethical life can be managed by adopting a humanist perspective based on reason and compassion.
My sense is that CFI caters mostly to retired college professors (I’m exaggerating, but not much). If we fail to reach young people strategically and in greater numbers our movement will not have much of an impact.

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Posted: 19 December 2007 06:18 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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Moreover: Thanks for your comments. I should chime in to say that while CFI has many supporters no longer in college (out of college and “graying”), by many measures the fastest growing segment of supporters are on college campuses, college-aged. Year after year, we’ve been dramatically increasing the number of events we co-sponsor, underwrite and organize a semester, and it is all we can do to keep up with interest on the campuses. In addition, our summer leadership conference has been growing by about 30% each year. When we started campus outreach over a decade ago, we didnt anticipate such support on the campuses, and it gratifies us. We easily do four times than what any other organization is able to accomplish on the campuses, and that is largely due to our support from CSI and CSH and CFI’s other component organizations, along with our growing network of off-campus “anchor points” that work with us to impact the colleges in their areas (these anchor points are the ten Centers for Inquiry in North America).

About SSA: despite the fact that it split-off from CFI years ago due to anger of a small group of well-meaning student volunteers about how best to spend CFI’s (CSH’s at the time) financial resources, among other things, many of our campus affiliates co-affiliate with SSA, and we encourage that, since these affiliates should get as much support from as many quarters as possible. And despite the fact that SSA is now the campus outreach program of another split-organization headed up by a former executive of CFI’s (I refer to the Institute for Humanist Studies, which, despite its small budget, is able to give about $120,00 in grants each year to freethought causes, including SSA), we all work together to advance our shared aims at the schools.

Its with the goals you identify in mind that we aim for the campuses. As you say, “If we fail to reach young people strategically and in greater numbers our movement will not have much of an impact.” CFI’s campus outreach is our number one priority—one of a zillion number one priorities raspberry

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Posted: 20 December 2007 04:32 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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moreover - 15 December 2007 08:12 AM

It’s always a pleasure to hear eloquent and thoughtful young people talk about substantive issues. Maybe it’s just the contrast to the morons I tend to meet on an average day but my impression was instantly that the participants in DJ’s discussion were all bound for greatness.

As someone who was at the conference with these people I couldn’t agree more.  This group of student activists (both those on the panel and all the rest) for the first time inspired a real confidence in me for the future of the movement.  These people are young, motivated and abso-freakin’-lutely brilliant. 

I, for one, am hoping to engratiate myself to as many of them as possible so that I might ride their coattails when they become rich and famous.  You’ll be hearing more from these people, I guarantee it.

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Posted: 21 December 2007 09:18 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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thanks for your response, DJ. It’s good to hear that, historical animosities aside, we’re all working with eyes on the prize.
(note: I initially had a short approach on how to argue against deities here but it fits better in the context of Paul Kurtz’ segment, which is where I moved it to).

[ Edited: 21 December 2007 10:19 PM by moreover ]
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