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Happy New Year From The President PDF Print E-mail
Swift
Written by D.J. Grothe   

Happy New Year, and greetings from St. Louis! It is an absolute honor to be joining the JREF team, and to work with Randi, who has been a hero of mine since I was a young magician.

First, I want to report that the time I had in Ft. Lauderdale last month, spending time with Randi and the staff, excited me even more than I already was about making the move to the JREF. The place is bursting at the seams with creative ideas for how to better advance critical thinking in our society. And spending time with Randi talking tricks, like demonstrating our own versions of the Linking Rings to each other (the magical version of "Dueling Banjos"?), and talking magic history, was also very memorable. Yes, Randi is the leading skeptic spokesperson in the world today, but my time with him last month emphasized to me that he will always be first and foremost a magician. My first calling was as a magician as well, and so working with him to advance the Foundation's mission is an exciting prospect.

Second, I want to take this opportunity to outline a little about our ideas for the Foundation going forward.

1. We are going to apply the best practices of nonprofit business management to make even better use of the funds our generous donors have made available to the Foundation to carry out its important mission. We will fundraise in order to more effectively advance our important mission and to create a secure foundation for JREF's future. And we will more actively campaign to grow our member base.

2. We are redoubling our efforts at skeptical grassroots outreach, and will be presenting regional, smaller-scale events and speakers for skeptic groups and pub gatherings throughout North America in 2010, beginning early Spring. Additionally, free educational and promotional resources for skeptics groups are in development.

3. We will focus on critical thinking education for school children. Through initiatives spearheaded by JREF staff such as Bart Farkas and Jeff Wagg, as well as professional informal science educators, educational curricula for youngsters are being developed that use the exploration of pseudoscience and the paranormal to teach critical thinking and the methods of science. Robust resources for educators, called JREF in the Classroom, will be available in the months ahead, which will support a planned network of high school and junior high school teachers who will be affiliated with the JREF and work with us to advance skepticism and critical thinking in their classrooms.

4. We are going to expand our conference offerings: Not only will we continue TAM in Vegas, which has been growing steadily year after year, but we will continue to sponsor Amazing Meetings in London, a new TAM in Australia, and we have just begun planning for a TAM in Europe for 2011. Add to that The Amazing Meetings at sea on the cruise ships, and the regional events mentioned above, and you'll see our renewed commitment to reaching out to new people and to resourcing the growing grassroots skeptics movement.

5. In the coming months, The JREF Million Dollar Challenge, one of our chief means of raising awareness about the kinds of untested claims made by paranormalists and supernaturalists in our society, and also of raising consciousness about the duty of the public to be critical and skeptical of such claims, will not only continue but be revitalized. This is something I'm especially excited about, and I can't wait to announce our MDC plans in the coming weeks.

6. We will revitalize our digital outreach, both in terms of the educational resources we offer online and through other digital means, and also by using the web even more effectively to reach new publics with authoritative information about the paranormal, the pseudoscientific and the supernatural. We will expand our blog and article offerings on randi.org, in addition to expanding the publication of our email and quarterly print newsletters.

7. We will expand our line of audio and video educational products, both for personal home use, and for use in the classroom and by grassroots skeptics groups.

8. We will continue with our plans to publicly expose harmful charlatans, publishing authoritative reports on our investigations. We will work to appear in the media, vigorously challenging those who would seek to beguile an unwary public with unsupportable supernatural or paranormal claims, all for their personal gain.

9. We will work more closely with other national skeptical organizations to advance critical thinking in our society, with plans to hopefully cosponsor new activities for the JREF, such as grassroots skeptical college campus outreach, skeptical summer camps for children, and offering grassroots training in paranormal investigation by leaders in the field.

The mission of the JREF is more important today than ever, what with the resurgence of supernatural and paranormal belief in our culture, and the dire need for critical thinking and science education. And with your support, and the energy and innovation of our staff and volunteers, I don't need to be a fortune-teller to be able to confidently predict a bright future for the JREF. Again, I couldn't be more excited about the coming months and years.

Please email me at djgrothe@randi.org with any thoughts or ideas going forward. And again, Happy New Year!

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written by ConTester, January 04, 2010
Greetings, welcome, and may 2010 bring everything that is hoped for – especially an explosion of reason.

Perhaps it is worth looking intently at the reasons why people generally reject reason so readily. I have no suggestions other than that woo-woo offers “answers” that are (a) enchanting and (b) effortless in their “comprehension.”
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written by Rustylizard, January 04, 2010
Happy New Year and congratulations on your appointment, DJ. I think your experience at CFI will be very beneficial to the JREF objectives.
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What About Medicine?
written by The SkepDoc, January 04, 2010
I was disappointed that your goals didn't specifically mention the one area where a lack of science and reason have the greatest potential to harm people: medicine. I would like to see the JREF focus on quackery and pseudoscientific medical claims. Perhaps the most serious issue is the anti-vaccination movement that was addressed by the Anti-anti-vax panel at TAM7. Misinformation and false beliefs are being spread, and they are reducing herd immunity and endangering the public health of all of us. Another serious problem is quack cancer treatment, where patients are encouraged to avoid lifesaving surgery and chemotherapy. Number 8 on your list referred to charlatans, but we also need to combat pseudoscientific nonsense promoted by non-charlatans: celebrities and other well-intentioned but ignorant people, even including certain Harvard-trained MDs!
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written by DallasDad, January 04, 2010
Welcome.
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written by CasaRojo, January 04, 2010
"We are redoubling our efforts at skeptical grassroots outreach, and will be presenting regional, smaller-scale events and speakers for skeptic groups and pub gatherings throughout North America in 2010, beginning early Spring."

A little get together in Deland FL might be a good spot as the Cassadaga Spiritualist Camp is less than 10 miles from the intersection of I4 and SR44. Perhaps we could all attend one of their "Nighttime Orb Photography Tours!". smilies/grin.gif There are Sunday morning "church" services and an afternoon "message service": "This is a public message service where our students and mediums demonstrate the continuity of life." The morning service was where I experienced my first encounter with cold reading in 1982. It was an epic fail BTW.
http://www.cassadaga.org/

One of the nicest sugar sand beaches in FL is just 25 miles east of there at New Smyrna Beach. It could make for a very fun weekend!
smilies/smiley.gif
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written by icepick, January 04, 2010
Happy New Year to you, too! smilies/smiley.gif

I was very happy to see,
"We will work more closely with other national skeptical organizations to advance critical thinking in our society, with plans to hopefully cosponsor new activities for the JREF," in your message, DJ.

As someone with membership/involvement in a couple of those organizations, it seems that we could do better in the areas where geography or mission overlap. Hopefully, allowing better use of resources and broader opportunity to extend awareness at a time
when finances are challenging.

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written by The Central Scrutinizer, January 04, 2010
Great list! I also agree with what Harriet wrote about medical nonsense. Perhaps that is included implicitly.

One thing I would really like to see addresses is all the nonsense regarding "organic" food. Maybe even some TAM speakers on the subject. I've been really seeing a lot of it lately, about how it is healthier, contains more vitamins, better for the environment, etc.

Thanks and good luck! See you Friday at St Louis Skeptics in the Pub.
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Best of Luck!
written by mlanger, January 04, 2010
Just a quick good luck wish sent your way.
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Good Luck to You!
written by CW, January 04, 2010
Hi there from a new skeptic! I've made my way here a few times (shout out to SGU podcast) and look forward to purchasing some of the great skepticism materials in the coming weeks. Also, I'm glad to hear that you are planning another cruise. While TAM is not possible for me this year, I will hope that my schedule accommodates a Fantastic Cruise! I found out too late about the 'Skeptics of the Caribbean' this year, but I will be on the lookout for the next one.
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written by Kitty, January 04, 2010
Thank you so much for the focus on teachers and classroom lesson help.
it's one thing to say "we need critical thinking in the classrooms" but the materials just aren't all in one place for a teacher to find.
How about a parents guide also? when my daughters classroom was planning on including ID in their science class (this was many years ago when ID was just beginning to try to sneak in) I had to go to the Head of school and calmly explain why this wasn't science. The teachers had recieved in the mail a lesson plan on how to include ID in the classroom, and since the letter was signed by several scientists, the teachers really didn't know better. It was quickly dropped, but only because I was able to explain how it was NOT science. This was 4th grade and I would have enjoyed a guide to what to look out for in my childs education.

Oh well, this is SO exciting.
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Welcome!
written by DZiemke, January 04, 2010
I'm especially pleased to see you mention a focus on Critical Thinking skills in child education.
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Happy New Year!
written by KS_SKEPTIC, January 04, 2010
Welcome!
I'm not a psychic but I predict the JREF is going to have an AMAZING year!!!
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written by daveg703, January 05, 2010
@theequalizer
If your rant was under the sanctions of comment moderation, it would probably be replaced by a simple phrase: "Extremist Blather" to save space, yet still get your point across.
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Welcome Welcome
written by The skepTick, January 05, 2010
Welcome aboard, D.J. I've always enjoyed your Point of Inquiry podcast and I think you'll make a great spokesman/president for JREF. I hope you'll continue your activism with POI and look forward to a successful year for the JREF. I'm sure Randi is happy to have a fellow magician by his side. smilies/smiley.gif
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Official invitation
written by Smiledriver, January 05, 2010
I for one would be honored if you guys would consider TAM Calgary. We are a city of over a million and set in the middle of a land of natural wonder. I for one would be the first to welcome Randi and now D.J. to my adopted home town.
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the JREF is FINISHED, Lowly rated comment [Show]
All the best and a Happy New Year!
written by yngve, January 10, 2010
Great plans, I really look forward to future TAM's in London and Europe.
Do you by the way have any plans on representation at the European Skeptics meeting in Hungary this year?

It's also good to notice that the JREF now is focusing on kids, the "get them while they're young" strategy of the particular woo that is religion has been monopolized for too long. Good thing it can be used to promote rational thought and skepticism instead smilies/cool.gif

DJ Grothe FTW smilies/grin.gif
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Keep Up the Good Work, JREF!!
written by Arrows of Criticism, January 12, 2010
Welcome to DJ and long live critical and skeptical thinking!
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