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A Woo Fighter Swan Song

First, the swan song: three undergraduate students are on their way to The Amaz!ng Meeting 9 this year, but they need your help. They have raised about half of the amount they need to cover registration and travel expenses, but they still have nearly $1,000 to raise. Please consider purchasing a WooDoo Doll – a fun outlet for your frustrations, loosely based on the voodoo doll – or making a direct donation. Every little bit helps.

To skip the news, scroll down for more information about these students, the adorable WooDoo Dolls, and for a link to donate.

Yes, I said “swan song”.

As some readers may know, I will not be returning to teach at CSU, Northridge in the fall. I resigned from my position for several reasons, most of which I hope will become clear in the coming weeks and months as I write more about my experiences of the last decade. If you are interested, bookmark my personal blog ICBS Everywhere, which will soon be a ‘real blog’ again as I will have much more time to write.

In the meantime, there are many questions to answer about what I will do now and where this leaves the organization(s) I have started. Woo Fighters will continue in some form, but not as it is today. The mission of the organization was to motivate students to become activists for science and scientific/skeptical thinking. Since I will no longer have students – at least in the traditional sense, the focus must change.

In addition, I have become increasingly uncomfortable with the name of the organization. I like it. I like the term “woo” to describe pseudoscience and I find “Woo Fighters” catching and fun. However, many whom I respect find the term bordering on offensive. Although I often make fun of what I deem to be some of the sillier beliefs, I have always spoken out against the ridicule of believers. That distinction is lost on some.

The final ‘nail on the coffin’ for the name comes from my son, who started the first “Junior Woo Fighters” club at his middle school. The club was very successful and I hope that he continues it next year, however, they quickly settled into calling the group a “Skeptics Club” and that is the name that stuck. So, “Woo Fighters” wasn’t such a great name after all.

I will keep the site up for now, but will eventually archive the entries somewhere accessible to all. As for the organization, I need to spend more time thinking about my personal goals before I make any decisions about rolling it into another organization, but Woo Fighters will ‘die’, at least in name and at CSUN, at the end of this summer.

I feel somewhat sad at its passing, especially before it had the opportunity to gain a great deal of momentum. That said, there are several reasons to call it a success. Not only did several students discover that they are excellent writers and critical thinkers, some discovered a community of people who think like they do. At least a few will become activists or educators focused on changing the world one thinker at a time.

I am especially proud to announce that Dylan Keenberg, who attended his first TAM last year with your help, fulfilled his promise to submit a proposal for a Sunday talk this year and has earned a spot at the podium!

Among the new TAM-goers this year are three of my most capable and promising undergraduate students.

Kameron Nason (Kami) and Heather Rees served as teaching assistants for research methods courses during my last semester. Kami has her sights on a career as a therapist. She has been drawn to skepticism in the past year as she has learned more about science and has become more comfortable with uncertainty.

Heather is a self-described “scifi geek” whose plans include research in social and cognitive psychology and university teaching. She is deeply concerned with gender issues and thinks that encouraging critical thinking will reduce social inequalities.

Loretta Aguilar learned about skepticism in my applied cognition course last fall, but like most skeptics, she was once very interested in psychic phenomena and astrology. She hopes to learn more about the promotion and teaching of critical thinking and skepticism so that she can help family and friends make better choices. Loretta is currently planning a career in clinical psychology.

These three are among the brightest and most motivated students I have had the privilege to teach. They are all looking forward to meeting more like-minded people and learning more.

How you can help

To raise the money needed for registration and travel expenses, we have been very busy making WooDoo Dolls – a fun outlet for your frustrations, loosely based on the voodoo doll. The online prices include shipping, but if you are planning to attend TAM9, you may be able to pick up one directly from the students for only $5. These dolls are handmade and rough-looking, but sturdy. Choose from 5 options for hair color to personalize your doll.

If you are not interested in a doll, but would still like to help, please consider making a direct donation of any amount. Every little bit helps!






Thank you for your support and readership over the last two years! Look for me at the TAM9 workshop “Skepticism in the Classroom”. I will be making suggestions and providing resources for critical thinking education at various ages. I will also be presenting at Dragon*Con again this year in September.

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4 Responses to “A Woo Fighter Swan Song”

  • Alex Swan:

    I will donate the $40 once I get it from AS. Whenever that will be.

    I too was sad that the club didn’t gather enough traction. I hope the girls get enough money for the trip and enjoy their time.

    • Maybe if we’d started it a couple of years earlier, when you were an undergrad and I had a lot more time to devote to it, the club might be in a state today that could be maintained by another faculty sponsor. But it actually didn’t do too badly for young student club. Those are notoriously difficult to get rolling.

      Several students’ lives were changed for the better in big and small ways. And we did demonstrate that there are 20-somethings for whom skepticism is more than a social club or a reason to feel superior. We accomplished some things. That’s what matters.

      And it’s really only the CSUN club and the Woo Fighter name that will be gone.

  • Badrescher:

    Got it, Alex! You’re a doll.