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.