Archive for the ‘education’ Category
Posted by mattusmaximus on April 7, 2013
Recently I made a blog post about the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) which will likely be adopted by most states in the United States over the next few years, and how these standards placed heavy emphasis on both evolution and climate change. To drive this point home further, the National Center for Science Education’s Mark McCaffrey was recently on NPR discussing just how widespread and sweeping will be these changes…
National Public Radio highlighted climate change education in a segment of its Morning Edition show broadcast on March 27, 2013, featuring NCSE’s Mark McCaffrey. “By the time today’s K-12 students grow up, the challenges posed by climate change are expected to be severe and sweeping,” the segment began. “Now, for the first time, new nationwide science standards due out this month [i.e., the Next Generation Science Standards, now expected in April 2013] will recommend that U.S. public school students learn about this climatic shift taking place.”
McCaffrey told NPR, “the state of climate change education in the U.S. is abysmal,” citing survey data indicating that only one in five students “feel like they’ve got a good handle on climate change from what they’ve learned in school” and that two in three students feel that they’re not learning much about it at all in their schools. NCSE’s recent report “Toward a Climate & Energy Literate Society” (PDF) was cited as offering recommendations for improving climate and energy literacy in the United States over the course of the next decade.
The politicization of climate change education is a barrier, however. Besides the spate of legislation, such as the bills considered in Arizona, Colorado, and Kansas in 2013, NPR observed, “educators say the politicization of climate change has led many teachers to avoid the topic altogether. Or, they say some do teach it as a controversy … The end result for students? Confusion.” And the NGSS may provoke a backlash from climate change deniers: a representative of the Heartland Institute indicated that his organization was prepared to be critical of their treatment of climate science.
Heidi Schweingruber of the National Research Council, which developed the framework on which the NGSS are based, said, “There was never a debate about whether climate change would be in there,” adding, “It is a fundamental part of science, and so that’s what our work is based on, the scientific consensus.” She emphasized that climate change presents pedagogical challenges: teachers need to avoid (in NPR’s words) “freaking kids out”. McCaffrey concurred, adding that teachers will need not only training on the science but also preparation to deal with the pressure that comes with teaching it.
Posted in education, global warming denial, science funding, scientific method | Tagged: climate change, content, denial, deniers, education, evolution, global warming, Mark McCaffrey, national, National Center for Science Education, National Public Radio, NCSE, Next Generation Science Standards, NGSS, NPR, public, review, schools, science, standards, teachers, teaching, United States | 2 Comments »
Posted by mattusmaximus on March 27, 2013
Some time ago I posted about the Next Generation Science Standards (in the United States) and how important it is for teachers and those who support science and education to speak up about the NGSS. Since then I have been fortunate enough to get more involved with this process, learn more about NGSS, and think ahead about its implementation.
First of all, let me note that I got all this information first-hand from Dr. Carol Baker, who is a member of the writing team for the NGSS and who also gave me and my colleagues an excellent presentation on the topic. Some facts I think are important for everyone to know about the NGSS:
*It is not a federal mandate. The NGSS is funded by private organizations – most especially by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching - and it is a collaborative effort between these private sources and a number of states in the U.S. States may choose to accept the NGSS or not, but it should be noted that if they do accept them it will cost the states nothing. Essentially, they get the standards for free!
*Right from the outset, the people organizing and drafting the NGSS wanted to get “buy in” from the states, so they invited every state in the country to send representatives to serve on the writing team for the standards. 26 states (called Lead States) sent representatives and have been directly involved in drafting thse standards as a result. Here is some more information about these states (highlighted in blue below)
So you can see that these states have a broad demographic representation, are bipartisan in breadth, and they also account for over 58% of public school students, and most require three years of science for high school graduation.
*As the NGSS were drafted, the writing team sought feedback from educators in the Lead States, and after the second round of such revisions almost 95% of the original draft has been reworked based upon this feedback. So this is definitely a bottom-up process!
Now, I’d like to mention something very interesting about that last point: it ends up that one of the states which gave the most feedback was Kentucky (which was actually 3rd – beat out only by California and New York). And it appears the vast majority of the feedback from Kentucky educators was in support of emphasizing evolution within the NGSS.
In fact, Dr. Baker (and I agree) seems to think that this is, in effect, a reaction to the Creation Museum residing in Kentucky and the subsequent trouble it makes for science teachers in that state. It also appears that many teachers from many other states are likewise fed up with the political tactics employed by creationists and global warming deniers in their attempts to dumb down the teaching of evolution, climate science, etc.
Bottom line: Teachers are getting tired of this nonsense, and the NGSS is giving them a way to fight back in a very broad manner. The NGSS emphasizes, unflinchingly and unapologetically, evolutionary and climate change science; the states that choose to adopt the NGSS will have the most up-to-date science standards that show creationism and global warming denial to be the pseudosciences that they are. And they will be held to those standards. Good, it’s about damn time!
I would like to close by sharing Dr. Baker’s response when questioned on this topic about the fight this could create. She said, ”Bring it on!”
Posted in creationism, education, global warming denial, science funding, scientific method | Tagged: Carnegie Foundation, climate change, content, Creation Museum, creationism, denial, deniers, Dr. Carol Baker, education, evolution, global warming, Kentucky, lead states, national, National Center for Science Education, NCSE, Next Generation Science Standards, NGSS, pseudoscience, public, review, schools, science, standards, teachers, teaching, United States, YEC, Young Earth Creationism | 5 Comments »
Posted by mattusmaximus on March 15, 2013
Tonight I stumbled across an excellent blog post from the Skeptical Raptor on the most recent spate of anti-science bills (i.e., anti-evolution, anti-climate science, etc) that have cropped up all over state legislatures in the United States so far in 2013. Rather than rehash what is an already well-researched and written post, I shall simply reblog it below:
It’s a new year for the individual US state legislatures, and after a relatively unsuccessful 2012 in passing anti-science laws (with the notable exception of Tennessee’s Monkey Bill), the conservative Republicans are back trying to remove real science teaching from our kids. The anti-science legislation comes in the form of either teaching creationism (or more subtle forms, like intelligent design), usually combined with climate change denialism, and, strangely, anti-human cloning (which is not exactly a serious line of research today). But the goal is, and will probably always be, to teach creationism.
Creationism refers to the belief that the universe and everything in it were specially created by a god through magic, rather than natural, scientifically explained, means. Creationism implicitly relies on the claim that there is a “purpose” to all creation known only to the creator. In other words, creationism is a religious belief, and no matter what argument is made (and I could write 50,000 words on the topic), creationism is not science because it relies upon a supernatural being, which means it can never be falsified, one of the basic principles of the scientific method. The supporters of creationism attempt to claim that creationism is a scientific theory on the level of evolution, ignoring the fact that a scientific theory is ”a well-substantiated explanation of some aspect of the natural world, based on a body of facts that have been repeatedly confirmed through observation and experiment.” Creationism is generally based on a fictional book.
The Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, specifically prohibits any government entity from establishing a religion (which courts have ruled to include teaching religion in schools). Decades worth of Supreme Court rulings have found that teaching creationism in schools is equivalent to teaching religion. As recently as 2005, in Kitzmiller v Dover Area School District, a Federal Court continued the tradition of considering creationism as religion, and ruled against a school district, costing the Dover Area School District nearly $1 million in legal fees. That money probably could have been used to teach their students better science.
Despite these legal rulings, eight states have introduced antievolution or anti-science bills since the beginning of the year…
Click here to read the rest of Skeptical Raptor’s post
Posted in creationism, education, politics | Tagged: academic freedom, anti science, anti-evolution, Bible, Christ, Christianity, creationism, creationist, denial, denialism, Discovery Institute, evolution, fundamentalism, fundamentalist, God, ID, intelligent design, Jesus, legislation, politics, pseudoscience, science, Skeptical Raptor, states, teach all views, teach the controversy, truth, truth in education, YEC, Young Earth Creationism | 1 Comment »
Posted by mattusmaximus on March 14, 2013
In a bit of unexpected good news, I ran across this recent article from The Atlantic magazine which outlines a new trend within the circles of evangelical Christian homeschooling. If you know anything about the United States homeschooling movement, you know that it tends to be dominated by evangelical or fundamentalist Christians who eschew evolutionary science in favor of teaching some varient of psuedoscientific creationism. However, it seems that this unfortunate trend could be under challenge from a new generation of evangelical homeschoolers who are, quite frankly, tired of all the science-bashing from their fundamentalist brethren. Read on
For homeschooling parents who want to teach their children that the earth is only a few thousand years old, the theory of evolution is a lie, and dinosaurs coexisted with humans, there is no shortage of materials. Kids can start with the Answers in Genesis curriculum, which features books such as Dinosaurs of Eden, written by Creation Museum founder Ken Ham. As the publisher’s description states, “This exciting book for the entire family uses the Bible as a ‘time machine’ to journey through the events of the past and future.”
It’s no secret that the majority of homeschooled children in America belong to evangelical Christian families. What’s less known is that a growing number of their parents are dismayed by these textbooks.
Take Erinn Cameron Warton, an evangelical Christian who homeschools her children. Warton, a scientist, says she was horrified when she opened a homeschool science textbook and found a picture of Adam and Eve putting a saddle on a dinosaur. “I nearly choked,” says the mother of three. “When researching homeschooling curricula, I found that the majority of Christian homeschool textbooks are written from this ridiculous perspective. Once I saw this, I vowed never to use them.” Instead, Warton has pulled together a curriculum inspired partly by homeschool pioneer Susan Wise Bauer and partly by the Waldorf holistic educational movement. … [emphasis added]
Further on the article goes on to outline the interesting history of the anti-evolution movement…
… Theologically conservative Christians were not always so polarized. “By the late 19th century,” says David R. Montgomery author of The Rocks Don’t Lie: A Geologist Investigates Noah’s Flood, “evangelical theologians generally accepted the compelling geological evidence for the reality of an old earth.” However, Darwin’s idea of natural selection scared away many fundamentalists, who saw “survival of the fittest” as an atheistic concept. Over time, those who insisted on a literal interpretation of the Bible’s account of creation came to reject both geology and evolutionary biology. …
Which was, to say the least, an unfortunate development that has led to a multi-generational effort to dumb down the teaching of evolutionary theory in particular and the teaching of science in general in the United States. But perhaps these new evangelicals can change the movement from within. I think they can have some success, but only with some help from those of us who are the traditional champions of evolution.
Despite my atheism, I think those of us within the skeptical/atheist community should embrace these “evolutionary evangelicals” and consider them allies. Rather than focus on what divides us (i.e. differences on belief or non-belief in God, etc), I think our efforts can be better served by allowing our common desire to see evolutionary science taught properly to unite us.
Now I know there are some “purists” within the skeptical/atheist community who would likely shudder to see me suggest allying ourselves with evangelical Christians, at least in part because our theological/philosophical differences are so vast. But I take the attitude that, even within the skeptical/atheist community there are deep divisions on a variety of topics, but I don’t find myself turning my back upon it; so if I can find some common ground with an evangelical Christian on a pro-science issue, why not pursue some bridge-building?
Posted in creationism, education, religion, skeptical community | Tagged: academic freedom, atheism, atheist, Bible, Christ, Christianity, creationism, creationist, education, evangelical, evolution, fundamentalism, fundamentalist, God, homeschoolers, homeschooling, intelligent design, Jesus, pseudoscience, religion, science, teach all views, teach the controversy, The Atlantic, truth, YEC, Young Earth Creationism | 1 Comment »
Posted by mattusmaximus on February 21, 2013
If you’ve been paying attention to the U.S. political news of late, then you know that a crucial fiscal deadline is approaching: the dreaded sequestration cuts across the board to all federal programs. As a supporter of strong science education and scientific research programs, this alarms me quite a bit. To make such deep and long-lasting cuts in our most basic science research and education programs would be like eating our seed corn, with the result that scientific and technological innovation and education would be starved of critical funding at a time when we need it the most.
So I encourage you to read, sign, and pass along the following petition from the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) imploring Congress to seek a bipartisan solution to this problem:
On behalf of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), we—as researchers, professionals, students and interested citizens in the science, technology, engineering and math fields—write to ask both branches of government to work together to achieve a bipartisan compromise that moves the country on to sound fiscal footing without sacrificing our nation’s crucial investments in science and technology. Almost every national priority—from health and defense, agriculture and conservation, to hazards and natural disasters—relies on science and engineering. As another fiscal cliff approaches, placing a significant burden on federal research and development investments, as sequestration would do, is nothing less than a threat to national competitiveness. Support for science is support for economic growth, innovation, and technological progress. Please consider this as you seek to address our nation’s pressing fiscal challenges.
Click here to sign the petition!
Posted in education, politics, science funding, skeptical community | Tagged: AAAS, America, American Association for the Advancement of Science, bipartisan, budget, congress, deficit, education, engineering, federal, innovation, math, politics, research, revenue, science, sequestration, STEM, taxes, technology, United States, US, USA | 2 Comments »
Posted by mattusmaximus on February 12, 2013
Well, you have to give the religious fundamentalists in this country (the United States) one thing: they are indeed persistent. In fact, the situation in Texas public schools goes beyond the blatant teaching of creationism (which is a problem), because it extends to these fundamentalists pushing their narrow religious interpretations in public school “Bible classes”…
Fifty years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down as unconstitutional the devotional use of the Bible by public schools, in its ruling on Abington Township v. Schempp.
But many school districts in the Lone Star State still haven’t gotten the message, according to a report released last month by the Texas Freedom Network (TFN) entitled “Reading, Writing and Religion.”
Conducted by religious studies professor Mark Chancey of Southern Methodist University, the study examines elective Bible courses offered in 57 Texas school districts and 3 charter schools and concludes that “evidence of sectarian bias, predominantly favoring perspectives of conservative Protestantism, is widespread.” (The full report is available at http://www.tfn.org/biblecourses.)
In other words, school officials in many parts of Texas convert public schools into Sunday schools in violation of the First Amendment’s ban on government establishment of religion. … [emphasis added]
So there you have it. When these fundamentalists lose in court they just ignore the law and continue with their illegal and unconstitutional proselytizing in public schools. This shows the necessity of vigilance on the part of those of us who value a secular society which fosters good science education and keeps church and state separate. So if your child attends a school with these kind of Bible courses, make sure to check up and see that they’re being taught in a constitutionally sound manner.
Posted in creationism, education, religion | Tagged: Bible, Christianity, church, class, course, court, creationism, devotional, education, First Amendament, fundamentalism, fundamentalist, God, Jesus, law, preach, proselytize, public, religion, schools, SCOTUS, separation, state, Supreme Court, Texas, Texas Freedom Network, TFN, unconstitutional | 2 Comments »
Posted by mattusmaximus on January 30, 2013
If you’ve been following the ongoing saga over the years that is the Texas Board of Education and their textbook adoption process, then you no doubt understand that there has been a far-right conservative faction of people who have attempted to push their ideology (including creationism) into Texas public schools. Now the recent history of this saga has been chronicled in a PBS documentary titled “The Revisionaries”. I encourage you to take the time to share and watch this important documentary, which you can do online here until February 27th:
“Somebody has got to stand up to experts!” — Don McLeRoy, former Texas BoEd member
Posted in creationism, education, politics | Tagged: academic freedom, biology, board of education, Christianity, creationism, democracy, documentary, Don McLeroy, evolution, fundamentalist, history, ID, Independent Lens, intelligent design, PBS, politics, pseudoscience, Public Broadcasting Service, publishing, religion, science, scientific creationism, Texas, Texas Board of Education, Texas Citizens for Science, Texas Freedom Network, textbook selection, textbooks, The Revisionaries, theocracy, video, Wedge document | Leave a Comment »
Posted by mattusmaximus on January 26, 2013
I just received the following alert from our friends at the National Center for Science Education about the Next Generation Science Standards. Please take action and pass this along to all of your friends/colleagues who have an interest in strong public school science standards. Time is of the essence – the deadline is Monday, January 28th!
For the last year, the National Center for Science Education has been advising an effort to produce modern and consistent Next Generation Science Standards. Dozens of states have committed to consider using these new standards instead of continuing to write their own state by state.
The effort to produce standards which can be widely implemented is coming to a close, and we want to be sure that you have a chance to weigh in. The final public review is under way now, and will close next week. The framework for the standards rightly grants evolution and climate change central roles, and we’re optimistic that the new standards will revolutionize American science education. We still worry about the harm that could come if these standards give any loopholes that can be exploited by creationists, climate change deniers, or other ideologues.
We’ve provided resources to help you share your thoughts on the standards at our website. Once there, you can learn more about how to file your own comments on the standards, how you can help make sure NCSE’s comments are taken seriously as the final revisions are made to the standards, and how you can stay involved as the finalized standards are sent to the states for adoption.
Please act by January 28 to ensure your voice is heard.
Many thanks for your help and support.
Eugenie C. Scott
P.S. NCSE relies on your support to be able to participate in efforts like NGSS, while fighting threats to science education in legislatures across the country, and guiding teachers and school districts away from science denial. You can help us stay active and effective by donating $10, $35, or $100 today
Posted in education, science funding, scientific method | Tagged: content, education, national, National Center for Science Education, NCSE, Next Generation Science Standards, NGSS, public, review, schools, science, standards, teachers, teaching, United States | 2 Comments »
Posted by mattusmaximus on January 6, 2013
I wanted to pass along to everyone a call-to-arms which hits really close to home for me… literally. As a science teacher, I am especially concerned with seeing that public institutions that promote good science education are protected. This usually means that I am defending our public schools from creationism or other nonsense, but there is another insitution which often goes overlooked: museums. Case in point: the Field Museum of Natural History, perhaps one of the best public educational/research institutions in the country, is in real trouble. Please take a few minutes to read this excellent Skepticblog post by Donald Prothero and consider taking action!
Save the Field Museum!
by Donald Prothero, Jan 02 2013
Buried in all the news of the end of the world, the “fiscal cliff”, and the holiday season was another item that probably escaped most people’s attention. The Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago, one of the world’s foremost natural history museums, is planning huge cutbacks in their scientific staff in the next few weeks. Details of who will be cut are sketchy, but the news raced through my professional community and made us all very upset. This is not only because many people who are our personal friends will be losing their jobs because of mismanagement at the top, but also because such a disastrous move would hurt science in many ways that the general public may not appreciate. …
… Most people think a museum is just a bunch of exhibits of fossils or art on display, but don’t realize what goes on behind the scenes. As Jerry Coyne also points out in his post, a top museum like the Field is also one of the most important research institutions in the country, with curators who are among the top scientists in their area of research. Just like university research professors, these curators must pursue research grants and find funding to do important scientific projects. Unlike most university research scientists (who don’t have a place to store too many specimens if they find them), museum curators tend to focus on research that recovers new specimens, and adds to the total resource base for scientific research. Without this material, our data base for research and understanding topics in the fossil record would dry up, because there is no else out there to perform such an important role. I’ve known nearly all the vertebrate paleontology curators at the Field Museum (both past and present) for many years, and most are among the sharpest minds in our field, doing essential science that few others could perform. …
Click here to read the rest of Donald’s post
Click here to take action!
Posted in education, science funding, skeptical community | Tagged: Chicago, Donald Prothero, education, Field Museum, finances, funding, money, museum, natural history, petition, public, research, scientists, Skepticblog | 2 Comments »
Posted by mattusmaximus on December 24, 2012
As I’ve blogged before, creationists are quite adept at evolving their strategies for attempting to replace the science of evolution in public school science classes with their religious beliefs. One of the latest mutations are so-called “academic freedom” bills, but now there seems to be a new phrase and strategy emerging – “truth in education” – which we all need to be on the lookout for in our local legislatures and school boards. My skeptical colleague Steven Novella has an excellent takedown here…
by Steven Novella, Dec 10 2012
We have yet another propaganda slogan and strategy by creationists to sneak their religious beliefs into public science classrooms – “truth in education.” This one comes from state senator Dennis Kruse from Indiana. He had previously introduced a bill (in 2011) that would have required the teaching of “creation science” alongside evolution. The bill died a quick death, largely because the Supreme Court has already declared such laws unconstitutional (in the 1987 Edwards vs Aguillard case).
Kruse’s approach has since “evolved.” It seems that after his failed and naive attempt to introduce a creation science bill, he has been connected with the Discovery Institute and is now up to speed on the latest approach to anti-evolution strategies.
Creationist attempts to hamper science education when it comes to evolution go back to the beginning of evolutionary theory itself. By the turn of the 19th century evolution was an accepted scientific fact, and opposition to its teaching was forming among certain fundamentalist sects. The first big confrontation between the teaching of evolution and creationist ideology came in the form of the The State of Tennessee v. John Thomas Scopes, or the Scopes Monkey Trial. This resulted from the first creationist strategy to limit the teaching of evolution in public schools – they simply banned it. This strategy was killed when such laws were found unconstitutional in 1968 (Epperson v. Arkansas).
The National Center for Science Education (NCSE) has a nice list of the ten major legal precedents that have smacked down creationist attempts to limit the teaching of evolution. Each time the creationists simply have morphed their strategy, but the intent has never wavered. …
Read the rest of Steve’s Skeptiblog post here
Posted in creationism, education, politics | Tagged: academic freedom, Bible, Christ, Christianity, creationism, creationist, Dennis Kruse, Discovery Institute, evolution, fundamentalism, fundamentalist, God, ID, Indiana, intelligent design, Jesus, pseudoscience, science, teach all views, teach the controversy, truth, truth in education, YEC, Young Earth Creationism | 1 Comment »