The Skeptical Teacher

Musings of a science teacher & skeptic in an age of woo.

Posts Tagged ‘schools’

NEA Science Caucus Pushes Back Against Creationism & Pseudoscience

Posted by mattusmaximus on June 27, 2014

Last year I posted about how over the years creationists had actually infiltrated the vendors area at the national meeting (also known as the Representative Assembly or RA) of the National Education Association.  And if you think about it, such a thing is just plain silly; I mean, really, to allow creationists to come in pushing pseudoscience makes about as much sense as allowing, for example, Holocaust deniers to come in pushing pseudo-history.  Where do you draw the line and where are the policies preventing such nonsense from being promoted by a teacher’s organization?!

Well, many NEA members aren’t waiting for the leadership of the organization to act; they’ve decided to push back against this irresponsible promotion of pseudoscience by assembling the NEA Science Caucus.  The NEA Science Caucus is moving ahead by working at the political level within the NEA and by bringing in pro-science groups such as the National Center for Science Education to also have a vendor booth.

I am happy to report that last year’s efforts were quite well-received and successful; it ends up that for years many NEA members were frustrated with seeing creationist propaganda on display in the vendor area, but no one had really organized anything until recently.  But now that the Caucus has gotten started, they’re growing, as is their influence…

NEA Science Caucus

If you’re at the NEA RA this year, look for anyone wearing this ribbon :)

If you are an NEA member, and especially if you are attending or know someone who is attending this year’s RA in Denver, please consider getting involved with the NEA Science Caucus.  Specifically, you should check out their Facebook page (or if you aren’t on Facebook, they also have a new website at www.neascience.org) and attempt to contact their organizer, Toby Spencer.  In addition, you can follow them on Twitter @sciencecaucus and they’ll be using the tag #neascience.  If you’re interested in joining the Caucus, you can sign up for membership with the NEA Science Caucus here; at the very least, spread the word to your colleagues.

It is my hope that if we can bring enough political pressure to bear on the NEA, then perhaps they’ll come to their senses and follow in the wise footsteps of the Illinois Federation of Teachers which adopted a resolution in 2010 (See NEA?!  You’re behind the times!) titled “Keep Supernaturalism Out of the Science Curriculum”.  And this Caucus is a good first step in that direction.

I’ll let the Caucus have the last word; from their Facebook page…

Greetings, science lovers! First, thank you for joining the NEA Science Educators Caucus and for participating on this page. It’s been great to learn from your links and to share chuckles with you.

Success! Our money is in the bank and the NCSE: The National Center for Science Education will be hosting a booth for the second year! This time, we have the luxury of three expert speakers, including Dr. Minda Berbeco and the NCSE Director of Religious Community Outreach. They’re generously offering up to three talks on subjects ranging from climate education to evolution/creation to religion and science. We also have much business to discuss this year. Last year we had two great talks. So I ask you: How many talks do you want this year? On which topics?

And please try to connect with and invite other science organizations to affiliate with us and to purchase a vendor table at the NEA Expo. The more the merrier, in educating our membership! We are contacting HHMI, NASA, NSTA and Science NHS. Do you have other contacts? NABT? AAPT? AAAS? Dawkins? Skeptics? Beuller?

Posted in creationism, education, global warming denial | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Creationists in Kansas Come Full Circle: They File a Lawsuit Against the Teaching of Evolution

Posted by mattusmaximus on September 28, 2013

Have you ever heard that phrase: truth can be stranger than fiction?  Well, the topic of this blog post seems to fit that statement.  In the history of creationism vs. evolutionary science, there have been all kinds of shenanigans played by creationists in their attempts to promote their religion as science; in the beginning, this often took the form of outright bans against the teaching of evolution.  In fact, it was just such a state ban in Tennessee that led to the now famous Scopes Monkey Trial in 1925.

Well, here we are nearly nine decades after that opening salvo in the creationist/evolution battles, and creationists in Kansas are taking a page from the old (and I mean OLD) playbook… they are filing a lawsuit to stop the implementation of the Next Generation Science Standards (since the NGSS promotes the teaching of evolution, which they claim “promotes atheism and materialism”).  Read this report from the National Center for Science Education for more details:

Anti-NGSS lawsuit filed in Kansas

Are the Next Generation Science Standards unconstitutional? A complaint filed in the United States District Court for the District of Kansas on September 26, 2013, alleges so. The complaint inCOPE et al. v. Kansas State Board of Education et al.contends (PDF) that the NGSS and the Framework for K-12 Science Education (on which the NGSS are based) “will have the effect of causing Kansas public schools to establish and endorse a non-theistic religious worldview … in violation of the Establishment, Free Exercise, and Speech Clauses of the First Amendment, and the Equal Protection Clauses of the 14th Amendment” (pp. 1-2). The plaintiffs ask for a declaratory judgment in their favor and for an injunction prohibiting the implementation of the NGSS in Kansas or, failing that, an injunction prohibiting the implementation of the sections of the NGSS to which they object.

NCSE’s Joshua Rosenau told the Associated Press (September 26, 2013) that it was a familiar argument, but “no one in the legal community has put much stock in it.” He added, “They’re trying to say anything that’s not promoting their religion is promoting some other religion,” and dismissed the argument as “silly.” Steven Case, director of the University of Kansas’s Center for Science Education, concurred, citing previous court rulings as evidence that the new lawsuit “won’t hold up.” “This is about as frivolous as lawsuits get,” Case told the Associated Press. The Kansas state board of education voted 8-2 to accept the Next Generation Science Standards on June 11, 2013, as NCSE previously reported, and the lawsuit is evidently attempting to undo the decision. … [emphasis added]

I would like to speak to Josh Rosneau’s comment that I put in bold above; this really is the kind of thinking employed by creationists.  They believe that you’re either with them or against them, and there’s no such thing as a grey area within their black and white thinking.  Therefore, if you are not actively promoting their religious beliefs, then you are by default promoting the opposite of their religious beliefs which is atheism.  Never mind that one can hold religious beliefs, even adhere to Christianity, and still accept evolutionary science; these creationists think that there can be no room at all for modern science within their belief system.  So, if they view science as the enemy – as arch-creationist Ken Ham and his followers appear to believe – then science must be fought at every turn.  Hence stupidity like this lawsuit…

thestupiditburns

Of course, I have no doubt that this lawsuit will go down in flames, as it should.  And I have no doubt that it will prove to be yet another embarrassing blow to the creationist movement, maybe becoming as famous as the Dover vs. Kitzmiller trial a few years ago.  But I also have no doubt that these creationists will not stop there; they will attempt to thwart every effort to teach good science in our public schools.  And because of that fact, we must be ever vigilant.

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Creationist Update: Creationism Loses Popularity, Texas Creationists Are Honest, and More Financial Shenanigans from Ken Ham

Posted by mattusmaximus on September 23, 2013

So much has been going on in the world of creationism lately that it’s been touch to keep track of it all, so I just want to give you a quick summary of three news items…

1.  Creationism Loses Popularity?

According to this blog post over at Patheos.com, it seems that creationism (and by “creationism” I mostly mean young-Earth creationism) may just be, slowly but surely, losing support among the public in the United States:

Just when we start to think the regressive policies of red states mean the battle is becoming harder, the secular movement gets more proof that what we’re doing really does matter.

poll of 1,000 people conducted by the Internet-based market research firm YouGovearlier this month indicates that since 2004, the level of public acceptance of creationism and the level for support for teaching creationism in U.S. public schools are down, and the level of acceptance of the theory of evolution is up.

Coming the week marking the 88th anniversary of the Scopes Monkey Trial, this is good news indeed. The numbers are far lower than what they need to be, though. While nearly half of the respondents agreed that evolution, whether guided by a deity or not, resulted in homo sapiens sapiens, significantly more than a third rejected evolution altogether and the remaining 17% claimed uncertainty.

YouGov’s poll marks substantial change from a similar CBS poll conducted in 2004. Thirteen percent of CBS’s 2004 respondents agreed with the statement. “Human beings evolved from less advanced life forms over millions of years, and God did not directly guide this process.” In 2013 the figure jumped to 21%. Correspondingly, strong creationism has taken the hardest hit. In 2004, 55% of respondents said that ”God created human beings in their present form within the last ten thousand years,” and 5% said they were undecided. The strict creationists now account for 37% of the respondents. … [emphasis added]

Personally, I’ll take whatever good news I can get on this front, but I would like to see more than one poll yield the same information before I go celebrating too much.  Still, these results are pleasing :)

2.  Texas Creationists Get Honest

If you’ve followed the ongoing saga of creationism’s attempts to get into public schools, you probably know that the intent of creationists on school boards for decades, whether they espoused “teach the controversy”, “equal time”, or “academic freedom”, really meant “don’t teach evolution, instead teach (our view of) creationism.  Well, at least now the creationists who are attempting to manipulate the Texas Board of Education are now being open and honest about it (from Patheos.com) …

It used to be that creationists were sneaky.  They knew teaching creationism was against the law, so they tried to dress it up as science, or as teaching the “strengths and weaknesses” of evolution.  It wasn’t exactly crafty, and it certainly wasn’t honest.

And the reason they weren’t honest is because playing fairly would result in immediate defeat (it turns out creationists don’t get to break the law more than anybody else).  This is a lesson the creationists on the Texas board of education are about to learn.  Karen Beathard, one of the reviewers, made a misstep by telling the truth.

“Religious conservatives serving on state textbook review panels have criticized several proposed high school biology textbooks for not including arguments against Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution.

The review panels include several creationists. They urge the State Board of Education to reject the books unless publishers include more disclaimers on key concepts of evolution.

One reviewer even suggested a rule requiring that each biology book cover “creation science.” That would run counter to a 1987 U.S. Supreme Court ruling. The decision banned the teaching of creationism in public school science classes. 

“I understand the National Academy of Science’s strong support of the theory of evolution,” said Texas A&M University nutritionist Karen Beathard, one of the biology textbook reviewers. “At the same time, this is a theory. As an educator, parent and grandparent, I feel very firmly that creation science based on biblical principles should be incorporated into every biology book that is up for adoption.” [emphasis in the original]

Whoops.  That’s going to look pretty embarrassing for the creationists when they inevitably get hauled into court.  Can’t help fools… at least these are honest fools.

3.  Ken Ham’s “Ark Encounter” Government Bailout?

It seems that despite all the rosy financial projections of a few years ago, uber-creationist Ken Ham is having even more difficulty than previously thought raising funds for the newest attraction at his Creation Museum, the “Ark Encounter”.  He has resorted to some questionable methods of raising money, seemingly putting the public on the hook by dipping into taxpayer funding in Kentucky (from NCSE):

When Answers in Genesis chief Ken Ham isn’t dealing with employees being zotted by lightning, or getting schooled on theology by a college student, he’s trying to build an amusement park centered on Noah’s Ark. He wants it to be full-sized (assuming they’re right about how long a cubit was), he wants it to be built by Amish carpenters (just like Noah’s was), he wants a mock first-century village, he wants to charge admission, and, as Daniel Phelps reports at Panda’s Thumb he hopes taxpayers as well as private citizens will cover part of the bill.

The project has already been promised a tourism-related state tax rebate and state road crews will widen the road leading to the park, but apparently the campaign to raise capital for construction has not been meeting expectations (neither has Creation Museum attendance, reportedly). So Ken Ham is looking for a new way to scare up money. He sent out an appeal to the Answers in Genesis mailing list offering people a chance to buy bonds to fund the park, bonds issued by the city of Williamstown, Kentucky. …

From the Panda’s Thumb link, I found the following comment to be of particular interest:

… Unfortunately, what it sounds like is that the City of Williamstown is going to issue some type of municipal bonds.

Municipal bonds are a loan made by a public entity. If you buy the bonds, you get a stream of “coupon” payments, as with any other type of bonds (“zero coupon” structure is just a variant of a coupon stream). You can think of the coupon payments as interest on the loan, even though it works slightly differently than the variable interest savings account that most people are more familiar with. Bottom line, a municipality borrows money and taxpayers pay the interest.

The hypocrisy here is unbelievable. I’m going to use the term “corruption” as well. There may or may not be anything technically illegal going on. But if this a surreptitious issuing of municipal bonds to fund a religious display, that may raise legal issues, and absolutely raises ethical issues. …

Ethical issues, indeed.  In my mind, the more I look at this entire situation with Ken Ham and his attempts to use public money to fund his creationist theme-park, the more I am reminded of this famous scene from The Simpsons:

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Trio of Good News in the Battle Against Creationism!

Posted by mattusmaximus on August 12, 2013

I am happy to report to you that there have been three really good developments in the scientific and skeptical battle against one of the worst bug-a-boos: creationism.  Rather than go into a huge amount of detail about each one, I’ll give a few of my own comments and link to the original sources on each.  Read on to the end – the best one is last :)

1.  Ball State University Takes a Stand for Science and Kicks “Intelligent Design” to the Curb

In this article from Inside Higher Ed, a very positive development is outlined wherein the university made a very strong statement against the inclusion of so-called “intelligent design” as science under the auspices of academic freedom.  I think this was so well done on the part of the university leadership that it should serve as a template for other institutions to follow.  In part, the article states:

In what First Amendment watchdogs called a victory, Ball State University’s president on Wednesday spoke out against intelligent design as a viable scientific theory. At the same time, the university announced that a professor accused of proselytizing remained part of the faculty but was working with administrators to ensure his courses aligned with Ball State’s view that science instruction should be about science and not religion.

“Intelligent design is overwhelmingly deemed by the scientific community as a religious belief and not a scientific theory,” President Jo Ann Gora said. “Therefore, intelligent design is not appropriate content for science courses. The gravity of this issue and the level of concern among scientists are demonstrated by more than 80 national and state scientific societies’ independent statements that intelligent design and creation science do not qualify as science.”

The question is not one of academic freedom, but one of academic integrity, she added. “Said simply, to allow intelligent design to be presented to science students as a valid scientific theory would violate the academic integrity of the course as it would fail to accurately represent the consensus of science scholars.” … [emphasis added]

Read the entire article here

2. Christian Publisher Removes Loch Ness Monster From Biology Textbook

You may recall that some time ago, I reported about how some creationists were going to such ludicrous lengths to undercut the teaching of evolution that they were actually selling textbooks which taught that the Loch Ness Monster was real and evidence against evolution.  Apparently, the publishers of those same textbooks are now omitting any mention of dear ol’ Nessie since it seems that would be a claim too outlandish even for reality-challenged creationists.  Here’s more:

A Christian education publisher based in Tennessee has removed references to the existence of the Loch Ness Monster from a biology textbook.

According to Scotland’s Sunday Herald, Accelerated Christian Education, Inc. has opted to remove a statement from a textbook used in Europe and will likely do the same for American textbooks.

“Are dinosaurs alive today? Scientists are becoming more convinced of their existence. Have you heard of the ‘Loch Ness Monster’ in Scotland?” reads the deleted passage.  “‘Nessie’ for short has been recorded on sonar from a small submarine, described by eyewitnesses, and photographed by others. Nessie appears to be a plesiosaur.”

Mark Looy, chief communications officer for the Young Earth Creationist organization Answers in Genesis, told The Christian Post that he approved of ACE’s decision.

There are just so many of these legends, like the dragon mentioned in Beowulf, the numerous accounts of St. George and the dragon, and so on, that they can’t be dismissed,” said Looy. … [emphasis added]

If the bolded statement above is any example of the shoddy standards of evidence adhered to by creationists, it is no wonder they don’t have a scientific leg to stand on.

3. Creationists and Climate Change Deniers Lose in Kentucky

Some time ago, I wrote a post about how the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) are going to push back hard against anti-scientists like creationists and global warming deniers.  Well, our friends from the National Center for Science Education (NCSE) are reporting that a significant victory has been achieved in a state that you might not associate with strong science standards: Kentucky!  A few weeks back, creationists and global warming deniers attempted to derail the adoption of the NGSS by the Kentucky State Board of Education, and they were rebuffed :)

The Kentucky Board of Education declined to make any changes to a proposed regulation that would enact the Next Generation Science Standards as Kentucky’s state science standards, despite the protests of evolution deniers and climate change deniers. In a lengthy document dated August 1, 2013, the Kentucky Department of Education summarized the thoughts of all who submitted comments on the regulation, and provided detailed replies. On the topics of evolution and climate change in particular, the department wrote (PDF, p. 139):

“The agency also received statements of support related to the inclusion of particular science topics such as climate change and evolution, stating that meaningful scientific debate on the validity of evolution and climate science has ceased. Proponents of the continued inclusion of evolution pointed to the overwhelming acceptance of evolution in the biological science community. Proponents of the inclusion of climate change education contend that Kentucky students deserve the most up to date science education, which includes climate change. [The department agreed with these comments: see, e.g., pp. 104 and 105 on evolution, and pp. 115 on climate change.]

Over one hundred substantially identical emails were received stating an opposition to the continued inclusion of evolution in the proposed standards, characterizing evolution as a theory and not a fact. These commenters asked that intelligent design be added to the standards. Other commenters questioned the scientific validity of evolution. The agency also received several comments specific to the inclusion of climate change in the proposed standards, including concerns that climate change science was overemphasized to the neglect of other science concepts or that climate change is not a settled issue in the scientific community.”

The three important antievolution goals — banning the teaching of evolution; balancing the teaching of evolution with creationism, whether in the form of “creation science” or “intelligent design”; and belittling evolution as controversial — were in evidence. So were all three of the pillars of creationism — arguing that evolution is scientifically controversial; arguing that teaching evolution is linked with negative social consequences; arguing that it is only fair to teach “all sides” of the supposed controversy. The same themes were also reflected in the comments about climate change.

The Kentucky Board of Education approved the department’s report on August 8, 2013, so, as WPFL in Louisville, Kentucky, reports (August 8, 2013), “The regulation now heads to Kentucky’s Administrative Regulation Review Committee. If approved in the Kentucky General Assembly, the new standards would go into effect during the 2014-2015 school year.” Kentucky would join Rhode Island, Kansas, Maryland, and Vermont as the first five states to adopt the NGSS — unless the legislature, which includes vocal critics of evolution and climate change, refuses its approval. [emphasis added]

I want to jump on the bolded part above; the battle in KY still isn’t finished.  It will require people to lobby their state legislators in Kentucky in order to encourage them to accept the NGSS.  No doubt the anti-science lobby will pull out all the stops to derail this process, but we have to speak up and encourage the legislature to accept the NGSS as written.

And think of this: if the NGSS is accepted in Kentucky, then it will be a huge defeat for creationists and climate science deniers all over the nation.  That’s because if a religiously conservative state like Kentucky can do it, then any state can do it.

Posted in creationism, cryptozoology, education, global warming denial, politics | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

Announcing the NEA Science Educators Caucus

Posted by mattusmaximus on June 28, 2013

If you are into public education, you might know that one of the largest teachers’ unions in the nation is the National Education Association (NEA).  Every year, the NEA holds what is called a Representative Assembly (RA) in order to discuss internal matters, lobbying issues, and whatnot.

NEAImage source

I was amazed to find out a few years ago that creationists have successfully infiltrated the NEA, because a colleague of mine who was our representative at the RA that year reported to me that creationists had a pretty strong presence in the vendor area of the RA.  *facepalm*

Well, I am happy to announce that there is now an effort among science teachers within the NEA to push back.  The NEA Science Educators Caucus is officially forming this year, and it is hitting the ground running by organizing at this year’s RA in Atlanta.  For more information on them, and to get involved, read the following information from Toby Spencer, co-chair of the group, and consider connecting with them at their Facebook page…

First, thanks for  committing to help improve science education in our union, in our classrooms, and in the legislature!  And thank you for your patience over the past school year, I know many of you are very interested in furthering our goals and spotlighting our most important issues. I’ve waited to email the group until I had good news to share…

AMAZING news, actually!  Colleen Keenan (CA) succeeded in convincing the National Center for Science Education (NCSE) to sponsor an Expo Booth this year in Atlanta!  NCSE will be staffing a booth for two days before the RA sessions begin.  They want our ideas!
Furthermore, we will have two NCSE speakers at our caucus meetings!  Dr. Eugenie Scott, NCSE Executive Director, will address us on July 1st at 4pm in our first caucus meeting.  She will focus on the legalities and politics of evolution.  On the following day, July 2nd, Dr. Minda Berbeco will speak to us about climate change, her area of expertise.
Drs. Scott and Berceco are asking us to give them some direction both for the exhibit booth and their talks.  Could you please reply with your suggestions.  We know evolution/creation brought us together, but we have an opportunity to expand and further our agenda this year.
Speaking of creation (!), we need to write a constitution and bylaws  this year, allowing us to elect officers.  We should create a budget and probably establish a nominal dues structure.  All your input will be appreciated.
I’d like to invite each of you to join our Caucus Facebook Group.  Please find us at https://www.facebook.com/groups/nea.science/.  The facebook page is for any and all things, serious or funny.  Please join and post to the caucus page to say hi or to make suggestions.
 
We’ll likely need volunteers for the NCSE booth and for caucus operations.  Please be thinking about how you can help.  Any bright ideas to spark interest in our cause or in our caucus meetings? 
 
Please try hard to make our caucus meetings on the 1st and 2nd of July.  These are before the RA session days, so we won’t be crunched for time.  I’ll update you with meeting room location(s) when I receive them.  And bring a friend:  we are in membership GROWTH mode.  
 
Again, thank you for your patience and support.  Please send your ideas my way or post them to the facebook page.  I’ll be in touch soon.
And here is more information specifically on the caucus meetings that Toby mentioned…
Hi Everyone! I’m excited about our caucus meetings, NCSE speakers and booth, and membership drive this year. Our room assignments are in: July 1st @ 4-5:30pm in room A405 SectA and July 2 @12-1pm also in A405(A). We’ll have guest speakers from the NCSE both July 1+2. Please come! Then we switch rooms to B309(B) for the four days of the RA–those meeting times are 9-9:30am and at breaks. I’m sure we won’t need to meet every day of the RA, but that’s up to you! I’ll also email this info to the group. And if you’ve read this far…the ribbons are coming this week!
If you are a member of the NEA and you value solid science education in our public schools, please consider getting involved in the Science Educators Caucus.  If defenders of science education don’t stand up, then the creeping influence of creationists will go unchecked, and they will have a disproportionate voice on matters of importance to us.
Once more, here’s their Facebook page.  Look them up and get involved!

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Evolution and Climate Change Come to Kansas

Posted by mattusmaximus on June 14, 2013

 

The state of Kansas has been a high-profile hotbed of creationist activity for quite some time, with battles over state science standards including (or not including) even a mere mention of evolution and, in recent years, climate change.  The strategy on the part of creationists goes as follows: if we aren’t allowed to teach creationism, specifically one brand called young-earth creationism, then we’ll make it so that nobody can learn evolution, either.  Global warming deniers are also employing a similar strategy in many states.

Of course, in the budding 21st century, if enough states in the United States allow creationists and global warming deniers to drive the discussion, then this is a recipe for disaster in terms of our nation’s capability to generate well-educated young students who are ready to tackle the looming scientific and technological challenges of our age.

Enter the Next Generation Science Standards, which Kansas has recently adopted (mostly because they helped to actually write the standards), that mandate the teaching of both evolution and climate change in a manner which is broadly interwoven into the curricula of public school science classes…

Kansas science standards: Schools to teach evolution, climate change

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) – The Kansas state school board Tuesday approved new,  multi-state science standards for public schools that treat both evolution and  climate change as key concepts to be taught from kindergarten through the 12th  grade.

The State Board of Education voted 8-2 on for standards developed by Kansas,  25 other states and the National Research Council. The new guidelines are  designed to shift the emphasis in science classes to doing hands-on projects and  experiments and blending material about engineering and technology into  lessons.

WEIGH IN: Discuss this story on Facebook  http://on.fb.me/14wfFtA

“I can concentrate on teaching processes — teaching kids how to think like  scientists,” said Cheryl Shepherd-Adams, who teaches physics at Hays High School  and traveled to Topeka to publicly endorse the new standards as vice president  of Kansas Citizens for Science. “I’m more concerned whether they can design and  analyze an experiment. That’s what science is all about.”

Past work on science standards in Kansas have been overshadowed by debates  about how evolution should be taught. The latest standards were adopted in 2007  and treat evolution as a well-established, core scientific concept, but Kansas  law requires the academic standards to be updated at least once every seven  years.

Though the new standards drew some criticism over their treatment of  evolution, it wasn’t anywhere as vocal or public as in the past. Together,  Democrats and moderate Republicans control the board, and social conservatives  wanting to inject skepticism of evolution into the standards were likely to have  found little support.

The same political factors blunted criticism of the standards’ proposed  treatment of climate change as an important concept that should be part to  lessons in all grades, rather than treated separately in upper-level high school  classes…

There has been some pushback from certain political quarters, which tend to be ideologically aligned with creationists and climate change deniers, that these standards are taking away states’ rights.  Nothing could be further from the truth, seeing as how the NGSS are NOT a federal mandate because they were written by states who volunteered to put them together.  So, if anything, the NGSS is actually strongly in favor of states rights!

Looks like public science education in the United States might just finally be evolving :)

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Climate Change Science Coming to U.S. Classrooms

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…

Climate change education on NPR 

NPR

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: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Next Generation Science Standards Fight Back Against Creationism & Global Warming Denial

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)

NGSS Lead States

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: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments »

Necessity of Vigilance: Fundamentalists Ignore the Law in Texas

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”…

In Texas schools, failing grade for Bible courses

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: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Speak Up For Strong Science Standards!

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.

Genie-200x250The 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.

Sincerely,

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: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

 
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