The Skeptical Teacher

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

Posts Tagged ‘freethinking’

Creating Skeptics: Why Every Kid Should Have a Teacher Like Matt Lowry

Posted by mattusmaximus on May 22, 2010

I wanted to toot my own horn a bit and repost a wonderful account of my recent talk at the Center For Inquiry Chicago titled “Teaching Freethought: How to Create a Skeptical Kid”. The account comes from Alan, a.k.a. the Jewish Atheist, who was in attendance at the event.  Alan’s other musings regarding myth, magic, and how easily believers allow themselves to be fooled are worth considering.  So, with that, I refer to you to Alan’s post…

Creating Skeptics: Why Every Kid Should Have a Teacher Like Matt Lowry

May 18th, 2010 by Alan

“Science, I maintain, is an absolutely essential tool for any society with the hope of surviving well into the next century with its fundamental values intact — not just science as engaged in by its practitioners, but science understood and embraced by the entire human community. And if scientists do not bring this about, who will?”

Carl Sagan, The Demon-Haunted World

“We must trust to nothing but facts: these are presented to us by Nature, and cannot deceive. We ought, in every instance, to submit our reasoning to the test of experiment, and never to search for truth but by the natural road of experiment and observation.”

Antoine Lavoisier

Matt Lowry is the teacher you wish you had (and some of us were lucky to actually have had), be it in physics or literature. In Matt’s case it is physics, which he teaches in high school and college in Lake County, IL. I recently attended, in Chicago, his Center for Inquiry presentation on how he cultivates skepticism in high schoolers, through science.

His scientific knowledge is hugely impressive, as are his demonstrations – walking on burning coals, broken glass; lying on bed of nails – which powerfully hook kids on curiosity and skepticism. He teaches them Carl Sagan’s “Dragon in the Garage” analogy and lets them draw their own conclusions.

At Halloween he stages an interactive Haunted Physics Lab (including demonstration of the magnetic forces that make the Ouija Board seem to work), once again teaching kids that all magic is done by someone just a little smarter than you.

His high school students come from various religious backgrounds. Some actually believe the world is only a few thousand years old. Some come away enlightened (“My grandmother should hear this – she’s really into that Bible stuff”), others with only a seed of doubt planted. As Matt says, you cultivate wonder and skepticism and “take what you can get.”

I’ll come back to Matt’s clientele later (and remember, they’re somewhat self-selected — lots of kids stay away from physics classes; it takes an outstanding teacher to bring them in)….

Read the rest of this entry »

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Teaching Freethought: How to Create a Skeptical Kid

Posted by mattusmaximus on May 6, 2010

Okay, shameless plug time 🙂

On Sunday, May 16th, I will be speaking to the Center For Inquiry Chicago on the topic of freethought, skepticism, and education.  Basically, I’ll be talking about my experiences as a science teacher & skeptic and how to promote critical thinking among high school & college students…

Teaching Freethought: How to Create a Skeptical Kid!

Sunday, May 16th 1-4pm

Location: Our usual place: Room 613 (behind elevators), University Center East building, 750 S. Halsted (UIC campus), Chicago

Teaching Freethought: How to Create a Skeptical Kid!with Matt Lowry, high school teacher and skeptic at large

Matt spends a lot of his in-class time teaching the art of meaningful skepticism to high schoolers.  He will give us some insight into his method of doing this!  He will also share his view of the many challenges that both science teachers and their students face when confronted with religious objections to the pursuit of scientific objectives.

Today’s presentation will be a stimulating follow-on to our recent day-long conference, “Dangerous Nonsense: Exploring the Gulf Between Science and its Impostors!”

Matt Lowry is a familiar face to many CFIers in Chicago. He is a high school physics teacher in the north suburbs, a part-time physics and astronomy college professor, and emphasizes critical thinking among his students at every opportunity. When away from the classroom, he also serves as the president of the North Shore Illinois chapter of Americans United for the Separation of Church & State, the leader of an online pro-science group titled Darwin’s Bulldogs, and the leader of the Vernon Hills Freethinkers meetup group.

A self-described skeptic, he believes in Carl Sagan’s adage that “extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence!”  He blogs at:

Please come to this most interesting AFTERNOON meeting!  We provide the hot coffee, and we very much appreciate pastry and snack donations.

Non-CFI Members will be asked for a modest contribution.

Questions? Just call our (part time) office phone: 312-226-0420

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