Archive for the ‘Education’ Category

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oprah drinks the antivax kool aid, from Bad Astronomy

May 4, 2009

Dr. Phil Plait, the Bad Astronomer, posted this earlier today on his blog, Bad Astronomy.

I knew that Oprah Winfrey was prone to antiscience; she has all sorts of New Age nonsense on her show, and the one time Randi was on in recent years he found the experience frustrating; Oprah unabashedly promotes all kinds of superstitious garbage.

But now she’s gone way, way too far: she’s signed Jenny McCarthy — notorious for her misleading statements about vaccines and autism — on for a multi-platform deal.

McCarthy has advocated a link between autism and vaccinations for years. She has written and spoken about it at length in very large venues like Oprah’s and Larry King’s shows, but her claims are wrong. Worse, they’re dangerous: by claiming vaccines are dangerous, she is scaring parents into delaying or even preventing their children from being vaccinated.

I don’t think this threat to the health of our children can be overstated: we have already seen a dramatic rise in outbreaks in preventable diseases due to the rise in media presence of antivax claptrap, and there have been deaths of children, deaths of babies, because of it.

And now Oprah is giving the premier mouthpiece for this movement a huge loudspeaker.

The timing of this couldn’t be more ironic, with Australian TV slamming the antivax movement due to the death of a four-week-old infant girl from whooping cough — a death directly related to the antivaxxers in Australia — with a growing response online to the distortions and outright lies of the antivaxxers here in the U.S, and with antiscience knee-jerking exacerbating the global reaction to swine flu.

Oprah: you have screwed up on this one, and in a huge, huge way. Jenny McCarthy has loudly and publicly increased fears over vaccinations based on nonsense and bad science. By giving her a platform, you are virtually guaranteeing that vaccination rates will decline further, there will be more outbreaks of easily preventable diseases, and therefore we’ll see an increase in deaths of children all around the world. You have claimed to want to make the world a better place — and you have actually done so in many ways — but this one act will completely negate any good you’ve done in the past.

Antivaccination rhetoric kills. It is that simple.

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evidence: creationists are doing it wrong

April 9, 2009

(from Suburband Panic)

We’re going to illustrate a common misuse of evidence by resorting to one of my favorite rhetorical tropes: the television police procedural, or the Law & Order example.

The tough but secretly sensitive detectives of Law & Order: Zoo Patrol are on the case. A rare primate, a librarian orangutan, has been found murdered in his book-filled enclosure at the Manhattan Animal Sanctuary. The orangutan was recently acquired by the zoo, after he was confiscated in a raid of an illegal animal smuggling ring.

Read the rest…

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jazz

April 6, 2009

Why does it seem like I’m the only saxophonist on the planet who doesn’t like (and sometimes barely appreciate) jazz? Is it so wrong to just want to listen to rock and new age and celtic stuff? Blech!

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state board of edu-ignorance

March 27, 2009

From Skepchick.org

Science Takes a Hit in Texas
March 27th, 2009 by Sam Ogden

Well, it finally came to an end today. This afternoon, the Texas State Board of Education adopted new science standards for the public schools in Texas. The new guidelines include language that leaves the door open for creationists to wedge religious myths into the science curriculum. The vote on the overall standard was 13-2 to adopt.

The debate was heated at times, and confusing at other times, but there was a lot at stake for students all over the U.S. And ultimately, they are the ones who will suffer the sins of the board.

I’ve personally followed and blogged about this story for two years now, and was disappointed that, despite the hard work and spot on recommendations by the teachers, review committees, and outside parties, like the Texas Freedom Network and the National Center for Science Education, board members let politics and, worse, religious beliefs guide their decisions.

It remains to be seen just how deeply today’s vote will impact students, but you can bet we’ll be talking about this unfavorable outcome for a long time to come.

See the press release from the Texas Freedom Network after the fold.

The Texas Freedom Network has released the following statement on the final adoption of science curriculum standards by the Texas State Board of Education today:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

March 27, 2009

TFN President Kathy Miller: Texas State Board of Education Adopts Flawed Science Standards

The word “weaknesses” no longer appears in the science standards. But the document still has plenty of potential footholds for creationist attacks on evolution to make their way into Texas classrooms.

Through a series of contradictory and convoluted amendments, the board crafted a road map that creationists will use to pressure publishers into putting phony arguments attacking established science into textbooks.

We appreciate that the politicians on the board seek compromise, but don’t agree that compromises can be made on established mainstream science or on honest education policy.

What’s truly unfortunate is that we now have to revisit this entire debate in two years when new science textbooks are adopted. Perhaps the Texas legislature can do something to prevent that.

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spring break ends

March 23, 2009

I can’t say I’m completely unready to go back to school. I sorta miss my students, and I miss the active teaching. Some of my classes have been making such leaps and bounds that I would be hard pressed to give up on them now. Not that I would. Sleeping in is nice, but I imagine I’ll get plenty of that this summer. So, its off to the final chug to the end. Another *counts them* nine weeks or so. Spring trip in a month, contest in three weeks. Then, its all down hill from there.

Hope all you other teachers out there are full of pip and vigor for this last push!

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texans and creationism

March 15, 2009

The down side of living in a state the values its, uh, values with such ferocious certainty is that people here often do so without regard to relevancy. I would take a thousand meek souls with a thoughtful brain each than any number of dim-witted with stalwart minds with nary a critical thought around.

From Bad Astronomy comes a story regarding the ongoing debate in the Texas State Board of Education chambers regarding the “strengths and weaknesses” idea. A bill has been passed that will insert this phrase into the educational requirements for science teachers in regards to scientific theories. The essence here is to allow a back door for intelligent design, creationism, and other nonsense into public schools.

While the “academic freedom” purported by IDers is nonsense, there is something to be said for validation of the field and the content therein. However, this is where the ID crowd misses the boat, because such validation comes from evidence and predictions that can be discovered through this evidence. Intelligent Design proponents offer nothing of substance, but they cannot be ignored.

Oh, Texas, would you quit kissing your own ass and realize how your silly, backward religio-social ideas of how the world ought to work are not as great as you imagine?

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attitude is a choice

March 11, 2009

Life continues in buckets of roses and the occasional rotten peanut hidden delicately inside the shell. I have come to some many conclusions, including the one that attitude is a decision. While I typically disagree that say that happiness is a decision on grounds that there are some things that just suck hard enough to make it not matter, I do think one’s attitude is based on perception.

Example: I’ve been teaching all this year, learning daily, trying to get my feet under me, trying to find my niche and my process. Recently, after attending a rather enlightening conference with some very encouraging speakers, I decided to become unshakable in the classroom. No student could do anything so annoying or stupid to make me angry. So far, I had been doing well. Many days, dealing with sixth graders who try really hard, but who’s brains and hearts are not really connected, were getting better and better. These students were improving, little by little, day by day. Nearly three weeks of this. I was repairing relationships with students and getting them on my side again.

(And by my side, I mean getting them to agree with me without even knowing what I’m saying half the time, and getting them to do things they have never tried without having to goad them into doing anything.)

Then, during a sectional rehearsal, two kids are late because of “ride issues,” meaning someone didn’t take care of their personal affairs before they needed to be in band, and they decided to interrupt the rehearsal while still talking on the phone. Not only on the phone, but on the phone with their parent. I was going to stop them, and have them hang up, but they approached me, handed me the phone, and suddenly, I was part of the phone conversation. I tried to get off the phone and get the kid in the rehearsal, but the parent was not willing to budge, and required she speak with her son some more. What’s a good word to describe my attitude at this point: Mmm…angry? No. Pissed? Not quite. Livid? Can we put “fucking” in front of it? Sure. Fucking livid. Fucking livid.

Children, do not come to my rehearsals with your phones ever again. I don’t care if your house is on fire or your dog is dead or your mother got in a car wreck. It is rehearsal time. The real emergencies come find you. There is no one you need to talk to during an rehearsal of any kind. And there will be no discussion of this matter.

See: attitude is a choice. I choose to put my foot down on it, and luckily, this time, there was not a head waiting beneath it.