Category Archives: Sagan

2020 Medley #3: Are we planning for the future?

Our Message to the Future,
Privatization: Church-State and Charters,
Literacy development,
The Opportunity Gap and Poverty

WHAT MESSAGE ARE WE SENDING THE FUTURE?

U.S. appeals court tosses children’s climate lawsuit

I won’t be here to see the next century when today’s infants will be “the elderly.” It’s my responsibility, however, to do what I can to help keep the Earth habitable for my children, and for their children.

…and for their children…and for their children.

Currently, the world’s adults have been unable to let go of fossil fuels and the political and social control that billions of dollars of oil and gas money provide.

Some of our children have become aware of this, so they are trying to take control of the fight against fossil fuels in a quest to save the Earth’s life-friendly climate. It was disappointing, then, to read the ruling that children — who will live on the Earth long after the Koch brothers and the current administration are gone — could not show “standing” to sue to protect their own future.

The term, “standing,” in its legal sense, is “the ability of a party to demonstrate to the court sufficient connection to and harm from the law or action challenged to support that party’s participation in the case.”

I’m not a legal scholar, but if anyone should have “standing” in a suit about the livability of the Earth in the future, it should be our children.

Judges for the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals “reluctantly” ruled in favor of the government in the kids’ climate case today, thwarting the young people’s historic legal fight while acknowledging the “increasingly rapid pace” of climate change.

The arguments presented by the 21 young people in Juliana v. United States proved too heavy a lift for Circuit Judges Mary Murguia and Andrew Hurwitz, who found that the kids failed to establish standing to sue.

“The central issue before us is whether, even assuming such a broad constitutional right exists, an Article III court can provide the plaintiffs the redress they seek—an order requiring the government to develop a plan to ‘phase out fossil fuel emissions and draw down excess atmospheric CO2,'” Hurwitz, an Obama appointee, wrote in an opinion issued this morning.

PRIVATIZATION: CHURCH-STATE

Do you want your tax dollars to fund religious education? You shouldn’t.

Here is some food for thought while the Supreme Court ponders the fate of public education dollars going to private schools…

No taxpayer should be forced to fund religious education. This bedrock principle alone should convince you — and the court — to leave Montana’s constitution undisturbed. But if that’s not enough, consider the fact that a ruling in favor of the voucher program would also compel taxpayers to fund discrimination, religious and otherwise.

Private religious schools don’t adhere to the same nondiscrimination laws that public schools do. As a result, we have seen them turn students away because their families don’t share the school’s religious beliefs. They have barred admission because a student or parent is LGBTQ or a student has a disability. They have expelled students who engage in sex outside marriage. And some have fired teachers for being pregnant and unmarried, for undergoing in vitro fertilization or for advocating for the right to terminate a pregnancy. While not all private religious schools conduct themselves in this way, too many do, and taxpayers should not have to underwrite such discrimination.

PRIVATIZATION: CHARTERS

Charter Schools Have No Valid Claim to Public Property

Charter schools run by private companies have no right to claim public property as their own…even if they pay $1 for it.

Communities invest in their future by building and staffing schools for their children. The state shouldn’t have the right to give that property away to a private entity for nothing…or nearly nothing.

Charter school owners-operators have never stopped piously demanding that public school facilities worth millions of dollars be freely and automatically handed over to them. They righteously declare that they have an inherent right to public facilities produced by the working class. The consequences, of course, are disastrous for public schools and the public interest. For example, a new report shows that in 2018 more than $100 million was spent by New York City alone on charter school facilities.1 This is wealth and property that no longer belongs to the public that produced it; it is now in private hands, essentially for free. Even worse, existing institutions and arrangements provide the public with no recourse for effective redress.

LITERACY DEVELOPMENT

I decided to become a teacher in the early 1970s after listening to and observing my eldest child learn to communicate. The process of language development fascinated me.

I’m retired, but it’s still a fascinating subject.

Reconsidering the Evidence That Systematic Phonics Is More Effective Than Alternative Methods of Reading Instruction

Note the qualifying sentence in this research report: “The conclusion should not be that we should be satisfied with either systematic phonics or whole language, but rather teachers and researchers should consider alternative methods of reading instruction.”

After teaching language skills to children for more than 4 decades, I have learned that one size does not fit all. A mixed approach to literacy skills is important. All children learn differently.

Despite the widespread support for systematic phonics within the research literature, there is little or no evidence that this approach is more effective than many of the most common alternative methods used in school, including whole language. This does not mean that learning grapheme-phoneme correspondences is unimportant, but it does mean that there is little or no empirical evidence that systematic phonics leads to better reading outcomes. The “reading wars” that pitted systematic phonics against whole language is best characterized as a draw. The conclusion should not be that we should be satisfied with either systematic phonics or whole language, but rather teachers and researchers should consider alternative methods of reading instruction.

The Power of Using Writing to Enhance Reading

When you read, you convert symbols to meaning. When you write, you convert meaning to symbols. The two processes should be used together to improve a learner’s skill in both.

Currently, many educators take the stance that the biggest impact on literacy can be made by teaching reading and writing simultaneously.

Literacy researcher, Marie Clay, defines reading as a “message-getting, problem-solving activity,” and writing as a “message-sending, problem-solving activity (p. 5).” Essentially, reading and writing are two different avenues to help students learn the same items and processes. When working with struggling readers, taking advantage of the reciprocity of reading and writing can drastically speed up their progress. Teachers can use the strength in one of these areas to help build up the other.

Since reading and writing share much of the same “mental processes” and “cognitive knowledge,” students who partake in copious amounts of reading experiences have shown increased gains in writing achievement and students who write extensively demonstrate improved reading comprehension (Lee & Schallert, p. 145). When researching the impact of reading on writing achievement and writing on reading achievement, Graham and Herbert found, “the evidence is clear: writing can be a vehicle for improving reading. In particular, having students write about a text they are reading enhances how well they comprehend it. The same result occurs when students write about a text from different content areas, such as science and social studies (p. 6).”

THE OPPORTUNITY GAP

In an early 2008 blog post, I put up the following video (note: the organization which produced the video is no longer around).

A few years later, I found this interview with the late Carl Sagan originally done in 1989. This quote comes from approximately 5:10 and following in the video.

…we have permitted the amount of poverty in children to increase. Before the end of this century, more than half the kids in America may be below the poverty line.

What kind of a future do we build for the country if we raise all these kids as disadvantaged, as unable to cope with the society, as resentful for the injustice served up to them? This is stupid.

Will 2020 Be the Year of acknowledging opportunity gaps?

How long will we neglect the issues of poverty and racism before we learn that we will only succeed as a society if we all succeed?

It might be ubiquitous, but it’s still a loaded term. When educators, policymakers, and parents emphasize the “achievement gap,” they’re focusing on results like disparate dropout rates and test scores, without specifying the causes. They are, often unintentionally, placing the blame squarely on the shoulders of the children themselves. Listeners adopt the toxic presumption that root causes lie with the children and their families. In truth, outcome gaps are driven by input gaps – opportunity gaps – that are linked to our societal neglect of poverty, concentrated poverty, and racism.

Yet placing blame on children and families is pervasive. A 2019 EdWeek survey of more than 1,300 teachers found that more than 60 percent of educators say that student motivation has a major influence on differences in Black and White educational outcomes. The survey also found that student motivation and parenting were cited about three times more often than discrimination as major influences on disparate outcomes of Hispanic versus White students.

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Extinction is the rule, Survival is the exception.

Carl Sagan: November 9, 1934 – December 20, 1996

For Carl Sagan Day…exercise your critical thinking skills with this collection of quotes.

ON CRITICAL THINKING

Broca’s Brain Book, 1986

Both Barnum and H. L. Mencken are said to have made the depressing observation that no one ever lost money by underestimating the intelligence of the American public. The remark has worldwide application. But the lack is not in intelligence, which is in plentiful supply; rather, the scarce commodity is systematic training in critical thinking.

Carl Sagan’s Last Interview Television, 1996

Science is more than a body of knowledge. It is a way of thinking; a way of skeptically interrogating the universe with a fine understanding of human fallibility.

If we are not able to ask skeptical questions, to interrogate those who tell us that something is true, to be skeptical of those in authority, then, we are up for grabs for the next charlatan (political or religious) who comes ambling along.

It’s a thing that Jefferson lay great stress on. It wasn’t enough, he said, to enshrine some rights in a constitution or a bill of rights. The people had to be educated and they had to practice their skepticism and their education. Otherwise we don’t run the government. The government runs us.

ON THE EARTH’S CLIMATE

Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space Book, 1997

Those who are skeptical about carbon dioxide greenhouse warming might profitably note the massive greenhouse effect on Venus. No one proposes that Venus’s greenhouse effect derives from imprudent Venusians who burned too much coal, drove fuel-inefficient autos, and cut down their forests. My point is different. The climatological history of our planetary neighbor, an otherwise Earthlike planet on which the surface became hot enough to melt tin or lead, is worth considering — especially by those who say that the increasing greenhouse effect on Earth will be self-correcting, that we don’t really have to worry about it, or (you can see this in the publications of some groups that call themselves conservative) that the greenhouse effect is a “hoax”.

Cosmos Television series, 1980. Book (revised), 2013

Our intelligence and our technology have given us the power to affect the climate. How will we use this power? Are we willing to tolerate ignorance and complacency in matters that affect the entire human family? Do we value short-term advantages above the welfare of the Earth? Or will we think on longer time scales, with concern for our children and our grandchildren, to understand and protect the complex life-support systems of our planet? The Earth is a tiny and fragile world. It needs to be cherished.

Billions & Billions: Thoughts on Life and Death at the Brink of the Millennium Book, 1997

If we keep on with business as usual, the Earth will be warmed more every year; drought and floods will be endemic; many more cities, provinces, and whole nations will be submerged beneath the waves — unless heroic worldwide engineering countermeasures are taken. In the longer run, still more dire consequences may follow, including the collapse of the West Antarctic ice sheet, and the inundation of almost all the coastal cities on the planet.

Wonder And Skepticism Article, 1995

In fact, the thickness of the Earth’s atmosphere, compared with the size of the Earth, is in about the same ratio as the thickness of a coat of shellac on a schoolroom globe is to the diameter of the globe. That’s the air that nurtures us and almost all other life on Earth, that protects us from deadly ultraviolet light from the sun, that through the greenhouse effect brings the surface temperature above the freezing point. (Without the greenhouse effect, the entire Earth would plunge below the freezing point of water and we’d all be dead.) Now that atmosphere, so thin and fragile, is under assault by our technology. We are pumping all kinds of stuff into it. You know about the concern that chlorofluorocarbons are depleting the ozone layer; and that carbon dioxide and methane and other greenhouse gases are producing global warming, a steady trend amidst fluctuations produced by volcanic eruptions and other sources. Who knows what other challenges we are posing to this vulnerable layer of air that we haven’t been wise enough to foresee?

ON THE IMPORTANCE OF (TEACHING AND) LEARNING SCIENCE

Why We Need To Understand Science Article, 1990

We live in a society exquisitely dependent on science and technology, in which hardly anyone knows anything about science and technology.

The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark Book, 1997

We’ve arranged a global civilization in which the most crucial elements — transportation, communications, and all other industries; agriculture, medicine, education, entertainment, protecting the environment; and even the key democratic institution of voting, profoundly depend on science and technology. We have also arranged things so that almost no one understands science and technology. This is a prescription for disaster. We might get away with it for a while, but sooner or later this combustible mixture of ignorance and power is going to blow up in our faces.

ON HUMAN SURVIVAL

Billions & Billions: Thoughts on Life and Death at the Brink of the Millennium Book, 1997

The Earth is an anomaly. In all the Solar System, it is, so far as we know, the only inhabited planet. We humans are one amongst millions of separate species who live in a world burgeoning, overflowing with life. And yet, most species that ever were are no more. After flourishing for 180 million years, the dinosaurs were extinguished. Every last one. There are none left. No species is guaranteed its tenure on this planet. And we’ve been here for only about a million years, we, the first species that has devised means for its self-destruction. We are rare and precious because we are alive, because we can think as well as we can. We are privileged to influence and perhaps control our future. I believe we have an obligation to fight for life on Earth—not just for ourselves, but for all those, humans and others, who came before us, and to whom we are beholden, and for all those who, if we are wise enough, will come after. There is no cause more urgent, no dedication more fitting than to protect the future of our species.

The Varieties of Scientific Experience: A Personal View of the Search for God Book, 2006

Because it is clear from the fossil record that almost every species that has ever existed is extinct; extinction is the rule, survival is the exception.

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Repairing the Damage to Science

ANTI-INTELLECTUALISM

The Growing Partisan Divide in Views of Higher Education

In 2012 53% of Republicans and Republican-leaning Independents in the U.S. believed that higher education was a net positive for the nation and 35% had a negative view. Now, in 2019, those numbers have reversed. 59% of Republicans and Republican-leaning Independents have a negative view of higher education while 33% have a positive view. Over the same time period, the results for Democrats and Democratic-leaning Independents have been consistent — about 66% positive and about 20% negative.

Ed Brayton, who blogs at Dispatches from the Culture Wars “is not at all” surprised by this.

Most Republicans Reject Higher Education

This is not at all surprising. The right, and Trump in particular, have made rejection of expertise and knowledge almost an article of faith. They look at university faculty that leans liberal, decide they’re the enemy and demonize them in every way possible. Trump embodies this with his constant rejection of science, learning and experience. No one knows anything about anything but him, so he doesn’t need no fancy schmancy liberal eggheads telling him that global warming is real or that perhaps he should listen to our career civil servants in the diplomatic corps, who might just know something he doesn’t about the countries they’ve been deeply involved with for decades.

Not only is this not surprising, but, as the surveys have shown, it’s not new either. In 2012 more than a third of America’s Republicans thought that a post-secondary education had a net negative impact on our society. While that’s less than in 2019, it’s still a lot.

QUICK HISTORY

This strain of popular anti-intellectualism has been part of American life since the beginning of the Republic. It was present in the religious objections to the Constitution, and according to Richard Hofstadter’s Anti-Intellectualism in American Life, is at least in part, the result of the particular strain of Protestantism which set the tone for the development of the country.

In more modern times…

  • Vice-Presidential candidate Richard Nixon called former Illinois Governor Adlai Stevenson an “egghead

However, the fact that the percentage of Republican Americans who disdain expertise has risen is more reflective of the direction of the Republican Party under its current leadership than any change in the number of Americans who would like their children to go to college.

By the way, it’s still true that the more education one has, the higher one’s income prospects…and the difference is growing. In 1970 the difference in average income between those with a college degree and those with just a high school diploma was $14,400 per year. By 2018 that difference had nearly doubled to $25,000.

Majorities of both Republicans and Democrats don’t like the post-secondary impact of high tuition costs, but nearly 80% of Republicans include the so-called left-leaning tendency of college professors in their reasons for their negative view of colleges and universities. Interestingly, this further divides by age. 96% of Republicans over 65 think liberal professors impose their beliefs on the young, whereas slightly over half (56%) of Republicans between the ages of 18 and 34 feel that way. While that’s still a majority, it implies that a large number of young Republicans don’t see post-secondary liberal professorial indoctrination as a problem. One would think that the younger sample rather than the older, would have a better handle on what is going on in colleges and universities today.

FIGHTING BACK

In the meantime, the current administration ignores scientific (and other) expertise when making decisions which affect us all.

The Union of Concerned Scientists wrote in their report, The State of Science in the Trump Era (2019),

Scientists—whether agency staff, experts in leadership positions, or nongovernmental scientists on advisory committees—have long advised policymakers when good decisions depend on scientific evidence. The Trump administration is excluding this expertise from decisionmaking…

Our nation’s landmark public health and environmental laws require the use of science to set standards that protect people and preserve our natural resources. The Trump administration has ignored or sidestepped many of these processes…

In fact, the administration is not just ignoring expertise, but actually censoring science that doesn’t fit its pro-profit or political agenda.

Who does President Trump treat worse than anyone else? Scientists.

In 2017, Interior Department officials — including then-Deputy Secretary David Bernhardt — blocked the release of a comprehensive analysis about the threat that three widely used pesticides pose to endangered species, requiring the report’s authors to use a narrower standard for determining the risk of the chemicals. That year, the government also halted a study by the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine on the health risks of mountaintop removal mining in Appalachian states, wasting $455,110 that had already been spent on the process.

We could go on: The administration has suppressed, blocked or ignored scientific research on the environmental effects of mining in national forests, the dangers of asbestos, the status of endangered species, the effect a citizenship question would have on the U.S. Census, the safety of children’s products and countless other issues.

The education community must step up. We must prepare tomorrow’s leaders to repair the intellectual damage coming from the current administration.

This is the intellectual rot of the Trump era. It’s more than just an anti-big government ideology; it’s a systematic assault on science across the federal government. These actions will reverberate in our government for years to come, even after the Trump administration is gone, in the form of policy decisions we make without the benefit of the best evidence available. And worse, Americans may not even be aware of how they are being deceived and deprived.

That’s the true scandal of Trump’s war on scientists. No other group is so pervasively targeted and so thoroughly ignored. Yet it is their voices, more than any other, that our nation needs in this disturbing political moment.

CHILDREN ARE OUR FUTURE

Reversing the anti-science direction of the country will take time and won’t be easy. We can do it if we focus on today’s students…tomorrow’s leaders.

In his last interview (go to 3:55 for this quote), Carl Sagan warned (1996),

Science is more than a body of knowledge. It is a way of thinking; a way of skeptically interrogating the universe with a fine understanding of human fallibility.

If we are not able to ask skeptical questions, to interrogate those who tell us that something is true, to be skeptical of those in authority, then, we are up for grabs for the next charlatan (political or religious) who comes ambling along.

It’s a thing that Jefferson lay great stress on. It wasn’t enough, he said, to enshrine some rights in a constitution or a bill of rights. The people had to be educated and they had to practice their skepticism and their education. Otherwise we don’t run the government. The government runs us.

What can we do? The charlatans are here…it’s time to step up.

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MemeWise – Thinking About Science

I don’t understand how people who drive cars, fly in airplanes, cook meals, use clocks, talk on telephones, trust that their tap water is clean, smell flowers, watch TV, and take their medicines can deny science when it doesn’t suit their biases.

As a voter, as a citizen, scientific issues will come before you…Isn’t it worth it to say, “Let me at least become scientifically literate so that I can think about these issues and act intelligently upon them”?

So…

THE SCIENTIFIC METHOD

In case you’ve forgotten, here’s a quick reminder…

THOSE ARROGANT SCIENTISTS

The same people who trust a plumber with their pipes and gas lines, a mechanic with their cars, and a doctor with their health, choose to believe politicians over 97% of the world’s climate scientists when it comes to the fate of life on Earth.

DON’T CONFUSE YOUR GOOGLE SEARCH WITH MY PROFESSIONAL DEGREES

This is how I feel when the Indiana General Assembly starts passing laws about education.

CORRELATION DOES NOT IMPLY CAUSATION

Just because there’s a correlation between the divorce rate in Maine and the per capita consumption of margarine doesn’t mean that they necessarily relate to each other.

A VACCINE AGAINST CHARLATANS

Scientific literacy is a vaccine against the charlatans of the world who would exploit our ignorance. Without it, we are unprotected…

“When you have an established, scientific, emergent truth, it is true whether or not you believe in it, and the sooner you understand that, the faster we can get on with the political conversations about how to solve the problems that face us.”

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Still Teaching From the Grave

Carl Sagan: November 9, 1934 – December 20, 1996

Last month I reread Carl Sagan’s Billions and Billions: Thoughts on Life and Death at the brink of the Millenium. It is Sagan’s last book, published in 1997, the year after he died from the rare bone-marrow disease myelodysplasia.

Billions and Billions is a book of essays covering a wide range of topics, including the fact that he never actually said, “billions and billions” on his Cosmos television series, extraterrestrials, abortion, and exoplanets. He also included essays on some pet concerns of his – climate change, and the diminishment of science literacy in American society.

He dealt with our national ignorance in an earlier book (see the quote in the picture below), but in Billions and Billions, he continued his quest to convince his fellow humans that we must take care of the Earth, our home, lest we join the dinosaurs in extinction.

The Earth is an anomaly. In all the Solar System, it is, so far as we know, the only inhabited planet. We humans are one amongst millions of separate species who live in a world burgeoning, overflowing with life. And yet, most species that ever were are no more. After flourishing for 180 million years, the dinosaurs were extinguished. Every last one. There are none left. No species is guaranteed its tenure on this planet. And we’ve been here for only about a million years, we, the first species that has devised means for its self-destruction. We are rare and precious because we are alive, because we can think as well as we can. We are privileged to influence and perhaps control our future. I believe we have an obligation to fight for life on Earth—not just for ourselves, but for all those, humans and others, who came before us, and to whom we are beholden, and for all those who, if we are wise enough, will come after. There is no cause more urgent, no dedication more fitting than to protect the future of our species.

The mid-term elections held earlier this week have reminded us that in order for us to survive as a species, and allow other species to survive, we must extinguish the anti-intellectualism – “a kind of celebration of ignorance, as Sagan put it – that has once again risen to the surface in our society. The only way we can do that is to educate ourselves, our children, and even more importantly, our leaders, so they can understand the issues facing us.

Sagan wrote presciently about a future that one could argue has come to pass…

I have a foreboding of an America…when the United States is a service and information economy; when nearly all the key manufacturing industries have slipped away to other countries; when awesome technological powers are in the hands of a very few, and no one representing the public interest can even grasp the issues; when the people have lost the ability to set their own agendas or knowledgeably question those in authority; when, clutching our crystals and nervously consulting our horoscopes, our critical faculties in decline, unable to distinguish between what feels good and what’s true, we slide, almost without noticing, back into superstition and darkness.

We have been bamboozled by scientifically illiterate charlatans whose goal is not the health of the Earth or the human species, but the bottom line of their corporate sponsors.

 

Even though he’s been gone more than two decades, we can still learn a lot from Dr. Sagan.

🌍📡🌔

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Sagan Day 2017

Carl Sagan: November 9, 1934 – December 20, 1996

For this year’s Sagan Day, I offer some quotes on our current condition…

THE PALE BLUE DOT

There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another, and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we’ve ever known.

THE CHARLATANS ARE HERE

Reversing the anti-science direction of the country will take time and won’t be easy. We can do it if we focus on the today’s students…tomorrow’s leaders.

In his last interview, Carl Sagan warned (1996),

Science is more than a body of knowledge. It is a way of thinking; a way of skeptically interrogating the universe with a fine understanding of human fallibility.

If we are not able to ask skeptical questions, to interrogate those who tell us that something is true, to be skeptical of those in authority, then, we are up for grabs for the next charlatan (political or religious) who comes ambling along.

The charlatans are here…it’s time to step up.

FROM THE DEMON-HAUNTED WORLD, 1996

I have a foreboding of an America in my children’s or grandchildren’s time – when the United states is a service and information economy; when nearly all the key manufacturing industries have slipped away to other countries; when awesome technological powers are in the hands of a very few, and no one representing the public interest can even grasp the issues; when the people have lost the ability to set their own agendas or knowledgeably question those in authority; when, clutching our crystals and nervously consulting our horoscopes, our critical faculties in decline, unable to distinguish between what feels good and what’s true, we slide, almost without noticing, back into superstition and darkness.

FROM CONTACT, A NOVEL, 1985

We could not guess how different from us they (extraterrestrials) might be. It was hard enough to guess the intentions of our elected representatives in Washington.

📡📡📡

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The Charlatans Are Here

[Part 2 of 2: A followup post on the recent increase of anti-science and anti-intellectualism in America. Click HERE here to read Part 1, Standing in Denial, Rising to Power.]

GOOD TEACHERS RETEACH

What can we, as actual educators (not the Betsy DeVos kind), do to change the country’s direction when it comes to science, and to learning in general?

1. When students don’t learn the first time, good teachers reteach. As teachers, we can take it upon ourselves to reteach history, including scientific innovations and developments, to the American people. Even the know-nothings like Pruitt and Perry use science every day with their cell phones, their cable and satellite TVs, and their kitchens. It’s important to remember how those advancements came about. This, of course, won’t deter those who deny science or are “reforming” schools in order to enrich themselves. However, it might help support regular citizens who are interested in planning for the nation’s future.

As teachers, we must become active lobbyists. We should lobby parents, local, state and federal legislators and policy-makers to do what needs to be done to Make America Smart Again.

Teachers need to speak out, write to legislators, support public education advocacy groups like the Indiana Coalition for Public Education or the Network for Public Education, and educate their friends, neighbors, and relatives.

TEACH THE COMMUNITY

Specifically teachers should lobby for the following.

2. End the waste of our time and money on standardized tests and use the savings to pay for professional development for teachers teaching science, and for equipment and supplies to help them. Use the savings to pay for professional development and supplies for all teachers.

3. Make sure children come to school ready to learn. To that end, we need to spend dollars on countering the effects of poverty beginning with good prenatal care for every pregnant woman in the country. The U.S.A. is 57th in infant mortality rates behind countries like Slovakia, Cuba, Singapore, Canada, and the U.K. Science has taught us what to do…we need to see to it that there is carry-over of scientific knowledge into the real world.

4. The next step in countering the effects of poverty is to invest in early childhood education in which children can explore themselves and the world. Our enrollment rates and expenditures on Early Childhood programs lag well below the OECD average.

5. Provide every child with a full and balanced curriculum,

…including the arts, science, history, literature, civics, foreign languages, mathematics, and physical education.

6. Support students by lowering class sizes.

7. End the diversion of tax dollars to unaccountable and unregulated charter schools, and vouchers for private and parochial schools.

8. The relationship between poverty and achievement is well established, but instructional innovations, improvements, and support can’t overcome the effects of poverty alone. Students need support services to help ameliorate the effects of poverty. Services such as nurses, social workers, counselors, after-school programs, and transportation, should be available. See .

9. End the scourge of high-stakes testing. See #2.

10. Ensure that every school is staffed with fully-trained, professional educators and support staff.

Research-based strategies and proven models for improving the teaching profession should guide the maintenance and growth of a dedicated, experienced, and multi-racial teaching staff…In Finland, a country known for high-performing students, teaching is a respected, top career choice; teachers have autonomy in their classrooms, work collectively to develop the school curriculum, and participate in shared governance of the school…They receive strong professional support throughout their careers and ample time for collaboration with colleagues built into their workday. They are not rated; they are trusted.

11. Public schools should be controlled by elected school boards. Lack of transparency should not be an option. See #7.

12. The privatization of public education has increased school segregation. We know from research that desegregated schools narrowed racial and economic achievement gaps. It’s time to fulfill the requirement of Brown vs. Board of Education.

More than 60 years after Brown v. Board of Education, federal education policies still implicitly accept the myth of “separate but equal,” by attempting to improve student outcomes without integrating schools. Policymakers have tried creating national standards, encouraging charter schools, implementing high-stakes teacher evaluations and tying testing to school sanctions and funding. These efforts sought to make separate schools better but not less segregated. Ending achievement and opportunity gaps requires implementing a variety of desegregation methods – busing, magnet schools, or merging school districts, for instance – to create a more just public education system that successfully educates all children.

[Editorial aside: I disagree with one part of the above quote. It’s clear to me that federal education policies explicitly accept, and in fact, encourage, “separate but equal” schools in America.]

13. Acknowledge “that public education is a public responsibility, not a consumer good.“✩

The whole people must take upon themselves the education of the whole people, and must be willing to bear the expenses of it. There should not be a district of one mile square, without a school in it, not founded by a charitable individual, but maintained at the expense of the people themselves.John Adams

These suggestions will cost money, and you might ask, “How can we afford that?” Ending the overuse and misuse of standardized testing will provide one source of income for schools to use. Ending the diversion of tax dollars for privatization will provide more, but that won’t cover everything.

A better question might be: how can we afford not to have these schools? Where else is public money being spent? We must invest in our children.

SCIENCE TEACHERS (AT ALL GRADE LEVELS)…

  • Do your part to help students (and their parents) understand the scientific method, to see science in everyday life, and to dispel myths and misconceptions about science (e.g. “evolution is just a ‘theory'”).
  • Work with your colleagues to develop multi-disciplinary projects. Science can be found in history, geography, philosophy, physical education, the arts and other subject areas.
  • Invite scientists from local industry and academia into your classroom to explore ideas with your students.
  • Be an advocate for science. Teach so that your students become as excited about science as your are. At a minimum, ensure that they are scientifically literate when they leave your class.
  • Join scientific organizations to advocate for science education and to keep up with the latest news in your field…groups like

○ The National Science Teachers Association
○ The American Association for the Advancement of Science
○ The National Science Foundation
○ The Association for Science Teacher Education
○ The Association for Science Education

  • Read about ways to improve science education in the U.S.

○ The Improving science education in America
○ The Ideas for Improving Science Education in the U.S.
○ The How can we reform science education?

CHILDREN ARE OUR FUTURE

Reversing the anti-science direction of the country will take time and won’t be easy. We can do it if we focus on the today’s students…tomorrow’s leaders.

In his last interview (go to 3:55 for this quote), Carl Sagan warned (1996),

Science is more than a body of knowledge. It is a way of thinking; a way of skeptically interrogating the universe with a fine understanding of human fallibility.

If we are not able to ask skeptical questions, to interrogate those who tell us that something is true, to be skeptical of those in authority, then, we are up for grabs for the next charlatan (political or religious) who comes ambling along.

The charlatans are here…it’s time to step up.

[The numbered list, above, is taken from ✩Reign of Error: The Hoax of the Privatization Movement and the Danger to America’s Public Schools, by Diane Ravitch and ✪The Schools Chicago’s Students Deserve: Research-based Proposals to Strengthen Elementary and Secondary Education in the Chicago Public Schools from the Chicago Teachers Union. Quotes from those sources are noted either ✩ or ✪. Other quotes are linked.]

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Filed under Anti-Intellectualism, CTU, Ravitch, Sagan, Science