Archive for Education

Online labs and activities for environmental science

Posted in environmental science with tags , , , , , , on June 11, 2010 by airtightnoodle

If you teach environmental science or APES (Advanced Placement Environmental Science) you may want to check out the following link:

NROC Environmental Science

The site is designed to be an online APES class and claims to cover all of the material the College Board dictates must be covered for APES.  I haven’t looked through the entire site myself, so I can’t speak for that assertion.  However, there are some neat online labs where students have to change inputs and then assess what happens, and so on.  Check it out.

Don McLeroy–no longer head of the SBOE

Posted in Education, Evolution, politics, religion, science, Texas with tags , , , , , , , , on May 31, 2009 by airtightnoodle

It’s a sad day in Texas.

No, wait…I’m sure it’s a sad day somewhere, but not in Texas.

On Thursday, the reappointment of Don McLeroy as head of the state board of education was blocked by Democrats of the state senate.  You may recall that McLeroy is one of the creationists on the board and has given science education a difficult time by supporting “strengths and weaknesses” and “academic freedom” movements. 

Now, don’t go crazy rejoicing just yet.  He is still a member of the board. 

It’s not often that I agree with Democrats (I realize that may shock some of you, being that at least on this one issue I do agree with them more often than the more conservative of the political arena), but I think Kirk Watson, a Democrat of Austin, summed it up nicely here:

“People have a right to be confident that the State Board of Education is putting the interests of our children above ideology, politics and everything else, including the so-called good fight.  Whether they agree with McLeroy or not, Texans simply cannot have faith in this board when it is led by a man who has so enthusiastically embraced his role in these endless culture wars.”

As a Christian, there are many things that I have a firm personal opinion on.  However, I don’t always think that those things are of the utmost importance in the political sphere, and I don’t always agree with people forcing such issues simply because they are Christian.

But I digress.  Governor Rick Perry now has the responsibility of naming someone else as chairman of the board.  Since he fully supported McLeroy, it won’t surprise me if he simply nominates another creationist on the board.  Only time will tell.

To read more about this, visit the Houston Chronicle’s article here.

The latest on the Texas science standards

Posted in Education, Evolution, Texas with tags , , , , , , on March 26, 2009 by airtightnoodle

For live blogging updates on the current debates over the Texas science standards, visit the blog of the Texas Freedom Network here.

Don McLeroy attempts to spin the issue

Posted in Education, Evolution with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 25, 2009 by airtightnoodle

Today in the Austin American Statesman we have an editorial from none other than the state’s chair of the board of education–Don McLeroy!  Recall that McLeroy is himself anti-evolution, though he has continued to claim for years that he has no intention of promoting the teaching of creationism and/or intelligent design in science classes (though his actions have always said otherwise).

According to McLeroy’s editorial today, the blame for this controversy lies at the feet of the proponents of evolution:

The controversy exists because evolutionists, led by academia’s far-left, along with the secular elite opinion-makers, have decreed that questioning of evolution is not allowed, that it is only an attempt to inject religion or creationism into the classroom. Even Texas’ 20-year-old requirement to teach the scientific strengths and weaknesses of hypotheses and theories has come under attack. Words that were uncontroversial and perfectly acceptable for nearly two decades are now considered “code words” for intelligent design and are deemed unscientific. The elite fear that “unscientific” weaknesses of evolution will be inserted into the textbooks, leaving students without a good science education and unprepared for the future, compelling businesses to shun “illiterate” Texas.

McLeroy makes several misleading statements here.  First, acceptance of the validity of evolution is not restricted to academia’s “far-left”.  Even if that were true, proponents of evolution are not against questioning of the theory, or any theory.  Questioning the world around us is part of the scientific method.  Furthermore, there are plenty of real controversies about the theory of evolution that are currently being questioned and examined by scientists around the globe. 

What educators and scientists ARE concerned about is the attempt to confuse students about the theory.  Anti-evolutionists are trying, as they have been for years, to make it appear as if evolution is a theory in crisis, when it certainly is not.  By making it appear thus, this opens the door for creationists and intelligent design proponents to say, “Look, students.  Here is the alternative.”  Such teachings may be acceptable at home, at church, or in a religion or philosophy class, but these ideas of origins are unscientific.  Being unscientific, they do not belong in a science class. 

Now, others might point out that having the phrase “strengths and weaknesses” in the standards does not mean that teachers will be tossing ideas about creationism around willy-nilly.  True.  However, having the phrase “strengths and weaknesses” in the science TEKS is dangerous regardless.  This phrase itself is unscientific and gives students false ideas about the very nature of science.  McLeroy points out that this phrase has been part of the standards for several years and was uncontroversial until recently.  That’s not really the case.  There have been many people who have wanted that phrase removed for YEARS.  (Recall that several months ago state board of education member Barbara Cargill wrote an editorial in which she stated that the phrase had served Texas students well for years.  When I emailed and asked her to explain this statement, she never replied.)

McLeroy points out that the new standards focus on contructing “testable explanations”–a phrase he says should be satisfactory to both sides of the issue.  He states that, “The debate can now shift from “Is it science?” to “Is it testable?””  Fair enough.  The issue of something being testable is, of course, very important to the scientific method.  McLeroy claims that one of the new controversial science standards is simply following through with this idea of “testability”:

A new curriculum standard asks Texas students to look into this question. It states: “The student is expected to analyze and evaluate the sufficiency or insufficiency of common ancestry to explain the sudden appearance, stasis, and sequential nature of groups in the fossil record.” It should not raise any objections from those who say evolution has no weaknesses; they claim it is unquestionably true.

The question I have for McLeroy and others on the board who support these changes is…why are you singling out evolution?  If you truly feel that the “strengths and weaknesses” of theories need to be addressed, why are you particularly singling out this one theory?  Why aren’t there any standards being drafted to address the strengths and weaknesses of the germ theory of disease, for example?

In his concluding paragraph, McLeroy states:

If we are to train our students, engage their minds and, frankly, be honest with them, why oppose these standards?

McLeroy himself is clearly being dishonest.  By singling out evolutionary theory for “strengths and weaknesses” and attempting to use a Stephen Jay Gould quote to discredit the theory (yes, you’ll have to read the editorial for that tid-bit) he shows that his actions are, in fact, religiously motivated. 

So, to answer McLeroy’s question…why should we oppose such standards?  Here are just a few reasons.

1. These standards give students a false idea that there is a scientific controversy over evolution.  There is not.
2. The phrase “strengths and weaknesses” gives a false idea about the very nature of science. 
3. This approach could potentially lead to costly lawsuits when teachers use the standards to promote alternative theories in class like creationism (or, vice versa, teachers could potentially be accused of not adequately covering the “weaknesses” part of the clause).
4. Potential damage to the educational system, reputation, and economic growth of our great state. 
5. Potential damage to the educational system, reputation, and economic growth of our COUNTRY (recall that Texas is one of the largest purchasers of textbooks, so what Texas decides largely impacts the rest of the nation).

Texas science standards…making the state look bad

Posted in Education, Evolution with tags , , , , , , , , , , on March 25, 2009 by airtightnoodle

In the Dallas Morning news from Tuesday, we have an interesting editorial from Daniel Foster, physician and professor.  Daniel points out that

Six thousand years and 13.7 billion years can not be brought together. What is the child to believe?…The first rule of all ethics is, “Do no harm.” I believe it is harmful, and therefore unethical, to confront our children with two disparate truths considered by anti-evolutionists to be equally true.

I think Daniel hit the nail on the head with this comment.  There is no scientific reason to teach, in a science class, that there is evidence for a 6000-10,000 year old earth.  If a student brings it up in class, should the teacher address it?  Sure.  But to promote such discussion about unscientific ideas about origins as part of the state’s standards is ludicrous. 

These ridiculous standards have the potential to make Texas a laughing-stock in several respects.  Foster states, for example:

If Texas appears to the nation and the world uncommitted to science, we confuse outsiders about whether we mean what we say about improving the quality of the education we offer our youth and about our research aspirations.

Texas’ overall high school graduation rate is among the lowest in the nation. Of Texas high school graduates, only 41 percent are ready for college-level math and only 24 percent are ready for college-level science. Many of our most qualified students now leave the state to go to college, creating a “brain drain.” We claim as a state that we mean to improve, but what message does the proposed action regarding our textbooks convey?

Despite our poor high school graduation rates, Texas actually has several great research universities and top-notch medical centers.  It would be a shame for the reputation of these institutions to be damaged as a result of unscientific standards being included in the TEKS.

You can read the rest of the editorial here.

Take action to support science in Texas!

Posted in Education, Evolution, Texas with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on January 20, 2009 by airtightnoodle

From the Texas Freedom Network:

This Wednesday the State Board of Education will hear public testimony on proposed science curriculum standards. The new draft standards reject efforts by creationists to undermine instruction on evolution. They also make it clear that supernatural explanations like creationism/”intelligent design” have no place in public school science classes. But creationists who control the state board are insisting that the standards require students to learn phony “weaknesses” of evolution. They want to force publishers to include those bogus arguments in new biology textbooks.

Take Action!

Help us turn back efforts to sabotage the education of Texas schoolchildren by standing up for science this week!SUFS

  • Click here to sign up to testify before the State Board of Education IN SUPPORT OF THE DRAFT STANDARDS at the public hearing on Wednesday. The board will hear only four hours of testimony. But even if you don’t get a chance to speak, adding your name in support of the draft standards is very important. Also, supporters of the draft standards will WEAR GREEN at the hearing to show their support for a sound science education.
  • Tell your state board member that you SUPPORT the draft science standards and OPPOSE efforts to water down the curriculum by opening the door to phony attacks against evolution. Click here to find the name and contact information for your State Board of Education member. Once you have the name of your board member, you can also click here to send an e-mail to him or her in care of the Texas Education Agency.
  • Donate to the Texas Freedom Networks’ Stand Up for Science campaign. Your contribution will help ensure that the next generation of Texas schoolchildren gets a 21st-century science education that helps them succeed in college and the jobs of the future.


Let them learn science!

Posted in Education, Evolution, Texas with tags , , , , , , on January 19, 2009 by airtightnoodle

This is the cry of a new website entitled “Teach Them Science“.  The site does a nice job of explaining exactly why Texas’ science curriculum is important and how it impacts the entire country.  Visit the site to learn how Texas decides what teachers teach and to see how you can get involved.