Archive for the 'Election season ’08' Category

Silly season in Seminole County

Saturday, October 11th, 2008

The Orlando Sentinel editorial board made its recomendations for various school board elections. Is it any surprise that evolution comes up at some point? Concerning the Seminole County school board district 4 seat:

We are hard-pressed to find a reason why Ms. [Sylvia] Pond should unseat him [Barry Gainer], given the school system’s success. We found a pretty good reason why she shouldn’t, though. In 2004, Ms. Pond said she wanted creationism taught alongside evolution. We don’t agree. Creationism might belong in a comparative religion class, but not in science class.

Evolution in school board elections: Broward

Tuesday, October 7th, 2008

It amazes me that one particular school subject — evolution — becomes an issue in school board elections. If you sit back and think about it, wouldn’t it be silly to see the issue of comma placement as taught in English composition class attract candidate attention? Nonetheless, evolution is a concern in Broward County. Florida Today mentions the candidates’ stances on evolution:

But she [Karen Henderson] lacks the experience to hit the ground running on difficult budget and school governance issues and favors unwise policies such as teaching faith-based intelligent design as an alternative to science-based evolution.

He’s [Stuart Rowan] also a firm believer in the separation of church and state and rightly says it’s very inappropriate to teach religious doctrine such as creationism or intelligent design in the science classroom.

Science on the national political stage, part II

Monday, September 15th, 2008

I had posted here a little while ago that presidential candidate Barack Obama had responded to science-focused questions posed by ScienceDebate 2008. In that earlier post I had included his answer to question 4 (science education question) in full. So, here is presidential candidate John McCain’s answer to that same question:

4. Education.  A comparison of 15-year-olds in 30 wealthy nations found that average science scores among U.S. students ranked 17th, while average U.S. math scores ranked 24th.  What role do you think the federal government should play in preparing K-12 students for the science and technology driven 21st Century?

My Administration will promote economic policies that will spur economic growth and a focus on an innovative economy.  Critical to these efforts is the creation of the best trained, best prepared workforce to drive this economy through the 21st century.  America’s ability to compete in the global market is dependent on the availability of a skilled workforce.  Less than 20 percent of our undergraduate students obtaining degrees in math or science, and the number of computer science majors have fallen by half over the last eight years.  America must address these trends in education and training if it hopes to compete successfully.
But I believe that education is an ongoing process.  Thus our nation’s education system should not only focus on graduating new students; we must also help re-train displaced workers as they prepare for the rapidly evolving economy.  Invigorating our community college system is a good place to start.  For example, recognizing this, I have long supported grants for educational instruction in digital and wireless technologies, targeted to minorities and low-income students who may not otherwise be exposed to these fields.

Beyond the basics of enabling every student to reach their potential, our country is faced with a critical shortage of students with specific skills fundamental to our ability to compete globally.

The diminishing number of science, technology, engineering and math graduates at the college level poses a fundamental and immediate threat to American competitiveness.

We must fill the pipeline to our colleges and universities with students prepared for the rigors of advanced engineering, math, science and technology degrees.

We must move aggressively to provide opportunities from elementary school on, for students to explore the sciences through laboratory experimentation, science fairs and competitions.

We must bring private corporations more directly into the process, leveraging their creativity, and experience to identify and maximize the potential of students who are interested and have the unique potential to excel in math and science.

We must strengthen skills of existing science and math teachers through training and education, through professional development programs and community colleges. I believe we must provide funding for needed professional teacher development. Where federal funds are involved, teacher development money should be used to enhance the ability of teachers to perform in today’s technology driven environment. We need to provide teachers with high quality professional development opportunities with a primary focus on instructional strategies that address the academic needs of their students. The first 35 percent of Title II funding would be directed to the school level so principals and teachers could focus these resources on the specific needs of their schools.

I will devote 60 percent of Title II funding for incentive bonuses for high performing teachers to locate in the most challenging educational settings, for teachers to teach subjects like math and science, and for teachers who demonstrate student improvement. Payments will be made directly to teachers. Funds should also be devoted to provide performance bonuses to teachers who raise student achievement and enhance the school-wide learning environment. Principals may also consider other issues in addition to test scores such as peer evaluations, student subgroup improvements, or being removed from the state’s “in need of improvement” list.

I will allocate $250 million through a competitive grant program to support states that commit to expanding online education opportunities. States can use these funds to build virtual math and science academies to help expand the availability of AP Math, Science, and Computer Sciences courses, online tutoring support for students in traditional schools, and foreign language courses.

I will also continue to support STEM education programs at NSF, DOE, NASA, and NOAA.  These scientific agencies can and should play a key role in the education of its future engineers and scientists.  These agencies have the opportunity to add a practical component to the theoretical aspects of the students’ educational process.

So, who had the better response? You can learn more about both men’s science stance and record at the Scientists and Engineers for America website.

Science on the national political stage

Sunday, August 31st, 2008

Just some brief notes about science in the presidential campaign here. Barack Obama responded to 14 science-related questions posed by ScienceDebate 2008. Question 4 is about science education. Here is his response:

4. Education.  A comparison of 15-year-olds in 30 wealthy nations found that average science scores among U.S. students ranked 17th, while average U.S. math scores ranked 24th.  What role do you think the federal government should play in preparing K-12 students for the science and technology driven 21st Century?

All American citizens need high quality STEM education that inspires them to know more about the world around them, engages them in exploring challenging questions, and involves them in high quality intellectual work. STEM education is no longer only for those pursuing STEM careers; it should enable all citizens to solve problems, collaborate, weigh evidence, and communicate ideas. I will work to ensure that all Americans, including those in traditionally underrepresented groups, have the knowledge and skills they need to engage in society, innovate in our world, and compete in the global economy.

I will support research to understand the strategies and mechanisms that bring lasting improvements to STEM education and ensure that promising practices are widely shared. This includes encouraging the development of cutting edge STEM instructional materials and technologies, and working with educators to ensure that assessments measure the range of knowledge and skills needed for the 21st Century. I will bring coherency to STEM education by increasing coordination of federal STEM education programs and facilitating cooperation among state efforts. I recently introduced the “Enhancing Science, Technology, Engineering and Math Education Act of 2008” that would establish a STEM Education Committee within the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) to coordinate the efforts of federal agencies engaged in STEM education, consolidate the STEM education initiatives that exist within the Department of Education under the direction of an Office of STEM Education, and create a State Consortium for STEM Education. These reforms will strengthen interagency coordination at the federal level, encourage collaboration on common content standards and assessments for STEM education at the state and local levels, and provide a mechanism for sharing the latest innovations and practices in STEM education with educators. I also recently sponsored an amendment, which became law, to the America Competes Act that established a competitive state grant program to support summer learning opportunities with curricula that emphasize mathematics and problem solving.

My education plan is built on the recognition that teachers play a critical role in student learning and achievement. My administration will work closely with states and local communities to ensure that we recruit math and science graduates to the teaching profession. Through Teacher Service Scholarships, a Teacher Residency Program, and Career Ladders, I will transform the teaching profession from one that has too many underpaid and insufficiently qualified teachers to one that attracts the best STEM teaching talent for our schools.

We cannot strengthen STEM education without addressing the broader challenges of improving American education and other priority issues. In addition to a focus on high quality teachers, my comprehensive plan addresses the needs of our most at-risk children, focuses on strong school leaders, and enlists parent and community support. My proposals for a comprehensive “zero to five” program will ensure that children enter school ready to learn. And when they finish school, I will make sure that through the new $4,000 American Opportunity Tax Credit, they will have access to affordable higher education that will provide them with the science fluency they need to be leaders in STEM fields and across broad sectors of our society.

John McCain has yet to provide his answers. However, his selection of running mate has raised some serious concerns when it comes to science education.

The volatile issue of teaching creation science in public schools popped up in the Alaska governor’s race this week when Republican Sarah Palin said she thinks creationism should be taught alongside evolution in the state’s public classrooms.

Palin was answering a question from the moderator near the conclusion of Wednesday night’s televised debate on KAKM Channel 7 when she said, ‘Teach both. You know, don’t be afraid of information. Healthy debate is so important, and it’s so valuable in our schools. I am a proponent of teaching both.’

Silly season in Brevard

Thursday, August 21st, 2008

Florida Today makes some recommendations for the Brevard County School Board.

The four other candidates for the seat [District 4] — Richard Contreras, Karen Henderson, Dean Paterakis and Tom Wuchte — also want to boost education in Brevard, but lack expertise or promote flawed policies.

All support the teaching faith-based intelligent design as an alternative to science-based evolution. Three — Contreras, Wuchte and Paterakis — favor proposed constitutional amendments that would drain dollars from public schools already in a funding crisis and give them to private or religious ones through voucher programs.

He’s [Stuart Rowan, District 5] also a firm believer in the separation of church and state and rightly says it’s very inappropriate to teach religious doctrine such as creationism or intelligent design in the science classroom.

How did your lawmakers rate?

Wednesday, August 20th, 2008

The Christian Coalition of Florida issued a legislative scorecard listing all of the bills from this past session the group deemed important enough to support or oppose. The group then listed all the members of the Senate and House and graded them on how they voted on those bills. Listed as bill “Z” is the deceptively-named Academic Freedom bill. You can see a copy of the scorecard at the Central Florida Political Pulse blog of the Orlando Sentinel.

One thing I noted was how the media is reporting this so far. From that Sentinel blog:

The region was also home to one of the three Florida senators who scored perfectly in the Christian Coalition’s eyes: you guessed it, Sen. Dan Webster, R-Winter Garden, who was among a distinct minority within the 40-member chamber to score perfectly on their anti-gambling, anti-evolution, anti-abortion measuring stick.

And take a look at Palm Beach Politics blog of the Sun-Sentinel.

The Christian Coalition graded legislators on their votes on abortion issues, school vouchers and an anti-evolution bill allowing teachers to discredit Darwin in the classroom.

Notice that the media so far is not buying the “academic freedom” angle. They’re labeling it simply as anti-evolution. Period.

More silly season fun

Sunday, August 17th, 2008

Florida Citizens for Science has assembled a listing of all candidates running for the state Senate and House. We’ve included websites for the candidates as we could find them.

Also of interest for anyone in Clay County: An organization active in that area sent out questionnaires to the local candidates and then created an online voter guide. Scroll to the bottom of that page and have a look at the superintendent and school board folks. There are some positions these folks have you might find interesting. Anyone know of any other similar voting guides out there?

Silly Season: Florida House, District 71

Sunday, August 10th, 2008

Republicans Chris Constance and Ken Roberson are vying for the Florida House in District 71. FYI:

He [Constance] has endeavored, along with Roberson, to portray himself as the candidate of the Republican right (both support requiring public school teachers to offer “alternative” theories to evolution).

I think one word in there is of particular significance: requiring. Not permitting. Requiring.