Archive for April, 2011

First newsletter

Saturday, April 23rd, 2011

Some of the folks here at Florida Citizens for Science have dipped their toes into new water, producing the first edition of a newsletter: Florida Science Matters. You can see the pdf file as a large file (8 mb) or a smaller size (1 mb). Takes a look and let us know what you think. Feel free to share it with others!

Florida leading the way!

Thursday, April 14th, 2011

The Fordham Institute conducts regular reviews of states’ science standards and oftentimes pays close attention to the treatment of evolution in those standards. Another review is actively in the works, and a reviewer wrote a blog post praising one state that has really stood out so far for its outstanding treatment of the subject: Florida!

But, thus far, only one set of standards from the 35 states I’ve looked at so far includes human evolution. Just one. I’ll leave it to you to guess which state it is while you read this description of the unit:

Identify basic trends in hominid evolution from early ancestors six million years ago to modern humans, including brain size, jaw size, language, and manufacture of tools. Discuss specific fossil hominids and what they show about human evolution.

The state: Florida.

I’d like instead to lift up a toast to Florida — which I bet was not the state that most of you guessed — as exemplifying the way forward here.

For all of you out there who helped write and then fight for our new standards (over and over again, unfortunately), stand up and take a bow.

So near and yet so far

Wednesday, April 13th, 2011

It’s almost over. Provided I don’t run into any unexpected road blocks, I will finally have my college degree and official certification to teach biology in Florida schools in just a few months. I completed my three-month teacher internship and received good, encouraging marks from the two people who graded me. Now I need to write a handful of essays that summarize various aspects of my time spent teaching. I’ve been procrastinating, but should have those projects done by the end of this month. Then I apply for graduation and finally get that all-important piece of paper that says I’m educated. But, it will be a while before I actually become a teacher due to some unfortunate timing. I’ll discuss that in a minute; first, let me tell you about my recent experiences. (More after the jump.) (more…)

Another paper opposes “theory of whatever” bill

Wednesday, April 13th, 2011

Florida Today has published an editorial opposing Sen. Wise’s “non-evolution” “theory of whatever” bill:

There he goes again. Sen. Wise used identical language in a previous bill that failed to become law. It’s almost pitiful, that this is what the deniers of evolution are reduced to. In this country, lawmakers have mandated teaching only the Biblical story of creation. The courts killed it. Then it was creationism. Dead. Intelligent design. Dead. So now it’s a “critical analysis.”

This state has big issues to face. It has budget problems measured in the billions. It has teachers rebelling against new ways of grading them and paying them. It has students who aren’t measuring up to their peers in the rest of the world. And we’re going to nitpick about evolution.

As innocuous as this small section of the bill seems, it should be removed. The injection of religion into a scientific theory — which obviously is what SB 1854 seeks to foster — has no place in the public school classroom. Period.

Fortunately, it looks like the bill isn’t moving forward during this legislative session. Paul Cottle says on his blog that the education committees are done, with no more meetings planned. However, I won’t relax until the legislative session is completely wrapped up. There is always a chance for amendments to be slipped into other bills.

The Scientific Evidence Against Evolution

Saturday, April 9th, 2011

There is a complete list on Rational Wiki that shows all the scientific evidence for evolution being a complete hoax. I think,along with Sen. Steve Wise, that we should “critically analyse” all this evidence in our science class rooms. If anyone can add to this list of evidence,we at FCS look forward to reading it.

Evolution newspaper story a confusing mess

Friday, April 8th, 2011

I’m feeling mighty confused by an article that recently appeared in Hernando Today (a Tampa Tribune paper): Educators: Bill that criticizes evolution won’t hurt students. Read the following excerpt and ponder what is being stated for a moment:

Dr. Stacey Thomson, chairwoman of the science department at Pasco-Hernando Community College, said adding evolutionary criticism, Intelligent Design or other non-evolution theories wouldn’t affect students’ performance.

By the time they reach post-secondary education and biology classes, she said many start from scratch learning the basics in 101 classes.

“These classes are very broad-based and whatever education they get in high school is not going to change their success or lack thereof,” Thomson said. “The problem we have is when students come from high school with no critical thinking skills, no math skills or no ethics. So if they can get students to start making decisions and use critical thinking skills, regardless of the focus, then all of that is probably a plus.”

Here is how I read it: nothing a student learns in high school will have any effect on what will be learned in college. The students are just going to start over again with the basics in 101 courses anyway. So, teach whatever you want in high school, to include unscientific, religious materials in science classes because it will foster critical thinking skills, hopefully.

Dr. Thomson, please tell me that is not what you intended. I understand your frustration with a possible lack of critical thinking skills in some new college students. But the solution isn’t to throw a bunch of unscientific garbage into the curriculum and let students debate it. I’m willing to bet I can find several college professors who will say that what students learn in high school does effect learning in college. I’ve been told by professors that they had to spend precious time un-teaching misconceptions and incorrect information. And there is a very real problem with students being forced to take remedial courses before they can even tackle the 101 material. Allowing intelligent design and bogus “critical analysis” will only compound these problems.

Also quoted in the story is Jeff Youngman, curriculum supervisor for Hernando County School District. His comments suggest that creationism isn’t part of the curriculum and shouldn’t be. Sometimes students might bring the topic up: “But science classes aren’t discussions on people’s opinions on things. It’s more a presentation of what theory is and what we know.” Youngman’s quotes don’t fit into the story’s headline or its lead paragraph that states: “Local education experts say a proposed bill that would require science teachers to critique evolution — and include some religious aspects — would do little to harm students’ learning of the topic or affect their performance in higher education.” Dr. Thomson is saying that, but Youngman clearly isn’t. Perhaps the reporter, Jeff Schmucker, didn’t quite understand the topic he was writing about; but even with that possibility in mind, his two sources are clearly not in agreement as his introduction would have readers believe.

Furthermore, the reporter says that Sen. Wise was interviewed recently on a Tampa radio station. I’m not aware of any such interview happening recently on radio. He talked to one newspaper reporter, and that’s the only interview he’s given on this subject this year I’m aware of. A Tampa radio interview did happen back in early 2009 concerning the bill he filed back then. It appears to me that the reporter rushed through the writing of this story.

In other words, this is a confusing story inside and out.

2 good links

Friday, April 8th, 2011

Here are two websites worth checking out.

The AAAS Science Assessment website is a great resource for understanding what students do and do not know, based on tons of research. Teachers, this site is worth your time to check out.

The assessment items on this Web site are the result of more than a decade of research and development by Project 2061, a long-term science education reform initiative of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Here you will find free access to more than 600 items. The items:
— Are appropriate for middle and early high school students.
— Test student understanding in the earth, life, physical sciences, and the nature of science.
— Test for common misconceptions as well as correct ideas.

James R. Hofmann, Professor of Liberal Studies California State University Fullerton has a website for his course Philosophy/Liberal Studies 333: Evolution and Creation. The site is packed full of links to darn near everything and anything you could ever want on the subject. This one is worth bookmarking!