Archive for September, 2012

And Now For Some Real Science

Saturday, September 29th, 2012

“Introduction to Genetics and Evolution” is a 10 week on-line course being offered by Duke Universities Dr. Mohamed Noor- the Earl D. McLean Professor and Associate Chair of Biology at Duke. The course is free, it begins on October 10th and is resonably uncomplicated. To sign up go to https://www.coursera.org/#course/geneticsevolution

Six weeks of ID lectures?!

Sunday, September 23rd, 2012

A church in Sarasota is offering classes every Thursday morning and evening for six weeks on the subject of Intelligent Design. What in the world is there to talk about in so many classes? I would think a single, brief class would do it.

Intelligent Design II – New evidence supporting the existence of a master intelligence, a designer of all that exists, is the subject of this series of lecture-films. These classes, taught by Dr. Charles Axton, will begin this Thursday, 27 September, and continue through 25 October. Classes include video screenings, lecture, and lively discussion, with topics including “Icons on Evolution” and “Darwin’s Dilemma.” There will be morning (10:30-noon) and evening (6:30-8:00) sessions, meeting in Gillespie Hall. To sign up e-mail Dr. Charles B. Axton, cba-bla@comcast.net, or just show up. All lecture information will be sent by e-mail (there will be no printed hand-outs). Please note that one can create one’s own personal e-mail at the public library.

[edited to add:] Here, Neil deGrasse Tyson teaches all you need to know about ID in five minutes.

Sigh, more crappy news about Florida science ed

Wednesday, September 12th, 2012

There has been a recent release of a state-by-state analysis of the “K-12 STEM learning enterprise.” It’s the STEM Vital Signs report in which several questions are answered about each state. Sample questions are “can the state meet the demand for STEM skills,” “are students exposed to challenging and engaging content,” “are teachers prepared to teach to high standards,” and “do schools and teachers in the state have what they need to succeed?” Here are some excerpts from Florida’s report (pdf file):

Business leaders in Florida have sounded an alarm. They cannot find the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) talent they need to stay competitive. Students’ lagging performance in K–12 is a critical reason why. [Note: most of the states’ reports start off with this.]

Twenty-six states, not including Florida, are collaborating on common “Next Generation” content standards in science, which they aim to complete in 2013. If these standards meet a high bar, Florida should adopt them or standards as rigorous.

At a time when STEM jobs are plentiful, the number of students earning STEM degrees and certificates in Florida has not kept pace with demand. Women and African Americans in particular remain woefully underrepresented in STEM fields.

Florida students should understand the requirements for college admission and whether their high school classes are preparing them for college-level work. Unfortunately, large percentages of Florida students attend schools that don’t even offer higher-level courses like calculus and physics.

The report had some good things to say about how Florida is handling math education. Cool. But what about science education here in Florida? What is our state doing to improve it? Heck if I know. It seems I’ve asked that question before

My column in Orlando Sentinel

Tuesday, September 11th, 2012

The Orlando Sentinel has published online tonight a column I submitted about science education and it will be in the print edition tomorrow. Let me know what you think: Science ed needs a boost in Florida.

Science education in Florida’s public schools apparently is irrelevant in the eyes of our state’s decision makers. Other core subjects are undergoing significant changes with the goal of providing “a consistent, clear understanding of what students need to learn to succeed in college and careers,” according to Gov. Rick Scott.

Whether or not you agree with how the changes are being implemented, it can’t be denied significant action is taking place in reading, writing and math education.

But what about science?

Potentially “Menacing” good news!

Sunday, September 9th, 2012

I can’t help it. I’m excited. I must keep myself from doing my happy Snoopy dance too soon, but I can’t help but share the potentially good news …

Anyone remember my blog post series Florida’s Greatest Menace? Back in 2009 I had started researching the history of the evolution/creationism conflict here in Florida and discovered lots of cool stuff. The more I researched, the more I found. By the time I reached part 7 of the series I realized that I had uncovered plenty of material that could be turned into a book rather than just a blog series. So, I stopped the series and turned my attention to writing the book. It was slow going because I was doing it whenever I had some free time, which wasn’t often. But early this year I finally reached the end! I considered step one finally accomplished!

Step two has been a tough one. I needed to edit the work while also documenting all of my source material in tidy citations. The problem was that when I started the blog series I hadn’t been in book mode. I was simply writing about what I had discovered without bothering to annotate my sources. Big mistake. I had to go back and essentially do much of my research all over again. That was very tough, tedious and discouraging work that has taken months. Honestly, I’m still not all done, but I’m getting close. On the positive side, I had managed to turn up yet more new material that I hadn’t found before. That meant revising my text to add the new stuff, which was substantial work in some places! Of course, that wound up taking quite a bit of time, pushing me way past the step two deadlines I had set for myself.

Step two was taking so long that I found myself losing steam. I want to see this project through to the finish, but it just won’t end! From the time I started my series to now has been about three years. I’ve read my own work countless times and now my eyes start glazing over as I plow through each chapter yet again. I’ve been stuck in the mud for a month or so now without making much forward movement. It’s become my own private little hell.

A few weeks ago I decided that I need a massive shove in order to get out of this rut. So, even though I’m still crawling through doing all the citations, I said the heck with it! I’m going to start shopping this project around to publishers and see what happens. That should get me moving.

My first stop was the University Press of Florida. I figured that this book was right up their alley. I submitted the required one-page inquiry letter and was really excited to hear back in just a couple of days that my letter had been forwarded to the next editor up the chain! Cool! That’s a promising thing considering the alternative is a quick rejection letter. Then this weekend I got an e-mail from an editor-at-large there who has asked me to ship him my manuscript and other paperwork for an initial look. Hot dog!

Of course, I know that I haven’t been accepted for publication yet. So, I’m trying to temper my excitement so that I don’t come crashing down too hard if the manuscript is rejected.

But still … I think I’m out of my rut! Time to get back to work.