Archive for April, 2013

Hijinks could ensue

Sunday, April 21st, 2013

A bill is working its way through our state legislature that will turn over review, approval and selection of instructional materials to local school districts. Currently, instructional materials are reviewed and approved by the state and then districts must spend at least half of their instructional materials budgets on state approved materials. Districts can, of course, spend more on things from the state list but they can also spend money on other materials too.

If I understand correctly, this bill, if signed into law, would turn all of the responsibility for research into quality textbook and other materials over to all of the districts.

Right now we can keep an eye on what textbooks are being used in the classroom and raise the red flag if anything hinky is going on. We’ve done it before. But if every single district now does their own thing, what’s going to stop a strongly conservative district from deciding to approve supplemental materials for the science classroom that are woefully unscientific? We can watch what goes on in a centralized process. But can we watch what’s happening in every district? There haven’t been many stories about this bill, but even those few haven’t touched upon this potential problem.

Here’s a recent story that will help give you a feel for what this bill is about. School districts may gain control over instruction materials.

I invite you folks to help me keep an eye on this bill and give me your thoughts on whether my concerns are justified.

Yes, he could spice things up

Saturday, April 20th, 2013

Creationist is just one label for Terry Kemple. He was one of the voices in the loud choir protesting evolution’s place in our state science standards. His heavily conservative views in other matters, and his penchant for making sure everyone else knows what he thinks, have served to solidify his place in the Florida colorful character hall of fame. He’s now taking his third shot at a Hillsborough County School Board seat in the next election. That makes Tampa Time columnist Daniel Ruth’s spine go all tingly. Do you want Kemple to win because he would be a bottomless bowl of wackaloon pasta that would keep reporters gainfully employed? Or do you want Kemple to lose because, well, we’re talking about kids’ education? Terry Kemple’s school board candidacy a columnist’s conundrum:

As a Hillsborough County taxpayer the thought of someone who is anti-Muslin, antigay, antiknowledge and even antimatter sitting on a government body charged with educating our community’s children would be a crime against sanity.

But as a columnist, and thus one who is always on an utterly shameless quest for fodder, what other response can one have to a potential Kemple candidacy, except — Thank you Lord!

Let’s put it this way, former Hillsborough County commissioner and former Florida state Sen. Ronda Storms, the Madame Defarge of Leviticus, would be a breath of fresh air on the School Board as opposed to Kemple’s “I am the God of hell-fire!” approach to governance.

And yes, I can’t believe either that I just wrote that paragraph.


Climate Change

Thursday, April 18th, 2013

I have to admit that when it comes to the subject of climate change/ global warming I have a lot to learn. Like most of us, my knowledge has been limited to the media and a few articles in science magazines. Well all that is about to change. I have just enrolled in a course on Coursera, provided by the University of British Columbia entitled, “Climate Literacy”, the 10 week course starts on May 20th  It covers a wide range of climate issues and I would encourage any one that has a interest in this topic to sign up.

Kemple trying again

Wednesday, April 17th, 2013

Conservative activist Terry Kemple will make third bid for Hillsborough School Board. He does have a following and is getting closer to success in his quest. In case you don’t remember who he is, here’s a column he wrote that should remind you: What’s the fuss about evolution?

Inside a private faith-based school

Wednesday, April 17th, 2013

This article is about a South Carolina private faith-based school, but the picture it paints is universal. When School and Scripture Mix.

“We introduce them (to evolution) and let them know it’s out there,” Berry said. “To be honest with you, creation and evolution, neither one of them is true science. If you look at the scientific method, somebody had to be there to observe it and you’ve got to be able to repeat it. Christian college isn’t for everybody and our kids are going to be hit with it when they go out there, so they need to know what to expect and the way we approach it is, ‘these are the tenants of what evolution teaches,’ but then we’ll go on the background and say now this is where the Bible comes in and we’re a Christian school. We believe the Bible’s true. What does the Bible say about it?”

This year, for the first time, FCS using textbooks exclusively from Bob Jones University Press, which works scripture into every subject. But Berry said that is an additional layer on top of what students would be getting in public school and nothing is left out.

“One of the reasons why we chose Bob Jones academically is when they set their textbook up, they go through a strenuous process and look at the core objectives that are required by a lot of states and they’re in South Carolina, so obviously they look at the South Carolina state standards,” said Berry. “They’re gonna pull the three or four leading state curriculums in the nation, like Texas and Florida, and they’re going to compare and their curriculum covers every core objective.”

“The common belief is that people are sending their kids out of affluence or want better education for their kids and that’s a wrong perspective,” Earwood said. “Many of these parents value the religious education and make many sacrifices to send them there, so it is a conundrum because as the economy has continued to tank, it’s been harder and harder to continue supporting that decision to make religion an education priority.”

Talk in Bradenton: Misconceptions Around Evolution

Tuesday, April 16th, 2013

Sorry for the short notice, but here is an upcoming event of possible interest to folks in the area:

Manatee Democratic Club (formerly the Southeast Manatee County Democratic Club) Thursday, April 18, Luncheon at the Peridia Golf and County Club, 4950 Peridia Blvd., Bradenton, beginning at 11:30 AM. Joseph Kerata, Advanced Biology Instructor, will be speaking on Misconceptions Around Evolution: History, Politics, Religion.  The luncheon cost is $15 payable by check at the door.  RSVP to Paul Dain at 941-756-4050.

Course leader Joseph Kerata taught advanced biology in northeast Ohio for thirty years. Entertaining as well as informative, Joe’s specialty is teaching science to non-scientists. He earned degrees at Ohio State University and Cleveland State University and is a Princeton University Woodrow Wilson Fellow in Bioethics. He has traveled and studied in Kenya, Peru, Costa Rica, and the Galapagos Islands. In addition, Joe is an accomplished actor, having appeared in over fifty stage productions.
Prof. Joe Kerata
Board Member, The Lifelong Learning Academy, Sarasota

Next Generation Science Standards released

Tuesday, April 9th, 2013

The final version of the Next Generation Science Standards were released today.

Worried that public schools are failing to prepare students for a complex and changing world, educators unveiled new guidelines Tuesday that call for sweeping changes in the way science is taught in the United States, emphasizing hands-on learning and critical scrutiny of scientific evidence.

The guidelines, known as the Next Generation Science Standards, were devised to combat widespread scientific ignorance, standardize teaching among disparate states and raise the number of high school graduates who choose scientific and technical majors in college, a critical issue for the country’s economic welfare.

Many states are likely to adopt the guidelines over the next year, but it could be years before the guidelines are translated into detailed curriculum documents and specific lesson plans, teachers are trained or retrained in the material and centralized tests are revised.

And all of this has to happen at a time when state education departments and many local schools are under severe financial strain. Inevitably, educators said, some states will do it better than others.

“You can’t do education on the cheap,” said Eugenie C. Scott, executive director of the National Center for Science Education, a group that counters efforts to undermine the teaching of evolution and climate science. “Teachers are going to need some help in mastering this approach.”

You can view the standards here.

Update on the Final Release of the Next Generation Science Standards

Monday, April 1st, 2013

The development of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) is nearing completion, and the final release of the NGSS is anticipated in the second week in April (April 8-12). When the standards are released, they will be available on the website. I suppose we then sit back and patiently wait for the FDOE and the FBOE to make a decision to adopt the standards, or not?