Archive for June, 2013

Creationism in a Lynn Haven high school

Sunday, June 30th, 2013

The ACLU has a recent blog post up entitled Creationism Follies: The 2012-2013 Edition. And wouldn’t you know it … Florida is on the list.

A biology teacher at A. Crawford Mosley High School in Lynn Haven, Florida, screened Creation Science Evangelism videos during an evolution lesson. The organization claims to be the “leading Christian-apologetics ministry, defending the literal interpretation of the Genesis creation account from the theory of evolution” and its videos purport to debunk evolution and suggest that evolution may not “be part of science.” The ACLU of Florida promptly notified the school district that the Constitution prohibits public schools from promoting religious beliefs about the origin of life and we are continuing to investigate the matter.

Here is the letter the Greater Bay Area Chapter of the ACLU in Panama City sent the school: ACLU Letter to Crawford Mosley High School. A quote from the letter:

Chris Martello teaches tenth grade biology at A. Crawford Mosley High School. As part of his instruction on evolution, he presents a critique of it. During class he has shown to the students videos by Creation Science Evangelism, including “Creation Minute Episode 4: Six Types of Evolution,” which suggests that evolution may not be “part of science.” Such promotion of creationism in the public schools, whether directly or under the guise of academic freedom or presentation of “alternative” theories, is unlawful.

The video can be viewed at the link embedded above. It features Eric Hovind trying to tell us that evolution is not science. If that is really being shown in a public school classroom, the teacher deserves to be fired because it’s obvious that the teacher doesn’t even know what science is. I can’t find much on Martello through basic web searches other than he appears to be a sports coach at the school. The ACLU has made a public records request for all of the school’s biology teachers’ evolution-related materials (lesson plans, tests, etc.). That should be interesting to see.

Creation Science Evangelism is based in Pensacola and was founded by Kent “Dr. Dino” Hovind in the early 1990’s. He was found guilty of not paying taxes and was sentenced to prison. His son, Eric, carries on his father’s legacy.

Water or food? Your choice.

Tuesday, June 25th, 2013

FSU physics professor Paul Cottle is a serious activist for science education, which comes through in this article at NPR about Florida’s science standards: Why An Educator Is Worried Common Standards Might Squeeze Out Science. Here’s a few quote.

“The problem is that if you take those resources out of science and put them into reading and mathematics,” he said, “you’re going to make it more difficult for students to pursue careers in science and engineering and other STEM fields.”

“We have to keep science in the center of our schools’ programs,” he said. “Saying that reading and math is more important than science is like saying water is more important than food.”

 

It won’t cost you a penny!

Sunday, June 23rd, 2013

Here’s a column that ran in the South Florida Sun-Sentinel advocating for support for the Next Generation Science Standards here in Florida: Stephen Goldstein: Science standards are great, but need your help. Our very own Florida Citizens for Science president, Joe Wolf, is quoted!

Joe Wolf, president of Florida Citizens for Science, says, “Science is about discovery, one of the great, exciting and beautiful things people can do. The NGSS go beyond the facts into where these facts come from and how they are developed. They can get kids to do science, not just learn facts; apply science to real problems as an engineer does; and learn the mathematics needed to understand and apply both. It is exciting that we have the opportunity to adopt such standards.”

When science exams go bad

Sunday, June 23rd, 2013

This is a great article showing just how difficult it can be to fight for the right thing when you’re up against a resistant government: Fighting to fix the FCAT.

Robert Krampf’s first e-mail to Florida’s Department of Education was cordial, even as he raised troubling allegations that poorly written FCAT Science exam questions could be grading students as wrong even when they chose right answers.

In a gesture of cooperation, Krampf asked if there was “anything that I can do to help,” and the well-known science educator (nicknamed “The Happy Scientist”) signed off with his usual cheery closing of “have a wonder-filled day.”

Things got less cordial from there.

Among the problems Krampf found:

• The term “Germination” was defined, in part, as “the process by which plants begin to grow from seed to spore.” That simply never happens — there are no plants that go from seed to spore.

• A fifth-grade sample question asked how flowers would respond to light coming in through a window. The correct answer was “the flowers would lean toward the window,” but Krampf said it’s usually leaves (and not flowers) that lean toward sunlight. Also, Krampf found that one of the “incorrect” answers (that the flowers would begin to wilt in the sun) is, in fact, correct.

Krampf says it’s difficult to accept — without any proof — that the tests are completely error-free when the guidelines that served as their blueprint were so flawed. He also cites the heavy bureaucratic resistance he encountered in trying to fix the guidelines — further evidence, he says, of state leaders’ inability to police themselves.

“I don’t know why they’re so afraid to admit that the stuff is wrong,” Krampf said. “But that makes me suspect that the same paranoia, and the same denial, is taking place with the actual FCAT.”

They like them, they like them!

Friday, June 21st, 2013

The Orlando Sentinel School Zone blog reports that with about one week to go for folks to rate and review the Next Generation Science Standards for possible Florida adoption, things are looking positive.

As of Wednesday, 631 people had reviewed the standards, put together by panels of scientists and 26 states (but not Florida). Eighty eight percent had recommended Florida adopt them.

But, of course, we’re always going to see stuff like this:

“I am concerned that evolution is still being taught as fact and that creation is not addressed as a possible, even viable, explanation of nature and world,” wrote a “business/industry” person from Duval County.

Fortunately, such opinions seem to be in the minority so far. Let’s keep it that way! If you haven’t submitted your own review, do so now.

Padget comments on science standards

Thursday, June 20th, 2013

I’m very late to the party. The Gradebook, School Zone and Bridge to Tomorrow already posted about Florida Board of Education member John Padget’s recent comments about the state’s science standards. Here’s the video clip:

Tug o’ war

Friday, June 14th, 2013

The Tampa Bay Times Gradebook Blog notes the tug o’ war developing concerning the future of Florida’s science standards. Our very own Florida Citizens for Science vice president Jonathan Smith is quoted punching back against the suggestion that states hold off on adopting the national Next Generation Science Standards until Common Core adoption smoothes out first.

“How long will this take, how many generations of students will we need to lose to science and technology for the sake of the Common Core?” Smith wondered.

Science summer camp

Friday, June 14th, 2013

Here’s a nice story about summer camps helping students interested in science and technology flourish during summer break: Summer camps aim to get kids excited about science and technology

Athan’s Engineering Minds, is a two-week program that will run Monday through Thursday beginning July 15 at Palma Ceia Presbyterian Church in Tampa. It’s for high-achieving middle school students with more than a passing interest in science.

“I don’t care about their age, I don’t care about their grade,” Athan said. “I do care about their passion.”