Archive for March, 2014

This & That 3/31/14

Monday, March 31st, 2014

–> Is it possible to review a book without first reading it? Clearly, the answer is yes: Inaccurate review.

–> Here’s an interesting Tea Party representative’s comment in this story about Common Core:

“It doesn’t bother me if somebody wants to teach creationism or wants to teach evolution. If I don’t like it I’ll move. If it’s a national standard, I have no place to go,” [Chris] Shalosky said.

–> When science bites back:

De Mier is worried about a plan — supported by the Florida Keys Mosquito Control District — to use genetically modified male mosquitoes to decrease population of Aedes aegypti mosquitoes responsible for transmitting dengue fever.

–> Eckerd students get hands-on lessons aboard research vessel:

“You sit in a classroom and you learn about all this stuff, but then to actually be out here and do all the different tests, see what all the equipment is about, and actually work with people who do this for a living, it makes you think, ‘Maybe this is what I could do after I get a degree,’” said Kristina Petraites, a senior majoring in marine science. “That’s what I like about it — it makes you feel like you’re really a part of the scientific community.”

Back from the dead?

Wednesday, March 26th, 2014

Will the voucher expansion effort come back to life? From the Gradebook blog: Controversial voucher bill gets a second chance in the Florida Legislature

Many observers thought the proposed expansion of the school voucher program was off the table after Sen. Bill Galvano withdrew the Senate version of the bill (SB 1620) last week. Without a companion in the upper chamber, the House school voucher bill (HB 7099) stood virtually no chance of becoming law.

But late Wednesday, Rep. Erik Fresen combined the voucher language with a separate bill creating education savings accounts for special-needs children. That bill (HB 1503, now PCB EDAS 14-03) has a counterpart in the Senate (SB 1512), and is thus still in play.

Editorial blasts textbook bill

Wednesday, March 26th, 2014

An editorial in the Orlando Sentinel tears Senator Hays’ textbook approval process bill to shreds: Don’t leave textbook vetting to local districts.

State Sen. Alan Hays, a Umatilla Republican whose district abuts Volusia County, isn’t letting the facts get in the way of a bad proposal. A bill he sponsored in response to the ruckus would wrest the process of vetting and approving textbooks from the state and dump it on local school districts.

This idea deserves an F.

And of special interest to us …

And districts might find it harder than the state to stand up to unfounded protests like the one in Volusia County. Pressure groups might punch holes in the curriculum, or add elements, such as creationism, that don’t belong in a public-school education.

More media paying attention … Just not Florida media

Monday, March 24th, 2014

More and more national media are paying attention to the travesty of substandard science education going on in many voucher accepting private schools. Politico has a good, in-depth piece: Taxpayers fund creationism in the classroom. Florida is mentioned several times in the story, such as this mind blowing quote:

But Doug Tuthill, who runs one of the largest private school choice programs in the nation, says states have no right to determine what kids should learn, beyond basic math, reading and writing. Other topics, from the age of Earth to the reasons for the Civil War, are just too controversial for a government mandate, he said, even when taxpayer money is at stake.

“Once a child has strong literacy skills, they can educate themselves,” said Tuthill, who runs Florida’s Step Up for Students program. “We don’t have to rely on schools, necessarily.”

My question is, where is the Florida media? The revelation about creationism in these schools has been known for quite a while now. But not a single news outlet here in our state has dared to tackle this angle of the issue. Why?

Textbook controversy article

Monday, March 24th, 2014

I was quoted in an article published today about the bill in the state legislature that purposes to change the way textbooks are selected here in Florida: Volusia textbook controversy prompts legislation.

My quote about conservative school boards reads harsher than I had intended. I was explaining to the reporter how some conservative school boards had formally protested evolution’s prominence in the new state science standards back in 2008. I wanted the reporter to understand the background that led to today’s concerns. Unfortunately, none of that background was mentioned in the story, leaving my quote standing alone without context. That could then lead readers into a false impression of my meaning. I can’t complain about being misquoted because that is what I said, and it’s a true sentiment. But readers might not understand where I’m coming from and just chalk my argument up to partisan politics.

Failing history, too

Sunday, March 23rd, 2014

We’ve been really hammering on how some Florida private schools that participate in state voucher programs handle science education. Science is our focus, after all. However, it’s not the only subject suffering from lack of any oversight. Read this article: 10 Insane History Lessons that Private, Religious Voucher Schools Are Teaching America’s Kids.

Where do these religious voucher schools get their so-called “facts”? One place is Christian publisher A Beka Book. Founded in 1972 by Arlin and Rebekah (aka, “Beka”) Horton, A Beka churns out a significant number of the textbooks used by such schools. Forty-three percent of the religious voucher schools that responded to a 2003 Palm Beach Post survey based their curricula on texts published by either A Beka Books or Bob Jones University Publishing. A Beka Book estimates that around 9,000 schools utilize their books.

A Beka is, unfortunately, based in Pensacola. And from their books spring all sorts of wacky ideas. My favorite: 4. The ’60s and ’70s: Everything Goes to S***, Mainly Because the State Stops Killing Born People and Starts Killing Pre-Born Babies and… Freud.

Supportive letter to the editor

Sunday, March 23rd, 2014

It’s nice to see a supportive letter to the editor (following up on my column in the Tampa Bay Times).

Bad science at voucher schools March 20, commentary

Torch of reason

As a retired science teacher I am very pleased that Brandon Haught is keeping the torch of reason alive to shed light on what creationists have cobbled together as a “science curriculum” in some voucher schools. For religious conservatives to disregard the evidence produced by scholars and researchers in the form of fossil collections, results of carbon dating, millions of pages of data and man-hours of study — all of which is subject to review and verification — strikes me as 16th century thinking. If we have separation of church and state, why are we paying them public money for this “non”science?

Tom Reid, Seminole

Book is coming

Saturday, March 22nd, 2014

My book‘s official release date is getting closer! I’ve been doing a lot in preparation for the big day. I now have a website of my own. Please check out the blog, which I’ll start getting more active on in the next few weeks. And also keep tabs on my events; I have three lined up already!