The National Center for Science Education has a free excerpt of my book available at their website. Check it out and help me spread the word by sharing the link, please! Thanks.
Archive for June, 2014
Archived audio of my interview with radio station WGCU’s Gulf Coast Live radio show is now available for your listening pleasure. Let me know how you think I did.
A new book published by the University Press of Florida entitled, “Going Ape: Florida’s Battles over Evolution in the Classroom” looks at Florida’s place in a long-fought cultural battle over whether schools should be teaching Evolution as fact—and whether Creationism should also have a place in the state’s textbooks.
Brandon Haught is the author of “Going Ape.” Haught is a former Marine Corps combat correspondent and current public information officer with the Volusia County Sheriff’s Office. He’s also a founding board member and volunteer communications director for Florida Citizens for Science—a group that describes its work as “rooting out attempts to undermine our state’s future, such as the blatant promotion of anti-scientific ideas, Intelligent Design/Creationism.”
I’ll be on radio station WGCU’s Gulf Coast Live call-in radio show tomorrow (Wednesday, June 25) starting at about 9 a.m. I believe you can listen live online if you’re not in the listening area. The show will then be archived and available on their website.
Florida State University physics professor Paul Cottle has an opinion piece in today’s Tallahassee Democrat: Science education takes a downward slide. It might give some state Department of Education folks a bit of heartburn.
A series of decisions at the state and district levels has eroded the dream of universal literacy in sciences. A student can now graduate from a Florida public or charter high school with no background in the Earth/space and physical sciences at the high-school level. And some middle schools have altered their academic programs so that many of their students are never exposed to the concepts of force, motion and energy.
It seems unlikely that Florida would explicitly delete science from the high-school graduation requirements, or drop the Science FCAT exams at the fifth- and eighth-grade levels. In the case of the FCAT Science exams, they are required by the federal No Child Left Behind law. One wonders whether that is all that is saving them.
But what is more likely is that the implicit prioritization of science in the state’s schools will continue to slowly decline, and the importance placed on high-quality science instruction will decline as well.
FSU physics professor Paul Cottle says: Why do I push so hard to keep students who took Algebra 1 in middle school moving through the science and engineering pipeline by taking the right math and science courses? Because I know they could be doing this in seven short years …
I was interviewed about Going Ape: Florida’s Battles over Evolution in the Classroom for the June edition of the journal Evolution: Education & Outreach. You can download a free PDF of the relevant pages here or click on the “view article” link there to read it on their website.
From the article:
A highlight of Going Ape is the detailed description of the Hillsborough County School Board’s 1980 adoption of a policy requiring equal time for “scientific creationism.” Can you say a bit about its rise and fall?
It started with a determined retired chaplain who regularly toured school board meetings in a few neighboring counties. For years, he tried to get the boards to counterbalance evolution with some form of creationism. Finally, he struck a chord with a majority bloc of Hillsborough County board members. Once they voted to teach scientific creationism alongside evolution, the school district sank into chaos. I’m still amazed how much power duly elected yet misinformed school board members can have. The entire science department fought against the policy, but the board members were so sure of themselves that the protests never stood a chance. The committee assembled to create a curriculum was locked in constant conflict as its members fought over every single thing, big or small. There was even a fight over whether Charles Darwin should be called a scientist. Their final product was such a convoluted mess that the director of the Biological Sciences Curriculum Study in Boulder, Colorado, wrote a letter to the Hillsborough schools science supervisor to express his exasperation. He said it “comes across as completely incomprehensible.” But the board was happy and all set to move the new curriculum into the classroom. That’s when the federal court decision in McLean v. Arkansas, which ruled that mandated balanced treatment for creation science was unconstitutional, derailed Hillsborough’s implementation. The school board reluctantly tabled the curriculum and it was never mentioned again. It’s sad that so much time and energy was wasted on a project that should never have started in the first place.
— USF prof’s team found, named ancient flying reptile: “A University of South Florida professor led a trio of paleontologists who have discovered and named the earliest of the pterodactyloids, a group of flying reptiles that became the dominant winged creatures of the prehistoric world.
“USF’s Brian Andres also determined that the pterodactyloids appeared about 5 million years earlier than previously known, about 163 million years ago.”
— Kiera Wilmot, Teen Arrested In Botched Science Experiment, Haunted By Felony Record: “But a felony arrest record continues to haunt her. Though criminal charges were dismissed last year, Wilmot says in a video produced by the Advancement Project that “the lawyer says it takes five years to clear each felony off the record.”
— AF helps state university educate teachers: Hamilton takes a personal interest in reaching out to students, especially females, because “there’s a misconception on their part that women can’t do STEM subjects.” He recounted a time when his daughter was 6 years old and told him she wanted to be a man.
“‘I want to be an astronaut and only men can do that,’ she said, Hamilton remembered. “I have no idea where she got that notion, but I had to convince her that was a misconception, she could do something very science intensive.”
— Tracking dust from around the world: Now, researchers at the University of Florida have created the first high-altitude sampling device to collect microorganisms from the upper atmosphere. It’s called “DART,” short for Dust at Altitude Recovery Technology.
“We can now fly above the ground mixing area, [called ‘the boundary layer’],… and capture dust that is primarily from Africa, with very little surface contamination,” said Schuerger.
— Summer program empowers girls with science: This will be the first time that science will play a role at the camp, with anthropology and environmental studies being taught by anthropologist Anne McCudden, park manager at the 15-acre lakeside “Women’s Park” on West Flagler Street, which is one of the two parks where camp activities will take place.
— Florida scientist, 12, wows Obama with ‘sandless sandbag’: “I got to show him my project, and he definitely seemed impressed,” Peyton said after meeting with Obama. “The retractable training wheels he thought would be good for kids’ toys. And he thought the sandbags would be helpful for emergency management and things like that.”