Anti-creationism activist Zack Kopplin joins Bill to talk about fighting laws and voucher programs that let publicly-funded creationist curriculum in the back door of American classrooms. Also on the program, journalist and historian Susan Jacoby talks about the role secularism and intellectual curiosity have played throughout America’s history.
Tennessee legislators are back at it. They’re looking to enact legislation that would ban the word “gay” from school classrooms. They’ve tried for the last few years, but have fallen short each time. It hasn’t stopped them from trying again though.
This time, they’re not only looking to ban the word, but they’re going to require teachers to out their gay students to their parents.
At grade levels pre-K through eight (pre-K-8), any such classroom instruction, course materials or other informational resources that are inconsistent with natural human reproduction shall be classified as inappropriate for the intended student audience and, therefore, shall be prohibited.
The preceding passage would also seem to indicate that talk of contraceptives is inappropriate, since it’s inconsistent with natural human reproduction. Moreover, it would seem to prohibit discussion of in vitro fertilization (IVF).
The provision that requires counseling seems innocuous on its face, until you realize that if a school counselor or other administrator learns a student is gay during counseling, that person must inform the parents:
(2) A school counselor, nurse, principal or assistant principal from counseling a student who is engaging in, or who may be at risk of engaging in, behavior injurious to the physical or mental health and wellbeing of the student or another person; provided, that wherever possible such counseling shall be done in consultation with the student’s parents or legal guardians. Parents or legal guardians of students who receive such counseling shall be notified as soon as practicable that such counseling has occurred;
Parents wouldn’t need to be informed if the school official believes that the parent or guardian is in any way responsible for the sexual abuse of the student.
Campfield has tried this act before, and was even featured in 2008 in a fauxtography scandal when locals altered a photo to show him holding a bumper sticker saying confederate values.
Campfield’s positions have been highlighted here in the past as well. He’s previously been noted as being a birther.
It shouldn’t be surprising that Campfield’s focus on gayness is in part due to misguided notions about AIDS as well.
That Campfield construes gayness to be a dangerous act may be rooted in his faulty understanding of HIV and AIDS. ‘My understanding is that it is virtually—not completely, but virtually—impossible to contract AIDS through heterosexual sex,’ he said during a radio interview last year. ‘Most people realize that AIDS came from the homosexual community—it was one guy screwing a monkey, if I recall correctly, and then having sex with men. It was an airline pilot, I believe.’
(Renowned scientist Jacques Pepin’s book The Origin of AIDS differs greatly from Campfield’s account.)
True to the wording of his bills, Campfield does find homosexuality unnatural. Homosexuals ‘do not naturally reproduce,’ he says. ‘It has not been proven that it is nature. It happens in nature, but so does bestiality. That does not make it right or something we should teach in schools.’ And he does find homosexuality dangerous: ‘What’s the average lifespan of a homosexual? It’s very short. Google it.’
The right wing tactic of “teaching the controversy” is popping up again in Nebraska; this time Republicans are using it to confuse children about climate change, but I’d be willing to bet they also have their sights set on Charles Darwin. Kate Sheppard has details: Nebraska Kids to Learn America Is Awesome, Climate Change Is Just a Theory.
Students in Nebraska are getting new standards for social studies curriculum, after weeks of intense debate. The state Board of Education reached agreement on two items of controversy this week: whether to include “American exceptionalism” and how to teach about climate change, the Lincoln Journal Star reports.
The fight had been over whether to explicitly teach the idea of American exceptionalism, as one board member proposed, and whether to include information about climate change, which the current standards do not mention. The board approved the standards after making some changes:
The words “American exceptionalism” do not appear in the final draft, but the concept does. In the sixth- through eighth-grade U.S. history standards, one of the “indicators” — examples of what to teach — is the “unique nature of the creation and organization of the American Government, the United States as an exceptional nation based upon personal freedom, the inherent nature of citizens’ rights and democratic ideals.”
Likewise, climate change appears in the sixth- through eighth-grade geography standards, but is presented as a theory, not as fact, asking students to evaluate “recent global climate change theories, and evidence that supports and refutes such theories.”
“American exceptionalism,” gotta love it. An amorphous concept, but wingnuts never get tired of it. It’s very important to believe in the special nature of their own specialness.
Three cheers for Bill Nye, the Science Guy, who has a video out for BigThink.com titled, “Creationism Is Not Appropriate for Children.”
Denial of evolution is unique to the United States. I mean, we’re the world’s most advanced technological—I mean, you could say Japan—but generally, the United States is where most of the innovations still happens. People still move to the United States. And that’s largely because of the intellectual capital we have, the general understanding of science. When you have a portion of the population that doesn’t believe in that, it holds everybody back, really.
Evolution is the fundamental idea in all of life science, in all of biology. It’s like, it’s very much analogous to trying to do geology without believing in tectonic plates. You’re just not going to get the right answer. Your whole world is just going to be a mystery instead of an exciting place.
As my old professor, Carl Sagan, said, “When you’re in love you want to tell the world.” So, once in a while I get people that really—or that claim—they don’t believe in evolution. And my response generally is “Well, why not? Really, why not?” Your world just becomes fantastically complicated when you don’t believe in evolution. I mean, here are these ancient dinosaur bones or fossils, here is radioactivity, here are distant stars that are just like our star but they’re at a different point in their lifecycle. The idea of deep time, of this billions of years, explains so much of the world around us. If you try to ignore that, your world view just becomes crazy, just untenable, itself inconsistent.
And I say to the grownups, if you want to deny evolution and live in your world, in your world that’s completely inconsistent with everything we observe in the universe, that’s fine, but don’t make your kids do it because we need them. We need scientifically literate voters and taxpayers for the future. We need people that can—we need engineers that can build stuff, solve problems.
It’s just really hard a thing, it’s really a hard thing. You know, in another couple of centuries that world view, I’m sure, will be, it just won’t exist. There’s no evidence for it.
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Gallup polls on Americans’ attitudes toward the scientific theory of evolution haven’t changed much in 30 years, and their latest poll continues this depressing non-trend: In U.S., 46% Hold Creationist View of Human Origins.
That’s right — according to Gallup, 46% of the American public are hard core young Earth creationists who believe the Earth was poofed into existence in its present form about 10,000 years ago.
And for Republicans, of course, the numbers are even worse; 58% of Republicans are young Earth creationists.
America, we have a problem.
Most Americans are not scientists, of course, and cannot be expected to understand all of the latest evidence and competing viewpoints on the development of the human species. Still, it would be hard to dispute that most scientists who study humans agree that the species evolved over millions of years, and that relatively few scientists believe that humans began in their current form only 10,000 years ago without the benefit of evolution. Thus, almost half of Americans today hold a belief, at least as measured by this question wording, that is at odds with the preponderance of the scientific literature.
Mitt Romney was on the defensive today at an education roundtable in Philadelphia, trying to tell teachers that smaller class sizes are less important than “school choice:” Romney Defends Class Size Stance to Teachers.
(CNN) - Mitt Romney, who is spending this week promoting a plan for America’s public school system, spent Thursday morning defending his stance that smaller class sizes don’t necessarily equate with better learning in schools.
Romney participated in an education roundtable at a charter school in Philadelphia the day after laying out his education plan to Latino small business owners in Washington. Romney’s plan emphasizes school choice over other factors, including efforts to reduce the number of students in classrooms.
Speaking of his time as governor of Massachusetts, Romney said he was frequently told that smaller class sizes would lead to better learning, but that certain studies advised otherwise.
“I came into office and talked to people and said, ‘What can we do to improve our schools?’” Romney said at his Thursday event. “And a number of folks said we need smaller classroom sizes, that will make the biggest difference.”
Romney went on to cite a study that showed no correlation between classroom size and performance, naming schools in Cambridge, Massachusetts as an example.
This is such a common right wing tactic that whenever someone like Romney cites a “study” to support a claim that seems counter-intuitive, you should always double-check to see what credible sources say about the matter. In this case, the fact is that the majority of credible studies show that smaller class sizes absolutely are an important factor in better education results: Education Week Research Center: Class Size:
Research, for the most part, tends to support the belief in the benefits of small classes. While not all studies on the subject have shown that students learn more in smaller settings—and some are still ongoing—most have linked smaller classes to improvements in achievement.
The biggest and most credible of those studies, Tennessee’s statewide Student/Teacher Achievement Ratio, or STAR, project, begun in the late 1970s, found that the learning gains students made in classes of 13 to 17 students persisted long after the students moved back into average-size classes (HEROS, 2011). What’s more, the Tennessee researchers found, poor and African-American students appeared to reap the greatest learning gains in smaller classes. After kindergarten, the gains black students made in smaller classes were typically twice as large as those for whites. Follow-up studies through the years have found the students who had been in small classes in their early years had better academic and personal outcomes throughout their school years and beyond (Krueger, 2001; Sparks, 2011).
Likewise, a 2001 evaluation of the Student Achievement Guarantee in Education, or SAGE, class size reduction program by researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee found that a five-year-old program of class-size reduction in Wisconsin resulted in higher achievement for children living in poverty. Research from Columbia University Teachers College in New York showed the context of class-size reduction can affect its success in improving student achievement (Ready, 2008). Similarly, Charles M. Achilles, one of the original principal researchers on the STAR study, has said researchers and policymakers will have difficulty replicating the improvements seen in the STAR study without including key elements of that program, such as early intervention and small class sizes of three years or more (Achilles, 2008).
The teachers at Romney’s roundtable meeting were clearly rather aghast at his claims:
“I can’t think of any teacher in the whole time I’ve been teaching, for 10 years, 13 years, who would say that more students would benefit them,” Steven Morris, the teacher, said. “And I can’t think of a parent who would say ‘I would like my student to be in a classroom with a lot of kids with only one teacher.’ So I’m kind of wondering where this research comes from.”
Another teacher participating in the roundtable said unequivocally that he had too many students in his classroom.
“It’s too large,” the second teacher said. “It varies between classes, anywhere between 20 and 28. You can give more personalized attention to each student if you have a smaller class size.”
Why is Romney emphasizing “school choice” over class size, even though most studies disagree with his approach? The most likely answer is that he’s pandering to the religious right again, where “school choice” is a culture warrior code word for religion-based home schooling.