Discussion in 'The Sanctum Santorum' started by Dan Lawrence, Jan 10, 2012.
I love that I know where that's from
It says students "may be evaluated based upon their understanding of course materials." That gives teachers tacit permission to penalize students for not reciting arguments for ID if they use a textbook that has "equal time" for ID. It also supports teachers who weight questions heavily towards ID and, even worse, deduct points from students who point out that the ID sections are factually incorrect and that ID proponents use outdated or wildly out-of-context findings.
"Understanding" is the second-vaguest word in the dictionary after "achievement," and it can be construed to mean anything.
It's been a major strain of the right-wing for like decades.
You're ignoring the last part of the paragraph, which states "[n]othing in this subsection shall be construed to exempt students from learning, understanding and being tested on curriculum as prescribed by state and local education standards." If those standards say teachers have to teach reality and not ID, the "may be evaluated . . ." is not giving them tacit permission to do anything.
"Ignoring," or "correctly interpreting?"
What does it mean to be "tested on curriculum" if the curriculum now can include, or even emphasize, ID? "State and local education standards" is nicely vague, too. Notice that it doesn't explicitly say that evolution has to be taught properly as part of the curriculum.
Presumably, "state and local education standards" refers to standards set by state and local school boards. On your last point, not every law dealing with education has to set out the entire education system.
I wonder if it originally crept in via the fundamentalists or via big business suddenly finding the results of science inconvenient (oil, cigarettes). Whatever the reason it's clearly snowballed out of control now.
There was no "crept in" about it. I think Jeff is wrong when he says it's been with us for decades. Anti-intellectualism has been a strong thread in America from the very beginning.
Well? Where's it from?
Maybe but it seems in my nostalgia tinted memory like there was a time when anti-intellectualism was outside the mainstream. A time when Republicans, who were still crotchety old men, occasionally deployed reasoned arguments. A time when being a republican meant acting as a somewhat useful restrainer on the nuttier impulses of the hippy type liberals who wanted to ban nuclear power and put a drum circle in every garden. Now those people seem to be democrats, while the republicans are like some kind of lumbering swamp creature with no higher brain function that you feel slightly wary even to poke with a ten foot branch for fear it's primal lusts and hatreds will vomit forth as an acidic, pus-filled fountain of oily slime.
I don't mean to be excessively snarky, but you're right; that's nothing more than nostalgia tinted memory. The only difference is which political party the anti-intellectual dipshits are firmly esconsced in.
Relying on those school boards is a crapshoot at best. Some of them have resisted pressure from legislatures, and others haven't. And in some cases, (Kansas Board of Education, circa 2005-2006), they've imposed ID themselves (though those board members did get kicked out the next year). And while not every education law has to set out the "entire education system," this law outright encourages constituents to browbeat their school boards into submission. In particular:
Dictating what percentage of the curriculum is to be devoted to actual evolutionary theory is now pretty much impossible. If a teacher chooses to spend 50% of their time on ID and calls that the "curriculum," a local board can't object without being accused of infringing on the teacher's academic freedom. If a local board declares that the weight of time spent must be at least 80% evolution and at most 10% ID? That's arguably illegal now! They're "prohibiting" the teacher from "helping students understand" the "weaknesses" of evolution.
Am I assuming the worst case? Yes. It's not that I think that ID supporters are going to use every bit of ambiguity and leverage to force an ID position, followed by increasingly theocentric views in other areas of science. I know they will, by the explicit admission of the Discovery Institute.
I do not think that this bill was produced in good faith to actually encourage critical thinking and discussion. I do not think it is intended to protect the rights of teachers to "discuss controversy;" it is worded to prevent lawsuits when boards and teachers decide that biology class is going to be the ID Fun-Time Hour, while maintaining an air of plausible deniability to avoid being struck down too easily in the courts.
Edit: I checked at the Oklahoma State Department of Education site to find out what the state requirements of Oklahoma actually are supposed to be. On the one hand, the Common Core requirements do include the following:
This is excellent. Unfortunately, the site also states that these Common Core standards in Biology I aren't going into effect until 2014-2015; if anyone has any idea of what the current state standards are, I'd be glad to know.
Oh of course, what I meant was that it's in the past few decades that the American right elevated it to like a virtue.
It's not nostalgia, as conservative intellectual movements have gone through a variety of evolutions with respect to how they frame intellectualism, but in my opinion that formulation does over-dramatize the significance of present day rhetorical turns. Some people are sincerely against education and science and the like, but more generally people continue to find levers to pull against those who disagree with them that will work on a broader audience. Sometimes ugly populism fixates on variables that are transparently shallow (ie the obsession with gay marriage), and sometimes it taps into things like mistrust of education that are more complex and deep-rooted.
I'm not sure how much experience you have with the nuts and bolts of how curriculum changes happen in public schools. In fact, despite having worked as a public school teacher in Georgia, I'm unsure how much I actually know of what is "generally" done within GA, as district to district and school to school things vary tremendously. I share your concerns about the bill. While I think it's possible to get a bit carried away (from here) in summarizing its practical effect, I think I would say that the issue is more about allowing bluntly anti-scientific people to plant a flag on behalf of their faith in a place where they have no business operating.
Often, the best way to get informed about what a state is doing is to randomly skim districts that have their shit together, at least in terms of websites. This district has an explanation: The old system was PASS, and the new system is already in the process of being standardized across the state which is why it's hard to find on the website (ie it used to be under teaching standards). Searching for that leads you to this (not) easily searchable document (p35-36 come close to saying the "E" word, as does 48) for general content and this specific outline of methodological and conceptual goals for high school. To me, the biggest problem with that is what a goddamned mess it is.
In contrast, the GA standards are pretty directly designed to be attached to logical segments of teaching in class (these are the ones I had to use for a semester, for instance, and they are always updated last because LOL social studies), and while they aren't going to win any awards they allow you a lot of flexibility in class depending on your interests and strengths as a teacher. So if nothing else, moving to a system developed by a consortium of states should provide OK teachers with something much more useful.
Now, here's the thing. State standards are a tiny part of the ideological battle in question. The biggest battles I think need to happen in terms of teacher certification (making teachers kiss the science ring to be certified, so to speak), teacher education (you can't teach evolution off a script, you have to understand it conceptually), textbooks (the Texas problem), and finally what will be tested if high-stakes assessments are in play. Regardless of what the state standards say, they will still be at the mercy of what teachers want to do with them. So, in my former field, you see some people approach the epistemological origins of American civics as a bunch of shit to memorize, or hero worship, or whatever, and I can teach a properly scaled intellectual history and its corresponding legal history to 9th graders, and we are all technically meeting SSG1 in the civics/government requirements.
Based on that, it seems to me the biggest battle we face as a country in terms of science literacy is that the vast majority of people teaching science don't know it well themselves. You can see it in the top-down design of curriculum, that enforces arbitrary lines and placement between chemistry, physics, and biology (because an Education PhD can only do so much when it comes to thinking about these things conceptually), and you can see it in the daily practice of class (labs that are really activities, worksheets, read the textbook, and so on, utterly devoid of the investigative component and authentic experimentation). I had one (1) colleague who as a Chem PhD could teach it properly, and she was one of 3 people in the district "notorious" for having lab notebooks. Not notorious among parents or students mind you, but notorious among teachers for making the others look like assholes.
Anyway, I could go on forever about this, but my point is simply this: the biggest weakness in the ID movement is that it is led by con-men and idiots who are simply tossing around red meat to propagate their shitty values and fund their bullshit jobs. It is important to fight them on any front, and it's also important to prioritize things that really, really matter in a practical sense (big picture stuff about textbook design, teacher education, and to a lesser extent, nuances of what might be implied in teaching standards). But don't confuse their fund-raising efforts for what gets things done in the classroom, that's all.
And in all societies. We (humans) have never been without it as far as I know. But I think what Jeff is referring to is that it became a central plank of the Republican coalition sometime in the seventies or so and really crystallized with Reagan, so it's more of a concerted effort on the part of one particular faction in US politics than it has been at come times in the past.
LK: If I could multi-like that post, I would. Thanks for the links. No argument here about the importance of teaching actual concepts, disastrous textbooks, the need for genuine investigative science, and the degree to which Education Departments have created administrators with no real sense of what we're trying to teach.
My experience has been with college and university teaching, as well as tutoring of HS students, but I have zero experience in HS curriculum design. I've helped set learning goals for bio classes, but it was in a much more independent, supportive setting. When I see that the law has a specific provision that seems to make it easier to harass officials and teachers for not covering ID, I cringe.
I'm glad that my reaction may have been a little extreme. That said, given how bad the situation is now, I get really damn touchy when I see intellectually dishonest people being rewarded for making it worse.
Chicken Little comes to mind. I have great difficulty imagining a universe in which one vague paragraph that uses the very strong word "prohibit" could be held to trump a specific curriculum set out by an elected body pursuant to the relevant statutory scheme.
Of course it wasn't produced in good faith to actually encourage critical thinking and discussion! Critical thinking and discussion are kryptonite to moonbat ideas like ID. I am certain that we agree 100% on the lack of merit in the idea behind this law. Where we differ is that you seem to see it as some kind of uber-law that trumps everything from state regulations up to the Constitution, and I see it as a wishy-washy way for some moron politicians to appease their moron constituents with a fluffy little law that seems unlikely to have any particular effect. The real curriculum battles will, presumably, remain in the decisions of school boards, where the turd-brained ID proponents have demonstrated time and again that they will try to do whatever they like, legality be damned.
The problem isn't that the laws themselves directly change the curriculum. It's that they make it harder to win those curriculum battles at the board level. School boards are not homogeneous, and even the Kansas board was divided 6/4 when it came time to make bad decisions. A state law that can be used to argue for the illegality of not giving ID people concessions can be a trump in that situation, and it might very well make lawsuits more difficult, too.
I'm not saying that this law would stand up as constitutional, given the repeated failures of ID in the courts. But the whole point of the ID strategy is to keep insinuating this stuff into classrooms over and over, leaving everyone else to play Whack-a-Mole with bad laws and practices.
The funny part is that many of the non-Jews in this thread probably think you're joking and/or exaggerating, and of course no one ever said exactly that to you in grammar school. Once every few weeks.
Well if you don't like it, maybe you should stop killing Jesus all the time.
Heh - didn't this years Texas GOP manifesto specifically call for the ending of teaching critical thinking, or anything that might make people question what they are told at home?
Science is hard to teach. I had one genius (biology) teacher, but he was only allowed to teach top stream, because:
- Sofa at back of the classroom for people who wanted to chill, on condition they didn't interupt those who wanted to learn. Some would just bring a novel...
- he taught what he m'fing wanted to teach. Principles of DNA, computer simulation of population dynamics etc. First classroom in the school to have a computer
- At the beginning of the term with public exams, he handed out the syllabus, told us the things we needed to know to pass it were in our unused textbooks, and go read it ourselves. Meanwhile, here is this experiment on something cool.
It worked, but only on people who were self motivated/ interested anyway. During WW2 he had been on the cross-disciplinary research team that came up with rose-hip syrup, and the optimum # of bombing missions.
During my community college days, I had an amazing teacher for sociology. He had actually been kicked out of Stanford (he told us this the first day), and was now relegated to our nearby college. The very first day, he said he would not assign any homework, would not review any quizzes or tests, but expected us to learn. That, he said, was within his judgment and if we failed, it was because we didn't get an A, we got a F. Second day, he said that 100% of our entire grade depended on our final oral presentation. No bullshit, he actually told us "You can do your final exam on acid, drunk, stoned, hell - smoke crack if that's your thing - I don't care. If you've learned something, and can prove you did, you'll pass.
He got kicked out of the college a year later and I have no idea what happened to the guy. Funny enough, someone did come to class on the third-to-final day, pulled a bong out of his backpack, and thought he'd be cool if he smoked a bowl before his presentation. Teach kicked him out. Not so much because he was going to be high while delivering the oral exam, but because he got pissed off that the kid tried to smoke right there in class. After he kicked the kid out and adjourned class for the day, he said, "Look. [redacted] obviously didn't learn anything. I said I don't care what you're on or not when you deliver your oral exam, but I made it clear that you do it before class. [redacted] fails. When you all come in tomorrow, I hope you have learned from this."
Sure enough, we came back, delivered our oral exams, and every one of us passed the class with a pure 4. One girl gave a brilliant report on what alcohol does to your mind after excess consumption, and decided to demonstrate it by, well, excessively consuming before her exam.
I had written my exam so that during crucial parts, I had to smoke a cigarette. I'd leave class for 5 minutes, come back in, resume, etc. I got an A+.
Oh, and I'll never forget my HS senior Lit teacher. I did a presentation on Final Fantasy, including video, and sailed through the course with a 4.3. I feel like I was living in a bizarro version of my life now, where I actually make video games, and all of my later education feels like a dream. I'd give anything to go back and watch myself do a fucking HS presentation on FF. I mean, really!
Where IS that from?
Dan got to it before I could.
Oops, sorry - somehow missed that one.
Separate names with a comma.