Friday, June 09, 2006

More thoughts

Good morning! The sun is shining, and it's about 60 degrees here. Looks like it will be another nice spring day here in NEO!

Since I'm not getting many comments, I assume I'm not stirring anyone up! Let's see - how can I get something going?

I think about the state of Science education in our schools. Can it be any wonder that our kids do poorly? Consider the attitude of the Bush administration toward stem cell research! And the "Religious Right" to evolution. They insist on Intelligent Design being a valid scientifically established FACT! Where's the evidence? Where is the theoretical framework? How can it be tested or verified? No way except by circular reasoning going back to the Biblical accounts and assuming those accounts to be factual! Evolution is a mere theory, albeit it's over a century's worth of findings, theoretical work, and continually increasing evidence. How can kids be expected to understand science when it's presented in such a framework? Not well, that's for sure.

The Social Sciences, being in the category of "soft" sciences, are often suspect as well, since they foster critical thinking on political and social issues. And there's nothing more sensitive than such issues in a time of fear and trembling.

My teaching years began during the early days of the cold war, McCarthyism, John Birch, et al.
That envronment made it sometimes very uncomfortable to question the powers that be, policy, and the like. Most of us did OK, with some caving in to criticism and an occasional threat.

The environment today, with the Patriot Act in place, is even more fraught with possibilites for abuse by government. The climate of fear engendered by the Bush folks and the strident right wing of politics bodes not well for open speech wherever it may impinge upon sensitive minds.

At my age, I have no fear for myself - the scare tactics that have been used - the repeated references to "9/11", terrorists, WMD, etc don' t really pose much of a personal threat. But they do frighten me when itr comes to the future of this country. The "war" on terrorism, with the implication that it will go on and on, is fraught with bad vibes for the next generations.

I'm not at all assured by the two party system, either. Where is the opposition? Where is the political stance of a democratic party candidate? Both major parties seem to be most concerned with being re-elected, and lack the guts to say "NO" when they can clearly see that it should be said. Oh, yes, there are a few, but all too few, who do. Pick your own favorite.

Well, I guess that's enough for this round. I wish all of you a great and rewarding day, and keep thinking and talking!

Here's a link for you to check out! I was encouraged to open it by a friend in Saugatuck, MI, where we spend seveal months each summer, and where both Katharine and I grew up. They need some waking up!

Saugatuck-good-government

Let me add some thoughts on education in general. Many have spoken about how bad the schools are, what a lousy job, etc. I wonder where the parents are? They are surely there when there's something to complain about, or to haul in a lawyer when discipline is involved! And they don't seem to value education enough to provide the funds to pay teachers adequate salaries. I have also noticed, in recent years, for superintendents to be business managers, not educators. Boards of education too often are playgrounds where people play out their power fantasies. And a stepping stone to higher office locally, if not beyond.


Bob

27 Comments:

Blogger Jill said...

Could not agree with you more, Bob. If you want to see that people read if even they don't comment, you should try "dropping in" code for Sitemeter.com. It will help you track some basic stats.

9:13 AM

 
Blogger Jim Eastman said...

I also think, on a national level, a lofty national scientific agenda would really give things a kick start. The trick is in finding something "sexy" and exciting enough to do that. The Apollo program delivered huge boosts in science education (the number of graduate degrees in hard science and engineering jumped to 15% from 3% of all graduate degrees issued -- it has since settled back to about 3%).

The Bush Moon-Mars thing was also a pretty lame and ineffective attempt at it to. It has to have much more pizzazz than that. It has to have more follow-through, and it has to happen in the context of a national attitude where scientific progress is important -- ney, critical to national image. This, in my opinion, is the key problem with the influence of the religious right. Scientific progress is no longer a key priority, and it shows.

It's also indicative of an executive administration's interest by where the National Science Advisor's office is. Most advisors have had west wing offices. John Marburger (Bush's science advisor) has an office in the OEOB, leaving him significantly further from the seat of power.

1:12 PM

 
Blogger scott bakalar said...

Hi A.G. -
I agree with Jill, sitemeter will allow you to get a good idea of how many folks are stopping by, even if they choose to not get involved with the discussion.

I think perhaps a JFK-ian alternative energy/space race/manhattan project, i.e., "we will effectively end our dependence on oil by the end of the decade" may be the sexy science based agenda to fit Mr. Eastman's bill - and could get the young people excited about science and be a benefit to mankind to boot.

3:03 PM

 
Blogger Jim Eastman said...

Scott-

I certainly love the idea, but I'm not sure as to how effective that would be. The problem with that is the paths to the end goal is more amorphous.

Granted, at the time of Kennedy's declaration we couldn't do more than a small fraction of the thigns we would need to do to launch a successful moon landing mission, we were able to break down discrete must-haves.

Energy independence has many strategies and paths that may or may not work either by themselves or as part of larger combined strategy. There is no specific unifying vision as there are many divergent interests. For example, some are working towards a strategy centered around nuclear power while some are working towards a strategy centered around ethanol fuel sources. There's no clear path and a lot of feuding between the available paths, not to mention the vested economic interests in opposing energy indepence. American companies didn't have economic and financial interests threatened by the Apollo Program.

Also, another condition existed during the Apollo Program days; we were getting our asses handed to us. We were consistently behind the Soviet Union in terms of space exploration. Maybe if the Chinese beat us at something like 25x'25, we can get our butts in gear and start some moving.

In many ways, I'm convinced we're going to have a hard time moving scientific achievement and education forward in the U.S. until we get beat hard at something big.

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Blogger Bob said...

Thanks folks - now there's some good tninking going on. Not being a "hard" scientist, I haven't much to offer in the way of curriculum,
but as Jim says, a lofty national scientific agenda would to it. And I personally think it should be in the area of medicen and the biological sciences. Let's really jump on some of these chronic probles, like AIDS, Alzheimers, spinal cord injury, and childhood illnesses. Let's not be satisfied with platitudes.

4:23 PM

 
Blogger Bob said...

Thanks folks - now there's some good tninking going on. Not being a "hard" scientist, I haven't much to offer in the way of curriculum,
but as Jim says, a lofty national scientific agenda would do it. And I personally think it should be in the area of medicinen and the biological sciences. Let's really jump on some of these chronic probles, like AIDS, Alzheimers, spinal cord injury, and childhood illnesses. Let's not be satisfied with platitudes.

1:23 PM

5:34 PM

 
Blogger Bob said...

Thanks folks - now there's some good tninking going on. Not being a "hard" scientist, I haven't much to offer in the way of curriculum,
but as Jim says, a lofty national scientific agenda would do it. And I personally think it should be in the area of medicine and the biological sciences. Let's really jump on some of these chronic problems, like AIDS, Alzheimers, spinal cord injury, and childhood illnesses. Let's not be satisfied with platitudes.
Bob Allen

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