"The whole people must take upon themselves the education of the whole people and be willing to bear the expenses of it. There should not be a district of one mile square, without a school in it, not founded by a charitable individual, but maintained at the public expense of the people themselves." -- John Adams

"No money shall be drawn from the treasury, for the benefit of any religious or theological institution." -- Indiana Constitution Article 1, Section 6.

"...no man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place, or ministry whatsoever, nor shall be enforced, restrained, molested, or burthened in his body or goods, nor shall otherwise suffer on account of his religious opinions or belief; but that all men shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinion in matters of religion, and that the same shall in no wise diminish enlarge, or affect their civil capacities." – Thomas Jefferson

Monday, February 11, 2019

Winning the War for Science Education

With about a dozen Democrats running for president (and a few more still "undecided"), there's no doubt that the race for the 2020 presidency has begun. What are their goals for public education? What are their goals for returning us to science-based policies? Before we look to the future, however, let's take a quick look at the past...


During the last presidential election campaign, the candidates rarely discussed science and education beyond, a few topics; The Republican candidates were in favor of school choice and didn't "believe in" climate change; The Democratic candidates were in favor of expanded early childhood education, ending the student debt crisis, and gave lip service to "doing something" about climate change. Once the candidates were chosen, however, this discussion effectively stopped, and we were treated to a daily media deluge of insults and invective.


Just like in 2016, the positions of the 2020 Democratic presidential candidates on America's public schools and climate change are vague, though supportive. The Republican incumbent, along with his party-mates, is continuing to call for school privatization and to take an anti-science position on nearly everything except the "space force."

In his 2019 State of the Union Speech, the President was too concerned with investigations and with ignoring U.S. intelligence organizations to even mention climate change.

More Trump fantasyland as the world fries
Just as scientists are raising alarms about the disintegration of Antarctica’s massive ice shelves and ice sheets, Trump said nothing about global warming. Maybe that’s for the better: Whenever he addresses the issue, it is usually to mock those who care about the planet’s already well-documented, rapid environmental changes. Australia’s Great Barrier Reef is dying before the world’s eyes, and the leader of the Earth’s most powerful nation has nothing helpful to say about modern society’s complicity in the catastrophes to come, let alone how to lower climate risks.
He did, however, discuss education -- for all of about 10 seconds. He spoke a mere 15 words about education, and used those words to call for school "choice." He said, 
To help support working parents, the time has come to pass school choice for America’s children.
[For an excellent discussion of how the "reformers" have co-opted the word "choice" see Curmudgucation's Reclaiming Choice]


The current administration's anti-science policies are nothing new and have emboldened and strengthened the decades-old attack on science education.

Florida, for example, is just one of several states where an attack on science education is strong. [See also IndianaArizona, and elsewhere.] The Florida Citizens' Alliance is working to bring "conservative values" to public schools. It is interesting that among those "conservative values" is the denial of anthropogenic climate change. One would think that "conservation" of our planet would be a value that "conservatives" support.

Florida Citizens’ Alliance Is Brainwashing Kids to Think Climate Science Is Fake
Prominent on the group’s expanded menu of concerns was climate change, and humanity’s presumed role in driving it. The Alliance’s members began line-reading school textbooks for violations of their beliefs, creating carefully detailed reports on how many times, and in what context, elementary and high school students were learning about rising seas, or melting ice in Antarctica. “Unfortunately, what it’s become is indoctrination and not education. That’s our major problem,” Vernon said, echoing a prevailing concern among members of the Alliance and like-minded conservatives everywhere: the unchecked power and control over social institutions by perceived liberal elites. “We’re really concerned,” he added, “that our kids are not being educated, [but] simply indoctrinated in the philosophy of the academic aristocracy.”

With the ascension of the Alliance, the Sunshine State has become ground zero for an intensifying ideological battle taking place across the nation—one that has conservative groups wrestling for control over how climate science will be taught to American students. The science classroom, after all, remains the dominant venue in which those students first encounter the topic, and it greatly informs how students eventually square-up to the veracity of climate change—either as something they believe to be happening and worth responding to politically, or as a phenomenon of nature, undeserving of public funds and political action.
Two members of the Alliance have been chosen by Florida's new governor to serve on his education advisory team.

[Take a look at the above video's YouTube page for additional links.]

The video above makes passing reference to the idea that humans used to believe that the Earth is flat. Sadly, the belief in a flat Earth has been growing lately...

Science Behind the Fiction: the Flat Earth Movement is Growing. It's Very Scary.
It might be tempting to dismiss globe skeptics as a lunatic fringe, supporters of an idea as antiquated as ancient Mesopotamia, where belief in a disk Earth covered in a dome was common. But the documentary makes a compelling case — not for their ideas, but for compassion and calm discussion. The subjects on screen are painted, not as charlatans or kooks, but as genuinely inquisitive folks who have been misled either by themselves or others. And, according to a recent study, they may not be as fringe as you might think.

Published on April 2, 2018, the study asked more than 8,000 adults in the United States whether or not they believed in a flat or globular Earth. A surprising 16 percent expressed some degree of skepticism. If these results are representative of the U.S. population as a whole, then nearly one in six adults are, at the very least, unsure about the nature of our world.
It's clear that science education based on actual science has a challenging future.


With the help of Mitch McConnell and the current White House, the right-wing has successfully reshaped America's federal courts. This has been a long term goal of conservatives and the Religious Right. They have framed elections in terms of America's judicial system while liberals have generally been oblivious to the takeover. This tranformed judicial system will shape our national policies for decades to come.

Meanwhile, some of the same members of the right-wing have set their sights on the future of America...our school-aged children...and their knowledge of science.

Voucher programs in dozens of states allow public funds to go to schools teaching fake science. Legislatures are adopting anti-science curricula (often without the help of education professionals). Informational articles such as Revamped 'anti-science' education bills in United States find success, New wave of anti-evolution bills hit states, and What the latest assaults on science education look like, have documented the attack on science education. [See also A Baker's-Dozen-Plus-One of Half-Baked Measures.]

The long term goal of anti-science supporters is to raise up a citizenry ignorant about how our world works. Instead, some of them want voters who won't question the appointment of cabinet members in the pay of the fossil fuel industry. Others want to train a generation of taxpayers who are so ignorant they won't complain when entire ecosystems are destroyed in the search for more gas...more coal...more oil. And still others fear that the truth of science will destroy their religious world view and postpone their dreams of theocracy.

To ensure our future, our children need real science instead of misinformation. To do otherwise is to risk the economic, cultural, and environmental losses such ignorance will bring.

Humanity Needs Science To Survive And Thrive
Science is what's led our society to the present day, where food is plentiful, abundant and safe. Where diseases can be treated, cured or even prevented outright before you ever get sick. Where we can quantify the threat that dirty air, contaminated water or a hole in the ozone layer has on humanity. And where new advances lead to new technologies, enhancing our quality of life to levels that humans, even just a hundred years ago, couldn't possibly have foreseen. If we want this to continue, we absolutely need to listen to, accept, and value what science has to offer in all of these regards.
Those of us who understand the importance of science must focus our attention on a long term goal as well. We have to teach science truth to the next generation of Americans.


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