An Easy Decision for the Texas School Board

Nope, they should not have any trouble rejecting this proposal:

A bid by the Dallas-based Institute for Creation Research to train future science teachers was flatly rejected by Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board members Wednesday.

Here is a sampling of what you would get from ICR:

The purpose of ICRGS is (1) to prepare science teachers and other individuals to understand the universe within the integrating framework of a biblical perspective using proven scientific data, and (2) to prepare students for leadership in science education. A clear distinction is drawn between scientific creationism and biblical creationism, but it is the position of the Institute that the two are compatible and that all genuine facts of science support the Bible.
The programs and curricula of the Graduate School, while similar in factual content to those of other graduate colleges, are distinctive in one major respect. ICR bases its educational philosophy on the foundational truth of a personal Creator-God and His authoritative and unique revelation of truth in the Bible.

The first two goals of their distance education program are:

# create a network of science teachers who desire to teach scientific truths about biblical creation;
# learn the most effective ways to teach scientific truths about biblical creation;

Excellent goals! Ones that any decent science teacher can already handle just fine.
If someone really wants a course like this as part of their educational credentials then they should certainly be allowed to do so. But they should not expect it to qualify them to teach real science.

On a related note, John Freshwater can keep his bible on his desk. However, it sounds like some of his teaching points and methods are well aligned with ICR.

Update: Greg Laden has a related petition you should go sign.

Bad Cookie Monster!

Is Sesame Street good for children?

A paper in Australia reports that DVDs of classic episodes of Sesame Street are being labeled “adult only” because they do not suit the needs of today’s preschool children. Cookie Monster is evil for devouring cookies and thus promoting bad habits that lead to obesity.

The needs of today’s preschool children???
The show met the needs of preschool children just as poorly during the original screenings: It promoted obesity by encouraging little kids to sit quietly in front of the tube and promoted mental anorexia by encouraging little kids to sit mentally passive in front of the boob tube.
In the linked article

Andrew Fuller, a clinical psychologist and consultant on children’s television production, said a sanitised world was far more dangerous than the whacky world of Sesame Street.
“Unless we expose kids to a diverse range of characters and behaviour they will not be prepared for the real world,” he said.

Before tube world kids gathered this experience in…the real world!

Via Karen DeCoster.

Quote of the Day #3 ~ Education

…I could not help receiving the impression that I was being cheated out of something. Out of what I knew not, yet I did not believe that twelve years of unrelieved boredom was exactly what the state had in mind for me.
Scout in To Kill A Mockingbird, Harper Lee, 1960, page 37 in the 1982 Popular Library Edition

Hmmm, this is probably exactly what the state had/has in mind…

Given the structure of the education school systems in the US those who are not afflicted with boredom must be the small exception.

Food for Your iPOD

Download a lecture or two on your favorite subject from iTunes U:

Designed to be completely intuitive, iTunes U is based on the iTunes Store, where millions of people already get their music, movies, and TV shows. Now there’s an area of the iTunes Store devoted entirely to education, where it’s easy to search thousands of audio and video files from schools across the country.
Colleges and universities build their own iTunes U sites. Faculty post content they create for their classes. Students download what they need, and go. Learning isn’t just for the classroom anymore. It’s for anytime and anyplace you’ve got a Mac, a PC, or an iPod.

Via Christopher Dawson at Education IT who notes:

While most universities have been podcasting for some time, this is certainly an innovative way for Apple to facilitate the sharing of this content and give us all one more reason to become pod people. Most of the content is free for the taking…I can almost feel the earbuds now.

A good place to start might be Geography of World Cultures from Stanford.

Still the Same After 201 Years

In an 1806 letter Benjamin Latrobe writes:

The want of learning and of science in the majority is one of those things which strikes foreigners who visit us very forceably.1

I don’t know if today’s visiting foreigners have the learning and science to make such an evaluation but if they did they would say the same.

1quoted by Gordon Wood in The Radicalism of the American Revolution, 1991, 295

May The Force Be With You

If you can’t concentrate you may not win your next light sword battle or make your next put:

Behind the mask is a sensor that touches the user’s forehead and reads the brain’s electrical signals, then sends them to a wireless receiver inside the saber, which lights up when the user is concentrating. The player maintains focus by channeling thoughts on any fixed mental image, or thinking specifically about keeping the light sword on. When the mind wanders, the wand goes dark.

Technology from NeuroSky and other startups could make video games more mentally stimulating and realistic. It could even enable players to control video game characters or avatars in virtual worlds with nothing but their thoughts.
Adding biofeedback to “Tiger Woods PGA Tour,” for instance, could mean that only those players who muster Zen-like concentration could nail a put. In the popular action game “Grand Theft Auto,” players who become nervous or frightened would have worse aim than those who remain relaxed and focused.
NeuroSky’s prototype measures a person’s baseline brain-wave activity, including signals that relate to concentration, relaxation and anxiety. The technology ranks performance in each category on a scale of 1 to 100, and the numbers change as a person thinks about relaxing images, focuses intently, or gets kicked, interrupted or otherwise distracted.

Read the rest of the article for the beginnings of what could be an interesting debate over both intended and unintended benefits of bringing biofeedback to the popular market.

Will learning to keep a light sword bright improve our ability to focus on other tasks?

Update: Here is a picture of Neurosky’s prototype and here is NeuroSky’s homepage.<.p>

Raising the Birthday Bar?

I suspect we all think pretty much the same way when we put together a birthday party for one of our kids. As Brittany’s Mom says:

… “To each their own. It’s about her. It’s about me making this the best for her.”

If that were all there was to this story there would be no more discussion. However,

she continues, “Brittany’s my baby, my princess. If I could do it even bigger, I would. She’s so good (Brittany brought home straight A’s on her first report of the school year). If she was a snot, a little brat, I wouldn’t do this.”

What’s the scale of this party? The closing present will give you an idea:

How do you top an appearance by Bubba Sparxxx? You pull out the big guns, this time in the form of a little luxury sports car. Brittany’s surprise gift: a 2006 BMW Z4.
“The reason we are having all of this is because of the car,” Leslie says. “She had her heart set on a BMW Z4 in this certain shade of blue. Grayson (car dealership) searched all over and found one in Oregon. I didn’t want to have to wait a year to give it to her.”

Brittany can’t bring herself to get out of the car that retails for about $45,000.

15 year old Brittany said later:

“It would’ve been fine if I had a few friends to go the movies,”…

Yes, indeed.

Via this guy who was apparently most interested in the lap dance (see Grand Entrance segment of the video).

What Keeps Kids Off Playgrounds

A recently published study argues that for at least 25% of overweight kids bullying keeps them off their school playgrounds:

Overweight kids can be bullied or taunted right off the playgrounds or ball fields, potentially making their struggles with excess pounds even worse, researchers here said.
One quarter of overweight children ages eight to 18 reported significant problems with bullying, and such problems correlated strongly with self-reported depression, loneliness, anxiety, and curtailed physical activity…

First, let’s all agree that bullying is bad behaviour and should not be condoned. Second, I’ll go so far as to say that bullies, any one who threatens to or actually initiates physical violence against another student, should be removed from the school and face appropriate criminal charges.
Now, what really keeps kids off playgrounds and also forces them into an environment where they have to deal with bullies on the playground? Well, our school systems. That right.
The school system herds large numbers of students together into large buildings for a significant part of there day. During that day these young, energetic people spend most of their time crammed into small rooms, sitting in rows of chairs, sometimes behind desks. Five-six hours a day like this and we wonder why many don’t get enough exercise. Then during the day elementary* school kids may be released with 100’s of their schoolmates into a large caged yard, one that is not unlike a prison yard. Hmmmm, energy, 100s of kids, some of whom are jerks and bullies, in a large caged area. Just what kind of behavior do you expect?
Yes, damn the bullies. But also damn the institutions that force all these people into this overcrowded environment. Unless, that is, you really want to train our children for a life in prison or sweatshops.

*Note that by junior high and high school recess is a thing of the past and the bullies do most of their preying in the hallways, at lunch time or after school.