Category Archives: Education

New Political Battle Front: Children’s Entertainment

Callista Gingrich

Republicans "fighting fire with fire". Since Hollywood is CLEARLY attempting to indoctrinate our children in the evil Liberal agenda, champions of conservatism such as the Gingrich's are using the more DIRECT approach to indoctrinate children in conservative principles. Here, I believe Callista Gingrich is teaching the children that Obama is an evil Kenyan Socialist Muslim.

Lou Dobbs is such a tool.  What was it?  Was CNN not paying him enough?  He USED to be at least rational, bordering at respectable!   But what’s happened over the last several years?  I’m mean sure, taking a job at Fox “News” is bound to warp ANYONE’s soul, but who knew that it could happen so quickly?  Now every time Dobbs opens his mouth, you’re waiting for something stupid to come out.  In other words, he’s become like FAR too many Republican politicians or talking heads. 

Dobbs’ latest crusade?  An issue that threatens to destroy the moral fabric of America itself…Dr. Seuss, and the upcoming “The Lorax” movie.  Dobbs claims that the Lorax is a result of “the president’s liberal friends in Hollywood”, and is attempting to “indoctrinate” children in a “liberal agenda”.   In The Lorax, a strange woodland creature fights against removal of all the trees.  According to Dobbs and Fox News, The Lorax is some offshoot of Occupy Wall Street.  According to them, Dr. Seuss and children’s entertainment in general are trying to push a “liberal” agenda. 

Give…me…a…freakin’…break.   First of all, why is it a negative to say that we shouldn’t cut down every single tree (as is done in the Lorax)?  Is EVERY other movie that features ANY kind of wildlife or conservation theme really part of one big liberal agenda?

I can see the Republicans coming out with their “alternative” versions of movies.  In the Republican version of “The Lorax”, God will float down from the heavens and inform the people of the town that Earth is there for people to rape and pillage, leading the villagers to throw the Lorax in prison and convert the entire town to one big oil-fracking field.   In the Republican version of “A Dolphin’s Tale”, instead of saving the dolphin and giving it an artificial tail, Winter the dolphin will be slaughtered and sold to a Japanese sushi conglomerate.   In the Republican version of “Big Miracle”, the whales will be allowed to die while BP peppers the region with offshore oil platforms. 

I guess it shouldn’t be a surprise, since the new crop of Republicans don’t even seem to CARE about our children’s future.  They don’t seem to CARE whether our children have clean water or air, or an adequate environment to support humanity.  And (GASP!!!) if you teach our children about basic conservation issues, they might grow up to (GASP!!) APPRECIATE the natural world and live in harmony with it, rather than treating it all as one big opportunity for short-term economic gain. 

Thank GOODNESS we have champions of Republican conservatism to counter this evil liberal Hollywood plot to indoctrinate our children in basic environmental responsibility!!!   Not only do we have beacons of conservatism like Dobbs to protect us through open criticism of children’s literature, we now also have Republicans fighting fire with fire!  Callista Gingrich has a children’s book out called “Sweet Land of Liberty“, about a history loving elephant (no attempt to “indoctrinate” children with the use of the elephant as the main symbol of the story).  

I’m SURE we’ll see Dobbs appearing on Fox News soon, railing against Callista Gingrich’s book, right?  I’m sure we’ll see Dobbs having an on-air rant against the Creationism museum and its attempts to teach children the “truth” about evolution, right?

Fight for teaching climate change and evolution

Climate Change and Evolution

There are remarkable similarities in the growing fight to just teach the SCIENCE of climate change, and the SCIENCE of evolution.

The National Center for Science Education has long been fighting a battle to teach the science of evolution in the classroom.   Note the organization’s name…SCIENCE EDUCATION.  Theology has no place in the science classroom, unless what’s being taught has an actual scientific foundation.  The NCSE has been fighting to keep theology out of the science classroom, and focus on the actual science of evolution.

Well, add another topic to the NCSE’s agenda.  The NCSE has now also started to push back against those trying to introduce “both sides” of climate change science.  There are striking similarities between the issues of how evolution and climate change are viewed in the U.S.   From a scientific standpoint, from the standpoint of evaluating empirical evidence, there IS no controversy behind either issue.  From a scientific standpoint, evolution is obvious and well established.  It’s a real, measurable, observable phenomenon, one with a wealth of supporting data in the fossil record, and one that we can actually see happening in the present day.   There IS no “other side” of the issue to examine.  There IS no scientific controversy between evolution, and the belief in creationism.

The same can be said for climate change.  There is no doubt that climate change is occurring.   The empirical evidence is overwhelming, from measured temperature increases, shocking declines in the Arctic ice pack, melting of long-stable permafrost, retreat of glaciers all over the world, etc.   There is overwhelming empirical evidence that human activity is the major contributor to climate change, with measurable, unprecedented rapid atmospheric increases in greenhouse gases. 

For evolution, those that are pushing to teach “both sides” of the issue are those that feel their religious beliefs are threatened by the science of evolution.  For those who believe in a literal interpretation of the Bible, they SHOULD feel their religious beliefs are threatened by the science of evolution.  The earth is not 5,000 years old.  We ARE descended from more primitive primate forms.  There is simply zero doubt on those facts.  For those pushing to teach “both sides” of the climate change issue, the primary driving force isn’t religion, it’s $$$$$$$$.  

Oil companies and others with a financial stake in keeping the status quo in terms of energy use and our treatment of the environment have been funding a massive misinformation campaign on climate change.  Given that the Republican Party is THE party where the almighty dollar trumps everything else (including the future welfare of the planet for our children), the GOP has picked up on climate change as a core issue they think can resonate with their (ignorant) masses.  And they have been correct!!  The Republican masses have fallen for the hype, have IGNORED the actual science, and now (stupidly) believe there ARE two “sides” of the climate change issue.  And just as with those backing evolution, there have been efforts to introduce the “other side” of climate change in our children’s classrooms.

THANK GOD there are groups like the NCSE who are fighting the anti-science nonsense that is being pushed on our children.  People are currently concerned about the future of the U.S., with the focus right now seemingly being on the economy, and global economic competitiveness.  The best way to ensure a strong future is through investment in education and our children.  There ARE
“two sides” to our future.  The first future has a well-educated workforce, one where our children were indeed brought up to examine issues on their own merit, but one where SCIENCE and empirical data forms the backbone of their reasoning. 

The second future is one where religious and political forces result in our children becoming global laughingstocks, where science plays second-fiddle to religious belief and the politically driven propaganda.

Perusin' & Musin'

Some random thoughts from perusin’ the web…

Hispanic Students Vanishing in Alabama – After an appeals court refused to block a tough new Alabama immigration law from taking effect, schools are reporting very sharp drops in attendance from Hispanic students.  Many Hispanic families have said they plan to leave Alabama, which I’m sure is cause for celebration for the bigots Alabama people who support the law.   If they keep at it, maybe they’ll be able to achieve their dream of having a lily-white, minority-free Alabama.

Black Oystercatcher Faring Well in California - It’s always nice to focus on good news for a change!  There’s been concern over the status of Black Oystercatchers on the Pacific Coast, but a recent survey in California found many more nesting pairs than expected.  Great to hear, as these are one of my favorite birds.  I’ve been fortunate to get a number of very good photo opportunities on a few trips to California and Oregon.

Bachman Says China Attacking U.S. Satellites with Lasers!!! -  During an interview on the Laura Ingraham show, Michele Bachman said China has been attacking and “blinding” U.S. military satellites with lasers.  Uh…Michele…maybe it would be best if you just slowly faded from the public spotlight.  You seem incapable of opening your mouth without complete BS coming out.  But when you’re talking on conservative talk radio, the audience demands right-wing wackiness, and Bachman certainly delivers.

Morality of U.S. Killing a U.S. Citizen with a Drone Strike - The first reaction upon the U.S. confirming the killing of American-born Anwar al-Awlaki in Yemen seemed to be overwhelmingly positive.  We had, after all, just killed someone described as the highest priority target since bin Laden was killed.   After a day or so though, many articles appeared questioning the morality of the U.S. government targeting and killing a U.S. citizen.   It’s a tough issue.   I’m against the death penalty, and think it’s simply barbaric for us to deal with criminality using the death penalty as a punishment.  But even for me, war is another issue.  I certainly don’t agree with the reasons nations go to war, but, unfortunately, even I recognize that at times, war is unavoidable.  Given that we simply do not have the capability to capture, jail, and try people like al-Awlaki, there’s often not a lot of choice in terms of how to conduct a “war on terror”.  Even with al-Awlaki technically a U.S. citizen, as distasteful as it seems, I’m not sure there’s not much else that could be done.  What a world we live in…

Israel Approves New Settlements in Occupied Territory - On the other hand…maybe there IS more the U.S. can do to combat terrorism, than rely on the military and drone strikes.  It ALL comes back to Middle Eastern attitudes towards the U.S., and that basically boils down to Israel and the issue of a Palestinian state.   This week after Palestinian President Abbas went to the U.N. for support of statehood, Israel announced they were approving the construction of 1,100 new homes for Jewish “settlers” in East Jerusalem.  I REALLY get sick of those that insist the U.S. continually, and seemingly unquestioningly, support Israeli interests.  If Israel had ANY real interest in a two-state solution, it wouldn’t be continually provoking Palestinians through actions such as this.  For once, I wish the U.S. would put their foot down and threaten to withhold Israeli aid, if they continue to build settlements in the occupied lands.

Traveller Arrested with Hummingbirds in his Pants - A Dutch traveler was arrested when airport authorities found a dozen live hummingbirds sewn into his underwear.  Evidently, this same idiot already had a previous arrest for smuggling hummingbirds.  I guess I didn’t realize there was a big black-market out there for hummingbirds.  This is pretty sick though.  I can’t imagine they would live very long all wrapped up like that, in someone’s underwear.

Record-low SAT scores – Let's cut education spending!!

American Education - Grade of FAmerican investment in education and our future is paying off!!  We are getting EXACTLY what we deserve!! And what are we getting?  Dumb children.   SAT scores in reading for last year were the lowest ever recorded.   Very surprising…we continue to cut education funding, and our children continue to get dumber and dumber. 

 Out of the 41 countries tested in 2003.  U.S. students scored 28th in math testing.    Latvia just edged us out for 27th.  In reading, we scored 18th out of 41.  In science, we scored 22nd out of 41.  But who can blame us?  The United States just doesn’t have the resources to spend on education like Latvia does!!  Right????   Well, no, that isn’t quite right.  In 2011, the Federal government spent 12 times as much on the military as we did on education.   We spent nearly 10 times as much on the military as we did on science, environmental, and energy programs, combined.  Our military budget nearly matches the rest of the WORLD’S military budget, combined!!

It’s all about priorities.  Education funding seems to be one of the first things on the chopping block when there are budget issues.  Raise taxes?  Or fire teachers?  9 times out of 10 in the U.S., the answer seems to be to fire teachers.   Now we unquestionably have issues with federal deficits and debt, and what are our priorities for addressing that debt?  Do we raise taxes to ensure our ability to invest in our future?  GOD NO!!  This is America!  Land of the brain-dead GOP!   Raising taxes is COMPLETELY off the table!!

Do we cut our massive bloated military budget?  GOD NO!!!  This is America!  Land of the brain-dead GOP!  Cutting the military budget is COMPLETELY off the table!!!

Do we foolishly cut our investments in education and science?  GOD YES!  This is America! Land of the brain-dead GOP!  Michele Bachman has advocated that we simply CUT the entire Department of Education.  Rick Perry and Herman Cain also strongly advocate moving all control of education to states and local governments.  Surely state and local control would result in a better education system, right?  GOD NO!!  In my current state of South Dakota this past year, when budget issues arose, one of the first things cut (surprise!!) was education funding.   When push comes to shove, be it at the Federal, State, or local level, people consistently choose the short-sighted view to handle short-term budget issues by cutting long-term investment in education and science.

America land of the free, and home of the brave.  OH, and also the land of dumb children.  And there’s no one to blame but ourselves and our screwed up priorities.

Perusin' and Musin'

Perusin' and Musin'Some random thoughts from perusin’ the web…

Was Hurricane Irene Caused by Global Warming?Stories like this always make me cringe.  Saying any one weather event is directly “caused” by global warming is just asking for trouble.  Global warming skeptics who see people making these claims will immediately dismiss it, just like climate scientists (aka, smart people) immediately scoff at skeptics who dismiss global warming every time it snows.  Note that it’s rarely climate scientists who will directly link individual events like this to climate change.  More often than not, it’s a writer/journalist looking for a controversial story.

California Wins Little League World Series - ESPN broadcasts? Former major leaguers providing commentary and talking about 12- and 13-year old kids like they’re professional athletes?  Crowds chanting USA! USA! USA!  Highlights and interviews on TV?  Give me a break.  They’re kids.  It’s a game.  I’m starting to really dislike ESPN for many reasons, and the treatment of these kids and the Little League World Series is one big part of it.

Ron Paul: No FEMA Response Necessary – Interesting timing to say FEMA isn’t needed, after an earthquake and a hurricane hit the East Coast within a week.  One thing I’ve never understood…why there’s such hatred for government out of Washington, with folks thinking states can handle things better.  There are some issues that either need a bigger response than a state can provide, or require federal-level, standardized regulation.

Frozen University Salaries Stoke Fears of Faculty Drain - South Dakota has frozen wages of state university faculty for the last three years.  When a budget shortfall was in the cards this past year, South Dakota of course went after cuts to general education.  This is what our future will look like unless folks get over their fanatical, anti-government, anti-tax mood.  It’s sad when a huge segment of the population have no interest in investing in our children and our future.

Overhyped Irene Makes Washington the Butt of Snickers – A common theme in both the Washington and New York papers…the “overhyped” nature of Hurricane Irene.   Ironic, considering those papers are the ones who contributed mightily to the hype.  These kinds of articles don’t bother me.  What does bother me are articles like this one from the NY Times, where the focus of the article is what forecasters got wrong.  Forecasters nailed the track of the storm about 3 days ahead of time, and pretty much nailed the strength by the time it hit New York.  The only attribute they missed a bit was the strength of the storm hitting North Carolina.   Pretty darned good in my book!  But non-scientists certainly like to poke fun, as if this is such an easy thing to do.

GOP War on Education

Lord Voldemort, Victim?

Lord Voldemort...victim of government oppression, and new face of the Tea Party

Government is evil.  The tea-party take-over of the GOP has simplified the GOP message into one simple statement…government is evil.  It doesn’t matter if it’s government funded science, programs for the poor….heck, it could be a government sponsored program to hunt Horcruxes and prevent Lord Voldemort from destroying mankind, and the Tea Party would end up carrying pro-Voldemort posters and rallying against government oppression.

As a scientist, I find it incredibly disturbing that political ideology trumps sound scientific research when it comes to artificially politicized issues such as climate change and evolution/creationism.   In the short term, such short-sightedness (I’m being VERY polite by not using a more vulgar, but appropriate term) may not do significant harm.  However, the GOP’s attacks on science and government’s role in providing education also is likely to have a devastating long-term effect on American innovation and our place in the world. 

Here’s a terrific piece from Slate on GOP’s changing stance on education.  Terrific, but damned scary.  Instead of ensuring every child has the same educational opportunities, instead of making sure that a basic curriculum is provided which lays the educational foundation for our children, conservatives have twisted the discussion towards whether we’re (GASP!!) mentioning homosexuality, teaching evolution, or (GASP!) discussing contraception instead of abstinence.

In a Tea-party world, our children will be wearing chastity belts, will think babies are delivered by stork, and will have no concept that a substantial portion of the human race are (GASP!) homosexual.   In a Tea-party world, we may end up with good little children who obey their parents, go to bed on time, and faint if they should even hear someone say the f-word. 

In a Tea-party world, our children will also think Great Grandpa Jones had to fight dinosaurs on his way to work, that rain is simply angels crying, and that calculus is some kind of a fungus you get on your feet.  Our children will also UNDOUBTEDLY end up being low-paid lackeys working for foreign bosses, foreign heathens and sinners who foolishly were raised with an education focused on science, mathematics, and an unbiased historical view of the world.

As a scientist, I can’t help but think that much of the world is simply laughing at what passes as “educational issues” in the U.S.   Laughing, and smiling as they watch the era of American dominance in science and innovation get flushed down the drain for the sake of artificial morality.