Archive for March 21st, 2011

How to destroy science education in America

| March 21, 2011 | 4 Replies
How to destroy science education in America

Try to think of a great way to destroy math and science education in the United States. Think of something that Osama bin Laden would have tried to do if he had tried to destroy math and science education in the United States. You might propose this: Defund the STEM Fellows GK-12 Program. Guess what? The U.S. National Science Foundation has done just that. Here is an excerpt from page 29 of the March 4, 2010 edition of Science (full article available online only to subscribers):

Researchers are shocked and upset by a decision by the US National Science Foundation (NSF) to cancel a high-profile and successful fellowship program that is brought more than 10,000 graduate students into elementary and secondary schools around the country. A recent evaluation says the graduate Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (stem) Fellows in K-12 education program, begun in 1999, brings science to life for students, improves the skills of their teachers, and offers graduate students valuable training in the classroom. So participants don’t understand why the president’s 2012 budget request would abandon a $55-million a year program that addresses key aspects of the Obama Administration’s push to improve US science and math education.

Officials at NSF say that the program has been effective but claim that it is now time to move on. The scientists involved in the program aren’t buying this piece of garbage explanation, however. They know that the program was wildly successful, and that it has been highly touted, even by NSF in its recent budget requests to Congress. In its most recent independent evaluation, last fall, this program was declared to be achieving most of its goals pursuant to “substantial and credible evidence.” It has been a win win win program, except that it had a “modest impact on the graduate students’ research skills. Of course it has, since these graduate students are spending more time learning to be good teachers.

The fellows became better teachers, learning how to work collaboratively and how to communicate science to a non-technical audience. The public school teachers improve their knowledge of science and welcome to having graduate science students in the classrooms. The fellows’ new skills made them better college instructors, and their off-campus experiences gave them an edge in finding full-time jobs after graduation.

Consider what the NSF has recently said about STEM Fellows:

This program provides funding for graduate students in NSF-supported science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) disciplines to bring their leading research practice and findings into K-12 learning settings. Through collaborations with other graduate fellows and faculty from STEM disciplines, teachers and students in K-12 environments, and community partners, graduate students can gain a deeper understanding of their own research and place it within a societal and global context. The GK-12 program provides an opportunity for graduate students to acquire value-added skills, such as communicating STEM subjects to technical and non-technical audiences, leadership, team building, and teaching while enriching STEM learning and instruction in K-12 settings. This unique experience will add value to the training of U.S. graduate students and will energize and prepare the students for a broad range of STEM careers in a competitive globalized marketplace. Furthermore, the GK-12 program provides institutions of higher education with an opportunity to transform the conventional graduate education by infusing and sustaining GK-12 like activities in their graduate programs.

By slashing the STEM Fellows program, the Obama administration will now save $55 million per year. Let’s put that in perspective. This country spends more than $2 billion per week pretending to fight a war in Afghanistan while actually propping up corrupt leaders and the poppy crop and antagonizing dirt-poor civilians– Afghanistan is a place where the U.S. military struggles to find even 100 members of Al Qaeda, according to the CIA. The war has nothing at all with which to commend itself, and yet we spend more than $2 billion per week on this “war.” That comes out to about $1 million for every five minutes. In other words, we have just destroyed a perfectly good science and mathematics education program, a program that brought 10,000 math and science graduate students into elementary schools and high schools, at a time when we are desperate to find ways to teach those students science and mathematics. We destroyed STEM Fellows GK-12 to “save” $55 million per year, the amount of money we burn in Afghanistan every five hours.

This is an absolutely pathetic display of bad priorities by our Peace President (who is also willing to toss out hundreds of billions of dollars to his buddies on Wall Street). I can’t think of a better way to move the United States toward second world or third world status.

[Lest there be any confusion, I voted for Obama and I am sorely disappointed with him, yet I still consider him a much better President than John McCain would have been--I am not claiming that Obama is trying to destroy math and science education, only that he has made a terrible decision.]

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The law and … comic books?

| March 21, 2011 | 5 Replies
The law and … comic books?

On my way home today, I heard on All Things Considered a piece about how Japan Disaster Strikes Home Among Anime Fans.One Philadelphia conventioneer this past weekend said,

“We’re not just worried about our anime being cut off,” he said firmly. “We’re actually concerned for the people there.”

The latter sentiment is obvious and welcome. But I can’t wrap my ahead around the anime part. I happen to be not just anime-averse, but moved to the point of actually passing judgment on fans and applying more than salty adjectives to the medium. But Japanimation aside, NPR followed that segment with one just as interesting.

Melissa Block spoke with blog authors (and attorneys) James Daily and Ryan Davidson about their blog Law and the Multiverse. The two turn their

attention to the hypothetical legal ramifications of comic book tropes, characters, and powers.

Sidebar: I only watch one sitcom on television – The Big Bang Theory – in which the nerdy characters talk occasionally about comic book character. I laugh because the writing and acting are quite funny, but never having developed any interest in comic books past the age of maybe 12, I can’t relate to Sheldon Cooper et al on that particular recurring thread.

Nor can I relate to the nerdy lawyers on NPR and their musings on how the law would affect the statute of limitations and time traveling super heroes.

Or can I?

I recall a discussion in high school (I actually only observed and didn’t participate …that time) in which friends were debating the merits of a phaser (Star Trek’s Starfleet issue, Type-2) over a Space 1999 stun gun (this would have been around 1977, pre-Star Wars and definitely before Battlestar Galactica ). The back-and-forth went on for a while before someone mentally slapped his forehead and blurted out, “Guys! We’re arguing about fictional weapons. They’re not real!”

[caption id="attachment_17156" align="alignright" width="300" caption="Collage by Erich Vieth (using some of his own comic books)"][/caption]

I don’t recall having a what-if conversation about fictional characters or fictional items at any time since that incident. I think that sealed how silly the whole idea was to me. A cynic was born that is trying to come out again as I creep toward curmudgeon age. I’ll try to beat him back with a stick. Or set phasers on stun.

[To be fair to the attorneys, from the NPR article]:

But is there any practical side to this? Yes, says Daily. The blog lets them “educate people about the law.” And, adds Davidson, they can use “rich, detailed stories” when doing it.

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In Whom I Don’t Trust

| March 21, 2011 | 7 Replies
In Whom I Don’t Trust

Would you believe that the U.S. House of Representatives is spending our time voting on a resolution to reaffirm the divisive McCartheism era phrase “In God We Trust” as our national motto, and to encourage its display in all public and government buildings?

Yep. On March 17, the U.S. House Judiciary Committee approved House Concurrent Resolution 13 and now the Republican controlled House will vote on it.

You can read the entire text of the resolution here, and use the form at this link to contact your representative in the House, and urge them not to vote for such nonsense. How does this shore up the promise of jobs?

I’ve previously posted on this annoying phrase, specifically on the money: In God We Trust (2007) and The Dollar Got More Annoying (2010)

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