Tag Archives | Schools

Texas Board Of Education Unanimously Rejects Creationist Textbooks

creationism-4In a shocking turn of events, creationism’s great white hope, Texas, has decided to continue teaching basic biology and natural history in its public school system. The National Center for Science Education writes:

The Texas Board of Education has unanimously come down on the side of evolution. In 14-0 vote, the board today approved scientifically accurate high school biology textbook supplements from established mainstream publishers–and did not approve the creationist-backed supplements from International Databases, LLC.

Dr. Eugenie Scott, NCSE’s Executive Director is celebrating the decision. “These supplements reflect the overwhelming scientific consensus that evolution is the core of modern biology, and is a central and vital concept in any biology class. That these supplements were adopted unanimously reflects a long overdue change in the board. I commend the board for its refusal to politicize science education.”

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Crash Rates May Be Higher for Teen Drivers Who Start School Earlier in the Morning

Are we about to witness the foundation of Mothers Against Early Classes? ScienceDaily reports:

A study in the April 15 issue of the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine shows increased automobile crash rates among teen drivers who start school earlier in the morning.

Photo: Jeffrey Beall (CC)

Photo: Jeffrey Beall (CC)

Results indicate that in 2008 the weekday crash rate for 16- to 18-year-olds was about 41 percent higher in Virginia Beach, Va., where high school classes began at 7:20 — 7:25 a.m., than in adjacent Chesapeake, Va., where classes started at 8:40 — 8:45 a.m. There were 65.8 automobile crashes for every 1,000 teen drivers in Virginia Beach, and 46.6 crashes for every 1,000 teen drivers in Chesapeake. Similar results were found for 2007, when the weekday crash rate for Virginia Beach teens (71.2) was 28 percent higher than for Chesapeake teens (55.6). In a secondary analysis that evaluated only the traditional school months of September 2007 through June 2008, the weekday crash rate for teen drivers was 25 percent higher in Virginia Beach (80.0) than in Chesapeake (64.0).

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Inside The Sad World Of Standardized Test Essay-Scoring

6008578.28Minneapolis’s City Paper delves into a dark corner of the education system: the ever-growing test-scoring industry. Every day, armies of underpaid, disenchanted, hungover slacker-temps slave away in private essay-grading mills, slapping on arbitrary scores which determine whether schools across the country will receive funding and whether students will graduate:

Eventually, DiMaggio got used to not asking questions. He got used to skimming the essays as fast as possible, glancing over the responses for about two minutes apiece before clicking a score.

Every so often, though, his thoughts would drift to the school in Arkansas or Ohio or Pennsylvania. If they only knew what was going on behind the scenes. “The legitimacy of testing is being taken for granted,” he says. “It’s a farce.”

DiMaggio had good reason to worry. His score could determine whether the school was deemed adequate or failing—whether it received government funding or got shut down.

Though the efficacy of standardized testing has been hotly debated for decades, one thing has become crystal clear: It’s big business.

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College In America: What Went Wrong?

take-ivy-princeton-3jpg-cc411ddfea8f7e7d_largeVia New Left Project, author Chris Lehman bitingly surveys the contemporary United States’ bloated, perilously off-track higher education system — from the the Ivies, which now act as “luxury goods” for the rich, to the rise of pyramid-scheme fringe colleges such as the University of Phoenix:

Most high-end and Ivy League schools spent the 1990s and early aughts pursuing a senseless binge in luxury spending so as to draw a wider pool of high-testing applicants – not because they had so many vacant spots to fill, mind you, but because wooing bigger applicant pools permitted them to reject more applicants and to continue burnishing their reputation for exclusivity in the applicant market. In 2008, lawmakers finally got wise to the scam and threatened to revoke the ridiculous tax exemptions enjoyed by massively endowed institutions like Harvard, Yale, and Princeton.

By then, however, the tuition market had become so absurdly distorted and top heavy that this miniature and belated land rush in Ivy League aid wound up creating yet more pressure on major state universities.

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Critical Thinking Classes Coming To American Schools?

Rodin's 'Thinker.' Photo: Satyakamk (CC)

Rodin's 'Thinker.' Photo: Satyakamk (CC)

ScienceDaily reports:

Read the comments on any website and you may despair at Americans’ inability to argue well. Thankfully, educators now name argumentive reasoning as one of the basics students should leave school with.

But what are these skills and how do children acquire them? Deanna Kuhn and Amanda Crowell, of Columbia University’s Teachers College, have designed an innovative curriculum to foster their development and measured the results. Among their findings, published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, dialogue is a better path to developing argument skills than writing.

“Children engage in conversation from very early on,” explains Kuhn. “It has a point in real life.” Fulfilling a writing assignment, on the other hand, largely entails figuring out what the teacher wants and delivering it. To the student, “that’s its only function.”

Kuhn and Crowell conducted a three-year intervention at an urban middle school whose students were predominantly Hispanic, African-American, and low-income.

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UK To Bring ‘Gay Lessons’ To Classrooms To Promote LGBT History Month

Photo: Blackcatuk (CC)

Photo: Blackcatuk (CC)

The Telegraph reports:

Children are to be taught about homosexuality in maths, geography and science lessons as part of a Government-backed drive to “celebrate the gay community”.

Lesson plans have been drawn up for pupils as young as four, in a scheme funded with a £35,000 grant from an education quango, the Training and Development Agency for Schools.

The initiative will be officially launched next month at the start of “LGBT History Month” – an initiative to encourage teaching about lesbian, gay, bisexual and transsexual issues.

The lesson plans, spread across the curriculum, will be offered to all schools, which can choose whether or not to make use of them.

But critics last night called the initiative a poor use of public money which could distract from the teaching of “core” subjects.

Among the suggestions are:

  • Maths – teaching statistics through census findings about the number of homosexuals in the population, and using gay characters in scenarios for maths problems;
  • Design and technology – encouraging pupils to make symbols linked to the gay rights movement;
  • Science – studying animal species where the male takes a leading role in raising young, such as emperor penguins and sea horses, and staging class discussions on different family structures, including same-sex parents;
  • Geography – examining the transformation of San Francisco’s Castro district in the 1960s from a working-class Irish area to the world’s first “gay neighbourhood”, and considering why homosexuals move from the countryside to cities;
  • Languages – using gay characters in role play scenarios, and teaching “LGBT vocabulary”.
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Dictionary Contains Dirty Words: SoCal Parents Move to Protect Children After Shocking Discovery

Source: Booksworm (CC)

Source: Booksworm (CC)

This from Alison Flood at The Guardian:

Dictionaries have been removed from classrooms in southern California schools after a parent complained about a child reading the definition for “oral sex”.

Merriam Webster’s 10th edition, which has been used for the past few years in fourth and fifth grade classrooms (for children aged nine to 10) in Menifee Union school district, has been pulled from shelves over fears that the “sexually graphic” entry is “just not age appropriate”, according to the area’s local paper.

The dictionary’s online definition of the term is “oral stimulation of the genitals”. “It’s hard to sit and read the dictionary, but we’ll be looking to find other things of a graphic nature,” district spokeswoman Betti Cadmus told the paper.

While some parents have praised the move – “[it’s] a prestigious dictionary that’s used in the Riverside County spelling bee, but I also imagine there are words in there of concern,” said Randy Freeman – others have raised concerns.

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Tea Party Candidate: Abolish All Public Schools

Thought Americans were dumb enough as is? Apparently you’re just not ambitious enough; this from David Knowles at AOL’s Newsdesk:
Empty Classrooms?School’s out … forever?

Tea Party candidate David Harmer, who is running as a Republican for the U.S. House of Representatives in California’s 11th District, thinks the nation’s public education system should more closely resemble the way it looked in 1825. In other words, Harmer would abolish public schools altogether.

In an op-ed in the San Francisco Chronicle in 2000, Harmer wrote the following:

To attain quantum leaps in educational quality and opportunity, however, we need to separate school and state entirely. Government should exit the business of running and funding schools.

This is no utopian ideal; it’s the way things worked through the first century of American nationhood, when literacy levels among all classes, at least outside the South, matched or exceeded those prevailing now, and when public discourse and even tabloid content was pitched at what today would be considered a college-level audience.
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UK Schools Doing UFO Crash Drills

UFO MapLounge Daddy writes on Dateline Zero:

There seems to be a growing trend among schools to stage a UFO crash, and then teach students how to react, as well as to “properly” investigate and report on the incident.

It sounds like a lot of fun, and a great way to fire up a student’s imagination as well as writing skills. Hell, I wish we would have done a staged UFO crash at my school.

The latest “UFO drill” took place Wed, Sept 29, at Sandford Primary School in the UK. The kids were treated to a full UFO crash scenario that included wreckage, police tape, and real police officers. (Perhaps it was only lacking men from the government telling the children not to talk about what was seen.)

What’s interesting is that “police were on hand to show the children how to properly investigate the UFO crash site.” Um, were any of the officers speaking from experience?…

[continues at Dateline Zero]

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As More Bullying Victims Commit Suicide, Right-Wing Groups Decry Anti-Bullying Policies As ‘Gay Agenda’ Ploy

As a sort of follow up to my post yesterday, from Think Progress:

Many states across the country are taking laudable steps to enact measures that bolster administrators’ ability to protect students who face such harassment. However, despite the evidence supporting the need, right-wing lawmakers and activists insist that anti-bullying measures are nothing more than insidious tools of the “homosexual agenda”:

  • The American Family Association of Michigan has spent years decrying a proposed anti-bullying measure as “a Trojan Horse to sneak [homosexual activists’] special rights agenda into law” and to “legitimize homosexual behavior” which is “a practice scientifically proven to result in a dramatically higher incidence of domestic violence, mental illness, illegal drug use, promiscuity, life-threatening disease, and premature death.” The bill “died in 2008 in the state Senate because senators could not agree” on whether to address bullying based on sexual orientation and gender identity in the measure.
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