First, dismantle public school funding. That was pandering to the charter school people he was sitting with. Second, more “no child left behind” type policies. Third, increase classroom size. Because classroom size doesn’t matter. Fourth, cancel teacher improvement programs.

From the Washington Post:

During the roundtable session, Romney said there was no correlation between classroom size and student performance, citing a report by consulting firm McKinsey & Company. That sparked a debate with some educators and other leaders around the table.
“I can’t think of any teacher in the whole time I’ve been teaching, for 10 years, 13 years, who would say that more students [in the classroom] would benefit,” said Steven Morris, a music teacher at the school. “And I can’t think of a parent that would say I would like my teacher to be in a room with a lot of kids and only one teacher.”

Yes, some studies showed that but as far as I can tell, they were comparing class sizes that were too big with class sizes that were way too big. Turns out there is not much difference between totally broken and way totally broken.

In the form of song.

High school students in Dunkerton, Iowa were expecting an assembly about bullying and making good choices. What they got instead was the Christian rap/hard rock band called Junkyard Prophet delivering an anti-gay and anti-abortion rant.

After the band played, they broke the students up into gender-based groups and then lectured them.

“They told my daughter, the girls, that they were going to have mud on their wedding dresses if they weren’t virgins,” said Jennifer Littlefield, whose 16-year-old daughter, Alivia called her in tears after the event. Reportedly, one of the band members led the girls in a chant pledging purity and encouraged them to be submissive to their husbands after marriage.

Here’s part of the presentation:

And another:

Let me tell you two things about this: 1) It is an outrage; and 2) This kind of thing happens in high schools across the country on a regular basis; it is not that frequent, but it happens.

Hat Tip: Gwenn Smith Olson

Unfortunately, the fundraising goal for this creationist project was $24.5 million. The groundbreaking of the park has been delayed numerous times.

LEO Weekly tried to find out from the state Tourism Cabinet what was going on, and their representative claimed that they’d heard nothing from Ken Ham’s organization. But, they lied. Emails obtained via the Freedom of Information Act indicate that there has been communication, and that the situation for the Ark Park is not good: Continue reading

… if House bill 1148, introduced by Republican Jerry Bergen is passed into law. It is only in the pre-file stage,but it will be taken up in the upcoming 2012 session of the New Hampshire legislature.

Specifically, the bill says: Continue reading

Gene Marks, you wrote an essay for Forbes that has gotten a lot of people rather upset. People are upset because you display insensitive unchecked privilege and, essentially, you blame an entire class of people as the victims of what is mostly not their fault but rather, your fault and the fault of the modal Forbes reader, as well as society more broadly, history, culture, economics, racism and all sort of other things that are largely beyond the control of the Poor Black Kids of the Inner City of whom you write.

I think you meant well, but you did not do well. There are many ways in which you display a marked lack of a clue about your topic. How so? Let’s start at the beginning of your essay: Continue reading

The competition is fierce. This isn’t only Free Thought Blogs vs. other blogging networks. This is also blogger against blogger. I need you to visit my donation page and GIVE MONEY TO WORTHY SCHOOLS.

Remember last summer’s tornado in North Minneapolis? North is one of the more challenged neighborhoods in the region, with a high poverty rate and where the schools are struggling against all odds. One of the schools in North Minneapolis that needs your help is one of the schools damaged by that tornado. So they got a double hit. I’ve hand selected all of the schools based on my interaction with local and regional schools, with a focus on supporting doable project related mainly to science or math. In addition, DonorsChoose carefully inspects budgets and proposals to make sure they are reasonable.

Please visit my donations page and give a few bucks to one of these schools. Or more than one. The X Blog is already behind some of the other blogs in donations! Get in there and show them we aren’t going to be left behind!!!!

Thank you very much. Please pass this on to rich people you may know.

i-68efa548cdb44e33126c5936c96fe3ed-evolution_2008.jpgContinuing with our discussion of the Evolution 2008 conference …Yet another item from the first day of the conference, the pre-conference teachers day sponsored by Evolution 2008 and the Minnesota Citizens for Science Education (MnCSE) …The Minnesota Citizens for Science Education presented Ken Hubert with an award. I am blanking on the name of the award right now, but eventually, the MnCSE web site will probably have a page on this, or an announcement about it. (We need time for some dust to settle.)Who is Ken Hubert?Well, when it comes to the Evolution – Creationism ‘debate’, Ken is Case Law 101… Continue reading

i-68efa548cdb44e33126c5936c96fe3ed-evolution_2008.jpgContinuing with our discussion of the Evolution 2008 conference …Karen Oberhauser talked about the “single species” approach to pedagogy. This involves focusing on a single species and using it throughout an entire course. Karen has taught classes on this approach for teachers’ professional development programs.The species she uses is the Monarch Butterfly.i-43aa3685b219a3a899cb18cca4e9fbba-monarch.jpgKaren is a world class expert on this insect, and runs a major research project with them.The idea of a single-species approach is that a student learns a great deal about one particular species, to the extent that this species becomes an organizing theme as well as a kind of living mnemonic device for all that is learned throughout the course. The individual seemingly disconnected aspects of biology and ecology can become seemingly connected by referring back to a single species. If there is something that this one species does not give you that you need to use in your class, there is almost alwasy a way to work it in. Continue reading

It has been said that home schooling is a bit suspicious because it is possible for people to keep their kids home to abuse them. This is probably very very rare, but yes, it is possible and there are examples of it. however, home schoolers often (at least the most vocal amongst them) insist this is impossible and that it is merely a ploy to … ah, do to something, I’m not quite sure what.As these arguments waft and weft across the intertubes, there is a very common kind of pseudo-logic that we hear. This is what is looks like:”Home schooling is not bad because public schools are bad. So there.”How could anyone make this argument? Does that really happen? Of course it does, and here’s an example:

For everyone who claims that all home schooling families are crazy fundies who lock their kids in the basement and are secretly abusing them and using home school as a way to cover it up, I present you with exhibit A:
The school board of a small central Ohio community voted unanimously Friday to fire a teacher accused of preaching his Christian beliefs despite staff complaints and using a device to burn the image of a cross on students’ arms.


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Birds: Nature’s Magnificent Flying Machines is a book by Caroline Arnold and illustrated by Patricia Wynne for, I’d say, Pre-Elementary School kids and first/second grade. This is a good book to read to a pre-literate kid. Then put it away for later when the first grade academic report on birds is due … it will be an excellent reference.i-ef9e18512105a401e2989534c1e754a0-Arnold_birds.jpgThis is a well done and highly recommended book. Continue reading

Illustrated Guide to Home Chemistry Experiments: All Lab, No Lecture (DIY Science) is a new book by Robert Thompson. The premise is simple. The coolest thing in the world is a home chemistry set like this one from Gilbert, which combined both chemistry and microscopy:i-54957dded8a5e4cd3fd35e02810c78e4-ChemMicroSet.jpg

Chemistry Set Combine the sciences of Chemistry and Microscopy in one big laboratory set! Microscope has a magnification of 60 power, plus unique Polaroid device that shows the brilliant colors of specimens under the lens. Set includes “Fun With Gilbert Chemistry”, “Gilbert Microscope”, “Glass Blowing” manuals and dissecting stand. From the Eli Whitney Museum and Workshop

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There is a point that I’ve been trying to make for the last few weeks now, off and on, and it is not working. So I’m going to try something new. Please bear with me, and consider the following three scenarios regarding the idea that the Earth is Round (or, possibly, flat): Continue reading

How should public school administrators react to students who sit through the pledge of allegiance in the US? This issue came up recently in a small town in western Minnesota, where kids were suspended and possibly humiliated because they failed to stand (in once case entirely by accident) for the pledge.There is now an on line poll being run by the Star Tribune in Minneapolis asking your opinion on this issue. Here.Hat Tip: Stephanie Z

A Missouri House Committee has just approved for consideration of the House an Academic Freedom Bill drafted with the aid of the Discovery Institute.The bill has a nice twist to it in that it prohibits the consideration of any boundary or difference between religion and non-religion in regards to what to teach or how to teach it. In other words, the bill requires that state agencies, school administrators, and teachers ignore the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States of America in deference to state law. Therefore, challenges to this particular form of the bill would be a challenge to state’s rights.Such a challenge would result in the bill being struck down as clearly as any with any other challenge, but it could take longer. If there are sympathetic judges in the right places, a school district that obeys the higher level Federal law (or a teacher or a particular school) could be forced into the court system for one or two rounds of slash and burn lawyering.The best way to fight this sort of thing? Probably to make sure that individual legislators who introduce such bills, and who chair the committees that approve them, and so on, are held accountable for the legal fees that will be paid by cash-strapped school districts. Of course, such elected officials can’t be held accountable in any pecuniary way, but they can be made to pay by being tossed out of office by disgruntled taxpayers.The stamp of the Discovery Institute is obvious in both the wording of the bill and the fact that not a single news outlet has coverage of this event, but it is covered on the DI web site. They really ought to be a bit more discrete as I’m sure they will later want to deny involvement in this particular effort (at about the time the legal bills come in).This is just more of the Wedge Strategy, more of the Trojan Horse approach, and more of the same attack on our public school system, it’s children, and their teachers.Here is the main text of the bill: Continue reading

Home schooling is probably a really good idea for a lot of people, but only for a certain (unknown) percentage of people who actually do it. And, among those who do manage to home school, I would guess that the effectiveness of home schooling varies from pretty good to dismal because homeschoolers are doing it for the wrong reasons, in some cases for just plain bad reasons, and/or they really don’t know what they are doing.I have yet to meet a teacher who would claim that they are generally happy with what shows up at their classroom door from Home Schooling Land … even though most teachers with whom I have had this conversation are actually in favor of home schooling in principle.The point here is that it is probably pretty easy to execute the process poorly and damage the child.An analogy might be flying. Flying is great. We get from point A to point B quickly. But it is also kind of expensive, and really, flying in a giant commercial airliner is not really that great of an experience. Some people have opted to fly themselves, kinda like the home school version of air flight … get a pilots license get a small plane (or get into a system where you can rent planes) and fly yourself around wherever possible. These people truly experience flight, because they are in a smaller plane, communing with the clouds and sky and shit, and they are doing it themselves. Private flying is the home schooling of air transport.However, being a private pilot requires a lot of training and there are quite a few rules to follow. So in this sense, the analogy is not exactlylike home schooling, which has almost no rules or training of any kind. (By the way, analogies are generally not exactly like that which they analogize. Otherwise they would not be analogies. They would be clone-alogies.) Nonetheless, private planes are way more likely to go down than commercial planes, and usually because of the dumbest reasons … oops, forgot fuel. Crash. Or, oops, got lost, no air strips, only forest or ocean … Crash. Or oops, I’m flying on instruments and never really learned to do that. So, which way is up again? Crash….One could say that homeschooling is like this … a version of education that ideally would be much better than the “standard” approach, but in practice, is often (how often, we don’t know) executed poorly.The reason that I think a lot of home schoolers are not doing a great job is because their motivations are not really in the interest of the child. Their motivations are often religious, or often political or often both. The children are being dragged along in the adult’s efforts to make some point, play some game, avoid some personal discomfort, get their jollies in one way or another, etc.The following items are items that came across my virtual desk since I went to bed last night regarding home schooling. I’ve culled from about 20 sources to produce a set of commentaries … one could call it quote mining, or one could call it selective editing … to provide a sense of what part of the homeschoolers discourse looks like. I think this proves my point. Continue reading

This is described in UDreamOfJanie:Ronda R. Storms is a Florida sate senator (Republican) who has spearheaded efforts against Planned Parenthood, against her local LGBTA community, and so on, is now linked to the Discovery Institute in regards to her latest project, the Florida “Academic Freedom” bill.In regards to Academic Freedom, Storms …

…took the age-old ethical high-road known as ‘Lying for Jesus’. She insists that this bill is about the freedom to inquire about all `scientific information relevant to the full range of scientific views regarding biological and chemical evolution in connection with teaching any prescribed curriculum regarding chemical or biological evolution.’ When asked if this is just a backdoor for sneaking in ‘Intelligent Design’, she wouldn’t answer the question.

i-0a8b7afd0bfaf6a76c5a689042a8d800-dodo2.jpgWith all this talk about Expelled!, the creationist movie, I thought it was about time to resurrect the review I wrote many moons ago of Flock of Dodos by Randy Olson, along with some updated information.Flock of Dodos is a much better film than Expelled!, and explores the same issue, with somewhat different conclusions. So, for instance, if you are going to use one of them in a school or church to explain the ID/Evolution controversy, I recommend Flock.(That’s a picture of Randy with some big birds at the Tribeca Film Festival.) Plus, since its been out a bit longer, Flock of Dodos is a bit cheaper than Expelled! Continue reading

“Academic Freedom” bills seem to come in two flavors: Those that protect students from the possibility of learning certain things, and those that protect subversive teachers from getting in trouble for being bad teachers. In both cases, they are bills typically introduced into state legislatures by conservative republicans expressing concern with the Liberal Bias. There is a vague institutional connection between the concept of Academic Freedom Bills and the organization founded by conservative David Horowitz, “Students for Academic Freedom.” The motto of this organization is “You can’t get a good education if they’re only telling you half the story.”i-6132f63c2c1a042f12011ddf7cf3d7df-Kansas_bored.jpg Continue reading