A cynic's view of god, science, and the US classroom

Methods and means of supporting critical thinking in education
User avatar
d.e.hillshafer
New Member
Posts: 31
Joined: Sat Apr 08, 2006 7:09 pm
Location: Lancaster, CA

A cynic's view of god, science, and the US classroom

Post by d.e.hillshafer » Thu Apr 13, 2006 3:53 am

***Warning: I'm still bitter about middle school and high school.***

US public school is really nothing more than a brainwashing facility. Information is presented in colorful and simplistic terms that often aren't really true. History classes are particularly egregious about presenting history in a way that could be put into a G-rated movie, and a very boring G-rated movie at that. Descriptions of the US government use language of benign paternalism, even when it's off-topic. US schools are already factories of lies and unrealistic expectations. Why then does the possible addition of religious interpretations of science insult the scientific community so much more than any of the other lies?

I'm starting to think that the way in which the scientific community is trying to halt religious creep is all wrong. I think maybe we should take more of a Judo approach. You know, use their momentum to fight our battles for us.

ID proponents are currently advocating that science teachers should teach the controversies in evolution. In most classrooms in the US, that would mean teaching evolution for the first time. American teachers have silently kowtowed to religion by eliminating as much of evolution from their curricula as possible. I personally learned everything I know about evolution from Skeptic magazine and mainstream science authors, like Michael Shermer, Frank Sulloway, and Frans De Waal. Teaching the controversy is exactly what Skeptic does and advocates. Allowing the teaching of the "controversy" of evolution means that not only will evolution have to be taught in the US, but the scientific arguments against Genesis will also have to be taught. This would also have the side effect of forcing students to actually think about the facts instead of just regurgitate them. Perhaps we can continue to ride the controversy wave to wash away all those other lies. Teaching controversy might actually improve US education.

erwer
New Member
Posts: 31
Joined: Wed Apr 12, 2006 7:59 pm

Post by erwer » Thu Apr 13, 2006 5:08 pm

I was dissapointed in the lack of confidence in the school system you showed. What state did you attend middle and High School? In Texas things have changed since I was in school. I teach now (8th grade science) and can see how much more we teach now than 20 years ago. In middle school we begin the path of evolution by explaining basic genetics and natural selection. We focus on looking for changes in heredity due to environment versus inheritence, etc. The high school picks up the torch from there with evolution in Biology classes. I even have a freind who is a higher up in his church that teaches evolution in his public high school classes. He has too. It is in the state standards. But he doesn't mind since he beleives in evolution too.
The problem with teaching the controversy as you say is that it allows some of those teachers who do not beleive in evolution to have a soap box to preach on. I realize your argument is not like the id'ers view of teaching the controversy, your's is to show student's how idiotic creationism is. I agree that the students should be taught how crappy their argument is and should be torn apart. The problem is one of logistics. Too many teachers (as is the rest of the community) are religous. I doubt they will be honest and trulthfully tear apart their own beleifs. You might say "well fire them." Teacher shortages and lack of interest in entering this profession limit that from happening.
A crappy scenario but maybe this post could come up with some solutions. Thanks for bringing to light this troubling part of education.

User avatar
Tsukasa Buddha
Regular Poster
Posts: 612
Joined: Sun Apr 09, 2006 1:08 am
Location: NeverLand

Post by Tsukasa Buddha » Thu Apr 13, 2006 9:27 pm

I am in public high school right now and it is not as bad as you make it seem. In history we do look at all of the ugly aspects (most of the time America is an evil imperialist nation). And the whole idea of teaching the controversy... if it went into public education, they would teach evolution, then say, "Here is the creationist response," and the teacher could not criticize religion.

(It should be noted, however, that I am in the honors classes and this may not reflect the education for those... individuals in the... average level classes)
"I don't hold back when I fight idiots."
-Tsukasa

User avatar
d.e.hillshafer
New Member
Posts: 31
Joined: Sat Apr 08, 2006 7:09 pm
Location: Lancaster, CA

Post by d.e.hillshafer » Fri Apr 14, 2006 12:21 am

I'm originally from Oklahoma. I moved to Texas for The University. Both Oklahoma and Texas have highly ranked public schools in the well-funded districts. I attended Putnam City school district, which is one of the better districts in the state.

The part of education that troubled me deeply was the lack of freedom and responsibility. Hall passes, weapons policies, and keeping the campus closed took center-stage. This general attitude propagated into every aspect of school life. Teachers are forced to treat young adults like old children. Most of the teachers didn't need any convincing that we were not to be trusted. Finally, this attitude found its way into the cirriculum. Many teachers were simply unwilling to broach controversial topics, because they believed that we weren't ready to handle it.

I always had a general sense of the strong normative forces prevalent in US public schools. However, in my junior year, I became an exchange student to Germany. While there, I witnessed how their youth are given so much more respect and dignity by their parents, teachers, peers, and people in general. When I came back to the US for my senior year, I lost a huge amount of freedom. Intellectual freedom was probably the most missed. Original thoughts and individuality are constantly praised in US culture. Yet, original ideas and honest criticisms are seen as openly subversive and socially destructive in public school by peers and teachers alike. The number one goal in US public schools is not to enable students with the ability and the confidence to make good decisions that will make them happy in life, but it should be.

Instead, the goal is to learn a large amount of decontextualized knowledge in a standardized way. Most of this knowledge will be utterly useless for the rest of your life. No where is this worse than in the science and math classrooms. I am about to graduate this May with a B.S. in Aerospace Engineering. Only two classes from high-school have in any way helped me earn my degree--calculus and trigonometry. By the way, I taught myself trig while I was in Germany and tested out of it when I returned. Physics in H.S. was a joke. At best, high school was a waste of my time.

Throughout *all* my years in school, except Germany and college, I was an outsider who was ridiculed *because* I was smart and motivated. My experiences make me firmly believe that public school is more focused on cultural brainwashing than rewarding merit. American public schools have more in common with prisons than a free market.

I'll end with some of the B.S. they give in elementary school. <insert calm, deliberate, and controlling voice using soothing tones>"Sit up straight, pay attention, and don't interrupt while I tell the class that you are all special, and could even be President one day if you really want to."

erwer
New Member
Posts: 31
Joined: Wed Apr 12, 2006 7:59 pm

Post by erwer » Sat Apr 15, 2006 2:45 am

We were told the other morning that we cannot reward or even recognize those students who do well on the upcoming state standardized test because it will sing out those who do not do well. It has gone too far.

d.e. - there is a push to change to a more life beneficial approach from within the education world. In science for example, the goal is to teach students how to figure things out as opposed to just what it is. This has probably always been the goal but just poorly done. Its easier to test facts, etc. for state comparison. That sucks though.

User avatar
flyer1
Regular Poster
Posts: 857
Joined: Tue Aug 02, 2005 4:39 am

Post by flyer1 » Sat Apr 15, 2006 7:01 am

Out here in CA, I was lucky enough to have some very good, motivated science teachers, who actually had us doing experiments on things. Some of the ones I recall is discovering sugar in toothpaste and how to make hydrogen in a test tube.

Sadly, with the major cuts in school funding, plus the test-driven "No Child Left Behind" concept, kids don't get to do fun stuff like that anymore. They just get to learn the answers on a test, and we'll pay for it in coming decades.
"Have you seen my people, magician?" said the unicorn. "They are wild and sea-white, like me."
Schmendrick shook his head. "I have never seen anyone like you, not while I was awake."

User avatar
KYSkeptic
Poster
Posts: 92
Joined: Mon Jan 09, 2006 3:24 pm
Location: Along the banks of the Ohio River

Educating the Gifted

Post by KYSkeptic » Thu May 18, 2006 4:31 pm

In my opinion, the educational system does not seem to be geared towards teaching gifted children. Of the 24+ billion dollars the U.S. Government has earmarked for education only 11 million is going toward those children who are considered gifted (150+ I.Q.)

I’ve been told by several educators that you don’t need to test kids to see who are exceptional; all you need to do is listen to their questions. Normal and those less motivated students seldom ask questions, being perfectly happy with what ever they are told. Smart kids generally ask questions that have concrete answers seeking to clarify what they have been told. Gifted children ask questions that have no easy answers. They see situations a lot deeper that even the smart kids.

The real hope for tomorrow, the real hope for solving the problems that most of us see as unsolvable lies in the utilization of those with gifted intellects. Other students will just carry on the traditions of the past, never considering that there may be a better way; never questioning that the same old tired ideas that haven’t worked in the past will somehow work tomorrow.

I don’t have a lot of hope for the future.
Ubi dubium ibi libertas
(There is freedom in doubt)

erwer
New Member
Posts: 31
Joined: Wed Apr 12, 2006 7:59 pm

Post by erwer » Fri May 19, 2006 4:58 pm

Here in Texas we are supposed to be doing labs 80% of the time now so at least they are trying to change.

KYSkeptic- the school system is really geared toward birnging up the low end of the spectrum. This mentality makes it difficult for teachers to challenge the ones who need it. The low students need the higher ones in their class adding to the learning experience but it usually ends up slowing down the bright ones. There are ways to challenge both in the same class but it is real challenge that teachers struggle with.

User avatar
UseYourNoodle
Regular Poster
Posts: 679
Joined: Tue Nov 01, 2005 4:16 pm
Location: reality

Post by UseYourNoodle » Mon Jun 05, 2006 5:50 pm

erwer wrote:We were told the other morning that we cannot reward or even recognize those students who do well on the upcoming state standardized test because it will sing out those who do not do well. It has gone too far.
.


That is totally absurd. What next abandon sports so the losers don't get their feelings hurt? Life is one long competition and the sooner children understand and get used to that fact the better in my opinion.
It is morally as bad not to care whether a thing is true or not, so long as it makes you feel good, as it is not to care how you got your money so long as you have got it. EDWIN WAY TEALE

User avatar
Azure_SZero
Poster
Posts: 83
Joined: Sun Dec 18, 2005 4:45 am
Location: A Point in n-dimensional Space

Post by Azure_SZero » Mon Jun 05, 2006 8:11 pm

Meh. New Jersey seems to have been pretty good- so far, at least. Then again, I've had the ability to go to a well-funded elementary and middle school system and then a magnet high school, so I suppose my in-school education is by no means representative...
"Poets say science takes away from the beauty of the stars— mere globs of gas atoms. Nothing is 'mere'. I too can see the stars on a desert night, and feel them. But do I see less or more? The vastness of the heavens stretches my imagination— stuck on this carousel my little eye can catch one-million-year-old light. A vast pattern— of which I am a part... What is the pattern or the meaning or the why? It does not do harm to the mystery to know a little more about it. For far more marvelous is the truth than any artists of the past imagined it! Why do the poets of the present not speak of it? What men are poets who can speak of Jupiter if he were a man, but if he is an immense spinning sphere of methane and ammonia must be silent?"

-Richard Feynman, The Feynman Lectures on Physics

User avatar
Azure_SZero
Poster
Posts: 83
Joined: Sun Dec 18, 2005 4:45 am
Location: A Point in n-dimensional Space

Post by Azure_SZero » Mon Jun 05, 2006 10:53 pm

Yeah, well. Give a little, take a little.
"Poets say science takes away from the beauty of the stars— mere globs of gas atoms. Nothing is 'mere'. I too can see the stars on a desert night, and feel them. But do I see less or more? The vastness of the heavens stretches my imagination— stuck on this carousel my little eye can catch one-million-year-old light. A vast pattern— of which I am a part... What is the pattern or the meaning or the why? It does not do harm to the mystery to know a little more about it. For far more marvelous is the truth than any artists of the past imagined it! Why do the poets of the present not speak of it? What men are poets who can speak of Jupiter if he were a man, but if he is an immense spinning sphere of methane and ammonia must be silent?"

-Richard Feynman, The Feynman Lectures on Physics

NoMan
Poster
Posts: 152
Joined: Sun Jul 10, 2005 5:03 am

Post by NoMan » Sun Jun 11, 2006 10:20 pm

I went to Hamilton Christian Academy in high school, until I switched out to public schools and then to military high school. At this Christian academy, I learned:

1.) Radiocarbon is used to date rocks, but radiocarbon is itself based upon the age of rocks. Thus, it is circular. (No mention of the isotope decay or any other scientific method which gives the reliability of carbon dating). This one was particularly cute because it had an illustration of a little boy lecturing a scientist in a white lab coat about how it was a circular argument.

2.) The biceps and triceps do not contract at the same time because that would cause you to slam a glass of milk into your face. (As opposed to being two sets of antagonistic muscle-groups which would cause you to freeze in an isometric contraction that would rip your muscles apart.)

3.) The world was shaped by the Great Flood and that's why we have a Grand Canyon. (As opposed to the scientific view that the forces of nature that are with us now have always been with us, and that the Grand Canyon was formed by erosion.)

4.) The dinosaur/man footprint hoax was used as proof of Psalms and Genesis.

Mind you this is what I can remember 14 plus years later of that class. While my mainstream science classes were mostly devoid of biology, I cannot remember anything near as mind-numbingly bad as what I was taught in Christian school. Mind you that I am from Louisiana, which is not particularly known for its high rate of scientific literacy or educated general public.