Ghost of Austin Peay: Tennessee legislator tries to reanimate creationism

February 27, 2007

You just can’t write parody of creationists and creationism. A retired physician, Tennessee state senator is demanding the Tennessee State Department of Education provide the answers to questions left hanging by the trial of John T. Scopes in 1925. Read about it in the Nashville Post, in an article by Ken Whitehouse.

It appears as though the state senator, Raymond Finney, either failed Tennessee history, or just doesn’t pay attention to excellent advice and warnings from George Santayana.

Update, February 28, 2007:  Perhaps Sen. Finney should check out this comment at the blog Sola Fide.

Tip of the old scrub brush to P. Z. Myers at Pharyngula.

Grand music hoax: Plagiarist confesses

February 27, 2007

A fascinating, tragic hoax has unraveled in the classical music world. Dozens of performances by relatively unknown — but great — pianists were pirated, credited to a great pianist dying of cancer, and made internet hits.

The hoax that lives by the internet, dies by the internet, Jesus might have said. A music critic loaded one of the released discs into his iPod list on his computer, and it identified it as being performed by someone else.

Joyce Hatto had retired due to ovarian cancer in the 1970s, but started releasing recordings made at home in 1989. This was not unusual — her husband was a recording engineer. The quietly-released, small-label recordings got good reviews and a faithful audience. As time went on, the recordings became more ambitious, and the quality of the piano playing of the dying woman audibly increased.

Questions arose earlier this year.   Read the rest of this entry »

Quote of the moment: Textbook fights in Texas, how math books encourage drug use

February 27, 2007

Michael King, writing in the Austin Chronicle (a weekly newspaper, as I recall), December 24, 2004:

A moment of nondenominational silence for longtime Christian fundamentalist textbook critic Mel Gabler, who died Sunday in Longview at 89. Gabler and his wife, Norma, had long been fixtures at State Board of Education textbook review hearings, although in recent years age and declining health had lessened their participation. The Longview News-Journal reported that Gabler “emphasized accuracy and a Christian perspective in examining school children’s books,” but it would be more true to say that the Gablers and their “Education Research Analysts” never let the former get in the way of the latter. Gabler was notorious for his attacks on any positive mention of evolution in biology textbooks, insisting that “special creation” get equal time and that the textbooks record “what’s wrong” with evolutionary theory. His reviews did indeed reveal factual errors in the textbooks – but his moralistic Pecksniffery is reflected best in statements like this, on mathematics texts: “When a student reads in a math book that there are no absolutes, suddenly every value he’s been taught is destroyed. And the next thing you know, the student turns to crime and drugs.” May he take it up with the Master Mathematician. – M.K.

Tip of the old scrub brush to . . . drat! From whom did I get this link?

Utah’s legislature boosts education across the board

February 27, 2007

Gifted with a surplus of funds due to a good economy, the Utah legislature hiked education spending in almost every category, providing pay increases for teachers, more teachers, more schools, more books, more computers — adding more than $450 million, raising the total state education check to $2.6 billion for elementary and secondary schools.

Much of the increases will be consumed by rising enrollments.

Through much of the 20th century Utah led the nation in educational attainment, but fell in state rankings as population growth accelerated especially through the 1980s and 1990s. The Salt Lake Tribune’s story sardonically noted:

The budget package increases per-pupil spending by more than 8 percent. But because other states may also boost school funds this year, fiscal analysts can’t yet say whether the new money will move Utah out of last place in the nation in money spent per student.

Classroom size reduction is excluded from the increases, because the legislature thinks earlier appropriations for that purpose were misused, according to the Associated Press story in the Casper (Wyoming) Star-Tribune:

The extra $450 million will have little effect on reducing classroom size, however, because even as Utah hires more teachers, every year brings more students.

Lawmakers said they were withholding money for reducing classroom sizes until legislative auditors can investigate reports that districts misappropriated some of the $800 million dedicated for that purpose since 1992.

Every teacher and librarian should get a $2,500 pay raise and a $1,000, one-time “thank-you” bonus. Starting pay for teachers in Utah averages barely over $26,000 now.

Read the rest of this entry »

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