Creationism outbreak at national school boards group

May 19, 2007

Oops – this almost escaped my notice — according to the New York Times (in a May 19 story that will soon go behind the proprietary veil, so hurry if you want to read it):

The National Association of State Boards of Education [NASBE] will elect officers in July, and for one office, president-elect, there is only one candidate: a member of the Kansas school board who supported its efforts against the teaching of evolution.

Scientists who have been active in the nation’s evolution debate say they want to thwart his candidacy, but it is not clear that they can.

The candidate is Kenneth R. Willard, a Kansas Republican who voted with the conservative majority in 2005 when the school board changed the state’s science standards to allow inclusion of intelligent design, an ideological cousin of creationism. Voters later replaced that majority, but Mr. Willard, an insurance executive from Hutchinson, retained his seat. If he becomes president-elect of the national group, he will take office in January 2009.

I suppose a flat Earth advocate, a communist economist, or someone who is convinced the Moon landings were hoaxes, could head up such an education organization and not bother the rest of us with his particular brand of lunacy.

But is it likely?

Mr. Willard, who is in his fourth year on the 16-member national board, said in a telephone interview yesterday that issues like the teaching of evolution were best left to the states.

“We don’t set curriculum standards or anything like that,” Mr. Willard said of the national organization, adding that it handled issues like advising state boards on how to deal with governance concerns or influxes of immigrant students or ways to raise academic achievement among members of disadvantaged groups.

He said, though, that he personally thought students should be taught about challenges to the theory of evolution, like intelligent design. And while he said he had not heard of a possible challenge to his candidacy, Mr. Willard added that he was not surprised by it.

“Some people are mindless about their attacks on anyone questioning anything Darwin might have said,” Mr. Willard said.

There is no credible scientific challenge to the theory of evolution as an explanation for the complexity and diversity of life on earth. Courts have repeatedly ruled that creationism and intelligent design are religious doctrines, not scientific theories.

NASBE is the organization that offended the Texas State Board of Education by advocating that gay high school students should not be bullied. Is Willard’s nomination a sop to get Texas back in the fold?

Tip of the old scrub brush to Christian Leftist.

Almost immediate update: Pharyngula is already on the thing.

Another update: Panda’s Thumb is in the fray, too.

Voting machine soap opera: Fire, faulty machines, new election?

May 19, 2007

City elections in Aurora, Texas, may need to be re-run after spectacular failures of two of three Diebold voting machines, and a fire that damaged the impounded units after 38 votes were completely erased and Diebold technicians were unable to hack results out of their own machines. Do you even need to be told the fire’s cause is undetermined?

Is your local government considering voting machines with no paper back up?

The voting machines don’t work even when there isn’t a great partisan prize at stake; the first explanation from the Justice Department for mess-ups in personnel there is that dismissed people were not aggressively enough pursuing a campaign against minority voting; a federal conviction of a campaign worker in Wisconsin turns out to have been a bogus case created by a U.S. attorney appointed to bring exactly such bogus cases . . .

How great must the assault on the Constitution and rights of Americans be, before there is a general clamor for justice, and change?

Quote of the moment: Wisdom from a Texas blogger

May 19, 2007

Point numero three-oh: The phrase “ill-informed blog” is redundant.
o Panhandle Truth Squad contributor R. Spacedark

Where are your student blogs?

May 19, 2007

While you’re wondering about how to get your podcast going, have given much attention to getting your students blogging?  Student blogging is a great classroom tool, to generate interest, and to help gauge progress.  Here’s one from fifth graders, on science:  Steve Spangler.

Let me also mention this site, The Living Classroom, which shows how blogging can be integrated into a great program for very young students — kindergarten, first grade, etc.

Honoring heroes: Armed Forces Day 2007

May 19, 2007

1951 poster for Armed Forces Day

May 19, 2007, is Armed Forces Day. Fly your U.S. and state flags today.

Great Irony: The Defense Department website for Armed Forces Day is not exactly up to date, and suffers from lack of attention (just try to find events in your area from the page set up to do just that).

Which only makes the point: We have to support our troops — heaven knows the current government isn’t going to. Write a letter to the troops; join an event run by your local American Legion or Veterans of Foreign Wars — or an event to support the troops in a way the American Legion and VFW don’t support, but which is okay, too. Fly your flag. Do the right thing to honor those we send into harm’s way, for little pay and not enough thanks. (That site is much better maintained than the Armed Forces Day site.)

History stuff for classrooms, below the fold. Read the rest of this entry »

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