Former Arkansas teacher remembers, long before 1957

September 27, 2007

Poignant story from the Associated Press, via Teacher magazine, about the Emancipation Proclamation, picking cotton, Brown v. Board of Education, and education.

Endocrine disruptors, such as DDT

September 27, 2007

The Alien Next Door describes some of the problems of endocrine disruptors released in the wild — like DDT.

Rachel Carson was right. Was she Catholic? Can she be canonized?

Killer lesson plans: Teachers as superheroes

September 27, 2007

Reader Bernarda noted this site in comments, and it’s good enough to promote more formally: Teachers as the alter egos of superheroes.

Teachers ARE superheroes, a lot of them. More than in other professions, certainly.

Which reminds me of this video. Teachers, you need to watch this sometime here in the first month of school. What do you say when someone rudely asks, “What do you make?” Wholly apart from the Ann Landers-style answer, “Whatever would possess anyone to ask such a personal question?” there is an answer to give, as explained by slam poet Taylor Mali; surely you’ve seen this before, but watch it again — to remember what teachers should be doing, as well as how to talk about it. See below.

You can support Mr. Mali. Just purchase a pen that includes that little poem.

You can support Mr. Mali and his campaign for good teachers in another way, too. Make sure that whenever you talk about this poem of his, you credit it to him. I think we as teachers owe that to artists, and other teachers, as part of our continuing struggles against plagiarism.

But we also owe it to ourselves to get credit to Mr. Mali. Odds are he has some other good things to say. When you properly attribute his work, you increase the chances that someone else will find the rest of his work. You increase the chances that some superintendent will hire Mr. Mali to speak to the teachers in his district. You increase the chances that someone will understand that Mr. Mali is a real human being who loves teaching — he is, in short, one of those superheroes we call “teachers,” even without a cape.

Uncaped crusaders need compliments, too.

50 years after Little Rock: Lesson plans

September 27, 2007 features a solid lesson plan on what the nation should have learned from the events in Little Rock, Arkansas, in 1957 — when nine African American students challenged segregation and sought to enroll at Little Rock’s Central High School. It’s timely — the actual anniversary is this month. This is a key point for Texas’s U.S. history standards:

September 2007 – This month, our nation marks the 50th anniversary of the Little Rock Nine’s attempt to integrate schools. Have we really learned how to break down barriers?

This lesson plan is excerpted from the 2007-2008 Mix It Up Planner. Learn more about national Mix It Up at Lunch Day, to be held on Nov. 13, 2007!


  • Students will draw conclusions about boundary crossing from history and literature.
  • Students will identify boundaries in their classroom or school, cross those boundaries, report back and reflect on what they learned. carries several lesson plans teachers will find useful.

Nuclear bombs, game theory, the Cold War to the brink

September 27, 2007

John von Neumann died prematurely at 54, in 1957. He was very much a polymath, acknowledged first for his mathematical abilities, eventually contributing to physics, computer science and economics. His contributions in nuclear physics and game theory especially deserve better recognition than they’ve gotten among the public at large.

John von Neumann, NAS photo

Princeton University commemorates von Neumann’s life on the 50th anniversary of his death, with an afternoon and a night of lectures and discussion by scientists, economists and historians, October 5 and 6, 2007.

It should be good fun, and if you’re in the neighborhood of Princeton, New Jersey on October 5 and 6, you should go.

Here’s the biographical overview of von Neumann from the National Academy of Sciences, showing him to be the sort of guy we would have been happy to keep around another 40 years or so:

John von Neumann (1903-1957). When he was elected a member of the Academy in 1937, von Neumann was known for his contributions to the fields of mathematical logic and the foundations of quantum mechanics. But his interests were wide-ranging, and he went on to do distinguished work in other fields, including economics and strategic thinking. He is perhaps best known for his work in the early development of computers. As director of the Electronic Computer Project at Princeton’s Institute for Advanced Study (1945-1955), he developed MANIAC (mathematical analyzer, numerical integrator and computer), which at the time was the fastest computer of its kind. Built at a time long before the invention of the silicon chip, MANIAC was run on thousands of vacuum tubes. Von Neumann was born in Budapest, Hungary, in 1903, and studied in Berlin, Zurich, and Hamburg. In 1930 he joined the Princeton Institute for Advanced Study. He became a US citizen in 1937, and during the Second World War distinguished himself with his work in weapons development. In 1955 he was named a Commissioner of the Atomic Energy Commission, a position he held up to his death from cancer in 1957.

Free Lecture No. 1:

Budapest: The Golden Years

Early Twentieth Century Mathematics Education in Budapest and Lessons for Today

Free and Open to the Public
Panel Discussion
October 5, 2007
3–6 p.m.
219 Aaron Burr Hall
Princeton University

The starting point for the discussion is The Social Construction of Hungarian Genius, 1867–1930, a paper by Professor Tibor Frank, an historian of Hungarian exiles. The paper will be available for distribution at the event.

Free Lecture No. 2:

“Living in von Neumann’s World: Scientific Creativity, Technological
Advancement, and Civilization’s Accelerating Dilemma of Power”

Lecture and Panel Discussion
8 pm, Saturday October 6, 2007
McCosh 50 Lecture Hall
Princeton University

Introduction by Charles Harper

Thomas Schelling, University of Maryland College Park,
Nobel Laureate, Economics
George Dyson,
von Neumann biographer

Panel Moderator:
Eric Gregory, Princeton University

Freeman Dyson, Institute for Advanced Study
Martin Nowak, Harvard University
Robert Wright, Princeton University

Banner for von Neumann Lectures, 2007

Take Ben Stein’s brain

September 27, 2007


Ben Stein in a tub of money

Cornelia Dean’s article in the New York Times on September 27 reports that several scientists got the same deceptive invitation to appear in a documentary movie that has not been made, but instead discovered themselves in a different movie, a sort of mockumentary in support of the discredited concept of intelligent design.

Actor/comedian/lawyer/economist Ben Stein is the producer and narrator of “Expelled!” P. Z. Myers kicked off the blog discussions when he noted his own appearance in the movie, not exactly what it was billed — Myers posted the invitation letter, related the story, and eventually posted the kiss-off letter from the producer, who seems too embarrassed to talk about his deceptive actions.

One has to wonder, is such a vanity production in defense of voodoo science the best use of Ben Stein’s money? Is it the best use of Ben Stein’s brain? What was he thinking?

Let the record note: Scientific contributions from intelligent design and the rest of creationism, for 2007 and 2008, was a mockumentary movie, based on deception-obtained interviews.

Is that what they want us to teach the kids in high school?

Also see:

Image: AV


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