December 13, 2007

Oh, boy, are we behind.

Here’s the latest Carnival of Education, at the Colossus of Rhodey. Considering the angst in Texas over science standards, and the recent angst in Utah over vouchers, and the national angst over science and math performance, it’s really a rather tame bunch of posts. Great stuff, though, in about every other one.

The 59th History Carnival was put up on December 2 at Westminster Wisdom. We’ve already missed a third of the month we had to read it! In the vein of “how do we know what we know,” the carnival points to Judith Weingarten’s musings/essay/research on the connection (if there is one) between the words “tiger” and “Tigris.” No, not “tigress.” See? You’re hooked on history already. And what can we do with “The Further adventures of Ben Franklin’s ghost?” (Ghost — hell’s bells! — son James was born on Ben Franklin’s birthday; that’s gotta be an omen of good, right?)

We need to get in the carnival mood . . .

Cue Taylor Mali . . .

December 13, 2007

The last line of Taylor Mali’s slam poem about what a teacher makes — remember it?

Here it is, in real life: “Tuff Guy, Crazy Horse, Happy Teacher.” Go see it. It’s at Edu Blah Blah Blahg.

More DDT poisoning

December 13, 2007

[Time passes and internet links die, expire, or otherwise fall into the black hole of irrelevancy. Alas. Rachel Carson is still right.]

Sometimes, when people make gross errors, they get caught. They apologize, or they mumble, and they move on.

A few times, when people make gross errors, they revel in it. Rather than admit the error, they make it again. They say it wasn’t an error. They repeat it, time and again, as if two wrongs make a right, or as if 126 wrongs make a right.

We caught Caosblog repeating some bad stuff about Rachel Carson, and false, good stuff about DDT, and false claims that eagles were not endangered by DDT. We called ’em on it. [But the blogger appears to have deleted the response. It was that good.]

Whoooee! This is the result.  Note the list of unquestioning links to other stuff on the web.  (Yeah. “Milton Fillmore.”  Probably not reading comprehension error so much as rant-blindness.)

If there is anything crazy and mean about Rachel Carson, it’s probably in that list. If there is any wild and insane claim about the safety of DDT, it’s in that list. If there were any accurate information, it would be a miracle. (Well, actually there’s some good information in the National Geographic story about malaria, but I doubt the blog writer bothered to read it.) The blog links to all the Lyndon Larouche crazies, all the tobacco lobbyist crazies, and acts as if such manure is golden.

Very little of it is accurate. Most of the material so far out to lunch, it’s not even wrong. The person who runs the blog sent me an e-mail saying my comments are no longer welcome there, because of the tone of my remarks. Too many links to too much refutation of blog’s points, I gather — too much real information!

DDT poisoning clearly is damaging, with effects far beyond anything Rachel Carson ever predicted.

This is the venal, vicious spirit that Sen. Tom Coburn defends with his hold in the U.S. Senate on honors for Mrs. Carson. This is the spirit with which the anti-Rachel Carson movement rails at environmentalists about malaria in Africa, while holding back funding for anti-malaria projects in Africa.

Woody Allen had a line in Annie Hall that may be appropriate: “There’s nothing wrong with you that couldn’t be cured with Prozac and a polo mallet.”

Reason and evidence won’t do it now. When someone starts out arguing that eagles were not threatened with extinction by the poison that a thousand studies verified was doing them in, you can’t reason them back to reality.

Below the fold: At the second outlet of that blog, conversation carried for a while, though not necessarily so for enlightenment. In 2015, I thought it a good idea to capture some of that.

Read the rest of this entry »

Clay Bennett cartoons

December 13, 2007

I love Thomas Nast cartoons, partly for their dated look. They look like they are 100 years old from the style of the art.

For much the same reason, I love Herblock cartoons. They look like the middle of the 20th century. And Pat Oliphant cartoons look like post-Kennedy modern ideas.

Clay Bennett, winner of the 2007 Curie UN Cartoon Award

Clay Bennett, winner of the 2007 Curie UN Cartoon Award

Clay Bennett cartoons look like 21st century clean to me. There’s a smoothness, a silkiness of color that lends an immediacy to them. They really look good, and they look like they’d project well in a classroom (though I’ve not tried any of Bennett’s, actually).

All four of these cartoonists had or has something to say, too. I’ve enjoyed Bennett’s work in the Christian Science Monitor for some time. His work is clean, but it has a cutting edge that can’t be missed.

So, I was happy to see that he had won a commendation from the Ranan Lurie Cartoon Competition at the UN Correspondents’ Association dinner. Other people see good stuff in his drawings — I’m not alone.

Here’s his UN Lurie award-winning cartoon:

Evolution of Man, to drowning by global warming

Cartoon winner of the 2007 Curie UN Cartoon Award

More of Bennett’s cartoons can be seen here, at the Clay Bennett Archives.

Bennett’s last cartoon in the Monitor was November 17.  The good news:  He’s moving to the Chattanooga Times-Free Press.  We can hope that means one more opening is available for a cartoonist.

One more, below the fold. Read the rest of this entry »

Where to find the Texas biologists’ letter

December 13, 2007

Remember the letter that more than 100 Texas Ph.D. biologists sent to the Texas Education Agency a couple of days ago, urging support of evolution and good science?

It will have a permanent home at the website of Texas Citizens for Science. If you need to link to the letter, you can link there.

If you happen to be a Ph.D. biologist who wishes to add your name to the letter, you can do that, too, eventually, according to TCS President Steven Schafersman.

DDT no silver bullet; environmentalists, medical care not monsters

December 13, 2007

Paul Driessen wrote a book, Eco-Imperialism, that in essence blames environmentalists for every case of malaria in Africa since 1962. It is possible, that overreaction to environmental concerns by African governments and by Africans in the path of malaria parasites has indeed caused some delay in decreasing malaria infections. I have not seen any convincing evidence to make that case.

But it is untrue that environmentalists advocate policies intended to hurt Africans. It is untrue that DDT is a silver bullet that meanie environmentalists refuse to let African governments use — environmentalists do not have the power to tell African governments what the governments can or cannot do. Plus, it’s unfair to the point of gross distortion to blame environmentalists for the many problems which still exist that prevented the eradication of malaria 40 years ago and continue to frustrate efforts to reduce the frequency and mortality of the disease.

I assume Driessen is well-intentioned, though I have no first hand information about his motivations.

With that assumption, let me ascribe to simple error the many problems of his recent column for an on-line magazine perhaps aptly named spiked.

Driessen calls for an “all-out war on malaria.” That would be good.

But then he accuses environmentalists of standing in the way of such a war.

False blame calling cures not a single case of malaria, nor kills a single malaria-carrying mosquito. If Driessen wishes to fight malaria, there are a lot of people who would like to help. We can start to fight malaria, any time. [More after the fold.]

Read the rest of this entry »

Texas officials plan to fight evolution in science standards

December 13, 2007

Texas political conservatives stand exposed in their plans to gut biology standards to get evolution out of the curriculum after the Dallas Morning News detailed their plans in a front-page news story today.

LEANDER, Texas – Science instruction is about to be dissected in Texas.

You don’t need a Ph.D. in biology to know that things rarely survive dissection.

The resignation of the state’s science curriculum director last month has signaled the beginning of what is shaping up to be a contentious and politically charged revision of the science curriculum, set to begin in earnest in January.

Intelligent design advocates and other creationists are being up front with their plans to teach educationally-suspect and scientifically wrong material as “strengths and weaknesses” of evolution. Of course, they also plan to fail to teach the strengths of evolution theory.

“Emphatically, we are not trying to ‘take evolution out of the schools,’ ” said Mark Ramsey of Texans for Better Science Education, which wants schools to teach about weaknesses in evolution. “All good educators know that when students are taught both sides of an issue such as biologic evolution, they understand each side better. What are the Darwinists afraid of?”

Texans for Better Science is a political group set up in 2003 to advocate putting intelligent design into biology textbooks for religious reasons. It is an astro-turf organization running off of donations from religious fundamentalists. (Note their website is “strengthsandweaknesses” and notice they feature every false and disproven claim IDists have made in the last 20 years — while noting no strength of evolution theory; fairness is not the goal of these people, nor is accuracy, nor scientific literacy).

Scientists appear to be taking their gloves off in this fight. For two decades scientists have essentially stayed out of the frays in education agencies, figuring with some good reason that good sense would eventually prevail. With the global challenges to the eminence of American science, however, and with a lack of qualified graduate students from the U.S.A., this silliness in public school curricula is damaging the core of American science and competitiveness.

Can scientists develop a voice greater than the political and public relations machines of creationists.

As Bette Davis said on stage and screen: Fasten your seat belts. It’s going to be a bumpy ride.

Also see:

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