Pulitzer-winner Doris Kearns Goodwin in Arlington, Texas – TONIGHT

November 19, 2008

If I didn’t have two other competing meetings, one which is rather life-or-death, I’d love to on my way to Arlington, Texas, and the University of Texas at Arlington, right now.

Tickets are free to hear Doris Kearns Goodwin, the eminent historian, lively lecturer, and author late of Team of Rivals, which must surely be one of the more enlightening and surprising biographies of Abraham Lincoln.

When the senator from the Land of Lincoln, Barack Obama meets with John McCain to smoke the peace pipe, and seems to be on the verge of inviting his chief rival, Hillary Clinton, into his cabinet, Goodwin’s lecture cannot be more timely.

And, probably, fun.


Admission is free, but tickets are required. Go to www.utatickets.com for your free tickets.

Dr. Doris Kearns Goodwin (MOVED TO TEXAS HALL)

Pulitzer Prize-winning author and historian

November 19, 2008 · 8:00 pm · Texas Hall

Dr. Doris Kearns Goodwin

A recap of the presidential election and discussion of her book Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln

Here’s a link to maps of UTA’s campus; you can get closer directions to Texas Hall there.

Geography lesson: New York City

November 19, 2008

Bookmark this site, geography teachers:  Farm School is going to New York City for the “American Thanksgiving” holiday.  Check out the long list of rich resources.

Any student or teacher doing a project on modern New York City should send a note of Thanksgiving to Farm School, eh?

Ignorance of evolution damages Texas business

November 19, 2008

Ouch.  As I noted in my testimony in 2003, much of Texas business is based on the pragmatic applications of evolution.   Today, the Texas State Board of Education heard that businesses are leaving Texas because of the danger that an ill-educated workforce might hamper the business.

According to Evosphere:

Andrew Ellington, the UT Austin biochemistry professor spoke and said that he has formed two biomedical companies that use “directed evolution” (he presumably means gene sequencing techniques) to manufactures and delivers drugs for humans. He started these in Boston, MA, and Durham, NC, not Austin, because he needed to be sure there were plenty of workers properly trained in evolutionary biology that could understand the modern recombinant DNA techniques that are needed to produce and deliver the drugs. He spoke harshly about the “retrograde” Texas SBOE and its interference in accurate and reliable science education.

Most of the members of SBOE were there in 2003 when they tried to trap Ellington into admitting that evolution couldn’t occur because of the “handedness” issue.  Ellington’s lab was where the handedness issue was put to bed, and he instead delivered a 15-minute tour-de-force lecture on how handedness is not a problem for evolution at all.

Dr. Andrew Ellington, a professor of biochemistry at the University of Texas, spoke to reporters at a Texas Freedom Network press conference following his testimony to the Texas State Board of Education, November 19, 2008

Dr. Andrew Ellington, a professor of biochemistry at the University of Texas, spoke to reporters at a Texas Freedom Network press conference following his testimony to the Texas State Board of Education, November 19, 2008

I guess they didn’t listen then.  Will they listen now?

Evolution, other science on trial – today, in Austin, Texas

November 19, 2008

The Texas State Board of Education (SBOE) hearings on proposals for new science standards kick off today — and will probably run long into the night.

You can probably still sneak comments in.  You can listen to the hearings in streaming audio, live.  You can read the live blog reports from Texas Citizens for Science (TCS) President Steve Schafersman.

Texas science teacher Joe Lapp (a member of TCS) will give the board some good advice — will they listen?

Lapp will say:

My name is Joe Lapp, but I go by Spider Joe. I teach children about spiders, about the biology and physics of a spider’s world. My mission is to stoke passion for science in children and to empower children to think like scientists. I like to think that I’m launching these children into productive future careers as scientists, and indirectly, through them, contributing to solving some of mankind’s most serious challenges.

I’m watching what is going on here in the State Board of Education. You’re vying over what to teach about science and about evolution in particular. Some of you say, “teach the weaknesses with evolution.” Some of you say, “the ‘weaknesses’ are phony, don’t teach them.” You argue over whether science includes the supernatural or is restricted to just natural phenomena.

I ask you, how many of you grew up to be scientists? How many of you make a living teaching science to children? In a world full of people who dedicate their lives to science or science education, how many of you on the board are one of these specialized experts?

I’m suggesting that you recognize that you yourselves don’t have the answers.

We all come to the table with preferences and biases, but we’re talking about our children’s education and their future lives. When a scientist approaches a question, she may have a preferred answer, one that might win her the Nobel prize. When Pons and Fleischmann performed their cold fusion experiment, they wanted to see more energy output than input. Their bias blinded them to the truth, and rather than winning the Nobel Prize they became laughing stocks. If a scientist wants to know the truth, she must design an experiment that might show her desired outcome wrong; she must delegate her answer to the outcome of an experiment that ignores her biases.

The State Board of Education has a choice. One option is to play politics with our children’s future and vote your bias, regardless of the truth. The other option is to delegate your answer to the outcome of an experiment that ignores your biases, so that the answer better reflects the truth.

Fortunately for you, you have already performed the experiment. You delegated answers to your questions about science and evolution to experts in science and science education. They answered in the form of your September TEKS drafts. I urge you not to suffer the embarrassing fate of Pons and Fleischmann and to accept your experimental results. I suspect that politics introduced biases into the November drafts. Don’t fudge your results.

Please show your respect for children and science by making this a scientific decision and not a political one. Launch children into science by example. Envision children growing up to create new biofuels, cure cancers, eliminate AIDS, end malnutrition, reverse global warming, and save our wondrous natural resources for future generations.

Science is our children’s future.


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