Annals of Global Warming: Research isn’t the road to riches

January 13, 2010

A popular theme among climate denialists claims that researchers are getting rich off of contracts to do research into global warming, and so they skew their data in order to make sure they can get future contracts.

This notion demonstrates an alarming lack of information about how research grants from government and other sources work.  Climate researchers aren’t buying big fancy homes and fast cars.  They aren’t getting rich off what little research money comes their way — that money goes into research.

Here’s one way to tell:  Canadian researchers into the changing conditions in the Arctic can’t get <i>to</i> the Arctic to do their work.  Were they getting rich off of grants, this would not happen.

Stories in Nature this week, and most of the stuff is available to the public, free:

J. England photo - Helicoptering research gear to researchers in the Canadian Arctic - Nature Magazine

J. ENGLANDGetting people and supplies into remote Arctic field sites requires expensive air support. - Nature photo

  • Canadian Arctic researchers left out in the cold

    The Arctic is one of the fastest-changing landscapes in the world: its glaciers, sea ice and animals are being radically affected by climate change, and the melting environment could in turn have huge impacts on rising temperatures. It is imperative that scientists continue to monitor these conditions. Yet Canadian scientists are finding it increasingly difficult to get out in the field to do their work, says John England in an Opinion piece. This is discussed further in an Editorial and with the author in the Nature Podcast, all free in Nature this week.

    Credit: J. England

Canada needs a polar policyJ. ENGLAND

Getting people and supplies into remote Arctic field sites requires expensive air support.

Social studies train wreck at Texas State Board of Education: Live! A Nation at Risk

January 13, 2010

Steve Schafersman will live blog the hearings on social studies standards before the Texas State Board of Education (SBOE) today, at Evo-Sphere.  Schafersman is president of Texas Citizens for Science, and a long-time activist for better education in Texas on all topics.

Rapid updates or live-blogging should be available at the blog of the Texas Freedom Network, TFN Insider.

It’s Item #6 on the SBOE agenda, with a title that tips off the trouble:

Item #6 — Public Hearing Regarding Proposed Revisions to 19 TAC Chapter 113, Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills for Social Studies, and Chapter 118, Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills for Economics with Emphasis on the Free Enterprise System and Its Benefits.

Schafersman e-mailed an introduction to the meeting:

Some say the Social Studies public testimony by the religious right, liberals, etc., then the SBOE debate, motions to amend, votes, etc. is a bigger circus than adopting the science standards. Judge for yourself. You can watch the entire circus, carnival, and sideshow on the webcast video at http://www.texasadm bin/tea.cgi

This is Texas democracy in action, when sullen and tight-lipped State Board members listen to public testifiers for 3 minutes each and profoundly ignore them since they already know what they are going to do. But I, at least, feel better after speaking so I don’t later feel responsible for the crappy amendments, changes, and policies that come out of this horrible Board because I did nothing. The proposed Social Studies standards written by the panels composed of teachers and professors are excellent (when have I heard this before), but the SBOE can’t wait to shamelessly impose their own Religious Right agenda on them.

You’ll recall that SBOE has at every possible turn disregarded the advice of famous and serious historians, respected free-market-advocating economists, geographers and educators on these standards.  Economists, for example, want Texas kids to learn about “capitalism,” since that’s what it’s called by economists and policy makers, and colleges.  SBOE thinks “capitalism” sounds too subversive, and wishes instead to require Texas kids to learn about “free enterprise” instead.

‘A rose by any other name’ you think, until you start thinking of how Texas kids do on standardized tests, college admission exams, and the punchline on the joke, about Texas kids being told not to study capitalism.  No siree, no capitalism in the fictional home of J. R. Ewing, never mind the real-life capitalists like T. Boone Pickens or H. Ross Perot (Jr. and Sr.).

In Dallas, the city prepares to name a street after Cesar Chavez, the great Hispanic union organizer and advocate for working Americans.  In Austin, SBOE works to strike all mentions of Chavez, because they dislike the politics of heroes of our ethnic minorities (soon to be a majority in Texas).  In Washington historians and policy-makers follow the legacy of Thurgood Marshall, the great civil rights attorney and first African-American to sit on the U.S. Supreme Court.  In Austin, SBOE thinks Marshall should be left out of history books.  Many of us suspect he’s anathema to the white right-wing in Austin:  A smart, successful and noble man of color.

Mel and Norma Gabler died years ago, but their history lingers in the halls of education policy in Austin.  It’s Shakespearean.

This is a massive battle.  David Barton worked for 30 years to gut history standards nationally to teach a history of America that never was, and as the official religionist appointee of the right-wing SBOE members, he stands on the brink of accomplishing much of the revisionism he’s advocated.  See the Texas Tribune story on the issue, “Hijacking History.”

Generally we shouldn’t negotiate with terrorists, Ronald Reagan said.  At the SBOE, we’ve put the terrorists in charge of history and economic curricula — if not the terrorist themselves, at least the terrorists’ camels’ noses.  Texas’s process has earned flashing red-light, claxon-sounding repeating of the words of Ronald Reagan’s Commission on Excellence in Education:  If a foreign nation did this to us, we’d consider it an act of war [excerpt below the fold].

Make no mistake about it.  SBOE’s goal is to roll back any of the reforms left from Reagan’s Commission’s work.  Our nation is more at risk from foreign competition than ever before.  SBOE plans to give away a bit more of our future to China, this week.

Our saving grace is the general incompetence of SBOE members to make significant reform in Texas’s wounded schools, reeling from unworkable and damaging requirements under the No Child Left Behind Act and a testing program that severely limits what can be taught in any social studies course other than those bastions of learning left in International Baccalaureate programs and Advanced Placement courses (estimates are that between 5% and 10% of Texas high school students can take one of those good courses).  Whatever silliness, craziness or lies SBOE orders to  be taught, it can’t be taught and tested well.  Inertia preventing change works to save America in this case.

In business, most CEOs at least appreciate the value of having good front-line employees who are the ones who really deliver the service or product and produce the profit of the enterprise (even if they don’t treat those employees so well as the employees deserve).  Education may be the last bastion of flogging the horse that should be pulling the cart instead.  In this case, having well-trained teachers in the classroom is the last hope for Texas, Texas parents and Texas students — and Texas’s economic future and future in liberty.  Teachers are the last defense of freedom in Texas.  Today SBOE will make another assault on the ramparts that protect the teachers in their work.

When will the French fleet arrive to lend aid?  Will it arrive at all?  And if it arrives, will Texas kids know better than to shoot at the ships?

Carol Haynes, who claims to have a doctorate in some discipline, told the board how to rewrite the standards to completely change the history of the civil rights movement in their last hearing on the topic.  According to Haynes, apparently, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., was opposed to civil rights and Barry Goldwater was in favor — the Board didn’t offer to correct her revisionism, but instead asked her to go beyond her three minutes in fawning acceptance. This appears to be SBOE’s approval of various Other Universe hypotheses offered by Star Trek, allowing any damned thing at all to be taught as history (except the right stuff).  Haynes is scheduled to testify again (#128), probably very late at night, but perhaps in time for the 10:00 p.m. Texas television news broadcasts.  Oy.

Excerpt from the Report of the Commission on Excellence in Education, A Nation at Risk, below the fold.


Cover of A Nation at Risk: The Imperative for Educational Reform, the 1983 report that started the education reform mess. AFT graphic.

Stand up for your nation, it’s children and future; sound the alarm:

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Good education, or right-wing propaganda: War on Education battle in Austin, Texas

January 13, 2010

In a post titled “The Battle Joined,” the Texas Freedom Network repeated for us the press release from their Tuesday press conference at the Texas Education Agency, about the hearings on social studies standards, graduation requirements and other issues in Austin this week.

Watch that space (see also this explanatory piece) and this space, and your non-faux news outlets.

The Texas Freedom Network sent out the following press release after our press conference this morning at the Texas Education Agency:

The state’s leading religious liberties group today joined with clergy and scholars in calling on the State Board of Education to approve new curriculum standards that don’t undermine religious freedom in Texas social studies classrooms.

“Curriculum writers have drafted proposed standards that rightly acknowledge the influence of faith on the Founders and in our nation’s history,” Texas Freedom Network President Kathy Miller said today. “But those writers also respected religious freedom by rejecting political pressure to portray the United States as favoring one faith over all others. Doing otherwise would aid the teaching of bad history and promote something that is fundamentally un-American.”

Miller spoke in advance of a Wednesday public hearing on proposed new social studies curriculum standards. Teachers, academics and community members from around the state have spent the last year crafting the new standards. Publishers will use the standards to write new textbooks scheduled for adoption by Texas in 2011. The state board will debate the standards drafts on Thursday and has scheduled a final vote in March.

Derek Davis, dean of humanities and the graduate school and director of the Center for Religious Liberty at Mary Hardin-Baylor University, a Baptist institution in Belton, called on the board to respect the work of teachers and other experts who helped write the new standards.

“Religious liberty stands as one of our nation’s bedrock principles,” Davis said. “Yet it seems always under siege by those who fail to appreciate the astute thinking of the founding fathers that caused them to write into the Constitution the principle that guarantees religious liberty: the separation of church and state. This distinctly American value continues to set our nation apart from those embroiled in religious conflict in the rest of the world.”

Miller and Davis were joined at a press conference by the Rev. Marcus McFaul of Highland Park Baptist Church in Austin and Steven Green, a professor of law and of history and director of the Willamette Center for Religion at Willamette University in Salem, Oregon.

“The instruction of religious faith, discipleship, and a life of service and piety is the responsibility of each faith community, whether church, synagogue or mosque,” Rev. McFaul said. “It is the responsibility of parents and parishes, not public schools. We all note – as the curriculum writers did – the role and influence of religion in American history, but not to advance, promote or seek advantage for any particular religion’s point of view.”

The state board has revised curriculum standards for language arts and science over the past two years. In both cases the board either threw out or heavily revised standards crafted by curriculum writing teams that included teachers, curriculum specialists and academic experts. Last year, for example, creationists on the state board pushed through science standards that call into question long-established scientific evidence for evolution.

“This is not a good way to make sound education policy,” Miller said of the board’s habit of rejecting the work of teachers and experts. “It’s past time that state board members stop playing politics with the education of Texas children, respect the hard work teachers and other experts have put into writing standards, and acknowledge that experts – not politicians – know best what our children need to learn.”

Educate somebody else on this issue:

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Schafersman’s testimony on social studies standards, to Texas SBOE

January 13, 2010

Dr. Steve Schafersman will testify on proposed new standards for social studies in Texas public schools, at a hearing before the Texas State Board of Education (SBOE) scheduled for today, January 13, 2009.

Schafersman is president of Texas Citizens for Science and its driving force.  He’ll also live blog much of the hearing at his blog, Evo-Sphere.  You should probably watch TFN Insider, the blog of the Texas Freedom Network, too.

Schafersman’s testimony was released in advance, and reprinted below.

Public Testimony of
Steven D. Schafersman

Texas State Board of Education Public Hearing
, Texas; Wednesday, 2009 January 13

I am grateful for the opportunity to address you about Social Studies standards for which I am testifying as a private citizen. Tomorrow you will begin your work to adopt the new Social Studies TEKS. I closely read and evaluated the proposed Grade 8 Social Studies, High School U. S. History, U. S. Government, World History, and World Geography standards and found them to be quite satisfactory. The standards were extremely comprehensive, balanced, fair-minded, and honest. The members of the panels who wrote them did an outstanding job and I was very impressed by their knowledge and professionalism. I urge that you adopt these Social Studies standards without change.

My experience with this Board leads me to suspect that some of you don’t want to adopt these excellent standards–written by social studies curriculum experts and teachers–without change. After all, these standards were written by experts and some of you feel obliged to stand up to the experts. Some of you may want to change some of the standards to correspond to your own political and religious beliefs, such as the mistaken notions that the United States is a Christian nation, that we do not have a secular government, or that separation of church and state is a myth. Some of you may want to add more unnecessary information about Christian documents or Christian history in America. If some of you do wish to make such changes, I request that you restrain yourselves. Please resist the temptation to engage in the same behavior some of you exhibited last year when you perverted the Science standards and embarrassed the citizens of Texas by engaging in pseudoscientific anti-intellectual behavior. While the Texas State Board of Education has a long and proud history of anti-intellectualism, the economic conditions today demand that we stop that practice and return to professionalism and respect for academic achievement so that our children have a future in which they will use their minds to make a living in intellectual pursuits and not their limbs in a service economy.

During the adoption of the science standards, some Board members amended the Biology and Earth and Space Science standards by engaging in fast talking, omitting pertinent information about what was being changed, offering bogus “compromises” that were not really fair compromises, and referring to “experts” who were in fact pseudoscientists and not real experts at all. I hope to not witness the same behavior tomorrow but I am pessimistic. Two pseudo-historians, David Barton and Peter Marshall, were appointed as “experts” and there is plenty of evidence available that demonstrates that these two gentlemen are preachers and polemicists for their radical agendas, not legitimate history experts.

I urge the rational and conservative Board members–whom I hope still make up a majority of this Board–to resist proposed radical amendments that attempt to insert bogus histories of American exceptionalism, America’s presumed Christian heritage as the source of our liberties and Constitutional principles, and other historical myths perpetrated by the American Religious Right. I urge you to vote No to such radical amendments, not Abstain or your radical opponents will gain the same advantage that they enjoyed during the amendment process for the Science standards, where they were delighted when some of you abstained or did not vote since that made it easier for them to obtain majorities which allowed them to win several amendments that made changes detrimental to science education. Unlike last year, when you were prevented from consulting your legitimate Science experts during debate, please consult your genuine Social Studies experts, Texas Professors Kracht, Hodges, and de la Teja. Please try to avoid the same mistakes with the Social Studies adoption process that occurred with the Science standards adoption, so no one will be able to accuse you of being anti-intellectual.

“Who remembers Paul’s tweet to the Romans?”

January 13, 2010

It’s just such a brilliant question about technology, human communication and history, that I had to make it into it’s own post.

In response to this post about Edith Wharton’s extensive writings and what she’d have done today with e-mail, Mark posted the comment:

Who remembers Paul’s tweet to the Romans?

Helluva question.  What does your Sunday school class say?  What does your literature professor say?  What does your history teacher say?  Send ’em a tweet and see.

Mark also posts occasionally at The Divine Afflatus.

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