Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Does Science or Mathematics Really Matter?

A young vibrant gifted urban science teacher expressed a concern to me yesterday. The teacher suggested that he feared being forced to teach "ELA" (English Language Arts) since that is all the district cares about given the testing mania destroying our nation's public schools.

The President, heads of corporations, pundits, politicians and demagogues of all stripe chatter-on endlessly about the need to improve math and science education. I agree. They even gave their concern an acronym, S.T.E.M. You know something is a serious priority when it has its own acronym, right?

I actually wanted to believe the hype that Science, Mathematics, Engineering, Technology, AND the arts would realize a renaissance in our public schools. Much of my career has been dedicated to this proposition.

That is why I have organized a low-cost, world-class, one-of-a-kind learning event for educators interested in S.T.E.M. for January 22, 2009 in Philadelphia, PA USA.

Constructing Modern Math/Science Knowledge is a one-day preconference before Educon 2.1. Some of my intellectual heroes - the people who inspired my career or taught me to understand the importance of computing - will lead small group minds-on experiences at the renowned Science Leadership Academy.

If you can't make it to Philadelphia yourself, please blog about the event and tell your colleagues about it too. They will thank you as do I.

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Monday, July 16, 2007

Bookstore Adventures - Part 1

I just returned home from one of the major book superstores near my home. While waiting to pay for a boxed-set of Flat Stanley books for a five year-old coming to visit, I overheard the following conversation between the bookstore cashier and a nervous acquaintance of his.

Customer: Did you get the email I sent?
Cashier: No, why?
Customer: I did a speech on evolution.
Cashier: Not for it I hope?
Customer: Of course not.
Cashier: Where?
Customer: At ____ (the local community college)
Cashier: I thought you stopped going.
Customer: Nah (with a shrug)

Cashier: A lady was telling me that I had to read this great book by Christopher Hitchens
Customer: Who?
Cashier: He's this dude who wrote a book, "God is Not Great."
Customer: Shakes head

Cashier: Do you ever read anything from the other side just to see what they think?
[Gary thinks to himself: Things may be looking up.]

Customer: Not really

Now, I'm all for religious tolerance and the free exchange of ideas, but by people who can support their arguments with evidence. After all, I'd hate to live in a country where scientific decisions were being made by lethargic part-time community college students.

The shy creationist exits the store and I wonder if I should say something to the cashier.

Frankly, I can't resist.

I approach the cashier and say, "You really ought to read Hitchens. He's one of the smartest guys around. You don't have to agree with him on every issue. In fact, I think his support for the War in Iraq is dead wrong." The cashier admitted having seen Hitchens on Hardball. Perhaps he'll actually consider the perspectives of people who don't agree with him. That's the kind of citizen, neighbor and bookstore employee we need.

Note: The full title of Christopher Hitchens' best-selling book is, God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything. The complete title is required if one is to begin to understand the author's thesis.

Click either book cover for more information or to purchase.

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