The End of Science Education in the West?

New Zealand may adopt a new science curriculum that doesn’t have much actual science in it:

Central concepts in physics are absent. There is no mention of gravity, electromagnetism, thermodynamics, mass or motion. Chemistry is likewise missing in action. There is nothing about atomic structure, the periodic table of the elements, compounds or molecular bonding,” he said of the draft.

Rather than physics, chemistry, and biology, the document proposes teaching science through four contexts that appear to draw from fundamental principles of the United Nation’s Agenda 21: climate change, biodiversity, infectious diseases, and the water, food, and energy nexus.

Sounds a lot like the science curriculum that was proposed in the UK circa 2005:

Instead of learning science, pupils will “learn about the way science and scientists work within society”. They will “develop their ability to relate their understanding of science to their own and others’ decisions about lifestyles”, the QCA said. They will be taught to consider how and why decisions about science and technology are made, including those that raise ethical issues, and about the “social, economic and environmental effects of such decisions”.

They will learn to “question scientific information or ideas” and be taught that “uncertainties in scientific knowledge and ideas change over time”, and “there are some questions that science cannot answer, and some that science cannot address”. Science content of the curriculum will be kept “lite”. Under “energy and electricity”, pupils will be taught that “energy transfers can be measured and their efficiency calculated, which is important in considering the economic costs and environmental effects of energy use”. (The above is from John Clare’s article in the Telegraph.)

According to Melanie Phillips: “The reason given for the change to the science curriculum is to make science ‘relevant to the 21st century’. This is in accordance with the government’s doctrine of ‘personalised learning’, which means that everything that is taught must be ‘relevant’ to the individual child.”

2005 was a long time ago–I don’t know whether or not this curriculum is still in place in the UK; I use it as an example because it makes a certain kind of thinking very clear.  The class is not really about Science, it is about ‘Society’, and everything that is taught must be ‘relevant’ to the child.

And, closer to home, California has a new math curriculum.  While math teaching certainly could use improvement, I don’t have a good feeling about this program…see for example this and this, also these comments.

Also, the curriculum includes “data science” as an alternative to Algebra II…see this critique:  “Here’s the issue: the data science course is not a good path to a career in data science…It’s math lite for kids who don’t expect to use much math in life. And that’s fine!…as long as the kids KNOW that’s what they’re signing up for. But it’s not being sold that way — it’s being sold as a way to get more kids into data science. …and that’s misleading.”

An actual San Francisco data analytics guy offers this detailed analysis and critique of the curriculum.

Here’s a post with a rather arresting title from a few days ago at Ricochet:  She’s a brilliant teacher, perhaps she should stop.  At a BBQ, the writer encountered a teacher from his high school days.

Besides my mother, she is the best teacher I’ve ever had. She taught me Physics and Inorganic Chemistry. And the way she taught — understanding rather than memorization — allowed me to ace science and math classes in college and medical school. She helped me so, so much.

She is now 61 years old and is considering retirement. She moved from my public school to a private school, but it’s still wearing her down. She complains that modern students lack curiosity and motivation, while administration and parents pressure her to just give everyone A’s. She teaches how to understand science and math — but they just want her to stamp her approval on their resume. She’s growing increasingly frustrated, to the point where she doesn’t want to go to work anymore.

This is a different problem from the problems of deliberately-weakened curricula, but the root is the same: the belief that acquisition of knowledge is not what matters, rather, what matters is moving through the system and getting that piece of paper.  (And, in the case of many updated curricula, ideological indoctrination is also a key objective)

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Worthwhile Reading & Viewing

Artificial Intelligence and the limits of language.  Is it possible to truly understand statements represented in language without knowing something about the world outside of language?

The abolition of school discipline…basically, the public school equivalent of shutting down police departments.  The article at the link discusses the consequences.

How did Amazon Web Services become so successful?  The track record of companies that developed information technology for their own use and then decided to market it to other users has not been very good:  AWS is a major exception.

Can capitalism save Hollywood?

The nature of America’s university administrators, as observed by Stephen Hsu.  More here.

The mother of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a major figure in the German anti-Nazi resistance, refused to send her children to public schools:

She was openly distrustful of the German public schools and their Prussian educational methods. She subscribed to the maxim that Germans had their backs broken twice, once at school and once in the military, she wasn’t about to entrust her children to the care of others less sensitive than she during their earliest years.

Analysis of trends in scientific publications suggests that truly disruptive research is becoming less common.  The article at the link argues that ideological capture of institutions has been a major cause of reduced innovation.  See also this related article.

Joseph Flaherty reacts to a small carving of a water bird, created 33000 years ago:  “Imagine your greatest of grandparents, pursued by frost and ravenous megafauna through an endless German winter, huddled in a lean-to lit and warmed by an open fire, deciding to carve this bird to make their child smile, to impress their mate, or simply for the joy of creation.”

Paul Ehrlich, Still Catastrophizing

Here’s Paul Ehrlich, best known for his book The Population Bomb, in a 1970 interview.

Why is this surfacing, 50+ years later?  Because just the other day,  60 Minutes chose to put him on the air for more catastrophizing.   Ehrlich’s dismal track record for accuracy of  predictions–Alex Epstein called him ‘the anti-human ecologist who has been 180 degrees wrong for 55 years”–was apparently no problem in the eyes of those responsible for this program.

Here are a few of Ehrlich’s assertions from back in 1968-1970:

“The battle to feed all of humanity is over.  In the 1970s, hundreds of millions of people will starve to death”

“In 10 years all important animal life in the sea will be extinct.”

“I will take even money that England will not exist in the year 2000”

“You oughta make the FCC see to it that large families are always treated in a negative light on television”

(and if that isn’t enough, “the government will simply tell you how many children you can have and throw you in jail if you have too many”)

“Enjoy what little time you have left.  That point for me is 1972.”

Perhaps worst and most revealing:  Allowing women to have as many babies as they wanted is akin to letting everyone “throw as much of their garbage into their neighbor’s backyard as they want.”

And how did Ehrlich respond when his most recent media appearance was critiqued?  Like this:

60 Minutes extinction story has brought the usual right-wing out in force. If I’m always wrong so is science, since my work is always peer-reviewed, including the POPULATION BOMB and I’ve gotten virtually every scientific honor. Sure I’ve made some mistakes, but no basic ones.

To which Mary Madigan retorted:

Here, Paul Ehrlich gives us the most comprehensive condemnation of the peer review system ever made.



How to turn a recession into a Depression.

The Fed has confirmed that we are officially in a recession. The actual decline in GDP is higher, though. It is at least -1.6%

What caused the Great Depression? Amity Schlaes’ book “The Forgotten Man” suggests that Roosevelt’s “Regulatory Uncertainty” was a big part of the cause. How were businessmen supposed to plan when policies changed from month to month ? The Roosevelt “Brain Trust” could not decide what might work. Some were good ideas, like the CCC which took young men off the street, helped them get into condition and did many worthwhile projects. Some, like the National Recovery Association, were Fascism which was popular in the 1930s.

Now, we face a disastrous shift in the national focus to imaginary threats like Global Warming. This has become all powerful among politicians because none of them know any science and the science people have become dependent on government funding. Fear is a great driver of government money. Climate science has become a rich field through flogging the unskeptics with fear of global warming. It doesn’t matter that there is no evidence of global warming or any of the other alleged threats. The super rich, like Barack Obama, are still buying waterfront estates no matter what they tell their followers.

Here is a proposal that might help.

Central planning always fails, but the utopian visionaries implementing the plans cannot admit that they are at fault. A scapegoat must be found. As a leading example, when Soviet dictator Josef Stalin’s collectivization of agriculture led to mass starvation, the official blame was placed on “saboteurs” and “wreckers.”

Our current-day analog is the centrally-planned replacement of our very large, inexpensive and highly functional energy system, mostly based on fossil fuels, with the alternatives of intermittent wind and sun-based generation, as favored by incompetent government regulators who don’t understand how these things work or how much they will cost. Prices of energy to the consumer — from electricity to gasoline — are soaring; and reliability of supply is widely threatened.

All of which brings our President forth to blame the current price and supply issues in the energy markets on anything but his own administration’s intentional efforts to suppress the functional fossil fuel energy. One day the scapegoat is Vladimir Putin; another it is “companies running gas stations,” who stand accused of price gouging.

One possible solution is to use the states as experimental laboratories.

With federalism in energy policy, we can have New York forging ahead with its “Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act,” and California doing the same with its SB 100 — both of them seeking to eliminate fossil fuels from the generation of electricity, and then to force all energy consumers to use only electricity for their supply. Will that work? If New York and California are successful, they will be a model for the rest of the country to follow. Congratulations will be in order. If they fail relative to other states — that is, if they see energy prices soar, or frequent blackouts or shortages of needed energy — then it will be obvious to all that it was the green energy that failed, and not that there were “saboteurs” or “wreckers” or “price gougers,” who after all could have attacked the other states as well.

Well the Feds allow this? Probably not with the current regime in power.

Fortunately, the red states are not just going along with this kind of thing any more. This will be a critical battleground over the next five to ten years.

We will see after the election. Many Republicans are in thrall to the climate hoax.

Any Updates on 3 D Printing ?

There have been a couple of discussions of 3D printing in the past.

Mr. Hornick has a video, entitled “3D Printing State of the Art: Industrial” from May of 2015 which gets into detail about the current state of the art in 3D printing. It is a good primer if you are interested in the field. His deep knowledge as well as his enthusiasm make for a compelling presentation of a highly technical subject.

I’m getting interested in 3 D printing of Radio Controlled Airplane models.

Like this one.

That has an almost 5 foot wing spread.

Just wondering about the sort of 3D printer that would be required.