Bustin’ out all over

Yikes. More Florida school boards — in St Lucie, Palm Beach, and Martin counties — are infested with creationists. Florida Citizens for Science is maintaining a watch list.

So…have you checked your local school board? Do you have creationists biding their time, waiting to corrupt your schools?


  1. Disciple of "Bob" says

    I live in Texas, and though I don’t have any kids, I usually keep half an eyeball on local school board shenanigans, if only for my own amusement.

    Given the intensity of hysteria that’s so fashionable these days, it seems to me that the surest way to be branded as some sort of nascent sex offender is to appear to be interested in the affairs of kids, while being a single, adult male with no children of your own. I would hate to show up to a school board meeting and be met by Chris Hansen with a camera crew.

  2. says

    If you look really closely, as I have resolved,
    At Boards of Education,
    You’ll see hidden creationists; some have evolved
    A protective coloration.

    Some wear their belief upon their sleeves
    And some choose not to wear it–
    But sometimes you’ll see what one believes
    By the phrases that they parrot:

    “I think it’s fair to teach both sides”
    “Evolution is ‘just a theory'”
    “With freedom of speech, then who decides?”
    “Just think of the children, dearie”

    And just as we can identify birds
    By the calls of hens and drakes
    We can sometimes tell creationist turds
    By the sound stupidity makes.


  3. says

    Haha, those silly Creationists who want to corrupt science education for Jesus could never get on a school board where I live. :D

  4. Beth B. says

    Unfortunately, there’s a self-declared ID supporter on our local school board who’s not at all shy about her desire to “kick Darwin out” of the schools. Serious actual quote. And this is the county that plays home to Virginia Tech and next-door neighbor to Radford University. *sigh*

  5. says

    How could anyone top comment #4?

    If I find a dandelion in a watch factory, did Darwin put it there?

    Happy New Year, hopefully the Human Race will make some progress.

  6. John Phillips, FCD says

    Cuttlefish rocks once again. Not long turned midnight here in the UK so Happy New Year one and all.

  7. says

    This particular infestation only comes with one silver lining. When the world blows up, unlike the roaches, the creos will not survive…oh, crap!…I forgot about that pesky rapture. Never mind.

  8. CParis says

    Parents here in NJ are not willing to risk their kids not getting into Ivy league schools to tolerate creationist cretins on local school boards.

  9. Chuck says

    PZ and others:

    Do any of you folks know a convenient way to check this stuff? I’m in law school now, and I doubt my temporarily-adopted hometown of Charlottesville, VA has any problems. But I grew up in a small Appalachian town, and while I can find bios etc. of the school board, I can’t find any statements or anything, even in news coverage in the local paper.

    Any ideas?

  10. Ichthyic says

    you might be able to get the minutes of your local school board meetings emailed to you.

    It IS a public institution, after all.

  11. HMJ says

    I don’t see what the problem is. A fair result can be obtained only by fully stating and balancing the facts and arguments on both sides of each question.

  12. tballou says

    South Carolina is next on the ID hit parade! From The State newspaper:(http://www.thestate.com/312/story/266210.html)

    COLUMBIA, S.C. –The South Carolina Board of Education could end up debating evolution next month as it considers whether to endorse a high school biology textbook.

    The board withheld its support of the book at December’s meeting, when board member Charles W. McKinney brought up dozens of questions about the contents of the book from a retired Clemson University weed science researcher Horace D. Skipper.

    The board is reviewing the book as part of its obligation to maintain a list of textbooks schools can use. A second book also was challenged, and education officials said its publisher has asked it be removed from consideration.

    Skipper is challenging the book’s assertion that Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution is the foundation of all lessons about life.

    When the authors of the book write about “the origins of life and evolution stuff – I didn’t see where they had the scientific support that I think public schools need in a textbook,” Skipper said.

    Skipper said he does not support teaching creationism exclusively, but “if you’re going to teach historical science, that would be an alternative.”

    “If we’re going to have good, honest truth taught to our students, they need to be taught about weaknesses or gaps in these theories,” Skipper said.

    Skipper’s objections don’t sit well with other science professors. “Those critiques cannot be the basis for public policy decisions of any sort,” said Rob Dillon, a College of Charleston biology professor who leads an organization known as South Carolinians for Science Education.

    “They are religiously motivated,” Dillon said.

    One of the authors of the textbook, Kenneth R. Miller, plans to come to next month’s board meeting to answer any questions.

    “It’s important to me that they have that book available,” Miller said. “I’m not asking the board to buy our book. What I’m asking them is ‘Let the marketplace work’ and let people be able to pick from all books available.”

  13. Skeptical observer says

    Let’s consider some scientific thinkers who were not just nominal Christians, but ardent Christians who believed in an intelligent designer:

    Roger Bacon, Nicolai Copernicus, Johannes Keppler, Francis Bacon, Blaise Pascal, Robert Boyle, Galileo, Isaac Newton, Georges Cuvier, Luigi Galvani, Alessandro Volta, Carl Linnaeus, Louis Agassiz, Louis Pasteur, Michael Faraday, Josiah Willard Gibbs and James Clerk Maxwell.

    Not so impressive a list, eh? Just the founders of the disciplines of physics, chemistry, calculus, probability theory (foundational to scientific stastistics), and pioneers in quantum physics and relativity-foundational electromagnetic theory, applied biology, geology, paleontology and climatology.

    But we have a dedicated band of middle and high school teachers who were never taught about these great scientists’ beliefs, and certainly can’t teach about it, even though it doesn’t violate the First Amendment, as these are historic facts. But the public school science teachers know science, because they have taken college freshman-sophomore science-survey courses, that are taught in community colleges. Or even high schools, such as “college algebra”, followed by trigonometry, followed by “college” general physics, which science-dedicated students take in 9th-12th grade.

    Did the teacher-trainees ever ask themselves, “Why am I not taking Calculus I, II, III and linear algebra/differential equations, the two-semester course in organic chemistry, the two-semester course in physical chemistry, three semesters of calculus-based physics, two semesters each of biochemistry, molecular biology and cell biology?”

    “I couldn’t because the College of Education secondary school science certification endorsement program made me take educationcourses while the regular science-degree students were taking science courses in their last two years. But I’m still really knowledgeable in science, at least to the extent that taking freshman and sophomore survey courses allows. It’s not my fault I couldn’t study more advanced science with the science students: I couldn’t afford to do this and earn my teachers license in a reasonable period of time.”

  14. craig says

    “I don’t see what the problem is. A fair result can be obtained only by fully stating and balancing the facts and arguments on both sides of each question.”

    I agree. As soon as religion comes up with a fact, I say lets hear it!

  15. Ichthyic says

    But we have a dedicated band of middle and high school teachers who were never taught about these great scientists’ beliefs, and certainly can’t teach about it, even though it doesn’t violate the First Amendment, as these are historic facts.

    not all historic facts are relevant to everything.

    for example the fact that the people you listed, as well as many modern biologists (like Ken Miller), is irrelevant in an of itself to the science they have published.

    It’s like saying that I like gin and tonics is relevant to the papers I have published on animal behavior.

    your point is nothing more than a red herring.

    care to try again?

  16. Ichthyic says

    for example the fact that the people you listed, as well as many modern biologists (like Ken Miller), have religious beliefs


  17. Bertram Cabot, Jr. says

    A watch list?

    Creationist Watch?

    Whats next, JEW WATCH? Oh, wait, some bigot already thought of that.

    I don’t like creationists, but I hate “Watch Lists”.

    Smells bad, too.

  18. Whalehugger says

    I used to think that my home state, Florida, had some intelligence to it – after all, NASA was there – but I think when I left the state and moved away, I took the last living brain cell with me.

    Now I live in SC, and it’s even worse. Save me, somebody!!

  19. Farb says

    Don’t be fooled by creo-con politicians. Their most successful technique during recent years has been the “stealth” campaign, where the candidate picks an off-year election, sneaks around select churches to rally the vote, avoids debates, and generally looks inept and harmless, until–whammo!–the troops stream to the polls. This was what led to the Kansas situation. It took years to undo the damage.

    These aren’t just harmless little kooks. They have organization and strategy, and, when they’re not being hamstrung by the institutionalized ingrowth of incompetence at donation-sinks like DI, they can actually do some damage. Pay extra attention to the ones who push other social issues besides creationism. They’re the ones with the backing and strategic planning of some pretty scary types.

  20. SLC says

    Re Skeptical observer

    1. I would have to take some exception to the characterization of Issac Newton as a devout Christian. Newton rejected the concept of the Trinity, which is one of creeds of Christianity then and now.

    2. I find it interesting that none of the examples Mr. Skeptical observer cites are 20th century scientists. It is quite clear that, in the 20th century, skepticism of religion within the scientific community has greatly accelerated.

  21. says

    Children are captive within the school system. This allows neo-creos the opportunity to force their intellectual betters to listen to them. Think of Dover. Who in their correct frame of mind would do more than politely nod when the creationists spouted their drivel. How better to entice the morons to be the expendable foot soldiers than with the idea that smart people now have to hear your crackpot notions. Even sweeter, the intelligentsia now have to implement the policies that are designed to impede the development of children.

    One benefit of adulthood is the ability to NOT listen to the Stoopids. Think maybe they resent this? Watch the PBS special on Dover and tell me you’d be willing to entertain the school board dips that placed Creation Science in the curriculum.

  22. demallien says

    Actually, now that I think about it, it’s a wonder that no free-thinking skeptic has tried to game the system yet. I mean think about it – you run for the school board on a policy of “teach the controversy about evolution”, and then, when elected (because there will always be ill-educated people that vote for this kind of stuff), you immediately start pushing for courses that explain why creationist positions are wrong, from a scientific point of view, that being the only controvesy that exists…

    The best bit of this as a stratey is that it would completely white-ant the entire “teach the controversy” tactic.

  23. pough says

    But we have a dedicated band of middle and high school teachers who were never taught about these great scientists’ beliefs

    Nor their choice of underpants. Teach the controversy!

  24. Skeptical observer says

    I’m talking about people who were original thinkers in the sciences. Deep thinkers.

    Newton’s best-seller, Principia Mathematica, is a wee bit more advanced than Ken Miller’s best-seller, a high school book.

    I hate to crash the postmodern celebrity worship party, but Miller was unable to establish himself as a first-rate research scientist. He was fortunate to work in Robert Bloodgood’s seminal studies on ciliary and flagellar ultrastructures for his PhD. Harvard hired Miller hoping he could continue working at this frontier-expanding level work an independent principal investigator. Alas, this didn’t happen, and Miler was apprised in his sixth year he wasn’t going to make tenure, which meant he had a year to find another job somewhere else, or else be terminated.

    What did Harvard retention require? The same thing that all first-tier research universities required: demonstration that the junior faculty member was, by his sixth year, training a consistent stream of talented graduate students and postdocs who would become next-generation bioscience researchers. Miller was unable to build a viable scientific research team. He didn’t have the stuff to feed the researcher pool.

    So he went to Brown, which was a primarily undergraduate institution with very limited graduate student enrollment, where Miller would have toiled in obscurity as an undergraduate-biology teacher until retirement. But he got the idea to parlay his knowledge into a high school biology textbook, and his fame was made. I don’t have personal details, but I’d judge it highly likely that Miller’s annual textbook royalties substantially exceed his best-year science research grant monies by a large margin. (I’m sort of “cheating” in this assessment, as Miller’s current research funding is a puny $29,000–not enough to support even one grad student–funded by his own private foundation= zero conventional research funding.

    Will Dr. Miller ever gain election to the National Academy of Sciences? Not in the conventional category of heavily-cited original science research and the training of several dozen university faculty science researchers. Miller was a second-tier scientist who never made it into the category of a Ph.D.-student/ future researchers’ mentor. My hunch is that he may be elected under a novel citation of contributions to high school science education, and if he does, he can take pride as being the first high school science education specialist in the history of the United States to gain NAS election. But if traditional election standards are upheld, Miller doesn’t have a chance.

    It’s rather sad commentary, illustrating why America is producing diminishing numbers of scientists, mathematicians and engineers, that community-college-level-science-educated secondary school science teachers” hold second-rate scientist Ken Miller to be their ideological leader.

    For those of you interested in science, my undergraduate university established a computer science department and degree programs in the late 1950s. By the late 1960’s computer science was well-established across the nation. And, precisely what states today have computer-science secondary teaching specialist programs? How backwards are you so-called “science educators”?

  25. says

    Skeptical Observer might want to look at the requirements for teaching again. PA and NY require a BA/BS with specialization in a science to teach science.

    Dover was driven by parents and teachers. Watch the PBS special and be thrilled by teachers that actually have a clue about science.

    Research is not teaching.

    Besides ad hominem against Miller, what is your point? That scientists were held captive by the religious orthodoxy of the day?

  26. Ms. S says

    Skeptical Observer, you’re not too up on actual requirements of secondary science teachers, are you?
    For most secondary science teachers in the Midwest (and as Mold pointed out, also in PA and NY) you have to have a bachelor’s degree IN THAT SCIENCE. I think it’s the same in most states.
    So as a biology teacher, I have a bachelor’s in biology. It’s the same degree as my friends who went on to med school and grad school. In fact, we were in the same classes, and (gasp) did the same work. You know, in classes like “biochemistry, molecular biology, and cell biology”.

    Oh yeah, and evolutionary biology . The reasons we teach it are because a) it’s the foundation of modern biology, b) it’s not been disproven by anything (which defines what we teach as science in all disciplines, I think) and c) because we’re actually trained to teach real science. Education courses make up a small portion of college for most pre-ed majors. Science courses dominate.

    So before you go about implying that secondary high school teachers are just ignorant, pull your head out of your nether regions and do some research. While you’re at it, go do some research on evolution too. Sounds like you need it.

  27. Skeptical observer says

    SLC, re your comment:

    “1. I would have to take some exception to the characterization of Issac Newton as a devout Christian. Newton rejected the concept of the Trinity, which is one of creeds of Christianity then and now.”

    I never said Newton believed in the Nicene Creed. At the same time, it is worth considering that Newton was a faculty member of Trinity College, Cambridge, and he was never threatened with excommunication from the Anglican Church, or sanctions, for heresy.

    Newton had did not accept the 4th century Nicene Creed, devised by the Nicene Council in the 4th century. He was not the only Christian to reject the NC. The Council was convened by pagan-cum-professed “Christian” Emperor Constantine, whose conversion is generally considered to have been a spiritually fraudulent political-power-expanding scheme. Before the Nicene Creed, devout Christians had differing views of the nature of the God the Father, the Son of God, and the Holy Ghost. The Nicene Creed did not make disbelievers in the Nicene Trinity formulation non-Christians. It did as a matter of the human political-scheming Catholic Church, which hid the Bible from most of its members for centuries, but not in God’s eyes. (BTW, Constantine converted the Christian day of worship, the Jewish Sabbath, to the pagan Sun/Sol (sun god) day. There is also no foundation in the New Testiment for the reveration of Mary as “The Mother of God”, another Constantinian pagan heresy.)

    So Newton became a pre-Nicene-Creed devout Christian. That’s all. He studied and reverently commented upon the Bible, a documented fact that no scholar disputes.

    Richard Dawkins attempts, speciously, to discredit Newton’s faith, and falsely turn Newton’s humility into hubris, in pointing out that Newton, being stymied in trying to create a mathematical model for planetary orbit stability, said it was a mystery of God, which Dawkins falsely concludes: Newton was such an arrogant individual that he claimed, implicitly “If I can’t figure this out, then no one else can.”

    Dawkins then cites Pierre-Simon Laplace’s mathematical orbt-stability model, which upon being asked why he didn’t cite God, retorted, “It was unecessary.” Wonderful historic testimony for the ignorant atheist Mr. Dawkins to cite. The scientific reality is that Laplace’s equations did not work. They proved to be discordant to actual planetary orbits to the degree that no one used them to predict future planetary positions, as they were worthless. Or as the agnostic Samuel Clemens would say, “A beautiful theory ruined by ugly fact.”

    Newton left the problem to God’s infinite knowledge. That wasn’t arrogant. Laplace was the arrogant one, claiming to have found a human-mind-devised “solution”, which observations proved to be no solution at all, but an fatuous misformulation.

  28. Ms. S says

    And what difference does it make, to list “famous scientists” who you say would be in favor of ID?
    First of all, you’re putting words in their mouths.
    Second, most of the ones you list were alive in the days before evolutionary theory was understood – heck, before germ theory was understood.
    Third, even if you DO have a scientist who is in favor of creationism or ID – so what? What difference does it make? You could have a physicist standing on street corners yelling about how gravity is a myth, but it wouldn’t change anything about gravitational theory. The fact is that there is such a massive amount of data supporting evolution that what some scientists – who were alive before the theory existed – would have thought is completely and totally irrelevant. Much like your statements about computer science, which are just baffling.
    (In case you care – most states do offer a computer science teaching license, available in the same way as other teaching licenses, i.e. with a major in the subject. There’s even an Advanced Placement, or AP, course available to high schoolers in the area of computer science. But I’m not sure that addresses your concerns, as I’m not sure what exactly they are.)

  29. says

    Well, I guess we can all hang it up. The only True™ Scientists in America have million dollar grants and work at Harvard.

    Brown University is an entirely respectable university, and Ken Miller has an eminently respectable academic career. That he didn’t get tenure at Harvard is unremarkable; very few people get tenure at Harvard, and it’s more or less expected that junior faculty hired by Harvard are getting valuable experience as a PI, but they should not count on holding a permanent position there. Not everyone gets into the National Academy, either, and it is no mark against someone that they aren’t.

    I think Skeptical Observer needs to come clean about his academic status, so we can decide if he’s worth listening to on his own criteria.

  30. says

    What Ms. S said.

    The secondary ed program at my university is a 5 or 6 year degree — students who want to teach high school life sciences have to get a bachelor’s in biology, and then they have to do extra work in the school of education on top of that. There are no shortcuts.

    It takes dedication to go on to be a teacher…and then what do they get? Assholes like Skeptical Observer who belittle the whole enterprise of education, and look down upon teachers from their lofty perch of Christian Inanity.

  31. says

    PZ, Ms S

    In years past..yes the students think I’m old…an Ed major was a joke. We used to snicker over the business and education majors for their ability to party at the George W Bush level. The other disciplines forced at least some amount of discretion and moderation. But, that was at least 30 years ago. Things have changed greatly. At the district where I teach, most instructors have at least a BA/BS and most are STRONGLY encouraged to gain a MS. Something relating to tenure.

    I also don’t think that a researcher delving into the specifics of a field of study would be the best choice for a general course. I’ve got a pretty decent general bio background and some of the postings here send me yelping to my texts (and the Internet) for refreshing. I can’t imagine trying to share that level of data with high schoolers.

  32. Ms. S says

    Mold, I agree about going yelping to the Internet – I do that a lot, too. And I’m only 9 years out of undergrad :) But I think that’s the mark of a good science teacher – one who is willing to look up the newest, most up-to-date information in order to better understand something or teach the students. That’s why I’m here and on the other science blogs so much… it’s a great firsthand source of info for me. Plus it’s entertaining and gives me practice dealing with creos ;)

    I do find, though, that the more times I teach something, the better I understand it myself – and the more prepared I am to assimilate that new information I’ve just looked up. I’m far, far better now at putting together the “big pictures” of biology now than I ever was as an undergrad. The best example would be cellular respiration – man, that stupid Krebs cycle kicked my butt as a freshman. Now, though, I’ve solidified my own knowledge to the point where I can explain it in terms my high schoolers understand it. The same is true for evolution – the more I teach, the more I see the connections with all of the different subfields of biology, and the better I am at teaching the kids why it’s important and why the data really does unequivocally support it. I have become far more of an advocate for high-quality science education (which by definition includes evolutionary theory) in the last five years than I ever imagined possible.

    Good thing I have more than a “community-college education” to help me be a good teacher (and while there is nothing wrong with a community college, I took great offense at the snide sarcasm intended by S.O.’s reference, hence my barely-contained restraint in the earler comments).

  33. says

    The Nicene Creed did not make disbelievers in the Nicene Trinity formulation non-Christians. It did as a matter of the human political-scheming Catholic Church, which hid the Bible from most of its members for centuries, but not in God’s eyes.

    Actually, not believing in Jesus as the son of God and part of God made you a heretic at that time. And for a long long period of time, the Catholic Church basically WAS God. You may not *believe* that that made people non-Christian, but the church did and it persecuted them. So now you’re looking back at history and deciding what was true Christianity and what wasn’t. Just like you’re deciding that Newton was a devout Christian.

  34. skeptical of the observer says

    Ms. S, you rock!

    Do you suppose S.O. has this coursework under his belt?

    Calc I, II, II, diff eq, group theory, non-euclidean geometry, advanced calc, methods of teaching math; calc-based physics I & II, atomic physics, electricity & magnetism (Jackson), mathematical physics, mechanics (Simon), quantum mechanics, analog & digital electronics, advanced labs, science teaching methods, chem I & II, organic chem I, physical chemistry, classical astronomy, CCAI

    That’s the background of a local high school physics teacher.

    Now, how do your credentials outweigh Ken Miller’s? How are you qualified to cast stones at anyone else?

    (Let’s guess . . . you’re an M.D. who doesn’t practice anymore . . . )

  35. HMJ says

    Which is the other side, please? I assume you mean the FSM?

    Ask Charles Darwin. He’s the one who I got the second sentence from.

  36. Skeptical observer says

    Responding to the above points is like a perusing a Chinese restaurant menu: So many delectable choices. Where to start…

    Okay, I’m ready to order.

    On purported dual science and education bachelor’s degree programs, that’s an oxymoron. While ed-bachelor’s students are doing their ed courses, what do they think the straight science bachelor’s students are doing in junior and senior year? Vacationing in Florida?

    To have true dual science/education degrees, including a solid science bachelor’s, such as one in chemistry, biology or physics, you’re looking at 6 years, not 4. But who would be dumb enough to take two bachelor’s degrees, when the alternative, a bachelors in science, combined with a dual-degree master’s in education, is obviously superior?

    1. For example, if you find regular public school teaching not to you’re liking,. you can go to grad school in your science field and move up to college / university teaching; or you can land a position in a strong academic public magnet school; or a respectable private college preparatory school.

    2. You get paid more for having an education master’s than an education bachelor’s. This is specified in every public school district’s faculty-salary formula that is based on a collective-bargaining agreement.

    Somebody mentioned the Midwest’s science-education upgrade. They need to learn to do their homework.

    There are six frontline scientific research universities in the Midwest. Three are private and don’t offer education bachelor’s degrees.

    Let’s look at the public ones, and a field close to my heart: chemistry.

    The University of Wisconsin-Madison has come closest to bridging the teacher’s chemistry major with the non-teacher’s degree program, but there is still a significant gap. The former requires 30 credits, the latter a minimum of 37 credits. However, the latter includes a recommendation for an additional 4 (minimum) to 12 (maximum) credits, 8 being average, in senior research to be taken. Not required, but if you want to go to a respectable grad school, or land a pick of higher-paying and interesting industrial chemistry jobs, it’s mandatory.

    Moreover, 9 of the teachers-track major credits can be earned in General Chemistry 103 and 104, the first of which assumes ZERO high school chemistry upon enrollment. These courses are per se high school chemistry. Regular chem-degree students either start with “Advanced General Chemisty 109 (5 credits) in which “advanced” means a student has taken high school chemistry and three years of high school math (at least Alg I, Geometry, Alg II, more often Geo, Alg II, Precalc), or if they are very well educated in high school having taken AP Chemistry or other “advanced high school chemistry” [sic] they start freshman year taking Chemical Principals I 115 (5 credits).

    Let’s face reality, if you’re decent to very good in science in a smaller town, you’ve at least taken high school chemistry, and if you’re a well-above-average student in high school chemistry in a city or suburban high school, you’ve taken AP Chemistry. The 104/105 sequence that is creditable for future public high school chemistry teachers is chemistry for dummies. Allied healthcare and ag students who decline to take chemistry in high school take in college. But they aren’t going to be teaching chemistry

    So there’s more than a seeming 7 credit differential, because the chem-degree students don’t take high school chemistry for 9 credits.

    The UWM chem-degree program requires 12 credits of 500-level upper-division chemistry coursework, the teachers chemistry major 3. Not the same programs.

    The University of Michigan chemistry major for teachers requires only 24 credits, assuming that one does not have to take Chem 130 and its lab 125 (5 cr), which require no high school chemistry, and are offered as general education Natural Science courses designed to be passable by non-science majors. This university’s chem-teacher program doesn’t require P chem, it’s an elective.


    The University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign’s chemistry major for teachers assumes high school chemistry has been taken. (Oooh, such a high expectation!) This requires 27 credits, and P Chem (or Biophys Chem) is required. UIUC also is tougher than UWM and UM in requiring 3 physics courses and Calc I, II and III.

    Let’s summarize matters. The chemistry major teachers program chem course requirements vs. the non-teacher-track B.S. Chemistry chem course requirements are: UWM 30 vs. 37 credits; UM 24 vs. 40 credits; UIUC 28 credits vs. 41, plus 5 additional math credits after Calc III (46 cr total). These are at the Midwest’s top-ranked public universities.

    In addition senior thesis research is now recommended, although not mandatory, for all regular chem students, whereas it was originally devised for honors students.

    Then too, we still see the old one-semester survey-of-organic chemistry option for teachers, which the regular chem students cannot take as they do two semesters of O chem, and we still see one-semester survey-of-physical chemistry for life science students, no titled biophysical chemistry, while the regular chem students take 2 semesters of P Chem.

    Are the teacher-track students prohibited from taking the longer, harder courses? Formally no. But why would the colleges of education provide for an easier pathway if they wanted teachers to have peer-level credentials with chemistry degree students?

    The regular students’ curricula in all three preceding universities is American Chemical Society approved. The teachers curriculum is not. The ACS knows chemistry.

    UIUC also has an interesting option, in offering a College of Education minor, to attract students who want to complete conventional science degree programs, and take fewer ed classes than are required for a College of Education-conferred degree. This is the most intelligent development in science education yet to occur. Unfortunately, UIUC rarely takes out-of-state students, so to be effective in the rest of the Midwest, other states are going to have to adopt this innovation on their own.

  37. Skeptical observer says

    Sotso said

    “Calc I, II, II, diff eq, group theory, non-euclidean geometry, advanced calc, methods of teaching math; calc-based physics I & II, atomic physics, electricity & magnetism (Jackson), mathematical physics, mechanics (Simon), quantum mechanics, analog & digital electronics, advanced labs, science teaching methods, chem I & II, organic chem I, physical chemistry, classical astronomy, CCAI

    That’s the background of a local high school physics teacher.”

    Sotso has cited an extraordinary, and I mean really, really impressive, course-completion record, in the eyes of somebody who has studied a lot of science.

    But what does Sotso mean? His statement is cryptic.

    Let’s figure it out. Does “local high school physics teacher” mean that Sotso lives in New York, near the legendary Bronx High School of Science, or perhaps Fairfax, Virginia, home to the Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology. These schools have Ph.D. scientists on their faculties, as well as other unusually well- educated staff. They are purposefully designed to send dozens of kids annually to MIT, the Ivy League, Duke, Chicago et al. TJHSST for example issues annual press releases naming its 100+ National Merit Finalists. It has a Cray supercomputer. Its students have been working for the last few years designing a satellite that probably will be sent into space. Both schools routinely sponsor a dozen or more Intel and Siemens science-fair projects.

    Think about a “local” public high school in your community in which a 700 SAT-Math / 31 ACT-Math among 450 students, is BELOW THE SENIOR CLASS AVERAGE. Think about ” average” students in your “local” public high school going to Ivy League Cornell and Brown, Johns Hopkins, Carnegie Mellon, Emory, UVA, U Michigan. Think about bottom-25% students in your local high school going to UVA (U Michigan if that’s where you live), Virginia Tech, University of North Carolina, University of Maryland, Georgia Tech, Rensselaer Polytechnic. Think about bottom-10% students in your local high school being automatic admits to Michigan State, Penn State, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, University of Texas-Austin, Texas A&M, University of Colorado, University of Washington, and Purdue.

    Is this the “local high school” whose physics teacher Sotso is talking about?

    For these lofty achievements, the schools need teachers extraordinaire, who are like professors, and indeed some of them have been in their earlier lives. They get special authorization to teach without conventional ed-school-earned licensure because at this level, as in university, it would be an absurdity to say they can’t teach without completing a school of education’s teaching theories, methods, and classroom management courses.

    “That’s the background of a local high school physics teacher,” does not come close to meaning that there is such a physics teacher near most of us (within a hundred miles), accessible to the children of most of our communities, or even one percent of them.

    I’ve taken 10 of the above-cited courses, essentially half, and at one time could have straightforwardly enrolled in most of the rest, but not every one, so I have some familiarity with the matters implied.

    For example, “electricity & magnetism (Jackson)”, refers to a course using John D. Jackson’s “Classical Electrodynamics”, a venerated textbook whose last (3rd) edition was published in 1971, but it is still used to this day.

    At the University of California, Berkeley, where Dr. Jackson, now professor emeritus, was once chairman of physics, and head of the physics division at Lawrence-Berkeley Lab, home of the world’s first “atom smashers” (cyclotron and synchrotron), Jackson’s book is used in a graduate course, whose prerequisites are two semester-length upper-division courses in electromagnetism.

    Same for the University of Michigan. Same for MIT: on a website advising MIT physics doctoral candidates what to study for the written parts of their oral exit examinations, it is said, “It’s overkill to read Jackson for Part I (and even Part II).” Overkill, for a doctoral exam in physics at MIT! This tells you how advanced this textbook is.

    So Sotso’s “local high school physics teacher” probably has a master’s degree in either physics or electrical engineering, or even a Ph.D.

    As an aside, the spelling for “mechanics (Simon)[sic]” is Daniel R. SYMON, professor emeritus of physics at the University of Wisconsin.

    Sotso’s cited “local high school physics” teacher is highly probably a retired professor, federal lab physicist, or industrial engineer. Ever since Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak decided to teach fifth grade math in Silicon Valley (under a special unlicensed appointment), growing numbers of science and technology professionals from outside the academic community have followed suit. But their number is very small, for example a retired nuclear sub commander with a master’s in nuclear engineering teaching physics in San Diego, and a retired Ph.D. biotech entrepreneur teaching advanced biology in Evanston immediately come to mind.

    They’re trying to help kids, without getting tied down, like Gullivers in the classroom, by counterproductive, “You have to earn a school of education degree to teach,” restrictions, which are not widely waived. Fortunately, these gifted teachers got waivers.

    Mostly you see people like this, and aforementioned retired college professors, in private schools in which teacher licensure is not required. This is widely found across the country. For this reason, it is fairly common to find small unheralded private schools in ordinary communities with 20-30 upper school teachers of whom 2-3 have Ph.D.s. Parents are willing to pay for education provided by highly-knowledgeable teachers, and teachers of this nature are content with two classes and 25 total students, or even a single AP class with 12 students. It’s an avocation, not a job.

    Public schools that adopt this model are winners, but not many are in our time. Someday things will be different. Right now, change is an “isolated island” phenomenon in public education. It will take time for the islands to coalesce into “continents”, because teacher-education must be completely rethought.

    For example the Preuss School in San Diego, invented by University of California, San Diego professors is a topflight academic magnet middle-and-high school for (chiefly) minority students. It has a half-dozen Ph.D.s on faculty, and is mostly staffed by math and science bachelor’s holders (in the math and science departments). They are encouraged to earn M.S. Ed.s to become regularly licensed and thus be sendable, as new-paradigm “evangelists”, to the outside world to teach in other high schools, but nobody is imposing deadlines, because it is recognized these very bright people do great in the classroom with in-house mentoring alone, and the principal prefers that they plan lessons and grade homework and tests after-hours, rather than be bogged down with night-school San Diego State University School of Education classes.

    To do the latter would pressure the Preuss teachers to use regular-public-high-school labor-saving multiple-choice tests and half-page writing assignments, which would relegate Preuss’s minority students to conventional minority-student college-preparatory failure. This is not going to happen in this exemplary privately-built, publicly-managed school (just ranked #9 by Newsweek and #10 by U.S. News and World Repot). You can’t have a graduation requirement that requires every student to complete a minimum of 6 AP courses, as Preuss does, resting on a backbone of conventional learning-impedimentary public school test and homework norms.

    In closing, “the local high school physics teacher” is most likely, one of the following:

    1. A teacher in an “island” public school in an unusually progressive locality, who decided to teach after completing a fulfilling career in something else, and was green-lighted by heads-up school authorities who took advantage of recently-enacted alternative credential law that were necessary to recruit highly educated science teachers into public school classrooms.

    2. A private school teacher (much more statistically likely) who showed his education and career credentials to a school head or upper school principal, and was welcomed because the school didn’t demand a teachers license.

    The hypothesis of this “local” teacher’s having completed the cited courses while simultaneously completing a teachers undergrad curriculum is untenable. The course-load, even excluding the grad course, is too extensive and time-consuming to be compatible with an ed school teacher’s licensure regimen. Nor can we alternatively posit this teacher’s taking the advanced math and science courses while maintaining a teaching position, because most of the courses aren’t offered in night classes or summer sessions. A physics or math degree pursuit is very different from an M.B.A. or an M.S.Ed. pursuit

    Finally, I’d hazard an educated surmise that this “local” physics teacher doesn’t give a tinker’s damn about the evolution/ID/ creationism controversy. It’s not his fight. The theory of biologic evolution is irrelevant to math and physics, and it was not taught in any of the physics teacher’s classes cited by Sotso.

  38. Skeptical observer says

    I forgot to mention, if you want to know if your best-science-reputation local high school has a teacher like Sotso describes, find out if it offers calculus-based AP Physics C-Mechanics AND Physics C-Electricity and Magnetism, as well as AP Calculus AB (easier one-college-semester course taught over one year) AND AP Calculus C (harder two-college-semester course taught in one year). If all the school says is that it offers one course in “AP Physics” , that’s merely “AP Physics B”, which is gussied up trig-and-algebra 12th grade physics, and if it says it offers one course in “AP Calculus”, that’s AP Calculus AB: it doesn’t have Sotso’s “local physics” teacher or someone with an approximately equivalent course background.