Saturday, May 21, 2005

Science Attacked UPDATE!

Science: A systematic method of continuing investigation.

This is the definition the Kansas school board is pushing for in this years review of the curricula. The board, primarily conservative, is seeking to overturn the previous definition of science, citing Science's "hostility towards intelligent design theory. Why can't we all just get along?"

The definition that they seek to replace it with -
natural explanations for what's observed in the world - is a perfectly valid, well proven and much discussed definition. The proposed definition, written above in its entirety, has sparked anger in many state and local scientists, who cannot believe students will soon be able to justify supernatural causes for natural phenomenon.

"It's a completely unscientific way of looking at the world," said Keith Miller, a Kansas State University geologist.

The conservative state Board of Education plans to consider the proposed changes by August. It is expected to approve at least part of a proposal from advocates of intelligent design, which holds that the natural world is so complex and well-ordered that an intelligent cause is the best way to explain it.

State and national science groups boycotted last week's public hearings, claiming they were rigged against evolution.

I can see a number of reasons why this policy change would adversely affect the public school population, not the least of which involves college readiness. When students have been taught that "God only knows." is an acceptable response to an exam question involving mitochondria and the Golgi apparatus, then they are being done a disservice. They will not succeed in the real world, the university or the workplace. After all, one cannot honestly expect to get away with "Perhaps it's in a parallel universe?" when questioned by your boss about missing office supplies.

Another reason I feel the adoption of this definiton would detrimentally effect the students has to do strictly with the wording. "A systematic method of continuing investigation" can describe any number of things. For example, when studying probability and statistics in real world applications (such as poker, for example), a valid hypothesis for high-probability success could be "I was wearing mis-matched socks."

As a college administrator, and having been a student myself for a good many years, I can only see horrible, horrible things coming from this. Look at the New Math debacle of the 1970's. A whole generation of kids was weakend by this "exciting, new frontier" of curricula that involved less explanation of mathematics and more inquiry into math. What the developers of the math theory failed to grasp was that students needed a solid foundation of instruction upon which to build their inquiries. By denying them the instruction, they removed many possibilities of the students succeeding. My mom still counts on her fingers sometimes, or mentally pictures and manipulates the blocks they were taught with.

Which brings me back to the Kansas Solution. Instead of allowing students to think the grass and trees are green because leprechauns paint them at night, we need science and those who understand it to show the kids, intruct them, about the scientifically observed truths in the world. Kansas and intelligent design advocates offer no solutions, just more problems. Instead of equipping them for success in the future (in which science will surely play a huge role) these pompous administrators are indoctrinating them into a narrow worldview which will only hamper their ability to participate in a modern society.
"In order to live in this science-dominated world, you have to be able to discriminate between science and non-science," said Alan Leshner of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. "They want to rewrite the rules of science."