Category: Education

Oil baron wants Oklahoma University to stop studying quakes, fire scientists

harold hamm

Oil tycoon Harold Hamm told a University of Oklahoma dean last year that he wanted certain scientists there dismissed who were studying links between oil and gas activity and the state’s nearly 400-fold increase in earthquakes, according to the dean’s e-mail recounting the conversation.

Hamm, the billionaire founder and chief executive officer of Oklahoma City-based Continental Resources, is a major donor to the university, which is the home of the Oklahoma Geological Survey. He has vigorously disputed the notion that he tried to pressure the survey’s scientists…Hamm was quoted as saying…”I don’t try to push anybody around.”…

Yet an e-mail obtained from the university by Bloomberg News…says Hamm used a blunt approach during a 90-minute meeting last year with the dean whose department includes the geological survey.

“Mr. Hamm is very upset at some of the earthquake reporting to the point that he would like to see select OGS staff dismissed,” wrote Larry Grillot, the dean of the university’s Mewbourne College of Earth and Energy, in a July 16, 2014, e-mail to colleagues at the university. Hamm also expressed an interest in joining a search committee charged with finding a new director for the geological survey, according to Grillot’s e-mail. And, the dean wrote, Hamm indicated that he would be “visiting with Governor [Mary] Fallin on the topic of moving the OGS out of the University of Oklahoma.”

Kristin Thomas, a spokeswoman for Continental, says the company has no comment.

Hamm’s meeting with Grillot resulted in no apparent changes at the university. Reached by telephone, Grillot confirmed his discussion with Hamm. He says…he never discussed Hamm’s displeasure with OGS staffers…”I didn’t want it to impact their day-to-day work,” he says. “Foremost for us is academic freedom.” Grillot adds that Hamm was not added to the search committee for the new OGS director…

Hamm has been a generous donor to the University of Oklahoma, including a 2011 gift of $20 million for a diabetes research center named after the oilman. University President David Boren, a former U.S. senator, sits on the board of directors of Hamm’s Continental Resources…

Scientists overwhelmingly attribute the sharp rise in earthquakes across swaths of the central U.S. to the oil and gas industry, primarily the deep underground disposal of vast amounts of wastewater, which is produced with oil and gas. The injected water can alter underground pore pressures and cause faults to slip…

In Oklahoma, where the number of earthquakes of a magnitude 3.0 or greater increased from an average of 1.6 a year before 2009 to 585 last year, researchers at the OGS have been slower than many others to draw a link between the industry and the earthquakes.

Nice to see that academic freedom is still respected in Oklahoma.

Is everyone confident things will remain this way? Hardly.

Key findings about the changing U.S. religious landscape

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Pew Research Center’s new Religious Landscape Study, the first since our 2007 study, draws on a massive sample size of more than 35,000 Americans to offer a detailed look at the current religious composition of U.S. adults. The size of the sample enables us to explore relatively small religious groups (including specific Christian denominations) as well as state- and metropolitan area-level data.

In addition to the full report, the findings of the study can be explored at a new interactive website. Here are a few of the key findings:

Christians are declining, both as a share of the U.S. population and in total number. In 2007, 78.4% of U.S. adults identified with Christian groups, such as Protestants, Catholics, Mormons and others; seven years later, that percentage has fallen to 70.6%. Accounting for overall population growth in that period, that means there are roughly 173 million Christian adults in the U.S. today, down from about 178 million in 2007.

Within Christianity, the biggest declines have been in the mainline Protestant tradition and among Catholics

The decline of Christians in the U.S. has corresponded with the continued rise in the share of Americans with no religious affiliation…People who self-identify as atheists or agnostics (about 7% of all U.S. adults), as well as those who say their religion is “nothing in particular,” now account for a combined 22.8% of U.S. adults – up from 16.1% in 2007…

There are clear differences between certain demographic groups when it comes to religious affiliation

The share of Americans who identify with non-Christian faiths, such as Islam and Hinduism, has grown modestly

You’ll find the whole report online over here. An interesting read especially if you find philosophy, personal and sociological, of interest. As I do.

Yes, we’re still about a half-century or more behind the rest of the industrial West when it comes to re-examining the beliefs we inherit from our less-educated forebears. Not much we can do about it except continue to encourage education. Folks can come to progressive conclusions on their own; but, it does help to have an extended opportunity to see what the whole world is learning and talking about. Ain’t many folks getting that from cable TV or this year’s hot social media.

Stephen Colbert and friends fund projects for teachers across South Carolina


Click to visit donorschoose.org

Teachers across Spartanburg County were shocked to learn their online education grants had been funded Thursday morning by a partnership including South Carolina native Stephen Colbert.

Colbert, a comedian and television personality, announced that he partnered with the nonprofit group Share Fair Nation, and Greenville-based ScanSource to fund every classroom project in the state on DonorsChoose.org, a website that lets teachers crowd fund classroom projects by requesting the necessary materials from donors.

Together, the three contributions will give $800,000 to fund nearly 1,000 projects for more than 800 teachers at 375 schools across the state…

Turner Fortner, a kindergarten teacher at Oakland Elementary School, said her request asked for school supplies for the students who will be in her class next year. She was surprised her request was funded, but was especially shocked by the source of the money. “I was like, are my eyes playing tricks on me,” she said. “I’m so thankful for what he (Colbert) did for teachers across South Carolina. More than anything, I’m thankful for what he did for my students for next year.”

And that, my friends, is how the best of teachers always think. What can we do to make education better, make it work for these kids?

Hat tip to Stephen Colbert.

Kids with ADHD actually have to squirm to learn

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New research shows that if you want ADHD kids to learn, you have to let them squirm. The foot-tapping, leg-swinging and chair-scooting movements of children with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder are actually vital to how they remember information and work out complex cognitive tasks…

…New research conducted at UCF shows that if you want ADHD kids to learn, you have to let them squirm. The foot-tapping, leg-swinging and chair-scooting movements of children with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder are actually vital to how they remember information and work out complex cognitive tasks…

The findings show the longtime prevailing methods for helping children with ADHD may be misguided…

The research has major implications for how parents and teachers should deal with ADHD kids, particularly with the increasing weight given to students’ performance on standardized testing. The study suggests that a majority of students with ADHD could perform better on classroom work, tests and homework if they’re sitting on activity balls or exercise bikes, for instance.

The study at the UCF clinic included 52 boys ages 8 to 12. Twenty-nine of the children had been diagnosed with ADHD and the other 23 had no clinical disorders and showed normal development…

“What we’ve found is that when they’re moving the most, the majority of them perform better,” Rapport said. “They have to move to maintain alertness.”

By contrast, the children in the study without ADHD also moved more during the cognitive tests, but it had the opposite effect: They performed worse.

Now, broader, larger studies will be needed to verify and reproduce these results. Lots of emotional baggage stuck into existing conclusions.

NM kids are eating healthier, less obese

Child obesity rates in New Mexico continued a multiyear decline in 2014, but have remained stubbornly high among Native Americans and Hispanics, the state Department of Health reported.

Health officials cheered the report, which shows that the obesity rate for New Mexico third-grade students declined for the fifth consecutive year in 2014.

Patty Morris, project director, and others credit the decrease to a growing awareness of the serious consequences of childhood obesity and measures by school districts and government agencies to provide healthier meals and more physical activity for young children…

In just the past few years, salad bars have become commonplace in elementary schools, she said.

“They have mini salad bars for little kids,” said Rita Condon, program manager for Healthy Kids New Mexico. “They’re just the right size. They use them and they love them…”

Kindergartners showed a four-year decline in obesity, from 15 percent in 2011 to 11.6 percent in 2014…

Obesity rates among Native American third graders in New Mexico remain a challenge, but have shown some improvement.

About one in three Native American third-grade students is overweight or obese, the Department of Health report said.

The obesity rate for third-grade Native Americans edged down from 36.6 percent in 2010 to 32.6 percent in 2014.

Among Hispanics, just more than one in five third graders is obese – a figure that has varied only slightly since 2010.

For Anglo third-graders, the obesity rate has declined from 17.8 percent in 2010 to 10 percent in 2014…

Obesity is common, serious and costly, affecting more than a third of U.S. adults, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Obesity-related conditions include heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and certain types of cancer…

And obese children were likely to remain that way as adults…

Officials say they are addressing the problem by offering training programs to school and preschool personnel throughout the state to encourage healthier meals that comply with new U.S. Department of Agriculture standards.

School districts around the state have proven eager to adopt the new standards…

All of which is good news.

We know for a fact that children across the country adapt to healthier school food programs. As much as purveyors of mediocre food campaigned for no positive changes, enlisting backwards parents and groups to support their profit structure – those campaigns have failed in states with the sense to move forward.

Kids respond – and they respond by developing new positive habits they bring home to their extended families.

Cultural differences remain and those reflect more complexity than this article offers. We had a breakfast discussion about this article, this morning, and while each of us had anecdotal experiences that both confirmed and denied cultural averages, nothing easy presented itself as a more complete solution.

What state education authorities have begun is a great step forward and should be applauded. It’s taken enough time to get this far.

Michele Bachmann inspired Factcheck.org to discredit lies about science

Four years ago, Michele Bachmann slammed Rick Perry—then the governor of Texas—for his executive order mandating HPV vaccinations. “I’m a mom of three children,” Bachmann said during a GOP presidential debate. “And to have innocent little 12-year-old girls be forced to have a government injection through an executive order is just flat out wrong.”

Bachmann, who at the time was a Republican congresswoman from Minnesota, expanded on her allegations the next day. “I will tell you that I had a mother last night come up to me here in Tampa, Fla., after the debate,” she said on the Today show. “She told me that her little daughter took that vaccine, that injection, and she suffered from mental retardation thereafter. It can have very dangerous side effects.”

Bachmann’s suggestion that the HPV vaccine is dangerous was completely false. “There is absolutely no scientific validity to this statement,” explained the American Academy of Pediatrics…

Enter Kathleen Hall Jamieson, the director of the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania, which operates the nonpartisan Factcheck.org. Founded in 2003, Factcheck was one of the first websites devoted to refuting misleading assertions about US politics. Last month, Factcheck launched Scicheck, a new project that evaluates the scientific claims made by politicians. In just a few weeks, Scicheck has countered inaccurate statements about issues ranging from climate change to the economic impact of the Human Genome Project.

On this weeks’ episode of the Inquiring Minds podcast, I asked Jamieson what inspired her organization to focus on scientific issues. She credits Bachmann.

“When Michele Bachmann in the last election made an allegation about the effects of…a vaccine, in public space on national television…the journalists in the real context didn’t know how to respond to the statement as clearly as they ought to,” explains Jamieson. “The time to contextualize is immediately. That should have been shot down immediately…”

That just may be counting on the ignorant to counter the stupid.

But Jamieson is keenly aware that it isn’t enough to simply rebut inaccurate claims in real time. One of the key challenges facing science communication is that voters frequently get their news from highly ideological media outlets that sometimes misrepresent the scientific consensus on controversial issues. This has contributed to substantial gaps between what the general public thinks and what scientists think on a wide range of issues, from evolution to the safety of genetically modified foods.

I love showing crap statements from idjits like Bachmann to friends and family who are Recovering Republicans. Just to remind them why they left the Party.

Yes, I can remember when educated conservatives had a role and a voice in both of the two parties we’re allowed. That’s because I’m very old cranky geek.

Yup – education is SO important

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What if there was an election and no one showed up to vote – not even the candidates themselves?…That’s precisely what happened in the recent Hagerman, New Mexico, school board election…Three candidates ran unopposed: None received a single vote, not even their own.

It was a lack of opposition and not a lack of interest in education that kept the town’s 1,034 eligible voters away from the polls, said Superintendent Ricky Williams, who supervises the three-school district of fewer than 500 students.

The fact that the candidates were unopposed – and that the election was held in Roswell 26 miles away – may have had something to do with it, he said. Polling stations were not open in the southeast New Mexico community, a decision made by Chaves County…

None of the candidates for three open seats on the five-member school board was an incumbent, so each candidate needed at least one vote to be elected…

Cindy Fuller, Bureau of Elections chief for Chaves County, said that with no contested positions, no write-in candidates and no questions or bonds on the ballot, state statute permits the clerk’s office to handle the election. There were voting convenience stations in Roswell, she said, but not Hagerman.

That turned out to be not convenient enough

BTW, in the population center of the state, Albuquerque, less than 2.6 percent of voters showed up to vote for Albuquerque Public Schools and Central New Mexico Community College board elections. Of 297,291 eligible voters, only 7,668 cast ballots.