Category: Education

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

Dont-care

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.

We need a baloney detection kit

Test all the crap stuck into the brains of fear-driven culture — about sex, GMO food, climate change, sex, vaccination, sex, mandatory education. Everything loonies on the Left or Right want to runaway and hide from – and stop anyone else from examining or using.

All anti-science. Even though science enabled our species getting to where we are – from our cave-dwelling days and nights.

Well, from primitive agriculture forward. I can imagine the Shaman’s Association condemning the wheel as endangering future generations.

Law proposed to allow Texas teachers to use deadly force against students

Teachers would be able to use deadly force against students, and would be safe from prosecution, under legislation filed last week in the Texas state House.

The Teacher’s Protection Act by Rep. Dan Flynn, R-Van, would allow educators to use force or deadly force if they feel they need to protect themselves against a student or anyone else on school grounds. It also allows teachers to use deadly force to protect school property, and to avoid prosecution “for injury or death that results from the educator’s use of deadly force…”

Monty Exter, lobbyist with the state’s largest educator group, said the Association of Texas Professional Educators believes these policies should be determined at the local level. Currently, Texas law allows educators who use reasonable force against a student to be immune from disciplinary proceedings. Flynn’s additional would doubly protect teachers, since the law also states the “use of force, but not deadly force, against a (student) is justified.”

Exter added the ATPE’s legal team doesn’t believe Flynn’s legislation adds any additional protections for teachers that don’t already exist for every Texan claiming self-defense: “We understand he’s trying to carve out some liability protections. But, we can’t see that the liability protection in that particular bill is any different than the protection that exists in law for a regular citizen.”

“Educators in Texas actually do have some legal protections that do allow them to use physical force to protect themselves and protect others, as long as the use of physical force is reasonable,” said ATPE managing attorney Paul Tapp.

Being allowed to kill your fellow Texans, visitors and passersby for pretty much any reason is a long-standing Texas tradition. You need only make a convincing case to a judge who probably was elected on a platform pre-approved by the NRA. Shucks – his grand-daddy likely couldn’t figure out what all the fuss was about the occasional lynching.

Most scientists agree – Americans don’t know much about science


Sandra Cunningham/Shutterstock

Americans’ purported cluelessness about science has led to wide gaps in how the general public views the world compared to how scientists perceive it, according to a new study released…by the Pew Research Center.

Some 98 percent of scientists polled rated the general public’s lack of science knowledge as a problem, with 84 percent of them calling it a major issue.

One result: Regulations on land use, the environment and food safety aren’t generally influenced by the best science, according to a recent poll of 3,748 scientists conducted by the Pew Research Center in cooperation with the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

The spread between what scientists think and what the general public thinks about a dozen science-related issues varied, but there were some noticeable gaps…

There was a 51 percentage point difference in views about whether genetically modified food is safe to eat. Some 88 percent of scientists were for it while less than 40 percent of the public agreed.

Sixty-eight percent of scientists think it’s safe to eat foods grown with pesticides compared with 28 percent of the public.

Almost all of the scientists believe in evolution. Just 65 percent of the general public feels the same way, according to Pew polling…

There was one notable — if sad — area on which everyone polled appears to agree: Americans need to improve the science, math and technology education available to students across the country.

Historically, we have a consistent if backwards track record on improving any aspects of education. If there is potential benefit to our war machine – we’re all for it. Go America! Rah, rah.

Though a lesser influence, reflect upon our teacher’s unions which have adopted the sort of protectionist policies characteristic of AFL craft unions. Treating schoolteachers – and teaching – like plumbers with city contracts is not my idea of building useful education, a nation of bright young kids stepping out of school to create a positive, progressive world.

Worse than that – is the tradition that we seem to have acquired in the late 1950’s that moved the core responsibility of school systems to keeping our little darlings safe from hurt feelings – at the expense of standards of learning. And how to learn.

Nope. The creeps at the top of our economic pyramid would like a small improvement in meat machines capable of a slightly higher level of technical performance – where they can’t be replaced by a robot on the assembly line. That’s all, folks.

Head Start Program really does help obese kids

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Head Start preschool programs had a positive effect on the body mass index (BMI) for obese and overweight children over the course of an academic year. Both obese and overweight children who participated in Head Start saw a greater decline in BMI z score during their first academic year than their counterparts in comparison groups, according to a new study to be published in the February issue of Pediatrics…

Julie Lumeng said that Head Start is a valuable intervention for clinicians concerned about the health and well-being of their low-income patients. “Practically speaking, if you’re a pediatrician or family medicine doctor who’s working with children and you’re concerned about their weight, if those children are low-income, meaning they would be eligible for the Head Start preschool program, just suggesting to the parent that they sign them up for Head Start might actually help them achieve a healthier weight,” she concluded…

The study may also have implications for the overall population health of children. “By looking at adopting not just developmental and educational policies, but also implementing strategies or evidence around food or playtime, it proves there’s a benefit to this when you compare it to fairly similar populations,” said Stephen Cook, MD, MPH…at the University of Rochester Medical Center in New York…

One of the most important limitations of the study may be the study design, which Lumeng calls “second best” compared with a randomized, controlled trial. However, she says a randomized controlled trial would be extremely unethical for this particular population. “You couldn’t enroll a family in a study and say ‘Well, I’m going to flip a coin basically and decide if your child’s going to get preschool or not’ when they’re living in poverty,” said Lumeng…

Cook sees this study as a jumping off point for further data collection, possibly involving Head Start providers, as well as the siblings and parents of the children involved. He hypothesized there might be a “halo effect” with kids’ healthier eating habits and greater physical activity having a positive impact on the adults in their lives.

Head Start is a federally funded preschool program that is free to 3- to 5-year-old US children living in poverty. Head Start program regulations mandate nutritional and health services, adequate time and space for active play, and parental involvement.

Republicans hate it.