A Happy Marriage Between Magic and Science

Occasionally, something interesting happens in an eastern city that is not NYC. Very occasionally. But I caught wind of a new scheme thought up by the curators at Harvard’s Natural History Museum to capitalize on Harry Potter mania and to teach kids about the natural world. The Harry Potter Scavenger Hunt is a clever way to [...]

Let’s see what we can do with this internet

What do you write on the Critical Thinking chalkboard?

Driving back from the debate on Friday, Steve and I got into talking about critical thinking.  I don’t remember how it happened.  Talk about the debate moved to discussing what I wished I’d been able to say in the debate, to “here’s what I think skeptics believe [...]

I want to get involved in this education question!

Is it okay if I keep writing for the Gotham Skeptic, even if I can't find a picture of me in one of these hats?

A couple weeks back, there was a flurry on this blog about education and the degrees gained in the annals of higher learning.  I wrote something about testing, Lisa and Page each wrote articles about confident people with degrees and then why that didn’t in fact make getting a degree unimportant, we had commentators on either side, it was all very fun to be a fly on the wall for.  I think one of the reasons this particular debate hit hard was because as skeptics, we have a bit of a divide between the professionally academic and those of us with… non-traditional education.  It is reflected clearly in our skeptical super-stars.  On the one hand, we have guys like Phil Plait and doubly doctoral Massimo Pigliucci (is he actually at three now?).  On the other hand, we adore Adam Savage and have practically nominated James Randi for skeptical sainthood.

There has been some sniping coming from both sides.   Randi has at times stated a certain disdain for those classically trained.  I get the impression that he was told to get out of the field a few times and this is his “FU” back.  That could just be me.  I’m a writer who specializes in drama and I like trying to deduce motivations.  On the other end, often I will listen to those from Academia and it can sound like I’m being told that those without degrees should automatically conform to the beliefs of those that do.  I am not the only one who has felt this way, I still distinctly remember a year ago at our first SkepticampNYC the question of a man who saw himself as a working-class skeptic who felt he was being kept out of the conversation (go to about two and a half minutes into the video from Skepticamp to be reminded of the question). … continue reading this entry.

Teaching the Controversy: Let’s not and say we didn’t

You say sniffing this kills brain cells, but I say it smells terrific. Let's teach kids the controversy!

Our old friends, the creationists, appear to no longer be content to spread their sadly not so unique garbage around just our country any longer.  Recently a new “educational” attraction in Bristol England was awarded a “quality badge” by the British Council for Learning Outside the Classroom.  The attraction’s name?  “Noah’s Ark Zoo.”  Of course, we shouldn’t just assume that they’re religious because a) The Guardian says so or b) the name.  So let’s take a look at their website where they talk all about how Noah’s Ark Zoo is a working farm.  Oh what’s this?  A section on their website devoted to “Evolution & Creation.”  Hmmmm… … continue reading this entry.

The Oz Fallacy Fallacy

Lisa earning multiple "educations"

A few weeks back I posted an article in which I described observations I had made regarding the attitudes of undergraduate students towards their education. Page later posted a follow up in response to some of the comments the article had received. I too noted an apparent misunderstanding of what I was proposing in the comment content, and offer the following; The Oz Fallacy Fallacy; the perception that my article on the Oz Fallacy was a suggestion that an education is a valueless or futile exercise.

My original intent was to express my concern that people were confusing the aim of higher education to be the acquisition of a degree. Yes, many probably do hope to earn a degree. I myself have collected a few thus far, and I am nowhere near ‘done’. But the aim of higher education is the acquisition of an education; a degree merely symbolically represents that some standard level of an education has been achieved. … continue reading this entry.

A new online resource for science… well, actually Nature

The Nature Publishing Group has a new online initiative called SCITABLE. Trying not to hold the name against them, I checked out the bells and whistles of the site. Their mission is that:

SCITABLE brings together a library of scientific overviews with a worldwide community of scientists, researchers, teachers, and students. Use SCITABLE  to:

  • Learn about a range of scientific subjects
  • Collaborate online with other students and teachers
  • Publish your activities and portfolio to the worldwide science community … continue reading this entry.

The Fallacy of Oz

The Scarecrow, Doctor of Thinkology

In the Wizard of Oz, Dorothy, the scarecrow, the lion and the tin man all seek something of particular value and importance from the wizard. Dorothy wishes to go home, the tin man wishes for a heart, the lion wants to be courageous and the scarecrow would like to have a brain. In the end, [and for those who haven't seen this iconic film, spoiler alert] the wizard “grants” these requests. However, in a rather dissatisfying fashion, he bestows upon everyone but Dorothy mere symbols of the virtues they desire. … continue reading this entry.

Standardized Testing: Key to a Dumber Tomorrow

Kaplan: Profiting off a broken educational system since 1938.

Recently, I’ve realized that if I want to have a real career, I need to go back to school.  And that means I get the delightful opportunity to take the GRE.  Oh hosanna of hosannas.  Now, there’s something I need to make really clear here, right off the bat.  I’m good at standardized tests.  Back in the day when I was getting ready for the SAT, I started out with a good score on the practice tests and wound up knocking it out of the park.  NYS Regents tests, SAT2s, the works, I score well on tests.  But that doesn’t make me smart.  And it’s no indication of my intelligence.  It’s an indication of one thing and one thing only: I know how to prepare for and take standardized tests.  And the fact that if I get a good score on one of these tests it may have any bearing on whether I get into school over someone else who may in fact be a better candidate, if only that person had my aptitude for test taking, is a travesty to our educational system. … continue reading this entry.

Science-Based Veterinary Medicine?

Science-based medicine is a familiar term to most skeptics. It is an approach to medicine and medical research that can only improve our health care system. But lately the science-based focus has broadened to other disciplines. At skeptical events I’ve met dentists that are pushing for more science-based practices, and today I stumbled across a nice [...]

NYCS Public Lecture Series Presents: Beth Fertig

bethfertigJoin as  Saturday at this free event with Beth Fertig who will discuss her experiences as WNYC’s education reporter and her recent book, Why cant you teach me 2 read? Education is a fundamental priority if skeptics desire increased critical thinking skills for our children and our nation’s population in general. But the politics of education frequently seems to get in the way of education itself. Fertig will discuss New York City’s attempt to use data to track student achievement, and to measure school performance through “progress reports” using an A-F grading system. Fertig’s exposure of the city’s “rubber rooms,” where teachers facing disciplinary action are left to languish, have been instrumental in getting the city to reassess the system for processing these teachers and getting them back to work or out the door faster and more efficiently. … continue reading this entry.

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