Thursday, August 08, 2013

KY education officials respond to my criticism of science standards with obfuscation

The Kentucky Department of Education has released its Statement of Consideration on the Kentucky's science standards. Once again, the defenders of the standards are obfuscating the issue.

I had argued in an op-ed in the Lexington Herald-Leader that there was an inordinate emphasis on climate science in the standards. As objective documentation of this I cataloged the number of words devoted to different topics in the standards and found climate science to dwarf any other single issue, and that, in fact, it dwarfed numerous other scientific issues when these issues were combined.

I made no comment about whether global warming was real or man-made. What was the response? The response was to argue that global warming was real and man-made.

Yo. Any intelligent life out there?

In other words, the defenders of the standards either can't make a basic distinction between these two issues, or they are intentionally confusing the issue. In other words, either we have people who are incapable of thinking very well in charge of the state's education standards, or we have people who are putting politics in front of science in charge of them.

In either case, it is hard to have confidence in this process with a dialogue like this.

In fact, no one has yet responded to my argument, so busy are they responding to arguments I never made. I'm getting the sneaking suspicion that the reason is that they can't.

The response of Daniel Phelps, President of the Kentucky Paleontological Society, in the Herald-Leader was plagued by a serious confusion about the difference between scientific issues and policy issues. But more to the present point, he employs the red herring defense too: he spends his time arguing about whether global warming is real rather than whether we need to be spending time on that one issue when there are so many others needed to education children in science.

Joseph Straley, the Provost's Distinguished Service Professor in physics and astronomy at the University of Kentucky, also responded to my article. He may be an example of distinction, but is unable, apparently to make one. He too tries to make this into a debate over global warming, when, in fact, it has nothing to do with whether the earth is warming or not.

It's as if someone said, "I think we're giving too much space to the topic of magnetism" and someone said, in response, "I disagree. I believe there are things that there are certain materials that attract or repel each other."

It's at this point you just have conclude that these people just don't have any fruit at the bottom of their scientific yogurt.

Then there is Richard Day, who responded by questioning my method of determining the emphasis in the standards, which employed the revolutionary technique of a) actually reading the document and b) counting the actual number of words having to do with certain issues. Day questioned this technique. I'm sure he had an alternative one consonant with the level of intellectual rigor that predominates in departments of education these days, possibly crystal healing or biofeedback or polarity therapy or perhaps some equally scientific fixture of the pop psychology that seems to predominate in his profession.

But he never offered an alternative method, so it's hard to tell.

He also repeated a false charge that I was looking at the wrong document and, as far as I can tell, never offered a correction.

This is the level of discourse we are having to contend with here--and all from people who champion rigorous thinking.

It's a shame.


Art said...

It's amusing to see that someone whose own school teaches that the earth is 6000 years old could think that he is capable of informed commentary when it comes to science education. At any level.

Martin Cothran said...


This is my personal blog, not The Family Foundation's blog. If you can't make a distinction between a person's own viewpoint and the official position of an entity he works for, then I don't know what to tell you.

And I have no idea what you are talking about by saying "this site doesn't load properly."

Martin Cothran said...


I have asked you repeatedly to document your contention that my "own school" (which is not my own school) "teaches that the earth is 6,000 years old" and you conveniently disappear every time I ask it.

Man up and document your claim.

Singring said...

'This is my personal blog, not The Family Foundation's blog. If you can't make a distinction between a person's own viewpoint and the official position of an entity he works for, then I don't know what to tell you.'

And yet you wrote your cutting 'analysis' of the new science standards in your official capacity for the Family Foundation. Remember that 'manifesto' press release?

But then, when people look at what that organization espouses and what you have said in the past about climate change, then you suddenly throw up your arms and say: 'I'm not commenting on science. Where are people getting this? I never intended to say that I object to the scientific validity of climate change, I'm just concerned about emphasis!'

Come on...stop playing these semantic games. At least AiG and Creation Science etc. have the guts to come out and say what they really want to achieve.

You seem to have taken your plays from the ID folks - obfuscate and deny. At least have the intellectual honesty to come out and admit it.

Art said...

Martin, does you school use A Beka materials for science class? If not, what were they replaced with? A few titles will confirm my assertion. (Of course, it is almost certain that these titles will not be stated on this board, for obvious reasons.)

Anonymous said...

Singring, Martin is using a legal strategy in case an intelligent design law ever ends up in the courts. Unfortunately, he reallly can't hide his own organization's efforts. Internet wayback machines can document web pages espousing creationism by the FF.

Anonymous said...

Only part of the text appears on the present incantation of this link. Using the wayback machine documents previous versions that have links to the overtly creationist FF statements.

Singring said...


Thanks for digging these up. They make for fascinating reading.

This one in particular illustrates the bare-faced Creationism espoused by the FF:

This document makes patently false statements about evolutionary science - I think the FF could really use some science advisors.

But maybe it is their full intent to lie to parents in order to push their fundamentalist agenda?

Here are two examples:

'Evolution states:

2. All life randomly evolved from basic cells into every living organism seen today.'

Evolution is not a random process and if the FF doesn't know this, it illustrates quite starkly why science education needs to be dramatically improved in Kentucky. This is so basic I must assume it's an intentional lie.

'3. Human’s ancestors were the lower primates: apes or gorillas.'

Completely, utterly false. Embarassingly so.

Judging by the years mentioned in the text (2011/2012), I assume that this is recent material.

And yet Martin wonders why people reference this Creationist nonsense when he starts pontificating about science education on behalf of the FF...

Martin Cothran said...


So you're accusing me of hiding something?

Richard Day said...


Why did my name get brought back into this? We already settled this.

In truth, I had suggested the alternative method of conducting a text analysis - the same method that you erroneously told your readers you had done. (Here: If you HAD done a text analysis, then perhaps, your conclusions might have carried some weight.

As it happened, you drew wildly inappropriate conclusions about some non-existent manifesto from a simple word count method; you published them in the newspaper; I suggested that a full text analysis would have been better; you later admitted that your word count method was not definitive, and that your conclusions could be all wrong; and now you are defending this inadequate method all over again.

Now that I think of it, I would also suggest that you consider a head soaking methodology.



KY Teacher said...

You assert that KDE avoided answering your question, yet their Statement of Consideration contained this:

Some comments specifically objected to a perceived overemphasis on climate science, based on the number of standards addressing climate change as opposed to other areas of science. The agency suspects that these comments were based upon a simple word search of the science standards, rather than a count of actual performance expectations (standards). Words such as “global”, “warming”, and “climate” may appear in the standards in isolated uses that are not related to the concept of climate change. The agency has also determined that there may be a misperception that every standard addressing weather or climate is related to climate change. The study of weather, and the factors influencing weather, has been included in science standards for many years, predating the present study of climate change. The agency has determined that comments asserting a heavy weighting toward climate science, to the exclusion of other disciplines, are not supported by a careful examination of the standards themselves. (emphasis added)

That sure looks like a response to me.

Singring said...

'That sure looks like a response to me.'

KYTeacher, cut Martin some slack.

Remember that he doesn't actually read texts. He does word searches.

So he was bound to miss this.