Thursday, May 5, 2005

The Inherent American Design Flaw

The Inherent American Design Flaw
For Educating Youth In
Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics.
by: Jane Crayton
May 5, 2005

Educational Public Outreach is a new way for industry and groups get involved in the education of our youth. It is important for all kinds of industry to participate in educating students for future employment needs, as well as preparing them to be productive citizens. Yet in the technologically advanced world we live in, America is leading the industrialized nations as the least educated in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. This is a deeply rooted cultural problem, and we need to address this situation before it spirals out of control. We are not just fi ghting a battle between creationism and evolution in our schools, it is a battle
of religion versus scientifi c method, a battle of gender rolls, and social stigmas. American students are falling behind in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) because it is inherent in our society in our belief system to be negative towards change and the pursuit of knowledge. What do American Students understand about STEM and is there a problem? Are we teaching our youth enough in STEM to make them competitive in the future? The answer is no, and the reason is a combination of compelling circumstances and social systems entangled with government infrastructure that have hindered STEM education and development for centuries.

Motivated by A Nation at Risk in 1983, systematic research in science education has confirmed that, despite well-intentioned efforts of interested scientists and dedicated teachers, too many students leave the US educational system with fundamental misconceptions of key scientific concepts. (Of- ferdahl, Prather, Slater)

Why are we not teaching our children enough about Natural Sciences? What social attitudes exist about these subjects. How can we change the social stigmas and stereotypes that exist about STEM? What happens if we don't? These questions are fundamental for us to understand how to better communicate basic STEM education into our modern youth.

Eighty-two percent of our nation's twelfth graders performed below the proficient level on the 2000 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) science test. The longer students stay in the current system the worse they do. According to the 1995 Third International Mathematics and Science Study, U.S. fourth graders ranked second. By twelfth grade, they fell to 16th, behind nearly every industrialized rival and ahead of only Cyprus and South Africa. (US Department of Education)

Although this is not a disease is still is an epidemic of mass proportions, Even president Bush considered a member in the Religious Right Movement can't ignore that his country's children are behind in STEM. This lack of science education is a deep rooted debate, which has resulted in the dumbing down of millions of American children, especially girls. Educational Public Outreach is now going to serve as an important roll for the scientific community because we have to serve as the translators of this critical topic that encompasses several different social dilemmas.

Research indicates that the greatest gains in learning and attitudes toward science result from
instructional environments that engage students by taking into account the needs of learners, in particular, their pre-instructional beliefs and reasoning difficulties. (Offerdahl, Prather, Slater)

Beliefs? How do beliefs play a role in the education of science? Well they have always played a roll in the education of science, because science is almost seen a direct competitor to religion. Understanding our universe and the creation of it, is somehow seen as diminishing the authority of beliefs and religious creationism, and this is the first hurdle that must be knocked down. Simply belief and theory are two different things, one can understand theory, yet still have beliefs.

Evolution and gravitation are fundamental scientific theories. The American public has no problem accepting the theory of gravitation, a.k.a, gravity, but the theory of evolution is widely attacked. (DeVore)

Even more amazing is that the theory of gravity is as understood and widely accepted yet the theory of evolution is not. In fact gravity, we know it exists, we know how it acts, but it is still not a fully understood force of nature. We do not fully understand the properties of gravity at the subatomic level. Just as we have not fully developed a map guiding us through the exact phases of evolution of human beings, or of our solar system, and even our universe. And it is very unlikely that we ever will, I wonder what the probability of that is?

What's important here is that we are thinking and we are figuring out what is happening in the world around us. We are using our inductive and deductive scientific methods to help us generate the bigger picture and greater understanding of the natural laws of physics. But these methods are only considered theories and the term theory can imply a lot of different meanings especially in the eyes of the American Public. What is it about the word “theory” that has got so many people questioning it? Maybe it's the fact that there are currently six
defi nitions for the word in the American Heritage Dictionary.

The·o·ry
1 A set of statements or principles devised to explain a group of facts or phenomena, especially one that has been repeatedly tested or is widely accepted and can be used to make predictions about natural phenomena.
2 The branch of a science or art consisting of its explanatory statements, accepted principles, and methods of analysis, as opposed to practice: a fi ne musician who had never studied theory.
3 A set of theorems that constitute a systematic view of a branch of mathematics.
4 Abstract reasoning; speculation: a decision based on experience rather than theory.
5 A belief or principle that guides action or assists comprehension or judgment: staked out the house on the theory that criminals usually return to the scene of the crime.
6 An assumption based on limited information or knowledge; a conjecture.
[Late Latin theoria, from Greek theoria, from theoros, spectator : probably thea, a viewing + -oros, seeing (from horan, to see).]

Is there a problem with The Theory of Evolution? Or simply the word “theory” and it's common understanding. Coincidentally enough this subject came up a couple of times during the question and answer phase of the presentation It's Only a Theory: American Attitudes about Evolution at the NAI conference. And although most of the scientist in the room understand the Latin meaning for the word theory, the majority of the American public views the word theory and understands it like the previous explanation from the American Heritage
Dictionary, definition number 6, “An assumption based on limited information or knowledge, a conjecture.”

So how did we get from 1“ A set of statements or principles devised to explain a group of facts or phenomena, especially one that has been repeatedly tested or is widely accepted and can be used to make predictions about natural phenomena.” And 2 “The branch of a science or art consisting of its explanatory statements, accepted principles, and methods of analysis, as opposed to practice: a fi ne musician who had never studied theory.” To 6” An assumption based on limited information or knowledge, a conjecture.”? That is a bit contradictory, wouldn't you say? But then again, The American Heritage Dictionary is just giving all known all known all explanations and meanings for the word. And they are in effect a form of media just as much as the bible or any televised NOVA program. Its no surprise that the understanding of one theory versus another theory is not any more clear than the current meaning and understanding of the word theory itself.

For astro-biologists, there may be questions about the specific events, mechanisms, and processes of evolution, but not the fundamental importance of the theory of evolution. For the anti-evolutionists, biological evolution is the central but not sole target. The origin and evolution of the universe, stars, and planetary systems including Earth are also under siege. (DeVore)

So where do we start to unravel this complex web of social stigmas, beliefs, and fears about our own existence in this great cosmological universe? How do people have faith when they learn how insignifi cant they are? How can we have something to live for, when we are just a speck of dust? I can understand these fears, and I think that they are an important part of learning how to defi ne our own meaning in life. These are questions that are not only scary for people, but they are scary for societies and for governments.

Questions that define our importance in the universe are the type of questions that governments are concerned could bring about anarchy, or disruptive, behavior according to some “theorists”. This is the kind of stereotype that can change critical thinkers into critical doers, and could define terrorist thinking in the age of the Freedom Act. Science breeds critical thinkers, and critical thinkers are people more likely to question things they don't understand, including governments and religions.

“Evolution is at the center of an American science vs. Religion debate that shows little prospect of resolution,” according to DeVore. Even today in the year 2005, public schools across America are teaching creationism instead of evolution.

HARRISBURG, PA-The American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania, Americans United for
Separation of Church and State and attorneys with Pepper Hamilton LLP filed a federal lawsuit today on behalf of 11 parents who say that presenting “intelligent design” in public school science classrooms violates their religious liberty by promoting particular religious beliefs to their children under the guise of science education. (ACLU)

This is an example of current battles happening here in America right now, This legal action was filed just 6 months ago in December of 2004 in the State of Pennsylvania. But, is this a surprise? This battle has been going since 1633 when Galileo published his Dialogue well before Darwin. This was the beginning of the war between religion and science, belief and knowledge, hope and scientifi c deduction. In his Dialogue, Galileo supported the Copernican theory of a heliocentric system, in which the earth revolved around the sun. At the time
this was quite a controversy because the Bible suggested that the sun orbited the earth, providing society the beginning of anthropocentrism.

Be·lief
1 The mental act, condition, or habit of placing trust or confi dence in another: My belief in you is as strong as ever.
2 Mental acceptance of and conviction in the truth, actuality, or validity of something: His explanation of what happened defi es belief.i
3 Something believed or accepted as true, especially a particular tenet or a body of tenets accepted by a group of persons.

[Middle English bilieve, alteration (influenced by bileven, to believe), of Old English geleafa.]
SYNONYMS belief, credence, credit, faith. These nouns denote mental acceptance of the truth,
actuality, or validity of something: a statement unworthy of belief; an idea steadily gaining cre-
dence; testimony meriting credit; has no faith in a liar's assertions. See also synonyms at opinion.

ANTONYM disbelief
When we look at the defi nitions of belief we fi nd that there is a lot more assuming and placing confidence in something, the acceptance that something is true from simple mental conviction. Is creationism more widely accepted belief over the theory of evolution. Could you say that creationism is a theory, could you say that evolution is a belief?

American attitudes toward evolution have been studied via polling and other more extensive research efforts. Analysis reveals that a minority of Americans accept the theory of evolution as a valid explanation for the origin of human beings. (DeVore)

So where is the line between creationism and evolutionism in the classroom, and how do we make sure our students and youth are getting what they need to prepare them for the future of technology and science in our modern world? How do we know what they need, and how do we measure our success or failure in teaching this difficult set of theories and accepted knowledge?

Certainly we cannot be dogmatic in our approach, or appear to be preaching a religion of “sci-
entism.” If we do, then we have no more right to a piece of the science curriculum than the religionists. (Stenger)

It is hard to accept something as truth when it may question your preconceived beliefs. That is why we have to be careful in our approach to educate our youth about science and technology. It is evident that the separation between the religious and the scientifi c communities is still at great distances. Just as we do not want to be preached or harassed about creationism, they probably view scientist as attacking their value system with the theory of evolution.

Science is not easy to understand, it is a cumulative process of information gathering and assembling throughout ones life. Evolution is a powerful tool of understanding compounded and constantly changing knowledge and it takes time to understand the process of this natural phenomena we are a part of. And it takes a person a certain amount of inherited knowledge from their environment, learned behavior and educational instruction which helps defi ne the persons ability to understand and learn the complexities of the natural sciences.

In the beginning was nature. The background from which and against which our ideas of God
were formed, nature remains the supreme moral problem. (Paglia) In the beginning humans needed a reason, an explanation for natural phenomena, disaster and disease. They needed a reason to keep going, they needed a reason as to why such doom should come their way. The
explanation they created became a system of beliefs in deities and gods. These beliefs transformed into a belief that we are important and eventually the anthropocentrism belief systems were well and thriving. These religions have transformed and recreated themselves over time trying to explain and reclaim the desired knowledge of creation and the natural sciences.

Astrobiology affords new understandings of life on earth and the possibility of life beyond earth. These new understandings raise profound implications for humanity. It is important that these implications be explored rigorously. (Olien, Impey, Poss, Slater, Woolf)
When we start to look at science and break down our existence, we become simply a living being, an organism on a world, in a solar system, within a galaxy, residing in a universe. When a person starts to breakdown the physical and societal norms they can begin to accept themselves as simply human. “I gain self esteem because I realize I am a human, and as capable as any other human.”

I am also conscious and an intelligent being. It is very enlightening to understand your own consciousness within this great universe. Especially when you understand how unlikely you were to exist anyway, and then to exist and to have consciousness, would be quite rare. I think the Drake equation considers consciousness to factor with the intelligent section. How conscious do we have to be to be intelligent and vice versa.

When one realizes that they are just an organism and a realization that there are only slight differences between the sexes, and even other organism all together we become simply creatures of existence. The female can now transcend to equality, and now we are broken down into our simplest forms “beings”.

“If the bringing of women - half the human race - into the center of historical inquiry poses a formidable challenge to historical scholarship, it also offers sustaining energy and a source of strength.”
(Lerner)

Women have a lot to offer in the way of equal knowledge and skill, even more they are half the human race as Lerner points out in his statement supporting women in technology at IBM. The problem of religion and sexism is one of great complexity, one that deals in politics centuries old, social stigmas and stereotypes, nature, art and general education. A culmination societies knowledge fi ltered into a system of selected knowledge, ready to distribute evenly and lightly upon fresh open minds. Even more alarming is the thought that this is happening more often through the media than educational institutions.

How do I make sure that my future daughters will be taught the importance of natural science, equally to their male counterparts? Can we effectively fi ght creationism and religion without addressing feminism and the gender rolls that society still participates in via the media and material culture? The invention of cyberfeninism and the technofeminist culture to come.

Like feminism, cyberfeminism is open to defi nition but contains gender as the common overarching element. Cyberfeminism takes feminism as its starting point, and turns its focus upon contemporary technologies, exploring the intersections between gender identity, the body, culture and technology. (Brayton)

What is empowering in their research is the understanding that the gendered stereotyping of technology as being a masculine domain and practice must necessarily fall apart, as younger women are growing up with new information technologies as part of their everyday reality. Unlike older women who grew up without computers in their lives, these young women have more easily accepted cyberspace by its everyday presence in contemporary society. (Brayton)

When religion is present, in culture, society and in the classroom; the female is seen as a sexual, motherly object. She is the Mary, Mother Teresa, even Princess Diana, and the simplicity of equality is forgotten in the language of our ancient philosophers and modern press. Yet today we see that our girls are just as interested in technology as most boys given the right opportunities. Religion casts a shadow of disgrace and indifference upon the sexes, and that can cause serious delays in the education of all students in STEM.

Religion makes the natural world signifi cant and gives us purpose and presence without proof, asking us to believe in an invisible proof of faith. Its no wonder America ended up behind in STEM because we are still trying to fi gure out the ultimate debate started centuries ago. We claim to have a separation of church and state, but we still have “In God We Trust” on our money, and thus creationism in our classrooms.

In Aguillard, the high court invalidated a Louisiana law that forbade the teaching of evolution in public school unless “creation science” was taught alongside it as an alternative. There, as in Dover, the law made no express reference to God or to any religion. Yet the Justices nonetheless found that its purpose “was to restructure the science curriculum to conform with a particular religious viewpoint.” (Dorf)

In 1987, the Supreme Court ruled in Edwards v. Aguillard, that the belief that a supernatural creator was responsible for the creation of human kind is a religious viewpoint and cannot be taught in public schools along with the scientifi c theory of evolution. (Dorf)

Why did we decide to not include religious training in our schools? Why was there a separation of church and state? Freedom or the desire to have freedom is the answer. Religious groups have always been trying to get involved in government, predictively so they can get to the people whom “need to be saved” or need to have “faith”.

Is the American Public afraid that we will loose our faith, our will, our desire to participate if we do not have religion as our guide. Will people go crazy, and have no cares if they realize the signifi cance of time? Are the scientist just using the term science as a crutch to carry out their own atheist views? Can someone believe in science and evolution and still have moral values and function in society?

In critically examining evidence for or against intelligent design to the universe, it must be understood that we are following the traditional practice of science, seeking a scientific explanation for observations about the universe that have been previously attributed to the action of supernatural deity. Believers will call us nasty names, like “atheist” and “secular humanist,” and accuse us of undermining faith and morality. (Stenger)

How can Americans play a roll in making sure that each child, male and female has equal opportunity to a full and equal education? Recently the new legislature introduced got a lot of publicity for its efforts to make sure No Child [is]No Child [is]No Child Left Behind. This legislature mandates that all students must receive a certain qualified amount of education by a certain age or grade. And the legislators were careful to include specific guidelines as
to how to research and coordinate such educational training for teachers in STEM.

As the U.S. Commission on National Security in the Twenty-First Century reports, “More Americans will have to understand and work competently with science and math on a daily basis . . . the inadequacies of our systems of research and education pose a greater threat to U.S. national security over the next quarter century than any potential conventional war that we might imagine.” (US Department of Education)

It is ironic that the lack of education can be used against us in conventional war fare and terrorism on one hand, but then on the other, critical thinking derived from scientifi c deduction is often considered a form of terrorist thinking.

No Child Left Behind requires states to fi ll the nation╩╝s classrooms with teachers who are knowledgeable and experienced in math and science by 2005. The president supports paying math and science teachers more to help attract experience and excellence. (US Department of Education)

The rights of our citizens, to be granted equal opportunity of education, no matter what gender, or eccnomic status. Nor shall the school, city or state interfere with the type of education a person receives, yet sadly it does. Educational boards across the nation are subject to local laws that also govern them. Sometimes these laws are set against the national legislation.

Our teachers are strong and our students want to learn and master this very important combination of natural science, modern technology, social and moral values. They want to lean to live with an acceptance of both belief and theory as fundamental building blocks for our society and understanding our universe. It is important for us to realize the impact of the knowledge we present to our children, and that the impact of creationism, religion, intelligent design all have in the development of our future society, today. To teach American
students the basic fundamentals of STEM will require a complete change in thinking for our society. It will require us to accept the critical thinker, to accept the feminist, accept our selves as people who can change and promote progress towards a greater knowledge and empowerment for everyone.

Works Cited
(ACLU) American Civil Liberties Union. Pennsylvania Parents File First-Ever Challenge to “Intelligent Design” Instruction in Public Schools “Intelligent Design” is Religious Argument, not Science, Say Parents. (2004) http://www.aclu.org/ReligiousLiberty/ReligiousLiberty.cfm?ID=17207&c=139 , May 1, 2005

Brayton, Jennifer. Cyberfeminism as New Theory (1997) http://www.unb.ca/web/PAR-L/win/cyberfem.
htm, May 1, 2005

DeVore, Edna. It's Only a Theory: American Attitudes about Evolution Education and Public Outreach SETI Institute, Mountain View, CA. NIA 2005 Abstract

Dorf, Michael C. Why It's Unconstitutional to Teach “Intelligent Design” in the Public Schools, as an Alternative to Evolution. Find Laws Legal Commentary, Wednesday, Dec. 22, 2004, http://writ.news.findlaw.com/dorf/20041222.html, May 1, 2005

Impey, Chris; Olien, Tom; Poss, Richard; Slater, Tim; Woolf, Nick. Astrobiology and the Sacred. Steward Observatory University of Arizona Tucson, AZ. NAI 2005 Abstracts

Lerner, Gerder. IBM Women in technology, From plugboards to petafl ops: The evolving role of women at IBM. (1982) http://www-03.ibm.com/ibm/history/witexhibit/wit_intro.html, May 1, 2005at IBM. (1982) http://www-03.ibm.com/ibm/history/witexhibit/wit_intro.html, May 1, 2005at IBM

Mifflin Houghton, The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition, (2004) Houghton Miffl in Company. http://www.answers.com/beliefs&r=67, May 1, 2005

Offerdahl, Erika G., Prather, Edward E., Slater, Timothy F.; Astrobiology╩╝s Impact on Science Education. Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biophysics University of Arizona, Tucson AZ. NAI 2005 Abstracts

Stenger, Victor J, Intelligent Design Humans, Cockroaches, and the Laws of Physics.1997; http://www. talkorigins.org/faqs/cosmo.html, May 1, 2005

US Department of Education The Facts About...Science Achievement, No Child Left Behind http://www.ed.gov/nclb/methods/science/science.html, May 1, 2005