Mickey mouse new survey course in Texas science standards
Ed's article concerns a new mickey mouse elective survey course -- Earth and Space Science -- in the proposed new Texas high school science standards. The course description is full of pseudoscientific jargon and breathtakingly inane philosophies of science. Most of the material is covered in the new 6th-8th grade Texas science standards and/or in the high-school standards for other courses. Stupid Steven Schafersman was on the standards-drafting committee for the course -- here is his description of the course:
Our new Texas ESS course is innovative and pathbreaking, and I seriously believe it will serve as a national model for ES and ESS courses in the future. The standards we wrote compare favorably to the new ES Literacy Initiative standards; we anticipated many important topics and concerns. The course standards are composed of three traditional themes and three very non-traditional strands. The three themes (or topical sections) are Earth in Space and Time, Solid Earth, and Fluid Earth. The first contains the most important information about cosmology and planetary astronomy in addition to traditional historical geological topics. It emphasizes geological time, stellar system and planet formation, the origin of the Earth's atmosphere and ocean, and fossil life. The second deals with plate tectonics, internal heat transfer, Earth structure, continent formation, geophysics, mountain building, volcanism, erosion and mass wasting, mineral resources, fossil fuels, etc. The third section discusses the movement of heat and fluids in Earth's atmosphere and hydrosphere, sea-level changes, the origin of life as a result of chemical processes and geochemical cycles, solar radiation, various chemical cycles, groundwater, and climate.
The innovative part of the course are the three strands: systems, energy, and relevance. We tried to incorporate these strands in every student expectation and at least in every knowledge and skill requirement. The course uses a system concept which shows the interactions among Earth's subsystems and can be modeled. Energy formation, movement, transfer, and effect as Earth process driving forces are emphasized throughout. Finally, every topic required was judged for its relevance to student lives. If a topic was not very relevant, it was omitted. Believe it or not, we actually left out about a third of traditional physical and historical geological topics, almost all of meteorology, much of non-planetary astronomy, and much of physical and biological oceanography. Some critics said the course was too long, but actually it could have been twice as long if we left in all the traditional topics. Also, our standards are longer than other high school courses because we were more specific in listing topics rather than lumping many of them under simple headings. We decided to create a course that looked at fewer topics in depth rather than many topics superficially. Left out are rocks and minerals, desert processes, most erosion and weathering processes, different types of volcanic and plutonic bodies, a detailed survey of the geologic periods, almost everything dealing with weather, all discussion about galaxies and types of stars, and large parts of oceanography. Instead, we included a great deal about climate and climate change, Earth's geologic hazards, energy resources, geophysics, geologic time, origin of planets, the Moon, smaller planetary bodies, the history and chemistry of Earth's water and elements in the oceans and atmosphere, stratigraphy, sedimentary basins, fossil fuels, and the origin and evolution of ancient life. We wanted to keep as many relevant, exciting, and thought-provoking topics as possible to attract and interest students, and we left out much about topics that some students find to be uninteresting. We also emphasized the use of space imagery and modern instruments such as GPS, personal computers, and the Internet.
I think this course will be something special: a course that many students will want to take as an elective (since the former Texas Earth Science Task Force couldn't get an ES course accepted as required credit). Many students will want to take this course in their senior year, and even students going on in science who are taking an AP course their senior year may want to take ESS as a fifth science course in high school, simply because it will be exciting and relevant. This is a course I think Texas Earth scientists can be proud of, especially geologists (meteorologists probably won't like it, but climatologists will love it!).
Now Schafersman is complaining that two "young-earth creationists" on the ten-person ESS committee sent secret minority reports to the state board of education. IMO the best thing that could happen to the ESS standards would be to have "strengths and weaknesses" -- or better yet, "strengths and criticisms" -- language added to it.
Labels: Texas controversy (new #1)