Archived entries for education

Today is the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Challenger Shuttle disaster.

The mission designation was STS-51-L. It was to be the tenth mission for Challenger, and the twenty fifth mission the Space Shuttle Program.

It was one of the greatest failings in American space exploration, and a memory I’ll never forget.

Challenger disintegrated seventy-three seconds after liftoff. A simple seal failed, venting super-hot pressurized gas into the outside of the ship, causing the right solid rocket booster to sheer itself off from the vessel, rupturing the main external fuel tank.

Twenty-five years ago today, at roughly the time I’m writing this, seven brave men and women gave their lives in pursuit of something greater than any of us.

And as child, I watched it all happen.

I was young, very young. But I remember being in a classroom with other teachers and students, probably preschool. I remember being very excited to watch the shuttle launch. Even at that age, I understood the magic and the importance of what I was seeing. At the preschool, we watched all of the launches. It meant a disruption in the normal day’s activities, and added bonus for me.

I remember them calling all of us in. I remember the countdown. I remember the liftoff. Then I remember not understanding what had happened, and being perturbed by what happened next. One of the teachers immediately turned off the television, and ushered us all back to whatever it was we were supposed to be doing. Then I remember them talking in the hall, some of them crying.

I didn’t see another space shuttle launch until first grade. They were unsure about even letting us watch that one. You could feel the apprehension coming off the adults. They stunk of it. I guess they were afraid that seeing two launches turning into shooting stars would do horrible and irreversible things to our young minds. Me? I was just happy to get to see another shuttle launch.

And for a while in elementary school, we watched every shuttle go up. Then, gradually, it started to happen less and less. The shuttles would still going up every few months, but for some reason the teachers and students around me stopped caring.

Which I think speaks a huge volume about where the world took a misstep.

We slowly stopped caring about the bigger possibilities in life as we turned inward to cellphones and video games and the trappings of the digital age.

We started looking at space as place to hang communications satellites that would let us order more cheap things from China.

We stopped looking at it like those seven lost souls saw it. As a place to explore, to discover not just new things out in the black, but new things about ourselves and what we are capable of.

I firmly believe that space is our salvation. If we can get out of this gravity well, get up there, and see what’s out there, we have a shot at it.

But then, when I look back down at the Earth, I shake my head knowing that we’ll probably never make it there.

So, I look to you, as the child in that classroom twenty-five years ago. Don’t turn off the TV, don’t forget it is happening. Don’t let them tell you it is too expensive, or unnecessary or dangerous. Because it is the most important thing we as humans can possibly do.

Don’t let those seven have died in vain. Don’t forget about what it all means, means for us, and meant to them.

Crew of STS-51-L Challenger

Commander Francis “Dick” Scobee
Pilot Michael J. Smitd
Mission Specialist 1 Ellison Onizuka
Mission Specialist 2 Juditd Resnik
Mission Specialist 3 Ronald McNair
Payload Specialist 1 Sharon Christa McAuliffe
Payload Specialist 2 Gregory Jarvis
   

Requiescat in Pace.

Picked up this lovely nugget from Tim this morning.

(CBS/AP) Texas’ State Board of Education – following a long history of throwing itself into “culture war” issues – is set to vote Friday on a resolution calling on textbook publishers to limit what they print about Islam in world history books.
The resolution cites world history books no longer used in Texas schools that it says devoted more lines of text to Islamic beliefs and practices than Christian beliefs and practices.

“Diverse reviewers have repeatedly documented gross pro-Islamic, anti-Christian distortions in social studies texts,” reads a draft of the resolution, which would not be binding on future boards that will choose the state’s next generation of social studies texts.

The measure was first suggested to the board this summer by Odessa businessman Randy Rives, who lost his Republican primary bid for a seat on the panel earlier this year.

The conservative-leaning and heavily evangelical Christian board pushed the item to a vote.

…..

Don McLeroy, who is serving the final months of his term after also losing in the GOP primary, said he believes even current textbooks still reflect an anti-Christian bias.

“The biggest problem I saw was their overreach not to be ‘ethnocentric,”‘ McLeroy said of an Advanced Placement world history book approved in 2003 and still in use. “It’s a very, very, very, very biased book. Christianity didn’t even make it in the table of contents.”

McLeroy is one of the most outspoken of a group of board members who have pushed several conservative requirements for social study textbooks used in Texas, including that teachers cover the Judeo-Christian influences of the nation’s Founding Fathers.

“It’s that great idea. That radical idea of Judeo-Christianity, that man is created in the image of God. So if you have world history books that downplay Christianity – Judeo-Christianity – and it doesn’t even make it in the table of contents, I think there’s a great concern,” McLeroy said.

The Texas Board of Education is full of loonies that like to rattle their cages and toss excrement at anything that happens by. If you read the full text of the article, you’ll find that two of the people sourced (like the Rives fellow mentioned above) are now lame ducks, and this is the last gasp of the damned. Which in all likelihood, is the first good thing the Tea Party’s ever done.

That’s a guess on my part, but the only people beating incumbent Republicans in primaries are Tea Party Republicans. So, go figure.

It also points out that the text books they are censuring are now out of print and unused, and that the resolution is completely non-binding.

Makes one feel like this country is in an arms race to beat out the Islamic republics for who’s got the most religious integration/bias at a governmental level.

From Wired.com:

Public schools in Tennessee are filtering access to online websites discussing lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender issues, but are not blocking sites advocating “reparative” therapy to change their lifestyle.

Nobody is disputing the existence of the filters in the Knox County Schools and Metro Nashville Public Schools. But the schools are blaming their internet and filtering service for what the American Civil Liberties Union is decrying as viewpoint discrimination in violation of the First Amendment. The internet service, Education Networks of America, says the schools choose which websites to block.

…..

“When I found out about this web-filtering software, I wasn’t looking for anything sexual or inappropriate, I was looking for information about scholarships for LGBT students, and I couldn’t get to it because of this software,” said Andrew Emitt, a 17-year-old Central High senior in Knoxville.

Well, at least the article doesn’t mention this corner of the state.

Presenting this without commentary:

The Story

In November, 2007, a small group of six citizens – two screenwriters, a physicist, a marine biologist, a philosopher and a science journalist – began working to restore science and innovation to America’s political dialogue.  They called themselves Science Debate 2008, and they called for a presidential debate on science.  The call tapped a wellspring of concern over the state of American science.

Within weeks, more than 38,000 scientists, engineers, and other concerned Americans signed on, including nearly every major American science organization, dozens of Nobel laureates, elected officials and business leaders, and the presidents of over 100 major American universities.  See who here. Among other things, these signers submitted over 3,400 questions they want the candidates for President to answer about science and the future of America.

The Process

Beginning with these 3,400 questions, Science Debate 2008 worked with the leading organizations listed to craft the top 14 questions the candidates should answer.  These questions are broad enough to allow for wide variations in response, but they are specific enough to help guide the discussion toward many of the largest and most important unresolved challenges currently facing the United States.

You can find the candidate’s responses here.

I’m not sure how I missed this, but if you use iTunes, there are thousands of hours of lectures, videos and historical recording available for you to download. I don’t have time to dig through it right now, but I plan to in the future.

iTunes U.



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