Archive for the 'Governing' category

Responding to crises versus preventing them: what else can we do for the public schools?

Nov 03 2009 Published by under Governing, Kids and science, Politics

In which I repeat what I said two years ago, because it seems even more relevant now (when state budgets have throttled school budgets and the current U.S. President has identified education as a national priority):

Continue Reading »

4 responses so far

President Obama's memo on scientific integrity.

The full text of the memorandum is here. Let's look at some of the details.

Continue Reading »

Comments are off for this post

What not to do to a public university in the face of a budget shortfall.

You knew the California budget shortfall was going to have an impact on higher education in the state. But maybe you didn't know that the pain will not be distributed evenly. Last weekend, John Engell, a colleague of mine from San Jose State University (and currently chair of the Department of English & Comparative Literature), examined the pain that may be visited on our university in an opinion piece he wrote for the San Jose Mercury News:

Continue Reading »

Comments are off for this post

President Obama on education.

In last night's address to the joint session of Congress, President Obama said:

The third challenge we must address is the urgent need to expand the promise of education in America.
In a global economy where the most valuable skill you can sell is your knowledge, a good education is no longer just a pathway to opportunity - it is a pre-requisite.
Right now, three-quarters of the fastest-growing occupations require more than a high school diploma. And yet, just over half of our citizens have that level of education. We have one of the highest high school dropout rates of any industrialized nation. And half of the students who begin college never finish.
This is a prescription for economic decline, because we know the countries that out-teach us today will out-compete us tomorrow. That is why it will be the goal of this administration to ensure that every child has access to a complete and competitive education - from the day they are born to the day they begin a career.
Already, we have made an historic investment in education through the economic recovery plan. We have dramatically expanded early childhood education and will continue to improve its quality, because we know that the most formative learning comes in those first years of life. We have made college affordable for nearly seven million more students. And we have provided the resources necessary to prevent painful cuts and teacher layoffs that would set back our children's progress.
But we know that our schools don't just need more resources. They need more reform. That is why this budget creates new incentives for teacher performance; pathways for advancement, and rewards for success. We'll invest in innovative programs that are already helping schools meet high standards and close achievement gaps. And we will expand our commitment to charter schools.
It is our responsibility as lawmakers and educators to make this system work. But it is the responsibility of every citizen to participate in it. And so tonight, I ask every American to commit to at least one year or more of higher education or career training. This can be community college or a four-year school; vocational training or an apprenticeship. But whatever the training may be, every American will need to get more than a high school diploma. And dropping out of high school is no longer an option. It's not just quitting on yourself, it's quitting on your country - and this country needs and values the talents of every American. That is why we will provide the support necessary for you to complete college and meet a new goal: by 2020, America will once again have the highest proportion of college graduates in the world.
I know that the price of tuition is higher than ever, which is why if you are willing to volunteer in your neighborhood or give back to your community or serve your country, we will make sure that you can afford a higher education. And to encourage a renewed spirit of national service for this and future generations, I ask this Congress to send me the bipartisan legislation that bears the name of Senator Orrin Hatch as well as an American who has never stopped asking what he can do for his country - Senator Edward Kennedy.
These education policies will open the doors of opportunity for our children. But it is up to us to ensure they walk through them. In the end, there is no program or policy that can substitute for a mother or father who will attend those parent/teacher conferences, or help with homework after dinner, or turn off the TV, put away the video games, and read to their child. I speak to you not just as a President, but as a father when I say that responsibility for our children's education must begin at home.

I'm generally heartened by these remarks, but of course, I have some thoughts of my own to add.

Continue Reading »

Comments are off for this post

A science debate, not a science exam.

I was reading John Timmer's post on Ars Technica about the call for a presidential debate on science and technology and found myself surprised at how many of the commenters on the post think such a debate would be a terrible idea.
It's not just that the commenters think that the presidential candidates would use all their powers to weasel out of taking clear stands that might get them in trouble with one constituency or another. There are quite a few commenters who make variations of this argument:

I don't see this as being a very good idea. These people are POLITICIANS, not scientists. I do not want to see them debating issues they have little worthwhile knowledge. If elected, they should rely on their advisors, and more importantly, the SCIENTISTS themselves to determine scientific policy. Science should not be "up for political debate." Science should follow the scientific method. Having some sort of half-baked, pre-programmed, campaigning answers only politicizes science even more -- which is exactly what we should try to avoid.

The list of questions I have for presidential hopefuls is manifestly not an oral exam on anything the candidates might have learned in their science classes. (Not a single question on intermolecular forces, I swear!) But just to be clear:

Continue Reading »

Comments are off for this post

In defense of 'flip-floppers': attention to reality matters.

In response to one of my science-related questions for the presidential candidates, Drugmonkey points out that the question might not work the way I want it to because of the chasm between science and politics:

"8. If sound scientific research were to demonstrate that one of your policy initiatives couldn't work (or couldn't work without tremendous cost in terms of money, health risk, negative environmental impact, etc.), what would you do?"
This almost, but not quite, hits the fundamental cultural problem between the two societies, science and politics. Your question should be reframed as "what if research were to demonstrate your policy hadn't worked in the first three years, then what would you do?". The problem is that political behavior is unfalsifiable. "My policy didn't work? Well, we just didn't do it enough. Let's do it more." Tax cuts or welfare, same deal. No testing, falsifying and moving on to something else because the data told us the policy was flawed. Even the slightest sign of this and someone is a "flip flopper".

I think Drugmonkey's diagnosis of the politician's MO is probably right. And, it occurs to me that this is the thing I hate most about politics-as usual. It's what makes me want to hold the candidates down and ask them for their stand on reality.

Continue Reading »

Comments are off for this post

Questions for the presidential candidates: where do you stand on science?

sciencedebate2008.jpg
Science matters. It's hard to make good decisions in today's world that aren't somehow informed by sound science -- especially if you're the head of state of a country like the USA.
This means that it's important to know where the people lined up to get the job of President of the United States stand on science. Those of us deciding how to vote could use this information, and even you folks who are subject to US foreign policy have a significant interest in knowing what you'll be in for.
There ought to be a presidential debate focused on science and technology before the 2008 election. It's not just the bloggers who think so, either. A bunch of serious scientists support the idea, too.
Here are some big things I want to know about where presidential candidates stand on science -- the kinds of questions a science and technology debate might put on the table:

Continue Reading »

Comments are off for this post

Murtha, ethics, and "real issues".

Nov 16 2006 Published by under Ethics 101, Governing, Politics

Apparently John Murtha lost his bid to be the new Majority Leader in the House of Representatives to Rep. Steny Hoyer. In the run up to this decision, Murtha was reported as saying the House ethics reforms being proposed by Nancy Pelosi were "total crap".
As you can imagine, that got my attention.
Below the fold, a bit of the transcript of Murtha's interview with Chris Matthews where Murtha tries to put his comment in context.

Continue Reading »

Comments are off for this post