Thursday, August 28, 2014

The Discovery Insitute responds on Ohio HB 597

Once again the Discovery Institute (DI) decided that the use of the term 'Intelligent Design' requires some sort of response from them.  They have the nerve to ask "Where is the Intelligent Design in Ohio House Bill 597".  Now I could make a flippant answer and say the bill was not 'intelligently designed', but I won't continue down that path and make a more direct response.

If the DI bothered to pay any attention to the words in an article rather than just what items they think they can cut and paste or quote-mine, they might have realized that no one has said the bill itself mentions Intelligent Design.  Much like their tactics in the past ('Critical Analysis tactic for example), they seem to think that not having used the term, the obvious conclusion is that it has nothing to do it.  However, if we borrow an old line and say "And now a word from our Sponsors!", you can easily see the issue.  One of the statements by bill sponsor, Rep Andy Thompson:

"said the goal is not to mandate what must be taught but provide options for districts.“In many districts, they may have a different perspective on that, and we want to provide them the flexibility to consider all perspectives, not just on matters of faith or how the Earth came into existence, but also global warming and other topics that are controversial,” Thompson said."
When Thompson was asked if intelligent design — the idea that a higher authority is responsible for life — should be taught alongside evolution, Thompson said, “I think it would be good for them to consider the perspectives of people of faith. That’s legitimate.”
So while the public goal of the bill is to repeal the Common Core Standards, which, BTW are not science standards, but English and Math, as you can see Thompson stated the goal was to allow different perspectives . . . a follow-up question targeted one of those 'perspectives' and Thompson called it 'legitimate'.  Of course the DI called that type of question "twisting the words of policymakers".  Sure, trying to get to the intent as well as the meaning behind a policymakers actions is OK, but if they do not agree with your organizations agenda, somehow the reporter is twisting the words.  The last paragraph of the DI's response was:
"So the Columbus Dispatch is right about one thing: history is repeating itself in Ohio. In 2006, Darwin activists inflamed groundless fears about intelligent design in the schools. In 2014, they're getting ready to do it all over again."
Let's think back at Ohio's 'groundless fears'.
NCSE's own Steve Edinger said perfectly back in 1996: "Creationism is like a vampire, and every time you think the thing is finally dead, someone pulls the damned stake out again."  Ohio has seen that damned stake removed in 1996, 2002, 2006, and now again in 2014.  Ohio's concerns are not groundless, they are a response to a pattern of misguided and, in many cases, reprehensible behavior by groups like the Discovery Institute who wish to destroy science education.

There are still many misconceptions about the Common Core standards.  But I would like to put it even plainer than the reporter.  What is Representative Thompson's plan to replace the Common Core?  He has none.  He's going to pass the buck back to local school boards.  School boards that had control over their standards up until 2010 and they were failing our students!  How many Ohio students failed out of college for being poorly prepared?  How many had to take developmental classes (this are a re-teaching of the things they should have learned in High School)?  How many businesses complained that High School graduates did not have to basic tools to perform tasks graduates were able to perform 20 years ago?  We aren't talking highly skilled tasks, we are talking about tasks that require basic reading, writing, and math skills.  These are the problems the Common Core can help address.  Since implementing the Common Core, our neighbor to the South, Kentucky, has reported that the high school graduation rate had increased from 80 percent in 2010 to 86 percent in 2013, test scores went up 2 percentage points in the second year of using the Common Core test, and the percentage of students considered to be ready for college or a career, based on a battery of assessments, went up from 34 percent in 2010 to 54 percent in 2013.  (Ripley, Amanda (September 30, 2013). "The New Smart Set: What Happens When Millions of Kids Are Asked to Master Fewer Things More Deeply?". Time. p. 36.)

So now that we've gotten past the typical knee-jerk reaction of the Discovery Institute, I hope it is clear that there are Ohioans who oppose the Common Core standards.  The standards aren't perfect, but I hope folks oppose it for the right reasons.  I also hope that whatever follows the bill does not, by intent or by accident, open the door for a group like the Discovery Institute or the Creation Museum to walk in trying to pass off their religious ideas as if they belongs in a science class. But regardless of the politics, before you complain about the Common Core Standards, make sure you understand them and object based on reality.

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