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Author Topic: A New Hobby  (Read 1319 times)
Frightening Fanatic of Horrible Cinema

Karma: 368
Posts: 4168

I AM serious, and stop calling me Shirley

« on: November 09, 2011, 03:06:29 PM »

Well, instead of writing reviews of bad movies, I've taken to writing reviews of the REALLY HORRIBLE science education Lesson Plans I find published on the Internet.

These are really, really bad, and if they are any indication of either the current state or future of science education in the very afraid for our future generations...


Professor Hathaway:  I noticed you stopped stuttering.
Bodie:      I've been giving myself shock treatments.
Professor Hathaway: Up the voltage.

--Real Genius
Hammock Rider
Frightening Fanatic of Horrible Cinema

Karma: 255
Posts: 1916

« Reply #1 on: November 10, 2011, 12:21:22 PM »

Can you post one? Or a link to one?

Jumping Kings and Making Haste Ain't my Cup of Meat
Mofo Rising
Global Moderator
Frightening Fanatic of Horrible Cinema

Karma: 460
Posts: 3222

My cat can eat a whole watermelon!

« Reply #2 on: November 10, 2011, 03:53:49 PM »

Now that sounds like an interesting project. I always get a kick out of bad science.

Bad science is one thing in a bad movie. I also find myself reading page long advertisements, just to see how outrageous the pseudo-science can get. But bad science education? That's got to be especially cringe-worthy.

Every dead body that is not exterminated becomes one of them. It gets up and kills. The people it kills, get up and kill.
Flick James
Frightening Fanatic of Horrible Cinema

Karma: 489
Posts: 4642

Honorary Bastard of Arts

« Reply #3 on: November 10, 2011, 05:21:17 PM »

Pseudo science can get very, very whacky. One of the most outlandish is the work of Zecharia Sitchin. Just look it up. It's almost pure fantasy.

2012 millenarianism gets pretty crazy too. I especially like the claim that there will be a sudden beginning of a pole shift of magnetic reversal triggered by a massive solar flare. First, there is no evidence of a massive solar flare next year, and since we're this close to 2012, if there were, we would know about it. Second, pole shift or magnetic reversal is something that takes many hundreds of years to complete. It's not something that just suddenly happens and creates a sudden global catastrophy.

The problem is, some pseudo science works in convincing alot of people because their primary premises feed on fear.

I don't always talk about bad movies, but when I do, I prefer
Frightening Fanatic of Horrible Cinema

Karma: 368
Posts: 4168

I AM serious, and stop calling me Shirley

« Reply #4 on: November 11, 2011, 09:48:56 AM »

Can you post one? Or a link to one?

Okay, since these have so far been rants in the form of emails to a colleague of mine (with a number of inside references), I'll try to clean one or two up and post them here on  I've got one that should not be hard to adapt for "public consumption."

Quote from: Mofo Rising

Now that sounds like an interesting project. I always get a kick out of bad science.

Indeed.  The idea basically came to me when I thought..."Why do we seem to hold our movie and tv show writers to one standard, and our "teachers" (at least those that post lesson plans and write text books) to another, lower standard.

I recently got a library book for my daughter on 101 Chemistry Experiments for Children, and what CRAP. The "I want to sound so smart" explanations are garbage...a 5 year old making stuff up could do so well.

And the BAD thing about this is that these experiments, and their ridiculous explanations, have been copied all over the internet (verbatim, I might's that for IP rights?), so these crappy ideas get perpetuated like a bad STD.

As Alistair Frasier quotes Thomas Cardinal Wolsey on his "Bad Science" web page,

"Be careful what you put into that head, because you'll never, ever get it out."

Quote from: Flick James

The problem is, some pseudo science works in convincing alot of people because their primary premises feed on fear.

You are not talking AGW, are you?

{/me ducks and runs}

« Last Edit: November 11, 2011, 09:51:07 AM by ulthar » Logged


Professor Hathaway:  I noticed you stopped stuttering.
Bodie:      I've been giving myself shock treatments.
Professor Hathaway: Up the voltage.

--Real Genius
Frightening Fanatic of Horrible Cinema

Karma: 368
Posts: 4168

I AM serious, and stop calling me Shirley

« Reply #5 on: November 11, 2011, 11:18:26 AM »

Plate Tectonics: "Tectonically Speaking"

This one comes from and appears to be a student 'project' in one of those "I want to be a teacher" classes.  This bit is from one of those documents written by edu types that is designed to teach me how to teach the material. This is a so-called "short unit," which is my first beef. The vernacular that institutionalized 'school' has created to operate within its own bureaucracy is, in a word, unnecessary.  "Short unit" used be called "chapter" or "section."

The lesson is recommended for 8th grade and it may be also used for High School.  This is my second beef with this approach.  Why is this for 8th Grade?  I know second graders that can converse intelligently about plate tectonics.  Formalizing that it is for 8th grade completely removes the student(s) from the equation...this document is written for a classroom in a certain building with no consideration of who occupies the seats in that room.  Advanced students could easily do this material 3-4 years before 8th grade, for example.

In other words, this is NOT that complicated, either in concept or in presentation.  The 'tone' of the document suggests the authors believe they are introducing ground breaking (eh hem) ways to teach plate tectonics.  This is a serious fault, because it is what is commonly held to BE science...overcomplication.  We will see this underlying premise throughout the Lesson Plan.

Moving on, we find ourselves in the "Description of Concept" section of the forumleic approach to teaching:

"The concept being taught in this unit is that the Earth is made up of multiple plates, that there is a cycle of heat that occurs within the Earth, causing these plates to move over long periods of time."

Um, sorry, but no. The Earth is not "made up of multiple plates;" the Earth's CRUST is made of multiple plates.

Cycle of heat? What in the world is THAT? So, the core is hot, then cold, then hot again...and that causes the plates to move over long periods of time?

What the hell is 'move over long periods of time,' anyway? According to the theory (and modern era measurements), they are ALWAYS moving...I don't even know what "move over long periods of time" even means....the wording is completely losing me. Are they not moving over short periods of time, too? If something is moving, it's moving, right?

WAH! I want to cry. This is passes for education?

This opening statement sets the tone of overcomplication, mentioned above, for the entire document.  It reads like an attempt to impress rather than communicate clearly.  Why not simply say, "The CONCEPT being taught is that the earth's surface is constantly changing; this unit will explore the leading theory describing how those changes occur."

Point: the Earth being made of plates, heat in the mantle and plate motion are not CONCEPTS.  This opening paragraph is clouding the critical concept that students need to understand with "fancy sounding sciencey talk."

But it gets worse:

"The lessons aim to help students understand the evidence behind the theory of plate tectonics."

Okay, I'm being pedantic now because I'm irritated. The evidence is "behind" the theory? I wonder what is "in front" of it, and just WHERE is this theory "located" so I can go see it? And why put the evidence behind HIDE IT?

Lazy writing is often an indication of lazy thinking, so this may not be so much pedantry.

And now, early indications that we have, rather than tight, clean focused laboartory exercises, evidence for the shotgun approach to science education (throw it all at them and hope something sticks):

"Students will use hands-on laboratory activities to gain a thorough understanding of convection, conduction and radiation."

Okay...I'm not sure what radiation has to do with plate tectonics (wait, I AM sure...NOTHING), but I get that they are shoehorning all they can into this "lesson." Question, though...why does a 'laboratory activity' that gives a "thorough understanding" of heat transfer mechanisms have to be SO FORMAL? I mean, have these students not ever stood next to a fire place and felt the warmth? now understand "radiative heat transfer." They live in Washington State, fcol, I am SURE they know what radiative heat 'feels like.' Conduction? Ever pick up a spoon that's been sitting in hot soup? Excellent...experimental evidence for the conduction of heat FROM the soup.

Convection? Hmmm...pick up that hot spoon and move it "over there;" COOL BEANS, man, you've just "convected" some heat!  

If they were doing ANYTHING quantitative with these processes, I think I would relax on this point a little, but what they are doing is no more substantive than the 'experiments' I just described - and most 8th graders have probably already experienced it in 'real life.'

Oh, and by the way...don't hold your breath for a single 'hands-on laboratory activity' that deals in any way, shape or form with either radiation or conduction.

Finally, they wrap up the "Description of Concept," and now they completely lose any support I might have been willing to grant them;  now we get to the real essence of this tripe:

"Journaling activities, discussion, and group work will be used to aid in student understanding of the types of plate boundaries and resulting phenomenon[sic]."

Hm. Who knew that all that was necessary to learn about the earth and other 'scientific' PHENOMENA was to WRITE IN A JOURNAL!

Journaling activities? Really? Discussion? Group work? What...the...HELL?  Where is the OBSERVATION?  The DATA?

This is not science, it's a book club.

{skipping the sections on how this lesson plan meets the WA state 'standards' ...}

Then we have a day-by-day, blow-by-blow "Lesson Plan." Oh, I KNEW I'd regret reading this.

I'll spare you most of this, but a few comments.  First, I'm only giving one example of each gripe.  Second, I'm glossing over a TON of gripes I COULD have made (at some point, I just start feeling mean).

From Day 1:

"15 min Introduction and Greeting; take roll, miscellaneous announcements. Have students take out their journals to write.
* You have just returned from an exciting adventure to the center of the earth! Please describe in your journal what you experienced as you traveled deep within our planet. Your writing should be as scientific as possible. Describe what temperatures you would have been exposed to (hot, cold?, extremes?), what materials you would have passed through, etc.
- Place question on overhead projector"

Really, contemporary teachers need a LESSON PLAN to tell them to greet their students, take roll and make announcements?

My head hurts.

I especially like this line: "Your writing should be as scientific as possible."

What does that mean...write as confusing as possible using words even you yourself don't understand?  Teaching them young that

Science = Overcomplication

Where's the admonishment to write clearly, concisely, and in grammatically correct sentences?

After we discuss what the students wrote in their journals...the teacher is supposed to READ THIS to the class:

"First of all, this is not an exam or test although it looks an awful lot like one. This is a Pre-Test."

Yes, what a gem that is.  It's not a couch, it's a sofa.  If you live near Charlotte, NC, it's not downtown, it's uptown.  Call it what you want, tell them not to be afraid of it all you want, it's STILL a TEST and you are STILL making a judgement about them based on the outcome.  Um, some wonderful comments by John Taylor Gatto on the topic of testing come to matter what name it's given.

As we continue through to actual meat of the "unit," it's nothing but a bunch of worksheet like regurgitation of either lecture material or text book material.

The first three days have no experiments, no data; just traditional "I say it's so, you write it down and learn it" regurgitation style classroom time.  The closest we get to 'hand's on' is being told (rather than letting the students discover) to put cut-outs of the continents together like a jigsaw puzzle.  I'll be charitable and grant that this one some credibility.

Why is a Lesson Plan needed to ask students to draw a picture of the earth that they are essentially copying from a text book or web page or whatever?  

On Day 2, we get this little tidbit:

"Safety Considerations:
ē Donít run with scissors
ē Donít eat paste"

Right...8th grade or High School.

What kind of inbred, brain-dead adolescents are they teaching in the State of Washington? You have to tell 8th graders not to eat paste?

Oh. My. Word.

Throughout the document, there are additional 'Safety Consideration.'  The others are on par with this one..."don't get shaving cream near your eyes," etc.  Who knew?

On Day 4, we FINALLY get to some actual experimentation. I am not delving in detail into the nice, touchy feely stuff from Day 3 and how this whole thing is geared toward teaching "science by consensus," so moving on....

I'm willing to call this one from Day 4 a typo:

"There are two major methods of heat transfer: conduction, radiation, and convection."


Again, I'm in a mean mood about this stuff, so I'm not willing to overlook even the typos.

"Convection is the process of heat transfer by heat circulation over large distances."

NO NO NO. Argh. There is nothing in the definition of convection that requires either circulation OR a long distance.

Convection is simply the transfer of heat via the physical movement of mass...but hey, what do I know...obviously not enough to write a Lesson Plan in Middle School Science for the State of Washington.  

I'm going to stop there.  I just cannot go on right now.   Harold Warren knew as much about film making as these folks know about what they are teaching.  Therein lies the problem with this "Lesson Plan" approach...non-scientists teaching science, non-historians teaching History, non-writers teaching English, non-musicians teaching Music.  The group-think seems to be that with such a 'thorough' document in hand, anyone can teach plate tectonics.

And..well, going back to the "Description of Concept:"

"The lessons aim to help students understand the evidence behind the theory of plate tectonics."

There was NOTHING in the lesson showing the evidence that lead to, or supports, the theory of plate tectonics.  The whole thing is presented as "plate tectonics happens, now let's demonstrate what some of the terms, like convection, mean."  It's just...backwards...from the way science is done.
« Last Edit: November 11, 2011, 01:52:15 PM by ulthar » Logged


Professor Hathaway:  I noticed you stopped stuttering.
Bodie:      I've been giving myself shock treatments.
Professor Hathaway: Up the voltage.

--Real Genius
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