Education Reform part 2: Compliance vs. Understanding (the political side of education reform)

One reason why those on the American right-wing oppose the Department of Education is because they feel it prioritizes academic compliance and propagandizing in tandem with education. Of course, the issues those on the right feel are being propagandized are Evolution and Climate Change. They feel that the “scientific community” is actively silencing those who challenge the norm. Interestingly, American progressive thinkers tend to have a similar view as far as history is concerned. They feel that issues like the founding of the country, women rights, slavery, civil rights, the displacement of the natives, etc. are constantly whitewashed in mainstream narrative. I personally believe that the truth is somewhere in between the two perspectives on science and history. There are efforts being made, albeit without malice or ulterior motives, to silence those who do not comply to a specific narrative.

On the issue of science, take the recent Ken Hamm vs. Bill Nye debate. Even a lot of Christian believers distance themselves from Ken Hamm, the creation museum, and  Answers in Genesis. I personally remain neutral on the topic as it has little bearing on a Christian’s lifestyle, morality and ethics. Yet he decided to challenge Bill Nye on the topic of human evolution vs. creationism. Many people are quick to challenge creationists’ credentials when they engage in debates such as this one. However, it is interesting to note that Ken Hamm and Bill Nye only hold bachelors degrees, and Mr. Hamm’s is actually with an emphasis in Environmental Biology (in contrast  to Nye’s Mechanical Engineering). Academically speaking, Mr. Hamm isn’t as far behind Mr. Nye as we were led to believe.  Yet, Bill Nye is allowed to speak on the same level as as modern scientific thinkers like Carl Sagan or Neil DeGrasse Tyson simply because he agrees with them.

In the above video, my point is made in how this woman calls those who disagree with evolution or climate change as stem illiterate. She conflates the importance of STEM understanding with STEM agreement or compliance. I’ve personally ran into this situation among my peers on the issue of climate change. I stated that we can find agreement that we as a population or a global society ought to work together in order to achieve a cleaner environment. We don’t have to agree about man-made global warming or climate change in order to work together practically. However, I was told that working towards a clean environment isn’t “enough”. If the climatologists aren’t agreed with, then they aren’t respected. It’s interesting that we have an Education system essentially pushing for an academic priesthood. Thus saith the Scientists, so shall it be. In my academic career, I’ve noticed that people can look at the same problem and draw different conclusions. These conclusions are drawn without malice or intentional bias. This is why I believe STEM education ought to be focused on practical application rather than ideological sensitivities.If practical applications are given priority than everything else will speak for itself. This isn’t to say that theoretical models should be outright abandoned, but that they shouldn’t act as occupational or academic gatekeepers.

On the issue of history, I have already mentioned that I am an African American. I’m also a bit of a conspiracy theorist/sympathizer. The idea that information may be hidden from the populace to achieve a desired narrative is actually demonstrably true. Things like the Tuskegee Syphilis Study was hidden from the American public for decades. Therefore we can’t really fault those who have doubts about events like the assassinations of public figures or even recent events like 9-11. As we move further back into the historical narrative it becomes increasingly more difficult to define what the truth is on many subjects. Oftentimes a specific historical narrative can fit an ideological framework. Here we get the historical frameworks held by Christians, v. Jewish people vs. Muslims, Vs. Secular thinkers coming in conflict with each other. Christians in particular tend to have a lot of internal conflicts when discussing history. This even applies to “conservative” (sola scriptura) types who hold different views. A good example of “conservative Christian vs. conservative Christian” is seen from the video below from theologian James White on the topic of King James “Onlyism”.

I believe that history should be taught without the teacher/professor searching for a specific conclusion. Students should be free to believe and argue whatever they wish to believe as long as they are willing and able to utilize proper research methods. They should not, in an academic setting, argue for their position because the Bible says so, or because someone they trust told them one thing or another. Every position must be thoroughly examined with an equal level of scrutiny.

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Education Reform part 1: “You learn to USE it”

When I was a senior in high school I wanted to be a meteorologist.I always enjoyed science, and meteorology was simply my subject of choice. I did do some independent study on the subject, but it was mostly based on the crazy weather patterns Oklahoma was known for. My opinion of meteorology shifted after I spoke to a meteorologist in person. One of Oklahoma’s chief meteorologists was signing autographs at the mall and my Dad took me to see him. I asked him what I needed to prepare for to become a meteorologist and he told me what I should expect, “a lot of math”. I wasn’t surprised or as let down as one might think when he said that; however my expression must have shown him that I wasn’t thrilled by his advice. He then told me, “I guess you’re not a big fan of math”. My Dad joined the conversation saying, “but you learn to love it”.

My struggling with Math originated in elementary school and was probably exacerbated during home schooling. I always had to dedicate extra time to doing math that got in the way of other subjects. That being said, high school can create a false sense of confidence in one’s academic abilities prior to college. I struggled in Math freshman year and finished with a “C”, pushed myself sophomore year and finished with barely a “B” (thanks to an exempted final), an “A” junior year in Geometry (my 4.0 semester), and A “B” senior year. In retrospect, these grades were mostly due to extra credit and other exploits that allowed me to simulate academic excellence. My college experience wasn’t nearly as friendly.

In college, it wasn’t just Math that I had issues with but it made up most of my time and energy. Now I found myself, as a pre-nursing/psychology major, taking classes like General “easy” Chemistry, Human Physiology and Microbiology and struggling in all of them. Nursing wasn’t my second, or even third, choice in a major, but it was a practical career choice. However, my experience in the Math and Science classes ensured that I would not be a competitive applicant upon entry into nursing school. I just decided to finish my Psychology bachelors degree and figure something out from there. My undergraduate GPA was pretty mediocre. To put it in perspective, my physiology professor would give an inspirational story about her struggles with a learning disability and graduating with a “low” 2.99 GPA. Unlike most students in her class, I was unmoved by her story. My GPA was lower than hers and if I had a learning disability it still hasn’t been diagnosed.

As I said before, nursing was not my second choice. It was actually Law. However, my university did not have a true “pre-law” program. Even then, I was really interested in the benefits of a law degree as opposed actually practicing law. As such, I enrolled in a paralegal program at my university’s law school. I was able to supplement my GPA with the GPA I earned there and enrolled into a Master’s of Science in counseling program (though I still hope to get into a law school).  In the midst of my academic career I remembered the meteorologist’s response to my father statement, “well… you learn to USE it”. Throughout my academic career I was never really taught how to use what I learned. Even at the University level, I always prioritized getting the grade rather than learning the material. Even though I was able to do well in the paralegal program, I still brought this frame work with me. I couldn’t tell you anything about intellectual property law despite getting an A in the class.

This is what birthed my interest in education reform.

End of Part 1

Nerdy Post: responding to a Pokemon themed article in forbes

Here’s the article in question

I’ve been a fan of the Pokemon franchise since 1997. I started with the anime and briefly got into the cards but it’s the main series games that I enjoy the most.

My Favorite

My Favorite

I took a break during generation 3, but I came back for generation 4 and have remained fairly consistent ever since. So needless to say I was interested in seeing what forbes had to say about the franchise and the “one game fans want”. According to the author, what we fans want is a fully fledged console Pokemon RPG.

Like these only better

Like these only… better

As the examples above suggest, a console pokemon RPG isn’t anything new. With the middling success of these games I can understand why Nintendo/Game freak may want to play it safe. The hand held games are the ones that drive the success. Sure, Nintendo will do the occasional spin off but nothing beyond that. Unfortunately its this desire to play it safe that causes the franchise to remain stagnant. Originally there was a console tie-in with every generation of the game. In the first we had Pokemon Stadium. In the second, Pokemon Stadium 2 (which expanded on the first). In the stadium series the main feature was battling in 3D;  there were also mini games and a storage system, but that’s it. In the third generation we had two (as seen above), which expanded from the Stadium series, but was still lacking in comparison to the RPG hand helds.  The third generation also included a storage system separate from the RPGs. The last console tie-ins was Pokemon Battle revolution (which only featured battling) and pokemon ranch (a storage system).

The article goes on to talk about a japanese arcade pokemon fighting game, and new i-phone/smart phone apps.  A modern Pokemon game should emphasize ALL OF IT. Instead of dipping their toe in the metaphorical water, nintendo/game freak needs to invest in a fully loaded pokemon console series. Not just another watered down RPG, but an expansive interactive world to explore. This game should tie into the hand held series in the way stadium (Colosseum, etc.)did in the past. Providing extra features to those who were willing to get the additional games. Yet, the RPG should also be it’s own game similar to the hand helds (ie: don’t punish those without the hand helds in order to reward those with them). I would go so far to suggest that this game should replicate the anime. The battles, for example, should incorporate more interaction (like the fighting game is experimenting with) rather than the RPG interface (as should the HM moves like “fly”). Nintendo can also create DLC to expand the worlds further.

However, in order to get this “ultimate Pokemon game” made, Nintendo needs to take their time. With the holiday season coming up, they run the risk of wanting to release their games sooner rather than later.  Nintendo needs to take their time, put out a lot of hype and publicity, and develop this hypothetical game correctly.

Geeks Under Grace: Romans 6:1-2

GUG

Romans 6
1 What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase?
2 By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?

First of all let me say this: I don’t hate Geeks Under Grace. As a believer in Christ who also happens to be a nerd, I do appreciate the existence of a group that allows me to integrate these two interests of mine. However Geeks Under Grace has that pitfall typical of groups whose declared purpose is to bring people together. As seen in my “not polar opposites” series, declared Christians come in multiple flavors. Being a Christian group, those of the conservative slant tend to make up a fair number of the members. However, there are more than a few out spoken progressive believers in the group as well. I haven’t really gone out of my way to calculate the raw numbers numbers. Additionally, political topics tend to come up every once in a while. This isn’t new for Christian groups however, the efforts made to keep people “unified” are interesting to say the least.

As cliche as this sounds, there seems to be a bias in favor of those on the progressive side. It would seem that the more conservative or traditional members are more commonly reined in to avoid “bullying” the others. The progressive believers don’t really seem to require the protection as they make strong statements, yet they will shut down or change the subject when pressed “too far”. What’s interesting is this seems to effect most of the religious discussion in favor of the “geek” discourse. I haven’t seen this same moderation on the webpage for the group that I have seen for the Facebook page. The former does allow for more stronger differences of opinion. Despite this openness, however, the blog post also tends to have marginal “in name only” Christian themes. Such as praising Legend of Korra for the controversial ending or utilizing groups in the “M” rated Elder Scrolls V Skyrim (a favorite game of mine) as Christian example setters.

As I posted in the title of this post, geeks under grace seems to fit in to Paul’s message on grace in the book of Romans. The previous chapter was about how our salvation as Christians is through grace and faith alone and not by works. This sets up his introduction in Chapter 6. Paul rhetorically asks if we can continue to sin since God’s grace is what saves us. “By no means!” Both chapters state that we are dead to sin through the grace of God. As a result our lives are in Christ. A person living in Christ has no “use” or excuse for sin. Despite my complaints, and occasional Facebook deactivation, efforts are being made, perhaps subconsciously, in making the group more aware of it’s Christian roots. One of the members bravely used the group as an accountability outlet for his lust issues. Others have used the group for prayer requests, etc. Time will tell how much further this change will take place, but it’s obviously a step in the right direction.

Another lesser complaint I have in this group is that they constantly disparage Christian media. Much of that is actually justified, but some of it comes off as impulsive and  routine. Especially when they complain about the alleged lack of realism from the hypothetical film’s themes. Provide a positive example of a Christian film or at least provide an synopsis of what a good Christian movie should look like.

Updated Old Post: The four interpretive natures of God

This is a post I had written prior to my blog purge. This is one of the posts I actually regret deleting. I thought I had it preserved elsewhere, but I guess I didn’t. One of the issues that come into play when discussing religion are the different ways believers and nonbelievers (regardless of one’s beliefs) actually picture God in their head. From my perspective, I’ve seen four versions of God thrown around in debates with some occasional overlap. While we as believers cannot truly know the nature of God, we cannot assume that we are all talking about the same one. For nonbelievers, please pay attention to the term “hypothetical”. When you level with a Christian and you describe (or criticize) God what idea of God do you have in mind outside of nonexistent  (ie: Dawkins referring to God as a bully).

1. Complete physical transcendence:

God exists beyond time, space, and human comprehension/imagination. There is nothing known or understood by us that God has not grasped. Oftentimes people feel this version of God is too distant and alien, but it seems to be the go to for most monotheistic believers in debate settings.

2.  Sub-universal level:

God is within human understanding, however God still exists on an immensely broad level that has yet to even be grasped by mankind. Take the size of the observable universe for example: Jupiter’s red spot is the size of the Earth, the sun is vastly larger than Jupiter, and other stars like Betelgeuse make our sun look like a speck. As humanity evolves so will our potential understanding of God.

3. God exists within human nature:

This is the version of God seen in many polytheistic faiths. God is like one of us and is subject to our emotional baggage and weaknesses. God may have power that transcends human ability, but humans have an experience that God does not have and cannot relate to while in the heavenly realm.

4. God as a thought form:

The lowest level of God existing without going into non-belief. At this level God “exists” because people believe in a God. This construct of God is subject to change, interpretation and potentially extinction through the collective will of mankind. While this version of God is imaginary, adherents to this version do not doubt God’s power over people.

The downward trend in these interpretations illustrates the power humanity has over God. This distinction is extremely relevant if God exists as a person’s moral authority. There is overlap between these interpretations. Many monotheists would probably declare that God is somewhere between 1 and 2; here God is beyond our comprehension yet certain small things are revealed to us. Atheists tend rhetorically argue for three, yet their actions reflect a belief 4. Like the Richard Dawkins example above, those who take a number three view repudiate God’s alleged moral shortcomings.

Progressive believers, especially in the university setting, take a sort of amalgamation of 1 and 4. Not much in between in this case; God is both within and beyond our control and comprehension. Humanity has a sort of political relationship to this version of God. God represents the executive branch of a metaphysical government and humanity takes the role of a judicial and legislative branch. We tell God what is morally or philosophically right and God enforces our instruction. If people disagree, they can take it up with God. This view is also taken by the fundamentalists with some “3” mixed in as well.

Once hopefully this post will generate the discussion my previous one had.