"Bear in mind that the wonderful things you learn in your schools are the work of many generations, produced by enthusiastic effort and infinite labor in every country of the world. All this is put into your hands as your inheritance in order that you may receive it, honor it, add to it, and one day faithfully hand it to your children. Thus do we mortals achieve immortality in the permanent things which we create in common." - Albert Einstein

Saturday, February 20, 2016

The High School Teacher: Content Knowledge and Identity Threat

My children are still in elementary school. They are still learning how to do arithmetic, read, write, and socialize. In the years to come, they will begin to accumulate knowledge. That is something to worry about. Both middle school and high school introduce fundamental ideas and concepts in the sciences. There are two reasons for concern. First, how much teachers know about science matters. Second, science often threatens values held deeply by individuals. A recent paper published in the journal Science illustrates just how these two factors, content knowledge and identity threat, can have a dramatic and profound negative impact on science education. The paper, Climate confusion among U.S. teachers, shows how well or how bad teachers in the United States are handling the topic of climate change in their classrooms. The picture is not pretty. More than half of US teachers do not even acknowledge the fact that more than nine out of ten active climate scientists consider human activity as the cause of global warming. It is at least comforting that only 2 percent of the teachers who recognize the consensus among scientists still continue to deny that global warming is occurring.

Incidentally, according to a recent report from NASA, the past month of January has been a record month in two areas for the arctic region. It has been the warmest:

Above copied from NASA
January 2016 likewise points to the lowest ice coverage in the Arctic region:

Above copied from NSIDC
Although teachers' lack of knowledge in the sciences can easily be the culprit, the authors of the Science paper also point to the following:
...Rejection of sound scientific conclusions is often rooted in value commitments rather than ignorance, and science teachers are not immune from this tendency. A question measuring political ideology was a more powerful predictor of teachers’ classroom approach than any measure of education or content knowledge....
In the Philippines, the situation is a lot more challenging. Just recently, famed boxer Manny Pacquiao was recently quoted:
“Do you see animals mating with the same sex? Animals are better because they can distinguish male from female. If men mate with men and women mate with women they are worse than animals.”
There is no doubt with regard to the strength of a religious conviction in the above statement. Of course, people are entitled to their opinions. However, with regard to science, that is not the case. It is known that animals exhibit homosexual behavior. Here is an example from the International Journal of Primatology.

Volume 16, Issue 2, pp 173-204
First online: 01 April 1995

Homosexual behavior in primates: A review of evidence and theory

  • Paul L. Vasey
Homosexual behavior is defined as genital contact, genital manipulation or both between same-sex individuals. Available data indicate that this behavior is phylogenetically widespread among the anthropoid primates, but totally absent among prosimians. The majority of the 33 species that demonstrate homosexual behavior do so rarefy, but for a substantial number (N =12) it appears to be a more common pattern under free-ranging conditions. I summarize data on homosexual behavior as it relates to form, living condition, age, sex, social organization, and ecological context, and discuss hormonal, demographic, and sociosexual theories for primate homosexual behavior. Among adult primates, the behavior is not the product of abnormal excesses or deficiencies in androgens. Prenatal excesses of androgens may have some effect on the expression of female homosexual behavior, but these effects might vary over the life span, and data are equivocal at present. Demographic processes that result in skewed sex ratios can favor the expression of homosexual behavior in a population, which causes intraspecific variation. I examine several sociosexual explanations, including (a) proceptivity enhancement, (b) receptivity reduction, (c) dominance assertion, (d) practice for heterosexual copulation, (e) tension regulation, (f) reconciliation, and (g) alliance formation. An evolutionary scenario highlights the transformations this behavior underwent during the evolution of the anthropoid primates. I suggest exaptation as a theoretical framework for interpreting homosexual behavior and conclude that future consideration of sexual selection among primates should address homosexual components of this process.
The paper, "Climate confusion among U.S. teachers", ends with the following note:
Our data suggest that, especially for political or cultural conservatives, simply offering teachers more traditional science education may not lead to better classroom practice. Education efforts will need to draw on science communication research and acknowledge resistance to accepting the science and addressing its root causes. College and university instructors will need help reaching teachers and teachers-in-training who bring diverse political and value commitments to the classroom—particularly in avoiding “boomerang effects,” in which attempts to promote a particular view can instead harden opposition. This may entail acknowledging and addressing conflicts that teachers (and their students) may feel between their values and the science. Such instruction will promote understanding of the science as well as the pedagogy that future teachers will need to promote climate science literacy. 

Without doubt, the above applies to Philippine basic education as well.

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