Sunday, January 30, 2011

High school biology teachers reluctant to endorse evolution in class

From Penn State Live:

Thursday, January 27, 2011

University Park, Pa. -- The majority of public high school biology teachers are not strong classroom advocates of evolutionary biology, despite 40 years of court cases that have ruled teaching creationism or intelligent design violates the Constitution, according to Penn State political scientists. A mandatory undergraduate course in evolutionary biology for prospective teachers, and frequent refresher courses for current teachers, may be part of the solution, they say.

"Considerable research suggests that supporters of evolution, scientific methods, and reason itself are losing battles in America's classrooms," write Michael Berkman and Eric Plutzer, professors of political science at Penn State, in the Jan. 28 issue of Science. . . . more

Monday, January 17, 2011

Silence and Listening

Cheryl Glenn and Krista Ratcliffe, eds., Silence and Listening as Rhetorical Arts (Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 2011).

from the press:

In Silence and Listening as Rhetorical Arts, editors Cheryl Glenn and Krista Ratcliffe bring together seventeen essays by new and established scholars that demonstrate the value and importance of silence and listening to the study and practice of rhetoric. Building on the editors’ groundbreaking research, which respects the power of the spoken word while challenging the marginalized status of silence and listening, this volume makes a strong case for placing these overlooked concepts, and their intersections, at the forefront of rhetorical arts within rhetoric and composition studies.

Divided into three parts—History, Theory and Criticism, and Praxes—this book reimagines traditional histories and theories of rhetoric and incorporates contemporary interests, such as race, gender, and cross-cultural concerns, into scholarly conversations about rhetorical history, theory, criticism, and praxes. For the editors and the other contributors to this volume, silence is not simply the absence of sound and listening is not a passive act. When used strategically and with purpose—together and separately—silence and listening are powerful rhetorical devices integral to effective communication. The essays cover a wide range of subjects, including women rhetors from ancient Greece and medieval and Renaissance Europe; African philosophy and African American rhetoric; contemporary antiwar protests in the United States; activist conflict resolution in Israel and Palestine; and feminist and second-language pedagogies.

Taken together, the essays in this volume advance the argument that silence and listening are as important to rhetoric and composition studies as the more traditionally emphasized arts of reading, writing, and speaking and are particularly effective for theorizing, historicizing, analyzing, and teaching. An extremely valuable resource for instructors and students in rhetoric, composition, and communication studies, Silence and Listening as Rhetorical Arts will also have applications beyond academia, helping individuals, cultural groups, and nations more productively discern and implement appropriate actions when all parties agree to engage in rhetorical situations that include not only respectful speaking, reading, and writing but also productive silence and rhetorical listening.

Martin Luther King Jr. Day

The White House

Office of the Press Secretary

Presidential Proclamation--Martin Luther King, Jr., Federal Holiday





Half a century ago, America was moved by a young preacher who called a generation to action and forever changed the course of history. The Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. devoted his life to the struggle for justice and equality, sowing seeds of hope for a day when all people might claim "the riches of freedom and the security of justice." On Martin Luther King, Jr., Federal Holiday, we commemorate the 25th anniversary of the holiday recognizing one of America's greatest visionary leaders, and we celebrate the life and legacy of Dr. King.

Dr. King guided us toward a mountaintop on which all Americans -- regardless of skin color -- could live together in mutual respect and brotherhood. His bold leadership and prophetic eloquence united people of all backgrounds in a noble quest for freedom and basic civil rights. Inspired by Dr. King's legacy, brave souls have marched fearlessly, organized relentlessly, and devoted their lives to the unending task of perfecting our Union. Their courage and dedication have carried us even closer to the promised land Dr. King envisioned, but we must recognize their achievements as milestones on the long path to true equal opportunity and equal rights.

We must face the challenges of today with the same strength, persistence, and determination exhibited by Dr. King, guided by the enduring values of hope and justice embodied by other civil rights leaders. As a country, we must expand access to opportunity and end structural inequalities for all people in employment and economic mobility. It is our collective responsibility as a great Nation to ensure a strong foundation that supports economic security for all and extends the founding promise of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness to every American.

Dr. King devoted his life to serving others, reminding us that "human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable. Every step toward the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering, and struggle -- the tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals." Commemorating Dr. King's life is not only a tribute to his contributions to our Nation and the world, but also a reminder that every day, each of us can play a part in continuing this critical work.

For this reason, we honor Dr. King's legacy with a national day of service. I encourage all Americans to visit to learn more about service opportunities across our country. By dedicating this day to service, we move our Nation closer to Dr. King's vision of all Americans living and working together as one beloved community.

NOW, THEREFORE, I BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim January 17, 2011, as the Martin Luther King, Jr., Federal Holiday. I encourage all Americans to observe this day with appropriate civic, community, and service programs in honor of Dr. King's life and lasting legacy.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this fourteenth day of January, in the year of our Lord two thousand eleven, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-fifth.


Friday, January 14, 2011

David Brooks on Modesty and Civility

David Brooks, "Tree of Failure," New York Times, 14 January 2011.

So this is where civility comes from — from a sense of personal modesty and from the ensuing gratitude for the political process. Civility is the natural state for people who know how limited their own individual powers are and know, too, that they need the conversation. They are useless without the conversation. . . .
A column well worth reading on the necessity for modesty in a democracy.

JFK Library online

The John F. Kennedy Presidential Library has announced the release of thousands of on-line documents from the JFK archives. This could be a valuable resource for teachers, students, researchers, and citizens.

I have spent many hours in research at the Library and have often wished I could share access to the original documents with my students.

Check out the digital archive.

photo: from the JFK Library web site

Monday, January 10, 2011

A Shooting in Tucson

I spoke this morning with a reporter from a national network about the terrible shootings in Arizona this weekend. She asked whether I expect that the events in Tucson will make any difference to the behavior of members of Congress.

Who knows?

It seemed to me after we talked that perhaps rather than speculating about whether Congress will change, we should ask ourselves how we might want it to change, and how we would know if it did. What differences in the talk of Congress -- and of leaders in politics and the media more generally -- would contribute to changing the tone?

Robert's Rules of Order does offer guidance on decorum in debate on the floor, in section 43:
REFRAINING FROM ATTACKING A MEMBER'S MOTIVES. When a question is pending, a member can condemn the nature or likely consequences of the proposed measure in strong terms, but he must avoid personalities, and under no circumstances can he attack or question the motives of another member. The measure, not the member, is the subject of debate. If a member disagrees with a statement by another in regard to an event that both witnessed, he cannot state in debate that the other's statement "is false." But he may say, "I believe there is strong evidence that the member is mistaken." The moment the chair hears such words as "fraud," "liar," or "lie" used about a member in debate, he must act immediately and decisively to correct the matter and prevent its repetition.
This is a good rule, as far as it goes. It is the rule that Congressman Joe Wilson violated when he shouted "You lie!" at the President last year in a joint session of Congress. In the spirit of the rule, we could go considerably further than bare compliance while still leaving plenty of room for vigorous debate and disagreement.

We don't know whether there is any direct causal connection between vitriolic political language and what happened in Tucson.

A New York Times editorial today says in part the
It is facile and mistaken to attribute this particular madman’s act directly to Republicans or Tea Party members. But it is legitimate to hold Republicans and particularly their most virulent supporters in the media responsible for the gale of anger that has produced the vast majority of these threats, setting the nation on edge. Many on the right have exploited the arguments of division, reaping political power by demonizing immigrants, or welfare recipients, or bureaucrats. They seem to have persuaded many Americans that the government is not just misguided, but the enemy of the people. . . .

"Bloodshed and Invective in Arizona," New York Times, 10 January 2011.

See also Paul Krugman, "Climate of Hate"
Gail Collins, "A Right to Bear Glocks?"
Timothy Egan, "Tombstone Politics."
David Gergen, "No Time for Finger Pointing," CNN.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Tears as Communication

"When we cry, we may be doing more than expressing emotion. Our tears, according to striking new research, may be sending chemical signals that influence the behavior of other people. . . ."

Pam Belluck, "In Women's Tears, a Chemical Signal That Says, "Not Tonight, Dear," New York Times, 6 January 2011.

Sunday, January 2, 2011


With the newly elected Republican Congress and continuing unemployment, we are going to see a rise in blaming unions -- especially public employee unions, including teachers -- for having jobs and pensions.

And yet see Nicholas Kristof's reminder in today's New York Times -- 1 percent of Americans own more wealth than the bottom 90 percent. And we have just passed a huge tax cut for the wealthiest Americans. Of course, even to say this is to move from one blame rhetoric to another. We're in for more lean times, and more mean times.

Nicholas Kristof, "Equality, a True Soul Food," New York Times, 2 January 2011.