In an article published at the PeachPundit, the author, Charlie Harper suggests the Georgia Senate Bill 167 is an anti-science bill. In this post, I want to add to Mr. Harper’s conclusion that the action of the Georgia Senate is major step backwards for education in the state.
Senators Ligon, Loudermilk, Hufstetler and Hill, the originators of the bill, based only on political considerations, have created a plague on the Georgia educational system. If they had chutzpah, they would have created a bill that engaged the Georgia Senate in a debate, followed by and up or down vote on whether to opt out or stay with the Common Core State Standards. Instead, they have created a wreck of the state’s curriculum by throwing their argument about the Common Core State Standards into the hands of a politically appointed 17-member committee. According to the bill, the mathematics review has to be completed by May 31, 2015, and implemented during the 2016 -2017 school year. English language arts is to be completed by May 31, 2016, and implemented by the 2017-2018 school year.
The bill also prohibits any state official from relinquishing any control over content standards. What this really means is state educators are not allowed to adopt any federally prescribed content standards established by a consortium of states or a third-party, including, but not limited to, the Next Generation Science Standards, the National Curriculum for Social Studies, the National Health Education Standards, or the National Sexuality Standards. Will the esteemed senators ban textbooks and other resources that any connection to a federally prescribed program or research project.
But the Senators can’t get their story right. In another section of the bill, the Senators urge educators to examine standards previously or currently adopted by Georgia, other states, or other countries especially those highly rated in national and international surveys.
Whose In, Whose Out
The committee of 17 will be stacked with political appointees, many of whom will lack the knowledge to check and make recommendations about content standards in English, language arts, literature, reading, mathematics, science, biology, chemistry, physics, geology, engineering, history, political science, geography, anthropology, computer science, robotics.
The committee is tasked with making recommendations on the content standards. As you will see ahead, this is the wrong committee for a wrong-headed piece of legislation.
In: If you live in Georgia, and can claim membership in anyone of these categories, you are in:
- Parent or grandparent of a Georgia student–they need 9 of you folks
- Current or retired teacher–they only need 3 of you, one elementary, one middle, and one high school teacher
- Private sector person–2 of you
- Postsecondary content specialist: 3 people who have taught the subject content (at least 5 years) at the postsecondary level, and hopefully holding a doctorate. They mean professors of English, chemistry, history, engineering, political science, etc.
Out: If you are a professor of education in the state of Georgia, you are out. If you hold an advanced degrees in education in a subject such as science education, English education, social studies education, or mathematics education–you can not be on this committee.
I do have a Ph.D. in science education and geology, and I know professors in all the education content areas in Georgia. If you wanted to have knowledgeable people on the committee, these are the folks you need. They know and do the research in education, and they know and understand the content (English, mathematics, science, and social studies) of the standards. This is a perfect example of the “season of unreason” playing out in the Georgia Senate. Many colleagues in colleges of education also teach in academic departments of our universities. What are these senators thinking? To continue the legacy of unreason, the Senators also insist that the committee be a blend of urban, suburban, rural and represent each congressional district. And in typical fashion, committee members are appointed via a mix of the Governor, Speaker of the House, and the Lieutenant Governor.
Season of Unreason
I’ve read the Senate Bill 167, and if you do, I think you will agree that this piece of legislation is a display of ignorance on the part of these men. What they have done is to use a lack of scholarship and ethics to inflict harm on hundreds of thousands of students, their parents, and all of Georgia’s educators.
The year 2010 is a benchmark for our senators. You see, it was in 2010 that the state of Georgia received its $400 million dollar grant from the federal (this is a key word in Senate Bill 167) government’s Race to the Top fund. Georgia agreed to adopt the Common Core State Standards as part of this grant. Governor Purdue signed the proposal that was funded, and Governor Deal has stated support for the standards.
This senate bill pushes the state’s curriculum back to the year 2010, just before Georgia received RT3 federal funding. Here is how Senate Bill 167 pushes education in Georgia back:
Beginning September 24, 2014, a local school system shall have the flexibility to determine its curriculum and instruction without constraint, including returning to curriculum and instruction aligned to the former Georgia Performance Standards that were in effect in June 2010, until the completion of the revision process established pursuant to this part and the establishment of new standards pursuant to such process.
The Georgia legislature is in the midst an age of Unreason, and Senate Bill 167 is the poster child for unreason and unscientific literacy. Two recent publications come to mind that underscore the unreason and unscientific thinking that has occurred under the Gold Dome in Atlanta.
The first publication is Susan Jacoby’s book, The Age of American Unreason (library copy). It is the story of America caught up in “junk thought” and anti-rationalist thinking that seems to be common fare for state legislatures and the U.S. Congress these days. The debate over the Common Core State Standards in America’s state legislatures is not a scholarly discussion of the content and curriculum of schooling. It is an arrogant display of political advocacy trumping any sense of responsibility for the education of its citizens. Creating a committee that lacks the credentials to analyze, synthesize and evaluate the content of the K-12 curriculum is a sham, and an embarrassment to the citizens and educators of Georgia.
Another publication that has relevance here is Chris Mooney and Sheril Kirshenbaum’s Unscientific America: How Scientific Illiteracy Threatens Our Future (library copy). A very significant part of Senate Bill 167 is the disconnect between the content of the curriculum and the development of literacy among Americans. Why did the Georgia Senate tie the hands of Georgia’s educators by making it illegal to consider and carry out any federally prescribed content standards or related materials, especially the Next Generation Science Standards? It’s obvious that the Georgia Senate has decided politically to join the band-wagon of fellow legislators to opt out of the Common Core and to redirect the state away from the NGSS.
The action of the Senate is very clear, and that is to use the education of K-12 students as a punching bag to wedge their political ideology into our schools. Their behavior is unscientific. Mooney and Kirshenbaum discuss how [scientific] literacy has been impeded by politicians and advocacy groups. The behavior of the Georgia Senate by writing and passing Senate Bill 167 only contributes further to the problem of illiteracy. Mooney and Kirshenbaum expose the illiteracy of the senate when they say:
And anyway, we don’t need average citizens to become robotic memorizers of scientific facts or readers of the technical literature. Rather we need a nation in which science has far more prominence in politics and the media, for more relevance to the life of every American, for more intersections with other walks of life, and ultimately, far more influence where it truly matters—namely, in setting the agenda for the future as far out as we can possibly glimpse it. That would be a scientific America, and its citizens would be as scientifically literate as anyone could reasonably hope for. We will never need a nation that is fully composed of Ph.D.s. Chris Mooney and Sheril Kirshenbaum’s Unscientific America: How Scientific Illiteracy Threatens Our Future, p. 18.
The Georgia Senate, through its passage of Senate Bill 167 has not only pushed education in Georgia back, but has created instability for parents, students and their teachers. Shame on them.
What do you think about Senate Bill 167?