Leading scientists and naturalists, including Professor Richard Dawkins and Sir David Attenborough, are claiming a victory over the creationist movement after the government ratified measures that will bar anti-evolution groups from teaching creationism in science classes.
The Department for Education has revised its model funding agreement, allowing the education secretary to withdraw cash from schools that fail to meet strict criteria relating to what they teach. Under the new agreement, funding will be withdrawn for any free school that teaches what it claims are "evidence-based views or theories" that run "contrary to established scientific and/or historical evidence and explanations".
The British Humanist Association (BHA), which has led a campaign against creationism – the movement that denies Darwinian evolution and claims that the Earth and all its life was created by God – described the move as "highly significant" and predicted that it would have implications for other faith groups looking to run schools.
The Royal Tyrrell Museum, in dry proximity to Drumheller, Alberta, was an unexpected and welcome treat, appealling to every geekly layer right back to my tender childhood. One of my earliest memories of "what I want to be when I grow up" was a burning desire to be a paleontologist, stoked by books introducing me to Tyrannosaurus (six inch teeth!), Diplodocus, and Stegosaurus (it could fit in my classroom!). This museum ties the Vancouver Aquarium for my affections. The exhibits were well turned out and rich in information, and the kids programs brought us back for a second day, searching for fossils in the eroded runoff among the crumbling badlands. This image is Black Beauty, a rare mineral-blackened Tyrannosaurus rex fossil found in the Crowsnest pass, Alberta. I want to go back.
Minister of Research and Innovation John Wilkinson announced the new $100 million Global Leadership Round in Genomics and Life Sciences will support "globally significant, collaborative research projects" headquartered in Ontario.
Scientists who work in either genomics, gene-related research, or research into stem cells or proteins will be eligible to compete for the new funds.
Great news for genomics research in Ontario. I assume this will go through OGI. This will hopefully lessen the temptation for Canadian based scientists to head south to a US that is once again science friendly. I think Canada and other countries have benefited scientifically from the Bush years, and we need to work to keep our best and brightest, as well as the 'exiles', in place.
I didn't bomb. In fact my presentation went fairly well, once I got the kids going on constructing a double helix from Twizzlers and mini-marshmallows. The marshmallows come in 4 colours, ideal for teaching about base pairing. T
he most common question? " Can I eat my DNA now?"
Kieran shared the information he found with classmates around the
lunch table, mentioning studies that suggest marijuana kills fewer
people than tobacco or alcohol. He also opined that marijuana use
should be legal in Canada. "I wasn't selling any drugs, I was just
giving out statistics," Kieran said.
One of his fellow students
complained to Susan Wilson, the principal at Wawota Parkland School,
who in turn called Keiran's mother on May 29. During the phone
conversation, Kieran said he was accused of "soliciting the sale of
drugs to minors and others within the school."...
And get this quote from the Director of Education for the school division:
..."Public schools are not public places like shopping malls where
students can gather and talk about any issue that they wish," he said.
"We have teachers and principals who have expectations for student
conduct in a safe and orderly climate."
What makes this newsworthy of course is not that a teen might be talking about pot (oh my stars and garters, what a shocker!!) or an interesting bit of research, but the school's overreaction. We are in the unfortunate season of graduation-linked teen deaths, usually from drunk driving or other alcohol related misadventure. In that context, I wonder if the officials at this school think marijuana is the drug they need to worry about?
A week from tomorrow I face my daughter's grade 1 class to talk about my job so if anyone has any nifty ideas for communicating DNA to 6 year olds I am all ears. I have used the IKEA parts-list analogy for other lay audiences, and one of my coworkers who works in public education has forwarded some kick-ass ideas, but if anyone else happens along this post with some ideas I would be grateful. My wife thinks I'm going to bomb.