Science Tomorrow (Satire) New Education Program Delays Science

Teaching Science Can Be a Subversive Activity

Teaching Science Can Be a Subversive Activity

The following fake news piece is satire originally written in 2006. Some of the characters are or will soon become history, but the philosophical merits, for the most part, still hold.

For Immediate Release

November 7, 2006

Department of Education makes new commitment to Science Education

The Department of Education announced today that it would address the issue of science education in public schools in the United States. President Bush joined current Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings, and former Secretary of Education, Rod Paige, to introduce the sweeping science initiative.

Bush introduced the initiative with gushing excitement, “We’re glad today to announce the new Science Initiative, Science Tomorrow. It’s a bold step to improve the science of education for young people. Science Tomorrow will give hope where there was none. It will give them something to look forward to; Science Tomorrow. Young minds need something forward to look to. There’s always tomorrow, and it’s always a day away.”

The new initiative comes in response to recent reports by the National Academy of Science (NAS), the National Science Foundation (NSF), and the opinions of nearly every scientist in the nation, which have been critical of the current state of science education. The Department of Education indicated that it didn’t want to be left out of the so called “Competitiveness” movement, which refers to an emphasis on global competitiveness and the advancement of science and technology, themes which were popularized in the National Academy of Science report, “Rising Above the Gathering Storm” (RAGS) and Thomas Friedman’s Book, “The World is Flat” (TWIF). Secretary Spellings described the movement by saying, “We may be 99% perfect, but to be competitive, we have to be better than NSF. The result of reading RAGS has led us to look at ways to improve what we can do in the area of science. TWIF showed us that the world is indeed flat, and that’s a fact that most people don’t know.”

In order to improve science education, the Department is establishing a new central office to oversee curriculum and assessment, the National Office of Science Education (NOSE). “We were going to call it the National Agency for Science and Literacy, but NASAL is just a silly acronym,” said Spellings. Keeping with the tradition established by other recent curriculum movements, NOSE is going to oversee a new curriculum with a catchy name that specifically ties it to, and endorses, a publishing company’s product. Like its predecessors “Reading First,” and “Math Now,” the new “Science Tomorrow” program will encourage school districts, through coercion and manipulation, to purchase overpriced materials from a specific vendor, in this case, Science Tomorrow, Inc., a company established by current and former Education Department executives, including former Secretary of Education Rod Paige.

“Science Tomorrow is the most advanced, futuristic approach to science yet attempted,” said Spellings. “There are only so many hours in a day, and most days, that’s 24. But our current programs are already filling up school days with scripted instruction. We’ve eliminated PE, history, science, and the arts. We’ve even started scripted afterschool tutoring, to eliminate any exposure to daylight whatsoever in needy kids. Soon we’ll be providing scripted weekends. All the time is used up, and we’re only teaching two academic subjects. We decided that the best way to make the most of our days, is to use future time to address today’s needs. With Science Tomorrow, we’ll teach Science, tomorrow. It’s like banking minutes, if you consider withdrawals to be banking. We’re investing in the science education of the future. I see our role as saving science education, saving it for later. It’s an investment in the future. We’ll train those scientists, we’ll train those engineers, just not today. Why waste our time? Our knowledge is so primitive now, we should just wait until we’re more advanced, like in Star Trek, and we’ll be able to use tricorders in the classroom.”

“Today’s problems will be solved by future scientists. That’s always the way it has always worked. Like Galileo solving the problem of gravity, long after gravity was invented, or Thomas Edison doing whatever he did. After all, we don’t even know the full extent of the harm we’re doing today. It will take the skills and technology of future generations to come back in time with their time machines and fix everything, unless the world ends, like it was supposed to at the millennium.”

The Science Tomorrow (TM) Curriculum was developed under a new paradigm using guidance from the Department of Education’s Faith-Based Initiatives office (they don’t have a science office). Rather than relying solely on the advice of leading science education scholars, theologians were also consulted in designing the science instructional materials. Science Tomorrow CEO, Rod Paige, described the curriculum.

“When you’re talking about Failing Schools, …I mean Schools that Fail, you need to address the needs of low income minority kids. These kids just aren’t that smart, they are failures living in a culture of failure, so you’ve got to address their needs with sensitivity. It’s not their fault, they inherited it. You can’t just hand them a science book and expect them to be able to learn. Science is just too hard. It is difficult to explain, and even harder to understand ideas like how the Sun goes around the Earth, how heavier objects fall faster, how individuals adapt to their environment, and how the moon changes its shape with the seasons. We needed to develop innovative strategies to promote learning. That’s why we developed a new paradigm, one that everyone could understand. We invented a new strategy called Questionification; where all things in the universe could be divided into three basic groups: animal, vegetable, or mineral. Some things are bigger than a bread box, others smaller. With Questionification, we’re teaching students to develop good questioning strategies.”

“We brought in Faith-Based groups to give us the kind of help we needed in simplifying the material. We needed both sides of the story. They helped us out by shortening the age of the universe from 15 billion years to 6,000. That makes it easier for kids to understand, and we want them to understand. Kids need to know how dinosaurs and people coexisted in peace and harmony until the flood. In the Biology text, we wanted to be sensitive about evolution, so we left that out. People are entitled to their own beliefs, but school is no place for that. Global Warming was also explained in way that everyone could easily understand. The heat is actually coming from Hell, which is becoming increasingly exothermic with the rise in global sin. It was a nice way for us to integrate classroom behavior with the environment.”

Leading science education specialists at NASA, NSF, and the NAS have expressed strong objections to the new materials, claiming that the new curriculum is grounded in poor instructional methods and promotes shallow test preparation strategies over sound scientific methods. Nobel Prize winning scientist, Sir Harold Kroto said of the materials, “They’re horrible, they’ve just recycled textbooks from the 70’s, and removed the good stuff. They’ve stuck their NOSE where it doesn’t belong. At least they’re recycling.” Instead of a lengthy dissertation on the subject, the National Academy of Science issued the following one-line statement: “Science Tomorrow sucks, badly.”

When cornered, Paige responded to the criticism. “The Science Tomorrow curriculum has been in development for 30 years, and is mostly based on science. It’s the best curriculum to come out in the entire 6000 year history of the universe. It was endorsed by the Kansas Board of Education. Not this one, the other one that got voted out. What does Kroto know? He’s not even American.”

The path ahead for Science Tomorrow may be a difficult one, as many recent attempts to improve science education have failed, largely due to their perceived cost. Bush clarified the priorities, “We are at war. That’s where our money needs to go. We can’t just be giving out dollar bills to little kids. They can go find their own (snicker). The money needs to go where it’s needed. Schools wouldn’t even know what to do with money if they had it. Halliburton, Bechtel, Blackwater, those guys know how to spend.” The acronym STEM, which stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics, has also been a source of conflict between Congress and the administration. “I’ve told you once, and I’ll tell you again, I don’t want anyone taking my STEM cells. I’ll VETO anyone who comes near me.”

Democrats had their own ideas. Hillary Rodham Clinton expressed the views of the Democratic party. “Democrats fully support the ideals of Science Tomorrow, but we’re upset with the implementation. Congress has authorized six billion dollars for Science Tomorrow, but the Republican-led Congress has followed the president’s lead, and provided negative six billion instead. Democrats support fully funding Science Tomorrow.”

Unlike the Math Now and Reading First initiatives, the Science Tomorrow initiative is not scheduled to be implemented any time soon in most schools. Only wealthy, white schools have the freedom to engage their students with a rich diverse curriculum, with ample devoted to the fine arts, science, physical education, world geography, civics, and history, the rest of the schools fall under the iron fist of No Child Left Behind, where diversity is punished.

“We have a strong belief in the importance of science, that’s why we started this program. We just don’t have time to do it. The accountability system AYP (pronounced A-wipe, the A stands for …) rests almost entirely on the scores of Math and Language Arts exams. Said Spellings, “Reading First takes 99% of the day, and Math Now takes the other half. It’s not that those other subjects don’t matter, it’s just that we don’t care. We called it Reading First didn’t we?”

Like other Bush legacy attempts, the Science Tomorrow initiative strikes a fine balance between hallow policy, high rhetoric, and outright corporate handout. Consequently, it has generated much excitement amongst agency officials and private interests alike. Officials from Science Tomorrow, Inc. are already spending their lucrative no-bid contract constructing a nine story complex over the site of George Washington Elementary school, which was acquired by eminent domain after the school had been razed to the ground for failing to make AYP. Other industries are equally enthusiastic. A spokesperson for Exxon mobile said, “What I really like is the freedom it gives us to desecrate the environment, when nobody knows enough science to object to anything we’re doing.” An official with Philip Morris said, “It’s good news for us, because people will start smoking again.” While representatives from Dow Chemical seemed unaffected, “We get all our scientists from India anyway.”

Some education researchers see Science Tomorrow as another disappointing piece in a series of bungled education movements that began with No Child Left Behind. Bush defended the implementation of NCLB. “We don’t like to call them ‘Failing Schools,’ but we do. The law doesn’t say that. It says ‘Schools that Fail.’ But it isn’t schools that fail, it’s students. They’re the ones taking the tests.” According to Bush, with many schools facing increasingly harsh penalties for failing to meet annual benchmarks in Math and Language Arts, it would be “incredibly stupid” for these schools to even try to teach other subjects. “Should we really teach kids how to draw, or paint, or draw? These kids are here for one reason, and that’s to boost their school’s scores. And to measure. To measure and be measured (chuckle). They can exercise on their own time. That’s like homework. That’s why we call it homework. It’s work they can do at home. That’s where they do it. It’s hard, hard work, but we’re making good progress.”

The next major area that the Department of Education is planning on addressing is Social Studies. They are considering a new program called “History is History.”

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