Creationist Demands Critical Thinking in Indiana

Creationist Indiana state Sen. Dennis Kruse wants students in Indiana schools to demand scientific evidence for anything they doubt. His stated intent is to get Creationism into the classroom, along with Global Warming denial. But what happens when the students demand evidence for Creationism?

After creationism bill failed, Indiana senator will push ‘truth in education’ measure

I find Creationists endlessly fascinating and endlessly amusing. I collect instances of how much science they have to deny and claim to be part of the conspiracy against Jesus in how many areas. I summarized my findings on my education blog the last time a Creationism-in-the-schools bill was proposed in Indiana.

I wrote to the Indianapolis Star newspaper to express my feelings on hearing of this proposal. An edited version of the letter below appeared in the paper yesterday, and was well received, except of course by the wacko Creationist commentator who totally missed the point.

Also published on Daily Kos.

As a reality-based educator working with the One Laptop Per Child program worldwide, I must applaud Rep. Dennis Kruse’s misguided attempt to bring Creationism into the classroom by demanding critical thinking of students. (“After creationism bill failed, Indiana senator will push ‘truth in education’ measure”) Sen. Kruse’s bill proposes that any student will be able to challenge any scientific statement made in a classroom, and demand evidence for it.

“If a student thinks something isn’t true, then they can question the teacher and the teacher would have to come up with some kind of research to support that what they are teaching is true or not true.”

I am delighted at the thought of Hoosier schoolchildren demanding research papers from Creationist schoolteachers or fellow students. I even prepared a list of questions that they can use.

I didn’t know that they would come in handy this time. I was merely laughing at the last Indiana legislator to try this on, and at his willfully ignorant supporters.

I have amused myself over the years by collecting statements by Creationists about how much science, how much geology, biology, physics, chemistry, astronomy, cosmology, and so on they have to deny in order to maintain their fundamentally unChristian beliefs. The last time Indiana was considering allowing Creationism into the classroom, I wrote up a summary in my education blog, “Creation Science” in Indiana

It warms my heart to think of little children asking for the research proving that Quantum Mechanics does not work inside the sun, so that it has not been fusing hydrogen to helium and thus shining for billions of years, or the explanation for being able to see stars and galaxies so far away that their light has taken millions, even billions of years to get to us, and how it is that we have more than 10,000 annual layers in deep ice cores from Greenland and Antarctica. For starters.

I have a million of them.

Perhaps Sen. Kruse supposes that because all Global Warming models are wrong, that this disposes of the entire theory, and all the facts about warmer, more acid, rising oceans; about melting glaciers, permafrost, and sea ice; and about warmer air, with more and bigger storms that cause worse flooding because the ocean starts off a foot higher, and with more and worse droughts.

Yes. I said that all of the Global Warming models are wrong. They are all wrong. Global Warming is worse than any of them predicted. The errors in our understanding of such a complex system as the global climate do not mean that warming is a figment of scientists’ imaginations, or “the Kool-aid of the left wing Liberal conspiracy” as some would have it. It means that we missed some kind of feedback that is resulting in more warming, more melting, more acid ocean water, more dying corals, and more of all the rest.

You want evidence? How high do you want it piled?

Perhaps Sen. Kruse is unaware that we have a century and a half of research on Natural Selection, genetics, and molecular biology to back up the facts, already evident before Charles Darwin, of evolution.

Again, how high would he like the evidence piled? And what does he have on his side?

Any other questions?

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Women in science and technology: a challenge

I just now replied to this message from the Black Data Processing Africa mailing list. How much of this did you know about?

to BDPA-Africa
On Tue, Oct 16, 2012 at 2:14 PM, chifu_wa_malindi <> wrote:
> Ada Lovelace Day: Celebrating Women’s Genius
> Posted 16 October 2012 17:59 GMT
> Written by Renata Avila
> I want to challenge you. Yes, you, who are reading this article: mention five, just five names, of amazing women in science and technology you know, from five different countries in the world. The average person will likely fail to complete the challenge.

What, only five? I admit that I have an advantage in this area. I have
studied the question over the years, even before I got involved in
global education for all children in the One Laptop Per Child program.
We have a great emphasis on equal opportunity for girls and women
everywhere, including the end of poverty and oppression for all.

> Many will just mention some names they heard in recent news, like Marisa Mayer, the new CEO of Yahoo.

Not only CEO, but a mathematician and Computer Scientist specializing
in applications of AI to search, and Google employee #20.

  • Theano, early Pythagorean mathematician, wife of Pythagoras, Greek colony in Italy
  • Hypatia, Librarian of Alexandria, scientist, mathematician, philosopher, Egypt
  • Hildegard of Bingen, abbess, science writer, Germany
  • Émilie du Châtelet, mathematical physicist and Voltaire’s mistress, France
  • Marie Sklodowska Curie, double Nobel Prize winner (physics and chemistry), Poland
  • Hedy Lamarr, actress with an important wireless patent, Austria
  • Of course Ada Augusta Byron, Countess of Lovelace, UK
  • Captain (retired as Rear Admiral) Grace Murray Hopper, computer pioneer, US

If we can argue that medieval Germany is not the same country as
unified modern Germany, then we can add one of the greatest women in
mathematics and physics, Emmy Noether.

OK, that was nine countries, depending on how you distinguish
countries, off the top of my head.


from which we add

  • Aglaonike, astronomer, Greece
  • Dorotea Bucca, physician, Italy
  • Eva Ekeblad, agronomist and chemist, Sweden
  • Maria Sibylla Merian, biologist, The Netherlands
  • Sofia Kovalevskaya, mathematician, Russia
  • Inge Lehmann, seismologist, Denmark
  • Amanda Barnard, physicist, Australia
  • Ada E. Yonath, crystallographer, Israel

Somebody should add all the names below to this list. It is a pleasure
to see that we are making such progress, and a great shame that we are
not making more. In particular, that Malala Yousafzai was shot by
Taliban extremists in Pakistan for the crime of promoting education
for girls, and remains in critical condition.

> Ada Lovelace Day, celebrated every October 16, honor international women who are contributing with effort and little praise in the fields of science, technology, engineering and maths – women whose skills are urgently needed for the future of the world.
> Here we highlight some of these extraordinary women from all over the world.
> For example:

  • Brazilian molecular biologist and geneticist Mayana Zatz is heading the University of São Paulo’s (USP) Human Genome Research Centre
  • Mexican Environmental Engineer Blanca Jiménez Cisneros is the Director of the Division of Water Sciences and Secretary of the International Hydrological Program from UNESCO
  • Sijue Wu, from China, was awarded with the Morningside Medal, considered the most prestigious award for Chinese experts in Mathematics. Wu is also the first female recipient in the medal’s history.

> ‘Introduce a girl to engineering’ by Argonne Library
> `Introduce a girl to engineering’ by Argonne Library (CC-BY-NC-SA)
> Leading the list of women scientists is


  • Fabiola Gianotti who is directing the ATLAS experiment at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN in Switzerland, considered the world’s biggest scientific experiment. Gianotti is followed by Sunita Williams, an Astronaut who holds the record for the longest space flight by a woman.
  • Meanwhile, Jennifer Seberry is well known as The Grandmother of cryptography and computer security in Australia. She is a globally recognized cryptographer, mathematician, and computer scientist who took part in the discovery of the foundations of what is computer security today.

> All the women listed above are at the peak of their consolidated careers. They are role models and examples who are inspiring many girls around the world. A new generation of scientists, computer experts, and researchers are taking the first steps to lead science and technology all over the world.

  • In Cuba Martha Zoe, a specialist in natural medicine in Cuba using native herbs growing in the island, discovered how `anamu’ pills help those who are sick with terminal diseases.
  • In Tunisia, Sarrah Ben M’Barek is engaged in similar research, discovering innovative uses of plants. She also advocates to teach children how fascinating science can be with a creative approach.
    Meanwhile, Esther Duflo, from France, founded the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab, a network of professors from all over the world who use Randomized Evaluations to answering questions about poverty alleviation.
  • Computer Scientist from Princeton University, Nadia Heninger, scanned the entire Internet and found hundreds of thousands of instances of insecure Internet connections.
  • While Linet Kwamboka, from Kenya, is a computer expert leading the Open Data Initiative and the Open Government Partnership at the Kenya ICT Board.
  • In Argentina, Evelyn Heidel is building DIY scanners for libraries and hackerspaces to preserve access to knowledge.
  • Ana Domb, from Costa Rica-Chile, is a researcher studying distribution systems and thinking about the intersection of culture and technology.
    Erinn Clark, a self taught computer expert, is one of the bright minds behind Tor Project, updating the Tor Project code and by doing so, allowing hundreds of users to communicate privately and securely. She combines her coding activities with public advocacy.
  • Berglind Ósk Bergsdóttir, for her part, is an amazing developer of mobile apps from Iceland.
  • Twelve years ago, Chiaki Hayashi founded LoftWork, which comprises more than 7,000 creators, including web and graphic designers, illustrators, photographers and fine artists and is allowing hundreds of digital creators to work together, share their portfolios and build projects they would have never created in isolation.
  • Debbie Sterling is an engineer and the founder of GoldieBlox, a toy and book series starring Goldie, a girl inventor who loves to build, seeking to attract girls to mechanics and engineering.
  • Naeema Zarif in Lebanon is leading a sharing revolution, promoting open digital models.
  • Architect Joumana Al-Jabri, meanwhile, is using her technical skills to foster human rights with a variety of technology projects, including Visualizing Palestine.
  • In Costa Rica, Giannina Segnini is leading a team of scientist and journalists working in the most ambitious data driven journalism iniatiative in the region.
  • Kate Doyle, in the United States, is the director of the Evidence Project at the National Security Archive, and uses data science to uncover human rights abuses and hold criminals accountable of the most horrific crimes.

> Models to follow, lives to inspire us, and names we must not forget to tackle stereotypes pushing women away from science. While some names mentioned above belong to very bright and famous senior experts, one must not forget the amazing women leading and forming communities such Mitchell Baker leading Mozilla, Cathy Casserly as CEO of Creative Commons, Kat Walsh as the Board Chair of Wikimedia, and all Global Voices Online female authors and editors, who make up a majority of our community. We should also remember those groups of women who are the custodians and guardians of traditional knowledge in all cultures.
> Women have been at all times the keepers of culture, the depositories of knowledge and the seeds for the future. Lets honor all of them today.

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Local Content and Political Will in Rwanda

Rwanda is trying to become the third country to roll out XOs to all of its primary-school children, after Peru and Uruguay. The eventual aim is to make Rwanda the high-tech hub of Africa, beating out even South Africa. Here is an excerpt from an update on the situation.

Rwanda: With Locally-Made Content, Laptops Become Real Education Tools

It’s been over two years that the One Laptop per Child (OLPC) project, under the Ministry of Education, started the distribution of XO laptops, as they are officially called, to children of P4 to P6 across the country. As many as 105,000 XO laptops have already been deployed so far.

However, only 185 out of 2,388 public primary schools have so far been served mainly due to the fact that the majority still has no electricity (only 473 do, although a program of setting up solar power in the remaining ones is being rolled out)…

Until now, students were being introduced to the pre-loaded general content, most of the time unrelated to the curriculum. Yet this is changing, and the integration of the curriculum is already being carried out.

“The integration of curriculum is a fundamental step in our strategy,” says Nkubito Bakuramutsa, the OLPC Coordinator. “The idea of integrating technology in schools goes beyond just the deployment of laptops. It is a full transformation of the role of the teacher who becomes a facilitator, a moderator between the digital knowledge in laptops and the students.”

We used to get a lot of complaints that Nicholas Negroponte claimed that the XO was a silver bullet for education and ending poverty, that he claimed that nothing else was needed, such as electricity, Internet access, curriculum development, support, maintenance and repair, or teacher training. It is true that the OLPC and its Sugar software were designed to work in schools that did not have adequately-trained teachers, even in the absence of Internet connections, and that they are having successes in such situations. But Rwanda is demonstrating precisely what Nicholas intended: We provide what nobody else can provide, and governments do what they already know how to do in order to provide the rest.

Peru and Uruguay are considered middle-income countries, with Gross National Income (GNI) per capita of $4,710 and $10,590 respectively. Rwanda is far less developed, with GNI of $540. It just shows you what political will is worth in a country that truly understands that it cannot afford continued poverty.

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Collaborative lesson planning in Japan

A basic idea of the Prussian system of education starting in the 18th century was the application of factory automation principles of production efficiency from the Industrial Revolution. In this system, every student would learn the same lesson from the same textbook on the same day. Teachers were to be trained only to be able to present the lessons as written, not to have any deeper understanding of the subject themselves. Although this is no longer the driving principle of education systems in many countries, teachers are still undertrained, and still under heavy constraints imposed by curricula and standardized testing. In addition, teachers are mostly on their own when creating lesson plans, particularly in the problem of adapting existing lessons to the abilities, prior knowledge, and learning styles of the children in their classes.

It does not have to be so. I have a notion of a global collaboration among teachers to find the best ways of teaching, even when those methods are not part of the curricula imposed from on high. But to get there, we must start on a smaller scale. It turns out that Japan has a working model for this, which is now being brought forward in the United Kingdom by Stephen Twigg, the shadow education secretary in the British Labour Party. It has two components, known in Japanese as kounaikenshuu (校内研修 in-school training), for lifelong professional development organized by the teachers themselves, and jugyou kenkyuu (授業研究 lesson study), for collaborative lesson planning.

For those who are not familiar with British parliamentary practice, I must explain that the shadow education secretary shadows the actual education secretary in the ruling party (currently the Conservatives), as others in the opposition party (currently Labour) shadow the rest of the government, that is, ministers and secretaries in the ruling party. Shadow ministers and secretaries are, among other things, responsible for putting forward alternative policies, which can become issues whenever there is an election.

This idea of using Japan as a model did not come into the UK out of nowhere. For example, here are two books that raise these ideas strongly.

  • The Teaching Gap: Best Ideas from the World’s Teachers for Improving Education in the Classroom, by James W. Stigler and James Hiebert
  • What Works in Schools: Translating Research Into Action, by Robert J. Marzano

So now you know just enough to begin to make sense of the story itself:

BBC News – England’s schools should learn from Japan, says Twigg

By Hannah Richardson, BBC News education reporter

Stephen Twigg
Mr Twigg said teaching styles had changed little since Victorian times

England’s schools should take lessons from Japan and the Far East on how to improve performance, the shadow education secretary says. Stephen Twigg says despite many school reforms, there has been little change to the style of classroom teaching since Victorian times. Labour’s number one priority for education is raising the quality and status of teachers, he says. And he plans to visit Japan to see how education has been reformed there. This will form part of Labour’s review of its education policy.

Along with other Far Eastern countries, such as South Korea and Singapore, Japan constantly outperforms England in international studies on maths and science. This is something that has been highlighted by Education Secretary Michael Gove.

Mr Twigg says that although Labour improved results in the core subjects during its time in office, it was clear that “more of the same isn’t the answer”.

‘Trial and error’

He added: “We must learn from high-performing nations like Japan to radically transform education in England. “Labour will bring reform into the classroom by learning from the Japanese system of lesson planning, known as jugyou kenkyuu.” This involves teachers meeting regularly to collaborate on the design and implementation of lessons.

He continues: “Education in England has had years of reform to structures, exams and accountability measures. But the style of classroom teaching has changed little since Victorian times.” In Japan, teaching practices have changed markedly in the last 50 years, through a process of gradual, incremental improvements over time. Japan gives teachers themselves primary responsibility for improving classroom practice.” He highlights how participation in continual professional development, known as kounaikenshuu, is considered a core job requirement in Japan.

Mr Twigg also points out that in England, teachers lead students through a series of steps to help them learn how to solve problems. In Japan the focus is on allowing students to develop their own methods for solving problems, through trial and error.

He adds: “If we want to change teaching, we can’t just change teachers – we must change the culture of teaching, its very fabric and DNA.”


Note particularly that in Japan, groups of teachers are allowed to make mistakes without being punished. When they succeed, their reward is not gold stars or special bonuses, but the satisfaction of seeing their ideas adopted by others. What do you think most motivates a teacher? No, not tenure. Being able to teach better. Seeing children’s eyes light up with understanding more often. What the psychologists call intrinsic motivation, not external rewards.

What we need, then, is to change the culture around teaching, to allow teachers and students to succeed, not to straitjacket them in outmoded practices and ideology.

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EduJam! Prizes for Sugar Activities by children

The much-criticized article in The Economist claiming that OLPC has been a failure in Perú begins:

GIVING a child a computer does not seem to turn him or her into a future Bill Gates—indeed it does not accomplish anything in particular.

It then claims that advances in computer and cognitive skills by Peruvian schoolchildren don’t count if their scores on standardized math and reading tests didn’t increase.

Neither claim turns out to be the case. The second is just self-contradictory nonsense. For the first, we need evidence.

And look! Here it is. In his regular report to the Sugar Development and It’s An Education Project (IAEP) mailing lists on recent Sugar Labs news, Walter Bender wrote

EduJAM! presented awards for the best Sugar activities. Although they were not singled out in any special way, the youth of Uruguay managed to walk away with six of the prizes. Congratulations to Christofer, Agustin, Daniel, et al. for your contributions. A tip of the hat to the adult contributors too: Flavio, Gabriel, Alan, Andres, and Alejandro. By my rough estimate, approximately 10% of all Sugar activities have been written by kids who grew up on Sugar. It would interesting to understand the phenomenon. But we must be doing something right.

I have translated just enough of the Spanish for you to follow.

And the winners are…

1er Puesto (empate):
First prize (tie)
JAMedia (Flavio Danesse) y CeibalRadio (Flavio Danesse)

2do Puesto: Simple Graph (Agustin Zubiaga)

Voto Popular: Simple Graph (Agustin Zubiaga)

1er Puesto: Conozco Uruguay (Gabriel Eirea)
I Know Uruguay

2do Puesto: Conozco América (Alan Aguiar)

Voto Popular: Conozco América (Alan Aguiar)

1er Puesto: PlayGo (Andres Ambrois y Ridderman)

2do Puesto: Ceibal-Chess (Alejandro Segovia)

Voto Popular: Busca Terrones (Agustín Zubiaga y Daniel Francis)
Similar to minesweeper

1er Puesto: JamEdit (Agustín Zubiaba y Daniel Francis)

2do Puesto (empate): Agubrowser (Agustín Zubiaga ) y Conozco Elementos Químicos (Cristofer Roibal)
Agubrowser and I Know the Chemical Elements

Voto Popular: JamEdit (Agustín Zubiaba y Daniel Francis)

Walter continued:

I did learn that Christofer has been in an on-going dialog with Rosamel Ramirez, a teacher in Duranzo about his activity development. Their latest collaboration is JAMuliples. Good stuff.

JAMultiples is a game where you click the multiples of numbers indicated.

Need I say more?

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¿Español? ¡Sí!

I have copied and reformatted the following from the WikiEducator mailing list, as an illustration of how easy it is now to find OERs on a particular subject:

On Fri, Mar 16, 2012 at 02:27, Tom Caswell <> wrote:
> Hello OER Friends,
> I’m putting out a call for college-level first year Spanish OER, especially
> open textbooks.

There are many sources of OERs listed at

This includes many modules on particular aspects of Spanish language, literature, and culture, and whole courses. OpenCourseWare in particular is for college-level materials, while OER Recommender goes for the greatest volume and the broadest range, with more than 100,000 items.

Here are two Spanish courses that stand out.

MIT has one under CC-NC-SA
Spanish I
As taught in: Fall 2003

Spanish I is very different from other classes at MIT. The central component of the text and workbook is a series of 26 half-hour video episodes. The videos allow students to learn authentic Spanish and experience its cultural diversity while following a good story full of surprises and human emotions. Students also listen to an audio-only program integrated with the text and workbook.

In the classroom, students do a variety of activities and exercises, which include talking in Spanish about the video program, practicing pronunciation and grammar, and interacting in Spanish with classmates in pairs and small groups. The class is conducted in Spanish as much as possible, but English is used where necessary for clarity and efficiency. This course deals with all basic language skills: aural comprehension, speaking, reading, and writing. This class assumes no previous knowledge of Spanish.

The Foreign Service Institute of the US State Department developed courses for many languages, and placed them in the Public Domain, including textbooks and audio. They are now freely available on the Web.

Welcome to – the home for language courses developed by the Foreign Service Institute.
These courses were developed by the United States government and are in the public domain.

This site is dedicated to making these language courses freely available in an electronic format. This site is not affiliated in any way with any government entity; it is an independent, non-profit effort to foster the learning of worldwide languages. Courses here are made available through the private efforts of individuals who are donating their time and resources to provide quality materials for language learning.

Spanish Programmatic Course
Student Text
Instructor’s Manual
Tapes for 45 units

> The Open Course Library is building a Spanish I course, but
> our faculty course designers are struggling to use 100% open materials. I
> want them to avoid building around a copyrighted publisher text because it
> will limit the usefulness of the course materials in the long run. But that
> may be the only choice if they cannot find enough existing open materials.
> If you know of college Spanish OER, especially open textbooks or other
> curated curriculum, please share them here (the page is editable by anyone
> with the link):


> Thanks,

Thank you for your work. I am in the middle of the FSI course, and can make good use of several of the other resources you listed. One Laptop Per Child and Sugar Labs have more than 2 million Spanish-speaking students using our XO laptops and Sugar education software.

> Tom
> —
> Tom Caswell
> Open Education Policy Associate, SBCTC
> (w) (p) 360-747-7301
> (b) (t) @tom4cam

Edward Mokurai (默雷/धर्ममेघशब्दगर्ज/دھرممیگھشبدگر ج) Cherlin
Silent Thunder is my name, and Children are my nation.
The Cosmos is my dwelling place, the Truth my destination.

The resources that Tom has gathered so far are

Spanish I (Wikiversity) (CC-BY-SA)

Spanish (wikibooks) (CC-BY-SA)

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Vote early and often–legally

This is part of a series I intend to write on the issues of civics:

  • How should government work?
  • How does government work (or not)?
  • What can we do about it?

These essays are intended to form the basis for a series of digital textbooks on civics for students in OLPC XO and other one-to-one computing deployments. It will of course be necessary to have others contribute, discussing the issues in their own countries, states, provinces, and localities.

A lot of people in the United States claim that their individual vote doesn’t count for anything in elections, so why bother? This is of course an idea much promoted by certain political interests who do everything they can to motivate their own people to the polls, and everything else they can to discourage or prevent the opposition from voting. Today is not the day for me to discuss vote suppression tactics (gerrymandering, illegal purges of voter registrations, allowing election officials to serve in candidates’ campaigns at the highest levels, outright lies and crimes, shortening early voting periods, burdensome and discriminatory voter ID requirements, making it harder for the other side to register and vote in general, etc.) in spite of their great importance. Yes, we need to help individuals vote, and we need to address laws and criminal activities interfering with voting, not just in the US, but everywhere.

But today, I want to encourage Americans to just go and vote on the issues. You do this every day, regardless. You vote implicitly for the interests of various businesses every time you spend money with them, or with others up or down their supply chains. You vote by tuning in to television, radio, and Internet broadcasts and social media. You vote by participating in politics (formally, in the activities of party organizations or issue organizations, or informally, by speaking to your fellow voters or to non-voters, including children, as the case may be), or by not participating, as you choose. You vote by making the effort to be informed about the issues, or by not making that effort, or by relying on sources of misinformation, as you choose. You vote by reading history, or learning enough of statistics and Internet search techniques to tell whether you are being fed something like the truth, or utter rot, or by learning the language of any region of political significance, or by anything else you do to increase your understanding of the world and the people in it.

In addition to all of that, you can vote explicitly on any number of issues at any time. You can sign petitions put forward by all manner of organizations, or propose petitions of your own, and you can vote on issues directly using the telephone, the mails, or electronic communications with your representatives in legislatures and administrations. You can vote on legal issues by supporting organizations that file lawsuits or amicus briefs in lawsuits brought by others, either against violations of law, or against unconstitutional laws.

In particular, you can vote on issues at the White House, and give President Obama ammunition in his dealings with Congress, and in his re-election campaign. Or, if you prefer, you can take note of the petitions on the White House Web site, and organize counter-petitions in favor of other positions or other candidates. It is, to a fair degree, a free country no matter what some doom-crying politicians may claim. Here is an anti-Obama petition from the White House site:

Rescind the HHS Mandate Requiring Catholic Institutions to Provide Insurance Covering Contraception to Their Employees

This blog is in favor of ending poverty around the world, and with it oppression of many kinds, government corruption, unnecessary death and disability from treatable and preventable disease and other calamity, and even war. That makes me a Progressive, at least. There is no point in me pretending to be neutral on the issues of the day. So here are a few petitions I have just signed, in no special order:

That’s not all, but it will do for the purpose. I should note that you can ask to see petitions by category, and you can search for particular words in petition statements.

What would you like to tell the President, his advisors, his opponents, and the world? Don’t be shy. Don’t pretend that it doesn’t matter. Only a few hundred thousand people have voted there so far, so your influence is out of proportion to your number. And let any students that you come into contact with know that they can do the same, without having to reach legal voting age for official elections.

Added later:

I have created a new petition requesting Federal funding for a program to create Open Education Resources for all subjects at all levels, giving the reasons that readers of this blog are familiar with. We need 150 votes to get this to be visible to everybody on the White House Web site. Please vote, and pass it on. I’m off to Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and elsewhere to spread the word.

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Great news from Sonora, Mexico

Today’s post is a straight press release from OLPC about the plan for saturation one-to-one computing in the state of Sonora, Mexico, and about deployments elsewhere in Mexico. Now we need to talk to them about digitizing and softwareizing Spanish-language textbooks, computerizing their curriculum, and upgrading their teacher training.

MIAMI, Feb 21, 2012 (BUSINESS WIRE) — One Laptop per Child (OLPC), a nonprofit organization whose mission is to provide every child in the world access to new channels of learning, sharing and self-expression, announced today that the State of Sonora, Mexico, is distributing 5,000 XO laptops to elementary school children. Adoption of the OLPC program is part of the State’s larger plan to extend Internet connectivity to all its citizens. In accordance with the UN’s declaration of Internet access as a basic human right, Sonora is the first state in Mexico to establish connectivity as a human right in its Constitution.

The OLPC project in Sonora will be implemented by Nueva Generacion Sonora A.C. (New Sonora Generation), a nonprofit organization whose goal is to provide every child in the State access to the knowledge economy through strategic use of information and communication technologies and programs.

During the next three years, 350,000 XO laptops will saturate all elementary schools in Sonora. In addition, XO laptops will be implemented in more than 100 community centers that will offer connectivity and technical and pedagogical support to students and teachers and for local projects to benefit their communities. The OLPC project has the full support of Governor Guillermo Padres and the mayors of Sonora, as well as the Social Development Secretariat (SEDESOL) of the Federal government.

“Improving children’s education is a key goal for my administration,” said Governor Guillermo Padres of the State of Sonora. “Society and government must work together to support projects that will ensure a better future for all our citizens. Education is everyone’s responsibility.”

Sonora is the latest Mexican state to launch an OLPC program. In September 2010, 500 XO laptops, funded by Procter & Gamble, were distributed to indigenous children in San Felipe del Progreso, State of Mexico.

In August 2011, the General Department of Indigenous Education of the Ministry of Education distributed 1,800 XO’s to remote schools in the State of Nayarit in Western Mexico. As part of this project, the Sugar learning environment is being translated into several indigenous languages — Huichol, Cora and Mexicanero.

1,900 XOs are also in the process of being distributed to children in the State of San Luis Potosi in North-Central Mexico. For this region, Sugar has being translated into Teenek.

“Our progress in Mexico is based on partnerships between the public and private sector,” said Rodrigo Arboleda, Chairman and CEO of the One Laptop per Child Association. “Mexico is a very diverse country and we are focused on projects that bring learning to all children, including those who speak indigenous languages.”

About One Laptop per Child

One Laptop per Child (OLPC at ) is a non-profit organization whose mission is to provide every child in the world access to new channels of learning, sharing and self-expression. In partnership with the public and private sectors and non-governmental organizations and supported by comprehensive implementation and pedagogical services, OLPC seeks to provide each child with a rugged, low-cost, low-power connected laptop that empowers individual learning and growth.

SOURCE: One Laptop per Child

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The Nation calls; I answer

Chris Hayes of The Nation (That famous Liberal bias you can’t find anywhere else) tweeted:

chrislhayes Can someone write an awesome, definitive 8-10k magazine article about the current natural gas boom, fracking and climate? kthxbai

and I tweeted back:

@chrislhayes I could, but I’m too busy educating millions of poor children so that they all will be able to do it.

This is not rocket science, even if NASA satellites are one of our most important sources of data. We are talking about measuring temperature and its causes and effects. Then we have to think about the causes of the causes and the effects of the effects. All of the scientific concepts required (but not all of the experimental techniques, and certainly not the supercomputer modeling) are well within the limits of high school physics, chemistry, and biology. Of course, there are also questions of Economics and Political “Science” involved that nobody is taught correctly. For example:

  • It isn’t a Free Market if corporations have the power to set prices.
  • It  especially isn’t a Free Market if corporations are able to buy legislative, administrative, and legal favors, including subsidies, tenured professorships for their tame Economists, and favorable treatment in textbooks.
  • It isn’t a Free Market if you and I can’t find out what is going on behind closed doors at corporations or in government, but legislators can trade stock based on information received in closed-door hearings. Which they can do, only because Congress exempted itself from the Insider Trading laws.
  • It isn’t a Free Market for anybody who isn’t permitted to get to it, including not just poor people the world over, but entire governments of poor countries that have no representation in global financial institutions, while the biggest countries often get to name the people running the institutions, or may have a veto over any meaningful action.
  • It isn’t a Free Market when “freshwater”/Great Lakes “economists”/Market Fundamentalists of the Milton Friedman Chicago school can deny the existence of market bubbles and crashes without being hooted out of the room.
  • Likewise for the Arthur Laffer school, also at Chicago, of “trickle-down”/supply-side/Voodoo economics.
  • It isn’t a Free Market of ideas when Creationists and pandering politicians can claim that Global Warming is a hoax without being hooted out of the election cycle. (A Creationism in schools bill was introduced in Indiana, where I live, only a few weeks ago. It appears to have been hooted off the stage. I blogged here about it, and about how much science you have to disbelieve in order to be an informed Creationist.)

But let’s get back to climate science. Here is the most important single fact about Global Warming: the reality is consistently worse, every year, than the supposed Worst-Case Scenarios in the scientific models of previous years. Yes, the models are all wrong. It’s worse. Much worse, in fact. We don’t even know how much worse, yet, but it is a safe bet that it will get worser and worser, as Lewis Carroll’s Alice might have put it.

  • The sea, air, ice, and land are all warmer than scientists thought possible by now, and will therefore continue warming at a faster rate for longer than they thought possible.
  • The seasons are shifting, and animal habitats are moving toward the poles or further up the mountains, except for species already living on mountaintops with nowhere to go.
  • We are having more and worse storms, along with more and worse droughts as evaporation increases and wind patterns shift.
  • Arctic permafrosts are melting faster. They have been holding in vast amounts of methane, which is a stronger greenhouse gas than CO2.
  • Glaciers are shrinking everywhere from Greenland to Tibet to Mt. Kilimanjaro to Antarctica, and sea levels are correspondingly rising.
  • Sea levels are also rising from expansion of the water as it warms.
  • Something like a quarter of the excess carbon dioxide is dissolving in the oceans, making them more acidic (carbonic acid, H2O+CO2=H2CO3) and weakening the calcium-based skeletons and shells of corals, shellfish, and other ocean life.
  • Warmer ocean water is killing corals, and putting at risk everything that lives in or around coral reefs.

The facts on natural gas are easy:

  • Methane has the formula CH4, and octane, as in gasoline, is C8H18. So the ratio of hydrogen to carbon is better in methane by a factor of almost 2 to 1, and natural gas is thus only half as carbon-intensive as gasoline and other petroleum-based fuels. Coal is nearly all carbon, so it is the most carbon-intensive. So natural gas is better than oil, which is better than coal, and we should substitute it in many power plants.
  • However, better is not the same as good. Cutting our carbon footprint in half is nowhere near good enough.
  • So the self-congratulatory advertising you see from oil companies (if you watch TV at all) about how wonderful their natural gas production is comes down, in the language of the unfortunately unreliable Politifact, to Pants-on-Fire! lies surrounding irrelevant truths.
  • We need renewable, carbon-neutral energy, and even more than that we need carbon-negative conservation, which turns out to save money right on the corporate bottom line. Unfortunately, conservation managers usually don’t get no respect inside corporations.

The issues around fracking are harder to explain clearly, not because of the inherent difficulty in the subject, which does exist, but is not essential for understanding the issues. The real problem is that it is harder to winnow the facts out of the propaganda from both supporters and opponents. Again the essential points require no more than high-school-level science. Here is what I think I know so far:

  • Fracking can be done safely, but sometimes (occasionally? frequently?) is not. Only a modest number of wells, apparently drilled by a few rogue companies, have been definitely found to have gone bad, leaking natural gas into groundwater, out of the many thousands drilled. A few companies have not used the proper bore sealing techniques for the parts of the holes penetrating groundwater formations, and those that have been caught have been penalized, sometimes even barred from further drilling. Many more companies have been found mishandling used fracking fluids returned up the boreholes, allowing them to contaminate soils, water, and air. Here enforcement appears to be lagging.
  • The fracking industry operates under the so-called “Halliburton” exemption to the Clean Water Act, championed by former Vice President Dick Cheney, previously CEO of Halliburton. Among other things, this prevents the EPA from requiring disclosure of fracking fluid composition.
  • Water wells can penetrate gas-bearing formations, notably in Pennsylvania. This occasionally results in water that can be set on fire at the tap. There are isotopic tests that can distinguish these from gas coming out of much deeper shale formations via fracking, but there appears to be no public data source covering enough such test results. Neither the Corporate Right nor the Populist Left is willing to discuss such results in public.
  • Noted fracker T. Boone Pickens has publicly denied the existence of any of the known problems. Others in the industry have compared the opposition to fracking to an insurgency, and claim to be using military counter-insurgency and psychological warfare techniques on opponents.
  • On the other side, the documentary Gasland fails to acknowledge that gas contamination of wells can come from natural sources.

As with Global Warming, we have a question capable of scientific answers, which is unfortunately mired in pseudo-economics and partisan politics.

All of this can, as I said above, be explained at the high school level, and should be addressed in Open Education Resources. We also need to put this to elementary school students, and find out how much of it we can explain to them. What would happen if we could teach a billion children at a time about all of this stuff, and get them together to discuss what to do about it?

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Open, shmopen

Open APIs Are the New Open Source

By Jay Lyman
02/14/12 5:00 AM PT

There was a time 10 years ago or so when open source was “good enough” — that is, it served as a viable, often lower-cost, lower-hassle alternative to the proprietary software of the day. Today, all software is generally more open, and I believe we’ve reached a point when non-open source software is often “open enough.”

At first I couldn’t believe that I was reading this in a Linux publication. We don’t need Open Source, much less Free Software with all of its freedoms? We should, apparently, rejoice in vendor lockin, where a company insists that we can only run its software on its Web site, because it has deigned to allow us to access its API to write software for its benefit. That’s plenty open, according to Jay Lyman. I commented:

Open APIs are still closed source and non-Free


Posted 2012-02-14

The point about Free Software is not that you can write software to work in somebody else’s walled garden, but that you can modify it and distribute the results under the same or compatible licenses. This is true just as much for cloud computing as for desktops and other devices. Being able to use only the vendor’s instance of software is not nearly open or Free enough.

I work with FLOSS Manuals on collaborative documentation of Free Software, and I have had an instance of their Booki/BookType Free Software set up for my other work as Program Manager for Replacing Textbooks at Sugar Labs. It is vital to what we do that we can modify this software for use on our own server, not least that we can localize it for those writing textbooks for millions of children in more than 40 countries around the world. We are also looking toward the time when we integrate education software into our textbooks, a function not currently supported in Booki/BookType.

Similarly we run customized installations of Wikimedia software for the Sugar Labs Wiki; Pootle for localizing Sugar into a hundred languages; and Moodle for coursework and classroom management on school servers in many of our deployments.

Apparently such freedoms to get on with the mission are inconceivable to many in corporate America and elsewhere. It will, however, be second nature to students in our programs, who will graduate from high school in coming years with twelve years of experience in computers and in Freedom.

If your company is happy under vendor lockin, then good luck to you. You’ll need it.

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