Category Archives: social networking

How to “Smart Mob” against Creationism in Textbooks (video)

Picture this: enterprising students in cities in Texas, particularly, and other cities nationwide – along with counterparts in Romania, which just mandated a Creationism-only science curriculum (I kid you not), and maybe Turkey, for good measure – organize Smart Mobs to strike, peacefully and simultaneously, out of the blue to demand only 21st century science – yes, I mean evolution – be included in their biology and other science textbooks.

And they do it quickly, before Texas’ Creationist-dominated Board of Education votes next Spring to insert Creationism yet again into its science standards. (See this post.)

They happen at such places as the Texas capitol building, the lobbies of textbook publishers’ headquarters, science museums, the national capitol, and wherever else seems like a good idea.

And they simply follow the steps of this excellent video (h/t to the Personal Democracy Forum):

And, because they’re good, peaceful citizens showing the will and responsibility to act for the education they deserve, the students who organize these events (more than once, please) include this as a bullet on their college application, to show that they’re more original and more consequential than the herd that joins the schooly National Honor Society and such. And the admissions officers at the best colleges see that bullet, and place their applications in the acceptance pile.

And they live actively and powerfully ever after.

If Obama’s doing it, kids, maybe it’s something you should consider as worth your time to learn. It might just help your future more than a couple hundred extra points on your SAT.

(Add to TheIndyDebate map)

Coming: Ten Years of Creationist Science Textbooks?

From the “We Don’t Need Four Ten More Years” Department:

This is serious, and an opportunity for some net-roots experimentation that could be fun.

So let’s talk the problem first, then possible solutions:

1. Creationists at it again

The Houston Chronicle reports that a majority in the Texas Board of Education is likely to vote for state science standards requiring science teachers to teach the (non-existent) “weaknesses or limitations of evolution.”

There’s still time for grass- and net-roots action to oppose these ideologues before a preliminary vote on the standards in January ’09, and the final vote slated for next spring.

2. Why this matters (inter)nationally

The short version: Texas and California standards are the tails that wag the dog of the US textbook industry. As James Loewen writes in the NYTimes best-seller, Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong:

California and Texas . . . directly affect publishers and textbooks because they are large markets with statewide adoption and active lobbying groups. Schools and districts in nonadoption states must choose among books designed for the larger markets (308). . . . Usually adopters find the details they seek. Most textbook editors . . . know their market. They make sure their books include whatever is likely to be of concern (311).

So, because the Texas vote will set science standards for the next decade, textbook publishers will likely be aiming to please the creationists until 2018. And other states, to repeat Loewen, will have to choose amongst science textbooks designed for these Creationists in charge of Texas schools.

That’s why it matters. By 2018, Obama will have left his (knock wood) second term in office for a two full years – but most students during his presidency will have studied anti-science textbooks because of the actions of the Texas Board of Education.

Call it an Obama presidency with a Palin education policy.

3. Solutions?

Is it possible to influence the Texas BOE to vote down the provision in January or the following spring? It seems unlikely. Most of the members belong to the extreme religious right, with open ties to the creationist Discovery Institute that supported similar anti-science campaigns in Kansas and Pennsylvania.

But unlikely is not impossible. So here are some ideas:

1. Call on Obama to use the bully pulpit.

Click image to see video on YouTube.

Click image to see Climate Change message on YouTube.

Last month, Obama declared an end to climate change science deniers. Earlier in the campaign, he openly voiced his opposition to creationism in all its guises during the campaign. If he appealed not to the ideological BOE, but to the nation – and the textbook industry – to shout down Texas, that might limit the damage to textbook content nationwide.

2. Use Smart Mob and/or Tipping Point campaigns

Pressure the Texas BOE and, again, the textbook publishers, with opposition. Get schools nationwide to declare their support for evolution-friendly textbooks, and their refusal to buy anything else. (If I were to do that, show of hands: who would support it by spreading the word?)

3. Longer term, organize to defeat the creationists in school board elections.

It’s amazing that Board of Education officials need no scientific or educational expertise to be elected, yet they control the curriculum, standards, and funds of the public school system in Texas.

Worse, as U. of Arkansas Prof. Jay Greene argues,

Local school board elections on off-election days have very low turnout, often in the single digits. Given the obscurity of local school politics, it’s easier for the employees and their organized interests to dominate school politics. They’re just about the only ones following what is going on and voting in those elections.

What’s good for the creationist goose can be good for the scientific gander too – if only the gander played the politics smarter.

4. [Your ideas here]

Helping Launch the “Possibly Related Classroom Projects” WordPress Plugin for DonorsChoose.org

I get a good number of emails from people asking me to plug their book, blog, project, etc, and normally I just delete them (okay, I save the doozies like, “I’d like to give you the opportunity to let me guest-post on your blog” for laughs on blue days).

But this one was hard to delete:

Hi. My name’s Joe Solomon & I’m a blogger and social media consultant for nonprofits (EngageJoe.com). I’m currently helping to spearhead Social Actions Labs (a grant funded, not-for-profit initiative) – where we’re building web applications that help people connect to actionable opportunities across the web.

More specifically, we’re about to launch a revolutionary DonorsChoose.org WordPress Plugin. You know the WP feature – “Possibly Related Blog Posts”? Imagine “Possibly Related Classroom Projects.” Our plugin will match relevant classroom projects from the DonorsChoose database of 10,000+ projects – and enable you to share them with your readers below your posts.

As a leading education blogger who uses the WordPress platform, would you be interested in test-driving this Plug-in? We would really appreciate your feedback and are eager to share your blog as one of the first to raise awareness for DonorsChoose projects using this new technology.

We set up a campaign on ThePoint – It would be awesome if you could pledge to test out the plug-in upon launch.

We think this could be *huge* and I hope you’ll make the pledge and help raise awareness of classroom projects that need help across the US.

I checked it out, expressed tentative interest, and then Joe sent me a screenshot of how the plugin would generate causes based on a McCain post I did recently.  Check out the “oops” factor:

Hi Joe,

It’s an interesting idea. I looked at the screenshot, and blast the luck, saw that I would be promoting Abstinence Education donation requests with that post you sampled.

That’s a red flag. Is there a way I can delete any causes for which I’m unsupportive? If so, I’m willing to play.

(Regular readers might remember my Friday Funny post about Abstinence-Only Sex “Education,” and its hilarious tendency to make sodomites of our virginity-obsessed teens – and let’s not even start to talk about the creepiness factor in the incest-tinged “Purity Balls” – no pun intended – these smarmy dads take their daughters to, complete with Hymen Pledges and other whacked insanities. So, um, support Abstinence-Only? Over my dead body.)

But Joe replied:

Hah.  Yes, our algorithm still needs some tweaking.  Many posts we’ve tested have had impressively spot-on results –  from political posts that then recommend projects that help students develop critical thinking skill for the election — to a post about Steve Jobs bout with cancer that then recommends classroom projects that cover the tough issues surrounding cancer.

Currently, though, our developer has added a feature that lets you add “%NORELATED%” and this will remove the classroom projects from your post. [emphasis added]

I hope this answers your question…

It did.

So, without further ado, I’m happy to help classroom projects find funding by matching donors and causes with this plugin. Check this bottom of this post to see how it works.

Oh. My. God. With all the scandalous words on this post, we might get some whacked results. But it’ll be an interesting experiment, and I should be able to delete the links if I don’t like them. We’ll see. :)

(And for the record, Joe allayed my reservations about any profit motive on his part with this info:

I totally understand about the making money.  Social Actions is a not-for-profit initiative and DonorsChoose.org (which supports this project) is a non-profit as well.  Check out my website to learn more about my work — engagejoe.com.

Finally, the method of using The Point website to encourage the “Collective Action” that Shirky mentions (and many of us have discovered) is so difficult is worth noting itself.  The idea is, you announce a cause campaign there, invite people to commit, and promise not to launch this campaign until X number of people do commit, giving you a “tipping point.”  (I notice Alan Levine of CogDogBlog is the only other e’blogger I know who’s also supporting this particular campaign.)

For more info about the plugin, this is from the WP Plugin page:

Possibly Related Classroom Projects” enables you to share relevant classroom projects from DonorsChoose.org based on the content of your posts.

DonorsChoose.org is where teachers submit project proposals for materials or experiences their students need to learn and succeed. Anyone can then choose projects to help bring to life. DonorsChoose.org usually has over 14,000 active proposals.

“Possibly Related Classroom Projects” makes it super easy to connect your readers to relevant classroom projects in need of help.

You’ll be amazed at the relevancy of many of these classroom projects to your posts (as well as the awesome and imaginative projects that are happening in classrooms around the US).

“Possibly Related Classroom Projects” is a project of Social Actions Labs.

For more info about the WordPress plugin, please see our project page.

For more info. about DonorsChoose.org, please see their Help section.

Okay. I promised, I waited, I tipped. I hope some of you will consider joining the cause.

(Now let’s see if any kinky links turn up about hymens, sodomites, or other whacked “classroom projects.” :P)

On Carrotmobs and Election-Stealing: An Edu-Activism Fantasy

After watching the following video on Dean Shareski’s blog (thanks to Kate Tabor for the alert):


Carrotmob Makes It Rain from carrotmob on Vimeo.

–and then watching this immensely disturbing clip from the Uncounted documentary about election theft in the 2004 USA elections:

and in the 2006 elections:

–it should be no wonder that I fantasize that, on election day 2008, students and teachers take cellphones and video cameras to the voting centers, and show what a smart mob can do to defend democracy.

You can see ten more clips from Uncounted here, and order the DVD here.

I never had a civics class in school. Are they still taught in the US? And are educators either practicing or modeling politically engaged behavior in their own lives? What’s our ratio of communicating to our elected officials in proportion to tweeting our networks, for example? Do we need to reflect on that?

The elections are just around the corner. What a learning opportunity for our students and ourselves – especially if we act to ensure our votes are counted.