Here is his comment with my responses. My intro...
Since you took time to leave such an in depth comment on my blog, I feel you're owed an in depth response from me. Since there is a limit on the length of responses on blogger, I thought it best to e-mail you. Firstly, I'd like to say "thank you" for your feedback. While we clearly don't agree, I don't mind criticism. Your position implies that you gave, if anything, a careless read over the subject matter which was discussed in multiple posts, blogs, and comments. I shall bold your statements/questions. My responses will be in blue.
"apparently, you were expecting him to internalize the minimalization of
variables, but then you switched this to "following directions", which is
altogether different. perhaps you should've said "following directions", if that
is what you originally meant."
To start, I don't think it's fair to suggest I had any "expectations" for this child's project. Until his teacher brought it to me and asked for help, I played no part. As you can see if you go to the webpage listed in the commentary, the "directions" for science projects within this county are viewable to all. Having four children, I know that these directions are handed to every child at the beginning of the science fair season. This child neither followed directions as laid out by the county's science fair committee, nor did he come close to grasping the concepts necessary for applying the scientific method.
providing us with the directions he was meant to follow might also have
made this post a bit more informative.As I said above, they are provided.
I'm sorry if you missed them of if, in the time that has elapsed, the link has
after all, an 11-year-old can probably reason well enough to followCertainly. I happen to believe that eleven year olds can do this and more.
directions like "brush your teeth before you go to bed" or "mix two eggs
together in a bowl with 1/2 cup of flour and 1 cup of sugar" or "write a report
on something you see in your life, and say what you think is good or bad about
it, and then tell your audience why you hold these opinions" or even "3x + 6 =
15, find x".
but the likelihood is far less (though not impossible) that this same
child can fully grasp a set of instructions like "form a hypothesis (a specific
concept that requires understanding and adherence to stringent criteria), based
on your observations and/or intuition about some phenomenon in the world, and
then test this hypothesis, using the scientific method (itself another,
different list of sophisticated directions). be sure to check your experiment
for weaknesses, such as failure of the double-blind test (another important
concept that requires significant forethought), etc., etc., then analyze the
data, and using the data, form a logical conclusion that either supports or
refutes the conclusion you drew in your hypothesis," which seems to be what you
are suggesting, though i see in your addendum to this post you "clarified" that
And, here I believe you under-estimate what children are capable of. Where you live, there may not be a large emphasis placed on educating children using the scientific method. Here, the method is posted in every Kindergarten class and children as young as my five year old can tell you what a hypothesis is. By sixth grade, it part of the state's standards that children not only understand the terminology of the scientific method, but that they also begin to apply that knowledge.
I don't expect a child to come out of the gate with an amazing project by sixth grade. However, by sixth grade, they're generally on their third or fourth year of science fairs. It's not as if the student in question had zero exposure to the scientific method and, in fact, this was not his first time at the rodeo.
The problem with his conclusion, in my opinion, wasn't that he'd chosen to take this sort of subject matter on as a project. My problem was that his "survey" was completely and totally subjective. And, though you are free to disagree, there was little science involved in the entire project.
yes, his "experiment" was hardly an experiment, as you so rightly point
it exhibits, however, exactly the level of intelligence and
attention to detail that one would expect from your average 11-year-old, who is
just starting to internalize an abstract process like critical
I suspect that we will agree to disagree, then. I'm actually a bit confused because, as I see it, his project carried quite a bit of detail. He clearly knew, or was being told, enough details of the Bible and the Christian fundamentalist ideology to come up with the "survey" that he did. I won't pretend to be an authority on what the "average" eleven year old is capable of in terms of critical thinking. I don't know if that's something that could be quantified.
i still remember the science projects that most of my peers created when
i was in junior high. some could hardly be considered science, even if they
weren't, strictly speaking, religious in nature. this boy's doesn't seem all
that different, in terms of rigorous attention to methodology.
I think you're missing the point. Or, perhaps you're seeing the point, but ignoring it because you think people are picking on him? A science project, even if everything else is set aside, should still be a SCIENCE project. If an eleven year old puts math problems on a spelling worksheet, you don't give him/her credit because they failed to stick to the subject at hand. Furthermore, I think basing your opinion on what you and your peers did in elementary school is just as illogical as what you will accuse me of later. These kids live in a different age and have access to more scientific knowledge than, I am going to speculate here, you or I even dreamed of. What differs between this project and any other sucky science project is that there's absolutely NO hint of science in it. I've seen kids suck eggs into glass bottles or paint solar systems without understanding air pressure or astronomy. Had that been the case here, I would've said nothing. And, if you'll show me any hint of a scientific theory in here, then I would appreciate it if you would point it out.
but even if he is below average, what difference does it make?
That's just it, though. I don't think he's all that "below average". I occasionally tutor children with Aspergers and various other instructional disabilities. The child who did this project is, I would say, according to his teacher's opinion, fairly intelligent. So, this begs the question - why is it that a child with reasonable academic talent would do a SCIENCE project that had NO SCIENCE content? The "difference" is that there are a good number of people, yourself included, who seem to be saying, "Look. It doesn't matter that it wasn't science. Don't pick on him." My counter question is: what about the other children? What does it say to them if a child who doesn't follow protocol is given the same grade as one of the children who did?
you aren't attacking him because he's a poor science student, you're attacking
him because he's christian, and because he tried (however inappropriately) to
incorporate his religion into his research.
Honestly, and I mean this with all due respect for someone I don't know (you), I didn't think I was attacking the child. I, in truth, feel like he's getting short changed from the adults in his life who allowed this project to go beyond the first day. If an atheist child had done this same project, only with a bias to show how moral atheists are or how horrible theists are, then you could bet I'd have made the same post.
Additionally, I would've had no problem with his doing a topic that reflected his beliefs. I believe I said that in the comments section. Perhaps you missed it? Two years ago, I helped my friend, who home schools her daughter with a Goddard curriculum (ATI), think of topics her daughter could do for science fair. She settled on testing the buoyancy of water with different salt levels because she wanted to know if a man could walk on water. For the record, her conclusion was, in my opinion, pushing the limits of science, but she decided that a normal, average weight man could not possibly walk on water of any salt content and, therefore, "Jesus must have been more than just man." Again, I don't agree with her conclusion, but I thought her hypothesis was clever and her methodology well done.
are all psychological or sociological experiments no longer considered to be
Are you being intentionally obtuse? I'll assume this is a rhetorical question. Obviously, the scientific method can be, and is often, applied to psychological and social experiments. To be valid, they follow the same standards as other scientific experiments. Another criteria in engineering valid sociological experiments is that the person conducting the experience go into it with a question and not a bias. This kid started out with the fallacy that non-Christians (and he's including Muslims, Jews, Hindus, Native American spirituality, and other Eastern religions) are immoral. He built his survey with questions that are, for the most part, irrelevant to morality.
rhetoric, though not absolutely scientific, has at its heart the study
of logic, which precepts and principles form the foundation of the scientific
I agree. I never argued to the contrary.
I hardly think i am. i'm merely acknowledging a fact: some kids are
brighter than others, and some are much, much brighter than all the
Again, I wouldn't argue that you are wrong with this observation.
What disappoints me is that there are some, this would
include you, who would say, "well...he's a little slower than most, so we'll not
even attempt to correct his mistakes or make him feel bad." How does
dismissing the problems with the projects make this child a better scientist and
fortunately, we have a society that can accommodate people of varying
levels and types of ability. so this kid sucks at science. maybe he'll make a
great plumber, which is good, because we still need those, and i hear they make
*bangs head on keyboard* You say you're not selling this kid short academically, but you keep saying things like this! I don't know that he sucks at science. I do know that he bombed this project. Those are two different things. How is your assumption that he's slow not "selling him short"? Why not assume that he's relatively bright with parents who would rather he push an ideology than engage in a scientific investigation of the world around him?
I'm all for people finding their niche'. And, I happen to think everyone has something to offer the world. Contrary to what you're implying, I'm not some elitist academic. . My father and grandfather, whom I love dearly, provided for their families by working multiple, blue collar jobs. I know where I came from and realize that there is immense value in putting in putting in an honest days work. I wouldn't dare look down upon someone (except for, possibly, Fred Phelps and televangelists) who did a service to humanity, no matter what that service is. But, why assume this kid can only be a blue collar worker? Again, I think it's selling a child short to say, "You know,...you suck at science. Keep doing it wrong because I expect you'll make a great plumber and we need plumbers." YOU DID NOT SAY THAT, I realize. I'm just making the point.
And, frankly, I think you're final sentence in the post was uncalled for and reflective of a bias held on your part. But, I'll address that in a moment. Just keep in mind that I've not made any judgements about you or criticized you in any way.
the only thing of significance here is whether the teacher gave him a.
bad grade for his science project, which she should have. whether or not some
unexceptional boy is capable of mastering the fundamentals of modern scientific
thought when he is only first learning them in school is irrelevant to the
context of your post, which ostensibly criticizes the impression upon children,
and the imposition in their schools, of christian values, beliefs, and
So, wait...you agree she should've given him a bad grade. But, above you're defending his project? I'm confused. Again, I don't care if this kid is christian, atheist, Buddhist, or Islamic. His science project wasn't a science project.
As I explained above, this is NOT the first time he's heard about the scientific method. Nor is it his first experiment. I don't even think this was about a person, or group, criticizing his project because he is a Christian. It's actually ironic that you're accusing those of us who found his project lacking of pigeon-holing him when his project AIMED at stereotyping people. His parents have every right to impose their Christian values upon their child. His teacher, my friend, has every right to be a fundamentalist Christian. But, neither party has the right to post a science project that suggests non-Christians are immoral. The imposition of values is from the family and child who are claiming that anyone outside THEIR values is immoral.
you have offered up an example of how christianity is corrupting science
Actually, I presented a bad science project where Christianity was USED to stereotype people and a child acted as cop, judge, and jury about the "sins" of others. Christianity has been attempting to squelch scientific discovery since the Catholic Church argued that the world was flat and had, literally, four corners. This continued with the religious intolerance showered on Galileo. He directly contradicted the Bible (Ecclesiastes 1:5, if you care) and was arrested, placed under censure for the rest of his life, and banned from the church. There have been few scientific discoveries that various religions/churches/belief systems have accepted willingly and on its merits.
And, I don't believe I used this child's project as an example of "how Christianity is corrupting science education."
but you are placing the blame on parents, who have a right to raise
their children in whatever manner they feel best.
I blame his parents because they engaged in and promoted a disingenuous project that did nothing more than promote their beliefs at the expense of others. What is laudable about a child being encouraged to judge his fellow sixth graders on morality based on a very limited scope of behavior? If I encouraged my child to go into a classroom and tell theists that they're wrong, would you support that activity? Does my right to parent extend to instructing my child to judge their classmates or suggest that they're better than everyone else? Of COURSE NOT! Furthermore, while you're correct in that they can choose to teach their child whatever they wish, I think it's sad that any parent would instruct a child to disregard scientific discoveries because it may be in contradiction to their religious beliefs. Plumbers use physics and chemistry.
the blame really belongs with those educators, administrators, board
members who allow it to happen, like your friend, the boy's teacher, for
This I don't understand. As a parent, I'm my child's first teacher. And, ultimately, I am responsible for their education - not the state, not the teacher, and not the system. ME!
My friend, the teacher, has one hundred students. By sixth grade, it's unreasonable to expect her to micro-manage each project. I'm guessing you missed the part where, in the first two assignments (which were a list of hypothesis and possible projects and a plan of attack), the child presented a different methodology? His teacher thought his question was interesting and valid (as do I)... though difficult and subjective, there were ways he could've done this in line with protocol and within the boundaries of a real experiment. His parents, at some point unknown, decided that they didn't want him doing the original project as described. Every teacher in this county teaches the scientific method every year. Situations like this rarely happen. What exactly do you propose she should've done? Move in with his family? As for board members,... how are they responsible for this? I'm genuinely intrigued by this suggestion and hope you'll elaborate. I seem to sense that you're working with a dichotomy: the school/teacher/board are responsible for instructing this child in the scientific method, but they're not allowed to hold him to the standard because it might challenge the religious beliefs in his home.
it's the responsibility of your friend, in her role as educator, to
instruct this boy on what is, and isn't science, and to fail him, if that is
what is required.
Short of doing his project for him, what more would you suggest she should've done? It can't be said enough - he was, is, and will be, educated in the scientific method. It's part of the core curriculum in our county. Being that other children in the class had projects that reflected a base understanding, I can't see how we should fault her. But, you are free to disagree.
and yet, you don't criticize her role in this travesty at all; in fact, you make apologies for her and instead focus all of your energy and vitriol on the boy and his project.Whoa, whoa, whoa...back the truck up. What was within her power to change? And, where is this anger, on my part, of which you speak? I have assumed you to be a stable, rational person who can engage in a discussion. It's unfortunate that you're incapable of doing the same. Instead, you bluster in well after the fact to insult me, my readers, and my friend (the teacher), when you didn't have enough information about any of the three to do so.
it's obvious that you're using the excuse of tearing apart his science
project to tear apart his beliefs. and if you define yourself by what you
believe, which we are all instructed to do by the media, and by both our
religious and our secular "leaders" and role models, then it stands to reason
that someone who tears apart your beliefs is essentially attacking you.
Not even close. I didn't tear apart his beliefs. Indeed, I believe I have stated repeatedly that his beliefs aren't the problem. I've also explained to you that the teacher is a pentacostal/fundamentalist christian and I've helped other kids regardless of their religious leanings. If a theist physician prays before surgery for guidance and then cuts off the wrong leg during surgery... am I attacking his religion by calling attention to his mistake? Of course not. If you say, "Wow. That Christopher Hitchens is a real jerk.", am I justified in believing that you're "attacking" all atheists or secular, free thinkers? Of course not!
ONCE AGAIN - I AM NOT attacking a BELIEF SYSTEM. I am discussing a BAD SCIENCE PROJECT. If you are seeing it as a full-fledge attack on Christianity, then I'm afraid that says more about you than me.
you mean lessons like how to have compassion for others who are less
fortunate or gifted than yourself? right.
That's pretty big talk for someone who hasn't availed themselves to learning about who I am. Again, your assumptions and projection are saying more about you than me. I don't, and never have, considered the child "less gifted". Yet, you keep hammering away at that nail. You then suggest that wanting a child to have valid information, that he will carry for the rest of his life, to be uncompassionate. That's messed up.
so why expend your righteous indignation and your passion to write onOnce again, your assumptions are making you look like an ass. Why expend your righteous indignation and your passion to write on ridiculing a woman with lupus who has four children and still finds time to tutor children and gives back to her community, with no regard for religion, and keeps a blog that just happens to discuss a science project that's not a science project?
ridiculing this vulnerable child, whose naivete in a different context we might
have smiled at and dismissed, affectionately, as innocence?
why attack this child's "science project" as a means to
passive-aggressively snipe at the people you're really aiming for, which are his
parents, his teachers, his community, and his culture?
Are you even listening to yourself? His teacher is one of my dearest friends. And, I've made no judgement about his community, because, as part of that community, that would be stupid.
:::rolls eyes::: oh, well there you go. (in re: pmomma's child taking aVery mature.
prize in science fair)