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Well I was going to rant about this on tumblr but my app isn’t uploading the post (too much froth?) so fine, it can just live on my blog.

Okay, childless/childfree people, let’s talk for a minute. I don’t have kids. I doubt I ever will. I still vote for every way to fund education that I can, and I pay close attention to school board elections and other education issues. And it’s not because I have nieces that I love, and it’s not because I am so rich that I’m desperate to give my money away. It’s certainly not because I don’t have other things I’d rather be doing with my time and money.

It’s because I am trying to ensure that kids learn how to think and cooperate and socialize, so that they grow into adults who can think, and cooperate, and socialize.

I’m not a fucking island. I don’t run this country on my own. (If I did, it’d be a much different place.) The decisions that other people make effect me deeply–just look at environmental issues and the battle we’re still fucking having about denial. And the kids of today are going to be running this place when I’ve retired.

Allow me to repeat: The kids of today are going to be running this place when I’ve retired.

There is a reason people with wacky ideologies try to pack school boards–look at creationists and their endless quest to fuck up childhood education. This stuff matters. This stuff controls the future in both short and long term.You think your life would be half as good as it is now if fundamental biology education got torn up by the roots?

Education matters. Even if you don’t have kids, and will never have kids, education should matter to you. You are not paying for someone else’s little annoying monster to learn how to add fractions and not eat paste. You are paying to live in a place where the people around you can maybe understand complex issues that affect everyone.

And yeah, right now that doesn’t seem to be working. I agree it’s not fair to hook things to property ownership. It’s damn unfair to kids in places with low property values, and it’s an obviously bad idea unless you have a (gross) personal interest in perpetuating class-based inequalities. But I’ve also yet to see a funding issue of ANY kind pass by popular vote. (Up until this year I lived in Colorado.) And I agree something needs to change if we actually want to pursue that golden ideal of producing people who can reason and think critically and address the challenges of the modern world. But starving schools of funding ain’t it, and ignoring the issue ain’t it, and saying it isn’t your problem because you don’t even like kids sure as hell ain’t it. Why do we even keep having this argument?

Maybe because we still haven’t figured out that education isn’t a product, it should be a public good. Maybe because we’re still having more arguments over how much money teachers make than how much money people who get their living off capital gains make. Maybe because we’re more concerned with test scores than actual end results. Maybe because fiddling while Rome burns should be our national pastime, not baseball.

And we’re also still having this same damn argument about how you shouldn’t have to pay for education if you’re childless/childfree. Whether they sprang from your loins or not, whether you like it or not, you will be sharing the world with all of these kids and their ability to think or not will affect you and all other living things on this planet in ways you cannot even begin to imagine.

Education matters, and funding it matters. If you want humans to stop repeating the same stupid mistakes over and over, it matters.

/drops mic

Originally published at Rachael Acks: Sound and Nerdery. You can comment here or there.

Bad Movie Science (2)

So on Friday, I risked getting my geek card taken away by saying that, for the most part, I don’t care if the science in a movie is bad so long as it tells me a sufficiently good story. This was a point I tried to make at one of the Mile Hi Con panels I was on, actually. And at that panel, someone in the audience asked a very pertinent question – but don’t you think it’s the responsibility of a movie to present good science?

No, actually. I don’t.

But people see things in movies and think they’re true! What about all of the stupid shit about 2012? And so on!

The responsibility of a movie, as I said before, is to tell me a good story and make sure I don’t leave the theater feeling like I just got fucked out of the $10 I paid for my ticket.

Movies are supposed to entertain, not educate. And I think most of us are damn glad for that. While I enjoy a good episode of Nova as much as the next person, you’ll notice that’s not where my primary consumption of media lies.

If someone goes into a movie and comes out with the misconception that the world is ending in 2012 or geologists wear white labcoats or exposing someone to a lot of gamma radiation is going to do anything but kill them, I frankly do not consider that the fault of the movie. I consider it a fault of the education that person received, and to a lesser extent the fault of media that actually has the responsibility of being truthful rather than entertaining.

Critical thinking skills have always gotten short shrift in education, and in the US that’s only become worse with the advent of No Child Left Behind and the emphasis on gross skills such as reading speed uncoupled from the ability to process and critically assess what has been read. (Because those things are much harder to assess with a standardized test, I suppose.) Teaching kids science (something that low income schools particularly struggle to do), how to tell good data from bad, how to tell who is an expert who probably knows what they’re talking about and who is just some jackass that the local TV station dug up in the pursuit of false balance would go a long, long way to closing that gap.

And that’s not even touching on things like, say, the Texas GOP platform attacking the teaching of critical thinking skills.

The problem is not that a movie includes a ridiculous scene where the spaceships make noise and turn like airplanes instead of spaceships. The problem is that the audience lacks the necessary basis to question the truth of that statement.

And frankly, fixing this problem has nothing to do with requiring those who make their living in the arts to hew to scientific fact and never deviate. (We won’t even touch on the question of how the hell you’d begin to enforce that, free speech issues, etc.) Ultimately, enforcing scientific fact through the arts still does nothing to fix the base problem. You are still presenting entertainment as a fact that should be accepted unquestioningly upon its consumption by a passive audience.

The real answer is simple to state and difficult to execute. We need to teach people to think critically and question and understand the difference in data quality depending upon the source. We need to stop pretending that education is only about reciting times tables and reading X number of words per minute.

We need to stop failing the education system and the kids who rely upon it.

Because yes, it is us failing the schools, not the other way around. It’s us refusing to pass bond issues, and us obsessing about standardized testing, and us not paying attention to who the hell we’re electing to the board of education for our county or state, and us allowing political affiliation to interfere with objective scientific truth, and even some wacky part of us actively fighting against teaching kids how to even think to begin with.

Us. We did this. Not the people who make movies.

Originally published at Rachael Acks: Sound and Nerdery. You can comment here or there.

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