Science Education & Policy

Teaching remains more art than science and a popular conjecture that has caught the attention of the education business has been that fourth grade is when students stop learning to read and start reading to learn.  People love to swap terms around that way. But is it accurate?

A new paper in Developmental Science says there is nothing special about fourth grade at all, there is no change in automatic word processing, a crucial component of that reading shift conjecture. Instead, some types of word processing become automatic before fourth grade, while others don't switch until after fifth.

California is the home of bans in the United States, everything from Happy Meals to golf courses and goldfish have come under fire.

Sometimes the bans pass, and it is always cheered as 'leadership' when that happens. Social authoritarians in other states then mimic it. But ban success can't always be quantified. In one instance, they can - with the cellphone ban. They were blamed for a lot of car accidents, so accidents must have dropped.

Except they didn't. A recent analysis found no evidence that the California ban on cellphones while driving has decreased traffic accidents.

During the 2011 and 2012 migration seasons, University of Missouri researchers monitored mallard ducks using satellite tracking, the first time ducks have been tracked closely during the entirety of their migration from Canada to the American Midwest and back.

They found that as mallards travel hundreds of miles across the continent, they use public and private wetland conservation areas extensively, which  illustrates the importance of maintaining protected wetland areas.

Education is in something a Catch-22. If they have standards, there will be dropouts among people who don't want to do the work to reach the minimum levels. If they don't have standards, they are just an assembly line and that is bad for teacher morale.

Because who is going to get blamed if students don't succeed? Teachers.

In America, radical environmental groups get something of a cultural free pass. 

It's understandable, because America is a two-party country. Due to that, otherwise scientifically literate Democrats will rationalize the anti-vaccine, anti-GMO and anti-nuclear members under their umbrella as being 'anti-corporate' while scientifically literate Republicans don the same blinders about climate science and denial of evolution.

"No Child Left Behind" was a bipartisan law overwhelmingly approved by both Democrats and Republicans and signed into law by US President George W. Bush. It was created to address crippling flaws in an American education system that was still operating in the 1920s.

And it worked. For the first time in history, boys and girls achieved parity in math scores and scores for minorities went up across the board. Yet the law was vilified and when President Obama took office he honored the wishes of his education union campaign donors and gutted the program.

Hospice is the name for palliative care, primarily of terminally ill patients. There are few examples of more gracious, compassionate people, so if a patient wants antibiotics they are going to get them - even though there is little evidence that such medications improve symptoms or quality of life, and the downside is they may cause unwanted side effects.

Antibiotics are ingrained in contemporary medicine - they have saved an unknown number of lives, but in the hundreds of millions. 21 percent of patients being discharged from hospitals directly to a hospice program leave with a prescription for antibiotics, even though more than one fourth of them don't have a documented infection during their hospital admission.

California leads the country in creating science policy by opposition; if Republicans are against it, California will pass it. Taxpayers are swimming in debt and wondering why they wasted $3 billion paying a bureaucrat $500,000 a year to redistribute money on human embryonic stem cell research, with nothing to show for it, and their landmark cap-and-trade system for regulating greenhouse gases  has led to 50 percent higher utility rates for consumers but has done nothing for climate change - all of America's drop in CO2 was caused by natural gas uptake in the rest of the nation.

When it comes to public understanding of science, science blog readership doesn't help poor people, it actually hurts.

Similar levels of attention to science in newspapers and on blogs can lead to vastly different levels of factual and perceived knowledge. Notably, frequent science blog readership among low socioeconomic-status groups actually lowered their scores on factual tests of scientific knowledge, while high levels of attention to science in newspapers caused them to feel they were less knowledgeable compared to those who read less or those from higher socioeconomic backgrounds.

Australia is working to repeal its unpopular carbon tax and replacement strategies to mitigate carbon emissions and stave off future climate change may bring a bonus - water savings. A new study says that the equivalent of one-third of Melbourne's water use could be saved each year through the implementation of efficiency measures.

Researchers at the Monash Sustainability Institute analyzed the water-saving potential of 74 options for reducing greenhouse gas emissions identified in the ClimateWorks Australia Low Carbon Growth Plan for Australia.  An analysis of options to reduce greenhouse gas emissions found energy efficiency measures reduced water consumption at the same time.