Thursday, May 8, 2014

It is rather daunting to follow the useful and detailed links posted here by Kathy and Myra, so I have to rely on my daily paper and the books in my backpack. Take a look at two front page articles in the New York Times, one from today, one from two days ago.

This morning's paper brings this

Scientists are learning ways to experiment with the basic building blocks of all life on earth -- to actually create a new alphabet for DNA. In one way, this may help us to understand -- or project -- what life is like in other planets with totally different ecosystems. Terrific. In another, it could possibly give us the ability to craft new kinds of organisms that either assist in our health and well-being or allow us to control aspects of our planet in good ways. Great. But our track record in using/misusing breakthroughs that give us vast power is not great. We often rush to figure out ways to destroy, overawe, dominate others more quickly than we use power to our mutual global benefit.

In schools, I suggest having students read the original Mary Shelley Frankenstein along with this article and to think about our future, our planet's future, as custodians of this power. I should, of course, say potential power. Because an initial breakthrough does also bring along all of the predicted effects -- and that too is something to watch.

Two days ago came, in a sense, the reverse form of the DNA headline:

I am sure you all some version of this: the US climate has already changed. And yet, as each following day's headline has showed, we are in political gridlock. Locally and nationally climate skeptics and climate activists face off and nothing happens. I say this is the reverse of the DNA piece because instead of casting ahead to possible benefits or consequences of new potential power, we are seeing the impact of power over the environment we have exerted, without considering or weighing the consequences. One article casts ahead, the other depicts the price of not having done so until now.

If the DNA article should be paired with fiction, I think the Warming essay belongs in every science class, every social studies class (what is going on politically in your town, your state?). Students (and parents) should of course bring all of the skepticism and counter evidence they have. The goal is not indoctrination. But the discussion, the assessment of where we are and where we need to go must take place in every school. How are we preparing students to be college and career ready if we are not dealing with the physical environment which will go so far to determine where and how they will live and work?

I owe Myra a piece on layout, and I have a couple of books I need to tell you about. But for now -- the headlines run ahead of everything else.



  1. Myra and I have co-authored our May SLJ column with a science teacher, and it will focus on human impact on the environment in high school science. We will have a range of texts, including books and digital articles. Look for it in the SLJ Curriculum Connections newsletter next week and on the SLJ webpage. I think that the climate change article would fit in nicely with our range of teaching considerations.

  2. I love the idea of reading current newspaper articles with past fiction and nonfiction on the same topic. It's so stimulating!

    Don't forget my piece about layouts. I am very interested in this.

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  4. I really loved the discussion on Science. I am very fortunate to be working in Western NY on a STEM committee across the whole region with wonderful professionals from academic, business, and schools.
    Additionally, I have been appointed to the AASL STEM Task Force so will be picking everyone's brain for ideas and information:)